In addition to whatever “New Year’s Resolutions” you may have committed yourself to for the coming year 2018 — starting a “good” habit, dropping a “bad” one, earning a certain amount of money over and above what you made last year, achieving a certain goal (or, if you’re the ambitious type, goals), accomplishing certain things that are on your “simply must-do” list, etc. — you can add this one: reading a certain book. It’s called, The Theology of Christian Resistance, Christianity & Civilization, vol. 2, Winter 1983.
It’s an oldie but a goodie.
It was one of those seasonal symposiums published in paperback form by the Geneva Divinity School Press back in the early 1980s — volumes of essays put together by that prolific cadre of Reconstructionist writers, pastors and scholars residing in and around Tyler, Texas.
For the previous twenty years or so, Christian Reconstructionists had written and published boatloads of articles, books, position papers and newsletters. (And they have continued to do so well into the 21st century.) But now it was time to start swinging into action, “getting practical” and putting their money where their footnotes were. The times they were a-changing. Evangelical Christians were beginning to awaken from their long, Washington Irving-esque political slumber. It was now time to play catch-up against the humanists and liberal religionists. It was time to rediscover our Western heritage of political and social action based on Christian principles.
The resulting broad-based coalition has united conservative Christian leaders and thinkers from different denominational, theological and even eschatological persuasions.
Just take a look at the contributors to The Theology of Christian Resistance:
John Calvin (posthumously)
All of these folks wrote with a singular conviction in the back (and front) of their mind: “The Bible demands action, not inaction!”
To set the table for the rest of the book, here are a few choice excerpts from Dr. North’s Introduction,
We are the inheritors of traditions of political freedom that are intimately bound up with the successful and unsuccessful revolutions of the past. We are the beneficiaries of a common law tradition that itself is the product of revolutions. Ultimately, the history of Western civilization is the history of Christians’ struggles against unlawful State power and the anti-Christian theologies that have under-girded it. Some of the West’s revolutions have expanded State power, others have resisted it.
Because we are under God, we are also under God’s revelation of Himself in His law. Thus, the Bible says, we are citizens of heaven. Paul wrote: “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20a). Yet we are also citizens of this world, and therefore under lawful authorities (plural) here. This position of dual citizenship becomes even more complicated when we face the fact that we are citizens of nations, counties, and cities. we are citizens of multiple commonwealths.
When Christians face multiple sovereignties on earth, they find themselves in a perplexing position. Whose sovereignty at any point in time should take precedence? Whose requirements are closest to the ethical demands placed on us by the Bible at any point in history? Furthermore, there are multiple principles of ethical action in the Bible. For example, we are to be truthful, but not at all times (Rahab’s example). It is the ethical task which we all face to apply the relevant biblical principle to the decisions we make daily.
What each man needs, unquestionably, is biblical law-disciplined intuition, meaning a thorough familiarity with the whole of biblical law, and a detailed knowledge of the issues of the day. Men should almost instinctively know the proper course of personal and communal action for a specific decision, assuming they have devoted time to a study of the Bible in this particular area. No Christian can afford to be ignorant of his Bible and of daily affairs. He has to pick and choose among the issues on which he will take a stand, depending on such matters as: his knowledge of the specifics; the likelihood of success in opposition; his responsibility under the circumstances; the importance of the issue for the culture at large, the local culture, and the future; the cost of the resistance project; and his own personal talents. No man can take a stand on all issues simultaneously, and devote all of his resources to all of them. There is a division of labor principle in all human action. We are not God; we cannot know all things exhaustively, nor can we finance all projects exhaustively. But the church, as the total body of believers, though not necessarily as an ecclesiastical institution, should be able to speak with confidence to the issues of the day.
There is more where that came from.
Now, there is a very good reason why this particular volume was written and published before the follow-up, Tactics of Christian Resistance, which came out later on in the summer of that same year 1983.
Again, Dr. North:
The question of Christian resistance is a complicated theological matter. It is also personally demanding, for when the issues become clear, men must commit themselves to a position: Resist or capitulate? Understanding the fundamental issues is preliminary to taking action. Without self-confidence in the legitimacy of the cause of resistance, a resisting group cannot expect to be successful. Men need a theology of resistance before they begin to develop a strategy of resistance. Before a Lenin there must be a Marx- theory before practice.
“Men need a theology of resistance before they begin to develop a strategy of resistance.”
Theory must come before practice. Doctrine before application.
Which is why a knowledge of the Scriptures is just as vital to finding the right solutions and taking the right courses of actions as is knowledge of the issues and the challenges that face us.
It’s funny. Even today, more than three decades after these symposiums were published, the public discussion of Christian “resistance” and Christian “activism” in politics and the pursuit of “social justice” is still dominated by liberal Christians, liberal theologians and liberal pastors and leaders, not conservative, Bible-believing ones.
That shouldn’t be surprising, though, since it has been the case since the “social gospel” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During that crucial period, Bible-believing conservatives en masse abandoned their hopeful, forward-looking eschatologies, and instead embraced the “end-times”-obsessed, present-oriented, heaven-directed “blessed” hopes that remain popular today.
Pietism replaced pro-active faith.
A Theology of Christian Reluctance took its place. “Backward, Christian Soldiers!”
It is time for that to change.
So, in the coming new year, how about we conservative, Bible-believing, forward-looking, theologically Reformed Christians embracing hopeful eschatologies resolve to start embracing a new mindset.
“Think biblically. Act locally.”
Start by thinking biblically: THE THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN RESISTANCE (PDF download).
Happy New Year!