Thursday, July 10, 2008

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO GINGRICH

On July 4th of this year, Dr. Charles Stanley and In Touch Ministries had a special guest speaker for their holiday program: Newt Gingrich.

I was told by a friend to click on the In Touch website to hear his message. Of course I checked it out. I was really curious. Newt Gingrich speaking in a Baptist church? Had he become a Baptist preacher? I thought that perhaps he’d gotten converted and was giving his testimony of how he’d found Jesus. After all, wasn’t he the man who had to resign as Speaker of the House because he was having an affair (at the same time that he was leading in getting Bill Clinton impeached for lying about his affairs)?

Well, no, he didn’t want to talk about Jesus. He was pushing his new book: Rediscovering God in America. Now I haven’t read Newt Gingrich’s book, but I did listen to his “message” for about ½ hour before I gave up. It was a typical hodgepodge of patriotism, militarism, Republicanism and religiosity. He talked a lot about the flag, the military, America, the Bible and even God. He actually did mention Jesus Christ once, but only offhandedly.

Although he is a professor of history, his understanding of history seems to be as weak as his understanding of the Bible. Either that, or he is deliberately playing fast and loose with both.

Gingrich paints a picture of our founding fathers as men of God, and undoubtedly many of them were. But for many, their faith was not in the God of the Bible, the God who gave His Son.

One of his favorites is Thomas Jefferson. Gingrich admits that Jefferson was a Deist but insists that Deists really believed in God as Creator. However what Gingrich doesn’t explain is that Deists did not believe in God as One who is involved in the affairs of men or in God as the One who sent His Son as Savior of the world. I have a copy of Jefferson’s “Bible.” For his edition he removed all references to miracles and to the deity of Christ. (He missed a few.)

Gingrich paints a picture of a godly America that I believe exists only in the wishful thinking of some people. And his call for America to rediscover God does not go far enough. America does not need to “return to God.” The American people need Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again. And so does Newt. And America needs churches that proclaim Christ and not Gingrich’s generic god.

I have a problem with patriotic services in church. I find none of this in the New Testament. I don't find Jesus or Paul or John or any other New Testament writer calling their nation to repentance and responsibility. And the Roman Empire in their day was as immoral as, or worse than America in our day.

As a Christian citizen of both the Kingdom of God and of the USA, I recognize that I have dual responsibilities. In fact, in a representative democracy such as ours we have a greater responsibility. But our responsibility is to "do all things to the glory of God." That includes how we vote, hold office, etc.

As far as Mr. Stanley's having Newt speak, I didn't see any indication that tells us Newt is a believer. His past actions, his ignorance of the Word of God, as well as the fact that he does not acknowledge Christ would seem to disqualify him, if not as a believer, at least as someone who should speak in church

There are too many people in this country who think that being an American and being a Christian are the same thing. This kind of preaching only adds to the confusion and muddies up the Gospel.

I believe that the church in America has gotten sidetracked often throughout our history because we have blurred the distinction between three entities: the church, Israel and our nation. The Israel of the Old Testament was a theocracy. In a sense we could say that “church” and “state” were one. But not so today. The church’s task is not to create or “restore” or “revive” a godly nation. That’s impossible. History is full of failed theocracies. We don’t need one here!

Bill Ball
7/8/2008

12 comments:

XLT said...

Bill,

This kind of thing bothers me too. In fact, I often wonder why churches fly the US flag outside, particularly in a place of prominence forward or above the Christian flag...although I'm not sure I like the idea of flying the "Christian flag" either.

The theology of the day did lend itself to application to a nation. Frankly, that same theology is pretty prevalent today. I'm not sure that people would at all actually like returning to the nation as it really was, at this point that they have arbitrarily decided was the most faithful time in our history either.

Are you familiar with Vision Forum Ministries? They are here in San Antonio...their whole ministry is based on this kind of thing.

http://www.visionforumministries.org/

And just in case you need help...they have a store to go along with it!

http://www.visionforum.com/default.aspx

Some of this stuff is actually good, but the foundation of it is exceedingly shaky from a biblical standpoint.

