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Biblical Law and Christian Culture: Two Errors
We support Christian culture so that culture will embrace biblical law, including its very limited application of civil law. Don't reverse this order.
Dear friends and supporters:
Sharon and I have already arrived at Apologia’s ReformCon 22, and I’m speaking this afternoon on “Biblical Law and Christian Culture.” Of course, these topics, and in particular the relationship between the two, have been on my mind.
Here I’ll just make a couple of points about that relationship.
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When many unbelievers and even many Christians encounter the expression biblical law, they often get two wrong impressions.
Civil Law Is Minimal
First, they assume that biblical law is equivalent to biblical civil law. This is far from the truth.
Biblical law is a wide and deep category. We might even go so far as to say that the entire Bible is law, because it is God’s word — his law-word. His law governs every aspect of created existence. In fact, there are creational laws, the chief of which are found in Genesis 1, as well as others not mentioned.
And then there’s the Mosaic law in the Pentateuch. There’s also new covenant law, found in the New Testament, much of which does not replace but rather supplements Mosaic law and presupposes creational law.
We can speak of numerous law spheres. There’s familial law and ecclesiastical law and educational law and biotic law and mathematical law and logical law and technological law, and on and on.
In fact, no thinking or acting stands beyond law. Many of these categories have their own unique laws. This is what sphere sovereignty is all about. The laws (for example) governing the church are not those governing the state, and vice versa. The family may not dictate the laws of the state, nor vice versa, because each has its own unique, internal law structure inappropriate to another sphere.
Most of the time, biblical law is not civil (or political) law. There are comparatively few civil laws in the Bible.
Culture Precedes Law
This misunderstanding (and inflation) of the definition of biblical law leads directly to a second mistaken assumption: that Christians who do believe in the authority of biblical civil law (as we all should) are attempting to get it passed into legislation and imposed on the population in order to change society and remake it into a Christian culture.
I myself have for 23 years led the Center for Cultural Leadership, and stressed Christian culture, and some might assume CCL supports biblical law because it’s the tool to create Christian culture. Quite the opposite is true. We support Christian culture so that culture will embrace biblical law, including its very limited application of civil law.
The problem with Leftists is because they employ civil law and politics as a means to re-engineer society — their grand egalitarian utopia — they believe that when Christians get involved in politics, their goal is to re-engineer society toward a Christian product. But our God is not their god, our gospel is not their gospel, and our politics is not their politics.
We believe in the politics of liberty. Civil biblical law is narrowly limited. In many ways, the U. S. founders got it right: the state is designed to protect life, liberty, and property. Full stop. It’s not designed to create a Christian society.
To repeat: biblical law presupposes a Christian society; once society becomes Christian, biblical law, including biblical civil law, is a natural consequence.
It appears that some of the advocates of the much ballyhooed “Christian Nationalism” and “National Conservatism,” waves of the postmodern moment, have things just backwards. They don’t understand that culture is the tail that wags the political dog. A different metaphor saying the same thing: politics is downstream from culture.
Because the Left is obsessed with politics, and has been obsessed with changing culture via politics, the new young conservatives seem to want to outdo the Leftists in their struggle for a politicized culture. “If we can just seize the political reins from the Leftists, we can coercively impose the right kind of culture.”
This is not merely wrong; it will end in disaster, as it always has, whether embraced by Leftists, conservatives, or Christians. You don’t create Christian culture by destroying liberty.
The goal of Christians committed to a Christianized culture must be to recapture education, the arts, technology, the trades, entertainment, economics, technology, the law schools, and so forth. When this happens, politics will follow.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that before that we should never try to get laws passed that will protect life, liberty and property: criminalizing abortion, protecting marriage, and guaranteeing private property. But these are simply examples of the civil guarantee of that very life, liberty and property. This is not to create a Christian society via politics.
You don’t create a Christian society via politics. You create a Christian society via culture.
Politics, in short, doesn’t create a Christian society; it’s a reflection of Christian society.
It would be beneficial if our enemies — and our friends — both understood this.
Wednesday I was privileged to address chapel (my talk is here) at Providence Christian College, Pasadena, a robustly liberal-arts oriented school committed to an aggressive Christian worldview and uncompromising biblical sexual ethics. Consider sending your college-age children to this school.
The annual CCL symposium is coming up December 3. Please contact me if you want to attend. A few more spaces are available.
Yours for Christian culture and biblical law,
Founder & President, Center for Cultural Leadership
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