Jon Moffitt: Welcome to the members’ podcast. Jimmy and I just want to start by saying thank you. The new series on covenant theology is something that we pray will be beneficial for years to come. We should have the small group questionnaire and handbook available soon, hopefully very soon, so that you can start taking advantage of that reading through it. We just really are excited about a lot of the new material that we have coming your way.
Again, please just know that we would not be able to afford to get that edited and produced if it was not for our membership. Thank you for that, and thank you for your ongoing support.
So this is a fun one. Jimmy, kind of started it out. Why don’t you give us a little bit of thought where you’re going on this?
Jimmy Buehler: Right now where we are seated in terms of the date, we are entrenched in the presidential election. Every four years—particularly if you follow the Christian blogosphere—the think tanks, the discernment ministries, come out with their blog that says the litmus test of being a Christian is determined by how you behave in the voting booth.
Let me just say, for those of you that are unaware, that the two kingdom theology is very helpful here. If you’re unaware of that, go Google the rabbit hole and let us know what you find. A two kingdom theology understands that there is a distinction between how God operates in the world and yet how God also sets up worldly structures and so on and so forth. But also, I think something that is always lacking is a clear understanding of what it truly means to be free in Christ and to have what our church confession, the 1689 London Baptist Confession, calls the liberty of conscience. This is in chapter 21.
I want to read paragraph two where it says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and he has left it free from human doctrines and commandments that are in any way contrary to his word or not contained in it. So, believing such doctrines,” meaning man-made ones, “or obeying such commands out of conscience, is a betrayal of true liberty of conscience. Requiring implicit faith or absolute and blind obedience destroys liberty of conscience and reason as well.
This is just something that is everywhere right now. Obviously, Facebook and Twitter algorithms know that I’m a Christian, which is kind of creepy, but I get all of these sponsored ads saying, “Are you a Christian? Here’s your guide to voting. Are you a Christian? Here are the issues that you need to be concerned about. Are you a Christian? Here’s the way to vote in November.” It’s almost as if the litmus test of my faithfulness as a Christian, or the litmus test of my orthodoxy as a Christian, is determined by my behavior in the voting booth. I just take so much issue with that because it’s that whole implicit faith idea.
Jon Moffitt: I have it on good authority that there are chapters of the SBC that have literally sent out voting guides. There are ones printed and available to come pick up at your local chapter of who you should vote for.
Jimmy Buehler: If we’re going to be honest, what are most of those voting guides on? They’re on who is pro-life. Certainly, I am pro-life but sadly, politically, pro-life doesn’t extend to many other people.
Jon, I guess the question is whether our orthodoxy as a Christian is determined by how we vote this November.
Jon Moffitt: It can’t be because it’s never told to us in Scripture that that is the litmus test for Christianity. Unfortunately, guys like John MacArthur, who has made the statement that you cannot be a Christian if you don’t vote for Donald Trump, is ridiculous.
Listen, I don’t disagree with John’s sentiment. I understand what he’s getting at is as far as the candidates that are available. There are candidates that seem to be more morally leaning in a direction that is going to be… Theocast is not here to tell you who to vote for, and if you vote for not Donald Trump, or you vote for anyone else, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad Christian or you’ve done something wrong. That is a Colossians 2 moment. You cannot let someone hold that authority over your head. That is not in Scripture. We are told to submit, Romans 13, to our governing authorities. We’re told to pray for them. We are told to live peaceably with them.
Here’s my biggest struggle—and I’ll just be pretty blatant about it: most of the turmoil that goes on in Christianity and all this fighting that goes on politically are people who have put their hope in the American government, assuming that if Americans make the right decisions then God will bless us, and we’ll continue to live in peace and prosper. People are more concerned about their prosperity, their peace, and their comfort than they are about being God-honoring. So they lose the mission. The mission given to the believer is the advancement of the gospel through the church, through the function of the church, and we are to trust God’s going to accomplish His mission whether it’s through the United States or not. America has only been around here a couple of hundred years. God doesn’t need the United States to accomplish His mission of the gospel going forward. And dare I say, the gospel has been prosperous and growing in times of turmoil, not necessarily in times of peace and comfort.
Jimmy Buehler: I would say that actually the gospel tends to grow best and extend farther.
Jon Moffitt: If they’re going to look at it from history, that is true.
