Thursday, 2 July 2009

Taming the wild beasts of Daniel 7?

Some time ago a friend requested a blog on the way that a Christian ought to 'connect' with society's structures ie government. I had it on my 'to do' list for ages and then cancelled it thinking it too complex to deal with in a blog. Then I read a comment on the life of Anthony Norris Groves in an old book by G H Lang. His final sentence was "It is no part of the God-given duty of the church to tame the wild beasts of Daniel 7, and the attempt is vain".

It's the old question that Christians have struggled with since the earliest centuries, the relationship of Christ to culture; I mean the culture of the day. Some said Christianity should rule the culture; this is known as 'Christ over culture'. Some said Christianity should take its place within the culture; this is known as 'Christ within culture'... and some have said, as did Tertullian, 'what has Rome to do with Jerusalem, or the forum with the temple?'; that is known as 'Christ against culture'.

The prophet Daniel saw the progression of empires in two separate visions. First he saw it as a magnificent statue (Daniel 2) which would be obliterated by the coming of Messiah's kingdom. Then, in Daniel 7, he saw it figured in a savage conflict of wild animals; this is the point of G H Lang's comment. If the kingdoms of the earth are destined to thrash it out in the dust what part does the Christian have in those events? Does s/he ignore it, try to improve it or try to prevent it. You can see Lang's point of view, even if you don't agree with it.

To be a Roman citizen was a high privilege and at times Paul exercised the rights that came with it but on another occasion he declared ...our citizenship is in heaven... Phil 3:18-20 The word 'citizenship' is politeuma. You can almost see the word for 'politics' in there, it means to be a member of a state or city. The question is do we have dual citizenship? The duties and privileges to and of an earthly state and the heavenly city? And what happens when the courses of those two states are on a collision course?

In letters from the last years of the 1st century we know that Christians very much regarded themselves as 'sojourners' that is 'aliens in transit'! They didn't know the chorus but they would have embraced the theology that said 'this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through'. Jesus had said 'if my kingdom were of this world my servants would fight' John 18:36 The concept of 'Christ over culture' which the Roman church, and others since, have tried to impose only shows that such kingdoms were kingdoms of men and not of Christ. When a man fights for a kingdom he betrays his real motives, he wants control. Did God ever intend Christians to control the world? The crazy claims of many even today is that we are to control the world as Christians. They have not noticed the tenses Paul uses when he says 'the saints will judge the world'. 1Cor 6:2-3. Others have made the same mistake and were rebuked by Paul when he said 'you have reigned as kings but without us'. 1Cor 4:8

It is not the task of Christians to 'rule the world'. We are here in our sojourn as witnesses not legislators. As witnesses we may take a place in government or local community life but not to impose Christian standards, rather to serve as the world's conscience.

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