John Calvin. This is the man that stands next to Martin Luther as being the main leader of the Reformation. Today if someone speaks of Reformed Theology, he or she is referring to the teachings of Calvin, not Luther. That’s how influential Calvin’s teachings were and still are. Calvin was French, and much younger than Luther. He wasn’t even ten years old when Luther nailed his theses to the church door in Wittenberg. He also took a similar, but opposite, route to education than Luther. Luther started out to be a lawyer, but ended a priest. Calvin began his studies to be ordained, but switched to studying law, though he never went on to practice law after finishing his studies. His magnum opus is his systematic theology book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which underwent five editions before it was completed. Though I can’t find it being a confessional text for any Reformed denominations, it is a work that still holds much authority in their circles. From this text, I will discuss an excerpt of his writing on “Church and State.”
The following is an excerpt from The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 4, Chapter 20, Sections 22, 23, and 32:
“The first duty of subjects towards their rulers, is to entertain the most honorable views of their office, recognizing it as a delegated jurisdiction from God, and on that account receiving and reverencing them as the ministers and ambassadors of God….
I speak not of the men as if the mask of dignity could cloak folly, or cowardice, or cruelty, or wicked or flagitious manners, and thus acquire for vice the praise of virtue; but I say that the station itself is deserving of honor and reverence, and that those who rule should, in respect of their office, be held by us in esteem and veneration.
From this, a second consequence is, that we must with ready minds prove our obedience to them, whether in complying with edicts, or in paying tribute, or in undertaking public offices and burdens, which relate to the common defense, or in executing any other orders…
But in that obedience which we hold to be due to the commands of rulers, we must always make the exception, nay, must be particularly careful that it is not incompatible with obedience to Him to whose will the wishes of all kings should be subject, to whose decrees their commands must yield, to whose majesty their sceptres must bow. And, indeed, how preposterous were it, in pleasing men, to incur the offence of Him for whose sake you obey men! The Lord, therefore, is King of kings. When he opens his sacred mouth, he alone is to be heard, instead of all and above all. We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates—a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God.”
Calvin is writing to address the question of what the relationship should be between the Church and the State. At Calvin’s time of writing, the two institutions are being unbound from one another in Western civilization. Such rapid disconnect left many questions for the leaders of congregations and for laypeople on what their role was now to the State. Questions such as, “If the Church is no longer married to the State due to the ramifications of the Reformation, do Christians still owe any allegiance to the State, or just to the Church?” were common place. Though Calvin wasn’t directly writing to the Christians who found themselves under the rule of the Islamic Turks, such a position wasn’t entirely implausible or completely out of mind for many 16th century Christians after the end of the Crusades just a couple of centuries before the start of the Reformation.
The answer Calvin gives to this question is that a subject’s first duty to his magistrate is to honor his office, recognizing that his authority to rule and govern is directly established by God. If this is the first disposition a subject has of his governing ruler, then the appropriate response would be to honor the person holding that established office of authority as being a minister and representative of God. He makes clear that the honor doesn’t go to the particular man in the office on account of that man’s virtue, because the man will almost certainly fall short of deserving such high honor, first because he’s a sinner, but also since the maxim “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” does ring true so often throughout history. Instead, the honor goes to the man in response to the honor due to the office the man holds. The response that should then follow from respecting the man by respecting the office he holds is that subjects will in turn be obedient to the lord’s decrees and properly pay any taxes required and aid in any offices of the common defense that arise to be necessary for the common good.
Such a calling to submit to all rulers is challenging to the core. Bending the knee to orders from leaders that sided with Rome would be a tough pill to swallow for a Christian of the Reformation in Calvin’s day. Or, if a Christian submitted to a Muslim ruler that believer’s allegiance to Christ and his Church could be questioned, raising doubt for that person’s salvation. Calvin knew these questions and objections would follow his plea to revere and respect the rulers of men, so he provided the following solution: only be obedient to a ruler insofar as that obedience does not cause one to be disobedient to the God who placed that ruler in the office of authority. If the command of a ruler goes against the command of the one who put him in the position to rule, let the law go unfollowed, in fact break it without hesitation, since the rule of God trumps the rule of men.
Speaking of one authority trumping the authority of another, we should consider the presidency of Donald Trump in America. Applying Calvin’s teachings to President Trump, offering reverence to him and holding him in high respect, doesn’t mean a Christian must agree with his “America First” policies, or ignore his numerous divorces, or approve of his (at times) vulgar language or his speech that has been interpreted to be racist, Islamophobic, or misogynistic, or condone his frequent ad hominem arguments and late night tweets. The Christian response to Trump’s presidency should be the same as that given to other presidents of America, a life of submission, as long as one isn’t required to go against God’s law through any of the president’s executive orders or signed bills. The Christian should recognize that President Trump is their president and wish him to be successful in his calling and offer him the grace afforded to all men through Jesus Christ. The Christian should also pray for President Trump, asking that God give him wisdom and capabilities to fulfill the high calling and duties of the office he holds with humility. In closing, it is apparent that Calvin’s teachings in regard to the State and the Church are a difficult calling for the subjects, as much as for the man in authority to fulfill the calling God has given him.
Excerpts from Augustine’s The City of God, taken from New Advent:
Book 18, Chapter 49
“In this wicked world, in these evil days, when the Church measures her future loftiness by her present humility, and is exercised by goading fears, tormenting sorrows, disquieting labors, and dangerous temptations, when she soberly rejoices, rejoicing only in hope, there are many reprobate mingled with the good, and both are gathered together by the gospel as in a drag net; (Matthew 13:47-50) and in this world, as in a sea, both swim enclosed without distinction in the net, until it is brought ashore, when the wicked must be separated from the good, that in the good, as in His temple, God may be all in all.”
Book 18, Chapter 51
“Thus in this world, in these evil days, not only from the time of the bodily presence of Christ and His apostles, but even from that of Abel, whom first his wicked brother slew because he was righteous, (1 John 3:12) and thenceforth even to the end of this world, the Church has gone forward on pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”
Quotes in my analysis below of these two brief excerpts come from the translation found in Readings in Christian Thought edited by Hugh T. Kerr.
Augustine of Hippo stands as one of the greatest theologians of all time. His works are still appealed to as an authority in both Roman Catholic and Protestant tradition on numerous and diverse subjects across two-hundred and thirty-two works. From Augustine’s Confessions, we learn of his conversion from paganism to Christianity after living a life of grandiose sinful indulgences in his thirties. Born in 354 AD, he lived through the roughly last fifty years of the Roman Empire’s existence, the first half being a pagan, and the second half being a Christian. Augustine lived roughly another quarter of a century after the fall of Rome in 410 AD. His mother was a Christian and his father was a pagan until his deathbed. This life experience deposits him into an advantageous position of first-hand familiarity with the mind of both the pagan and Christian, in a world where Christianity is the religion of the State and in which it is not. After the fall of Rome, Christians received the blame for the end of the Roman Empire and the calamity and suffering that followed. To comfort Christians, as well as to defend against such blame, Augustine wrote The City of God, drawing from his well-spring of knowledge of the inner workings of both the pagan and Christian worldviews as he wrote, to demonstrate the tension, even battle, between the kingdoms of man that continually rise and fall and the eternal kingdom of God that forever stands.
In the above excerpt from The City of God, Augustine writes with the purpose to remind Christians that the world is not their friend. Despite the appearance of it for a time when Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire, the days are evil, and Augustine argues that this is to the Church’s benefit, because Augustine writes, “through the lowliness she now endures is winning the sublime station she is to have in heaven.” He justifies this position with two key points: a summary of Paul’s words in Romans 5 on the fruit born through suffering and an appeal to the historical suffering of God’s righteous people. Like Paul, Augustine argues that suffering produces a deep-seated joy in the hope to come and a willingness to wait out the evil days until Christ separates his own from the children of the devil. To keep the Church from getting too near sighted, thinking their current plight is unique to them, he reminds them that the apostles and the Church fathers suffered before Constantine made Christianity the religion of the State and that in fact God’s people have always agonized under the oppression of evil men, tracing all the way back to the beginning of man, when righteous Abel was murdered by his wicked brother, Cain. Augustine concludes that as it was in the beginning with Abel, it will continue to be until the end of this age.
Underlying the purpose of his writing to remind his Christian readers that cities of men inevitably fall but God’s city will always remain is the question, “What then shall we do?” With the evidence and reasoning Augustine provided, the answer appears to be nothing but a single answer – what Jesus said to the seven churches of Revelation – “Stand firm until the end.” This single answer is to give the Christian the necessary knowledge to live in sight of better things to come, to not be attached to the world that certainly will end in fire and destruction at Christ’s return – to pull one’s head out of the “now” and to hope in the “not yet” reality of the City of God. There are of course many activities the Christian can be pursuing in this world of woe: loving God, serving one’s neighbor, helping the poor and widowed, comforting those who mourn, being a voice for the voiceless, speaking the Gospel to all in his life, and etc., but the knowledge gleaned from Augustine’s answer is that none of these activities will put an end to suffering. They might lead to a relative life of ease if the work of the Church through the Gospel and the Sacraments wins over the State as what had occurred with Constantine and Rome, but such peace won’t last, because it’s only given when the City of Man adopts the veneer of the City of God.
