This title is a phrase coined by Presbyterian theologian Francis Shaeffer in his famous book How Should We Then Live? He introduces it in a critique of the Church’s absence during the Industrial Revolution. Schaeffer argues, “If industrialization had been accompanied by a strong emphasis on the compassionate use of accumulated wealth and on the dignity of each individual, the Industrial Revolution would have indeed been a revolution for good… Following industrialization, the noncompassionate use of accumulated wealth was particularly glaring… This resulted in the growth of slums… the exploitation of children and women… Seldom did the church, as the church, lift its voice against such ‘utilitarianism’ (the teaching that utility is the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions).”
The Westminster Confession of Faith, the standard of Reformed theology and interpretation, states “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.” This statement of faith presents the Reformed understanding of the Bible’s authority, which is not derived from “any man or Church.” The Bible isn’t authoritative because the Pope says so. The Bible isn’t authoritative because I feel it is so. The Bible is authoritative “because it is the Word of God.”
Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8, Amos 2:6, Matthew 25:40; these and other passages of Scripture are often used by many in the progressive camp of Christianity to promote what has become popularized as a “social justice gospel.”
In addition to the church and state, the Bible includes a third sphere of authority: the family. Each of these three play a vital role in the structuring of the Christian’s life. To ignore that reality is to ignore God’s design. To twist that reality is to abuse God’s design. As Creator, God has every right and authority to delegate how He pleases. Notice that God has delegated authority to the family, church, and state. There are other authorities, like employers, professionals, and clubs; yet none of them derive their authority directly from God. Moreover, these spheres of authority are not independent, isolated entities but assignments given by God and bounded by His rules, that may, at times, intersect in practice.
If we want to have a biblical worldview of government, we need to have a biblical understanding of authority. Do you see another word within “authority?” Authority grammatically and logically implies an author. To gauge the knowledge of doctoral candidates, many are required to author a dissertation, thereby showing their authority in the subject matter. This world has an Author and as such, He has ultimate authority over it. God literally authored the cosmos into existence when He said “let there be light.” More than that, He “upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Heb. 1:3)
The Westminster Confession of Faith, taking cues from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, sees two distinct yet related spheres of authority over mankind. One is the ecclesiastical sphere and the other magisterial. Developed using in-depth and faithful exegesis, this doctrine shows there are certain legislative and judicial powers granted to the church and to the state.
There seems to be an unwritten yet oft-appealed to 11th commandment. Go to any “seeker sensitive” evangelical church or any “open and affirming” liberal church and you’ll find this commandment: Thou shalt not offend. These churches might agree with the old Puritan adage of comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted, so long as you don’t offend people or a certain subset of society. If a pastor begins to address sins—not just sin in general, but sins in particular—he had better watch out because if he offends the wrong person, he and his family will be out on the streets.
Forgiveness is undoubtedly an important theme and doctrine in Christian faith and life. But it is much more than just a theme. It is essential. The world doesn’t look fondly on forgiveness and its counterpart the apology. Very often, saying you’re sorry or forgiving someone of a debt or wrong is seen as weakness. How many people cringe at the thought of the federal government forgiving student debt in light of the trillions of dollars of its own indebtedness? How many actors, politicians, and talking heads have actually offered a truly sincere and believable apology? How many of us actually live by the cliché “forgive and forget?”
In Matthew 7:1, Jesus plainly states “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Many have taken our Lord’s teaching and twisted it to support their own agenda. I’ve heard this verse cited in opposition to Christians condemning sinful lifestyles like cohabitation, inebriation, abortion, and many others. Most often, these folks point to Jesus’ words as if He said, “Who are you to judge another?” Indeed, proponents of such misinterpretation fail to consider the context of this doctrine, both within the immediate passage and in the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. There is, however, some ground for them to stand on.
Sex is not only a short word but one with a tiny presence in many mainline churches. At least, sex is one of those topics “good” pastors stay away from because sex is a private matter. I agree, it is one of the most intimate of privacies, but I might not be a “good” pastor. The church needs to talk about sex—or more formally, sexual ethics—because the world is talking about it. Your children and grandchildren are talking about. Your coworkers, siblings, and neighbors are talking about. If they or you aren’t talking explicitly about sex, it surrounds you in books, social media, TV commercials, and nearly every corner of the world wide web. This is why having a biblical worldview on sex is so important.