Tag Archives: theology

Christian Compulsion

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. (Philemon 1:8, 9, 14 ESV)

There is no compulsion to do good. Paul is justified, both then and in our current minds, in commanding Philemon to accept back Onesimus not as a slave, but as a brother, relinquishing any ownership he previously held of is man according to his right of possession of the slave.

However, instead of commanding him under his right as an elder in Christ, Paul instead gives Philemon the opportunity to either take his slave back as a slave, with requisite punishment for his having ran away, or to take him back as a brother in Christ, with the purpose that God might receive greater glory through this reconciliation between master and former slave and that spiritual growth may occur both in these two and in those around them observing this obviously difficult situation.

Such freedom from compulsion ought to characterize Christians today in the same way and for the same reasons. God seeks not automatons, forced and enforced confessions of non-present faith, or insincere actions done supposedly in His name. God instead seeks freely given love, sincere searchings for Him, unforced confessions revealing the true state of a persons soul.

This free expression does not negate predestination and free will. God’s working through the Holy Spirit to bring those He has called, foreordained, and predestined does not negate their human effort and prerogative to seek, knock, accept, and follow.

Such freedom ought not be limited to “spiritual” things, either. If the ultimate goal of a Christian is to see as many choose to follow Christ freely, then, by extension, the goal of the Christian in the world is to seek to allow as much freedom for as many people as absolutely possible so that all may, by the choices, words, and actions, reveal the truest view of their internal state. This is obviously done with regard for the inherent evil bound up in the hearts of all people. Reasonable laws protecting people from the predations of others are, and will continue to be so long as our Lord tarries, necessary and good. Free actions are to be allowed without censure so long as the do not infringe upon free actions and choices of others or prevent others from living freely in their own way. But such laws and regulations are to be as minimal as possible because the right of liberty is of greater worth than the freedom from pain or want.

As laws and regulations begin to prevent more than merely the excessive damage to others by actions of some and instead begin protecting people from the results of their own actions and choices, they exceed their just purpose and therefore become unjust. An unjust law is not necessarily a law that harms through lack of protection, it can also be a law exceeding its just purpose.

Paul chose to use persuasion, leaving the choice to Philemon, even when a possible result would have been the re-enslavement of Onesimus, in order that the true state of these men’s hearts could be shown. Only through such a freedom-embracing choice allowing possible ill is the responsibility of all involved kept sacrosanct.

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (Revelation 22:10, 11 ESV)

An Informed Life

On a recent Michael Medved show, a caller identifying himself as a moderately liberal high school political science teacher stated that the conservative force he fears most in America is from the Christian conservatives who allow their theology to inform their politics.

To him, so long as your politics do not inform your theology and your theology is kept far away from your politics, you’re OK. They may agree, but only incidentally.

There’s a problem with that: humans cannot, by nature, exist in a dichotomous state.

In fact, to demand such a personal internal segregation of ones internal beliefs and external actions is to request something dangerous and displays a profound ignorance of human nature and need.

First, everyone has a theology. Commonly called our “beliefs”. It is our understanding, findings, or opinions regarding the nature (or lack thereof) of God. An atheist has a theology as surely as a Christian, they are just convinced there is no god.

One’s beliefs regarding God informs one’s ideas on life, purpose, meaning, history, and the future. This is indisputable and is not a value judgment, merely a statement of fact.

One’s understanding of life, it’s purposes and meanings, history and the future, definitely informs one’s political persuasions. I vote with a goal and purpose. I don’t roll dice (often) and I don’t sell my vote. Though both those actions would allow us to infer your understanding of life and likely, your theology.

I am a whole human, with will and purpose. I try not to say one thing and act another. Yet even should I engage in such hypocrisy, accidentally or purposefully, there is a consistency to the failure. My hypocritical life would have a goal and purpose: likely a hope for self-aggrandizement or gain for some deeply and closely held belief.

Watching Chariots of Fire last night with my wife, we came upon the scene where Eric Liddell has found out the heats for his race is on Sunday and is now meeting with the crown prince and the Olympic committee. Young Lord Lindsey has offered his own, longer, race to Eric as a solution and as the meeting is dispersing the Duke of Sutherland and Lord Birkenhead discuss what has just occurred:

Duke of Sutherland: A sticky moment, George.
Lord Birkenhead: Thank God for Lindsay. I thought the lad had us beaten.
Duke of Sutherland: He did have us beaten, and thank God he did.
Lord Birkenhead: I don’t quite follow you.
Duke of Sutherland: The “lad”, as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.
Lord Birkenhead: For his country’s sake, yes.
Duke of Sutherland: No sake is worth that, least of all a guilty national pride.

The Duke of Sutherland has the correct diagnosis of the issue: we can no more separate one part of a man’s soul from his other parts than we can parts of his body and expect them both to continue living.

I am a Christian. I am convinced of God’s existence and His divine will. I try to live my life in the salvation offered by the death of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son and according to His laws.

I hold these beliefs in faith, not a hope in wishful thinking. Faith is not a firmly held belief in unprovable or illogical ideas, it is the belief in things proven and yet unseen.

My faith informs my life. I try to live my life according to the law of God. And not just those parts lived in private. I fail miserably more often than I succeed, but what is life without a contest, without a goal?

If I were to deny the influence of my theology on any part of my life, I would be trying to live as though I were two separate people within the same physical body: It just doesn’t work.

And so, to you political science teacher, I hope that you will always live your entire life according to the dictates of your conscience and that your theology informs your choices. I pray that your theology will grow and you will find and find faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and countless millions since them. And yet, even if you do not, I still pray that you will be a complete person with one goal and purpose.