“As the power of the magistrate is not an absolute power which he is at liberty to employ as he chooses, so neither is the right of the elector an absolute right which he is at liberty to exercise as he chooses. Both the one and the other are placed under the limiting control of the Divine Law; and it is only when they are used according to this law that they are used aright.” – William Symington
I was unpacking books to put on the shelf and selecting occasional titles for a browse. Among them, Messiah the Prince by William Symington, a 19thC publication. I have #327 of the Numbered Collectors Edition that was published in 1990 by Still Waters Revival Books, Edmonton, Canada.
Now I read that book 25 years ago and forget many of the details. And that was a major mistake on my part. For in browsing, I was reminded just how relevant Symington’s study was to contemporary events.
Rowan County (KY) clerk, Kim Davis, raised the level of the discussion on biblical morality by refusing to provide a ‘marriage’ certificate to same-sex couples. The public arguments for and against her actions are widely published. She should quit her job, and not mix religion with politics. She does not have the authority to do what she is doing, so it is claimed, as Kim Davis kept saying her ‘religious convictions’ prevented her from issuing those certificates.
“Show me God!”
When the Street-Preacher steps up onto his podium, he can be sure to be confronted by competing claims about knowledge. “The Bible is true,” he will proclaim, “for God says so.”
And back will come the atheistic question: “But have you seen God?” Or it may be a demand, not a question: “Show me God.” This is the request “Matt the Horrible Atheist” (as in Hagar the Horrible) kept asking me on his last visit, too. He thought it was a winning question.
Embedded into the atheist’s question, though, is a belief about knowledge, a particular kind of knowledge. He wants to know if the Street-Preacher has ‘seen’ God. He asks this question because he believes that the only valid knowledge is empirical knowledge — knowledge via the senses.
Now seeing, along with taste, touch, smelling and hearing, is one of the five senses. And knowledge that is obtained via the senses is referred to as empirical knowledge. It is usually taken for granted that there is some correspondence between our senses and external objects. That is, we think we see a tree in the distance, and we expect that that tree actually exists in time and space. But ever since David Hume picked up his pen and wrote on the topic, knowledge by way of the senses has come under question. Instead of certainty of knowledge, Hume introduced skepticism. Is it really possible to have knowledge by sense perception?
Socialism is the enemy of the people. Thus argued Ludwig von Mises in his book by that name, Socialism. It is the enemy of the people for economic and political reasons. But it is also the enemy of the people when it comes to Church Planting. And this is the view of David Garrison in his book, Church Planting Movements: How God is Reclaiming a Lost World (2004).
The Church Planting Movement (hereafter, CPM) has literally become church planting on steroids in some parts of the world. When missionary David Watson was sent to India in about 1991, he asked God to give him five converts in the first year. That prayer was honored by God and David got his five workers. From there it was all a downhill run. Or so it seems. Fifteen years later, the results were 80,000 churches with an average membership of around 64 people, and about three million baptisms. Church growth may be dead in your neck of the woods, but in other places it is alive and well on planet earth.
The CPM movement developed a number of important ‘steps’ to successful church planting. One of them, for example, was the idea that church planting was a relative failure when the teaching carried with it cultural baggage. That is, trying to plant western-style churches with stain-glass windows into a culture such as India was a commitment to failure. In the words of Garrison, “When the gospel is perceived to be alien to a culture or is viewed as belonging to another people group or culture, Church Planting Movements face an uphill battle.” David Watson explained that it was necessary for them to strip western culture out of the Gospel in order for the Gospel to do its work. And it would be the Holy Spirit in the lives of the new believers that would eventually bring cultural change in India.
Sustainable church growth must learn to find its own resources.
This article, however, is not about CPM in general, but only about socialism and its identified impact on the CPM movement.
Socialism is a term that refers to ownership of the means of production. It is different from communism in one respect. Under communism, all property is owned by the state. It is therefore controlled by the state. Under socialism, property may well be ‘owned’ by individuals and corporations, but it is still controlled by the state. But there are two aspects to socialism that cause it to fail. First, it takes the decision-making away from those who should be making decisions. Second, it can turn finances into a perpetual state of subsidy.
- Garrison, Church Planting Movements, Kindle edition, Loc. 4090.↵back
Twice each year, as a child living on orchards, we had fruit picking season. Oranges towards the end of winter, and grapes at the end of summer, southern hemisphere time. So I never experienced a genuine white Christmas until I relocated to the heartland of the USA, the mid-west.
Picking fruit, especially the grapes, was an art. These grapes were for eating, so they should be picked carefully so as not to bruise or damage. The bad ones were removed, and the good fruit gently packed in a box where it was sealed and made ready to go to the big city.
Sometimes it was necessary to throw a whole bunch out. Once you get one rotten grape it spreads and contaminates the remainder. And you had to be very careful that a bad grape did not get packed, because it could very easily spread its rottenness through every bunch in the packing box.
Now many preachers, and street-preachers are just one section of a much larger group, approach their preaching like we used to approach fruit picking. They not only present the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but they also remind people of their sins. When I was a child, the list was usually confined to the seventh commandment (adultery), dancing and alcohol. Preachers may add more to this list, lying, stealing, violating the Sabbath.
But there is a big difference between picking grapes and trying to cut out the bad ones on one hand, and selecting a list of sins and then trying to excise them out of the way on the other. Here’s why.
In any presentation of the Gospel to the unbeliever, there is a need to create opportunities to dialogue in some form. Two questions arise, however. What is the best way to do this? What is the message you wish to proclaim?
In the 1990’s I was conducting evangelism training workshops for a particular Christian organization. The training program began with an overview of the “gap” that existed between the believer and the unbeliever, and from there moved on to train and encourage people to give their testimony. This was described as a “non threatening” method of interaction with unbelievers. I gave up on this program after a short period because it troubled me. And the reason it troubled me was highlighted in a recent conversation with a preacher who is very good at conversation with people.
Preachers and those who reach out to the unbelievers should stop offering fire insurance and instead offer the assurance of fire unless there is repentance.
Now this preacher, I am sure, has not figured out what he is really saying as he conducts a conversation that early on presents to the unbeliever the question, “Do you have assurance?”
He does it this way, then waits for the response, “Assurance in what?”
“Assurance that when you die you’ll go to heaven.”
“Oh no, I don’t have assurance for that.”
“Then why don’t we meet some time and I’ll explain why I have assurance and how you can have it.”
Now I have reconstructed the conversation for didactic purposes. If we analyze the conversation and ask this question, “What was the pastor offering this unbeliever?” the answer is rather obvious: “Fire insurance.”
Now I’m not against fire insurance of any kind. But, when the Gospel is presented in this fashion it can very easily lead to a “fire insurance” commitment from the unbeliever.