When the Rabshakeh compared YHWH to the other idols in the land, it was his undoing, this blasphemy was deadly for both the Rabshakeh and his King. But it was also deadly for Judah.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
With all due respect to Albert Mohler, his theological legacy and his scriptural insights, there is a word for the king of Policy first approach he has decided to take towards this election, the “policy first” approach that many Christians have decided to take. When you study Cults and abusive groups one of the control tactics you will inevitably study is known as “Doctrine over person.” In this form of control the doctrine takes the place of the human being who is an adherent of the cult. It is, in a way, dispensing of existence, the human being made in God’s image ceases to be, instead the doctrine must be all and all. This is the same approach to the kind of “Policy First” thinking that Mohler has been advocating for on Twitter and in his endorsement of the president of the United States. “Policy First” is the political version of “Doctrine over Person” in Political Cults such as Q or Nazism or other Totalitarian Regimes it is called “Policy over Persons” and again, the person is dispensed with in favor of the policy. For instance, Stalin’s Policy, the “Five Year Plan” was a person dispensing policy, if lives were lost because of the policy, that was inconsequential, the policy had to be carried out. Stalin himself said: “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.” This exists in more subtle forms all over Christendom, one of the best examples is how Complementarianism has been used as a weapon against women in ministry. The doctrine is more important than the people. My sister in Christ Elizabeth Ross has written extensively about another way “Doctrine over person” has manifested itself in fundamentalist purity culture.
When a Doctrine or policy is placed over a person and dispenses with that person’s autonomy and uniqueness in favor of the policy or doctrine, it has become an idol. Doctrines have one purpose in Christian Faith, to teach us about God and draw us into worshiping him. They provide guardrails for us to follow, to keep us from jumping off the cliffs into insanity. Political policies are supposed to do the same thing, provide guardrails to keep us from going off the same cliffs. A Conservative fiscal policy is meant to keep us from the cliff of massive deficit spending, a pro-life policy is supposed to keep us from the worst, most base depravity in our approach to life. It should keep us from actively supporting everything from Abortion to forced Sterilization to eugenics. Pro-Life policy is good, but when Pro-Life Policy takes the place of the actual care for others, when you are so worried about pro-life policy you are willing to tear down your neighbors, the policy may have itself become an idol. The same is true, in Mohler’s case, with Religious Freedom, selling ones soul to one who has committed what John Piper and the bible, rightly call “Deadly sins” just to maintain religious liberty may indicate that a policy has become an idol. Again, Religious Freedom is a good thing, and as Philip Schaff noted in 1855, it really is a “miracle of the west.” But what is a blessing that we take for granted, is something our Chinese brothers and sisters, or North Korean brothers and sisters, long for.
We tend to think of idols as physical objects, something: “Made from human hands” to use Isaiah’s words, but they can also be made from human minds. This is one of the things I think Fundamentalism has somewhat correct (though the application is wanting), that we create idols of things and ideas and when we love something more than God, we have created an idol. Religious Freedom is deaf and dumb, it can serve as a guardrail for a government to not hinder or establish a religious group (hence the establishment clause of the Constitution) but if “Religious Freedom” takes precedence over loving God, loving people and making Disciples, it has actually become a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel.
As I have been praying through everything this election, there is one theme that the Holy Spirit keeps bringing to my attention in Scripture. That, when the Blessings of God are taken for granted, or when God’s people turn after idols, it really does not end well for God’s people. For one thing, one of the consistent messages of the prophets is that Idolatry is Blasphemy, it is to take the God of the universe off his universal throne and place him among the false gods, the bail’s the Ashtaroth’s. This was part of Judah’s Blasphemy, the other part was their refusal to Trust in God in turning to Assyria for help against Ephraim and Syria. It was why God sent Assyria to their doorstep in the first place (see 2nd Kings 18, 2nd Chronicles 32, Isaiah 7, 36-39). He calls “The bee of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:19) to settle in the crevices of Judah. Judah is going to pay the price for her blasphemy, but something happens. The Rabshakeh, who represents and speaks for Sennacherib, King of Assyria, Blasphemes God himself by comparing him to the other gods he has already overthrown and even calling him weak because he only has one alter, the temple in Jerusalem. In the Hezekiah Narrative, at this time, God does not deliver Judah because of Hezekiah’s humility, that comes later, no, in 37:6-7 the reason God gives for delivering Judah is the Rabshakeh’s words of Blasphemy, his “reviling” his, reducing God to a tool to inspire fear in the hearts of the people.
In the New Testament, Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is considered an “unforgiveable sin” (Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, Luke 12:10). The point being, that if you deny the Spirit of Truth, if you deny Christ, you will not be forgiven. Idolatry can only be explained as a denial of the truth of Christ, it is a failure to trust in Christ, it makes him insufficient for the tasks facing the church in this day. When we think that maintaining religious liberty will do more for the Gospel than Christ, an approach we seem to be leaning towards, and are willing to abandon moral order and the Justice of God to maintain it, we are saying that Christ is insufficient to maintain the Gospel and the Church. When politicians say things like: “if so and so is elected, there will be no more God, no more Church” they are reducing YHWH to a tool, something to be used, just like that Rabshakeh. The true believer will not Blaspheme God, because the true believers has their absolute trust in Christ, but when the concerns of the state have replaced the concerns of the Kingdom of Heaven, Christians have erected an idol and have denied Christ. The result for both idolatrous and idol is the same, if the idolatrous are unrepentant they should not expect anything other than wrath. God is gracious and loving, but if Christians love darkness more than light, then we should not expect the blessings of light. Further, if we turn the blessings of light into gods themselves and deny the true God who gave those blessings to us, we should expect that we be chastised for that and that part of that chastisement would possibly be losing some of those blessing which we have mishandled, squandered and even made idols. If “God chastises those he loves” (Hebrews 12:6) shouldn’t we expect that as part of God’s graciousness towards his people that he chastise us for our sins as part of the sanctification we resist? If we fail to repent of idolatry, should not we expect to be met with punishment, especially since idolatry is a denial of Christ and therefore a blasphemy.
I know what the critics are saying: “God is a God of love, not wrath.” And to them I would say, you are correct, but it would be unloving of God to let his children do whatever they want. I love my child, but I do not let her do things that may cause her harm like stick her finger in light sockets or run into the street. When she does those things, there is a reminder not to, if she persists, there is a firmer reminder, if she persists again, she is placed in her crib with another, firmer, reminder. If God’s people think that we can do and say whatever we want without consequences, we are denying the truth and authority of scripture, and the Holy Spirit which leads us into all truth. Even in the New Testament there is punishment and chastisement for not obeying God’s words. Rejection of Jesus, the final sign, is the ultimate violation of God’s word. When we pursue policies or doctrines over and above the Words of God, that is in an unloving or compassionless manner, we are saying that this thing, this man-made thing, though informed by the bible, is more important than the words of God themselves. Religious Freedom isn’t the Gospel, the Gospel informed its formation in the West, but it is not the Gospel.
And before you use the “What about Abortion though” please remember this is being written by a legally blind man who has been told by his peers he should have been aborted or kill himself because he will never amount to anything. I agree that abortion is a moral evil, but if my treatment of the person who has had an abortion, of if I support a policy over and against the person, then I am not loving my neighbor. A more loving thing to do would be to advocate for other options so that the person who feels they have no other choice but to get an abortion feels like they have other options. Further, if I keep the girl from getting an abortion, but do irreparable harm to her mental health by the rhetoric I employ then I have done more harm than good. Yes, the baby lives, but the mother is weakened. How many people have been turned away from ever receiving the Gospel because of the rhetoric used by the Anti-Abortion camp? Too many. Further, how many people have heard Christians cursing their political “rivals” for a perceived threat to religious freedom and have been permanently turned off from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Again, the answer is too many.
My fundamental disagreement with Mohler then is this: There is no situation, none, whatsoever, where policies or doctrines supersede people outside the essential doctrines of Christianity, of which Religious Freedom is not included. When we go beyond that, voting for people who are the exact opposite of what we have claimed our leaders should be, it may be a sign that these things have become idols and when we fall into idolatry we should expect to face some kind of response from God in the negative. Usually that comes in the form of the destruction of our idols and the removing of the blessings of God until we have humbled ourselves in repentance. God, of course, is faithful to forgive when we do this, but if we do not, we are storing up wrath for ourselves, not glory.
May God save us from our sins, and may we reject the idols of this world for the cross and kingdom of Jesus, a cross and kingdom that never fades and never ends and which no man can ever overcome.