Sunday, June 22, 2008

Speaking Prophetically to the Church

As much as I hate to disagree with my brother Lane Keister, I just can't help myself on this one.

In his recent post entitled How to Avoid a Recession, Lane argues that the way the government must respond to our current economic downturn is by cutting spending and cutting taxes. Now, when libertarian-type arguments begin to take this form, what is almost always meant by "cutting spending" is "cutting spending on programs that the poor benefit from." Characteristically Lane, like many Reformed limited-government advocates, lists such programs as public schooling, Social Security, and welfare as among those areas in which Big Brother has no business sticking his nose.

Maybe Lane's right (but I, for one, don't think this question is solved by an appeal to Romans 13). Still, if he were consistent he would have to include the military-industrial complex as an example of massive government spending of U.S. taxpayer dollars (around $626,000,000,000 in 2007).

But that aside, what irked me about Lane's post and subsequent comments was the idea that the church is to "speak prophetically" to the culture about its sin:

"It is very disappointing to me to see that the church is not seeking to be prophetic in its critique of the government. Should the church ignore sin when the church sees sin? I think not."
Now, what I almost never hear in these kinds of calls to speak prophetically to the state is any defense of what exactly the church, speaking as such, has the authority to tell the government to do or stop doing.

If we're to tell the state to stop overspending, does that include the hundreds of billions spent on the war? If we're to tell the state to enforce the Decalogue's moral demands, does that include covetousness and greed? If we're to tell the state to be tough on crime, does that include the kinds of crime wealthy white people commit?

Rather than speaking prophetically to the culture on earthly matters as a minister of the Word (a task I hardly feel competent to do), I would rather just do what my presbytery actually ordained me to do: to speak prophetically to my church, giving them the law, the gospel, the bread, and the wine.

You know what they say about the Jack of All Trades....