>A Word on my Use of Words


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The Passions of Mankind have boiled over into all areas of political life, including its vocabulary. The words most common in politics have become stained with human hurts, hopes, and frustrations. – Saul D. Alinsky; Rules for Radicals

I made a mistake.

In my last post I stated as my political position that I consider myself to be a Christ-Following Libertarian who places his Politics on the Right but his Jesus on the Left.

I stand by that definition but the mistake I made was in using language that is so politically charged. As has been clearly pointed out by more than one of my readers, the term libertarian and any attempting to place Jesus on the political spectrum can be too easily misunderstood.

One of the first things I learned when I started writing is to be careful with definitions. Dictionaries never tell the whole story. Definitions are fluid and coloured by experience; a fact that one must always be mindful of when writing and speaking. Even if the dictionary is on my side, recent history and life experience of my readers may not be. So allow me to further explain what I mean by the use of these particular words.

Let’s start with what I mean by “Christ-Follower”. I have been asked on a number of occasions why I don’t simply call myself a Christian and the answer is simple; because I am not.

The term Christian is a Greek noun, meaning “Little Christ” it assumes something static and denotes someone who has arrived at a conclusion of what it means to be a reflection of Christ. While on the other hand, to be a follower is a verb which alludes to a journey and a person who still has some distance to travel before arriving at his destination. While I do not mean to cause friction between myself and those who consider themselves Christians, at this point in my life I have far too much left to learn so for me calling myself a Christian would be the height of arrogance.

Although I know that there are political parties in many countries that call themselves Libertarians with platforms that center around a narrow interpretation of personal liberty and, in the case of the United States, the constitution, my intention in using the term here was to point to a more classical definition.

Dictionary.com defines a Libertarian as;

1. a person who advocates liberty, especially with regard to thought or conduct.
2. a person who maintains the doctrine of free will

That’s it! No political party affiliation, no mention of any constitution, just a dedication to personal freedom and the right to choose your own destiny. By calling myself a “Christ-Following Libertarian” I am stating that I have chosen, of my own free will, to follow the teachings of Jesus and that I support a government that does not interfere with that choice. I hope that more people would chose to follow my example but my respect for liberty and freedom does not allow me to impose my will on others.

Now I can hear some of my more evangelically minded friends starting to protest; what about the Great Commission?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[Matthew 28:18-20]

The key word in that passage is “teaching”. In order to fulfill the Great Commission we must learn to teach like Jesus, live like Jesus, lead like Jesus and above all know when to walk away like Jesus; that is the core of evangelism and it in no way contradicts a libertarian way of thinking. God himself was the first libertarian when he offered free will to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Coercion and control of followers is a human invention.

Which brings me to where I place Jesus politically; while I still stand by my assertion that many of the things Jesus taught are the same types of things that tend to be championed by the left, that by no means makes Jesus or those who follow him leftists. Jesus transcends mere politics and in most instances simply ignores it.

One of my readers questioned my assertion that Jesus had very little to say to the political leaders of his day and did not teach how to steward political power. I acknowledge that as early as Samuel and King Saul prophets have spoken truth to power and warned of cracks in the system. But I stand by my position here as well. Jesus spoke directly to the church leaders of his day, the Pharisees, but he said very little to the Roman authorities who controlled the government. Jesus never advocated for a return to the “glory days” of a Jewish state therefore advocating for a Christian state is nothing short of a perversion of the gospel.

For the first three centuries Christianity was a minority underground movement that had no political power. Almost the entire New Testament was written from prison cells. Jesus and the apostles taught extensively on how to live in community under a more powerful authority but never advocated for political uprising or taught on the subject of how to grasp or hold on to power themselves. On the contrary Jesus taught about an upside down kingdom where the last shall be first [Matthew 19:28-30] and whoever wants to gain life would lose it, [Matthew 10:38-39]. Jesus went on to model the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the many and the apostles all died as martyrs.

I can’t stress this enough, Jesus and the apostles direct their teaching to the church, not to the government. It is a personal challenge and if you are a Christ-Follower or claim to be a Christian you must model the things Jesus did and taught. Christ-Following is not a political cause, it is a personal journey.

So, not because I wish to change any of my original meaning but for the sake of clarity, I hereby revise my earlier statement;

I am a Christ-Following Libertarian (in the classical sense of the term) who rejects all other labels and actively seeks to live in a way that honours the teachings of Jesus regardless of politics.

