The misuse and misappropriation of the Bible in this country is a rampant problem that orthodox Christians must fight against on a daily basis. So, it is disheartening to see those very people, whose ordained office and status requires them to jealously guard the Word of God, not only allowing it to be misappropriated but committing, or at the very least endorsing, the misuse of the Scriptures.
This month the Providence Forum, a group dedicated to promoting “a Judeo-Christian worldview” and “emphasizing America’s historical Judeo-Christian roots,” published a Philadelphia Faith and Freedom tourist guide and a flashy (if slow) website in order to commemorate Philadelphia’s celebration of National Bible Week. The well-designed guide highlights many of the main tourist attractions, as well as a few off the regular itinerary (including Westminster Theological Seminary, which is headed by Providence Forum President Dr. Peter Lillback!). The guide seeks to show the influence of the Bible in Philadelphia and American history. Each site on the tour has a Bible verse connected with it. Many of the verses used are moral aphorisms, such as the quote attached to the City Tavern from Proverbs 27:17. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV). Many of these connections, however, strain credulity, such as tagging Deuteronomy 28:12 to the Second National Bank, “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow” (KJV).
Making out the Bible to be a book of moral sayings is bad enough since that rips the Bible out of its redemptive-historical context and ignores Christ. However, the guide does not stop there, but makes comparisons between the leaders of ancient Israel and George Washington crossing the Delaware:
Washington’s bold and dangerous move reflected his bold and constant trust in God’s providence His [George Washington's] actions reflect the virtues of Joshua 1:8 and Proverbs 3:5-6. Joshua 1:9 declares, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV) Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).
Did God command George Washington to cross the Delaware? Tying American patriots to Ancient Israel is dangerous business, especially since, according to the Reformed view, Israel is now Christ’s Church and Christ fulfilled the promises made to Israel.
One of the most inappropriate citations comes in the entry on the National Constitution Center:
The U.S. Constitution limits power by dividing government into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. This seems to be anticipated by Isaiah 33:22, which says “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us” (NIV). This passage suggests the three branches of our federal government.”
The American Constitution is “anticipated” by Isaiah! It is not only a historical error and incredibly presumptuous to make such a claim, but it is offensive to any sort of sensible exegesis. The constitution, no matter what the Mormons and some Evangelicals say, is not an infallibly divine document. It is the product of men and a certain historical context.
Throughout the guide, the connection is made between the Christian liberty promised in the Scriptures and the liberties fought for in the American Revolution. In the entry on Fort Mifflin it says that the fort “stands as a silent testimony of the resolve of the American people in the Revolutionary War to stand fast in the liberty that had been bequeathed to them by Penn’s Charter. As Galatians 5:1 says, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’” (NIV).
It is true that many in the Revolution made this connection between Christian Liberty and Political Liberty. It became common parlance in political sermons at the time. The guide cites one such sermon in the entry of Christ Church which was where the Rev. Jacob Duche preached on Galatians 5:1 which says “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (KJV). “In his message, Duche connected the spiritual liberty Christians have in Jesus Christ with the liberty they should have through a just government.”
The liberty Paul is talking about in this passage is freedom from the condemnation of the Law and sin. It is freedom from divine judgment because of the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ. Paul is certainly not making any statement about political liberty. After all, it may be true that George Washington was a devout Christian. It may also be true that Benjamin Franklin. who is held up as a model throughout the guide, was a Christian as well (although his deist credentials are pretty strong). But it is also true that King George and many of the British soldiers and Tories claimed to be a Christians and were a members of the same denomination as George Washington. Just because political sermons during Revolution made this assertion does not make it any less of a grievous error....
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Cross Culture on Peter Lillback's "History"
Here. A taste: