Monday, December 3, 2012

At the Intersection of Faith and Politics 12-03-2012

 Part 2 of 2 (for Part 1 click here)

Last week I started to address the definition of Progressive as it relates to Progressive Conservativism, to bring some connection to what are considered dichotomous ideas. It seems there a quite a number of people who are rethinking what Conservativism means today, post-election 2012, and that is not only good but urgent. At least one group I have come across recently is doing some imaginative political thinking. Without faith however we will get stuck at the intersection and not get very far on things that truly matter. 

It seems to me that Conservativism, as a movement, has been swept up by a radical individualism and infiltrated by Libertarianism, that is both unhelpful and unBiblical. I assume Biblical truth is an important element of your worldview. If not, than you'll find what I have to share here irrelevant at best. A politic that resists any and all government activity, and singularly as it relates to questions of taxation, is not necessarily Conservative. Rather it may simply be reactionary to the forces of humanistic progressive ideology. Being reactionary is no way to be the thought leaders our culture needs today. Conservativism must be more than a pledge of "no new taxes" or it will not be anything at all, which is why I am blogging at the intersection of faith and politics. 

Last week, I shared what I believe keeps us from living our faith progressively with respect to our politics - dualism that compartmentalizes our thought life. When we fail to see all of life as sacred we trend toward a divided inner life that can become all about "me." This gets expressed in both our politics of self-interest, be it Left or Right, and our over emphasis on personal salvation. We then lose important truths of the whole Gospel. To quote AW Tozer, "If we would escape from the toils of the sacred-secular dilemma (dualism) ... [we] must practice living to the glory of God, actually and determinedly….The knowledge that we are all God's, that He has received all and rejected nothing, will unify our inner lives and make everything sacred to us… We can meet this successfully only by the exercise of an aggressive faith.”

Today, maybe more than ever we need an aggressive faith - aggressive in love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, and truth that seeks the progress of the global human condition. The opponents of God are certainly aggressive in what they believe and do. We need an aggressive faith that seeks for the knowledge of the glory of God to fill the earth. Christianity does have the better ideas and arguments, for as Francis Schaeffer said, "Christianity is the greatest intellectual system the mind of man has ever touched." But we need to understand and live our faith through the context of the whole Gospel, which is what the Living Send Today blog is about.  Maintaining the status quo is no way to live, so the option is either progress or surrender. And there is simply no mandate in Scripture to sit idly by awaiting Jesus' return as our culture crumbles about us.

We can either aggressively rethink what "progressive" means from a Biblical worldview perspective or we will continue to witness a distortion of progressive thought from the world's failed systems and empty philosophies.  If we are going to progress, and we must, we must do so “living to the glory of God” and by “the knowledge that we are all God’s.” Today, let's view the definitions of progressive through a Biblical worldview lens. Hopefully, this will help us think well about progress, as Christ followers, because God's story and our place in is meant to be progressive. 

“of, relating to, or characterized by progress”
God is progressive. Not in his nature, God changes not, but in his working in history. God started with nothing, made everything very good, mankind ruined it but God has progressed through history, using a faithful pagan named Abram to start a faith movement, a refugee people as a witness for other nations, incarnated the Son in history, then launched a mission movement to change the world, all toward a New Creation.
“making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities”
Our story is progressive. Our story follows in the line of Abraham (see blog post here). Abraham had a level of awareness about what God was asking of him. Next Moses and the Israelites had additional new “ideas” of what Yahweh was asking of them, although they failed to live them out. This was followed by Jesus’ who taught his disciples a new understanding and proceeded by the Church as the the new people of God called to live in new ways not previously thought of. What followed was the world Christian movement over the previous two millennium that greatly shaped history.
“moving forward or onward”
History is progressive. From the Book of Acts on, God’s mission goes forward as God continues to work out his global plan and advance his-story toward the New Creation. In Christ, we are no longer people of Adam, simply human in nature. Rather, in God’s divine plan we are called to now move forward as we live in Christ as new creations, fully human with a new nature that should always be progressing more into the image of Christ.
“favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform”
The Church is progressive. From a simple band of people of faith emerged a movement that changed the world, advocating social order, developing technologies, advancing science and medicine, developing, changing, improving, and reforming the condition of man. The whole Gospel is a progressive movement that advocates regeneration, advances reconciliation, and activates reformation. The problem is too many Christians have never been changed by an understanding of the whole Bible. Today, conservative Christianity seems to be more about a status quo that is in desperate need of revival and recalibration.
“making progress toward better conditions”
The re-Creation is progressive. The first creation was instant and very good – God spoke and it was so. In the re-Creation God is taking us somewhere and we are invited to be a part of what he is doing. The very essence of God’s desire to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory must lead us to progress for his global purpose. God gave Isaiah a glimpse of this “progress toward better conditions” allowing Isaiah to understand that…

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:9-12)

There is certainly more to it that even Isaiah understood, but he saw a glorious future God promises, as should we, and we have the privilege of partnering with God to work toward that future however God intends for it to unfold. Progressive shouldn’t take us toward a Utopian ideal based on humanism or socialist ideology, which are often void of any Biblical truth. Rather, Progressive must emphasize the importance of Biblical precepts that follow God's story line. To paraphase Irenaeus, an early church father: "The progress of God is man fully alive." 

My purpose here is to look at the intersection of faith and politics, with Progressive Conservativism as a developing politic that bring two previously divergent words together as both have value. My prayer here is that Progressive Conservativism, as a Christ follower, takes us on a journey of discovering more about where the Lord is progressing history toward as we live out the whole Gospel in all domains of life. The point here is that we reclaim the word Progressive for the glory of God.

Next time we’ll look at what is called Progressive Christianity, which is not what I am advocating, especially as many define it today, and compare those ideas with Conservative values, at the intersection of faith and politics.

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