We don’t live in a theocracy. While the country might have been founded on Christian moral principles, the United States has never enforced particular religious values upon its citizens as law — although it can argued that the original guys employed Biblical tenets to compose the Constitution.
In many cultures around the world, theocracies don’t work — and even the ones that pop up are often criticized as tyrannical and oppressive. I thought this was interesting: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/06/19/theocracies-are-doomed-thank-god.html
But all people, regardless of creed, are bound to some sort of innate moral code, whether or not an authority enforces it. Some would say it is dictated by the intrinsic desire to cooperate and survive, or a primal instinct. Others support the claim that the individual’s environment is the primary influence on their ethical construct. Anyone who has taken a philosophy or psychology course would recognize this as “nature versus nurture”.
You can read about nature versus nurture on this handy Wikipedia article, if you’re unfamiliar with the subject, and there are certainly better resources than that if you’d like to dig a little deeper. Furthermore, C.S. Lewis wrote a masterpiece a while back called “Mere Christianity” which argues that this “innate moral code” ultimately points to God.
Now take all of this content, throw it in a blender, and you have something resembling Acts chapter 7.
Stephen, influenced by the Holy Spirit, starts talking big to the religious leaders — the Roman province hirelings posing as policeman, if you will — giving them a history lesson of how terrible the Jewish people have treated the prophets throughout history. These guys don’t like it at all, and they decide to kill him with a barrage of rocks.
At the core, however, you have a man completely compelled by his convictions, all the way to his death, standing firm while an autocratic/theocratic hybrid, thinking with the law instead of a God-inspired conscience, killing a man deemed threatening to their way of life.
This passage reveals two kinds of religious people — both extreme, and both dangerous — but one is more concerned about righteousness for the sake of truth, and the other seeks righteousness through the enforcement of religious law. Both are Jewish, probably raised in Jewish homes, but one is profoundly more educated than the other, we can infer. What happened?
We all love to read, to be informed. Facebook, for example, offers endless information — much of it polished and contrived, but it is content nonetheless — and many of us scan through articles and news feeds daily, picking up an unbelievable of garbage head knowledge. Unwittingly, we also begin to construct our worldview with what we choose to read and believe. I think a lot of Christians do that.
Trapword exists primarily to bring clarity to the Bible, because I believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, and that it contains limitless resources and relevance for everyone in all cultures. But when the Bible remains letters and verses and knowledge and history, it becomes a textbook rather than a living, breathing organism capable of effectively lifting up and humbling the reader or hearer at perfect times. The Jewish leaders had become hardened, living to be right rather than reverent, which made turned them into vicious wolves seeking sin to prey upon.
We as Christians must see through the lens of the Word, not just stopping at the black letters on the page. The Bible is definitive and leaves no room for compromise, but its narrative reflects dynamic, flawed people that are useful for God’s work, characterized by their struggles between the Spirit and sin. Brothers and sisters, how frequently do we absorb the Bible, and perhaps other resources in our daily intake, only to arm ourselves to wage militant warfare against others?
The Bible is sharp enough — it cuts and divides people all the way to the bone. Let the Word do its work, and let’s love one another before we turn ourselves into a social theocracy.