In my previous article I discussed why you don’t know me but you need to know my story. Our Christian community today is generally out of touch with some major fundamentals found in God’s Word. This is not just an issue of “tweaks” that need to be made to bring our doctrine more in line with scripture. We are out of touch in terms of major paradigms. It is like we are sailing on what we believe to be a flat world. Far from being in danger of falling off, our more likely peril comes from the iceberg in front of us that we can’t even see. Are we in danger? Yes.
Of course this predicament the church finds itself in is nothing new. It has taken many forms throughout history but has certainly become an acute issue over the past century. We are living out our Christian lives in cultural silos and it has begun to take its toll. Far from being an iceberg ahead of us, we are on top of it and it has already done considerable damage to our hull. The ship is taking on water. The good news is the crisis is waking some of the sleeping passengers.
I say we are out of touch with fundamentals. What fundamentals? We are out of touch with the fact that our faith actually has application to all of life. The Puritans did not perfectly embody the Christian faith but at least they were tracking the right direction in this area. Mark Noll in his very helpful book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind puts it this way, “The distinguishing characteristic of Puritanism was its effort to unite the theology of the Reformation with a comprehensive view of the world. From the testimony of the Continental Reformers and their own study of Scripture, the Puritans were convinced that a vital personal religion was the wellspring of all earthly good. They were equally convinced that all aspects of life – whether political, social, cultural, economic, artistic, or ecclesiastical – needed to be brought into subjection to God. This Puritan synthesis of heart religion and comprehensive concern for all areas of life drew upon the Continental heritage of Protestantism, but it was, in its fullest expression, the unique contribution of the English-speaking Reformation to the development of American civilization.”
Now we say that we know this. But our actions betray us. We get to contemporary issues of healthcare, immigration, education, the economy and many others and we know something is wrong with the current systems but we don’t know why. The ground from which we argue oscillates between different talking heads on Fox news and our favorite politically conscious blog. Why not the Bible? Why not dust it off for these conversations? Why not give ourselves a firm footing. We are constantly building houses on sandy presuppositions and then we wonder why the roofs are falling in on our society.
Most of our confusion in contemporary issues centers around a confusion between the roles and jurisdictions of God-ordained institutions. Specifically these are covenant institutions. So now we have reached the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue lies with a term that is constantly thrown around in a host of evangelical circles. Most of the time it is done so with vague definition if it has any definition at all. The term is covenant. We have heard it in church. We pick up on it as we read through our Bibles. That said, we don’t really have a good handle on a clear answer when someone asks us what it means. We are living in a covenant world without definition. This is taking its toll.
If we want to see major changes in our home, church and the culture around us we are going to have to take the proverbial ax to the root of our incomplete and sometimes inconsistent covenant theology. That means we are going to have to clarify what we are talking about. We are going to have to understand that the understanding of covenant is comprehensive. It is all encompassing. The modern church has given unsatisfactory answers to so many who live in a world that lacks meaning, purpose and simple direction. We cover these people and ourselves with clever Christian clichés that ease our discomforts about life but what we need is to better understand that there is no substitute for Christ’s Lordship over every inch of our lives. To talk about covenant is to talk about Lordship. Lordship deals with who is sovereign. Who makes the rules? Who is sovereign over our business? What does that mean? Who is sovereign over the current political debate? What does that mean for what the Christian has to say about it? What actions should they take? What about my family? Are my children God’s children? Why? What is God’s relationship to them?
It is time to deal with the first things. It is time we deal with the all-encompassing implications of covenant structure and purpose in our lives. More to come.