Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christian Anarchy, Baptist Identity, Fundamentalist Christianity

Many of you may have heard of Greg Boyd from his book, "Myth of A Christian Nation". In that book Boyd discusses the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the sword (the kingdom of men). In the process of leading his congregation not to place their faith in political dogma shrouded in religious garb, Boyd lost over 1000 congregants.

He has a lot of good things to say on the relationship of people of faith and political power, but lately he has been expanding his thoughts to discuss what he calls Christian anarchy on his blog. Much of what he does in both the "Myth" book and in his recent post is closely tied with Baptist identity. As a fellow Baptist, I know at the core of historic Baptist principles is an advocacy of the separation of church and state. Part of this theology teaches us that Christianity is to be a countercultural kingdom, and not wed itself to government and world institutions. Whenever the church does this, the line of thinking goes, it tends to compromise both Christian witness and Christian ethics. Up to this point, I tend to agree with Boyd. There are many times we confuse being a patriotic, good, moral American with being a follower of Jesus. When we do this we can become irrational, ignorant, and arrogant. Our current presidential administration comes under attack for this kind of pseudo-Christian leadership quite often.

My struggle is that Boyd's Christian Anarchy tends to take things to far to the other extreme. This is an extreme where believers in Jesus have no investment in making the world a better place through the public sphere, because the powers in this world are the powers of the devil and must be avoided. This point of view strikes me as hubris that is as extreme as the Bush administration.

What happens when you label any governmental group as under the rule of Satan? Well then you can abandon them and write governments off. Boyd's theory of Christian Anarchy has a very limited view of the power of God and God's ability to redeem. God is always at work, and is seems not only unhealthy but also frightening that Christians and Christian communities can write off people and institutions as God-forsaken.

It was this kind of Christianity that I grew up in. Narrow-minded. Sectarian. Judgmental. This brand of fundamentalism writes off the world around them as hell-bound and unredeemable, and thus refuses to contibute and offer hope to the world around them. This labeling governments as the devil's lair and irredeemable is what brought us people like Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings.

It seems to me the way of Jesus calls believers to be in the world for the benefit of the world. That is what Jesus talks about when he talks about them being like lights and like cities on a hill (Matthew 5). And it does not seem right that Christians abandon this responsibility when it comes to our governments. Maybe we should make our investments and choices in social issues and government affairs with wide eyes and more discerning hearts, but it does not mean that we should run away from certain realms of our society and label them God-forsaken either.


Mark Van Steenwyk said...

You're reading Greg's position farther than he's taking his argument. He doesn't say government is God forsaken. Nor does he say that we should completely withdraw from the public sphere or government life.

When you label something "extreme" you predispose yourself to miss the nuances, thus reinforcing your own position.

Friar Tuck said...

This kind of thinking sounds pretty God-forsaken to me:

"What I now want to argue is that all human governments are not only premised on mistrust: they are actually ruled by Satan."

reliv4life said...

This is interesting to think on. In Jesus' day the tax collectors were shunned by the religious leaders of the day, yet Jesus fellowshipped with them. I sometimes wonder if Christians take this stance out of fear. In truth, we are victorious and have nothing from any organization or political stance to fear. Lumping "All" of anything into one category is wrong.
"Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God." Romans 13:1
Can't really say they are all ruled by Satan in that case...

becca said...

I'm not sure that I completely disagree with his statement that you quote here in the comments. Doesn't, after all, Satan offer Christ the rule of all the worldly governments during the three temptations in the desert? If they weren't his to give, how could he offer them?

Do I think that means that all governments are equally immoral? No. But I also don't think that being moral and immoral is what makes us Christ-like or un-Christ-like. If it were that easy, anyone could be Christ-like, without even having to understand the significance of faith, regeneration, transformation, etc. So I don't think that the governments being "controlled by Satan" means that governments never do anything right or are all evil. But I do think it means they can never be righteous, which seems to be the most important thing.

Of course, you know how much I like Boyd... and how much I like to disagree with pretty much everything that anyone says... so it shouldn't surprise you that I rise to his defense. But I do appreciate the fairness of your post. Unlike several Conservatives I know, you are very gracious, even when you disagree with people... especially your friends. But I will defend Boyd by saying that although he may be extreme, we need his extreme when we have such a huge amount of extreme on the other side.

But good post, though. I appreciate how thoughtful and intelligent you are, even when you disagree with Greg Boyd. :-)

Steve said...

Nothing Satan offers is his to give. He has a long, sad history of offering what he can't deliver. He was lying when he claimed to be able give Jesus the things he was offering, just like eveything he offers us never seems to materialize. His undoing in his encounter with Jesus was that he'd most likely never run into someone who could see through his lies before.