The Israel of God and American Foreign Policy

The Israel of God and American Foreign Policy

Social media has been ablaze over the last couple of days regarding Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress. I’m not going to address the content of his speech. To be honest, I didn’t listen to it or read the transcripts. I’ve glanced through a few articles, but even those I didn’t read with an eye of criticism. I was just taking in information. I’ll let political pundits fight over whether we are too hawkish or too dovish towards Iran. I have an opinion, but I’ll save it for another day. I want to address something that concerns me much more than momentary arguments over foreign policy. I would like to address Christians, specifically from the Bible, on two separate, but inter-connected questions. The first question I would like to attempt to answer is whether or not the current nation state known as Israel today is “the Israel of God”. In other words, is the current geographic nation-state that was established in the early 1950’s the same entity as the Biblical Israel?

The children of Israel, the descendants of the seed of Abraham, were first formed into a nation under Moses. They were given a 3 pronged law. A moral law to govern their behavior, which we call, “The Ten Commandments”.  A ceremonial law to instruct them in religious worship. And a civil law to instruct them in crime, punishment, and civil organization. They, as a people, were bound together in a single covenant with God. He was their God, and they were His people, the sheep of His pasture.** This covenant was preceded by the covenant and promises of Abraham (as referenced above), and Noah. It preceded a further development with David, and finally the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ appearance is the apex of God’s covenant dealings with men, and it fulfilled every aspect of all His covenant promises, so that Paul could affirm to the Church at Corinth that, “all the promises of God find their yes in Him.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) While in the Old Testament, God’s people were tied to physical ceremony, land, and heritage. The New Testament drastically improves and expands the borders of God’s Israel. Jesus comes and proclaims peace to all men, first, to the Jews, but then to the rest of the world as well. And all that believe on Jesus Christ are brought into a better covenant, with better promises. This is an important point. Not a different covenant with different promises, but a better covenant with better promises. Jesus improved upon the Old Covenant, he abolished the national and ethnic distinction that set his Old Covenant people apart as separate and distinct, and expanded the Israel of God to include Gentiles. Israel, according to Scripture is no longer a small geographic state in the middle east, but is now an international empire that will one day rule the entire globe. There are two passages in the New Testament that I would like to point to as evidence that the way I am interpreting the Gospel’s effect on our understanding of Israel is correct. The first has to do with the way Paul interprets the promise given to Abraham concerning the “land”. The second will be Paul discussing the inclusion of Gentiles into the Commonwealth of Israel.

Romans 4:13-18

[13] For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. [14] For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. [15] For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. [16] That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, [17] as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. [18] In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

This is a wonderful passage with more than one use for our purposes. First we see the great Gospel promise of inclusion. How would Abraham become a blessing to the whole world? How would the promised hope of salvation be brought to the world of men? Abraham would have a son, not Isaac, a greater than Isaac, Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:16) But more importantly for our discussion is how Paul interprets the promise of the land. Verse 13 says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Wait. When did God promise Abraham that he would inherit the entire earth? He didn’t. Paul rightly sees that the covenant promise of “the promised land” has been expanded because it was too small to fit with giant nature of the person of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of all Lords. In giving His people the world, that tiny little dot in North Africa between two rivers is also included. So God is not breaking His promise to His people, He is giving them more. They are heirs to the world. This shows an expanded view of territory known as Israel, of which Jesus is King.

Now for the big discussion. One that may be difficult for you to receive at first, but I ask you to read the next passage very carefully. The Israel of God is made up now of both ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles… there is no distinction.

Ephesians 2:11-21

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

This passage is written to a Gentile Church. Paul wants them to clearly understand their place before God in the New Covenant. He starts out by telling them that in the past, or, “at one time” “they had been separated from Christ”. That they had been “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel”. Note that phrase, “the commonwealth of Israel”. It refers to a specific political economy. And that they had been “strangers to the covenants of promise”. But now their relationship with the Father had changed.  And not just with the Father, but with the Father’s people too. The Jews, the commonwealth, covenant people of God, had regulations that separated them from everyone else. But Jesus “himself is our peace, who made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in the place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Jesus abolishes the civil and ceremonial law aspects of the Old Covenant removing all distinctions between Jew and Gentile. He writes the moral law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), which is the promise of the New Covenant, symbolizing the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the changing of the hearts of men. All men, Jew and Gentile alike. In verse 19 we have the clearest declaration in the New Testament that Gentile believers have been included in the Israel of God. There is no way to mistake Paul’s assertion unless we are just being willfully blind.

