Renowned American theologian Carl F. H. Henry once asked the great English preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones an important question about the responsibility of the the Church.
“Must we not press the claims of Christ in all the areas of society?”, asked Henry. Mr. Lloyd-Jones responded, “No, I’m afraid I don’t agree. You can’t reform the world.” (Christianity Today, 2/8/80)
There in a nutshell is the spirit and faith that enables the evil of abortion to continue in our land. If the American church really believed it had rightful authority over the life of our nation, we would end abortion in short order. Yet many in the Church today believe it is futile to resist evil in the world. Like Lloyd-Jones, we deny that we have the responsibility and the authority to do anything about it.
Of course, Lloyd-Jones would almost certainly agree that God could reform human society if he wanted to. So, Lloyd-Jones’ most fundamental point is really that God does not intend for human society to be transformed in history. My question is where did he get such a belief?
In the Great Commission, Jesus declares that all authority in heaven and on earth belong to Him and He tells His disciples to go in His name and authority and disciple the nations. I see nothing here to support Lloyd-Jones’ position.
Likewise, one cannot read the Psalms and Prophets without the kingship of God in the earth practically jumping off the page. Many passages, in fact, show God’s people actively involved in His rule such as Psalm 47 and Psalm 149 (read it along w/ Psalm 2). In short, I see nothing in the Psalms and Prophets to support Lloyd-Jones’ position.
Yet, for all this, Lloyd-Jones did believe in the triumph of Christ over evil. The difference for him was when that victory would occur. Lloyd-Jones believed that all the verses in the Psalms and Prophets about the victory of God’s people over evil and injustice do not refer to the Church in history. Instead, he believed that all such passages must refer to a future period. In other words, his eschatology drove his view of the mission of the Church.
Consider for a moment, however, a scenario in which Lloyd-Jones is wrong. With so much hanging in the balance, surely this is worth considering.
In this scenario, God intends for His people to have authority and responsibility for the life of the nations; God intends for His people to declare God’s law to the nations and to kings and rulers; and the words of God’s people are effectual because God’s word is powerful to do the work that God intends.
In this scenario, God’s word is effectual in history and abortion ends in America and eventually all over the world. Hundreds of millions of babies are saved. Hundreds of millions of mothers are spared the anguish and guilt of murder. The nations develop a culture of life. They see the “light” of God’s laws; they are drawn to the “city on a hill”; and they seek to learn more about God and His law. As the nations become more Christian, wars of aggression subside.
This is the the picture that Isaiah says will be produced by the coming kingdom of the Messiah in Isaiah 2:3-4. Note, however, in the passage below that there are still disputes among the nations. The nations are learning God’s law but the world is not yet without sin.
“Many peoples will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.'”
— Isaiah 2:3-4
Consider also that a view of the Kingdom of God coming to earth “all at once” at the end of history defies nearly all the parables of Jesus about about the Kingdom. A mustard seed that grows and fills the garden, leaven that eventually fills the whole dough. The pictures in the Bible of the coming of God’s Kingdom are invariably pictures of growth over time.
The view that the Church is not called to disciple the nations has been growing steadily since roughly the late 1600’s, a period which saw the beginning of both the decline of the “worldly minded” Puritans and the rise of Endarkenment thought in universities and among men of letters. The consequences of that view for the world have been disastrous. We have given up massive swaths of the battlefield to evil in America over the last 300 years including the murder of millions of babies by abortion. I maintain that it’s not random. The Church in America lost it’s fighting spirit because its belief about God’s intention changed. The onslaught of humanist thought, forgetful prosperity, and pessimism from three wars (one Civil and two World) took the optimism and fight out of the American Church. Our theology, in particular our eschatology, has followed our feelings. We have been in retreat.
Abortion, gay marriage, our public schools, the life we will hand down to future generations… all of these hang on our eschatology and our view of the mission of the Church. If you have not read David Chilton’s “Paradise Restored” I encourage you to do so. He deals with the heart of some key doctrines that have “enabled” the full scale retreat of the Church over the last 150 years. If your heart is stirred even a little by imagining that the incarnation of Christ is powerful enough to overcome evil in the world and establish God’s justice in the history, please make a point to evaluate your eschatology from the bottom up and consider Chilton’s book as a starting point:
Blessings to you,