Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Musing on Reform

You do know, don't you, that by and large anything I post in this blog is my thought-process and not my conclusion? I will rarely post conclusions because . . . well, maybe because I rarely get to any, honestly. "Jesus loves me, this I know" (to the extent of dying a horrific death and coming back to glorious life), and He loves you that much, too, and I'm certain of it. I'm also certain I want you, whomever you are, to know Him in a life-giving way. Other than that? I just think a lot. Usually in circles. Here are some more thought-processes to share:

This church history class I'm now taking is "From the Reformation," and I have a mid-term in it tomorrow, so there's a lot about the Reformers going through my head. It's a Protestant seminary through which I am taking this class, so little has been said about the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Reformation, but even though I knew at least a little something about the four initial branches of the Protestant Reformation, I'm finding it interesting to poke around in their history in a little more depth. I'm finding out (or remembering) things like:

  • Apart from the reputed anti-Semitism, and that unfortunate link to the Peasant's Revolt, I think Martin Luther was the man. No--not the Man. But just . . . really cool. By and large, I like his theology and his tenacity and his kind of earthiness.
  • As I thought when we went to visit Grossmunster in Zurich when I was 14, I still think Zwingli was a bit of a twit. I daresay he had a true conversion experience (even though he claimed an earlier date for it than it probably really happened, so he could make it look like it happened for him before it did for Luther), but some of us take a little more "converting" than others, and . . . well, he's just a little harder to like.
  • As he may have done to others who actually met him face to face, Calvin makes me uncomfortable. Too smart for me, I think. But I don't dislike him.
  • I rather like the Anglican church . . . but how it got there is kind of obnoxious.
  • I've got some Swiss Anabaptist in my background, and although I'm not one, I agree with their view on (ta da!) baptism. And, as we all know, although I can't seem to completely identify myself as a pacifist, I kind of lean that way. Here's something that interested me (although I guess if I think about it, it doesn't surprise me): The Anabaptists' emphasis on the radical separation of church and state was "new." This approach was the first time Christianity had been separated from the government since Constantine.
Good grief.

I've already mused a tiny bit about the effects of Constantine on the Church. I guess I think that the Anabaptists were right to keep it separate. I mean, I don't know that it's possible anymore to truly separate religion from government. It seems like either Christians (or religious people--there can be a difference!) try to infiltrate the government, for example, or the government tries to legislate against them. I liked it when I volunteered at a primary school in London and could tell the Easter story freely because religious education (about all religions) was included in standard school curricula. I don't, on the other hand, like the idea, real or threatened, that symbols of my faith should be removed from public places or that I can't say Merry Christmas if I want to.

God calls people to different vocations and maybe He calls some to be politicians. I mean, I guess He does: I don't think there can be any question, for example, that He put Wilberforce in place for a specific time and purpose. I do believe that God can work through political leaders and that if a Christian is in power, I would hope that their relationship with Christ would have an effect on their policies. However, I don't believe we will ever have a theocracy this side of Heaven, and I think most of even our Christian politicians end up with too much of themselves mixed in. (I think most of us--me, for example--have that problem, but when someone's in the public eye, it affects more people.)

I am starting to think the Anabaptist idea that the Church would always be a persecuted minority in the world, and that it and government could never mesh without unhealthy compromise, is probably true. I struggle with words of separatism at all, as highlighted in my last post, but at the same time, I know the Bible talks about it, sometimes in ways I can't understand, and I know there still is sometimes, somehow, a place for it. I guess I'm still just trying to figure out how and where and when it works.

How do you become and remain incarnational, yet without compromise?


Jennwith2ns said...

NOTE: I'm not saying I agree with all (or even any) of the Anabaptist methods of separation. I'm just thinking their right about church and state, and still asking questions.

chris e said...

"I daresay he had a true conversion experience"

Those qualifiers owe more to Munster and less to Luther, don't they?

Young Christian Woman said...

One problem is, does this apply just to Christians, or to all religions, and if so what constitutes a religion? Is it really possible to have a completely unreligious government, free from any worldview? How would such a government determine right and wrong? If one believes it is the place of government to prevent people from being wronged, whose definition is used? What standard?

