I received a heart-rending letter recently. A man wrote, “I cannot adequately describe the shock, horror, dismay, anger, grief…which flooded into my soul [upon witnessing an abortion in the film Assignment Life. I could scarcely begin to comprehend the moral magnitude and awful implications of legal mass elective infanticide, or how such a thing could …happen without a huge groundswell of opposition….Abortion stood as the single greatest mockery of the gospel in modern history….I felt that to turn away from doing something about this most heinous evil was to abandon the least of these His brethren and thus to abandon Him….
“But to my dismay…I have been callously told that babies who die in abortion all go to heaven anyway, so what’s the fuss? Concentrate on evangelism! I have heard lame arguments stating that the church is not to reform the world, government, or society, but rather to preach the gospel..!
“More than thirty years of civil protest, political activism, private litigation, public demonstration, and civil disobedience have failed to stem the flow of innocent blood. Finally…the actions of one Paul Hill…served to graphically reemphasize what this conflict is about. If Paul Hill had fatally shot a crazed gunman as he was preparing to shoot school children with an AK47, he would have been hailed a hero. Instead, Paul Hill fatally shot an abortionist and his bodyguard….[W]hat moral difference exists between shooting the crazed gunman preparing to murder children in a playground and shooting an abortionist preparing to murder children in the womb…?
“I am torn daily. ..between what I perceive I must do as a Christian at this point against those who kill babies for profit, and my responsibilities as a law-abiding citizen, father, and provider for my family.”
I replied to this letter in part as follows: “I share your pain and horror that mothers could turn their wombs…into killing chambers, with the approval of the world’s… governments. And I share your frustration and helplessness at not knowing how to stem the tidal wave of evil…which only gathers momentum in spite of all efforts to turn it back.
“You say, ‘I am torn daily…between what I perceive I must do as a Christian…and my responsibilities as a law-abiding citizen….’ Surely your Christian duty is not to…gun down abortionists! You ask the distinction between that and killing a man who is about to shoot a group of children. In the first case you would rightly be condemned as a murderer; in the second, you would not. Nor does killing abortionists stop abortion….”
I went on to explain that we cannot force the ungodly to live by God’s standards. Nor is abortion the only or perhaps even the worst evil. Prostitutes and homosexuals destroy the lives of untold millions of young people; drug dealers, more millions than abortionists. And what about those psychiatrists and psychologists who have devastated lives for eternity, or the atheistic high school and university teachers who have corrupted the faith of millions more? Should we kill all such persons? I cannot find teaching or example in the entire Bible to indicate that Christians are to combat the world’s sins except with the gospel.
At about the same time, I received an audiotape from Randall Terry (founder and director of Operation Rescue) from one of his radio programs in which he denounced my views…and asked me to repent publicly.
Here are excerpts from that program: “Somebody gave me a copy of a portion of Dave Hunt’s book, “Whatever Happened to Heaven?” ..and I’ve literally been sick in my heart over his chapter on Christian activism….[Dave says,] ‘…there is not one example in the entire Bible of political or social activism ever being advocated or used by God’s people…’!
“First of all, God said to King David,
‘He who rules among men must be just, ruling in the fear of God….’
God himself advocates righteous people being involved in government….This man [Hunt] reads the Bible?! King Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 19:5-7) said to the judges,
‘Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD….’
King Jehoshaphat…exhorting the judges to judge righteously [is] political activism. Social activism: Gideon broke down the village idol that was in his dad’s front yard and destroyed it. In 1 Kings 15, a righteous king named Asa…put away the…homosexuals out of the land. He was doing battle with the homosexual movement… ! Then in 2 Kings 23 we see Josiah throwing the sodomites out of the temple….He also destroyed the valley of the son of Hinnom…the precursor to abortion….He was a Christian activist!
“Remember, David Hunt has said, ‘There is not one example in the entire Bible of political activism or social activism ever being used by God’s people!’ What about in Deuteronomy 16 where Moses says, ‘Choose from among you judges and officers to rule in your gates’?…Proverbs 28:4 says, ‘Those who forsake the law praise the wicked; those who uphold the law resist them.’ We are to resist people who break God’s law. Speaking of lobbying, remember when Saul [said], that anyone who eats honey before sunset shall be put to death? What happened? All of the people surrounded him and…protected him [Jonathan]. They lobbied King Saul and saved his [Jonathan’s] life.
“What about when the Apostles were arrested by the guards? The Bible says that the guards were so afraid of the mob that gathered around them that they thought they might be stoned and so they treated the Apostles gently….That was social action….King David was lobbied more than once to settle different disputes, and yet David Hunt says there’s not one example in the entire Bible of political or social activism or of lobbying….Has this man fallen off of another planet?!. ..David, please…study your Bible, dear brother….
“Romans 13 says this:
‘for rulers are… the minister[s] of God to you for good…to avenge those who do evil….’