Jimmy Buehler: Do I love the United States of America? Am I grateful for living here? Absolutely. 100%. I value things like religious liberty. I value things like freedom of worship. I love that I’m able to meet in a public space with my church and worship God. Of course, I value that. At the same time, a lot of times when people talk about how we’re going to lose our freedoms if this person gets elected—are we going to lose our freedoms or are we going to lose our comforts? Most of the time, you’re more concerned about losing your comforts. It’s time to put on some big boy pants and realize that when it comes to the church, we have the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ and his church. We believe that to be true.
Whether or not we have a D or an R in the White House actually does not deter God. No purpose of His can be thwarted. Again, everybody is saying they get that. But you say that and yet it’s like the evangelical approach—this is where we see American flags and cannons, and we’re singing a battle hymn of the republic every Sunday during election season. It’s almost like we want this theonomy set up where we’re aiming back for a Christian nation that frankly never existed. But this whole idea of having no law but the 10 commandments and all these other nonsense, where what do we see that the Scriptures call us to do? We pray for our leaders. Why? So that we could live quiet lives.
Jon Moffitt: Jimmy, I think that’s super helpful. I know there are probably people yelling at the podcast, however they’re listening to it right now.
The goal of what Jimmy and I are talking about here is to relieve this pressure. Two things: for those of you who are hot on social media and your families, and you’re driving home and you think it’s your responsibility to save American Christianity, I’m just going to tell you right now that God doesn’t need you to save anything.
Jimmy Buehler: Changing somebody’s mind on Facebook is like Bigfoot. Everybody has a story of how they’ve seen it, but nobody’s actually ever seen it.
Jon Moffitt: My encouragement to everybody on this is that, going back to what Jimmy was saying, I preached a sermon this last week called Living in Two Kingdoms from John 18. In that sermon, I’m trying to explain how Jesus himself says his kingdom is not of this world. If it was of this world, his kingdom would be fighting for him right now. They wouldn’t let him just fall into the hands of the Romans or the Jews. His kingdom is not of this world.
You have Paul talking about the mission of the believer, which Jimmy’s already talked about: the unity of the church, the unity of Christ, the catholicity which is all of us gathering together. What are we trying to accomplish? We are trying to accomplish gospel advancement, not theocratic advancement. We are not trying to create a nation that is governed by presidents or kings who are Christians. The church of England tried this and it failed; the Catholic church tried this and it failed; because it’s not the design that God has. In spite of evil governments, according to Romans chapter 13, God uses them for the sake of protecting the innocent. He calls us to submit to them. We are not to go against the government.
Even in some of these most recent protests where Christians are going out there and they’re saying they’re standing up for their rights—that’s not advancing the gospel. You’re out there just causing a scene. You’re creating public notice and all everybody is saying is you’re no worse than anybody else who’s out there creating a public scene. That’s not advancing the gospel. It’s definitely not showing love.
I know there are a lot of different opinions and people say that if you don’t stand up for your rights, they will be taken from you. My answer is, should you be spending all of your energy and time defending your rights or advancing the gospel?
Jimmy Buehler: Frankly, is this really what you want to be known for? I have a lot of people recently giving me a hard time because I just post pictures about food. That’s fine because the rest of them are posting things that are so vile that I feel like I just need to put something out there that says life isn’t so bad.
Jon Moffitt: Make social media social again.
Jimmy Buehler: As a pastor, I don’t tell my people how to vote. We can have lively political conversation, but at the end of the day, you vote in a way that doesn’t violate your conscience and I’m cool with that. We can have conversations about candidates, platforms, and issues, even in my own household—I’m just thinking of my brothers and my dad—we have a constant text thread right now where we are going back and forth about some political things. It gets very lively. But at the end of the day, to draw a line in the sand and say that my dad has different political views with mine, therefore he is an inferior Christian—you’re taking something and you’re actually adding it to the gospel. It becomes Jesus and conservative politics or Jesus and liberal politics. I would like you to meet my friend Galatians. He would like to have a word with you.
Jon Moffitt: Jimmy, to that point, I think we have to be careful. I know there are a lot of Christians out there that will not vote for the only candidates. In other words, they have to have a candidate that they agree with primarily -pretty much all the big issues they have to agree on. I’ve heard people say that if there were no candidates they agree with then they are not going to vote. Here’s what you have to understand: America is a very unique situation. Christians, for thousands of years, did not have these opportunities.