 

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”

 

He uses the exact same language that he used in verse 11 to make the connection.

 

“remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel (citizenship) and strangers to the covenants of promise”

 

So we see that the New Testament very clearly teaches us that, God’s promises have been expanded and improved upon. That God’s people will inherit the land that He promised them. But they will receive it when He gives them the world as their inheritance. Secondly, we see in a very clear and unambiguous way as well, that the New Testament teaches that the Gentiles are now included in the Common Wealth of Israel. They have been granted citizenship. All the covenant promises that God has made to His people are now theirs as well. On these two points the Bible is clear. The Church and Israel are the same entity, not because the Church replaced Israel, but because the Gentiles have been included within her. The Church is a part of Israel. She is catholic, which means she is not confined to a single nation, like the Truth was until Jesus came. She is apostolic, which means she was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the Jewish apostolic figures, Jesus Christ himself being that chief cornerstone.

I’m writing this because of the misguided opinion of some believers that to not defend modern national Israel is in some way to be disobedient to God. This is to ascribe to modern Israel a divine sanction that is improper. I’m not saying we should not be allies with Israel, I’m just saying it should have nothing to do with her being the Israel of God, because, as I just demonstrated, she is not. She, at the current time, is a socialist, atheist, state that does not even practice the minimum requirements of Old Testament religious life. She is a civil organization of people just like every other modern state. Better than some, worse than others, ordinary, and man-made in every way. U.S. foreign policy shouldn’t be based on a bad theological position.

But, let’s say I’m wrong about everything I have written here. For the sake of argument, let’s assume I am. Should we give Israel money and arms? Should we claim to be her defender and say that without us she will perish? If you believe the modern nation of Israel is the Israel of God, then you should be very opposed to us engaging in that type of relationship. Why? Because God forbids Israel to engage in covenants of defense and not trust in Him alone for their defense.

 

Isaiah 31:1-5

[1] Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! [2] And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. [3] The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. [4] For thus the LORD said to me, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey, and when a band of shepherds is called out against him he is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill. [5] Like birds hovering, so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it; he will spare and rescue it.”

 

I love the Israeli people, and pray that God brings them to see His love for them in the face of Christ Jesus. To them the prophets came, of them the Messiah was born. But that is where their advantage ends. God loves all men, and we should wisely follow His example, seeking peace and pursuing it. This does not mean we cannot justly defend ourselves, or offer defense to the defenseless. But it does mean we would be wise to not ascribe divine attributes to modern Israel. Or, on the other hand, if we do believe Israel to be the divine nation of God, that we not provide money and arms for her defense, tempting her to deny her God, and become the cause of her judgment. Interestingly, both positions should lead us to the same foreign policy philosophy, non-intervention.

 

The Evangelical Libertarian

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Why the French Lost North America and Why Washington Eventually Will Too

Why the French Lost North America and Why Washington Eventually Will Too

My kids aren’t in the State Indoctrination Camps, we homeschool. I teach world history to homeschoolers every Friday as part of a local tutorial. I love history and firmly believe that even though history doesn’t repeat, it certainly rhymes. Which brings me to my point. Today I was teaching the future leaders of the free world about The French and Indian War. The book I use as a guide doesn’t give the real reason why the French lost that war, and were driven from the continent. It wasn’t because they were bad soldiers or bad military tacticians. They lost because their leaders were out of touch with reality. Louis XIV was a hard-working, brilliant dictator. Even though he began to sow the seeds of France’s destruction with the construction of Versailles by the blood and wealth of his subjects, nevertheless, he was available and attentive to the state of his country. He may not have cared much about his people, but he at least knew of their suffering.

