Whose Kingdom, Which Lord? Jesus and Nationalism, part 1

Whose Kingdom, Which Lord? Jesus and Nationalism, part 1 May 17, 2010

The next several posts are going to be in the form of a written sermon.  I have never spoken this sermon but figured I would use the blog to get the text out there.  It will be broken up into five posts over the next two weeks.  Read the rest of the series.


I want to invite you to turn in a bible to Luke chapter 2.  This is one of our primary texts that we will be looking at together this morning.  But before we jump into the Scriptures, I want to put an image on the screen to begin stirring up our imaginations.


This is a picture that has made a lot of buzz on the Internet.  An artist named Jon McNaughton painted it.  As you can see, the focal point of the picture is Jesus who is holding the US Constitution in one hand and pointing to it with the other.

I can imagine that there are several of you here this morning that see this picture as exactly what our country needs to remember, that Jesus must be the center of everything we do as a nation.  I want to commend this kind of first impression, for if our desire is anything less that putting Jesus in the center, then we miss the point of living.  Jesus must be central in all we do.

However, I also think that there is a second kind of reaction that is also appropriate for a first impression.  Some of us in this room see this picture with a bit of suspicion.  You may be like me.  You love the fact that you live in a nation that has given you opportunities to experience freedom and privilege in ways that the rest of the world does not get to enjoy.  However, you might be a bit concerned about an image like this that seems to link Jesus so closely with our national identity. For this kind of reaction (and especially if someone is originally from another country), this image may beg an important question: Does Jesus play favorites when it comes to the kingdoms of this world? This question has become more important in modern times as we truly have become a globalized world.  To take this question a step further, today we need to also ask: How does government and faith interact in the New Testament and what implications should this have on our lives as citizens of the Kingdom of God?  Who’s Kingdom and Which Lord ought to receive our allegiance?



"So, in looking for an answer to prayer, I just read a bunch of BS ..."

If God Knows The Future, Why ..."
"If you're going to use a big word like "sacrosanct" at least spell it correctly ..."

When Violence Hits Home: “sparing the ..."
""BEWARE OF THE SCRIBES " comes to mind, where clearly "rapture" was a teaching device ..."

Why the Rapture isn’t Biblical… And ..."
"I assume it is to indicate that the name has two syllables as the 'au' ..."

Name Change Myth: Saul Never Became ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Great start! You’re asking the right questions…

    Can’t wait to read Parts 2-5…

  • Eager to see the rest, Kurt. I’ve seen that picture, and also the commentary from the artist that goes with it. It’s deeply idolatrous and offensive to me. The man clearly believes in the divine inspiration of conservative America and needs to spend some time reading Isaiah and Amos.

    If you go to look at the commentary (clicking on the picture takes you there) note particularly the self-righteous tone toward the godless liberals in the lower-right-hand corner of the frame.

  • Michael

    Thanks for exploring this theme, Kurt. I remember seeing this picture last year sometime and nearly came unglued. I’ve struggled the last couple of years with holding tension between being proud of our country (patriotism) and falling off the cliff of religious nationalism.

  • Hmm this question would actually go back even to saint Augustine in the 4 to 5th century. Rome after it was baptized a christian fell to the barbarian tribes in the west, and also Byzantium the theocratic Christian Empire fell to the Turks. It’s hard to see how if these Christian empires fell, then how Jesus can really play favorites with empires.

  • John Holmes

    Kurt, you have provoked me to think. That is good for all Christians. I’m a- political, in the sense that no party can or does reflect the Kingdom of Christ. But, does that mean Christians are not Salt and Light, to any culture they are a part of, I think not. At the bottom of the constitution, is the statement, ” In the year of our Lord”. Jesus Christ, since almost all even the deist were Christians, and many of the signers were preachers too.

    The revisionist in history want to tell us that we have no Christian roots, but it really is a silly arguement. When the first and second great awakenings hit our country in the formative years, I think it leavened us as a people, for the Kingdom of God. But does God play favorites if we break covenenant, make golden calfs and worship Baal. I think not, he will judge us like all other nations, so no he does not play favorites, in that since.

    The New Testament, was written as a minority, in culture, but once we become a majority through a revival, not political action and manipulation, that is were the trouble comes for me, and than we have right wing, phairsaism as the means of the Kingdom instead of the Holy Spirit changing hearts and making laws that reflect those changed hearts, like many abolitionists were revivalist not left wing think tank, on the rolls puppets, getting paid for spin.

    So the Kingdom is greater than the church, and it is greater than politics or nationhood, so we make the constitution bow under the bible, in that painting, but the Bible and the cross and the empty tomb underneath the constitution and I think we get to the new testament ethic above it we get nationalism, and human pride, one step from the dragon…

  • Josh Wise

    I remember when I first saw this picture. I thought it was funny at first and then I just got kind of sad. I wanted to ask this guy “Are you serious?” I agree with Kurt that indeed Jesus should be at the center of our lives but there are somethings that don’t really allow Jesus to be the center of because of their very essence. It’d be like running a prostitution ring in the name of Jesus. It just doesn’t work. I know that a nation state is nothing like a prostitution ring, but a nation existence is based on ideas that are antithetical to what Jesus stood for. I’m not saying a nation is a bad thing. There can be good nations that are just and take care of their citizens and are a benefit to their neighbors. There are also bad nations that are corrupt and unjust. There cannot, though, be a Jesus nation. A nation stays in power by use of force or by threatening to use force. A nation defends itself with violence. The stability of a nation is dependent on its ability to control its citizen’s behavior. Jesus on the other hand never used force to coerce his followers. Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, and love our enemies. Jesus never sought to control peoples bahavior He loved them and invited them into a relationship with the Father.
    This picture saddens me because it seems that a large section of evangelical culture has adopted these Jesus-as-poster-boy-for-america thinking. I attended our towns national day of prayer event a few weeks ago and there was just this underlying feeling that we need to take America back for Jesus and the only way to do that was to get certain officials elected (its an election year here in KS). It just made me sad. Sorry, I just kind of unloaded on you guys. Thanks for listening though.

    • Amy Campbell

      @ John Wise: you really hit on a lot of things that bother me. I had a close friend say to me, “America is not the new Israel”. I think many people believe it is, including the religious Right. It makes me angry…that so many of my friends and family are so deceived. The way of Jesus was to never use force, but to uphold the Golden Rule and love our neighbors as ourselves. The term ‘neighbor’, i believe, to Jesus, meant any person on earth.

      So many people applaud the military for defending our freedom. I want to be careful here, because i do have a great respect for the military, but mostly for the enlisted soldiers on the front lines (have close family that has served in that capacity). But it is sad that such ‘freedom’ to over-consume and be enslaved to debt has to be defended with their blood.

      This is the first time i’ve seen this picture, and it is disturbing to me. My friend was right, America is not the new Israel, which is what this picture seems to imply.

      • Josh Wise

        @ Amy “So many people applaud the military for defending our freedom.” Yeah. I totally agree. I feel a lot of mixed emotions over this stuff. I hear about guys (and gals) going over there and I want to applaud their bravery. But at the same time they’re going over to defend not my freedom, but my lifestyle. They’re fighting so I can burn fuel in my car and shop and it makes me feel like a real bum (actually there are other words for what i feel but they’d probably get moderated out). It begs the question why do we need defending? Why do we live lifestyles that require people, both Americans and Iraqis to die?

  • Hey Kurt,

    Thanks for tackling this subject. I’ll be interested to see where you go and the comments you get.

    I clicked on the picture which took me to the website of the artist. If you scroll over the picture there, all the characters are named with a little bio, and each significant item is named and described.

    When you scroll over the Constitution it says this: “Inspired of God and created by God-fearing, patriotic Americans.”

    Does it bother anyone else that the artist (or whoever wrote those descriptions) believes the Constitution to be inspired? Actually, that’s what the entire picture seems to portray…as if Jesus Himself gave us the Constitution, and wants us to follow it. Where’s the word of God in this picture?

    Also interesting: The red sash Jesus wears represents blood…but not His. It “symbolizes the blood spilt by Americans for God and country.” So, the Jesus who preached, “Love your enemy, ” wears a sash that represents the opposite.

    So many things that bother me about this picture…thanks for bringing it to our attention.


    • Found the word of God :)…..in the hand of the minister, but not in the hand of Jesus Christ.

  • Amy Stone

    @John Holmes, “At the bottom of the constitution, is the statement, ‘In the year of our Lord'”

    This is merely a colloquialism of the time, an English translation of AD (Anno Domini), which was no more a statement of faith in Jesus (notice that it doesn’t name Jesus in the document) then than using AD is now (although CE is often used now to eliminate that ambiguity).

    “almost all even the deist were Christians…”

    1) Deism and Christianity are fundamentally opposed to one another. Deism denies direct revelation from God (i.e., divinely inspired scripture, the incarnation of God in Christ, divinely inspired prophecy, divine intervention in human affairs, etc.). Deists are typically Unitarian and Universalist in their orientation toward God. Their beliefs were far from those of orthodox Christianity. In fact, Deism is as close to Atheism as can be without denying that an intelligent higher power exists. Deists simply believed that something called God set creation into motion, but not that this God has anything to do with that creation (and certainly not people) after that creative act.

    The American Heritage Dictionary defines Deism as:

    The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.

    2) Church attendance, and even preaching, do not a Christian make. There are many reasons that individuals attend church that do not have to do with faith.

    “if we break covenenant…he will judge us like all other nations, so no he does not play favorites, in that since.”

    When did God make a covenant with the U.S.A.?

    • Tim

      Hopefully church and preaching and being together as the Body will help us to become more and more like Christ!

  • As an artist and as a Bible teacher, I can’t endorse this painting in any way. It is the epitome of folk-religion (and mediocre Christian art as well).

    In addition to being extremely European in appearance, the fact that Jesus was rejected as Messiah and God Incarnate by most of America’s founding fathers makes this painting nothing but empty propaganda. I don’t doubt the good intentions or sincerity of the artist or those who have supported this painting, but they are simply (and dangerously) wrong to ascribe American ideals to such a high place in the Kingdom of God.

    For more of my thoughts on this very issue check out:






    Looking forward to the rest of the series, Kurt!


  • Amy Stone

    @James-Michael: “extremely European in appearance”

    I was particularly struck by the “whiteness” of the people represented, and extra creeped out by the Greco-Roman temple architecture of our capitol buildings featured in the background. What? Jesus now endorses Greco-Roman ideals?

  • John Holmes

    Dear Amy,

    I wonder if one could say, John Hancock, when he signed the Declaration of Independence, that was just a signature, on the contrary it was an act of treason to the British Empire and punishable by death!

    My point whether it was a signature or a colloquialism, it is loaded with meaning for history, I once told by a college law professor who was a brain scrubbed secularist, that to consider that the framers had a strong Christian basis, she had never seriously considered, it was like 200 years of Christian history dropped in the Ocean, and she never saw the ship. Its there and its bigger than the Titanic!

    My point, which you missed, was 56 signers almost all from a very strong Christian back ground, or leaning, Quakers,Congreagationalist, Baptist, Presbyterian etc. These are not Buddihist? Think through the logic now of the signature of John Hancock, what did it mean to his pen, and what did that mean to the original signers, its more than a figure of speech without meaning, you are mistaken! The year of Our Lord was the Incarnation, its as plane as the nose on one’s face…. Its was a group of Christians from different backgrounds… No revisionism accepted!

    Barton, who has appeared before Congress and the Supreme Court as the pre-emanate historian on the founding fathers and their written documents, pointed out that 29 of the original 56 signers of the held seminary or bible school degrees. So it had more meaning to those Christian theologically educated than any secularist would ever concede, in there revisionism of history.

