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F. Earle Fox
I have long been aware of the distinction between the three title concepts, but have seldom done anything with them, mostly because I considered them common sense, that I was already doing them. Not so. I just read an article by Denis Calabrese in SPN News, which made me aware of that deficit in my own life. Time to get things organized...! (Go to the SPN News website, click to the left on "Publications", then on SPN News, look for the May/June 2008 issue, and then for "Plan to Win in Six Steps" by Denis Calabrese. It was not yet posted when I wrote this - 06/12/08.)
It occurred to me that Christians in the West rarely connect their daily lives with the real goal of all Christians. It is not a goal we have chosen for ourselves, it was given to us -- to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and also to love our neighbors just like we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34 ff.). A major part of that goal is summed up in the Great Commission.
As we Christians ineptly struggle to resuscitate the corpse of Western (i.e., Christian) Civilization, it would pay us to sit back and ask ourselves whether, or to what extent, we indeed have either of those two goals assigned by God in mind in our daily work, in our apologetics, in our public witness, in how we vote and do politics, commerce, welfare, or education (just for starters).
I have known for a long time that the Church unMilitant is not much help to the Kingdom of God and not much threat to the kingdom of Satan. But I had been living under the hopeful illusion that the plethora of para-Church ministries somehow had the right aim and goal. A rude awakening (see the Collapse of Conservatism) has informed me that many of those allegedly conservative ministries which are raising millions of dollars to influence America, are doing very little to in fact change the course of events for the better. They are either unable or unwilling to go for the jugular vein of the enemy's arguments and strategies. So we continue losing and are gradually sliding into a totalitarianism.
And even those who seem to be aiming, at least, in the right direction, have a hard time focusing on a goal and strategy which could rightly be called Biblical or Christian. We have almost all become pragmatists, we have almost all lost our focus on God's goal, strategy, and tactics -- usually in order to assure a "Big Tent", trying to attract allies who are not Christians, or who are only half there, in order to swell the ranks.
So, to keep people in the tent, we do not say or advocate things which are uniquely Christian, such as "Jesus is Lord". That, I believe, is a primary reason why we Christians are continually losing ground in the West against the secular/post-modern juggernaut.
An objective operates at the highest level, the ultimate aim. it will be dependent on one's worldview, one's religion, one's philosophy of life. It is the ultimate metaphysical and moral level. The objective is, for Christians, a given, to love God and one's neighbor. Loving God and neighbor means being, in the proper sense, their servant, seeking to do whatever is good and right for them. In the case of God, that means total trust and obedience.
Western Christians rather weakly accept that objective in their private lives, and rarely put it to work at all in the public arena. We have lost the ability to say out loud that "Jesus is Lord", to defend the Biblical doctrine of creation with grace and reason (though the Intelligent Design movement is changing that). Only a very few of even the most "conservative" ministries or leaders will mention the name of Jesus in public or defend (as did Judge Roy Moore) the sovereignty of God over politics and government. Most of the time one hardly hears Christians talking abut ultimate goals. We seldom think that deeply. One hears much from Christians in secular terms of strategy and tactics. We are embarrassed to mention the name of Jesus, perhaps for fear of losing Jewish or other possible allies.
What must Christians do, then, to take the name of Jesus into the market place with grace and reason?
First of all, we must decide whether we believe that God really does have sovereignty over all things, over the totality of creation, including politics, economics, etc. Do we live in a cosmos in which talk about God would even make sense. Most people, including Christians, have a problem with that, having been raised in schools which teach secular theories about evolution (a cosmos in which talk about God would not make sense) and forbid honest discussion about God, the Creator.
If we decide that He is indeed Sovereign over all aspects of life (how could He not be?), then we must develop Biblical strategies, the Biblical view of politics, economics, commerce, family life, education, and all other aspect of our common life. God has indeed a commanding interest in everything we think, wish, or do. These would be on the strategy level, general plans for administering society in Biblical terms. Below these in more local groups, tactics must be developed for putting the strategy into local, particular action.
