Op-ed: The corruption of faith

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017 10:04am
  • Opinion

When Jim Zeigler, the state auditor of Alabama, invoked the Bible to defend Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore against allegations that he had inappropriate contact with underage girls while single and in his 30s (which Moore has sort of denied), it signaled perhaps the final stage in the corruption of American evangelicalism.

Zeigler claimed there are many instances in the Bible where older men had sexual relations with young girls. He cites Mary and Joseph as one example. That the religious left has made similar analogies to advance their political agenda is no excuse. It proves my point. Religious liberals long ago stopped preaching a gospel of personal salvation in favor of a social gospel that is more social than gospel.

Conservative evangelicals are repeating this error.

This being the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, politically active Christians would do well to read deeper than the 95 Theses Martin Luther supposedly “nailed” to that church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. Luther was distressed about the corruption that had overtaken the Roman Catholic Church.

In an essay for Modern Age Journal, titled “Beyond the Reformation of Politics,” Alec Ryre, professor of Christianity at England’s Durham University, writes that Luther believed governments were ordained by God to restrain sinners and little else. Real transformation of individuals and thus societies, he reasoned, could be achieved only by a changed heart, which is the work of the church, not government.

“In Luther’s view,” writes Ryre, “God permits these scoundrels to rule because ‘the world is too wicked, and does not deserve to have many wise and upright princes.’ Anticipating (James) Madison, Luther argued that it is only because of human sin that God had instituted government at all, in order to make some limited semblance of peace and order possible.”

That is the antithesis of the theology and political activism of many modern evangelicals, who seem to prefer access to temporal power more than faithfulness to a kingdom and King not of this world.

Ryre continues: “(Luther’s) point, deeply counterintuitive to most modern sensibilities, is that government is not very important. It is necessary in a humdrum way for as long as this passing world endures, but Christians should not pay much attention to it. Their hearts should be set instead on the kingdom of Christ, where there is no law, and no coercion, and which is not passing away.”

There is an unstated conceit among some evangelicals that God is only at work when a Republican is elected, even a Republican who does not share their view of Jesus, or practice what He taught. It is the ultimate compromise, which leads to the corruption and dilution of a message more powerful than what government and politics offer.

German Protestantism made its own Faustian bargain in the 1930s. Theologian Gerhard Kittel joined with other Protestant leaders in a proclamation declaring Adolf Hitler “A call of God.” More like a call of Satan. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the better example of a serious believer who confronted the Nazis with the power and truth of that other kingdom and was martyred for it.

Henry VIII provides another cautionary tale when it comes to fusing faith with politics. Here’s Ryre’s indictment: “Henry was no Protestant, but most English Protestants were willing to swallow their principles for the sake of an alliance with him…”

Principles are still being swallowed today in exchange for a false sense of influence and power.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says about the church at Ephesus, which had been strongly influenced by the Emperor’s cult and worship of the Greek goddess Artemis: “You have left your first love,” meaning Himself. (Rev 2:4)

For too many modern Protestants, politics has become a cult and their “Artemis.” They are forgetting their first love, the consequences of which can be found in history, dating back to Israel’s King David, who warned, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3)

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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