Concerning the Name

Hi, welcome to my new blog, The (Re)Publican.  Let me explain what that means.  In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector.  Both went up to the temple to pray.  The Pharisee prayed an arrogant prayer of thanksgiving for his own righteousness, but the tax collector simply prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus then makes his point: “I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

In the King James Version, the tax collector is called a “publican.”  I want to identify myself with this man.  I am one who has no claim upon the favor of God.  All I can do is pray that he will be merciful to me, a sinner.  And he has been.  Of myself I am nothing, but grapsing Christ as my righteousness, I too go down to my house justified. 

I want to embody the spirit of the publican.  In a sense, I want to relive in my time what he represented to the first century readers of Luke’s Gospel.  Hence, I am the (Re)Publican.  But of course, you can’t miss the political reference as well.  I am also a Republican, and I do post on political issues from time to time. 

I believe there is a connection between these two themes (theology and politics).  My political views flow out of my understanding of God, the world, and especially human nature.  The primary reason I am not a Democrat is because I am convinced that Democrats misunderstand the way the world works due to a misunderstanding of human nature as fallen, sinful, selfish, and corruptible.  Hence, I oppose big government.  I harbor no misconceptions that the problems confronting our society can be solved by higher taxes, the redistribution of wealth, or the consolidation of power into the hands of a centralized government.  Government is wasteful and inefficient.  It is like an ever-growing monster (you might say a Leviathan) that must be kept under restraints at all times, lest it subdue and eventually destroy human liberty.  Therefore, the people of a democratic society must continually press government to restrict itself to providing only those protections and services that cannot be provided by private citizens. 

Preeminent among these protections is protection from enemies of our nation.  Thanks to the leadership of Ronald Reagan, we saw the collapse of the Soviet empire.  Peace was achieved through strength.  Appeasement was the strategy of the doves on the left who raked Reagan over the coals day after day.  Appeasement didn’t work.  Military superiority did.  The left misread the whole situation.  They thought that good faith measures on our part would lead our enemies to peace.  Reagan saw that strategy as nothing more than feeding a bear.  And if you feed a bear, he will always want more.  Appeasement does not work.  Peace is achieved through strength, through victory.  The left is naive about the enemy we are currently facing, just as they were naive about the Soviets.  I am a Republican because I believe the war on terror is an offensive war, not a defensive one.

So, how can I be both a Publican who believes in grace and forgiveness and a Republican who believes in strong defense measures against national enemies?  How can I plead the grace of God for my own sins while arguing that the government should not extend grace to those who have broken the law or attacked us?  The answer to this is that God has ordained the church and the state to operate according to different principles.  The church proclaims the gospel of grace and forgiveness and wields the sword of the Spirit.  The church has not been given the power of the civil sword.  The state, by contrast, has been given the power of the sword, and its duty is to protect those under its authority and promote justice, so that life in this world may go on.  Both spheres of operation are gifts of God’s grace.  One pertains to the maintenance of creation, and the other to the renewal of creation.  The state, as an agent of God’s common grace, acts in such a way as to restrain sin in order to keep it from destroying us all.  Without this civil restraint, life on this earth would not be possible.  We are so thoroughly corrupted by sin that we would have no hope of survival if God did not delegate the power of the sword to civil authorities.  But God also sent his Son to redeem this world, and he has committed the message of the gospel to the church.  The church proclaims that anyone and everyone can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.  Yes, that includes Islamic terrorists.  One of the major challenges of theology (and of politics) is keeping these two spheres of operation separate.  The government should not be in the business of forgiving sins.  If that were the case, there would be no justice, and society would be doomed to complete chaos.  The church should not be in the business of compulsion.  Faith in Christ cannot be compelled, and while the church should have disciplinary measures, these are internal measures only.  The state keeps creation from plunging into complete ruin.  The gospel, as both event and message, announces and effects a new creation, where God will be all in all.   

So, that’s me, the (Re)Publican.  But I am much more of a Publican than I am a Republican.  Political parties will come and go.  In fact, I’m not entirely happy with my party right now.  Many Republicans have been caught up in scandals lately.  Even though they claim to be the party of small government and fiscal conservatism, Republicans in Congress basically operate according to the same principles when it comes to pork barrel spending (but, of course, we the voters deserve that because we vote for candidates who bring federal dollars to our communities).  And currently, the Republican race for president doesn’t look so hot.  I’m not the most enthusiastic Republican, but I am an enthusiastic conservative and a redeemed sinner who is even more enthusiastic about grace. 

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5 Responses to “Concerning the Name”

  1. ali Says:

    Congratulations on your new blog! The (Re)Publican, eh? That’s quite clever.

    Did you know that you can move all your posts from your previous blog to this one? Don’t ask me how. I had help to do mine!

    Looking forward to being able to comment on your posts without tearing my hair out.

  2. fenderpooh Says:

    I have been tinkering with the comments settings. I hope it is easier to work with now.

  3. Jason Says:

    Aaron,

    Cool Name. Really Cool.

    Just a few quick thoughts:

    1. You said: “Democrats misunderstand the way the world works due to a misunderstanding of human nature as fallen, sinful, selfish, and corruptible.”

    You are assuming that there are not a large number of people who would might call themselves “democrats” that do not hold this belief with you. I think this is a flawed and sweeping statement.

    2. You said: “Peace is achieved through strength, through victory.” I wonder if this is what the disciples were thinking when they were dropping hints to Jesus about being a militant type Messiah.

  4. fenderpooh Says:

    Thank you for those observations. Allow me to clarify:

    1. When I use the word “Democrats,” I often do so in reference to those who have achieved leadership in the party such that the whole direction of the party at the national level is determined by their influence. This would exclude people such as the so-called “Reagan Democrats” who are influential as a voting block but really no longer have a voice in the party itself.

    2. With regard to peace being achieved through victory, I have two points of response:

    (1) Please review the context of my remark. I believe Scripture teaches that there are different spheres of operation for the church and the state. The disciples misunderstood the nature of Jesus’ messiahship because they wanted political victory without a due recognition of their own sin and need for cleansing. But the same kind of reasoning does not apply to the state. The kind of peace that I am speaking of here is not the peace of the Kingdom of God; it is a measure of civil peace that the government has a responsibility to provide to its citizens. This kind of peace depends on just governments showing enough strength to deter or subdue those forces in the world (whether rogue states, terrorist networks, etc.) that would seek to undermine our ability to live life at all in a free society. The state cannot create any kind of final, lasting peace, but it can do great things for the world. I would again use President Reagan as an example of one whose actions led to the end of the Soviet empire, the virtual end of the threat of nuclear holocaust, and freedom for millions of people.

    (2) The disciples were not completely wrong about Jesus being a militant Messiah. Even now he reigns at the Father’s right hand and is in process of putting all of his enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:25-26). In the book of Revelation he is the most violent player in the eschatological drama. Jesus never repudiated militarism per se; he repudiated the misunderstanding and misapplication of it. The disciples seemed to have a nationlistic understanding of the kingdom that failed to take into consideration the kind of remedy that is required by sin. This is why they could not envision a suffering Messiah. But once the Messiah suffered, he entered into his glory and will one day come again to establish peace forever through his absolute victory, achieved through violence (2 Thess 1:5-10).

    So my particular understanding of the state is that it has been ordained by God with a measure of authority to wield the sword so as to maintain a measure of justice in this fallen world through the restraint of sin (Rom 13:1-7).

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