Friday, October 1, 2010

On Burning Books and Demolishing Idols: Part 3: Submit to Christ or Perish

All rulers are required to submit to the rule of Jesus Christ,
the King of kings, who is the highest political authority
in the world.  Rulers who refuse to do so are in serious
trouble, for Christ's "wrath is quickly kindled." 
Truly submissive rulers seek to purge the land of
idols and other symbols of false religions.
(posts in this series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

As we've discussed, Jesus Christ is sovereign over all things. This sovereignty obviously then extends over civil government. The kingdom of men is subordinate to the kingdom of Christ:  
“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17, KJV).

Being the King of kings, Jesus has the highest political office in the land, and, for that matter, the world. As such civil rulers must fearfully serve Him. Psalm 2:10-12 gives a stern warning:
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Herod refused to serve Christ, and was struck down: 
“The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:22-23, NASB). 
Notice that Herod wasn’t struck down for refusing to be a religious pluralist. He was struck down for failing to exclusively acknowledge God. Herod was not to acknowledge and respect the false religion of the people (i.e., ruler worship), who worshiped Herod as a god.

Since rulers are to serve Christ, they are to oppose promotion of false gods, which are Christ’s political rivals. This opposition includes destroying symbols of false religions.

Hence while we noted in part 1 that individual Christian citizens are not to destroy the religious symbols of non-Christians because of private property rights, civil rulers have the right--and even a duty--to destroy them. Consider the following examples: 
“And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace” (2 Chronicles 14:2-6).

“And he [Hezekiah ] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him” (2 Kings 18:3-7) (see also 2 Kings 10:25-28; 11:17-18; 23:4-25).
Notice how the actions of the kings pleased God. Also notice how within the context of destroying idols, Asa’s kingdom “had rest under him,” and Hezekiah prospered “wherever he went out.”

So much for the view of religious pluralism that says national disaster occurs from suppressing non-Christian religions. Actually, national disaster occurs from not suppressing religious pluralism. As we point out in part 2, God judges idolatrous nations.

If civil rulers are to restrain theft and murder, how much more are they to restrain the open worship of false gods? Murder and theft are violations of the second table of the law, while worshiping false gods is a violation of the first table of the law.

And the first table of the law is greater, for it is summarized in the command, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37b), which is “the first and greatest commandment” (22:38b, NIV).

The open practice of false religions is very deadly to society as a whole, for false religions create a snare for the church--and once the church goes, so does society along with it. This is an important reason for civil rulers to destroy non-Christian religious symbols:
“Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim—for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods.” (Exodus 34:11-16, NASB).
Thus we see that non-Christian religions are subversive of the social order. We are not talking about requiring non-Christians to become Christians, but about rulers preventing non-Christians from promoting their religion, which amounts to treason. All social orders out of necessity have laws against treason.

When the Christian social order is not protected from the propagation of false religions, then the result can be the church covenanting with advocates of false religions and worshiping their gods. And this results in death for any society, for any society that turns its back on God self destructs (cf. Romans 1:18-32).  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Hence society faces two choices: submit to Christ (and demolish its idols in the process), or perish.

Listen to the entire “Political Polytheism” series here.

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