Darryl, you write: “Andrew, Iâ€™d be glad to answer these reflections if I werenâ€™t already asking for you to answer them.”
What?! I have been providing answers to this (admittedly) difficult question. The “hard sayings” of Jesus are called such because they are not easy for anyone who recognizes the validity of natural law, even in the Christian life.
Alright, I’ll summarize my view for anyone interested in interacting with it.
First of all, Jesus’ commandments do appear to go against our desire for earthly justice and natural inclinations for self-preservation. At times, faithfulness to Christ demands that we give up everything for his service. However, we do not choose the when and how of this. We do not manufacture the circumstances in which we are called to obediently suffer. It is up to the sovereign Lord to determine when our faith will be tested in such a radical way.
Second, in my series on the cross and glory, I’ve been arguing that in life everyone has to go through probationary tests in order to advance to a position requiring greater responsibility. This was a dynamic in the original CoW, and is still operative in the economy of grace, though there is no longer a possibility of eternal condemnation. God puts every individual in a lowly circumstance, peculiar to whatever status he is originally given (i.e., born into). For example, before becoming a journeyman lineman, an apprentice must go through several years of apprenticeship. Another example is that before becoming king, a prince must be under the discipline of tutors. You get the point.
Third, a Christian is to be characterized by humility both in his probation and in his responsible vocation. Just because someone has been given an exalted position doesn’t mean that there aren’t probationary tests anymore. Rather, Christian sanctification is a progression “from glory to glory” as the flesh is further mortified. This process doesn’t stop after a particular plateau has been reached. In the last comment I wrote under this heading, I said that there is humility “appropriate to kings, another appropriate to parents, another appropriate to husbands, and another appropriate to single unattached people.” The station one finds himself in determines in what way and how extensively he is able to lay down his life in imitation of Christ. Single people are freer to do this, while married people are less free.
I deny that desiring a Christian state in any way contradicts these principles. It should be fairly uncontroversial that a king can serve Christ and his subjects in a self-sacrificing way, while a beggar, eaten up with resentment can hoard whatever wealth he can acquire and refuse help to people around him. Yes, God uses the humble to shame the proud. So what? This doesn’t mean that the humble always remain in humble circumstances. King Nebuchadnezzar said, “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17).
Furthermore, using the power of the sword to enforce a social way of life is not necessarily tyrannical, but in fact a legitimate function of the state (if approached wisely). Scripture is clear: kings not only punish evildoers, they promote the good as well (Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Pet. 2:14). St. Paul says, “once your obedience is complete, we will be able to punish every act of disobedience” (2 Cor. 10:6). After a person acquires the responsibility of parenthood, a period of obedience has been completed and a new obedience requires a new exercise of disciplinary enforcement (in children). Accession to a royal throne involves an analagous progression into a new obedience of enforcement.
A state may become Christian through the natural course of things (i.e., not through revolution). At that point the king has an obligation to confess Christ’s Lordship, emulate Christ in a way appropriate to his responsibility, punish those who trouble the Church, and foster that which facilitates discipleship while suppressing ungodliness.
Darryl, you write: “So it seems that you also concede that Christians resort to the city of man. Why is this only a problem that I have to solve when you yourself admit that you do not pursue a life of weakness, folly or poverty, at least when youâ€™re thinking about culture and politics.”
I deny that Christ intended us to pursue “a life of weakness, folly or poverty” at any point. Rather, we are to take the “lowest place,” when presented with options in a probationary test.
I have provided an account how to apply Christ’s commands in real life. W2K avoids this challenge. W2K men think that by prohibiting theocratic transformationalism they are taking the path of humility, and somehow fulfilling Christ’s requirement. This is mistaken, and falls far short of Christ’s intent. Jesus calls us to obedience in every sphere of life in ways appropriate to our vocation.
By positing dual citizenship in two ultimate realms, the “city of man” and the “city of God” with an ethic proper to each, W2K leads immature Christians into error. The simple are deluded into believing they will be okay (i.e., justified) even if they live their everyday lives according to the fallen principles of the city of man.
And so, Darryl, my challenge to you still stands: How do you do justice to Christ’s commands in all their comprehensive radicality?