    As for Desim being a different system, I thought that was self-evident. My point is someone like Jefferson who read every night by his bed, reading a New Testament, even with his Deism, and a few excisions, he had a high regard for Christian theology, and principles. Franklin use to love to go to Whitefield’s preaching’s, etc, etc. You missed that point too.

    Third point, During the Great awakenings, which were formative for American life in government and social life, and one of the most rapid spreadings of Christianity in the history of the Western hemisphere.

    The Holy Spirit was poured out in history changing ways, many nominal Christians became vibrant followers of Christ, what is repeatedly spoken of in old and new testaments as berith, covenant, so when a nation during these times of mass turning to Christ, a covenant is established, look at I and II Chronicles, look at the historic revivals, Which Edwards, the first president of Yale used to explain what was going on in American History during those days, that we were entering into a covenant with God. Now, what each generation does with Christ, is how they will be judged, Rom 2, 2 Cor 5, 1 Cor 15, etc.

    That was my point, do we want a covenant breaking, anti-Christian nation who knows only nominal relgion or a true covenant turning, nation shaking move of God like happened to the Roman empire, during the Book of Acts and the ealry church in its nascent brillance. That swept nations into the Kingdom, I vote for the Kingdom… Hope that makes sense, suspect you have been trained like most of us, in a very secular worldview, just tyring to balance the scales of revisionism…

    One of the things that can seperate us from nationalism is to insist in an Edwards like revival or awakening, a true turning to God. Politics, secularism,or conservatism is not the answer but a Third great awakening, would be good for the soul.

    • Tim

      Was the enslavement of Africans Christian? Was the theft of the original inhabitants’ land following God’s covenant?

      I get the Christian influence in the founding of our nation. But what was the influence? Was it Christ-like? Humility invites us to confess that sin stains our history, along with many blessings.

  • Thanks for posting the beginning of your sermon, Kurt. I hope you get the chance to deliver it!

    If ever there was a nation who had the right to believe that God was at the center of their “constitution,” it was the Israel of the Old Testament. After all–God Himself had inspired the Pentateuch, which was, in effect, their constitution. These sacred books were good and true and right, yet the people Israel came to believe that their set-apart status somehow made them not just different from the rest of the world, but better.

    Eventually the very God who gave them the Law released first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians in order to bring his people to humility.

    The destiny of the Kingdoms of this world–even the godly Kingdoms of this world, is to become subsumed in the Kingdom of our God.

    Preach with power, Kurt! Peace!

  • barryweber

    Kurt, you are kinder than I am in reacting to this painting.

    I see it as part of the whole rebirth of “Jesus” in America. This is the “Jesus” wrapped in a red, white, and blue robe, who we see trotted out onto stages, to entertain audiences peopled with frightened, angry people. This is the “Jesus” who is little more than a ventriloquist’s dummy, sitting on the knee of whoever needs their ego-driven words of greed and fear amplified beyond their thin veneer of their own voice. This is the “Jesus” who is a mere projection of his puppeteer’s self-centeredness, no more real than an 8mm home movie.

    This is the “Jesus” who needs to be entombed with our other separationist, elitist, sexist, racist, and nationalist inclinations, so Jesus the Christ, the Word made flesh, may be seen again..

    • I understand your frustration and share much of it with you. However, remember that I wrote this in the form of a sermon with my imaginary audience being composed of many conservative evangelicals. I want to have their ear in this sermon rather than say something too radical so that they tune me out. Anyway, more to come 🙂

  • John Schmalzbauer

    This image is from a Mormon artist who included W. Cleon Skousen (an author who has inspired Glenn Beck) in the painting. Here is a description of the painting from the journalism and religion site Get Religion: http://www.getreligion.org/?p=19434

    Here is what the progressive Mormon web site Sunstone has to say about it: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/glenn-beck-cleon-skousen-amerigo-vespucci-me/

    They call him “a Mormon answer to Thomas Kinkade.”

  • John Schmalzbauer

    To clarify, they call the artist McNaughton a Mormon Kinkade, not Skousen (who is in the painting).

  • Amy Stone

    @John. “consider that the framers had a strong Christian basis, she had never seriously considered, it was like 200 years of Christian history dropped in the Ocean, and she never saw the ship.”

    Believe it or not, I totally agree with you on this point. Of course the framers had a Christian bias. Western culture was so thoroughly soaked in Christianity that there is almost no way to separate theology, music, art, government, or any other social phenomena of that time from the influence of Christendom. You’ll get no argument there. The Founders were beyond significantly influenced by the Church. That fact doesn’t make the U.S. a Christian nation. The U.S. has never been in a covenant relationship with God. The U.S. does not, and has not ever, had the authority to establish such a covenant.

    Overall, my point is: The Constantinian ideal, which is what I hear in the “Christian nation” rhetoric, is not a biblical ideal. The Church and the State have not, cannot, and will not ever be conflated without serious negative repercussions to the Church. Christendom is over and that’s a good thing for the Church.

    As for welcoming a broad spiritual awakening, I say bring it on! Bring it on around the world, in defiance of our national boundaries. Check out where the church is growing. China. Korea. If we really want revival, we should give up riding on the coattails of the Republic and start learning what it means to thrive in contrast to our culture.

    Earthly nationalism is contrary to citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  • @John Holmes: “My point is someone like Jefferson who read every night by his bed, reading a New Testament, even with his Deism, and **a few excisions**, he had a high regard for Christian theology, and principles.”

    Every reference to anything supernatural, miraculous or divine in the New Testament is hardly “a few excisions.” Jefferson openly rejected the CORE tenet of Christianity–the Resurrection of Jesus.

    He, Payne and other Deists didn’t have a high regard for Christian theology–they had a high regard for civil-religion based on a combination of Christian and Greco-Roman ethics.

    Sure Franklin liked listening to Whitfield’s preaching…Herod liked listening to John the Baptist’s.

    I’m with you when you say that we need revival and Great Awakening…but we must have that happen in the Churches first and then spread to the surrounding culture APART FROM any neutered deistic civil religion (like America enjoyed in the “good ol’ days” of the early 1900s…the days of Jim Crow and the KKK’s heyday, incidentally).

    Nationalistic Judeo-Christian ethos has never been equated with Covenant faithfulness or blessing–even when the only such Covenant in history (the Mosaic Covenant) was still in effect. To strive for such a society from a political top-down approach is simply foreign to the Gospel message.

    Individual lives being transformed and in turn transforming society should be our focus as Jesus’ Body, in my opinion. The wedding of Jesus to ANY political/cultural ideology is dangerous at best and idolatrous at worst.


  • Richard Wendt

    Kurt I do not know if you know this but the artist of your first painting is a Mormon artist and you also have to know that the LDS church pushes a strong nationalism for very good reasons. The reason is is that they believe that America is a chosen nation and that their manifest destiny is to govern America and the rest of the world during the Great Tribulation. If you are interested I can send you a paper I wrote on this subject.

  • I dig James Michael-Smith’s comment: it’s bad art and bad theology.

    I would also disagree that the Evangelicalism we automatically equate with Christianity today is the sort of Christianity that our Founding Fathers were soaked in. There were enough Deists and Unitarians back then to provide a lot more religious diversity than our most recent presidents can boast.

    Great post, Willems. Terrifying stuff… makes me want to be an anabaptist…

    • Conrad

      lol so you are saying there aren’t that many unitarians and deists around today?

  • Michael Todd

    At some point, someone does something radical, and when they do, they start revivals and revolutions. John Wesley started a revival. The Second Continental Congress started a revolution.

    Now, here is the interesting part to me. I see John Wesley and the Second Continental Congress as men who left me a spiritual and political inheritance. Their ceiling is my floor. I am better off, because what they accomplished.

    Alas, somehow, somewhere, someway, these men have not been looked at as radicals who left an inheritance which we could build upon. Instead, these men have been set up as standards. Many denominations are revivals that got standardized. Likewise, political parties can be similarly static.

    What I don’t get is how the right in this nation have co-opted what was a very leftist move by the founders of this nation. The left seem to just let them have it, and I think, “George Washington was not a conservative. Loyalists, like Benjamin Franklin’s son, William, were conservatives.” Well, I’m not letting them have my spiritual and political ancestors. These men left me a legacy which I am building off of. They are not men I put on a pedestal. I am their Elisha, and they are my Elijah. I pray for a double-portion of all they did.


    I think the picture reflects our country, passed, present, and lost. it’s a very real fact that jesus loves us all, but is conected with Isreal. We as a country let the bible get away from us.The basis of the laws of the country stem from the the ten commandments. But the ignorance of the intellectual educators, of our higher learning instutions.trivialize our faith reducing it to a fairy tail.When we errect a statue of faith the want to errect one of tearnory. Why is the cross so offensive? I don’t blame just the non believer we share in the blame. I know their are personal ajenda on the table and that’s what makes us a joke in the eyes of the secular world. Get back to basics. God first, then people, then yourself our country can be great again, With the basis of the bible. Tune the trash out, take the truth in, we can do it and the lord can get us through it.

  • the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our lord and of his christ. but not like this…

  • Amy Stone

    Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796

    ARTICLE 11.
    As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    Submitted to the Senate May 29, 1797. Resolution of advice and consent June 7, 1797. Ratified by the United States June 10, 1797, signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.

    The Declaration of Independence uses Enlightenment language and specifically Deistic references to God, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t even mention God, and the First Amendment makes the separation of church and state quite explicit.

    I sincerely do not understand why this is such a terrifying idea to some Christians. Whom shall we fear?

  • A little Mormon kid pointing and saying “Why is that lady holding a copy of the Communist Manifesto?”

  • Amy Stone

    @Peter, I agree that in many ways contemporary Evangelicalism/evangelicalism does not resemble the 18th C. Church much.

    At the same time, John is correct in saying that the Great Awakening was a movement of genuine faith and evangelical fervor. And, I have to grant that the movement did generate political support for uniting the 13 colonies.

  • John Holmes

    Amy, I think we are conflating issues, again, and I appreciate you acknowledging the fact of the deep roots and philosophy of Christian values in all areas of public and private life. I do not think the Constatianian, model is what Edward was hoping for, just the opposite, not and exterior outward based faith, but one based on the inward work and authentic covenant making God, Rom 2:28 not a Jew (or Christian) in outward circumcision but one inward, by the Spirit, not the Letter, who’s praise is not of men, but of God… This is classic text for regeneration.

    But does that mean, we no longer are salt and light, and we don’t do what the Lord, and Master, and King told us to do in making pupils of the nations, including the nation of America? Mat 28, 18-20.

    Do you think we should start immediately discipling all people everywhere, like Jesus the master taught? Or do we open the flood gates of moral anarchy, to left wing politics and left theology, which turns the gospel into the religion of by belly button, and my reason is now the pantheon…. As nervous as I’m of the right wing, the left wing is not easy company for a regenerate Christian, abortion, homosexually, moral chaos, the state is God, is tough company too.

    So as we correct nationalism, lets give the keys over to the tohu bohu whims, and principalties of pagan thinking? That is not a biblical theology either, …. Salt and light become Weed and condoms…

    Not sure your view on the state is true, the constitution does not declare separation of church and state, it does not promote one Christian denomination to control another like in England, that was the historical context when written, ohhhh how the secularist and anti-Christian thinkers have spun that yarn… made some weird coats, that means now the separation of God and culture, that I hope is not what you end up with, with these philosophies.. I love Bishop Leslie Newbegin.


    If you believe this, it affects your political world view at some point, you don’t bow the knee to pagan thinkers oR whims, or philosophy, how much of there thought have we drank in?

