"Who can be compared with your people, with Isra'el? What other nation on earth did God set out to redeem and make into a people for himself?" 2Samuel 7:23

Christendom ?

Many people are bemoaning how our nations have fallen from their Christian standards and that they should be ashamed of themselves and sort it out. (whoever "they" are)

Really?

Can there be such a thing as a Christian nation?

Jesus never spoke of establishing Christian nations and imposing Christianity (the Kingdom of Heaven) on those who didn't want it. He said that his kingdom is not of this world and he told us to make disciples from all nations – not to conquer nations. That is how Islam views its mission which is why there are Muslims seeking to impose Sharia on us. ( not necessarily that we all become Muslims but that we all submit to Muslim authority) This raises the question of punishment under Islamic Sharia (law) We must understand that Islam is an empire; not just a religion, and sees no difference between sin and crime; meaning that sin should be punished by the law. Crime is transgression of the rules of the state while sin is transgression of God's instruction. (Torah)

Christianity differs from Islam in this important respect but many have not comprehended it. I am not arguing with the atheists who maintain the US Constitution calls for a “Separation of Church and State” that means all Christian expressions should be banned from public life. (see The Marketing of Evil) I am pointing out that it is not right to expect our governments to enforce Christianity

This model of Christendom might have appeared to work once upon a time when many in government held broadly “Christian” views and behaved in a “Christian” manner. But first Europe and now the USA are moving rapidly towards secularism and humanism and liberalism and the church should not be blindly drifting along with the nations.

The error of Christendom is to regard a whole nation as being under the relationship with God that only the individual born again believer can have.

God has allowed us all the freedom to choose to go His way or not. We will be judged for that decision one day but it is not to be enforced by the authorities.

It is selfish of Christians to demand non-Christians conform to our views while we are living in the world. Christianity did that in the past in Inquisitions and other horrors. Read more

A "Level playing field" ?

What we are starting to experience a playing field sloped against us where it used to slope in our favour. But Jesus told us to expect persecution because we do not belong to the world. Charities like the Barnabas Fund are calling us to support persecuted Christians and see how persecution is building up where we live. Once we see this we can be better prepared to remain faithful when persecution does come. But we should not be fighting to get the playing field sloped in our favour!

Once upon a time church leaders and rulers used to think of the world as being divided between Christendom and heathen nations. This may well have sprung from the time of Constantine, when Christianity became the state religion. Clearly, this idea does not fit with the Gospel message that calls every man to turn from his sins and receive salvation in Jesus. Thus a nation will be comprised of some who are trusting in Jesus and a majority who are not. However, when establishment figures believed in the idea of Christendom, somewhat like an empire, that should be defended militarily if necessary, the outcome was the Crusades.


When Britain had an empire that stretched around the globe, Christianity tended to become confused with Empire, but Britain is not God's chosen nation on earth from which salvation and righteousness flow out to the nations. We had our time of greatness and empire, during which the Church in Britain sent out missionaries, taking Christianity to far corners of the world.. One could debate how right it was for missionaries to export Britishness bundled in with Christianity.

The Bible speaks of only one nation given the role of bringing God's light to the world. That nation was Israel, “Salvation is of the Jews”, and Jesus gave the commission to his (Jewish) disciples to take it out to the nations, including us. We need to see ourselves and the world with God's perspective.

During its time of empire Britain was given one specific mandate from God; to see Israel re-established in the territory won from the Ottoman Empire. Sadly, Britain betrayed this mandate from God and has betrayed the Jews in various ways. We cursed Israel and have consequently been cursed (Genesis 12) That curse appears to be firstly the rapid loss of our empire and then being taken over by Europe and by Islam. We need to repent for our national sins that have brought this upon us rather than complain to the government. Britain is not, and never was, a “Christian country” and it is not the government's responsibility to defend Christians from opposition and offence. Have we forgotten Jesus' promises of persecution and opposition?

It would be worth listening again to David Pawson's talks on Islam's Challenge to Christianity. In one of these chapters he revealed that Britain is the world's second most Godless nation. If we like to see ourselves as a Christian nation, how would we rate on a percentage? If our nation is godless, surely it is our fault; not the government's. During Britain's time of greatness there were Christians in prominent position in government who brought salt and light to government policy, but Britain was still not a Christian country. Men and women become Christians; nations do not.

One serious problem with Christendom is the perception that if our nation is Christian there is no need to preach the Gospel since people are already Christians. Also, everyone tends to believe he is a Christian , unless he has some other belief, so the offer of getting right with God sounds unnecessary!

One of the big advantages of living in a post-Christian nation is the restoration of the imperative to bring the gospel to those around us, and the Gospel having an impact on people who may never have heard it explained. But this demands that we can explain it; that we understand it ourselves.

Another outcome of Christendom is a complete lack of comprehension between Christians and Muslims. While we have shown that Christendom is a faulty concept, Islam does function as an empire rather than just a personal faith. Islam thinks in terms of winning territory for Allah and territory once won for Allah becomes a permanent acquisition may never be relinquished . Thus Spain is still Andalus to Islam and must be won back. Muslims see the west in terms of a Christian territory and judge Christianity by how they see “Christians” behave. Look at all the immorality and commercial exploitation of sex that fills our television screens, newspapers and public billboards and shop windows. Is that Christianity? This is an obstacle that we must overcome in our thinking before we can start to reach Muslims.

 

If we have a Christendom or Christian country outlook we will expect the government to uphold Christian standards and practices and defend Christians from opposition and persecution. This does not fit with Jesus' teaching about the opposition that would be ours. It is good that Christian Concern is seeking to maintain a Christian witness in our land and support those who are coming under persecution, but they should not be expected to change the world in which we live – we were called to maintain our faith through persecution, trusting in God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can't expect the law of the land to be written in our terms and giving us a playing field slanted in our favour, but we could challenge equality legislation being used to slant the playing field against us. But defending our rights is not the priority; maintaining our witness to Jesus is.

In Britain there have been various cases of Christians fighting to be allowed to maintain their witness whether it be wearing a cross or declining to have homosexual couples in their commercial accommodation. While I appreciate the dilemma and would not wish to be facing it myself, It must be conceded that the opposition has a point that a nation's equality legislation can not be used to defend the moral scruples of one group at the expense of another group. These are big issues that Christians need to get to grips with; in a manner that Jesus is happy with.


Published 26/12/10

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