One of my favorite activities as a kid was to go in the backyard, find a partially embedded rock, turn it over and see what all would crawl out from underneath it. The new health care plan/law has allowed me as a grown up boy to do the same thing theologically and very practically. Let me state clearly that this blog post is not a political response to this highly definitive law designed to reform/regulate/renovate health care in the United States but I do propose a theological response to what this event has uncovered. In fact, I think three things have crawled out from under the rock and all three have significant implications for the evangelical church in the United States of America.
1. GOVERNMENTAL BLASPHEMY
With no hesitation and little fanfare and most of all with astounding boldness the proponents of the new health care law have declared their intention through this initiative to “establish a new right” for the citizens of the United States of America. Suspend for a moment the debate as to whether health care is, in fact, a right, but hear the unchallenged assertion that the government of the United States has pronounced its assumed power to establish “a right” for its citizens. This would have been unthinkable to our forefathers. Whether evangelical Christians or Deists, or even agnostic, all consented at least by vote that only God can give “rights and liberties.” Furthermore, they agreed that the purpose of government is not to establish rights but to protect the “unalienable rights” given by the Creator. Now, at what point in the cultural mindset of this nation did we make the enormous leap from a government’s responsibility before God to protect the rights He gives to humanity to the previously unthinkable notion that the government assumes the prerogatives of God by establishing the “rights” for humanity? What was once unthinkable is now not only thinkable and therefore acceptable, but through this initiative encoded, by precedent, into the law of the land. The United States government, through its elected officials, has used sovereignty and power over its citizens to usurp the divine prerogative of God by inserting itself as the giver of rights to its citizens instead of acknowledging that rights are an unalienable gift from God alone. Furthermore, our government has jettisoned its rightful role of protecting God given rights in order to assume the blasphemous role of giving rights. In other words, our government has ceased functioning “under God,” and now presumptively functions “as God.”
The implication for the church is unavoidable. This phenomena has revealed the unassailable fact that the evangelical church is no longer “salt and light” in the nation, and no longer communicates God–centered thinking throughout the culture. Yet, that is exactly what is desperately needed today. The evangelical church has revealed itself to be Biblically illiterate and spiritually impotent. We have actually nurtured members who accept such blasphemous thinking through our preoccupation with “how–to sermons,” which have replaced Biblical exposition and thoughtful application. The result is a church which no longer influences the thinking of the nation, but instead is being conformed by the thinking of the nation and amazingly actually supports and participates in its lightly veiled blasphemy. Oh, for pulpits that once again expound the Word of God and for churches that make disciples by “teaching all” that God has commanded.
2. THE NEW MESSIAH
This bill/law uncovers not simply a political problem of a society embracing a “nanny state”/socialism, but more profoundly a spiritual problem of a citizenry which looks to the state as its messiah. In other words, the new confession of faith is, “the state is my life, it determines whether I have life, can give life, and it alone provides for my life and sustains my life.” Therefore with this new confession, I am now called to give myself to the supremacy of the state with mindless allegiance, adoration and affection, since it is my sufficient savior. How does a citizenry with a history of Christian influence embrace a messianic state instead of insisting on a government which stands by Divine authority through the consent of the governed? Simple. This is because the citizenry no longer hears from the evangelical church of a preeminent and sufficient Savior, and a glorious Gospel which powerfully brings men and women to the Lord of life, Jesus Christ. The solution? Ultimately, the solution is not a Tea Party movement but a spiritual Awakening. Such an Awakening will only occur when the church is revived through Christ–centered and Gospel–driven leadership which is obviously in need of a New Reformation. In other words, the leadership of the evangelical church is in need of a New Reformation producing confidence in the Word of God, engagement with intercessory prayer, resulting in a Christ – centered and Gospel – driven revival which alone will initiate a new Great Awakening.
3. SOMETHING MISSING
The health care bill/law uncovered the fact that its passage was assured because it found traction through the reality that many people were facing physical issues of life with seemingly no place to turn. The reason or at least one reason is that the Church of Jesus Christ no longer intentionally engages in Gospel deeds of love, mercy and justice in such a manner that the physical needs of a people are addressed profoundly and purposefully by the love of Christ through the Body of Christ. Therefore, men and women will always default to the State as their hope. Now, clearly, the church is not totally bereft of evangelical obedience and ministries of mercy, and this is no argument for a social Gospel. But, this is a plea that those who are saved by the Gospel of grace respond graciously and sacrificially to the needs of others, so that men and women might not only hear of Christ the Savior, but experience Him in moments of crisis through the members and ministries of the Body of Christ, His Church.
Now, let’s be clear. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, yet neither grace nor faith is ever alone. Gospel deeds are always downstream from Gospel words, since the works of faith cannot be produced without the reality of faith, and faith comes by “hearing” the Word of Christ. In other words, the statement “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words” attributed to St. Francis of Assisi may be well–meaning, but is theologically and methodologically inaccurate. One is saved by faith, and faith does not come from observing Gospel deeds but from hearing Gospel words. Yet, if the Gospel has come, those who are Christ–centered and Gospel–driven will “love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with their God.” Once again, out of the evangelical church will pour forth the powerful, life–changing and culture–shaking deeds of love, mercy and justice through sinners saved by grace, revealing a passionate as well as compassionate Church.
In conclusion, I do not know what political responses are going to be made legislatively to this highly controversial health care bill/law, but I do know at least some changes the church needs to make. The evangelical church must AGAIN regain confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, must AGAIN “hold forth the Word of life” and once AGAIN display as well as declare the love of Christ to the heart and lives of men and women.
In Biblical Perspective,