In contrast, Louis XV was a lazy man. His father did not care for him much. As the leader of France he was hated. He died fairly young, but not until he had squandered most of what his father had built in the New World. When he died of small pox, they covered him in lyme, and chucked him in a hole in the middle of the night. While alive, he was suppose to be leading his people in The French and Indian War. Instead, he was absent, aloof, and uncaring concerning the plight of his people. While William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England, with whom he was at war, was making sure his men had money, weapons, food, and supplies to fight the costly war, Louis was lying in the lap of luxury disconnected from the reality of the day to day existence of his citizenry and soldiers. French soldiers didn’t lose because they were cowards, but because they were cold and hungry. French citizens weren’t hungry because they were lazy, but because they were being legally plundered. The French lost North America in the end because of corrupt and aloof leadership

Does this situation sound familiar? While I am thinking of the broader political class, President Obama is a great modern example of this type of clueless, aloof leadership. Many have called him “Vacationer and Chief”. While our soldiers have shed their blood in unjust foreign wars, he appears regularly to be playing more golf than governing. And when he is governing he is busy catering to lobbyists for green energy, attempting to destroy coal power plants and vetoing oil pipelines knowing full well that in the end these actions will drive up the cost of energy for his citizens. Like Louis XV, he doesn’t really care.. Republican leaders are just as aloof and clueless, just on a whole host of different big business lobby driven issues. Republicans are at war with their own conservative and libertarian base, choosing rather to cozy up to the Wall Street and the Country Club wing of their party. Passing omnibus spending bills, fully funding Amnesty, refusing to audit the Federal Reserve, bailing out “to big to fail” banks and car companies, etc. The political class is aloof and out of touch. While food prices go up and wages go down, they publish phony jobs numbers, knowing full well that the jobs being created are either lower wage, or part time, or both. While companies like Hewlett Packard fire 50,000 employees in order to create reserve cash to buy back their own stocks, driving the stock price up, and amassing huge bonuses for their executives. Congress and the President turn a blind eye to such unethical practices because, of course, this pushes up the stock market and allows them to take credit for a fake “economic recovery” so they can get re-elected and continue plundering the American people. Meanwhile, the rich get richer, misguided youth join Occupy Wall Street. Mandatory Minimum Wage movements gain steam. Tea Parties erupt. Libertarians start having a moment. What do all these things have in common? They are all anti-elite-political class movements. Let’s go back to France and Louis XV for a moment.

What happened after his death? The Enlightenment, “The Bloody Revolution”, and the end of Aristocracy in France. What fills the void when elitist, corrupt leaders lose legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens? Before we answer that, we need to ask, “What causes elitist, corrupt leaders to lose legitimacy?” Economic disruption, brought on by the actions and policies of those leaders usually does the trick. When Marie Antoinette supposedly said, “Let them eat cake”, France was in the middle of a desperate economic disruption caused by the constant wars, taxation, and luxuries enjoyed by the Aristocracy. What fills the void left by elitist, corrupt political leaders? Usually populist movements that claim the noble goal of returning the nation to it’s former glory, and promising never to allow a corrupt elitists political class to rule again. Think of Germany pre-World War II. The Treaty of Versailles had stripped Germany of her former glory. Years of punitive damages inflicted by the victors of World War I stunted Germany’s ability to economically recover. An unjust peace left hundreds of thousands of hungry, unemployed, Germans. This major economic disruption toppled the Weidmar Democracy, and led to the rise of the Nazi Party.

Russia at the turn of the 20th century was in a similar state. Years of aloof, corrupt leadership led to constant foreign wars, high taxation, a virtual caste system that was impossible to break out of, and an extremely prejudicial justice system where the poor simply could not get justice. What filled this gap? A populist movement known as the Bolsheviks came to power through revolution, and every member of the aristocracy that didn’t run was summarily executed. This began 70 plus years of rule by communism, which featured millions of deaths, via starvation, execution, Gulags, etc. Russia today is in the middle of such a movement. What is Vladmir Putin trying to accomplish? He is trying to return Russia to its former glory. This Ukrainian business and the Crimean secession is exactly the type of movement I have been describing. Russia needed a leader. A strong, charismatic figure arises and wins the hearts and imaginations of many Russians. Especially older Russians that remember, with nostalgia, Russia’s former place on the world stage. Russia is currently eyeing their former Baltic states as “economic partners”. But the Baltic nations know this partnership is an “offer they can’t refuse”, to quote Vito Corleone.