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18 thoughts on “>A Word on my Use of Words

  1. >Lauren,I just read the comments on your last blog entry – wow! I would simply like to offer a word of encouragement, I am happy I found your blog and I enjoy reading it quite a bit. It seems that in many ways we are in similar places on our faith walks, and we seem to share a (mostly) common view of the world. Your posts generally affect me in one of two ways: they encourage me that someone out there believes the same things I believe, or they inspire me to consider something to which I haven’t given much thought, but need to think about. Please keep posting.Kendall

  2. >As far as I can tell from what I have on hand or on the net, Christians have always been called by the word that means "pertaining to Christ.". I heard the "little Christ" story, too, in my more evangelical days, with reference to Acts 11:26, but that pretty clearly says christian, not christion. I suspect some ms had an error which was seized upon for sermonic purposes.Otherwise, your points about Jesus and politics seem right on.

  3. >Harry..here we go agina with definintions eh? When you say "pertaining to Christ" that could more clearly be said as the "Chrisitian way" could it not? Other ways I've seen to define the term would be Christ-like, or reflective of Christ. They all assume something complete or accurate and that is what I am not comfortable with. I am on a journey. To say that I have completed that journey and now accurately reflect Christ is what I am not comfortable with. Therefore calling myself a Christ-Follower is a far more accurate description of how I see myself. If you consider yourself a Christian – good for you, maybe one day I will too.

  4. >I think the "church-government" distinction you set up is itself foreign to the gospels or the letters. Think of Jesus as the incarnate word, that is, the creator of all that is. Think of church as new Israel, that is, a nation. When the church is encouraged to engage the powers, the church is set against Rome as an empire. Church-state separation is a modern concept. The mission of Jesus is a new creation. Paul speaks of it in that manner. The opening hymn of Colossians leaves little doubt as to the wholeness, entirety, totality of Jesus' focus.

  5. >Epiphyllum…I assume you are thinking of Colossians 1:16 "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him."While this is true and similar to my assertion last week from Romans 13 that God anoints government it does not mean that we as Christ-followers are to be involved in it's workings or try to manipulate it's direction. The believers in Colosse were trying to figure out how to be faithful to the church while at the same time remain good citizens. As a result they were tending to slip into moral relativism. Paul is attempting to bring them back to a singular focus on Jesus and his advice to them on how to be in Christ while living in Colosse is important and applicable to our time but what he is telling them is not that they are to try and influence the local government but that they are members of a new Kingdom that transcends all earthly Kingdoms. Too much focus on the things of this world will lead them astray. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." [Colossians 3:1-3]

  6. >The Colossian hymn goes from 1:15 to 1:20. It is often referred to as the hymn of the cosmic Christ. My question to you is why you think you can say that it doesn't mean what seems to be so clear on the very surface of it: Christ's redemption is all inclusive (vs 20). Maybe this discussion moves too fast. Maybe we need to get some agreement on the significance of Christ for all creation before we move on to see what this means for the church. Add to the Colossians hymn the end of Ephesians 1 (20-23). Would you not read these passages as saying that in Christ God is reclaiming, redeeming, re-creating all of creation?

  7. >If you look up Green in the dictionary you will find the definition regarding a color, or a definition regarding experience (especially lack thereof). Yet the Green Party is a political party. So now you understand that using politically charged language was a mistake, and yet you open your post with a quote from Saul Alinsky, a racist anti-semiite atheist. Why must you use a marxist or pro-marxist propaganda in every "I'm not a marxist" post." Talking about too politically charged? Alinsky? Maybe in Canada, Alinsky was a man of peace, but to most Americans he is as controversial as making Jesus a political figure

  8. >andrew… There you go again throwing divisive labels around without doing your homework, have you actually read the book? In my reading of Alinsky I see nothing more that a book on effective communication. Whether or not he was personally an anti-semite atheist is irrelevant. Alinsky's writing does not promote any one political ideology, other than the first amendment right to assembly. Rules of Radicals is a 40+ year old must read for anyone who wishes to be a better communicator regardless of your political position.

  9. >So let's say we are agreed on the cosmic scope of redemption. Then you emphasize that this redemption is through Christ. Of course it is. But God in Christ works through the church. God works through the church (2Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 3:10). God in Christ reconciles the world to himself and works through our ministry of reconciliation to the world (2Corinthians 5:18,19a). I do not see how this could be interpreted in ways that do not make the process of redemption and the church's agency in that fully inclusive, cosmic.

