God’s Theology Before God’s Politics

You are a Christian in an (anti-)intellectually polarized country. You think that different Christian practices can academically and abstractly be put onto a sociological continuum without judgement, so you call theologies “liberal” or “conservative” as if theology is tied to political ideology, or as if you accept that as the way things ought to be. You know that deep down you want to avoid both charges, so, if you’re trying to be neither fundamentalist nor liberal, you believe you should be striking the via media of a moderate, whatever a theological moderate is.

No, in our categories we have become so concerned with what’s “conservative” and what’s “liberal” that we use the labels even when they’re totally irrelevant and useless. (If instead you classify theology by “practical” and “impractical”, you know the words I have for you.) We are wimps: we dare not say “orthodox” (faithful to the apostolic faith of the fathers) versus “heterodox” (divergent from the apostolic faith) and be called to account to defend what that is and explain rationally how something is supported by the faith of Christ our Saviour.

So we leave to the mind of the listener to make “liberal” a term of no judgement or a term of abuse: so we avoid having to say why something is good or bad, in what way. We avoid having to say what it is that a certain group is too attached to, if that group even is too attached to it. It doesn’t take a heretic to have idols, but we’re afraid of the word “heresy” too.

But let me tell you, and myself: though on the surface level we can be agnostic about such questions, on the deepest level we’ll act the way we really believe. To leave questions unaddressed at the point of slapping on political labels and half-believing that our theology should follow our political feelings is to leave faith to the devices and desires of our own depraved hearts. No, we need to start from a divine standard that we can trust to order all other things, thinking in all intellectual seriousness about what is specifically consistent with God’s revealed moral will.

So we do not call parts of God’s will more important and other parts less important. No, God’s law, as Israel held, is equally great in all its parts, because all parts are equally from God Himself. Each part, however, has a domain, whether more particular or more expansive. What is more particular is an expression of what is more expansive. In all corners of the Christian church I have heard irrational talk, I have seen irrational assumptions, I have smelled irrational thoughts. How can we talk like this productively?

No wonder we no longer talk. No wonder we no longer have anything but slogans and Twitter-length defences. No wonder. If the church cannot even talk without assuming everyone has a political agenda driving his theology rather than the other way around and assuming the political part’s the more fundamentally important thing, about the Pope, about Jeremiah Wright, about Josh Harris, about Jim Wallis, about Doug Wilson, what makes us think we have rational discussion going on about what would please God in a presidential election?

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