One of Christianity’s requirements, and one of its gifts to the world, is the ability to hold two seemingly irreconcilable truths at the same time. For instance, we hold that God is sovereign, and man is culpable, for his actions. The word for this is antinomy. The greatest antinomy is Jesus, who was both all God and whole man – who was utterly perfect, and yet became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.
Christianity requires living inside such antinomies. One that we must learn to live inside right now: submitting to governing authorities (see the my prior posts here and here), and thinking critically, independently and biblically about our government and world.
This requires understanding what submission means. Submission does not equal agreement. There could be agreement, while there is submission. Agreement is the best condition for submission – when you’re happy to submit, because you agree with everything that leader does. But this rarely happens in a fallen world. Submission simply means to place oneself under another’s authority, within the God-given scope of that authority.
Government’s authority has limits. It does not extend to the private thoughts of your mind. You can hold a dissenting opinion, for instance, about the mathematical impossibility of our generation or the next paying off a certain spending package, while still obeying the authority’s edict to stay indoors.
Again, the definition of submission is key. There are two ditches here. One ditch is obvious: refusing to submit because you fear the consequences. That’s not available to us, absent sin. But there’s another ditch: where we submit to the leadership of someone because he or she favors us, and therefore we come to unthinkingly favor them. This kind of unthinking submission is also not available to us.
Because it can blind us to thinking clearly about what’s best next. God warned his people about this sort of submission from the very beginning – see, for example, Exodus 34:12-16.
What the world needs most is people who can live in the tension between dueling truths – who can submit to the governing authorities, while refusing to allow any politician or party to co-opt their private thoughts. People who can think independently, biblically, about what’s best next.
Whatever relief package the government provides, it cannot provide relief from guilt, for our generation’s many sins. Unless we repent, coronavirus is only a precursor to what’s to come. The world needs people who can see this reality. Now, as always, the church is the hope of the world.