Businesses and organizations with which I have little or no contact in years have been bombarding my email inbox to let me know how they are addressing the COVID-19 virus situation. Perhaps they thought I was concerned about catching it from their emails. I find such notices self-serving marketing ads because they are essentially saying, “We just want you to know how responsible we are.” It’s not my intent to bore you with such a self-congratulatory piece.
What I would like to address is how Christians should understand major upheavals, and the economic impact of the response is, in and of itself, a major disruption that will have long-term effects. Whether the response here in California or near you is appropriate or out of proportion is not my concern now. Chalcedon, after all, is a Christian worldview organization, not a healthcare provider. This virus will pass, and regardless of the final statistics that will eventually be tallied, the political response has produced a tremendous upheaval that will have a massive impact economically and, likely, politically. It is our general perspective of such upheavals that I wish to address.
Chalcedon was itself born in a time of great upheaval and social change. When Barry Goldwater decided to run for President of the United States against John F. Kennedy as a senator for Arizona, he projected that he could carry the West, the South (then still controlled by conservative Democrats), and the Midwest heartland, restricting Kennedy to the electoral votes of New England. It made perfect sense, and Kennedy was an ineffective (though well-liked) President, with strong opposition from his own party that had stalled his agenda in Congress.
All that changed when Kennedy was assassinated a year before the election. Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texan, invoked the memory of the fallen president and pushed his agenda through Congress and added his own “Great Society” programs, including his “War on Poverty.” The political scenery changed in a day and Goldwater lost the presidential election of 1964 in a Democratic landslide.
Other upheavals followed. The Civil Rights movement saw the rapid rise of Federal intervention and the repudiation of state’s rights as a tool of racism. Not all went well for the Democrats, however, as opposition to the Vietnam war became intense. Marxist revolutionaries on the one hand and hippies on the other repudiated much of American life and culture. Weeks before we moved to Los Angeles to begin Chalcedon, that city had been rocked by the first race riot in a generation. The “sexual revolution” was evidence that the change in American life was far more than superficial; it was rooted in a prior religious shift.
Chalcedon began in 1965, just nine months after Goldwater’s defeat. My father’s Southern California audience then was comprised of disillusioned conservatives distressed at the revolutionary changes at work. My father tried to shift his listeners from a political perspective to a Christian one and so he emphasized the need for a change based on a self-consciously Biblical view of law and culture. He coined the term “Christian Reconstruction” to describe a process far more fundamental than a political election cycle. He had previously written and lectured on Christian education as an essential component of this long-term, future-oriented worldview.
The change and upheavals have continued. My father predicted the rise in homosexual influence and increased hostility to Christian faith. At times the upheavals have seemed hopeful, such as the fall of the Iron Curtain, then the Soviet Union, and the increase of free markets in China, yet each of these changes brought more uncertainty and a new set of dangers to light. Upheaval brings change, and because we cannot see the future, the uncertainty causes us a great deal of anxiety.
As Christians we repeat the phrase “trust in God,” but we often think of faith in a way that cannot alleviate anxiety. If faith is merely a refuge from the world in the expectation of a better world in heaven, then we are divorcing our world from any real hope, we are conceding to despair and defeat. If, however, faith in God is an assumption that unfolding events are in His Providential governance than we can believe that all things are now working together for good (Rom. 8:28) and, as those who “love God” we live in terms of this assumption. Our trust in God is our own faith that God is still on His throne, that nothing is spiraling out of control.
Our worldview controls our understanding of all human history. We put events, even the frightening upheavals of life, into the big picture of God’s working. Because this perspective, this worldview forces us to put the events of our times and our own life and work within the context of God’s sovereignty, so I prefer the term world and life view. This includes our health and potential threats to it, the economic and political forces that are beyond our control, or the natural disaster, social, or cultural forces that swirl around us.
You may be an expert in one or more of the various crises that are now brewing. I am not; I have no crystal ball as to how they will play out or when. I do know the direction of history, however (and here is where being a postmillennialist is a very real blessing). I do know the Lord and Judge of history.
God brings disruptions into history when man least expects them, and we are wrong if we see such changes as in any way setting the advance of His Kingdom back (Is. 9:7; Lk. 1:33). Scripture uses an apt term for the periodic overturnings of the status quo—the “day of the Lord.” This term refers to those times when God caused a sudden correction to history, interrupting the plans of men in something of a divine reset. The Flood, the Exodus, the fall of Jerusalem, then Babylon were all major and unexpected corrections of God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was obviously a day of the Lord as well. The plans of evil men were defeated and history proceeded in terms of God’s covenant salvation.
There is not a single “day of the Lord” but many. The writer of Hebrews compared the work of God in history to the shaking of Mount Sinai when the law was being given to Moses. The people feared the shaking. Moses feared it also. It was a warning meant to elicit fear. The present shakings of God, however, should not cause believers fear because we are to understand their purpose is the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and His Christ.
…Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken will remain. (Heb. 12:26b-27)
Because we are His, we have an eternal security. We will remain and be part of his eternal kingdom. The conclusion of that passage is to act in terms of this understanding of the shake-ups of history and to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (vs 28b-29). Rather than fear the shakings of God we must see them as His movements in history. In the vicissitudes of change we do the work of servants, constant in season and out, even while the Master is away.
My father repeatedly said we were at the end of an age. The institutions of humanism are failing us at every turn and we lurch from one crisis to another. The one we now face will pass. If it represents a change let us see it as a shaking of God so that the “things which cannot be shaken will remain.”
There will be more upheavals ahead. These are terrible times to be a pessimist and wonderful times to have faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom of God amid the divine shaking of evil men.
Evil men do not control history, so they are periodically shaken out. These shakings are to be seen in a faith that all things are purposeful in history. We need not understand how things work for good, but we are to believe they do.
When Paul said the just, or righteous, man should live by faith (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; see also Heb. 10:38) he was quoting Habakkuk 2:4 which adds a pronoun that makes the instruction a little clearer: “The just shall live by his faith” (2:4), that is, in terms of it, as his world and life view, as his perspective on all of life.
Let us, then, live in terms of the faith in God and His Providential rule through Our Lord Jesus Christ. The shakings of God are not to be feared; they are our call to serve God with reverence and fear. It is not the Kingdom of God that is in danger, but that of all those who would supplant it.
Topics: Biblical Commentary, Christian Reconstruction, Church, The, Culture , Dominion, Economics, Education, Epistles, The, Eschatology, Government, Humanism, Justice, Medicine / Healthcare, New Testament History, Old Testament History, R. J. Rushdoony, Statism, Theology