    • Josh Wise

      I don’t think that Amy is implying that we should “open the flood gates of moral anarchy.” I think she’s saying, and I agree with her, that we should be wary of marrying our faith to our citizenship. I agree that Edwards and the Great Awakening was a positive thing. I believe that there are many souls who found Jesus through that. I believe that faith can have a positive impact and change a country and society for the better. The civil rights movement was largly driven by the religious community. The problem arises when we try to Christianize something like a nation. Rob Bell said that Christian is a good noun, but a bad adjective. I’ll grant that the US is a “good” nation. We’re definitly on the top half of the deck and I’m very fortunate to have been born here. We cannot, though, confuse “good” with “Christian.” Jesus said love your enemies. When we are struck we are to turn the other cheek. How does a nation turn the other cheek? We are to do good to those who hate us. How does a nation do good to those who hate it? How does a nation love its enemies?
      we must think of how trying to frame the US as a “christian nation” is percieved by the rest of the world. When we call ourselves a christian nation and our leaders ask for God’s blessing before we launch an invasion, how does that make us look? What is the invaded countries view of Jesus at that point? How are we supposed to share the Gospel, which is good news to all people, when the very person of our gospel is portrayed as condoning our violence.
      The main point, I believe, is that Jesus didn’t try to chrisitanize Rome or even Israel. He came to show us a kingdom without borders. His kingdom is not of this world. It’s transnational. The old mentality of tribal/nationalism us vs. them has passed away. We are all united under the grace of God. The muslim terrorist is just as much my brother as the Marine who was sent to kill him.

  • @Michael: Many denominations are revivals that got standardized.

    Very profound, Michael. I never thought of the American experiment quite this way, but you’re onto something, I think. It certainly is what I’ve observed in the “strict constructionist” attitude toward the Constitution, which really approaches the Constitution, not as the ingenious governing structure that it is, but rather as a canonical, inspired text.

    @Ray Sanchez: The basis of the laws of the country stem from the the ten commandments.

    This statement has been accepted uncritically by far too many. Go back and read the 10 commandments, and then show me which of them trace to ANY portion of American law. Commandments 1-5 do not appear in our law. 6 does, 7 does not, 8 does, 9 does. 10, if obeyed, would completely destroy the vast bulk of our consumer, market economy. So no, our laws are most categorically NOT based on the 10 Commandments.

    @Amy Stone, THANK YOU for that reference to the Tripoli treaty. That is incredible language that I did not know existed in our law. WOW!

    and finally @John Holmes, I think the real issue is not whether we should be salt and light to all nations, including our own, but rather whether any political system is a valid tool to exercise that saltiness and illumination. I would agree to the notion that as believers who have some influence in a democratic-republic society, we should vote and advocate our consciences, but we must be careful (1) not to demand of–or coerce from–the unredeemed, a behavioral purity the redeemed all-to-rarely exhibit; (2) not to conflate any earthly kingdom, including our own, with the Kingdom of God which calls ALL kingdoms to account; and (3) as Greg Boyd so aptly put it in “Myth of a Christian Nation,” never to think we’re accomplishing God’s ends using the tools of the kingdoms of this world, which are the territory of the prince of this world–in short, not to think God’s work can be done using the devil’s tools.

    • Michael Todd

      Dan, one thing will always kill a revival. Experts. Who are the experts? The people who started the revival.

  • Amy Stone

    “But does that mean, we no longer are salt and light, and we don’t do what the Lord, and Master, and King told us to do in making pupils of the nations, including the nation of America?”

    What? I thought you said before that America is already Christian nation in covenant with God. Why do we have to “make a pupil of the the nation of America” if it’s already Christian?

    “Do you think we should start immediately discipling all people everywhere, like Jesus the master taught? Or do we open the flood gates of moral anarchy…?”

    Down with missions! Up with moral anarchy!

    “So as we correct nationalism, lets give the keys over to the tohu bohu whims, and principalties of pagan thinking?”

    Let primordial chaos reign supreme!

    “the constitution does not declare separation of church and state, it does not promote one Christian denomination to control another like in England, that was the historical context when written, ohhhh how the secularist and anti-Christian thinkers have spun that yarn”

    Separation of church and state began with Christian teaching. Martin Luther’s notion of two kingdoms, written about in his book, On Secular Authority, was very influential on the development of separation dogma. Locke got this idea from Luther, not the other way around (and I’m pretty sure that Luther got the idea from Jesus).

    If it wasn’t for “separation”, my family would probably not have survived. My father is the direct descendant of a Huguenot immigrant, who fled from France and found religious tolerance here. Likewise my mother is the child of Anabaptist immigrants who finally found rest in this country. None of these people had to flee from secular authorities or pagan religions. It was fellow Christians and Christian governments that tried to exterminate them and their people.

    I’m not going to split hairs over what kind of influence can go which direction (as written in the First Amendment). There is a wall of separation between religious authorities and our state authorities. I fail to see how this is a bad thing in any way. That wall provided refuge for my family and for many others.

    The question I still don’t have an answer to is: When did the God of Israel make a covenant with the U.S.A.? Even if Jonathan Edwards said it happened (and I sincerely doubt he did) that doesn’t make it true. Who spoke for God in this supposed matter? Human beings don’t just call up God and say, “Hey, God, Yahweh, Jeshuah, I’d like to propose a covenant with you. How’s about you declare me to be your people. Okay? What? Israel? Oh, ya. Okay, Israel can come too.”

    The Church is grafted into Israel and the U.S.A. has nothing to do with the arrangement.

  • John holmes

    Not so fast Amy! I find it fascinating that your education makes you aware of the Treaty of Tripoli, but you seem very silent to its context as well as many other documents we have been discussing, so once again we have to go over the history, less the secular spin will scrub the brain of the true historical meaning…

    The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature.

    Guess who wrote this Amy? John Adam who signed the treaty you quoted. This is a favorite of the secularist, elitist. In context it means something very different than the way you quoted it!

    It is a farce to use that quote, and ignore this quote since the same President Adams is involved. We need to start challenging these professors who are playing games with there students. Either knowingly or better superstitiously!

    Throughout this long conflict, the four Barbary Powers regularly attacked undefended American merchant ships. Not only were their cargoes easy prey but the Barbary Powers were also capturing and enslaving “Christian” seamen 8 in retaliation for what had been done to them by the “Christians” of previous centuries (e.g., the Crusades and Ferdinand and Isabella’s expulsion of Muslims from Granada 9). In an attempt to secure a release of captured seamen and a guarantee of unmolested shipping in the Mediterranean, President Washington dispatched envoys to negotiate treaties with the Barbary nations. 10 (Concurrently, he encouraged the construction of American naval warships 11 to defend the shipping and confront the Barbary “pirates” – a plan not seriously pursued until President John Adams created a separate Department of the Navy in 1798.)

    The American envoys negotiated numerous treaties of “Peace and Amity” 12 with the Muslim Barbary nations to ensure “protection” of American commercial ships sailing in the Mediterranean. However, the terms of the treaty frequently were unfavorable to America, either requiring her to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of “tribute” (i.e., official extortion) to each country to receive a “guarantee” of safety or to offer other “considerations” (e.g., providing a warship as a “gift” to Tripoli, 14 a “gift” frigate to Algiers, 15 paying $525,000 to ransom captured American seamen from Algiers, 16 etc. 17). The 1797 treaty with Tripoli was one of the many treaties in which each country officially recognized the religion of the other in an attempt to prevent further escalation of a “Holy War” between Christians and Muslims. 18 Consequently, Article XI of that treaty stated:

    This is the context, we did not want a Holy War to break out in the Muslim nations with the US, and we did not want them to think we were like some of the autocratic rulers in old Europe, who in name only, of religious Christianity, had done evil things to them.

    Thus, this treaty language, is not saying at all what you implied to these readers of the blog. Again, this is incorrect history the way it was used…. The secularist loves this info but not the context., because it destroys the revisionism…

  • John holmes

    Amy, on a theological front you addressed,( by the way we are family, Huguenot immigrant, so am I. John Vassar, in 1630-70’s, Jamestown, some of the first 4000 in this country). God bless the Huguenots!

    Nowhere did I say, ipso facto, that America was a Christian, in total, people, I said we had Christian roots, and that at times of great awakenings, like under Jonathan Edwards, the nation came from a formal religiosity, to an open, vibrant, covenant with God, that by definition is revival, cross reference the revivals in the book of Chronicles, is it not? A vital effusion of the Spirit of God in the 13 colonies, and beyond. That this revival was formative, of our constitution, courts, and political will and so forth is a historical fact as you acknowledged.

    Second, as much as I love Luther as a reformer of the church, his two kingdoms model, is what lead to the Nazi secularist state. I heard NT Wright argue this at an SBL meeting and was a fascinating argument about how to exegete Romans 13, and what it really meant.

    So praise God you fled Europe to American, and found a friendly nation, I would argue because that nation was effused by the Spirit of God it was different than the tyrants, and inquisitors of pagan/Christian mix in Europe. The Huguenots were a revival brand of the very people like Edwards, I have been spotlighting.

    As for Romans 11 means, “that only the natural Jewish physical nation has the rights to use the term covenant,” that seems to be blatant dispensationalist, which is an unusual argument thus far.

    Gen 12, Gal 3, states that the ultimate end of the gospel is all nations would be blessed, and come under the covenant, so why not the nation of America? You said bring on a great awakening, than say that only the Jewish nation can be in covenant, how so?

    Matt 28, says in the new covenant all nations are coming into covenant with Christ, as they are tutored by the church, by the way that is not his last name it’s his office, he is King of all the earth. So Jesus was telling us to make disciples of all nations, the all nations. “covenant” was now being fulfilled in Christ by his church, and you seem to say no to Him. I’m saying yes to him.

    The church is made up of all nations, Jews, Gentiles, barbarians, Iranians, it is no longer a Jewish state, but a universal rule of Christ, and what better rule could we have, the only perfect man who ever lives, sounds like great government to me.

    How do you exegete, Salt, Light, City on a Hill, disciple the nations, in texts from Matthew with your view? How does that affect your philosophy of life, culture, politics, ethics, courts, etc?

    You have a very good mind; this is all in the spirit of better and more refined truth…

    • Amy Stone

      I was just reviewing the comments so far (great conversation) and would just like to point out, not for John in particularly, but for those coming a little late to the party, that I never said these words regarding my supposed exegesis of Romans 11 (mentioned in the post above):

      “that only the natural Jewish physical nation has the rights to use the term covenant,”

      The quote seems to be attributed to me (I could be wrong). I’m not sure why quotation marks were used there, but to clarify, I would not exegete Romans 11 that way, at all, ever.


  • Amy Stone


    1) The quote from John Adams fits very neatly within Deistic Enlightenment language. While one could superimpose Christian belief onto it, the words themselves cannot be said to affirm or deny either the faith of Mr. Adams or the religious (if any) nature of this nation. (incidentally, the same is true of the Declaration of Independence–textbook Enlightenment vocabulary).

    His affirmation of “the general principles of Christianity” is no assent to Christian faith. Many Deists affirmed that Christianity was a good (if not the best) example of a religion that articulated the universal truths of God. Again, this did not make them orthodox believers any more than practicing yoga makes someone a Hindu. Deists typically affirmed that the universal truths of God were represented among all religions.

    2) The merchant ships that were being attacked along the Barbary Coast were operated by private businesses, not the U.S. government. The actions and words of their sailors cannot be be assumed to be representations of the U.S. government, or even of U.S. ideals. If these sailors were troubled by pirates because of their status as Christians, that is no evidence of anything regarding the nature of U.S. government.

    3) The “Barbary Pirates” were Muslim, and were endorsed by their own Muslim governments. Naturally, they assumed that if the sailors were Christian (or were at least not Muslim), that the U.S. nation was a Christian nation. That’s how the rest of the world operated at that time.

    4) The U.S. government came to the aid of its citizens and negotiated a treaty on behalf of all U.S. citizens, maintaining our ability to use trade routes along the North African coast.