The U.S. is now showing signs of this process as well. We’ve had one major economic disruption after another since the 1970’s. All caused by the policies of a corrupt and aloof leadership that promise more than they can deliver and then print more money to cover their spending habits. Because we are the reserve currency holder in the world, we are able to print up a fresh batch of cash and infuse it into our economy. But all we are doing is kicking the can down the road a bit. Debt does not build wealth. The debtor is always a slave to the lender. The piper will be paid. Economic disruption is coming in the near future. With interest rates at zero and quantitative easing not working anymore, what’s the plan this time around? We have painted ourselves into a corner with no way out. These populist movements will gain strength. Eventually, Washington, because of aloof, corrupt leadership will lose it’s legitimacy. It is the way of history. Sure as rain, as we say in the south. What kind of movement will fill the void? This question remains unanswered. I just hope the Libertarian moment, becomes a Libertarian day. Of course, as the Evangelical Libertarian, I know that, “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1) My prayer is that the people of this wonderful land will peacefully return to the God of their fathers, not through government coercion, but because of the great love that He has shown to us in sending His own Son to die in our place. It is only the Gospel that can bring real peace. It must start between God and man. But when internal peace takes hold in the hearts of men, and the Holy Spirit permeates our homes and hearths, national peace will soon follow. That’s a populist movement to get excited about!

We Now Have A Little Something for Everyone

We Now Have A Little Something for Everyone

Looking for good alternative reads on culture, economics, history, and current events. Look no further than The Evangelical Libertarian. From contrarian economic sites like David Stockman’s Contra Corner, Bob Murphy’s blog, and Peter Schiff’s blog, to politics and culture oriented sites like Libertarian Christians.Com, The Imaginative Conservative, Front Porch Republic, and others. We now have something to tickle your Contrarian fancy. Even yours truly, The Evangelical Libertarian joins the fray from time to time with Biblical examinations of current events and economic principles to help give a twist to the brew. Like, Subscribe, set us as your homepage, or do all three.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Separation of Church and State: Marriage Belongs To The Church Not The State

justice-of-the-peace

Henry VIII ascended to the throne of jolly old England at the age of eighteen in 1509. By the late 1520’s his wife, Catherine of Argon, was in her forties and had failed to produce a male heir. Desperate to solidify his family’s future grip on power, Henry moved to divorce Catherine and marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. The Pope refused to allow the divorce on the grounds that Henry had been given special permission to marry her in the first place. Catherine was his brother’s widow. In May of 1533 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage invalid. Almost immediately Anne Boleyn was crowned queen. The Pope moved for excommunication. Henry, by an act of parliament was made head of the Church in England, stripping the Pope of religious power in the realm.

Why is this important for our context? It demonstrates some things about the power of the State in regards to marriage that has been lost on us in the modern era. First, when Henry wanted to get divorced, he didn’t go to a judge, he went to the Church. Why? Because Henry understood that marriage was an act of devotion, it was not the creation of the State. He understood, rightly, that marriage is an inherently religious act. So, in the matter of marriage, as in other things regarding worship, Henry was a man under authority, not in authority. Second, we see that in order to justify his actions for posterity, he had to ultimately assume complete power over the church. Henry understood that the State had no power over the institution of marriage. He had to make a theological case for the king to be head of the church. The Anglican Church was born in this controversy.

Where did marriage come from? People rarely ask this question. It is however, a very important question to ask and answer. Marriage was not created by government bureaucrats in a boardroom. It is now, and has always been, a religious act of devotion. It is a function of a religious institution. Where we ever got the idea that civil government has the power to grant marriage licenses and conduct marriage ceremonies is beyond me. The State cannot join two people together in matrimony. That is something only a religious institution can do. Separation of Church and State is a phrase that is often invoked by politicians in an attempt to push religion out of the public sphere. But here is a place where the power falls clearly on the Church’s side of the scale. The State needs to butt out of an affair that is not under its authority. Marriage is a religious creation, and to religion it belongs exclusively.

