The Christian’s Role and the Role of the Law

In recent years my love for apologetics has grown immensely. I have dedicated many hours to studying ethics, logic, and apologetic methodologies. One person who has greatly influenced me by use of wit and theological precision has been Greg Koukl. He is president of Stand to Reason. This ministry has done tremendous service to the Kingdom. The ministry has a very qualified staff and focuses its attention on issues like homosexuality, abortion, and giving a reasonable answer in defense of the faith. Koukl has a tremendously affective way of reaching and communicating truth to people. Last year at the Evangelical Theological Society I had the opportunity to meet Greg and was elated to know that he was a gracious man with a heart for truth. I highly recommend their ministry and in fact, anyone can subscribe to their monthly newsletter called: Solid Ground.

In the latest edition of Solid Ground, Greg has written a piece on the role of morality in society. In the section entitled, The First Goal of Law, Mr. Koukl says that, “Laws are not primarily meant to change hearts, but behavior, and they accomplish that very well.” He elaborates further that laws can be a helpful tool in changing people’s hearts. As he puts it:

When someone tells me that laws can never change a fallen person’s heart, I ask them if they apply that philosophy to their children. Does the moral training of our children consist merely of preaching the Gospel to them? Wouldn’t we consider it unconscionable to neglect a child’s moral instruction with the excuse that laws can never change a child’s rebellious heart? Don’t we give them rules to obey, then threaten them with punishment for disobedience?

Koukl brings up an important point which is needful to discuss. The matter of morality and its application to society finds little time in modern pulpits. In fact, the truth of the matter is that some do not even believe we are called to proclaim God’s commandments. They have told us that morality only brings spiritual death and can cause no change whatsoever. In the Scriptures, of course, we discover that the law is our tutor to bring us to Christ, through whom our hearts can be transformed. But still the question arises: Can morality transform the heart? There are at least two ways to answer this question. First, laws can never bring redemption to the soul. The truth is the law is not intended to bring regeneration. The law (man-made law) will not be able to reach the heart of society with a message that brings life. Secondly, in a very real sense the law does bring life and sanctifies the heart. David speaks of the law as “perfect,” “lamp unto his feet,” “a light unto his path.” The law of the Lord is the law that changes the soul. It brings metaphysical conviction; one that shreds the human pride to misery for in the law of God people must live holy lives. The unbeliever must submit to the commandments of God and bow before Him. The law of God serves as a pre-evangelistic tool to bring depraved hearts to the mercy of God.

Greg Koukl speaks of the application of an active Christianity. He begins his article by noting that:

Since the Gospel alone transforms lives, some Christians wrongly conclude that political involvement is a waste of time. This myth of political passivity presumes that the Great Commission is our only responsibility. It’s not.

Greg is absolutely correct. Political passivity has caused the decline of many nations, including this one. In the 19th and 20th century, Christian inactivity in the face of utter injustice did not communicate that the church was pure because it didn’t get involved in politics, rather, it communicated an approval of slavery and racial prejudice. The same can be said of today while 30 million unborn babies die every year. Koukl states: “Our past unwillingness to be involved in ‘politics’ has been a blight on the Church ever since.” This unwillingness is the cause of so much damage and ungodliness in our society. The Great Commission demands that we teach “all things that I (Christ) have commanded.” This is not a reference to Jesus’ Sharing the Gospel 101 class, but directly and indirectly to the law of God. The law as it was exposed in the synagogues. The civil and moral sanctions required by our Lord to be observed and obeyed.

The law of God is not to be taught or proclaimed to believers alone, but to all in the world. The message of redemption is not separated from the message of the law. Both law and gospel are inseparable. They find fulfillment in the hearts of men and women who by God’s grace come to love their Creator. Further, they are also proclaimed to those who despise their Creator. Christians are looking for a distinctly Christian society (Societas Christiana), not an appearance thereof, but the very essence of Christian religion. The King is seeking to bring all His enemies under His feet (I Corinthians 15:24-26). They will come due to regeneration or due to submission to the law that shall encompass the whole world.