    Article 11 attempts to make it undeniably clear that the U.S. is not ruled by a Christian government and is therefore not in religious conflict with Muslims or any other religious group.

    In your words:
    This is the context, we did not want a Holy War to break out in the Muslim nations with the US, and we did not want them to think we were like some of the autocratic rulers in old Europe, who in name only, of religious Christianity, had done evil things to them.

    Exactly! The U.S. government was not acting in the name of Christianity. Perfectly right!!! We had to assure them that there was no holy war to be had.

    5) It’s interesting that you presume to know something about my educational background and political leanings (and have repeatedly implied that I’ve been brainwashed). You are making leaps and bounds based on nearly zero information. All you know about me is that I’m probably female, based on my name, and that I am usually able construct coherent sentences.

    Oh ya, I have one question:

    When did the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob enter a covenant with the U.S.A.?

    • Amy Stone

      Sorry about so much bold text. Evidently, I made a mistake with my tags. There is no preview feature here, so I didn’t catch it. Oh well. It happens. I just didn’t want anybody to think that I was adding THIS MUCH EMPHASIS on purpose 😉

  • Amy Stone


    Gen 12, Gal 3, states that the ultimate end of the gospel is all nations would be blessed, and come under the covenant, so why not the nation of America? You said bring on a great awakening, than say that only the Jewish nation can be in covenant, how so?

    People from every tribe, nation, and people join up with the kingdom of God, through identification with Jesus, who is the incarnated fulfillment of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel (for the moment, set aside that there was more than one covenant established with Israel in the OT).

    God blessed Israel with this covenant relationship, not as to exclude all others, but for the sake of blessing all people, through Israel’s testimony to the shalom of God. Israel’s work is to invite all the people of the earth to enter into this same covenant relationship. The church is “grafted in” to Israel, which reached its telos in Jesus who is the true vine. From beginning to end, the story God and the people of God is for the sake of the whole world.

    What I resist is the notion that the U.S. has special status with God, based on a claim to some unique covenant. I just don’t buy it, but maybe that’s not what you’re selling.

    BTW, nice move, pulling the ol’ Nazi Germany trick. If all else fails, compare’m to Hitler. It works every time 😉

  • @John Holmes: Gen 12, Gal 3, states that the ultimate end of the gospel is all nations would be blessed, and come under the covenant, so why not the nation of America?

    John, I think I’ve noticed from your comments in the past, that you are a student of the original languages. If I’m remembering correctly, then you certainly know that the Greek word translated “nations” (ἔθνη or “ethne”) can be translated “nations” or “peoples” or even “Gentiles” … it’s pretty much anybody but the Jews. So whatever “nations” means, it’s human beings, not nation-states, that are being discussed. Scripture makes reference to God covenanting with only one nation-state, and he was pretty upset with their adoption of nation-state trappings (read Samuel re: the acquisition of a king) in the first place.

    So it’s biblical for Americans to enter into a covenant with God, but not, I suggest, the nation-state of the USA or any other.

  • Plus the problem with the usual covenantal language vis-a-vis America is not a covenant God extended to “all nations,” but rather an exceptional relationship between God and the USA, for which there is neither precedent nor biblical support.

    • Amy Stone


      Thank you. I’m always impressed when someone uses 50 words when I would need 300. 🙂

  • John Holmes

    Amy, not sure we have reached an impasse, you tried to say the Treaty statement, was a conclusive proof of the secularist dream of no Christian involvment in the founding of the nation, which it was not, you seemed to get irratated that you were called to give an account of the context, it no more proves this than any thousands of quotes I could provide from our fathers with a pro-Christian statments, so not sure what your point is.

    Second, there were Deist amongst the founding fathers there is no doubt, that philsophy and language was whirling around the world, yes, does that mean, all were deist, no.. Many historical books are written on this pro, and con. I think without the Awakenings, that the Unitarianism would have swept the land, but the First and Second awakenings prevented that, and Edwards laid a solid foundation against it.

    Third, there is little doubt the majority were Christian’s whatever denomiation: Anglican, Quaker, Baptist, reformed, all were not deist and the vast majority of the citizens had a Christian theology and practise. So that the leaven of the Kingdom, Christianity was everywhere to be found in our law books, courts, schools, and govenment documents. I think you can use the language of deism because that was its age, but does that prove or disaprove your point, if any thing its a stalemate.

    The only thing I presume to know is what you have espoused, and to be truthful not sure where you stand, you seem to believe in dispensationaism in regards to Israel, you slam deist, and you promote Luthers two kingdoms, and secular governments, over a Christian government, so this is zigged and zagged all over.

    Can any nation other than Israel be in covenant with God? You failed to exegete, Matt 28, all nations, light, salt, a greater than the temple is here, pupil all nations, Why? These are straight forward text and you don’t need a PHD in hermeneutics to understand them, only believe and obey.

    Why can’t a nation, lets call it “zoobie”, if it turns to Christ who is the center of the covenant, not Abrahams flesh, and The Spirit of God falls on this nation, and it turns in mass to God, is it ok to have Christian influenced laws and life, would that be the best possible world. Isn’t the new creation, better than the Old creation, is not Jesus Kingdom better than any other? Why do you stiffen at that while defending Rom 11? That is all about the covenant tree in history, Daniel, Nehemiah, Joseph, they all leavened the world with Christ, Wilberforce, Finney, Abolutionist, etc, most came from the revivals. It confuses me the private faith and public faith how they work for you?

    • Amy Stone

      Okay. Nice chatting with you, John.

  • John Holmes


    So whatever “nations” means, it’s human beings, not nation-states, that are being discussed.

    I think in the context of Matthew, the list of Kings and the old testament background, Is 2 all nations coming to zion to learn the law, it is almost a certainty, that he is not talking about individuals primarily, but nations, as a people, the individualism of modern life is not common amongst ancient people so not sure you can make a case with ethnos like that.

    With the old testament background, it seems even less likely. That being said it goes from the individual, to the family, like Cornelius in Acts 10, to impact a city like Ephesus. But I really think that a pervasive leavening of nations is in mind.

    The Great awakenings in America, would be a paradigm, or some of the amazing revivals in Latin America would be another case in point. I think this is the high ideal of these passages, all about the Kingdom of God, with obviously Christ the King.

    If Abrahams covenant with all nations, as Mt starts out with God of Abraham, and the Kings Kingdom list, this all merges in the last verses.. Take nations for the Kingdom! So I’m interpreting those words in the broad vision of the canon, and in the context of Matthew.

    I’m glad you challenged this on exegetical grounds and got this front an center.. Blessings

  • John Holmes

    Dan, one question. What do you mean in Samuel that they tried this with Saul, the nation state thing and it did not work.? Saul was chosen by the people because they wanted to be like the nations, but it was the heart essence that seemed to be wrong, because David came along and ran the Kingdom, as a Spirit filled leader, that has been the point I have been trying to get at the whole time with Amy. Why can’t we have a Spirit filled church and leaders in society if we have a true outpouring like some of the historic revivals. I agree with Amy this cannot be legislated from an americanism, but why not by a Historic grace filled rain on the land? Another words, what if God actually answered, 2 Chr 7:14, lots of Christians have prayed it the last decade or generation? Why is there push back for that?

  • Actually, John, I think all nations coming to learn the law HAS to be people and not nation-states, in that only rarely (the queen of Sheba being a notable exception) did the leadership of even surrounding nations express anything like a positive interest in Israel or her God. “Leavening” the nations, sure, as the Israelites were to do even when they were captives in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:7). But your parsing of individual vs. collective does not refute my claim against nation-states: “ethne” can be “people groups” and is, in fact, more plural than individual in usage, but it is not a political term.

    That the Great Awakenings in America may have leavened the nation for good, I have no reason to dispute. But to claim that because of that America the nation enjoyed any special favor from God, or became party to any covenant with him, does not follow. And against your interpretation of Matthew 28 “Take the nations for the Kingdom” I would point out that Jesus’ command was to TEACH the nations and “make disciples/students” of them. This is the conquest of the human heart and life, not the political structure…a structure that Jesus rejected first in Luke 4:5-7 and again in John 6:15, to name but two examples.

    And finally, to your question re: my comment about Israel’s kings. God’s will was quite clear in Deut. 17, and more so in 1 Samuel 8, that his people/nation was to be different and to be ruled differently than the other nations. Even though David is listed (by David’s own chronicler, likely) as “a man after God’s own heart,” he blatantly violated the provisions of both these passages regarding how a king should act. I would go so far as to say that a careful reading of Deut. 17:14 and 1 Sam. 8:7 make the case pretty bluntly, that God’s perfect will/desire was that the people NOT have a king, but that he was making provision for them when their desire to be “like the other nations” overtook their desire to follow him.

    To sum, God’s will was that Israel would be a “people” but not, in fact, a nation-state. It was only in their desire to be like the rest, that they became a political entity. Don’t get me wrong–God’s will was not anarchy then, and it’s not anarchy now–but it is NOT the political structure we call a “nation” today, that can be in covenant with God.

  • John Holmes

    Dan, I agree with more of what you said than disagree, but would like to tease out a few points. One, Gen 17:6 Talks of Kings coming from the loins of Abraham, so this was always God’s intention, obviously only fully fulfilled in Christ. Mt 1 Ethne is not a political term I could not agree more, farthest thing from Mt 28…

    “Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch her hands out to God. Ps 68:31

    “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with Assyrians, In that day, Israel will be a third part with Egypt and Assyria a blessing in the earth, whom the lord of Hosts has blessed, saying Blessed is Egypt my people and Assyria the work of My hands and Israel My inheritance…. All our in Covenant as nations in the new day of the Kingdom which has come in Christ. Is 19:21-21 this is covenant language through and through… read the whole chapter?

    Point, these are whole nations coming into the messianic Kingdom

    ” so that Kings will bring to you the wealth of the nations, With there Kings led in procession…( not individuals) this is a prophetic vision of pagan kings and nations, coming to give offerings and acknowledge God, i.e., Is 2, 19, 60, fulfillment, not sure this does not but an adjustment in things!

    Romans 4:13 “for the promise to Abraham and his seed that he would be heir of the world….. This is the new day Isaiah prophesied, and what a day it is..

    Mt 28, Go makes disciples of all nations immersing them in the reality of God the trinity and teaching them all the truths of the Christian faith and Kingdom.

    These obviously have much of Isaiah in view.

    I’m with you that we can not legislate a Christian state from law or we end up undermining the new covenant grace. But If a greater than Jonah is here, Mt 12″41, Jonah put a pagan nation into a world shaking, history making revival and covenant with God, Mt is now saying this is on a much larger scale with the coming of Christ, and his Kingdom’s present reign,
    This is not modern individualism, I think there is no way we can take that and make the puzzle fit. I once heard Gordon Fee say, his students kept interpreting text individually, and he got testy and said, “don’t you understand that kind of thinking did not exist in the ancient world…”

    So it seems you believe that a secular state and individual Christians iN THE STATE, is the only model we have from scripture and these scriptures to me point in a very different direction. But, it always, always has to be By the Spirit, not the letter… It has to be a Kingdom of God invasion of a nation, not a political or fleshly act, but a God act, I would emphasize, but the bible does hold out high hopes for nations turning to God, maybe we aim to low in our hopes…

  • So it seems you believe that a secular state and individual Christians iN THE STATE, is the only model we have from scripture and these scriptures to me point in a very different direction.

    John, I see your point, but I think you fail to acknowledge that at this point and until Jesus redeems all things, the kingdoms of this world remain subject to the prince of this world. There will come a time, yes, when “the kingdom of this world (will have) become the kingdom of our God and of his Messiah,” but that will not come about by earthly, political means, as you have acknowledged.