Is it the place of government to prevent the killing of unborn children?
Is it the place of government to prevent the abuse of children by parents, or wives by husbands?
Is it the place of government to determine who should be able to marry, or to recognize marriage?
Is it the place of government to determine what should be taught in schools, who should be taught in schools, or whether there should be schools?

Just a couple hot-button issues there... but there are so many differences of opinion which are so vast. And since I believe I'm right--almost all people do--I want these decided in a way which is consistent with, if not based upon, Christian thought. Other people want the opposite just as strongly. Is there a neutral worldview, then? Or should the government simply reflect what the majority believe (and how is that different from mob rule)? If one believes one's religion to be the best and truest path, and its precepts the most compassionate and truly life-giving, why would one not want the government to be according to that religion?

Jeff said...

It seems to me that part of the reason that thinking this serperation is a good idea is exactly because majority rule is a good principle.
More specifically: If we don't establish a universal precedent that seperation is a good idea, what right do we have to expect Christians to be protected in none Christians countries?
For me, this is almost the litmus test of what is acceptable in the public sphere: Would I be annoyed, bothered, or offended if I was a religious minority and some other group wanted to submit me or my children to it?
For example, I think it's acceptable to say, "Merry Christmas" on the grounds that if I lived in Thailand, I wouldn't mind someone wishing me a happy Budha's birthday. (Assuming that's a real holiday.)
Similarly, I think prayer time in school is wrong because if I lived in a Muslim Country, I wouldn't find it acceptable for my kids to be subjected to Muslim Prayer times if they attended a public school in the middle east.

Jennwith2ns said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to this post, guys.

Chris--I'm not totally sure I know what you're asking, but I THINK you're saying: if Zwingli had a true conversion experience, then it wasn't Luther that did it. Am I close? If that is what you're asking, then of course--you're right. It's just that apparently the date quoted by Zwingli as the time this conversion experience happened, predates the Munster thing and I guess some scholars feel that he quoted an earlier date so as to have one up on Luther. Then again, who knows, really, I guess.

YCW--Those are good questions. I think my short response would be "What Jeff said." I honestly don't think that morality can (or should) be legislated, and certainly, I don't want to have mine legislated by a secular government. But I don't really think morality makes any sense when it's imposed from the top down--you have to have a regenerative experience to fully "buy in."

I agree that there is not "objective" worldview, or that any government can ever be free of one. I don't have a problem if people want to advocate for Christian principles to be upheld by our government. But arguing for them to be upheld on the basis of the fact that they ARE Christian reminds me of individual Christians trying to convince individual non-Christians of a course of action because "the Bible says so." The non-Christian does not have the same reverence for or understanding of the Bible that we do, so it's a completely arbitrary argument.

Totally "Christian" government has been attempted before, and it hasn't worked, and I think the reason is because Christianity is a living relationship, and not just a set of rules to live by. Also, Jesus did not come as a politician. He did not come to establish a political kingdom. He IS King, and He WILL reign on the earth, but not now and not yet, and before He Himself comes to do that, I really don't think that the earthly and the heavenly Kingdoms are meant to be one.

Jennwith2ns said...

I agree with the oft-touted claim that many (though not all!) of the "Founding Fathers" of this country were Christians and that the principles on which this country was built derive directly from a Christian understanding of the world. I also think, however, that it is BECAUSE of this that this country is a democracy and not "a Christian nation."

It's too easy to get our allegiances mixed up when we start labeling things other than people "Christian." (And even with people it gets tricky.) If I think I belong to a Christian nation, I can start to think I'm an American first and a Christian second, and then start to view everything through American lenses instead of Christian ones . . . and not even know it, because this is, purportedly, a Christian nation. If, on the other hand, my first allegiance is to Christ, my nationality is a little more incidental, and if the government starts taking a decidedly less Christian turn, my identity and my practices are not really threatened. I may suffer more if my practices are illegal under the less-Christianised government, but it's easier to take a stand . . . at least from the perspective that the issues are more likely to be clearer.

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