Perhaps …[Hunt] would prefer Hindu standards with temple prostitution and child prostitution and women being tied to funeral pyres? …[T]his is insanity…! Colossians 1:16 says ‘all things were created by him and for him, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or powers or authorities….’ Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father, He’s over all thrones, dominions, powers …and He’s put them under us, too, because we’re His body, the church….Psalm 149 says this:
‘With the high praises of God in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hands-talking about the people of God – ‘to execute vengeance on the nations…this honor have all the saints.’…
“[T]his dear brother would rewrite the Scriptures….If you’ve read a Dave Hunt book…no wonder you’re not doing anything!…I’m going to send him a copy of this tape and…invite him to repent publicly. …[T]his book [is] filled with error, halftruths, untruths and otherwise babble. …Listen to this: ‘… Christian activism is not Christian. It represents a detour from the straight path the church is to walk…it can confuse the real issues, lead to compromise and unholy alliances and divert time and effort that would be better used in proclaiming the gospel….’
“So Josiah,…your social activism that won God’s approval, fighting the homosexuals, fighting the child killers…was all wasted time. Jeremiah, you really had your priorities screwed up…complaining about the babies being murdered. …Hezekiah, all your work against idolatry and the abominations of your day, wasted effort….
“This is poison in the Christian community….the culture’s in the jaws of hell and the church is in a muck hole because of insane theology like this….Listen to Luke 1 ….Christ’s coming….of course, it saves people…but verses 70-75 talk about political freedom,…Abraham’s seed, …being able to live at peace and to serve God without fear,…in a culture that’s free from pagan rule….Part of the prophesied blessing of King Jesus’ coming was…’and of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end,’ to establish… justice and judgment upon the throne of his father, [King] David, Isaiah 9. Political freedom, cultural freedom, political justice and righteousness are all… the prophesied fruits of the coming of Jesus Christ, and David Hunt says,… ‘There is not any example or doctrinal teaching to support the idea that Christians ought to engage in political or social activism.’
“Brother David, I trust you are listening by tape now….I believe David is a brother but I believe he’s been deceived; and…he’s become a deceiver and these deceptions that are in this book were born in hell…[and] when there is false teaching,…issued forth publicly, it must be rebuked…publicly. I encourage my brother to repent and to abandon this out-of-balance deceit, to study his Bible and then write a retraction….”
I appreciate Randall Terry’s forthrightness and his passion to oppose abortion. The Bible does not forbid political or social activism. It does not, however, support it. Neither Jesus, the Apostles nor the early church attempted in that way to oppose the social evils of their day. Instead, they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the gospel.
In attempting to justify his position from Scripture, one of Terry’s major errors is in confusing Israel and the church. Gideon, Jeremiah, David, Solomon, Asa, Josiah, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, et al. were not Christians as he claims. 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, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine”. (Lv 20:26)
Israel is unique:
“He hath not dealt so with any [other] nation”. (Ps 147:20)
And the men of Israel sticking up for Jonathan is Christian lobbying? Hardly. Nor did any “mob” ever “gather around” the Apostles to protect them (Acts 5:26); and even if they had, these were unbelieving Jews who could hardly set an example of Christian social action as Terry claims. As for Romans 13, it tells us to obey secular rulers and says not one word about opposing them if they fail to represent God. Examples from the Old Testament of Israel’s rulers executing God’s law in Israel are no model for Christians to impose God’s laws upon Gentile society. Moreover, verses which state that God is sovereign (Col 1:16, etc.) have nothing to say about Christian political/social activism. The promises of the Messiah’s rule quoted from Luke 1 pertain to a redeemed Israel back in her land; they are not promises that the church will take over the world.
Terry’s failure to distinguish between Israel and the church is most dangerous when he quotes Psalm 149 about saints “with a two-edged sword in their hands” executing “vengeance on the nations” (is he really advocating armed violence, a return to the Crusades?)! This psalm concerns Israel, not the church. 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 20:28-3l)! 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.”
Why is it that those who are so concerned about the immoral behavior of the godless all around us seem so little concerned about the false gospel of Roman Catholicism which is leading nearly a billion souls to hell, or about the heresy and unbelief within the church? A recent poll of Lutherans revealed that three out of ten doubt the divinity of Christ, the same percentage reject His resurrection, four out of ten doubt the existence of God, and seven out of ten believe that all religions lead to the same God! And only 55 percent of the delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention of Louisiana in November voted that the Bible is inerrant! Why don’t the Christian activists show concern for this unbelief which eternally damns souls?
As the letter first quoted above said, more than 30 years of civil protest and Christian activism (Focus on the Family, 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?
My sympathy is with Randall Terry and those who work with him. I feel their concern, frustration, and pain. The question remains, however, What are we to do? We must follow Scripture. Neither Jesus nor His apostles nor the biblical early church ever engaged in social or political activism or advocated it. The Great Commission is not to go into all the world to reform its morals by forcing sinners to behave like saints, but to “preach the gospel” and convert sinners. And 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. TBC