I thought this small, two paragraph excerpt from The City of God provided great insight for today’s Church in America (potentially the West as a whole, but particularly the American Church). From personal experience, I have heard many, Americans and non-Americans, express the notion that America was founded on Christian values and liberties, going so far to say that America is a “Christian nation.” Many of these same people argue that America has fallen from these traditional Christian values, often times using the term, “Post-Christian,” to describe the nation. I read an article a few years ago by a LC-MS pastor about the shift Christians have experienced in America from being a people of “privilege” due to their religious majority to now being a people “unprivilege.” In many ways, the City of God veneer has stripped away from the City of Man in America, and the Church is now seen as a resistance, a stumbling block to the progress the City of Man wants to make in the realms of sexual identity and activity, abortion on demand, religious syncretism, socialized programs that put more trust and power in the City of Man than in God and the love of one’s neighbor to help out in times of need, and even science because of the common Christian rejection of Darwinian Evolution. Augustine reminds us too – this is nothing new. It’s always been.
In America, we have excesses in material wealth and luxuries in comfort that many in the world cannot even comprehend. Our extravagances can lead us to be attached to this world, to love the City of Man, in a way that others with less wealth might not be tempted to cling. I lived one summer in a Mexican town that had no running water, no washer and dryers, no water heaters, now showers, just outhouses, no pavement, just dirt. It’s common for Americans to come back from such locales and say, “But they were so happy.” That was my experience too. They weren’t so attached to the City of Man, and many of the people I interacted with were members of the City of God. Their hope was in the life to come; not having their best life now. Augustine’s writing was a wake-up call for me; to not grow fat and lazy; hard times will come. His use of Abel being slain by his ungodly brother is what shook me. I have read that historical narrative to be an example of the damaging effects of sin in the world; not the pitting of war between God’s people and the devil’s as Augustine framed it. It reminded me that there is a war between two cities raging on and that I really should adjust and align myself not so much as an American-Christian, seeking to Make America Christian Again, but as a Christian who is a wayfarer in this world of woe, awaiting my Lord to bring me home.
I shared a Paul Joseph Watson article on Facebook entitled, “Twitter Says Telling the Truth About the Refugee Crisis is “Hateful Conduct”. PJW added to his article when he posted it to Facebook: “I joked about how a “refugee” boat didn’t contain any women or children. Twitter said it was “hateful conduct” and possibly illegal. Yes, really.”
In reply to this article and comment I shared to my wall by PJW, a pastor from my denomination (LC-MS), replied:
“We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body but help and support him in every physical need.” and “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” I’m going to believe a boat of refugees full of adult men are in fact refugees fleeing war, and that Twitter might be onto something.”
Engaging with someone else who replied to his comment, he added:
” I question anything posted in Infowars to be factual. It’s not illegal to say something mean or wrong. I do think Christians should remember they have a responsibility to put the best construction on their neighbor, especially as it relates to “the least of these.”
The following is my reply to him and anyone else who would like to give me feedback to my thoughts on why I shared the PJW article:
Thanks for sharing your word of caution. I certainly consider it and take it to heart. I do not like the sarcasm with this Paul Joseph Watson post, and I rarely share his videos due to his demeanor and language. I almost didn’t share this article for that reason, but I’d like for you to consider why I did share it, and I welcome your feedback.
When you read the article that is linked, you can see that he said he posted with sarcasm as an attempt to shield this post from the Twitter thought police. Directly stating the facts that none of the refugees on that boat were women or children and that none of them are from Syria would have blatantly been censored as hateful conduct. Even masking the truth of his post with sarcasm got caught and censored. That explanation helped me go ahead and hit share despite the sarcasm, because I did like the points that followed the opening explanation of the sarcasm.
There is a link in the article I shared to a New York Times post that “Social media giants including Facebook and Twitter are not doing enough to curb hate speech on their platforms and could face fines of up to $53 million if they do not strengthen their efforts to delete illegal posts, a German government minister said on Tuesday.”
