In light of our sermon on Sunday under the same title, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts. First let me state the two main premises from Sunday’s sermon briefly, and then in upcoming blogs I’ll add a few practical suggestions to help us find a starting place.
The first is that the American Church should be careful in speaking on the current culture of lawlessness and destruction of history. Why? Because we broadly embraced antinomianism (ceased to teach the Ten Commandments as Christian truth) in the early 20th century and have become lawless ourselves. We became radical biblicists as well, shunning any relation to the Church of the past, denying the place of historic creeds and confessions, and even ceasing singing the songs of our forefathers. The American church embraced lawlessness and radical presentism long before the American nation. The world catches a cold when the church sneezes and not the other way around. Therefore, I feel that the church needs to set her own house in order before she tries to advise the civil magistrate about his house.
The second is that , as the first steps of a new reformation, we need to re-embrace the historic Christian Faith, its view of the Law of God, and its previous venerable treatment of the Saints that came before us. Without a proper understanding of the role of the Law of God, and a connection being re-established to a previous narrative that links the Church of the present to the church of the past, what exactly do we have to tell the civil magistrate? What advice could we give to a world in conflict seeing that we have the same problem in the Church (especially those of us who travel under the Protestant banner)? Most Protestants have exactly zero respect for the church of the past, lumping them all into one camp—Roman Catholic—the same way Black Lives Matters lumps everyone into one camp—white supremacist. Since many of the previous saints’ views were wrong on soteriology or ecclesiology, for example, we sweep them away with a wave of the hand banishing their memory and any good things they may have said and done to the trash bin of history to be forgotten. Augustine is swept away with his baptismal regeneration without a thought concerning his other writings and contributions.
The previous generation of Protestants did not share this way of dealing with history, which is why reformed theologians like the late R.C. Sproul held men like Thomas Aquinas or Anselm in high regard despite their Roman Catholicism. This is why a book like Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ could undergo multiple printings by Protestant publishing houses for centuries, enjoying a high reputation among Protestants for generations despite his Roman Catholicism. The Protestant Church in previous generations had a more humble view of themselves and a much higher view of the saints of the past. We knew how to separate the good from the bad. We knew how to honor the good and disregard the evil. We were far more discerning and nuanced in the past than we are now. Nonetheless, like the world is currently trying to do, we have “sawed off the limb that we were sitting on.” We engaged in the destruction of our own memorials and statues when we removed the hymns, built churches to look like amphitheaters, threw away the old books, and laid to waste the memory of the saints of the past in favor of a modern, snazzy, more consumable Christianity. Until we remedy these issues (antinomianism and radical presentism) in our own house, I cannot see how we can give any advice to the civil magistrates of the world. In fact, the tsunami of people leaving the historic Christian Faith to join the lawlessness and destruction of America’s national heritage, flawed as it is, proves we have no wisdom to contribute, no advice to give. It shows the true depth of the destruction of the theological foundations of the Church, and it brings into sharp focus for all to see the abject failure of the modern American Church to teach the Law of God as foundational Christian truth. Ultimately, it is in the Law of God where we learn to honor our father and mother, where we learn, in a nuanced way, to honor the men and women of the past.