    (as for the specific Psalms & Isaiah sections you quote, remember that Assyria & Egypt were enemies, not only of Israel, but of each other. This language could well–and I suspect does–refer more to a “lion and lamb, child & snake” reconciliation of enemies than to necessarily be intended to say anything regarding those specific nations)

    So I think in practice and eschatology, there is at least some congruence in what you and I are saying. Where I take issue with you would be:

    1) That any earthly kingdom is actually capable of submitting itself to God; even God’s own people in the O.T. never really did that, and short of the final redemption by Jesus, neither have any since;

    2) That there is anything either Biblically or historically accurate about a claim of divine exceptionalism for the United States which, while founded by a group that included many godly men, was and remains a “kingdom of this world” and has always demonstrated same in many of its actions. Slavery, the treatment of the Native American, even the religious persecution of dissenters by many colonial leaders (though this latter was more of a 17th-century problem than an 18th-century one) all give the lie to the notion that America in its founding was particularly Jesus-centered.

    3) That there is anything remotely Godly about the adulation that American Christians slather on the (conservative and militaristic elements of the) American state. This is idolatry through and through, and deserves to be condemned in Isaiah/Jeremiah/Amos terms.

    And finally, I would encourage you to re-exegete Matt. 28:

    Mt 28, Go makes disciples of all nations immersing them in the reality of God the trinity and teaching them all the truths of the Christian faith and Kingdom.

    No, not exactly. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father & Son & Holy Breath” is not “immersing them in the reality” of a doctrine that was only delineated 2-3 centuries later. It is introducing them to the inspirited life of the Body of Christ. And “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” is absolutely not the “truths of the Christian faith; it introducing them to the person of, and teaching them obedience to, Christ the King. Doctrine and belief and the “truths of the faith” are a miniscule, though overemphasized, part of that equation.

    And in the Jewish context (and Matthew is the “most Jewish” of all the gospels), “go and make disciples of all ethne” was actually a command to go, not only to the house of Israel, but also to the Gentiles (remember “ethne” is sometimes translated “Gentiles,” too); in other words, Jesus was reminding his disciples that the job was to reach all peoples, not just the Jews.

  • Ben Bajarin

    Isaiah 40:15 “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.”

    I completely agree nationalism was never the point, people who surrender to God was the point, then as Jesus fulfilled the covenant now those who are “in Christ” who make up the Kingdom of God are the point.

    Psalm 2:10-12 “10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
    11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
    12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

    I would argue no nation is or ever will be capable of doing this until the day of the Lord.

    Jesus Christ is Lord and King and we are to submit to his sovereign saving rule and reign and no one else’s. Nations can not do this however people can which is why the Kingdom of God is found in these nations, it is not these nations.

    Because these nations are a drop in the bucket to our God.

  • John holmes

    But I think you fail to acknowledge that at this point and until Jesus redeems all things, the kingdoms of this world remain subject to the prince of this world.

    Dan, you almost so convinced me with your argument, that I almost but your name in the blog, not mine.

    But, I think we are bridging to sides of a precipice, one side nationalism, bases on human descent and politics, and pride, and Spiritual descent, birthed by the Spirit of God. If we go to far either way it seems to me we end up in heresy.

    If we say the Spirit of God cannot change a person, than Jesus dialogue with Nic, in John 3 is a meaningless discussion, which to me would be a sick Christology. But my point is if God can change a person which I believe you would grant me that point, as in John 3, by his Spirit, than why he can’t change a city and a nation. That is the broader eschatological question I have been raising, and you wisely zeroed in on that.

    I do not share the view that the prince of the air rules this world, and therefore we cannot expect, A greater than Jonah to have the impact that it seems to suggest, or that a greater than Solomon is here, Mt 12, he had wide impact in the known world, what does it mean to be Greater, but a historical, dramatic, change in history of the nations, ethnos?

    Eph 2, puts Christ and the church above the powers of this age, and interestingly the revival in Ephesus, Acts 19 is a paradigm for exactly what I’m saying.

    Lastly, I do not agree with the idea that, Gregory Nazanzius is the first person to figure out the Trinity, in Matthew it is in the Baptism and the Transfiguration and in the end, being immersed, and confronted by the presence of the triune God is explicit and as you point out for a Jewish flavored book, to use this language, we are already in the third century understanding to a very large degree… The immersing in God, like the lord in the baptism and the transfiguration, makes authentic, the teaching, there is were we would meet and agree I think…

    You’re a very good writer and well argued… We will trade swords again.. Shalom

  • You are absolutely right, John that we have much on which to agree, and I enjoy the crossing of swords in love as much as you do. I wish we could do so over a pint instead of a byte, but so be it! ;{)

    I think that the interpretation of “ethne” really is the lynchpin of our disagreement, and I sense you agreeing with me on this diagnosis. You correctly state that I also agree, the Spirit of God can–and does–change people, and this is no less true if the people happen to be political leaders.

    But cities and nation-states are political constructs, that do not have a heart and soul of their own. The people of those cities and nation-states, those who (to coin a phrase) “insoulate” those cities & nations, can be redeemed by God and it’s his business (and he makes it our business) so to do. But the political structures–the boundaries, the bureaucracies, the laws, the alliances–these things are earthly, soulless, corrupt, and subject to the prince of this world. They cannot be redeemed, they cannot love, and they certainly cannot love God.

    Though you certainly will find points to disagree with me further, you may find some interesting material in my series on the Kingdom of God over at my “Nailing it to the Door” blog (Kurt and I are blogging buddies already). The point I would stress here, and a key point in the contrast between winning citizens to God’s kingdom, vs. winning nations, is this: God’s kingdom has no colonized subjects, only naturalized citizens. By this I mean people can enter the Kingdom of God only by choice, by being “won,” never by being coerced or conquered or legislated. I think you know this already…but think of what it means in the context of taking, or “taking back,” a nation-state for God.

  • John Holmes



    We totally agree that the political structures, are corrupt and to align with them is very dangerous, many a papacy was bought with money not holiness, and this goes for the Patriarchs in the East as well. Protestant too, the rich guys in town got the Dr. of theology his pulpit, so this is always a real danger that we see in church history. Reading Eph, and Col., though gives me hope that in Christ we can overcome them to some degree, not perefection, but to use a Francis Shaeffer line, ” Substantial Victory..”

    I have been on a pilgrimage of sorts reading Luke-Acts for the last 2-3 years regularly every month. The more I forget my own experience, and what I have read in church history, and see what this roots apostolic book is saying, ” Church” is, I have been mulling this over and it sure opens up new possibilities..

    Also, been readying 1 and 2 Chronicles, and there are similar themes of changing hearts, kings, and nations… Not sure I have come to a total conclusion, but that is somewhat where I’m coming from.

    Second, you are correct, I will have to look at ethnos, and research that more, I could be wrong on my exegesis, but I may be right.

    Third, I see some amazing things going on in the world that do not make my views fairy tales, The church in the orient, has been doubling in size for the last 100 years, and that is increasing, by 2020 8% of the orient will be Christians, China, etc, will be openly Christian at some point. ” The book” ” The New Christendom”, showing Christianity growing so fast in Latin America, it may be the greatest social revolution in history…, Also, in Africa there is exponential growth.

    So, in our lifetime America may become, if it has not already, a minor player in World Christianity. What are going to be the governments, and philosophy’s that they carry forward?

    Do they want a secular state or something new and different, this may be 50 years out, but this is real history we are talking about, and real eschatology at work.

    So we are talking serious matters for Christian thinkers into the next 100 years. The old paradigms of the liberal or conservative protestant tradition that most of the bloggers are from, may not have an intellectual wineskins to deal with this new wine…

    In one village in China 45,000 people became Christians in a sovereign outpouring of the Spirit of God, in a matter of weeks, only one bible, and a young women was the leader, mainly because she had been a Christian longer than most, and had a bible. I heard a missionary who saw it, and was puzzled what to do, he tried to teach the bible and give it some structure This is heart, city, and cultural revolutions, how do we work through this? Can you send me a link to your blog.

    Shalom Bro

  • John, God is moving, and where God moves crazy things can happen. Your hope is a good thing and I don’t mean to quash or disrespect it. I certainly agree that it will be exciting to see what comes out of societies where God is sweeping through areas that did not previously recognize him.

    I guess when I look at history–our own and the wider world’s–I do not want to see any of these revivals lead to an attempt at theocracy, because I believe the history of theocracies worldwide since the beginning to be an unmitigated disaster. I don’t believe that “secular” needs to mean “anti-religious,” as I think is happening at times in the west, but I do think it needs to be “a-religious.” Humans attempting to mix the authority of God and the force of law always–always–always get it wrong. Say what you will about the power of the Spirit, the harsh reality is that the Spirit’s influence over governments is not in evidence in the historical record. This side of Jesus’ consummation of all things I expect no better.

  • You asked about my blog. “Nailing it to the door” is at http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com.

    Pax Christi vobiscum!

  • John Holmes


    Are you a premillenarian? I am a postmillenarian? I suspect many of our fundamental differences are in essence eschatological. Europe is about 1% born-again Christians, several hindered years ago, nobody would have predicted that in my view… What are the fruits of a secular state?

    So, the secular state has grave consequences for Christianity in history as well…. When I go to Latin America on missions and preaching trips, I see a vibrant, powerful church arising, neither in love with secularism or democracy, yet seething with life and potential. I fear they will become more like us, and the pot of stew will get some of our wild vines, like Elisha had to deal with, in 1 Kings.

    The statistics of the millennia’s coming up behind us in American culture show some figures as low as 4% are Christian’s among youth; historic lows, we are quickly heading for hatred of Christianity and turning to a paganism like Europe, to America. It seems the people on this blog see no problem with that, and I’m blowing a trumpet saying there is, maybe a minority view.

    You seem very concerned with a theocratic model, yet the secular model is destroying Christianity in the West, I’m looking for a better alternative, neither a new feudalism, nor an old Greek State…. I think Jesus Kingdom has far brighter prospects. Why can’t we build a greater overall system with the Spirit, the Spirit is greater than Adam’s fall or Adam is greater than Christ, Romans 5.?

    The mistakes of the past and the mistakes of the present, can lead us to possibly greater models of equity, justice, and love for all. The deists should not be able to outdo the Christian’s. Just a thought!

    The Wilberforce’s stand as a model of the Christian thinker and activist… I’m very wary and nervous that we drink the wine of secularism, as much as the wine of a mean form of theonomy/theocracy. I’m a porcupine in both camps.

    I will read some of your posts and get back to you… I have to go read for awhile, and get back soon, Like the parousia…LOL

    PS: A book recommendation. ” An Eschatology of Victory” by Matheson, it would argue in detail the exegetical issues, if you have any book my way I will read it and get back to you..

  • Actually, John, my perspective lands somewhere between an amillenialism and a “nobody has any clue and millenial discussions are a waste of energy.” Two obscure verses in a highly-apocalyptic/symbolic book do not a dogma make, IMO! ;{)

    No, my difference with you is not eschatalogical, it’s historical/sociological. Religion in the state leads to state-established churches which leads to oppression by the state/church complex of all those who dissent from either. It was true in Constantine’s Rome (for that matter, in pre-Constantinian, anti-Christian Rome too), it was true in the Reformation (both Catholic and Protestant states heartily persecuting each other), and it would be true in America if the fundamentalist Christians ever get their way with her.

    You see the secular state as the the cause of the (undisputed) hostility toward God in the West; I see that hostility as the inevitable sequellae of a prior period of religion having meddled where it ought not go–in the private and public affairs of its non-adherents. You see the secular model as “destroying Christianity in the West,” I see the secular obsession as a perfectly-understandable backlash against the intrusive “Christian” rulers of state and society.

    My background, by the way, is Anabaptist. My people were one of the few things Protestants and Catholics agreed on…both said we were heretics and tried to exterminate, or at least banish, us. That is the legacy of “holy government” I see, and prefer to avoid.