The problem has become though that just speaking out against the migrant situation in many European countries is deemed hate speech. For instance, the Daily Wire just posted today about a 70 year old woman in Sweden who is being charged with hate crime for posting on Facebook that migrants are burning cars and defecating in the streets. That’s a hate crime for posting that, and she’s facing up to four years in prison for that. Rapist in America don’t even come close to serving that amount of time for their crimes – think Brock Turner. This 70 year old lady is getting the book thrown at her for simply reporting what is occurring in Sweden. Here’s a link to the article, and I would hope you would trust the Daily Wire with the NeverTrumper, Ben Shapiro working for the Wire and being the person I saw who shared this article, “Woman, 70, Says Migrants Defecate in the Streets and Set Cars on Fire. Cops Charge Her With a Hate Crime.” Now check out the details of the last few paragraphs and you’ll get a sense of what is going on the Muslim “no go” zones of Sweden. The bulk of it can be found in video on Youtube, easily!
In our own country, from Patheos just a couple of days ago there was a post about a student reporter at Portland State University who was fired for sharing video of a Muslim explaining death for apostates under sharia law on Twitter. The video was recorded at a Q and A interfaith panel in which a Muslim on the panel shared that killing non-Muslims “only applied in countries governed by Islamic law, but in those countries, “you’re given the liberty to leave the country.” The students had the following to say to defend his posts:
“In my defense, I told the two editors that I had simply been relating the speaker’s words. While dozens of Muslim states do not consider apostasy or blasphemy a crime, 13 Muslim-majority countries punish these actions with death. The speaker was admitting as much, and as someone who has covered the persecution of atheists and apostates in Muslim countries, I considered that newsworthy.”
The level at which speaking out against the thugs on the Left brings hate upon the speaker has reached high levels. For example, watch this video of a guy simply holding a sign that says, “The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must be Defended.” That’s all the sign says. He likely held it up at some sort of SJW protest or gathering, otherwise I have no idea how so many people railed against him calling him nazi scum and swearing at him, surrounding him and trying to physically rip the sign from him. They won’t discuss ideas with him. They only yell at him to shut him up. He is calm and composed and not yelling back. This is the direction we are headed even in America (the accents don’t seem American in this video), if you have followed any of the Antifa riots this year. Watch and be shocked, and I saw this video posted by Paul Joseph Watson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81k93Guu-Oc
These few examples show how speaking out against anything related to illegal migrants and the impact of the many illegal Muslims in Europe (or any other SJW agenda) gets shut down hard and fast, by social media bans, sometimes by fines, sometimes by jail time, sometimes by violence. It is these offenses that I shared the post to bring awareness to the movement to censure free speech, a part of what I see as fitting as defending my neighbor.
The defense also comes with raising awareness of how bad things are in Europe right now and how we could very well be going that direction ourselves. Speaking for the good and defense of my neighbor is the point here and abroad is the point I had with the post I have shared. Once legal migrants or refugees are in my community, I will certainly respond to the call to help them and support them with their transition. If someone is in my community illegally and I know this, the best thing for me to do is to encourage that neighbor to get the proper credentials to be here legally. In China, our local church encouraged a man from Nigeria to return back to Nigeria instead of stay in China against the law of the authorities that God put in place in China. We helped him get a plane ticket back to Nigeria and we had church members escort him to the airport to ensure that he boarded the plane. He stayed in my apartment for about a week. I didn’t know he was in the country illegally at first when I let him stay; I just heard he needed a place to stay and some financial support. Our church’s leader was from Nigeria. It was really his play to send him back and to do what was right, coming to China with a proper visa.
As to the post I shared and the status of these men on the boat getting the ride to Italy, the article stated:
“According to the Institute for the Analysis of Multiethnicity (Ismu), 85% of asylum requests in Italy are from men, with only 4% from minors. Only 2.65% of those immigrating into Italy were awarded asylum status as refugees.
The UNHCR’s own data shows that, “Nigerians make up nearly a fifth of the arrivals in Italy, followed by the nationals of Eritrea at 13 per cent and then Sudan, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Somalia, Mali, Senegal and Bangladesh,” again emphasizing how the “refugees” are not even from Libya, they’re arriving from countries that are not at war.” (https://www.infowars.com/twitter-says-telling-the-truth-about-the-refugee-crisis-is-hateful-conduct/)
Did you read that before making your post to me? The “refugees” arriving to Italy from Libya are not even from countries at war. The bulk of them are from men, with only 15% being women and children applying for asylum. Only 2.65% immigrating to Italy are awarded asylum status as refugees!