  10. >I think that, once again, Andrew has a valid point Lauren. Libertarian even in the classical sense still has political overtones. It says that the individual's well-being, prosperity, and social harmony is fostered by "as much liberty as possible" and "as little government as necessary." So what does "as much liberty" actually mean anyhow? Seems to me we're leading towards Libertarianism correct me if I am wrong Andrew. Not to mention that it is Christ who chooses us, we do not choose him. Thus your dictionary application of the term falls apart pretty quick. I also disagree with your reluctance to use the term "Christian" as having a connotation of an arrival point. I think, rather, it is suggestive of identification. We are identified with Christ who died for us. This is what we are. Furthermore you run into a contradiction when you say that you reject all labels yet willingly adopt a label that is counterproductive to what Christianity stands for. Despite all this I like your posts because you are not afraid to enter into controversy. Though I will, no doubt, criticize and disagree with some of what you will say, I am glad for the effort you put into it.-Joe

  11. >Joe… Thanks for your comments. My rejecting of the label "Christian" is more for the benefit of seekers than my fellow so called Christians. I'm trying to show that I don't have it all figured out yet while simultaneously aligning my journey with Christ and distancing myself from the historical errors of the traditional church. The first thing you will hear many seekers say when you tell them you are a Christian will be something about hypocrisy but when you call yourself a Christ-Follower that argument falls apart rather quickly and you can turn the conversational focus on to what Jesus actually talked about.I think your assertion that Christ chooses us, although valid to a point, is a dangerous one to hang your hat on. It leads to isolationism and a feeling of superiority about being one of the "chosen ones", when in reality we are all made in the image of God and he pursues us all. This idea, that of our inherent goodness and infinite value to God, is one that I am currently fleshing out and plan on digging into more deeply in the coming weeks.Stay Tuned…

  12. >Yes I know you have deep Arminian roots Sheil being of Anabaptist leanings. I follow you but must reject it (no hard feelings). Your position theologically is consistent with the things you say. But perhaps we might clear up some of the miscommunication between men of who hold to teaching of Jacobus Arminius and John Calvin in time. But I agree; none of us have arrived. I like Romans 2 particularly for this discussion, it is very poignant. But about the feeling of superiority, Paul deals with that succinctly doesn't he, when he says simply that (because of Romans 2) we have no position or leg to stand on by which we can boast? He considered all his accomplishments as nothing but rubbish in comparison to what Christ had done and would instead boast in his weaknesses for through them Christ is glorified. Don't you think that the idea of our "inherent goodness" runs contrary to what the scriptures teach about the reality of man's depravity? Sticking to Romans 1 and 2 alone we understand this don't we? For we all deserve death, according to what I read, but if Christ did not reach down and lift me up out of the miry clay, I would be hopelessly lost. Being sold as a slave to sin (Romans 6) I am free in regards to righteousness. In other words I am unable to do anything that would remotely please God. So as far as the feelings of isolationism and superiority I can't quite figure that especially as Paul deals with it so clearly. I think, if anything, the idea of our inherent worth would lead to feelings of isolationism and superiority over our brother. Why not give him some self-help 'manuel' to teach him he can do it and who needs any one anyways?This is going to be fun Sheil. I'm going to enjoy this and trust we will all be edified in our mutual faith.-Joe

  13. >Joe – I do agree that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I also agree that we need Jesus atoning sacrifice to bridge that gap for us. But Genesis 1 clearly states that all God's creation is good and after the fall in Genesis 3 it is God who pursues Adam as he pursues all people in order to put it right. My biggest problem with Calvinism however is not the doctrine of Total Depravity so much as it is the doctrines of Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace. God's grace and Christ's atoning sacrifice are not limited to an elect few, nor do they supersede free will, in fact the very pairing of the words Irresistible and Grace seems to me to be a contraction of terms. The Arminian doctrine that Christ's atonement was made on behalf of all people (because God sees them all as good) while at the same time God allows his grace to be resisted by those who freely reject Him is by far more logical based on the way I read Jesus, Paul and most of the prophets.There you have it.

  14. >Hi Lauren, I could address these criticisms pretty handily but I am not sure it would be constructive to what you are trying to do here. My blog is for these kinds of debates (I love them!) where I take the liberty to answer in full. My answers would be as long as your post plus. I probably should have weighed my last comment a little more carefully. If you want my answer to your comment I can direct you to my blog. My son is going to be attempting to make a topical list of all my posts so that someone doesn't have to fish things out.-Joe

  15. >I'm no expert on anything I write on – there are others who have a firmer grip on the things I like to write about – but I would welcome anyone who has any interest in mainly theological thought and some philosophy as it relates to Christian worldview thinking.My blog is jjsjawsession.blogspot.com-Joe

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