If marriage is a religious institution, then religious institutions should define it. Congress, the President and his famous (or infamous) pen, and the Supreme Court have no power over it. They cannot declare homosexual marriage legal. They cannot redefine the institution at all. It’s not theirs. If some complain because they are not religious and are not attached to a religious institution, then I reply, why marry at all? Vows are made to God. If you don’t believe in God there is no need to go through the motions. Some may say, “But I want to marry! It’s a cultural institution of which I am fond!” There are plenty of religious institutions that will perform ceremonies for non-religious people. The Unitarian Church, for example, would provide such services. Most evangelical pastors will even marry two non-religious people. Evangelicals generally draw the line at marrying a religious person to a non-religious person. Some may say, “But I’m gay, what about me?” The Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopal Church would both provide marriage services for gay couples. There are others as well. Frankly, there have been churches willing to do this for a long time. The claim of bigotry aimed at the Church by politicians is a straw man erected to bring another aspect of private life under the control of the American State. Separation of Church and State is a sword with two-edges. One edge is meant to protect the population from having their public lives controlled by the clergy, the other edge is meant to protect their private lives from control by politicians. In either case the sword is there to promote liberty.

This is a theological debate that should be had by various denominations and religions. If there are variant positions through out the nation on what is right and good, those various positions are held by private people and private institutions. The range of influence and power is limited to either individuals or a group of individuals who have voluntarily attached themselves to an institution, like a church or a club. This is the same situation that has always existed. That is the definition of a plural society. If we allow the State to impose a one size fits all belief upon us all, then that belief will almost certainly be the wrong one. Governments are rarely right for long about anything. In a democratic republic like ours in America, power swings back and forth between two parties. A small majority can sometimes impose its will on a large minority, depending on how power is divided. But like all large stable governments in history, policies are very difficult to undo once enacted. Currently the Affordable Care Act is very unpopular, yet, it is difficult to imagine that it will actually ever be over turned. Allowing private religious institutions to be the arbiters of cultural disagreements about morality and religious practice is a much better option. If you don’t like your church or religion in America, you can leave it or change it. Yes, there may be personal sacrifices made on your behalf, but you won’t be killed or jailed. Let the State begin to make these decisions for us, and you will see laws made and crimes invented.

This is precisely what makes parts of the Middle East so unstable. There is no separation of Mosque and State. There is no place in certain types of Islam for a private life with moral disagreement. Therefore, if you are not part of whatever type of Islam that is in power or thinks it should be in power, then you have no right to life at all, and you become subject to imprisonment and execution. Each side of the disagreement rises to power from time to time and punishes the other for recent and/or ancient injustices. There can be no peaceful plural society where this mentality exists.

This is precisely where we are headed. We are reaching a point where there is no place for moral disagreement. The two parties each take the reigns of power from time to time, and the party in the majority then punishes those that they defeated in the last election. This way of thinking is what has poisoned our political discourse. Instead of seeing people that differ in moral judgment, we see enemies to be vanquished. Thus we fight culture wars, drug wars, wars on poverty, wars on women, wars on the Tea Party, wars on terrorism etc. We use the language of violence to describe the way we feel about people and practices. Instead of letting these things be mediated and solved by private individuals and private institutions at the local level, we turn to the monopoly of violence that the State possesses, to try and force each other to live and believe as the other would have it. This is our current cultural moray. If we are to recover from it as a people, we must allow the Separation of Church and State to be the protector of liberty that it has been since the dawn of the Reformation. Just as we would not want the Church punishing crime, I submit, we do not want the State defining marriage. Marriage does not belong to politicians and judges, but to priests and pastors. We in America need to return to our private lives and institutions, learning to express our opinions in them, and stop letting politicians divide us with promises of future punishment on those with whom we differ. If we do not I fear one day the balance of power will shift too far, and too much will be forced upon one side. That is how democratic nations generally move from the ballot box to the cartridge box. War is a destroyer of Life, liberty, and property. It is also the province of the State.