    • Amy Stone

      @ Dan: my perspective lands somewhere between an amillenialism and a “nobody has any clue and millenial discussions are a waste of energy.” Two obscure verses in a highly-apocalyptic/symbolic book do not a dogma make, IMO! ;{)

      Very well put (as is the rest of your post).

  • Oh, you asked for a book recommendation: “The Myth of a Christian Nation,” by Greg Boyd.

  • John Holmes

    Myth of a Christian Nation,” never to think we’re accomplishing God’s ends using the tools of the kingdoms of this world, which are the territory of the prince of this world–in short, not to think God’s work can be done using the devil’s tools.

    But the political structures–the boundaries, the bureaucracies, the laws, the alliances–these things are earthly, soulless, corrupt, and subject to the prince of this world. They cannot be redeemed, they cannot love, and they certainly cannot love God.

    Dan, it feels like you and Amy pulled up side the east side of Chicago and said turn the money over, I said no, and you guys unleashed a barrage of Tommy Guns, and I’m shooting back with just a pistol. LOL

    Dan, the above statements are thoroughly and without question eschatological, you can’t say no one has a clue and than the foundation of your argument be and eschatological position! You can’t do serious theology without dealing with eschatology; I think Greg Boyd would agree.

    Why, because by definition how you are defining the Kingdom, you are making me, bow to the definition you give the Kingdom. I think Greg quote above is a very dangerous assertion the devil basically owns public life so therefore you as a Christian stay back or you are a tool of the devil. That to me is devilish and very amazing assertion.

    Stalin killed 60 million in his wonderful secular state, Hitler 17 million in his secular state, Chairman Mao, 70 Million with his secular state, is this not the powers of the devil at work in the public square that we have to engage? You’re arguing for the beautiful secular utopia, and this is the facts from the last century, so how does Greg, and you deal with that, ignoring it is not an option!

    Would not it had been better in Russia to have a social revival and have godly, Christian, men and women, salt and lighting the Russia’s than Stalin exterminating them, I can not understand this argument, it seems to be highly selective in history, the same thing I was concerned with Amy doing.

    Why don’t you celebrate a Wilberforce for going were Greg says we should not go, the evil, devilish world, of Government, no Wilberforce went there because the devil was there and had to be exballo’d out! I see holes in the Swiss cheese….?

    Since American Christians have left the public square the last two generations in large part, do you think the country is a better and more salt and light world of the Kingdom? 50,000,000 million abortions, 600,000 prostitutes run our streets, we have 50,000 children disappear a year, we have bankrupt state governments, we have large masses of young men fatherless, in prison, all is not cherry under the tree… So you can rip mistakes, sins, and issues of a Christian past, but don’t you have to be fair and say the sword goes both ways?

    It seems to me this is a schizophrenia, ethic, of Christianity is good for the belly button of my soul, but is not good for the mass of humanity in the public square… To me if the gospel is good enough for me in my personal life it will better human beings, of all kinds in public life or the private life is a farce, we don’t really believe it works.

    “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who are at Rome, the hub of power and humanity, this comes out of his personal conviction that it is working for him, and so it can work anywhere.
    You seem to argue it can’t work beyond my private spirituality, not so…

    Your definitions eschatological, can not deal with a Greater than Solomon is here, and a Greater than Jonah is here MT 12, you or Amy has been strangely silent on all these metaphors, salt, light, disciples, greater than the temple, because these scriptures don’t fit with Greg’s system…

  • Amy Stone


    What? Tommy guns? I’m a pacificst, John. I assume that won’t endear me to you one bit 😉

    I’m not familiar with “Greg’s System”. I haven’t actually read any Greg Boyd (although I probably should, so I’d know what people are talking about when they refer to him), so I can’t speak to how Matt 12 fits in to his theology.

    As to eschatology. One can’t have a thoroughgoing biblical theology without dealing directly with eschatology. As far as I’m concerned, the whole Bible has an eschatological message. That’s the big deal. History has a goal. Thanks be to God!

    You didn’t ask about eschatology, per se, you asked about what particular millenialist perspective Dan holds to. That’s a question that assumes a specific eschatological system that not all orthodox Christians ascribe to. Without assuming the system, the question is absurd. You know this.

    As to why I have exegeted Mat 12 for you in the last two days. Well, I don’t like to do such things on the fly. I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on there, but I would want give careful attention and not just throw something together. As it is, I’ve been busy writing a 4000 word research paper about the theological and cultural influences on Paul’s understanding of marriage over against those of the first century church in Corinth, and have been disinclined to dedicate the time required to do a good job with the other.

  • John, I don’t know if Boyd would agree, but I think you misunderstand me on several counts:

    1) I maintain this world and its systems are corrupt, and that the power structures of this world are part of that corruption, not a tool in its redemption. I believe God is even now in the process of redeeming the world, having begun that process in Jesus’ death and resurrection. I believe one day that redemption will achieve its full measure with God and his people, but that human governance institutions have no part in that redemption. That is an eschatology of a sort, but not the sort that those who trumpet eschatologic theories would generally accept or even recognize. Would Boyd agree with me? I dunno. I recommend him for his perspective on world institutions vis-a-vis the church. But none of this requires the slightest interest in X-millenialism…nor does the “clue” most x-millenialists think they have, bear upon the subject in any enlightening manner.

    2) Secular governments are corrupt. Your examples are true–Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were all corrupt. So, for that matter, is the government of the USA, of Britain, of France. Not once have I contended otherwise. “Beautiful secular utopia?” No way in hell, or in heaven, or on earth?

    3) Governments that adopt the mantle of religious authority remain secular governments, whereof see (2) above. I challenge you to identify one compelling example to the contrary. You mention Wilberforce…a great Christian man I agree…and also a lone voice in the wind for the vast bulk of his career. Wilberforce did not accomplish the redemption of the British government of his day; rather, he accomplished one extremely vital thing through the levers of government. And while Wilberforce made an argument from the point of faith, it was answered with equal force by (purported) men of faith in staunch opposition. Wilberforce’s ultimately-successful arguments were humanist and economic, not godly, however much he was propelled by his own godly convictions.

    The historical record suggests that when the church engages government, it is the latter which influences the former far more than the other way around. It is not only the atheists you mention who have committed horrible evils. The popes who ordered the inquisition and the crusades come to mind. That bastion of conservative faith John Calvin turned a man over to authorities to be burned at the stake for heresy. The wars and persecution of Renaissance Europe were nearly all done by supposedly godly leaders. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was composed of puritans who fled England for their religious freedom, and then hanged Quakers, burned witches, and banished or killed Anabaptists in their territories.

    My take-home message is not that secular governments are good, but that theocracies are merely evil secular governments bearing a mantle of divine imprimatur. When the church attempts to take over government, it is government–the corrupted, ruled-by-the-prince-of-this-world government–which in fact takes over the church.

    So to your final point–America is not better for being overtly secular; rather, America when it presumed a veneer of religiosity was ALSO not better, but in fact demonstrated great evil then, too. Jesus’ way calls out the America of then and the America of now with equal force.

  • Just to be clear–we should be salt and light in our society. Given that we are in a society that allows us to vote, voting is part (or should be part) of the activity we do, informed by what Jesus teaches us. But we dare not confuse that–the witness to all INCLUDING THOSE IN POWER, and the call of all INCLUDING THOSE IN POWER to Jesus–with attempting to achieve power ourselves.

    Do I want our president and senators and representatives to come to Jesus? Absolutely. Do I want them to govern justly according to Jesus’ style of justice? Absolutely. But do I believe that in the final analysis, governing an earthly nation involves compromises that are inimical to the way of Jesus? Also, absolutely. And sadly, in this tug-of-war, history teaches us that the world wins. Only outside of power (Boyd called it Jesus’ “power under”) is this tragic pattern broken.

  • Amy Stone

    @Dan: America is not better for being overtly secular; rather, America when it presumed a veneer of religiosity was ALSO not better, but in fact demonstrated great evil then, too. Jesus’ way calls out the America of then and the America of now with equal force.

    Thank you for helping me recenter my thinking. I get so fired up over the Founding Fathers thing that I sometimes lose focus.

  • And a coda–the world won’t win, always or eventually. History teaches us the world wins, but the Bible teaches us God wins…just not using the world’s governance.

  • John Holmes

    “Do I want our president and senators and representatives to come to Jesus? Absolutely. Do I want them to govern justly according to Jesus’ style of justice? Absolutely. But do I believe that in the final analysis, governing an earthly nation involves compromises that are inimical to the way of Jesus? Also, absolutely.”

    Dan, after this mini essay, I agree with so much you are saying. I really like the distinction you make when a government is wrapped in religiosity it is really a secular state in disguise, very good distinction, and agreed.

    As for the Constantine fears, we share them too, I found a serious parallel in church history when, infant baptism replaces, Holy Spirit conversion, and a pagan/Christian merger takes place. The Bishops cloaks come from the Roman senate how much more of the metaphor does one need, Can you imagine Paul saying, give me one of those Roman Senate cloaks? Never. It is also to me a fact of history, that about the time this was happening, the Holy Spirit was exchanged for an institutionalism, which the church has rarely ever recovered from…

    In addition, the saddest days in history when the Anabaptist, were drowned, as an act of mockery, the same religious spirit that was in the Pharisees, got into the church, and killed. I believe the Anabaptist had put there finger on loss treasure of the church, and there was still too much Romanism in the arteries… Infant Baptism was the lynchpin to returning to the authentic Spirit converted faith of the New Testament, not the family religion of so much paganism. God is only father never Grandfather…

    We must keep our prophetic stance, left or right, or we also become just puppets of the think tank lawyers left or right…. Keep the prophetic mantle Dan…

  • We must keep our prophetic stance, left or right, or we also become just puppets of the think tank lawyers left or right…

    I had a hunch in your earlier comments that you weren’t the “typical right-winger,” John, and you just bore that hunch out. Know that I appreciate and relish the give-and-take, for if the prophetic call is going to mean anything at all, it must be kept sharp by iron from left and right. Mushy thinking does none of us good.

    Pax Christi vobiscum, brother!

  • John Holmes


    I never vote republican or democrat, so I really think to be in the Kingdom of Christ is too radical to fit in any party politics. When Whitefield came to this country on fire with Christ in the breast, he made a statement that got him into great trouble, The preachers of New England our unregenerate men in the pulpits, so that is the rub with just being conservative for conservative sakes. When he met Edwards he fears were calmed, though many did become Unitarian and Deist, and left the faith…

    I think when I listen to many conservatives, I hear a Deist, and to Amy’s point there which is well taken by me she was right, it was in the founding and its seeds are still among us.

    But when I listen to the left, especially the far left it seems they have pagan philosophy in the bones, so its a challenge to blow the trumpet in this whirl wind, Jesus in a very real sense had to tow the line with the Pharisees on one side and the Sadducees on the other, both had some truth mixed with much error, that is our challenge too.

    “May The Spirit be poured on all flesh?”

  • I really think to be in the Kingdom of Christ is too radical to fit in any party politics.

    Undeniably. The best we can do is join hands with them on specific things they get right, and call them out (and/or call the faithful out from them) on the rest…that, and making sure that Jesus is our standard for discerning the right and wrong things.

    You are right that some conservatives are Deists; but others, and here I see much of the “orthodox” Evangelical church, are a different breed–highly concerned with orthodoxy of belief, but completely blinded by idolatry where the nation is concerned. And you are absolutely right that the left tilts toward a pagan earth-and-pleasure-and-sex sort of bent.

    Neither one gets Jesus, though…the conservatives are so hung up on rules and punishment and material gain they miss Jesus’ love and compassion, while the liberals are so hung up on their freedom and sensuality they miss Jesus’ holiness and discipline.

    There are two imperfect and oversimplified reasons I find myself siding with liberals *somewhat* oftener than conservatives:

    1) I’ll take an honest atheist over a hypocritical Christian any day. Liberals at least admit their godlessness. I can work with that.

    2) In both O.T. and N.T. God had a lot more–and harsher–things to say about treatment of the poor than he did about sex. So while the liberals get sex wrong and conservatives get the poor wrong, (and recognizing God has clear standards about both), if I have to err, I’ll err on the side of supporting the poor and tolerating the sex rather than blasting the sex and ignoring or trampling the poor.

    But this MUST be taken in the context to which you and I have already agreed–that the prophetic word of the Messiah calls BOTH to repentance.

  • Amy Stone

    @John: You failed to exegete, Matt 28, all nations, light, salt, a greater than the temple is here, pupil all nations

    all nations
    In Matt 28.19, the phrase πάντα τὰ ἔθνη can very easily be translated “all the gentiles.” Jesus seems to be saying to the disciples, “I didn’t come for the sake of your national security, but to save all people, even the ones you thought Yahweh didn’t care about. Surprise!”

    greater than the temple
    In Matt 12.1-8, the Pharisees are complaining that the disciples were breaking the sabbath codes by gleaning grain on the sabbath. Jesus responds:

    Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.

    Jesus is claiming that he is greater than the temple. He is the Son of Man and the lord of the sabbath. It’s a messianic text (and an example of how Jesus cuts down the pharisees by revealing that they don’t understand their own scriptures).

    Jonah and Solomon
    In Matt 12.38-42, some scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign (Jesus had just healed a crowd-full of people, as a fulfillment of prophecy, and cast out a demon) that his power came from God and not from evil. And Jesus answers them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah…” and then Jesus prophecies about his own death and resurrection.

    He goes on to further condemn them, saying that even Ninevah recognized the truth of Jonah’s words, and the queen of Sheba recognized the wisdom of Solomon’s words. How foolish these “sign-seekers” (the religious) look in comparison to Ninevah and the queen of Sheba (heathen). What makes the Pharisees and scribes so much worse than even these heathens, is that something greater than Jonah and greater than Solomon is standing right in front of them, Jesus.

    This passage is, again, all about establishing the identity of Jesus. He is greater than the temple, greater than the prophets, and greater than the kings.

    That’s all the fun I have time for right now 🙂

  • John Holmes

    “This passage is, again, all about establishing the identity of Jesus. He is greater than the temple, greater than the prophets, and greater than the kings.”


    I agree with your basic exegesis, and conclusions. The point I was making the combined metaphors one after the other, greater than Jonah, Greater than the Temple, Greater than Solomon, light, salt, and City on a Hill all combined bring us into a world changing, history shaping, Kingdom manifestation, that is far reaching.

    panta ta ethne is what Dan said the hub of some of the exchanges, what does that really mean, and how does that effect our social impact of the Kingdom is it just individuals or is it more far reaching in terms of whole nations..?
    Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by panta ta ethne because of My name.
    Matthew 24:14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to panta ta ethne, and then the end will come.
    Matthew 25:32 “Panta ta ethne will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (This context seems to demand the meaning “Gentile individuals” not people groups, because it says that Jesus will `”separate the sheep form the goats.” This is a reference to individuals who are being judged as the “cursed” and the “righteous” enter hell or eternal life. (Cf, verses 41, 46.)
    Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of panta ta ethne, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    Pipers, exegesis:

    This to me is close to importing our modern individualism into this, Kings and there nations seems to be the highest metaphor in Matthew, not individuals. Does Matthew consider whole nations coming to Christ and into his Kingdom, in the messianic age, my view is yes.

    Dan and Piper are saying individuals in view only. Just today I was reading Psalm 2, The messianic King is juxtaposed with the Kings of the earth and there people, the Kings are told to bow on there faces in worship, to Yahweh’s King, this does not exegete well with Western Individualism, included them but there is something broader and more nation and history shaping.. At this point the argument and counter arguments, which is why is does get into eschatology too.

  • John, you seem to be painting only two possible scenarios for “panta ta ethne…” one being individuals, and the other being nation-states. I’ve tried, though apparently not successfully, to suggest a third option–“peoples.” A plural, non-Western-individualistic interpretation of “panta ta ethne” need not leave us with nation-states as redeemed or converted entities. It is entirely possible for you to be right that the reference is not individual, and for me to be right that it is not political kingdoms. “Peoples” or “gentiles” are translations that bridge the gap here…and I think do so with more justice to the biblical arc.

    It’s unfortunate, but far too often throughout history, people groups have been synonymized with the authority structures that rule them. Usually, when this happens, people get the short end of the stick…

  • Amy Stone

    Agreed. The individual vs. collective distinction is really important. Failing to recognize the collectivist orientation of ancient/classical cultures (and almost all non-western contemporary cultures) is a fundamental exegetical error, made all too frequently among evangelicals.

    But, failing to recognize the nature of those collectivist cultures as tribal groups, affiliating primarily through family ties, also presents problems. That is, the nation of Israel was/is always a nation, even when they have no land of their own, even when they have no kings, even when they are scattered, and that does not diminish their status as a people-nation.

    The Hmong are a good contemporary example of that. The Hmong are definitely a people-nation even though they have no political or geographical state.

    We can misunderstand the biblical orientation to “nations” the same way we can misunderstand the biblical orientation to individuals.

    At the same time, despite the collectivist orientation of the Jews, the NT breaks new ground in terms of individual choice. Jesus calls the disciples to make a personal decision to follow him, regardless of their families’ preferences (Luke 14.26). The old way of defining one’s life only through their family relationships is over. An individual response is required.

  • John Holmes

    Amy, I believe your conclusion is very important, I have been part of some high church settings and its almost to be part of the tribe means, I’m a Christian even if I have never had an Individual choice and surrender to the Spirit of God, John 3, and John 4, have a strong individual aspect to new covenant life.

    Dan, to your point, I never think the Kingdom lowers itself to a nationalistic thrust. Even the covenant people, not all who are of Rom 9:6 not all who are of Israel who are descended of Israel, this is a very important scripture on the matter.. Only by the Sprit, by Grace, by Christ, have I been arguing for. Anything less is man-made religion, this Edwards pounded on in his preaching and teaching, with much brilliance…

    My point is once the Spirit falls on a nation, a large majority comes into Christ’s Kingdom than what? How do we do theology and church in that setting, so we are crossing roads in the night, but more agreement than disagreement..

  • My point is once the Spirit falls on a nation, a large majority comes into Christ’s Kingdom than what?

    Intriguing question, John…but do you honestly believe such a thing has ever happened, or are you posing an exciting hypothetical? If the latter, then my answer would be “gee, that’d be cool, I bet God would really shake things up if that many people ever let him.” I would hope that they would have the sense, even then, not to put in place structures that would be coercive to that minority–however small–who were not similarly revived.

    On the other hand, some of your earlier comments re: the Great Awakenings in early U.S. history would suggest to me that you believe those periods represent just such an event. If so, I have to disagree in the strongest possible terms, because the nation at those times still committed atrocious injustices, some by the very folks who purported to have been “awakened.”

    Remember the original post that started this most-stimulating thread, was highlighting a highly nationalistic (and, I maintain, flagrantly idolatrous) portrayal of American exceptionalism under Christ.

  • Actually, John, while driving to work this morning I was thinking about your question: “…once the Spirit falls on a nation, a large majority comes into Christ’s Kingdom than what?” I admit it’s a compelling question, and though I still think it’s never happened and likely never will, let’s assume for the moment that it actually DID affect the governance of the nation such that the nation, itself, became Christ like. Here are some traits I think we’d see:

    1) This nation would have no defense budget or military at all, but it would have the most spectacular civilian foreign-aid budget you’ve ever seen. Its citizens would cover the world as peacemakers, mediators, and ministers to the suffering of the world. This might actually be a practical defense strategy, since nobody’s gonna tolerate an attack on their supreme benefactor; however, even if there were an attack, the nation, like the individuals in it, and like Jesus, would be prepared to die EVEN AS A WHOLE NATION rather than commit the evils of warfare.

    2) There would be no poverty in this nation–zilch, zero. Everyone who could work, would be working, and those with more resources would consider it their God-given duty to ensure that these people would have the opportunity to work, and in working, to earn a wage sufficient to support themselves/their families. This moral imperative would trump “market forces” as the dignity of the worker would be a higher aim. There would also be no freeloaders, as those who could work would have their own moral imperative TO work. There would still be differences in wealth/income (we’re not talking communism here), but those with much would see a clear moral imperative from Jesus to do justly toward those with less, and to give generously–even ultra-sacrificially–to those in need.

    3) Related to (2), there would be no life, casualty, theft, or liability insurance in this nation–in fact there would be no market for an insurance industry. People would recognize a moral duty to help their neighbor in need, whether the need was an accident, damage to property, or death. People would also see a moral duty to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions (and even to come alongside the person whose actions caused a damage greater than he alone can bear), hence no need for liability insurance. Health care would be seen as a resource to be used wisely, not profligately, but within that model health care would be seen as a basic right denied to no one, and would probably be provided as a public utility.

    4) But there would not be religious laws or religious tests of any sort. This would be a temptation since the kind of country I describe in 1-3 would attract a lot of people who either wanted to freeload or who thought they could take these generous folks for a ride. The uncomfortable thing about Jesus’ style of purity, is that it can never be preserved by walls, because the walls themselves are ipso facto impure.

    So while this nation would probably be a brilliant flash of light in a dark world, unless God decided to supernaturally protect it from the surrounding darkness, it’d probably crumble under the onslaught of that darkness in a generation or less–or else the people would (despite the influence of the Spirit) try to build legal or physical walls to preserve what they had, and in so doing destroy it. Guess I’m not post-millenial, huh? ;{)

  • @Dan

    I think that I agree with you here Dan. Especially on the first point, that we would have basically zero defense and a large aid budget. This has never and will never happen until Christ returns and establishes his eternal reign in the “new heavens and new earth.”

    As for Postmill questions which @John seems to have raised earlier in this dialogue… I have never understood which category I fit into. I think that the question of the millennium in general assumes a futurist reading of Revelation. Of course some of this is future… very obviously chapters 21-22, but this whole millennium question has become too much of the defining issue in theological conversations when it is has a very small place in the biblical story. At this point… If i had to be pinned down, I guess I am most comfortable with amillenialism… in the sense that i see the number 1,000 as a euphemism for a “very very long time”, and as a reality that was kick-started via Christ’s resurrection. What I am confident about is my stance on embracing “inaugurated eschatology.” Christ is reigning, new creation is here; Christ will return to reign, new creation will be fully here. Postmill’s assume that we will establish these realities by our own mission… I say that our missional actions in the world are signposts towards what will be fully realized by God’s final act of grace, the renewal of the cosmos. As we are drawn towards God’s future, we can’t help but reflect his good intentions for his world in the present. This is how the kingdom of God is manifested in the present (amongst other ways), and this is how we joining in dynamic partnership with the One who is “gathering up all things in Christ… things in heaven and things on earth…”

  • John Holmes


    I got a real chuckle out of your last paragraph, and conclusion. I think if America is the primarily model of history, than the closest thing that has happened would be The Great Awakening, the Cane Ridge Revival in the South was also very impressive, and not paid attention to by many. Once Atlantic City had a revival that caused, the whole city to be converted, save a few, so this has happened on large scales in our history, the pagan forces always came roaring back.