The relationship between strategy and tactics is partly relative. What is a strategy on one level might be a tactic considered from another level. There may be sub-sub-strategies and tactics below the higher one among committees, local groups, etc.
But they will all, insofar as Christian, choose their strategies and tactics only those which are compatible with the highest objective -- loving God and neighbor.
It is wrongly said that the end does not justify the means. Yet, what else other than the end could possibly justify any means?
The fear, of course, is that means will be chosen which contradict the higher end. One might steal money to give to the poor. But the higher end will itself forbid the wrong means, because any means which contradicts the higher end will -- in the end -- subvert that very end toward which the wrong means was alleged to lead.
A wrong means only looks like it will lead to the good end. But it will in fact betray the effort and create its own subversion of the sought-after final good. So, while ends justify some means, they also logically forbid other means. Except possibly under very odd circumstances, stealing to aid the poor will always be forbidden by the end of loving God and neighbor. The law of love thus justifies some means, but clearly forbids other means. And that is the sum and substance of all morality.
God has blessed us with the ultimate goal, the ultimate reason for all existence, the law of love. And so love becomes the final judge of all behavior. As one early Church father remarked, "Love, and do as you please." Your attitude of love will itself discern for you between good and evil, between what means to choose or reject.
How then, do we Christians work with non-Christians (see Four Levels of Unity)?
The Constitution of the United States was written to provide for just that need, a legitimate pluralism in which all parties are welcome to the debate so long as they honor the rules of respect for all persons, they are truth-seekers at any cost to themselves, and they are open to critique of their views from other parties. That is Jeffersonian liberalism, quite different from the post-modern pseudo-pluralism where everyone's truth is valid for that person, no matter how it conflicts with anyone else's view, or conflicts even with itself, and where all are forbidden to critique anyone else's viewpoint.
Christians have common ground with any person who is a truth-seeker and truth-speaker, who would want to know if he were wrong. We can work together to maintain the common level playing field of public discussion. We will be able further to work with any truth-seekers to the degree that they share our views on politics, economics, family issues, etc. But we must always be open about our ultimate commitment to the law and grace of God, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ -- our Objective.
Christians, like most other folks, tend to get wrapped around a particular tactic as though it were the ultimate goal, not asking "Why am I doing this?" It seems like a good idea to fix a particular problem, which is in fact only a small part of the wider picture.
Solving the sexuality issues (abortion, homosexuality, pansexuality, etc.), for example, are lower level problems than constitutional issues on how we administer public discussion and debate -- even though it is the lower level issues which more often incite passion. So long as we do not know how to administer a limited government as a free people, we will never resolve the particular moral issues where we typically live our lives. And we will never solve the constitutional issues until we resolve the theological, metaphysical, and philosophical issues about basic reality -- which is where we get our basic objectives. Ideas have consequences.
So Christians must do their homework, learn to put first things first, and not get seduced into neglecting the higher level issues because they seem abstract and distant, while the lower level issue seem more pressing. And Christians must not be seduced into arguing their case from secular/humanist "pragmatic" principles to be more "effective" or "relevant" to a secular situation. If we allow the "other side" to tell us how to argue our case, we will lose.
We must begin with the reality of God and His claim on our lives, not compromise so as to "get a seat at the secular table". We stand rather on the universal ground of open discussion, come what may, to be truth-seekers at any cost to ourselves -- as in "Come, let us reason together...," a candid, mutually respectful discussion to which God invites all of His creatures. No exceptions. God will take part in the discussion -- often through His people. So we had better be ready (see I Kings 18:17 ff., and Isaiah 43). Christians and other truth-seekers must learn how to administer and enforce the ground rules of such a discussion, especially when passions are raging and the noise level exceeds the wisdom spoken or heard.
See also Vigorous Fellowship...
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