Anyway, as always, thanks for this.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks, Josh. I sometimes think that I'm part of a very small minority. It's nice to know that there are other people who are willing to question the current American theology.

Have you ever read "The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Boyd (I don't remember his first name.

When I was a pastor people would want to put a flag in the sanctuary. When I would refuse, I'd be asked something like "Don't you love your country?" My answer was, "Yes. I also love my wife but I don't think it would be appropriate to put her picture in front of the church."

XLT said...

no, I haven't read it, but now of course, will have to :).

We are a small minority, I think. Flags in the sanctuary remind me way too much of the church pictures I have seen from the 3rd Reich days. Not that our country is using the church that way now, but the danger is always there when that line is fuzzy.

Emily said...

Opa--I am so excited to get to see the author of these thoughts in person tomorrow :)

Mike said...

I don't particularly like politics in the church either. The democrats have perfected this art (e.g., Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et all), and it looks like Republican's are starting to take some cues from them in some cases.

However, I do believe that there are some places where politics and "religion" intersect. I do think that churches have a responsibility to preach the entire word, including addressing moral issues that might be politically unpopular. But it is easy to cross a line and thus hinder the furtherance of the gospel. We have seen that time and again. But that just points to the human condition and our imperfections.

As usual, Bill, there is a lot to thing about here, and too much to address in a blog comment. I have my own feeling about Newt Gingrich, but in the end he has had his own share of human failing, which puts him in the same boat as the rest of us. We are all in need of Christ, and his daily grace is the life jacket that keeps us afloat when that boat overturns.

Concerning display of the flag in churches: I personally have no problem with that at all. I can't see how that gesture in itself would interfere with the furtherance of the gospel. In fact, I think it is a good symbol of the freedom that we have to go into that building and worship God without fear of anyone coming down the aisle and hauling us away for our beliefs.

Bill Ball said...

Thanx Mike. I appreciate your thoughts. However while I agree that Demorats have been getting politics into church for a long time, the churches I've associated with have more often brought Republican politics in and they've been doing it for a long time as well.
I agree that we need to address the moral issues. I thought that that's what I was doing.
The big problem that I see with so many churches and preachers is that they address the sins of the other guys , those sinners out there, and not what's wrong inside the church.

XLT said...

Perhaps my comment was misunderstood.

I don't believe, in general, that the flag being displayed is currently a problem. At the same time, I believe it leaves the door open to substantial confusion, should things change regarding the political realm's perspective on the spiritual.

In other words, I agree with you about now, what it represents. That doesn't guarantee that it will do so always, but I believe we will be hard pressed to remove that symbol should it be necessary if it has been there all along.

Also, I do sincerely have a problem with a national flag taking precedence and preeminence in a church, where it does not represent anything close to a final authority in that setting.

I do not believe that this is unpatriotic. I love my country, and the freedom it represents.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks, Josh. I wholeheartedly agree with you!

Mike said...

Bill,

I think we generally agree on most things here, but the nuances make for a good discussion.

Also, I am finding that despite my best efforts at proofreading before posting, problems jump off the page when I come back later to read the post.

My grammar and writing problems aside, I can honestly say that I have not seen anything of Republican or other politics in the church that I attend, or others that I have visited in the last few years. I really don't see partisan politics in the church as a problem, at least not in the small circles where I travel. Maybe it is a problem in other parts of the country and other denominations--I don't know.

To the contrary, I think my pastor makes a conscious effort to avoid anything political, even to the point of not addressing issues within broader Christianity that probably should be addressed, perhaps for fear of offending someone or being accused of being political.

Is the gospel itself not offensive? It accuses us all, does it not? And then it embraces us once we surrender to it. But without confrontation, there can be no resolution of any issue, or so it seems to me.

Bill Ball said...

Amen

Gorio said...

Bill, very well written.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks