Question [composite of several]: You offer Mark Dinsmore's confusing articles (TBC Extra, 4/09;7/09) with no clarification of his connection to your ministry....I was disturbed and confused as to what your purpose is for advancing his particular ideas on "Christian patriotism." What if our forefathers had taken this pacifist attitude when we arrived in the New World? If the Founders had not rebelled against England, then the U.S. would never have been established!
Response: We try not to use up precious space with biographical details, but since a number of readers have inquired:
For nearly six years Mark has served as Creative Director and Print Production Manager and in other capacities (including research and editorial) at The Berean Call. Mark has a B.S. from San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College) in El Cajon, California, and since 1988 has served several Christian ministries and publishers in writing, design, and pioneering of resources for the Creation Science and Homeschool movements. Mark has a lifelong passion for apologetics research and writing, citing a favorite Scripture: "That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works" (Ps:26:7). Mark and his wife are both active in their local church body and enjoy growing in knowledge and grace and teaching God's Word together. They have three teenage sons.
Mark's articles have struck an emotional chord with many readers, some responding very negatively, but his position was clearly and biblically articulated. Long-time readers and supporters of The Berean Call should not be surprised at the critical distinction between historical, biblical Christianity and its Americanized form. Although many do not recognize it, "popular" Christianity is often rooted in nationalism and influenced by "kingdom-now" and "dominion" theology. The reaction of some readers reveals the need for increased discernment in this area.
From time to time, TBC has directly addressed matters and movements related to Christian activism and "civil disobedience" (11/89;1/97;9/99;11/99;4/00;7/06), particularly when it has proved to be a diversion from the propagation of the gospel. Consequently, our "purpose" for printing Mark's Extras is not to promote his ideas but to sound a warning to those being swept up in an emotional and fearful reaction to the actions of our leaders and the headlines of these perilous times rather than a reasoned and biblical response to increasing persecution--of which Scripture repeatedly warns will come (Jas 1:1-2; 1 Pt 1:7; 4:12-16).
A few readers have jumped to conclusions not drawn or even suggested in the two Extras. Although we fully acknowledge, as did the deist Benjamin Franklin, that "God governs in the affairs of men," it does not mean that all actions of men, whether godly believers or pantheistic pagans, are sanctioned by God. Clearly, even what evil men have designed, God can use for good (Gn 50:20; Rom:8:28), but this does not make God the author of evil. Similarly, armed rebellion by believers against a tyrannical ruler is clearly not sanctioned in Scripture nor supported by any biblical principle--yet such resistance has been "used" by God "for good."
"What if" our forefathers had never rebelled against England? Is God's hand shortened? Is not the Sovereign Creator capable of raising up rocks themselves to proclaim His gospel, if necessary (Lk 19:40)? Surely, if there had never been an "American Revolution," He would still have been able to raise up individuals or nations to fulfill His commission. As Mark clarified, the cry, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God," is no more a biblical statement than the imagined proverb, "God helps those who help themselves." Both of these popular aphorisms are the wisdom of man and are demonstrably contrary to Scripture.
Although it is true that many of the original Pilgrims left England in search of religious freedom, these Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were as far removed from the Declaration of Independence as we are today--by the space of 200 years! In other words, the values, convictions, and causes of those on the Mayflower were in many ways quite different--even at odds with-the values, convictions, and causes of those initiating and fighting in the War for Independence.
Today, more than 500 years after Columbus "sailed the ocean blue," we understandably confuse the pursuit of "religious liberty" with patriotism because we are so far removed. In reality, the Puritans were largely pacifists--not "red-blooded patriots." Furthermore, at the time of the Revolution, only a small minority of colonists were in favor of war with England. Is war over taxes a biblical cause? Christ said, "Render...unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Mt 22:21).
Whether the cause be taxes, gun control, or freedom of speech or religion, there is simply no biblical passage nor any precedent for the church that Christ established to support such a violent uprising. There are many cases in which God used the sinful actions of men "for good," including His own children who acted in rebellion against His authority: Moses (although he struck the rock a second time instead of speaking to it, God still brought forth water) and Jonah (whose rebellion served to give us the only sign that Christ used in reference to those seeking such-Mt 16:4), for example. But again, God's sovereignty and foreknowledge do not justify violent acts of rebellion, even for dearly held spiritual convictions.
