My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

28 June 2006

Synod, part 3

We have a committee on "Understanding the Times." This committee's job is somewhat ambiguous, but they generally write a several-page report covering what the two committee members feel are the most important regarding the current state of our nation(s) and societies. Though it doesn't necessarily stand as an official denominational position paper, it always generates some decent debate. This year the paper was exclusively political, which is unfortunate, to my thinking. I'm glad that it was worded strongly enough to generate some good discussion, though I'm guessing it will just peter out. But it brings up some fun questions to talk about:

If we really want to understand the times (1 Chr. 12:32), how do we do that? How do we best utilize the church's resources and get helpful information out to her pastors and churches?

How ought the church of Christ to address its political beliefs to the government?

How does the kingship of Christ impact our understanding of society beyond politics?


Marlene said...

Who is all on the judicial committee? Just wondering. It helps to know to get a bit of an understanding for how things may go.


Jon said...

Start with economics. Make sure the church has a clear understanding of the various perspectives on economic issues and has its own clearly defined position. If people are struggling to "keep warm and well fed," they're unlikely to have time for the more philosophical concerns.

Finally, the church should decide how distribute its own resources. Calvin, for example, says that half of the church's resources should go to the poor--one-fourth to the poor directly and one-fourth to those ministries of "hospitality" that serve the poor's needs (Insti. 4.5.16; See also: 4.3.9; 4.4.6; 4.5.18). He orders this because: "the glory of the bishop is to provide for the poor" (4.5.19).

In a time where the church is struggling to find its public voice, I can only imagine the radically transformative cultural impact if churches took Calvin's allocation seriously. If the goals of the church are to preach the word and care for the naked, the hungry, the orphans, and the widows, then it seems as though our understanding of the times must begin with the latter.

Sir Ryan said...

I got a copy of the "Understanding the Times" report, and I'm fairly certain that I disagreed with the report and its conclusions.

While American politicians foolishly believe that the gods Mammon and Eros will overwhelm the “minor” theological differences between competing Muslim factions, the historical reality is that these groups have been at enmity since the death Muhammad, Islam’s revered prophet and founder.

I'm quite confused by this paragraph. Mammon and Eros? Are the authors purporting that our politicians are hoping that greed and sex will overcome the problems in Iraq? What are they basing this assertion on?

I'm sure many in our government are typical secularists/humanists, but this accusation colors our politicians as purposfully-corrupting agents in Iraq.

As American casualties mount, the Reformed Presbyterian Church wonders what God-glorifying purpose the United States has to continue such an occupation? Thus we call upon the President and the Congress to begin
to take decisive steps to either decisively win the peace or prudently bring our sons and daughters home.

This is the same position as the anti-war liberals, written in nice theological terms. "As American casualties mount..."? We've had only 2500 casualties in three years! Any casualties are regretful, but these are amazingly low numbers. The statement in the report is misleading.

I don't understand why we even have to have this report? What's the point of the RPCNA making a political statement?

Jared said...

Ryan - I actually think that, due to our stand on Christ's mediatorial kingship, it's entirely appropriate for us to make political statements. But, like you, I'm not sure this is the right one.

I do sympathize with the call for President Bush to take "decisive action" to end the war in Iraq, but I'm also not sure he isn't doing that already.

Sir Ryan said...

I agree, the mediatorial kingship of Christ doesn't jive with the "separation of Church and State" garbage that our country practically worships, anyway.

Perhaps I'm just reacting to the similarities I see between this paper and the liberal mantra I constantly hear coming from the Left. I guess I just expected a more politically-conservative position that supported the efforts to free the Iraqis and to protect Americans from Al Quaida.

I do agree with the call for "decisive action" being taken, and I agree with you that I'm not sure that President Bush isn't doing that already.

Anonymous said...

Ryan and Jared:

There are times when the RPCNA should make political statements known to civil govt.

I have no problem w/ our military being used for defensive purposes and to kill terrorists. However, there is an "old right" position on such matters that would differ with the neo-cons (new right) and the libs. I do wonder if nation building (not "occupation") is wise. I don't think that our founders would have agreed w/ the approach. Most libs hate the military period. But the new right seems to think that the USA should be an empire.

Does anyone think there will ever be a lasting constitutional republic in a Muslim nation? If not, we are wasting a lot of money, time, and blood trying.

Jeff K
PS I haven't read the report, but hope to soon.

MarkPele said...

It seems that few, if any American citizens really understand the concept of a republic, maybe especially the politicians. We vote for men to take office, and those men have much more ready access to the right information. We get information filtered through media bias. Thus, we ought to actually do some research before we start putting the weight of our church behind stinging accusations. Personally, I believe that the war was justified, and that we are best serving the interests of Iraq (and the world) by letting THEM elect their own leadership and establish a government. That's much better than the stupidity we had in the 70's and 80's of propping up military coups.