    In some parts of the world not only is this possible, it is happening now,
    “The Next Christendom” This man is not necessary friendly to Spirit-Filled forms of Christianity, but he has well documented the power of the indigenous Christianity…

    “For whatever reason, Southern churches remain almost invisible to Northern observers. When in 2000, the popular Magazine Christian History listed the “hundred most important events in Church history, “the only mention of Africa, Asia, or Latin America involved the British abolition of the slave trade. Missing from the top of the hundred was church growth in modern Africa, where the number of Christians increased, staggeringly, from 10,000,000 million in 1990 to 360,000,000 million by 2000! There was scarcely a word about Latin America… This imbalance was just as evident in the Western academic world…. page, 6,8,

    If we extrapolate, these figures to the year 2025, and assume no great gains or losses through conversion, the there would be 2.6 Billion Christians, of which 633 million in Africa, 640, million in Latin America, and 460,000 million in Asia … page 6

    As Harvey Cox, showed in “Fire from Heaven” Pentecostal expansion in the Southern Hemisphere has been so astonishing as as to justify the claim of a new reformation…. page 7

    So Dan, this is not just an optimistic postmillennial wild eyed guess, there are major scholars and thinkers who are not necessarily that friendly to the faith, that are even recognizing this… I have no reason to doubt that before the second coming of Christ we will see the nations substantially converted to Christ, America hopefully will be in on the fun and not rebellious to the cause… So you and Amy get ready to deal with it LOL!


  • Maybe, John, maybe. But don’t forget that Rwanda was 90% Christian when the genocide happened. Reports of mass conversions carry a little less weight for me in the light of such events.

    Have you ever been to Africa? I have–I lived and worked there for two years, and I have worked with a variety of projects off and on since. While there are incredibly dynamic churches there, and real movements of God’s spirit, it’s just as checkered as it is here in the West. Believe me, no matter how much good God is doing there, Africa is no more on the verge of a shining sweep of faith than we are. The powers of darkness are still very much at work as well.

    I wonder how much time those “major scholars and thinkers” have spent on the ground in the places about which they have such glowing hopes…

    Please don’t misunderstand me–when people turn to Christ it’s a great thing and I rejoice too. But I don’t expect to see any seismic shifts in society (ours or anybody else’s) as a result. Of course, I’d be elated to be proven wrong…

  • And as for the mass conversions in our own history to which you allude, “by their fruits you shall know them.” How did those societies change, for how long, and what was their legacy? ‘Nuff said…

  • John Holmes

    “Believe me, no matter how much good God is doing there, Africa is no more on the verge of a shining sweep of faith than we are. The powers of darkness are still very much at work as well. ”

    That you are wrong! These statistics are not coming from somebody like me who has Charismatic/Pentecostal, / Evangelical commitments, these are statistics from professor who spent his whole life studying these issues, these are his observatiosn from a wide camera lense, Philip Jenkins work is highly regarded…

    Again, Dan I think you have to recognize when your argument gets penned against the wall, you come out with it can be true because of my eschatological commitments…. That is why I asked you what commitments were they?

    I have spent 8 trips to Latin America, and yes there still a fallen place but at the same time I was in meetings were 100’s came to Christ in one meeting, this hardly ever happens in America, this is not a work of man but a work of the Spirit… Is 60:1 Arise shine for your light has come and the Glory of the Lord has shone upon you…” The Glory cloud that did the magnificent acts of redemption in Exodus, is one day coming back to do this, that day has come in the Pentecost outpourings, Acts 2.

    Second, I many times here the prejudice of American or Western Christianity bleeding through, if we are not experiencing it, it can’t be that big of deal, but I have seen different.

    In one revival in Argentina 300,000 people got saved in one summer, I have not seen anything like that in the West… So we have to be careful, thinking we are smarter, we have better seminary’s, we are better theologically, that can’t be…

    This is a sovereign thing, but also hungry souls, bring God’s Kingdom down, were if you’re fat, rich, smart, and have the answers sometimes it repels God, “God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud”. Many of the people I met were so hungry for God it made me embarrassed to even preach to them, I felt like I was the junior and the were the senior…

    I met one man who fasted 61 days for his new wife to get a visa which was impossibility in Ecuador, he went into the office 61st day, and they filled out the form and the miracle was handed over, that kind of passion you find in Elijah on the mountain but not very often in a western context…

    Third, they do not have Western rationalism to stomp out that serpent, so they move into the world of the bible with much more ease than we do, we tend to ask Hume and Voltaire is this ok, did we exegete it well to make you happy, they just believe it, like the book of Mark from one miracle to the next, the Kingdom is a present reality….

    Is there all victory, less you accuse me of triumphalism, yes there is much sufferings. There are set backs, but with every set back there is a new advance, I do not believe Satan is alive and well on planet earth, I believe Jesus Christ is and he is advancing his Kingdom in amazing ways, in China, in Latin America, in Africa, Christianity never was the white man’s faith and it will not be at all by 2050, the worlds great centers of Christianity will be in Africa, Latin America and in the Orient!

    When I fly back to this country are we going to be a major player to the Kingdom in the next generation? That I’m not sure of… If America goes the way of Europe, World Christianity is moving so swiftly that it won’t even big a hick up… I no longer judge history by what is going on in USA. only what is going on in the hot fires of revival in the world.

    Lastly, Edwards believed that history was going in wider and wider circles of redemption, what Philip Jenkins, and Harvey Cox, and others have taken notice of is this is happening, that is a phenomena of history…

    I think you should take a hard look at eschatology and how it effects your theological conclusions. “The night is far spent and the day is at hand”
    Very powerful realized eschatology, therefore….

    I think it is beyond argument, that Christianity in Latin America, Africa, and the Orient is moving at rates even a 100 years ago no systematic theologian put in his calculus, exceptions Edwards, and a few others, but I think these movements are going to make us adjust, I heard even Piper acknowledge the surprise of this for his own premillinial prejudices.. At a conference on eschatology..

    Really enjoyed the challenging exchanges…

  • John, I’m not arguing statistics and theory here. I’m comparing a place where I read statistics and then I lived. It’s not a white-vs-brown/black argument, and it’s not a developed-vs-developing world argument. It is rather an observation that, just like here in America, people attesting to conversions IN MASS NUMBERS impress me less when I see the unchanged societies. I notice you didn’t address the genocide of nearly a million people in a 90% Christian nation in our very recent memory.

    I can’t attest to everywhere in the world. Nor do I claim to. All I can say is that I’ve seen people talk about thousands coming to faith, and then I’ve seen the places looking just as confused and depraved as before. I know Christ changes lives…I’ve known lives that were changed drastically for the better, so I’m not dissing the notion of conversion and/or the work of the spirit at all. I am, however, highly suspicious of glowing statistics, if for no other reason than because they usually represent criteria such as “decisions for Christ” that may have more to do with crowd sociology than true heart effect.

    May God grant that I’m wrong, but I’ll still stick to Jesus’ criterion in the meantime: by their fruit, not their numbers, will we know them.

  • Amy Stone


    As I read your posts, I’m impressed with your passion. Clearly you care deeply about the Church and the world. You also seem concerned that certain eschatologies have deleterious practical implications for the Church and the world.

    Maybe I’m dense, but I’m having trouble getting to the core of your concern. I’d like to understand what your saying about how your own eschatology informs practical matters of mission and evangelism.

    It sounds like you are worried that some of us in the church are too mistaken in our own eschatologies to participate fully in the work of the kingdom. Am I hearing you correctly?

  • I shouldn’t post so fast…thinking a little further, I reacted instead of presenting. Let’s try a different tack.

    I believe that the Kingdom of God is advancing, but like a mustard seed, not a mighty wind. Doesn’t mean that God may not, again, use a mighty wind, but my own experience has led me to question the authenticity of large-number claims, particularly when the numbers seem to grow in proportion to the distance and unverifiability vis-a-vis the hearers.

    The “inaugurated eschatology” Kurt mentioned a few comments back, and which N.T. Wright discusses in “After You Believe,” is an eschatology of Jesus’ followers learning to do the hard work of living the New Kingdom life now. It’s being discovered in many small pockets. Might it become a larger wave? I’d love to say yes, but my life experience so far doesn’t lead me into that sort of hope. I would say that both the Biblical and historical evidence points more to little movements–remnants, we might say–than it does to Acts 2-style mass events.

  • John Holmes


    Fair enough; the post, I have my 3 year old talking to me in one ear. And trying to answer your argument in the other…so not as good as maybe more thought would give.

    But, one thing I find ironic is that nationalism can come in many forms not just government, but our theology can have nationalism in it, or our church life…

    I heard one man who was educated in a Western seminary, and his big thing was all these uneducated, Latino preachers needed to get a Western education like he did…

    To me that was laughable, there is a church in Brazil of 1,000,000 people, should we go teach him the laws of hermeneutics, to make him more effective…? That is nationalism sneaking up its ugly haughty head… And not a little pride too… I’m for education but let’s not say it’s the Holy Grail… Is that theological nationalism?

    I had a pastor who I know personally when in Africa, asked how many people, were members of this church in Nigeria; they said about 1 million… This is too many things just to be silly statistics flipped a certain way… Huge Crowds were there, he watched from a tree..

    I think what you are saying is that revival has to move to reformation of society, and you must see its fruits, but nevertheless, we are seeing mass conversion, and grass roots conversions in China, Latin America that is hard to ignore or minimize, even with the skeptical bent of a western education we are seeing something amazing.

    I just listened to a lecture on missions in the Orient in which I am less well versed than Latin America. The first 19 centuries, Christianity went form 0-1%, since 1900-1975, 1% -2%, since 1990-2000, 2% 4%, and you may say big deal, but wait, this is the mass of the worlds largest populations, several billion people live in this region. Now it is estimated by 2020 8%, its like a damn has broke, this is historic, this was not Jenkins or Cox, but another scholar at Gordon Conwell, so this is too many people talking of this to dismiss with a sweep of ouuh that just speculation, no, it is far from that…

    Case in Point, a man who is part of some churches that I affiliate with, started a church in the Philippians, 1980’s, just a few college kids. Now it is 40,000 in Manila some say closer to 50,000, something of a Kingdom activity is going on here…. I see it as the outpouring of the Sprit of God in the earth, and want to get more involved all the time. India too this is happening in huge ways..

    Let’s not let Western Christianity and its theological prejudices say there is no way you can have grapes that big or figs that big from the valley of Eschol??? We can either say we can by all means go in and possess the land or we can say the giants are too big, the powers are too strong…

    1 John 3:8 The Son of God appeared for this purpose that he might destroy the works of the devil….
    1 John 4:4 Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world..

    1 John 5:5 and who is the one who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God

    1 John 2:8 the darkness is passing away and THE TRUE LIGHT IS ALREADY SHINING

    These are all eschatological statements that Satan is doomed, by the first coming, that he was the god of this age, but another age is forcing the victory of Christ against him and destroying his hold on humanity and history, and saying let them go in Jesus name..

    I have seen much exorcism in Latin America, miracles, and true prophetic words given to me on several occasions by people who did not know Me, as well as amazing conversions and vital vibrant lion like churhces.

    They live like the book of Acts started yesterday… I just hope we don’t get caught in a Western mindset that says this is what the Dr. of theology say are the parameters and only these are valid… I’m saying who says? As a preacher I like says, who says all the bad stuff in the book is for now and all the good stuff is for a different age, called a millennial age. Who gave that man a right who came up with that way of looking at things to tell us that?

    Just a thought, not a sermon bro…


  • who says all the bad stuff in the book is for now and all the good stuff is for a different age, called a millennial age

    Ha, I like that! ;{)

    I’m glad you’ve seen the clear working of the spirit, John. May we all see it more. I agree with you that Satan is defeated (this happened with Jesus’ resurrection). He’s not gotten the memo yet, it seems, but that does not change the inevitability of the fact. And that’s as good a note to close on, as I can possibly think. Christ is lord and victor…whatever the details, we both know, believe, and affirm that!

    Shalom back at ya!

  • John Holmes

    Amen brother…. Christus Victor..

  • Is that the Tree of Gondor on Jesus?