Volume 9, Issue 1: Magistralis
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He assigned an apparently overwhelming task to His disciples. "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, `All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt. 28:18-20).
This passage must always be at the center of any distinctively Christian political theory--not because our Lord's words are primarily concerned with politics , but because they are not. Following the Lord's authority, one of the distinctives of Christian political theory is that it also is minimally concerned with politics. For the Christian, the political realm is a creature to be redeemed, sinful like the rest of us, and with a long way to go.
The state is no Redeemer. Political theory is no Savior. We are Christians and are not to conduct ourselves as abstract political theorists. One of the problems with pure political theory is that people tend to get in the way of the Grand Idea, and the impatient theorist wants to cut them to fit the theory rather than modify or abandon the theory to fit the way the living God made and governs the world. As Christians, when we consider our political condition, we are to take the flow of God's providence over history into account. The one nation we were never told to disciple is Utopia.
As the gospel spread throughout the Gentile world, of course it began to have a cultural and civic impact. How could it not? The cultural effect of this was Christendom--a motley collection of nations which together, with varying degrees of success, acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus Christ over them. Warts and blemishes were plentiful, but there were glorious times in Christendom as well. But the spiritual condition of these nations in history is now moot; the modern secularist gloats--"The days of your Christendom are over and done. We have put all that safely behind us."
It is safe to say that with the birth of materialistic secularism, the publication of Darwin's Origin, the rise of industrial statism, and the cultural retreat of virtually all believing Christians, this vaunt of the secularist appears to be warranted. When the Confederate States of America surrendered at Appomatox, the last nation of the older order fell. So, because historians like to have set dates on which to hang their hats, we may say the first Christendom died there, in 1865. The American South was the last nation of the first Christendom.
But the idea of Christendom has not passed away. God has promised that all the nations will come to His Son, and He has carefully instructed us to teach them this. When the kings turn to us inquiringly, we are to tell them to kiss the Son, lest He be angry with them (Ps. 2:12). Christians should therefore not be despondent when we do not see this happening on our schedule or timetable. The psalm says that kings should be worried about the anger of the Lord, not that the Lord's followers should be worried about the anger of kings.
Our father, ancestor of this glorious ingathering of nations, gives us a wonderful basis for faith whenever we see the cause of the godly "die." "For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith . . . but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, `I have made you a father of many nations') in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, `So shall your descendants be'" (Rom. 4:13-18).
As the gospel makes its way through a treacherous world, we have seen the righteous fall many times, and before the Lord comes again, we will see them fall again. But whenever the righteous fall, those who lament must be sons of Abraham. They must serve the God who calls those things that do not exist as though they did. Our God raises the dead. This truth is not an obscure and peripheral dogma; it is at the center of our faith--Christ rose from the dead. It is also at the center of our hope--the nations will come to Him, and those that have fallen will come again.
This means there will be a second Christendom, and if necessary, then a third. The Lord taught us to expect the process to be a gradual one--as leaven works through the loaf, as a mustard seed grows--but the Word teaches just as surely that the process is an inexorable one. "For the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious" (Is. 11:10). "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations" (Ps. 22:27-28). "And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it" (Rev. 21:24). Jesus did not teach us to pray, saying, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in heaven when we get there." In His commission He told us to disciple nations. In our prayers, He told us to pray for the heavenly commonwealth to have an earthly manifestation. We are to pray for Christendom.
These prayers will be answered, so this means that the South will rise again. But this is not said with any regional jingoistic fervor. So will New England rise again. So will Scotland. So will the Netherlands. And as the gospel comes to the uttermost regions for the first time, savage tribes will attend His word. The earth is the Lord's and He will have it.