Does Heaven Imply Earth…Or Not?

Here is an example of just how confused the American religionist can be:

“There’s no disputing the fact that evangelicals feel burned by their ineffective intimacy with the Republican Party and are increasingly convinced that church and politics shouldn’t have such an intertwined relationship. Evangelicals young and old are not retreating or switching parties, but they’re carefully weighing their involvement and attempting to bring it into conformity with an all-encompassing commitment to their theology.”

They at once say “church and politics shouldn’t have such an intertwined relationship,” and that they are “carefully weighing their involvement and attempting to bring it into conformity with an all-encompassing commitment to their theology.”

So, which is it? Does cultic confession imply cultural conclusion, or not? Much as he may move “toward the light,” the American religionist simply cannot fight against his religio-cultural DNA that tells him his religion must imply his culture, that his cultural conclusions must “conform to his theology.” But what the doctrine of the Atonement has to do with state’s right or democracy seems less obvious than many imagine.

This reminds me of a CRC minister chastising both James Dobson and Jim Wallis yet also wanting to maintain his own Kuyperian transformationalism. The problem is that the former groups are simply applying the latter’s operating principle that “the Gospel has an obvious bearing on and implication for temporal purposes.” Ask enough questions and it becomes fairly clear that his problem with Dobson and Wallis is the same one Erasmus had with the medieval church, over against Luther: you are not doing it very well. But Luther’s point was that the problem was doctrinal, or theoretical, in the first place. Dobson’s problem isn’t his obnoxiousness, and Wallis’s problem isn’t his self-righteousness, much as they both tend to exude such things. The problem is their assumption that the Gospel has one ounce of anything to do with ordering society.

Put another way, the problem with the TV preacher is not his crassness or his being uncouth, etc. His problem is his theology. Turn down the decibels on Benny Hinn and you get Rick Warren. Turn down Warren’s decibels and you get your garden variety Evangelicalism when it tells you, in one socially acceptable way or another, the point is to be happy, healthy and whole.

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4 Responses to Does Heaven Imply Earth…Or Not?

  1. Echo_ohcE says:

    The gospel does have nothing to do with culture. But the law does. We still have a law, don’t we?

  2. Zrim says:


    Of course. We have everything we need in natural law to order society. I think what bothers most American religionists of one stripe or another is the inevitable prospect that there will be disagreement when natural law is appealed to. So, the Bible is eventually hauled out and the God-lever is pulled as a sort of emergency tactic. Think appeals to Psalm 139, as if that settles discussions about the 1973 decision. But, I say, if we are just going to pull our Bibles out to silence all discussions, why not do that from the very beginning? Why waste time with all the back and forth? The back and forth, it seems to me, is a function of the fact that everyone knows they ought to be appealing to natural law…but they get antsy when they lose or perceive themselves as about to lose, so then enters all the rhetoric about God judging a nation over this or that thing (usually a righty phenomenon), etc., etc. They easily forget that God is coming “to judge the living and the dead” even if their “worldview” wins the day; He’s coming whether or not we criminalize Jane for doing away with her unwanted lump and make sure Adam and Steve stay formally single.

    You have to appeal to natural law when making your case in the common realm, since that is what everyone naturally has. When doing work in the common realm, you can’t appeal to the Bible when not everyone appeals to the Bible. Besides, appealing to the Bible for common purposes is a mis-use of it anyway and destroys its proper other-worldly concern.

  3. Echo_ohcE says:

    Here, here!

    Paul does much the same thing when he points to homosexuality in Rom 1. He’s saying, look, everyone knows this is a shameful act, but peoples’ need to express their hatred toward God even overcomes that. Amazing. He’s appealing to natural law here, even to believers, to show them how sinful mankind is.

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