Why does knowing the difference between Composite and Unitary Sacral Societies matter for Christians today?
Understanding the difference between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God is essential for understanding the purpose of the church in the world. Equating any one empire or nation with the church is not consistent with sound, biblical thinking. We don’t need to know much history to know that when the church has forgotten that God’s Kingdom is not coextensive with any earthly kingdom the results are catastrophic.
An extension of this theological thinking brings us back to the Christian worldview that under girds the composite model. This model has historically had a distrust of human nature and a realistic understanding of the human condition.
Western democracies were not founded upon the pillars of a Composite philosophy because our forefathers were convinced that the masses knew best, but rather because they knew that power corrupts. For the good of the people, the leaders in any society need checks and balances to keep them honest. No king, queen nor small group of elite leaders will be Benevolent Dictators for long, even if they do start that way. The electorate must remember that the option to ‘kick the bums out’ every few years is a good corrective to fallen human nature. It is a blessing to be able to do so in our Western democracies. The Composite Model should keep us humble if we reflect upon how it is supposed to work.
Beyond the important philosophical and theological considerations, being able to explain the Composite model is practical. First, Christians can be the conscience of democratic societies by knowing how good government and good society is supposed to work. We need to take back the culture, not by ‘Christianizing’ our institutions, but by being better at our jobs and smarter at educating our children. This particularly applies to politicians, journalists, civil servants and educators, but this biblical pattern of excellence – for the glory of God - must extend to every vocation. We are strangers and aliens here, but this is our Father’s World. He made it, and we have His revelation to help us be productive and wise citizens.
The Composite model will help us in the sphere of intentional Christian ministry as well. Defending an ‘in the world, not of it’ pattern of Christian participation in the power structures of our world will help our evangelistic efforts. One of the major stumbling blocks that non-believers have in our day is the conception of a politicized church. Jesus is not white, middle-class and Conservative. He is not the product of modern, Western culture. Nor does Hollywood, Madison Avenue or Toronto reflect the Christian worldview. People looking at the West from within USS type systems will equate our ‘national religion’ with the products of our culture, from Wal-Mart and McDonalds to internet pornography. If they assume we are a Christian country, then how do we account for all the problems that our culture causes? We know that these things are not Christian, but does the rest of the world know that?
When we see, hear and read attacks against Christianity and Christian morality, we should not have a knee-jerk, hot under the collar reaction (though I did as recently as last Friday regarding the CBC, though I contained it to the privacy of my van. I’ll post on that later). We ought to expect ignorance and even persecution. These enemies of the cross are speaking their native language. Remember, as Christians we are told to love our enemies. We should take these opportunities of ignorance to point out what Christianity is really all about and how it is supposed to relate to the world with words full of grace, seasoned with salt.
We need to live and act more like strangers and aliens – pilgrims, dissenters, non-conformists and a ‘peculiar’ people. Christians have been chosen by God, called together in the church out of the world as ‘outposts of Heaven.’ We don’t belong here, and the world does not own us. We should not be surprised that the world hates us, but we should not give them cause either – other than the offense of the cross.
If people protest that Christianity is a religion that has a long history of oppression and abuse, how will we answer them? Though this line of reasoning is often a smoke-screen for unbelief and willful ignorance of Christianity, we have to admit there have been terrible times of abuse in the history of the institutional church. Call them power failures of church history. These are not consistent with New Testament teaching. If we can express the difference between a ‘pilgrim path’ of discipleship (see Diognetus for an example) and express the wisdom of a Composite Society, we can go a long way to diffusing these objections. For many people today around the world, ‘Christian’ means oppressive colonialism, Western greed and profligate immorality.
If the distinction between Christianity and a godless culture continues to disappear, who is to blame but the church herself? Christ’s Church will not fail – He will build it and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. However, many, many individual churches and whole associations of churches have taken the path of apostasy. As Christians, we must hold our pastors and leaders accountable to have distinctly Christian, particularly biblical, Gospel-centered local churches. The church will grow and influence the culture best when local churches are cross-centered and exclusively Christ exalting and known for their love and holiness as a community and in the world. There is power in the Gospel. God will use His Word to change one heart at a time if we trust His means of saving the world. Nothing else will produce lasting influence in our decaying Western cultures.
We need to pray for thinking Christians who are involved in every area of our culture, including government, education, entertainment and the media. As a word of caution, let me state that having Christians in power in Ottawa or Washington D.C., or Hollywood, for that matter, will not necessarily make any real difference. What was it that Luther said? Something like, “I’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a stupid Christian.” Amen to that. However, having Christians of integrity in leadership in key areas because they do their work with wisdom and excellence will make a difference in the long run (teach your children well!).
In conclusion, if we are concerned about the marginalization of Christianity in our culture, the best thing that we can do is pray for reformation and revival. God knows what we need and what we will face in the years to come. Christians need to understand the times and work wisely and diligently – for the night is coming.
End of post VI, end of the Composite Society Series.