As a matter of fact, when Paul wrote Romans 13, who was Paul writing to? Who were they under? They were under Nero. Do you guys know anything about that man? Vile, vile, vile man. He’s telling them to submit and they had no choice. They had no opportunity to vote—there was no voting. He wasn’t telling them to rise up and fight back against this vile man—it’s not what he was saying. But given the opportunity, if you have the opportunity to suppress unrighteousness and protect the innocent, you should always choose the lesser of two evils because that’s what the majority of the world has had to do for most of our lives. The United States has been a unique situation where we can actually choose a candidate that does have some pretty great moral values—maybe not perfect, but maybe better than others.
I think as Christians, even if you can say they’re both not good but this one’s going to at least do less harm, I think scripturally speaking, you should still do whatever you can.
Jimmy Buehler: Even the things that you’re just saying, people can say they have different categories for what causes less harm. Go for it. As long as you’re not violating the conscience or binding other people’s consciences, go for it. This is why unity is such a fragile thing within the life of a church, to bring the conversation there. Unity is such a fragile thing within the life of the church. We can easily become like this disunified overnight; to be unified is difficult work as a pastor and as church men and church women. Most divisions within church—where do they come from? They come from one person or one group trying to bind the conscience of another person or another group.
Funny story in the first church that we worked in. I remember we had our first child; he was not 72 hours old, and we had a family in the church come to us and say, “What are you going to do about schooling with your kid?” 72 hours old. We kind of laughed and we realized they’re serious. They went on to say that if we don’t choose this particular method of education of our children in our household, we are in sin and they can’t worship in our church. That is what you would call a binding of the conscience. It’s something that Scripture never speaks to.
Jon and I have chosen different methods of education for our families, and we can have conversation with that, but I’m never going to bind my brother’s conscience over it. I can be very opinionated, but I’m never going to bind his conscience and Jon will never bind mine. Rather, we have the liberty of conscience to do and choose things that Scripture has never spoken of to us.
Jon Moffitt: Those people don’t do too well in our churches.
Jimmy Buehler: No, they don’t last long. Typically all it takes is one beer and they’re out.
Jon Moffitt: I got an email recently from a guy who was thinking about moving to Spring Hill. In the email he asked me, “I need you to answer these questions before I visit: what is your theological position on the role of women in the home and education for children?” I know what you want on both of those and I’m not going to reply.
Jimmy Buehler: Again, I’m glad that people care about those things because obviously it’s important. We care about the education of our children, and so on and so forth. We care about political things. But when those become the chief concerns, those people are just not going to last long in our church or yours.
Jon Moffitt: In our church, we have public, private, and homeschool, and it’s a good mixture of all. My kids are in both private and homeschool. There are some great public schools down here and I have no problems with them.
The thing is that God never promised that your kids or your family will end up being more or less godly or safe depending upon your educational system. That wasn’t even a thing in the Bible. We divide and create lines where someone is going to be dishonoring God unless they choose this. That’s Colossians 2 all over again: you can’t do that. It just does not say that.
Jimmy Buehler: If you think about it like a soccer field—I’m not going to use a football field because I like soccer more but I won’t bind your conscience; you’re just wrong—there are distinct lines on the field that create distinct categories of play. It would be like me going out with my white spray paint can and I just put a line there, and somebody arbitrarily walks over it and I yell at them and say they violated the rules. Actually, no, I didn’t; that rule was never there to begin with.
Ultimately, I think why we wanted to have this conversation is because when we bind another person’s conscience, guess what that does? That puts a giant stone in front of their understanding and reception of the gospel—and that’s something we just don’t want to do.
Jon Moffitt: I will tell you that life will be a lot easier once you learn how to disagree agreeably. I will promise you that for sure. Justin, Jimmy, and I are very passionate about our theological decisions. We did not come to them lightly. We don’t just say we think something is the best. We are students of the word, we suffer long hours and toil and struggle, and have very long, important conversations. Please don’t think that we’re saying doctrines don’t have a point and that the gospel is the only thing that’s important. All Scripture is profitable and all Scripture should be studied. We just have to be careful on where we’re going to draw or divide the lines on some of these conversations.
That was a helpful conversation. If you have not been to theocast.org/members, don’t tune me out here. Listen up carefully. That is the homepage for members and we are stacking it full of new stuff for you. If you haven’t gone there, go there. We’ve got new classes. We’ve got the private podcast feed. You can get all of our stuff on your phone. It just automatically downloads. You don’t even have to go to the website.
Go to theocast.org/members so that way you can stay up-to-date on everything that’s going on. We’re going to be providing new stuff all the time.