Friday, January 21, 2005

America Is Not the Church:

GayPatriot waxes poetic about the president's "stirring inaugural address," highlighting this passage in particular:

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

Where to begin? Yes, America is a wonderful country. Yes, I am very glad and, indeed, thankful (in the deepest sense of the word) to be living here. And yes, I continue to believe that, on the whole, America has been and continues to be a force for good in the world -- including, I hope and pray, in Iraq.

But the suggestion that America is somehow a savior nation is, from a Christian perspective, nothing less than idolatry. "For there is one God," Saint Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:5, "and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Notice that Paul says nothing about Israel, or the Roman state, or even -- gasp! -- America; the only mediator Paul knows of is "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

Jesus, too, was clear about which people it is that shall be the bearer of this good news to world. To Peter he said: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). And then later, after the resurrection and before the ascension: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matt. 28:19-20).

Again, Jesus leaves no room to doubt that it is the Church -- and not any nation -- that it is to bear this task of teaching the nations, or that this task is to be accomplished not through the waging of wars, the writing of constitutions, or even the holding of elections, but through the baptizing of people in the name of the Triune God.

Bottom Line: Pride goes before the fall, and if, God forbid, America should some day pass out of this theater which is the history of the world, I have no doubt that the Church will continue as it has for the past two thousand years -- beaten, battered, but always, and through Christ, triumphant. Which is why America has never been, nor should we ever aspire to become, either the savior of the world or a replacement for the Church. It is the failure to appreciate this truth that, in the language of the New Testament, constitutes the very spirit of antichrist.

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