Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More on Church and State

P and I go back and forth on the God's Politics blog:

Him: (In this P is "Me" and I am "You", a little hard to follow, but you get it.

Nathan(a)el said:
I have no quarrel with this form of government. I don't believe it requires central organization, but it is clearly Biblical. It does not, however, assign to the state the responsibility of caring for the least of these. Rather than calling this a "good" which the state performs, I prefer to look at it as a "harm" which it prevents.

Me:
You can call it whatever you like because you are still ignoring other aspects of the old testament law where the state was assigned the duty to feed the people. Take for instance the laying aside of parts of land, they were untilled so that strangers could pick their share and eat. That came from God to a centralized unified Israelite government where each tribe was called to set aside land for food usage. That's still governmental welfare for a semi pagan state. (Israel could only stay committed to God for small amounts of time.)

Not to mention each tribe was called by God and their respective leadership (government for lack of a better term) to set aside food for the priests (levites) so that they could focus on the spiritual aspects of the nation of Israel. That's welfare too. So if you have a problem w/ that I don't know what to tell you.

There are other examples where the Israelite kings showed mercy and protected an enemies camp and a host of other interesting and complex things.

You said:
True, except the state does its harm in the name of the law, whereas individuals do their harm in contradiction to the law.

Me:
This is simply not true. Not be rude but do you live in a dream world. Individuals and the state work together thru law to cause harm just easily as one or the other does alone. I can site many historic examples of this.

You:
2. Feeding a family is not diluted work. True, but it ought to be done by the Church. To be clear, I don't advocate removal of welfare programs until the Church has risen up to meet the need on its own. If it never does, then the Church is to blame for the further loss of liberty and dignity we all will endure.

Me:
I don't care who does it as long as it gets done. What is your definition of liberty? Having the church not feed people does not take liberty from me. If you talk about taxes being used to help the less fortunate I have no problem w/ my money being used for the betterment of the country. I see feeding people in the same vein as building highways. They are both equally important.

YOU:
4. Am I being arrogant about the church?

Me:
Yes you are. The church has a special mandate but if you think it's somehow better or more equipped to carry it out than any other institution then you are deluding yourself.

YOU:
Is Christ arrogant or is He God?

Me:
Arrogant and God so both.

YOU:
Did He establish the Church or did He not?

Me:
Ofcourse he established it.

YOU:
If He did establish the Church and assign it a peculiar ethic and a social mandate, then it is a special institution, not to be compared to other human institutions, just as Christians are peculiar people since we believe we have God living inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit enabling us to do good works which our flesh cannot perform. I suppose this is an exclusive, and perhaps an arrogant position if it is not borne with much humility by acknowledging that it is Christ which lives in me, not I myself who deserves the glory for the good which I am now able to perform. To be able to do good IS the blessing.

Me:
I agree that from a spiritual perspective it is a very special institution but when humans get involved it becomes a very human institution. You can see this clearly in every church, in every denomination and in the larger history of the Catholic, Protestant, Coptic, Orthodox and other Christian churches. These holy set apart pieces of the body committed genocide, encouraged it, created forced labor, slavery and any number of social ills. Sorry but that's a human problem. It's a human thing and God had nothing to do w/ that. If anything it was those things that led him to judge it for all the evil it did and continues to do.

For all this talk about the beauty and union of the Holy spirit w/n us we have not erradicated any of the major social issues of the day and the church is far more affluent then it was 2000 years ago. So my point is that we as a church are indeed a very unique spiritual blessing to this world but when we have flesh and use it we are just like everyone else, no better or worse just united w/ God. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can actually work on changing this world for the better.

YOU:
5. I don't hate law. I do hate pagan centralized government. Whenever it feeds someone it does so with strings attached. If the state were restricted to protecting rights and enforcing contracts it would do well. God rebuked the Israelites for desiring a king. Arbitrary centralized leadership is pagan in its root. It demonstrates a rejection of God and His law in favor of a law giver who can be manipulated by various special interests.

ME:
You can't be this naive. You really think the church is immune to that type of coercion and manipulation? You really believe the church doesn't engage in this now? Cmon now. We are just as broken as the world but we just like to pretend we are not. Even though Israel was rebuked for desiring a king God still gave it to them. He gave it to them and redeemed it thru Christ. So in the end your point is a mute one. If Christ is King and he is then this whole thing looks a lot different.

You:
6. I believe that the church can feed the hungry, and those it cannot are covered by God's sovereignty. I believe it is a sin to coerce others into doing what we think is good. It is patronizing and legalistic. It places a perceived good above the command of God.

Me:
I don't. God doesn't all the time and he calls the state, individuals and the church to force people to do the right thing all the time and he will continue to. If I waited for people to do the right thing I would still be a slave. We may not be able to change a person's heart and cause them to care about another but we can make sure their belly is fed. That's more important then whether or not the feelings get hurt because you are doing something you disagree w/.

p

Me:

P,
“Ignoring aspects of the OT Law where the state was assigned the duty to feed the people.”
But, there WAS no state. There were courts, and there were individuals. The people were to feed the people. Voluntarily. Show me the law where the state was to punish the stingy.
Welfare was written into their moral code and their institutions, I will grant you. I remain optimistic that the church can be that institution which performs social good.

Again, the food brought to the priests was brought voluntarily. It is the element of force which I am so adamantly opposed to.

“Individuals and the state work together thru law to cause harm” if the law were limited to its two primary laws, protection of rights and enforcement of contracts, then ther would not be opportunity to manipulate it.

“I don't care who does it as long as it gets done.”
Then you are just as deluded as I am. For the poor will always be with you. Pursuit of an ends by any means is a dangerous way to live. All kinds of behavior becomes justifiable. I say, behave justly in your use of means, and leave the ends to God.

My definition of liberty is to do whatever I want to do, and for everyone else to do the same, with the one condition of not encroaching on other’s person or property.

You might have no problem with tax money being used to help the less fortunate. I agree that feeding people has parallels with building highways. I would have those built privately as well. I remain consistent here. Both are important enough that they ought to be performed privately.

It’s not that I trust individuals, but that I trust God, and recognize the spontaneous order which emerges when individuals are left alone.

Your separation of the spiritual significance from the physical relevance of the church is a form of Gnosticism. Most of the history of the church is tainted by its marriage to the state. I submit to you that absent the influence of the state the chuch performs its mandate, and does so quite well.

Maybe the point isn’t to eradicate any major social issues. Maybe it’s to live righteously, and to leave the results up to God.

If you don’t believe you are a better person since coming to know Jesus, then why do you bother to believe in Him? If the Holy Spirit is not effectual, then why bother? I for one know that I am infinitely better now than I was before. I know that the good which I do I do through the spirit in the same power and authority as Christ. This is exciting, and worthwhile.

God never calls the church to force individuals to do anything. He calls the state to punish evildoers. If you waited for people to do the right thing you would be free now, perhaps a generation later than you were, and without a civil war which ruined the economy and helped perpetuate Jim Crow in the South longer than necessary.

I disagree that full bellies is an end justifiable in itself for which any means necessary are legitimate.

Nathanael Snow

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