Friday, February 08, 2008

The Servant and Two Masters: God and Country

In a recent post, I shared the ethical, political, and theological struggle that I feel about immigration policy. Dan Trabue and Rich Holton commented repeatedly about the importance of placing God before country and not compromising my loyalty to Christ by national self-interest.

It is a praiseworthy attitude. If only more Christian leaders of Nazi Germany had heeded this call instead of serving as tools of the Nazi regime, some or much or even all of the horror of the Third Reich might have been avoided.

But America is not Nazi Germany. Despite our failings and sins, America has done more good for the world than any other nation on earth. And so I am a little hesitant to pull the trigger on that country.

Further thoughts by Rich Holton, Richard Heyduck and Andy Bryan.

8 comments:

MethoDeist said...

This is a subject that can bring out problems for Christians due to their collective theology. Which comes first, God or country and I don't really believe that there is an easy answer.

However, one must be pragmatic to a degree in how they live in the world and this is definitely one of those times.

Let me give an example that I use when talking to people of faith on such issues and how to approach them with church growth as an example.

There is no question that the church in America is having trouble with attracting Gen X and Y. For many the answer is to pray for revival and let God take care of it. Of course, this is only part of the approach that must be taken and a major part must be pragmatic. In these discussions I talk about disease and its treatment. When a loved one comes down with a significant disease the first step for many is prayer for healing/guidance and rightly so. However, if that is all that is done to treat the person then the outcome will be poor in most cases. For most people, they also take a pragmatic approach and seek out medical treatments that have been successful in treating the disease in question. So, most of us use both a theological approach and a pragmatic approach. Church growth should be taken care of the same way and so should most of the decisions we make in life.

I believe that when looking at the world we must do the same and that includes the issue of God and country. Now, many of you may state that this analogy and approach does not apply but I believe that it does. When discussing immigration you need to look at what God commands you to do (which is not always easy to figure out) and what is best for the country and those around you.

This is no easy task but it means reviewing the Bible and then reviewing the information and evidence regarding immigration. It means that the Christian must look at all the points of view that are relevant to them and the problem at hand.

Certainly this is not an easy task.

I will say this however, I believe that God gave all of us reason and intelligence to utilize and I cannot believe that God wants us to put these wonderful gifts aside and only look at what the Bible would state as a solution in such situations.

Of course, this does not mean that there will be an easy answer but that in using all the gifts given to you and the word of God before you, that one is not putting God or country ahead of the other but can find a compromise that is fair and pragmatic for both.

MethoDeist

Edwin Drood said...

Have you considered Romans 13

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

John said...

Yes, I have studied it. In fact, I wrote an exegesis paper on it. My conclusion was that Paul was writing favorable propaganda in the event that his mail was being read by Roman authorities. He did not wish for the Christian movement to be seen as politically subversive, especially in the midst of the Jewish Revolt.

Admittedly, I really wanted to arrive at this conclusion, else I would have to conclude that the worst governments (e.g. Hitler, Stalin) were instituted by God for the sake of carrying out justice, and rebellion against them is rebellion against God.

Dan Trabue said...

John said:

It is a praiseworthy attitude. If only more Christian leaders of Nazi Germany had heeded this call instead of serving as tools of the Nazi regime, some or much or even all of the horror of the Third Reich might have been avoided.

I think we are all agreed that Nazi Germany is a perfect reminder that we ALL think that at least sometimes, we must obey God in opposition to our country.

John went on to say:

But America is not Nazi Germany. Despite our failings and sins, America has done more good for the world than any other nation on earth. And so I am a little hesitant to pull the trigger on that country.

I love my country and think we have done much positive. However, I don't know that anyone could measure and say that we've done "more good" for the world than any nation ever, because I think you'd have to weigh in the bad as well as the good and that seems like a probably impossible thing to measure.

(For instance, our quality of life is quite high and something folk around the world can aspire to - however, if it would take four planet Earths worth of resources for everyone to live as we do, is that a good thing or bad? Bad, says I. I think one way of reading the Golden Rule is, "live in such a way that you'd be pleased if everyone lived that way..." and clearly, on a finite planet, I would not be pleased if everyone consumed as much as we do. For instance. I think that's a complex and unmeasurable proposition.)

But, calling for people to live responsibly, reasonably, I don't see that as "pulling the trigger" on the US. Were the prophets who called for Israel to NOT rely upon a large army (in Gideon's case, to in fact, pare the army down to a mere 300 barely armed men against thousands of well-armed opponents!!), were they condemning Israel? "Pulling the trigger?"

I think not.

There are some pacifists who think that living up to Christian ideals is not a good idea for gov'ts. That gov't's (put in power by God, if you read the Bible that way), NEED to be able to be ruthless and brutal and act in opposition to God's will for us as individuals. Therefore, these pacifists reconcile this by saying simply "we'll therefore never run for office or be part of the gov't, since we can't follow God and run a gov't at the same time."

Is this your position, John?

Andy B. said...

America is not Nazi Germany, nor is it the realization of the reign of God on earth. So, being somewhere in between, it seems that there may be times when national values and Christian values are parallel, and times when they conflict. The reality is, some faithful Christians find particular national values in conflict with Christian values, and others do not.

Among other things, this makes for interesting conversations!

John said...

But, calling for people to live responsibly, reasonably, I don't see that as "pulling the trigger" on the US. Were the prophets who called for Israel to NOT rely upon a large army (in Gideon's case, to in fact, pare the army down to a mere 300 barely armed men against thousands of well-armed opponents!!), were they condemning Israel? "Pulling the trigger?"

Is America under God's covenantal protection, as ancient Israel was? Your argument only works if it does.

Dan Trabue said...

Says who?

John said...

Dan, says the Bible. The covenant was made specifically with the nation of Israel, not America. And furthermore, God's covenantal protection (e.g. Gideon & the Midanites) was predicated on obeying the Mosaic Law. Which we don't do. It is possible for foreigners to join the covenant, but they must obey the Law.

So the old covenant is moot.