The article also stated:
“Although pro-migrant institutions have claimed that the majority of migrants entering Europe are women and children, the deluge of video evidence suggests otherwise.”
I have followed this situation for a couple of years now and the video footage in Europe is really bad! It’s really bad at border crossings where semi-trucks are slowed crossing country lines. Check this video out, just one of many of this kind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOkRfYHYJU8
If you want to understand better as to who these men are on the boats in the video that Paul Joseph Watson shared, you can check out the Spector link PJW put in the article that I shared: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/04/are-we-helping-desperate-migrants-or-just-people-smugglers/ It’s not from InfoWars, so maybe you’ll trust it. Here is its opening paragraphs that explain the situation:
“What is happening in the 300-mile stretch of sea between Sicily and Libya, day in and day out — in other words, what ‘we’ are doing there — is beyond reasonable doubt insane.
A sane person would assume that the 181,436 migrants (a new record) who made it by sea to Italy last year had done so under their own steam in flimsy fishing boats and dinghies at least some of the way across the Mediterranean. This, after all, is the message aid agencies and governments put out.
In fact, every one of those 181,436 was picked up by EU and non-government aid-agency vessels off the Libyan coast just outside the 12-mile territorial limit, then ferried across to Europe. The people-smuggler boats — more often than not these days dangerously unseaworthy rubber dinghies — chug out towards the 12-mile limit, send out a distress signal, and Bob’s your uncle.
Nearly all the migrants arriving in Italy are young men from West Africa, not refugees. They have the cash for a ticket on a smuggler boat (€1,500, give or take) so are not destitute. That’s getting on for £300 million in ticket sales last year. West African migrants are big business.”
And because of this nice EU service of complimentary boat rides into Italy, 250,000 more migrant boat people are expected this year.
The Express, again not InfoWars, but it was linked in the article I shared, states:
“EU officials said the vast majority of migrants who reach Europe turn out to be ineligible for asylum and will be sent back though they acknowledged deportations often proved difficult in practice.”
Many of these people inevitably end up filtering through Europe and remaining illegally.
Virtually all of this information was in the article I shared with plenty of links to sources other than InfoWars, most of the sources being from UK news agencies.
After reading all of this and checking out the links, do you really think these men on the boat are refugees? Do you really think Italy, and other EU nations, being flooded by these migrants, many of whom are Muslims, is a good thing? Do some searches on the number of Islamic terrorists attacks in Europe over the past couple of years? How many of them stem from people who entered as “refugees”?
I see the post I shared as largely being a way of speaking out for my neighbor and to raise awareness against the ills of illegal immigration that comes under the guise of refugees. Sin is lawlessness. The bulk of the migrants just showing up in Italy right now under the guise of asylum seekers is lawlessness, if only a little under 3% are actually qualified for this status and are coming from non-war countries, and are getting there by paying a smuggler boat to get them far enough out to sea to get a free EU ride into the country. Could you imagine a country the size of Italy being swamped with almost 200,000 of these migrants a year and growing with many of them not having an official reason they should be there. How do you deport that many people? How do they assimilate? What do you do with that great of a disproportionate amount of men being added to a society? What do you do if the bulk of them are Muslim and this is a form of jihad? Do you bury your head in the sand and say I have no right to question their legitimacy of being refugees or question the limiting of the free speech of those who do ask such questions? What would loving my neighbor look like in this situation? Do I want my immediate neighbors in my own country to know we shouldn’t fall for a situation that will produce such a state in America like what we see in the EU right now? And do we know that we already have millions upon millions of people living in our country illegally? That’s lawlessness, and lawlessness is sin, and the right thing to do as a loving concerned neighbor is call sin what it is and not support it and protect it.
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Andy brings another eclectic bullet episode that touches on public prayer with mixed religious adherents and how Christians should respond when put such a situation, the Women’s March, the March for Life, the messages of the movie Boyhood, and the reality of La La Land.
First Topic: Trump’s Inauguration – Praying with Adherents of Other Religions in Public
Second Topic: The Women’s March Compared to the March for Life in the Media
Third Topic: Boyhood – A Very Real Depiction of How Broken Families Impact Children and the Need we all have for God’s Design for Marriage and Family
Fourth Topic: La La Land – Being a Shooting Star without God is Meaningless, Hopeless, and Unfulfilling