The cardinal rule of a successful social gathering is said to be: “Don’t talk about politics or religion.” Even more dangerous is to talk about politics and religion. But actually you cannot talk about either of them without the other – for if the message of the kingdom relates to all of life, it cannot be excluded from the realm of politics. And every political theory will have ethical and religious presuppositions, even if they express the religious perspective of secularism rather than Christianity.
In modern times the momentum has been to separate church and state, which in reality means to drive religious, and in particular Christian ideas out of the political arena. However, it is not possible to drive God out. The Bible speaks of civic leaders as “ordained” (Rom 13:1), using exactly the same word as is used of “ordained” church leaders. God considers both to be “his servants” – his ordained ministers – each in their respective spheres.
We still use the word “minister” to speak of politicians in positions of power: a minister of finance or a Prime Minister. The vocabulary goes back to the days when politicans recognized that they were servants – with a clear understanding of to whom they were ministering, and on whose behalf they were ministering. They were God’s servants – and this is the reason Paul gives us in Romans 13 for why we need to submit to their authority.
The spirit of the age is not wrong in wanting to free the state from church control, aware of the tyranny that has resulted from such intrusion in the past. But separating the state from the hierarchy of the church is different from separating the state from God. The President can drive the Pope or the Pastor out of the Palace, but he cannot get rid of God!
So in this, the twelfth chapter of The Treasure in the Field, we will think about The Kingdom and Society. Here’s what we will see:
- Church and State: separated, but both under God
- The Two Swords: kings and priests
- Prophets and Kings: holding kings accountable
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Or, you can listen to chapter 12 as audio files: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.