Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God Will Not Be Used

Some further reflections regarding the sermon from last Lord's Day.

What I called "Americanism" is basically the same thing that J. Budziszewski has called "civil religionism," "instrumentalism," and "Caesarism." He writes,

According to [civil religionism], America is a chosen nation, and its projects are a proper focus of religious aspiration; according to Christianity America is but one nation among many, no less loved by God, but no more.

No nation can presume to take God under its wing. However we may love our country, dote upon her, and regret her, God can do without the United States.

He continues on the closely related theme of instrumentalism,

According to [instrumentalism] faith should be used for the ends of the state; according to Christianity believers should certainly be good citizens, but faith should not be used.

Religious conservatives who pine for the days when jurists called America "a Christian country" and recognized Christianity as "the law of the land" are deeply in error if they think such statements expressed belief; what they usually expressed was instrumentalism.

Caesarism means that the laws of man are higher than the laws of God. Budziszewski notes,

The peculiar thing about the American variety of Caesarism is that the state never says that its laws are higher than the laws of God; in the name of equal liberty for all religious sects, it simply refuses to acknowledge any laws of God.

Budziszewski has done some good spade work, digging up the grubs that eat out the the roots of our common life together. [All quotes taken from The Revenge of Conscience, pp. 108-113.] Only when we are freed from serving the idol of Americanism will be be ready to glorify God and advance the gospel in America.

P.S. I blogged about one encounter I had last year with civil religion. You can read it here. The salient part is as follows.

"However, two other observations struck themselves like darts into my mind while at the conference. The first was that the military co-opts the church for its own purposes. This underlying premise seemed to be shared by every speaker I heard, Christian or non-Christian, military or civilian. I heard nothing about sin, righteousness, and judgment. I did not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I did not hear that Jesus is Lord and that all men, including those in the U.S. military, must bow the knee to him. I certainly did not hear that allegiance to Christ was far more important eternally than allegiance to America. I did hear, repeatedly, how churches can help military personnel and their families in order to have a strong fighting force. It's not about seeking first the kingdom of God; it is about seeking the kingdom of America. This is civil religion with a vengeance."

P.S.S. Read this quote from Oliver O'Donovan, too: "Authoritarian Idolatry".

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