Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God and Caesar

From Collin Hansen:

Enjoying a sunny fall day, I walked around the National Mall on Saturday afternoon. Before visiting any other favorite sites, I ascended the temple steps where Father Abraham presides on his throne over American civil religion. Designed to recall the Greek Parthenon, this memorial secures Lincoln’s place in the American pantheon. If you champion a social cause and want to leave your mark on America, you must at some point make the pilgrimage to this hallowed ground. All the better if you can deliver a speech that incorporates elements of Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address.

Only three weeks earlier self-appointed political prophet Glenn Beck claimed Lincoln’s imprimatur by packing these same steps for a rally. But religious nationalists who invoke America’s greatest president never seem to understand the irony of his memory. The man who saved the Union understood that God transcends and judges it. God’s ways often surpass our understanding. We cannot manipulate him to baptize our pet causes. Read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a stunningly moving model of public theology written by a man whose true beliefs elude historians still today. No, actually read the speech and marvel at this man’s magnanimity after four years of shockingly bloody killing. He captured in this speech a mature political philosophy that shamed the many warmongers masquerading as pastors in both the North and South. Even today, the church cries out to God for him to raise up more pastors and theologians who can help the evangelical public understand that for all this nation’s blessings, Jesus Christ didn’t robe himself in an American flag.

My concern stems from experience working on Capitol Hill in partisan roles. When I struggled several years ago to distinguish between my theological beliefs and convictions on such matters as tax policy and federal bureaucracy, I needed an oasis where I could escape the withering heat of political campaigning. I found it in the community of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Only here did I associate with anyone from the other party. Only here did I hear a message that would endure forever, long after everyone had forgotten any press releases or speeches I wrote. And when I returned on September 16 for a 9Marks Weekender hosted by the church, I found here again a refuge from the arguments that the world invests with undue importance. Indeed, I heard from senior pastor Mark Dever the best sermon I know on Christianity and government. Thabiti Anyabwile, who formerly worked with Dever, described the sermon as “a biblical theology of Christians and the state, at once full of unction, intellectually challenging, and affecting the heart. I’ve heard a lot of Mark’s preaching, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him better.”
Read the entire post HERE.

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