Over the last number of posts, I have been discussing what I believe is a biblical view of empire.
We began by addressing the meaning and significance of 666. Then we began to ask what does the Bible say about the Beast of Revelation 13 and what does it mean for us. And there is still much to say about all of this.
At the same time, soon after the queen’s passing, I was asked to write on the question of whether or not Queen Elizabeth II was a Christian.
I chose not to do so at the time because I didn’t feel it was right. In fact, I thought that the question was disrespectful to Queen Elizabeth and her grieving family.
So, now that she has had a proper burial, I am willing to address the question. This question appears simple and innocent. Yet, I believe that it also has a depth that is often overlooked (a depth that will bring our conversations on the book of Revelation to the fore).
Was Queen Elizabeth II a Christian?
Although I think the answer to this question is fairly simple, allow me to begin by making two observations.
First, I never met the queen—though I suspect that it would have been quite a pleasure to have done so (I hear she had a great sense of humor and I suspect that if I met her, my British side may well have come out and we would have had a great time).
Therefore, any answer I give is simply going to be the result of a reliance on testimonies from those who have known her.
Second, I do not like the question and I think it is problematic for several reasons, which I will elaborate on below.
As for the question itself, there appears to be little doubt that Queen Elizabeth II had a deep faith in Christ.
Why I don’t like the question
First, I don’t like the question because I fear that Christians are often too quick to put themselves in positions to judge who is and who isn’t a Christian.
NB: Sure, I recognize there are times when it is important to discern if a person is or isn’t a Christian. For example, we need to discern if a person is a Christian if they say that they are called to lead a church as a pastor or to serve as an elder or deacon. Note that this discerning is from within the context of the Church. We are not judging those outside our communities. In addition, we are making such an evaluation because the individual has applied for a job or has been nominated by the congregation to serve as a deacon or an elder in the church.
Is it really, then, our job to debate if someone who has just passed away was or was not a Christian? In fact, I think it lacks tact and empathy for the family that is grieving. We would never ask this question as we are heading into any other funeral: so why now?
Second, I suspect that the question is often asked presumptuously. Of course, those asking the question do not intend to be presumptuous, nor are they even considering the fact that they are being presumptuous.
What I mean by this is that those asking the question often do so in order to justify (in the case of Queen Elizabeth II) their words of praise for her.
The irony of certain evangelicals and their praise for Queen Elizabeth II
A number of leading evangelicals have heaped great praise and adoration on Queen Elizabeth II and her reign. Although I suspect that to some extent this praise is fitting, I find it ironic coming from certain evangelical leaders. These same leaders:
- Are quick to condemn hierarchical forms of Church government—Note, the Queen was the head of the Church of England.
- And they are often quite outspoken in their support of democracy and their condemnation of non-democratic forms of government around the world. England, of course, is a constitutional monarchy, which gains its glowing approval because Queen Elizabeth was a Christian. I find this form of critique inconsistent.
- Finally, they are quick to speak against women in leadership.
NB: in saying all of this, I am not in any way intending to speak ill of Queen Elizabeth II. I have respected her as a person from a distance for many years. She has certainly appeared to handle herself with tremendous dignity and has certainly reflected a Christ-like humility. There is little doubt in my mind, from the little I know of her, that she was a Christian woman who deserved to be admired.
NB: nor am I speaking for or against any form of government. (I will get to this in a future post).
The problem that I have with the question is too many are primed to judge and evaluate her reign based on their conviction as to whether or not she was a Christian.
My concern, then, is aimed at the Christian leaders whose critique of her reign is based primarily on her Christian faith.
My concern is especially aimed at certain evangelical leaders. Some of these leaders have heaped the highest praise upon Queen Elizabeth II—which, when it comes to her character, she seems to have been quite worthy of.
But they have done so because they believe that she exemplified family values and the subordination of women in the family (albeit as the Queen! Sorry, but the irony is too great. Do they not recognize that she was also the head of one of the most powerful nations on earth?)
Again, I am in no way intending to disparage Queen Elizabeth II as a person or as a Christian. Neither am I evaluating her reign. I am simply suggesting that when we do evaluate her reign we must be careful not to do so on the basis of, “she was a great person,” or “she was a dynamic Christian woman.” We can take that into account. But we mustn’t allow that to be the only criteria.
Our critique of empire must begin with a biblical understanding of empire
Again, I have no doubt that Queen Elizabeth II was a person of great character and a deep commitment to Christ.
At the same time, we must recognize that she was also the head of state (how much she was merely a nominal head of state may be disputed. Regardless, she did have power).
This is the basis of my concern: namely, that because she was a Christian we are inclined to evaluate her reign favorably.
I have little doubt that Queen Elizabeth II was a woman of great faith. But does that mean that England was a model nation? Or can we say that “yes, the Queen was a dynamic believer in Christ”; and England must still be judged as any other nation?
NB: Next week I will continue to examine the book of Revelation and a biblical understanding of empire.
Before I conclude this post, allow me to make one final point.
All Christians are kings and queens in Christ: celebrity upside-down
The NT is especially clear that all those in Christ are kings/queens and priests.
We see this clearly in 1 Pet 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
In addition, the book of Revelation affirms regarding Jesus: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev 5:9-10).
Rev 1:6 also declares, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.”
In addition, Jesus called his disciples are told them, “and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you” (Luke 22:29).
Of course, all of this is in fulfillment of the creation mandate that God made humanity male and female and commissioned them to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26).
This commission was given to Israel after they were rescued from Egyptian slavery: “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod 19:5-6).
Thus, although it is important to mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II and to heap praise on her for the dignity with which she carried herself and for her Christian character, the Scriptures are clear that all of God’s people are royalty.
We do a disservice to Christ, then, when we fail to treat one another as royal figures.
I suspect that if you went to church and it just so happened that Queen Elizabeth II had visited, you would tell everyone that you went to church with the queen.
I suspect that if a baseball star, a famous actor/actress, a well-known CEO, or a famous politician went to your church, you would tell everyone that so and so went to your church today.
But why do we not recognize the great kings and queens that we worship with every week? I suspect that I have been to church with some kings and queens that are going to be so close to the throne of God in the New Jerusalem that I will be telling everybody—as I stand near the gate just glad that I made it into the New Jerusalem—that I knew that person!!
The Church is supposed to be celebrity upside-down.
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