Friday, March 10, 2006

The Composite Society - Part V

What advantages do we have in our Western Democratic societies as Christians? Like a fish in an aquarium, we have a hard time evaluating our environment. It’s all we know. Hopefully, we thank God for the freedom that we have to gather to worship, to make our voice heard to government and in the media, and to persuade others to consider the claims of Christ. These freedoms are rights in Canada and the United States. For now.

I was going to do a total of five posts on the Composite Society vs. Unitary Sacral Society issue, but I can’t condense my conclusions very well. I will do at least one more post after this one. Since I have not been very speedy in getting this line of thought up on my blog, here are the first four posts for review, if you wish: Post 1; Post 2; Post 3 and Post 4. If you don’t want to take the time to read these, let me just briefly review some of the argument in point form:
  • Most civil societies in history have been a marriage of one official religion with the civil government, what I’ve called Unitary Sacral Societies. What this looks like in practice is that there is one ‘body’ (the country or empire) that has two heads, the high priest to act as the spiritual head and the King (or emperor, queen, etc.) to rule the civil aspect of the realm. In most instances, the chief civil official rules supreme (e.g. the Pharaohs in Egypt or Caesars in the Roman Empire).

  • The Bible points to a division between the kingdoms of man and the Kingdom of God. The seeds for the alternative were sown in Scripture, particularly the New Testament. This alternative is the Composite Society in which there is freedom of religion, that is, the government has no mandate to impose a religion upon the people (contrary to modern conceptions of separation of church and state that read that constitutional provision to mean that the state should be free from religion).

  • Christians must wake up to the fact that this Composite model is the foundation for our freedom. It is an exception in history, and quite recent in its development in the context of history. If we do not understand and protect this Composite Society that we now enjoy, we are going to lose it. This model is built upon the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview. If Christians do not fight to keep it alive, who will?

What are the current threats to the Composite Society and the freedoms that it brings to Western democracies?

First, we must consider secularism. Secularism is that which has to do with this world as opposed to the sacred (that which is transcendental) separate from the natural order. What cannot be verified with the senses is not real or at least not ‘scientific.’

In the 60s and 70s, Christian apologists spent most of their time battling secular humanism with its naturalistic atheism (think National Geographic). At least then the enemy was somewhat obvious. Presenting arguments for the existence of God, the legitimacy of the supernatural and evidence of the resurrection were central to the defense of Christianity. Today, secular people will respond to these arguments with, “If that works for you, that’s fine. I have my own beliefs.” When spirituality is disconnected from the implications of divine revelation for the ‘real world,’ secularism triumphs by default.

Of course, spirituality is big business these days. Popular spirituality, however, is a distinctly secular spirituality. It is of this world, not revealed from God; personal, not corporate; peripheral, not central – in other words, secular, not sacred.  No matter what fancy words are used, most spirituality today doesn’t get beyond the consciousness of the individual. This may seem to lend itself to the support of a composite society, but if secularism becomes ‘she who must be obeyed,’ we find ourselves back in the USS tyranny.

What is the danger to Christians in this secular triumph? We already seeing the censorship of truth claims as ‘intolerant’ or ‘hate speech.’ The last remaining heresy is to confess that there is such a thing as heresy. To say that faith in Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God is unacceptable to a Unitary Sacral Society where the State Religion is secularism. I’ve mentioned this book before, but to get a glimpse of the frightening results of a consistent application of a naturalistic, secular worldview, see Phillip E. ‘Not a Pyromaniac’ Johnson’s book, Reason in the Balance. For modern reading on this topic, the works of Francis Schaeffer, David Wells and D.A. Carson regarding the philosophical changes in the culture that are shaping evangelicalism should be considered essential reading for Christian leaders. Following C.S. Lewis’ advice, we should be reading old books as well to clear our heads so that we can understand the mistakes we are making as believers today.

Another threat to our Composite model is Islam. This religion does not have a theology that lends itself to a Composite model of society. Of course there are Muslim moderates in Western society who appreciate the Composite model, but they do not have their ‘Book’ on the side of this paradigm in the same way that Christians do with the New Testament. This is more of an immediate problem for Western Europe, as we on this side of the Atlantic are somewhat insulated by a more diverse, multi-ethnic population. I’m certainly no expert on any of this, but consider, for example, this article by Mark Steyn on the impact of Demographics and the spread of Islam. I think it’s worth talking about among thinking Christians.

My purpose in writing this series on the Composite society is to remind us of the unique situation that we find ourselves in today in Canada and the United States particularly. We dare not forget that the freedom and prosperity that we have did not come cheap. Wars have been waged to protect our democratic freedoms and convictions. What would people fight for today? We must remember that in order for democracies to work, we must not blindly trust our leaders and the ‘experts.’ History has proven that the powerful tend to favor the more efficient unitary model.

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