The point of these two Extras was not to advocate pacifism nor disarmament but to specifically address the question, "should Christians jointly resist a tyrannical government with force--and if so, on what biblical grounds?" Compelling biblical arguments can be made for protection of the innocent, including the use of arms as a deterrent or defensive response. The primary point, however--that followers of Christ, as a unified body of believers, clearly have no biblical command or precedent for armed conflict or aggression against their own government--is unwaveringly clear.
As Dave Hunt noted in his article "Christian Activism" (11/89): "Increasing numbers of Christians are engaging in social and political activism for the astonishing purpose of attempting to coerce an ungodly society into adopting Christian standards of conduct....There are numerous cases of civil disobedience in Scripture, but it was never engaged in for the purpose of forcing an ungodly society to obey biblical principles. Christ 'suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.' He sternly and repeatedly rebuked Israel's false religious leaders, yet He never spoke out--not even once--against the injustices of Roman civil authority! Nor did He advocate, organize, or engage in any public protests to pressure Rome into changing its corrupt system, or the society of His day its evil ways. He submitted to unjust authorities, as Romans 13 tells us we should do today [see also 1 Pt 2:21-25]....
"Yes, Paul told the centurion, who was about to have him unlawfully scourged, that he was a Roman citizen; and he told the local officials at Philippi to come and apologize for beating him and Silas without trial. That was not, however, political/social activism. He was not attempting...to change society. He was simply standing up for his personal rights under the law (as we also should do), and that includes voting. Paul was determined to obey God rather than men and never held back from preaching the gospel, though it meant his life. If Christian activism [were] God's will, Paul would have been the first to pursue it fearlessly at whatever cost."
Dave further addressed this matter in his article "Political/Social Activism?" (1/97):
"In attempting to justify ['Christian uprising'] from Scripture, one of [the church's] major errors is in confusing Israel and the church. Gideon, Jeremiah, David, et al., were not [born again believers]. Nor were their actions in smashing idols, in ridding Israel of homosexuals, and stopping the practice of offering children to Molech--or the setting up of righteous judges by Moses--either political or social 'activism.' These were the deeds of Israel's leaders, ruling God's "chosen people," of whom He said, 'And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy,' (Lv 20:26). Israel is unique (Ps:147:20)....The promises of the Messiah's rule...pertain to a redeemed Israel back in her land....Far from telling the church to take over the world, Christ said that His kingdom was not of this world, that His servants did not fight. He promised us, 'If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me....ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world....If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying [which the world did not], they will keep yours also [obviously we won't be influential in the world]'(Jn:15:18-21).
"Paul warned the Ephesian elders with tears night and day for three years (Acts:20:28-31)! Did he warn about the abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and other evils rampant in society at that time and call for political/social action to oppose it? No. He warned about the coming apostasy and told them to 'feed the flock of God.'
"More than 40 years of civil protest and persistent Christian activism (Focus on the Family, Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, etc.) have not stopped abortion. Instead of the hoped-for moral awakening, morals have declined. Crime, drug addiction, pornography, divorce, etc., increase. Scarcely 10 percent of Americans believe in all of the Ten Commandments, a third of all married Americans have had an affair, and a fifth of the children have lost their virginity by age 13. Would all of the effort that has gone into political and social action have done more good if instead it had been expended upon reaching the lost with the gospel as Christ commanded us?
[These statistics are not improving, but worsening--if believers cannot even reform the church by "earnestly contending for the faith" then how can it possibly "restore America"?]
"My sympathy is with [all who labor for social justice]....The question remains, however, What are we to do? We must follow Scripture....The Great Commission is not to go into all the world to reform its morals...but to 'preach the gospel' and convert sinners. In the end, the conversion of sinners will have a far greater impact on society than all of the lobbying, protest marches, and passionate appeals to morality that consume the time and energy of concerned Christians."
Truly, Christians in America are blessed to be "free" (for the time being) to exercise certain "rights" to speak, write, assemble, vote, and run for political office, according to one's conscience and God's Word. The Bible is explicit that true worldwide peace will come only when the feet of the Prince of Peace touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zec:14:4). Since war begins in the human heart, until humanity can realize the vain hope of changing the same through forcible means, there will be no final peace.