Christ as King of Kings is not entitled to a part of the land, but to all of the land (Romans 4:13). Both Church and State must submit to the requirements of the law of the King. There is no neutrality. One cannot love both God and mammon.

Greg Koukl’s call to Christian activity is a noble call and a Biblical call. However, it seems to me that he errs in limiting the rewards of this application. In the section where he speaks of the myth of “the separation of church and state,” he says that,

Freedom of religion is the goal, and non-establishment is the means. The only way to have true freedom of religion is to keep government out of religion’s affairs. This provides for what Steve Monsma calls ‘positive neutrality.’ This view ‘defines religious freedom in terms of a governmental neutrality toward religion in which no religion is favored over any other, and neither religion nor secularism is favored over each other.

Greg’s quotation falters in several ways here. First, as his approval of Monsma’s quotation states “Freedom of religion is the goal.” Here there can be no question that this is the majority of the Christian’s perspective on the matter (at least for those involved in the political sphere). This idea crumbles since pluralism is antithetical to the Scriptures. Freedom of religion assumes that other religions are to be in par with the Christian religion. It also assumes that the Kingship of Christ (Christ reigns now seated on the right hand of the Father) is to be shared with other Kings such as Buddha, Muhammad, Ceasar or any other. If the Christian message is exclusive by nature, then the church must proclaim the reign of one religion and of one King alone. As R.B. Kuiper so eloquently has stated:

It must require of men everywhere that they acknowledge Him as Head of all things, as King of every domain of their lives. It must insist on Christian marriage, Christian education, Christian Science, Christian industry, Christian labor, Christian relationships between labor and industry, Christian culture, Christian recreation, Christian politics, Christian internationalism, in short, on a Christian society as well as a Christian Church (The Glorious Body of Christ p. 276).

Kuiper states what God demanded of His people before and after the Fall: that man have dominion over all things. Calvin himself in his writings laid down very clearly the principle of the separation of the functions of Church and State. They are related and mutually supportive, but also independent of each other. Though Church and State operate in two separate arenas of society, yet they both must submit to the same God, and this is not the god proposed by some, but the God of Scriptures.

Secondly, the quote ends by stating that “…neither religion nor secularism is favored over each other.” Again, this same error indicates the idea of freedom of religion as an ultimate goal of Christian activity. However, this is not the desire of Christ when he stated that the “gates of Hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18).” If by religion the author refers to any religion (pluralism), then I agree that neither pluralism nor secularism will prevail over one another for both must submit to the Christian message of salvation in Christ alone (Solos Christus).

Greg Koukl ends the article with a revealing quote. He quotes Philip Yancey in his article entitled The Other Great Commission, written in Christianity Today (p.136) that:

We have no mandate to ‘Christianize the United States – an impossible goal in any case. Yet Christians can work simultaneosuly toward a different goal, the ‘moralization’ of society. We can help tether the values and even the laws of society to some basis in transcendence.

Ask yourself the question as the end of this article approaches: What is the goal of ‘moralizing’ a society if society will be doomed? Yancey is not in any way referring to the use of God’s law to moralize society, but he is probably referring to bringing back prayers to public schools and things of that nature. But in either way, the idea of tethering “the values and even the laws of society to some basis in transcendence” is utterly absurd. Theism may be a prerequisite to Christian theism, but transcendent morality with no Trinitarian morality is no morality at all. Notice also his initial assumption when he says that “We have no mandate to ‘Christianize’ the United States – an impossible goal in any case.” Yancey is correct in affirming that we have no mandate to Christianize the United States, we as Christians who believe in the Triune Sovereign God have a mandate to Christianize the world by the power of the Gospel and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Micah 4:2 says: “‘. . . that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth the Law Even the Word of God from Jerusalem.” May our hearts be encouraged that the Father has promised the nations as a gift to the Son and the end will not come until all his enemies are under His feet. In the words of the famous Advent song: Let earth receive her king!

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, The Law of God. Bookmark the permalink.

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