Apr 20, 2007

Virginia Tech and Human Depravity

This week began with the news of the horrible events at Virginia Tech. Such senseless violence is incomprehensible. My first thought when I heard the news of the massacre of 32 people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when Cho Seung Hui mercilessly took their lives was, "How could any human being do such a thing?" I don't think I'm the only person to have reacted that way. I suspect that most people in our country have had that thought. Of course, that question arises from people who have been morally educated and trained to hate this kind of violence--rightly so.

But, after a few moments, when I had thought about it some more, I came to realize that my question was misguided. From the perspective of a Christian worldview, a better question has to be: "How come I haven't done this kind of horrible violence?" The Bible teaches that all of us are sinners from birth (Ps. 51:5, Eph. 2:1-3) and that deep down in our hearts, apart from the saving work of Christ, there lies a spirit of rebellion against God, a spirit of perversity and violence no less malevolent than that exhibited by Cho Seung Hui (see Rom 3:10ff.).

I have come to realize, then (and I hope the readers do to), that an appropriate response to the Virginia Tech massacre--after the response of outrage and sympathy--is: "There but for the grace of God go I."

Apr 5, 2007

A Mormon President?

Driving to work this morning I listened to a radio talk show in which the hosts and their callers were discussing the hoopla over Mitt Romney running for President of the U.S. The hoopla, of course, concerns the fact that Romney is a Mormon. Most conservative Christians understand that Mormonism is a pseudo-Christian cult. They believe things that are antithetical to essential Christian doctrines. For example, Mormons believe that God was once a man on another planet who lived a good Mormon life and then graduated to become a god himself and form and populate his own planet with his own spirit children. And they believe that we, the spirit children of this "god", can likewise achieve godhood by our being good Mormons and then move on to rule over and populate our own planets.

Pretty wild, eh? And because Romney, as a Mormon, probably believes these anti-Christian doctrines, many Christians are saying that they could never vote for him for President. One caller to the radio program adamantly insisted that he could not vote for a man who advocates what he, as a Christian, considers sin. And Romney's heretical beliefs are sinful. Ergo, he cannot vote for Romney. This attitude I believe to be fairly common among conservative Christians. But, this attitude toward Romney is totally and completely wrong-headed. What's more, it is patently unbiblical. And I say this as someone who agrees that Mormonism is a cult and that Romney's beliefs are sinful.

A few centuries ago, the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said, "I would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a stupid Christian." His point was that being a Christian did not automatically make one a good ruler. And, on the flipside, being a Muslim (or follower of some other false religion) did not automatically make one a bad ruler. Good rulership falls under the rubric of God's common grace and natural revelation and it falls on the Christian and the non-Christian alike. Luther believed that unbelievers can and do establish just governments and that being a Christian was not a requirement for being a good government leader. Unbelievers can have the wisdom and knowledge required to rule a nation.

Where did Luther get this idea from? He got it from the Bible! The Bible gives us many examples of political leaders who were not followers of the one, true God; who were idol worshippers no less than Mitt Romney, and portrays many of this rulers as just and wise. It portrays their rule and authority as legitimate in the eyes of God and worthy of Christian submission and respect. Examples include Nebuchadnezzar who was served faithfully by Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego; Darius of Persia who Daniel also served; and then there was Cyrus of Persia whom God called, "My annointed one" (Messiah). Think also of Ahaseurus whom Esther married and submitted to along with her uncle Mordecai. And there is Ben-Hadad of Aram who was served by Naaman, the soldier converted to the true faith by Elisha. In the New Testament, think of Felix and Festus who were given respect and obedience by Paul--they were not perfect morally or religiously, but their rule was seen as legtimate and to be submitted to. Consider as well how the apostle Paul commanded all Christians everywhere to submit to the governing authorities whoever they were--because they are ordained by God (Rom 13). Paul said this when Nero was on the throne of Rome.

I point all of this out to argue that there can be no theological reason to refuse to vote for Mitt Romney. Unless one has been deceived into believing the view called theonomy (and its half-baked sister, the Religious Right) which holds that Christians have an obligation to work for the establishment of specifically Christian governments, then there can be no objection per se to electing a Mormon. The only issue that matters is: what does he stand for? What are his values and principles? What policies will he implement? Will he establish and maintain justice? The Bible does not teach that we have to have Christian governments; it only teaches that we should have just governments. And a government can be just whether or not the President and other leaders are Christian.