Rev. Rick Phillips is a fairly well known PCA minister who is a two Kingdom advocate Recently he weighed in on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright incident. I want to take a minute to look at what two kingdomist Phillips had to say.
Having been preaching the prophet Micah for several months, I have discovered quite a lot of concern in the Bible over social ethics, and I have often reflected on how little attention such concerns receive in evangelical circles. A thoroughly biblical worldview will speak to both private and social ethics, and for evangelicals to speak persuasively to the culture we need to be strong in both.
Note here that Phillips is encouraging ‘evangelicals’ to speak persuasively to the culture. That is good as far as it goes. Still, Phillips nowhere suggests that the Church as the Church should speak persuasively to the culture. It seems it is only individual evangelicals who should speak persuasively to the culture and not the Church as the Church. Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s problem isn’t that he was speaking persuasively to the culture from the pulpit, as Phillips will say in the next quote. Wright’s problem is that he was speaking as the spokesman of some other God besides the God of the Bible from the pulpit.
Listen, the problem with this approach is seen beautifully in the California Judge H. Walter Croskey who also is a presbyterian elder and who just rendered a ruling that implied that the State owns the children and so homeschooling is not legal. Croskey, no doubt, is seeking to speak persuasively to the culture. But as the Church, according to two kingdomist views, cannot speak to what Croskey has done because ‘God doesn’t speak to that issue in the Bible’ then we are left with no place that can give God’s corrective authoritative word to the H. Walter Croskey’s of the world.
3. Regarding Wright’s use of the pulpit. When I first saw the Youtube excerpts of Wright’s preaching, my first thought was not, “He hates America!” or “He’s a racist!”, but “What a terrible use of God’s pulpit!” I feel exactly the same outrage whenever I see a candidate standing behind a pulpit — Democrat or Republican. I feel exactly the same outrage whenever I see a preacher extolling the virtues (or vices) of a particular candidate — Democrat or Republican. Surely the church pulpit is intended for higher and better matters than the small concerns of national politics! The pulpit is not an institution of the republic, but of the Kingdom, and it’s only legitimate use is the preaching of King Jesus. Politics should be kept out of the pulpit not merely for reasons of church-state separation, but because the pulpit is for matters of such greater significance. And when King Jesus speaks from His Word on matters that pertain to politics — such as personal or social ethics — He speaks equally to all parties, all candidates, and all voters.
I agree with Phillips that it was a terrible use of the pulpit. The question is, ‘why was it a terrible use of the pulpit(?).’ Phillips seems to suggest that it was a terrible use of the pulpit because the pulpit is not the place to speak to social and cultural issues, for, according to the two Kingdomist view, the Church as the Church can’t speak to these issues, because that is not what the Bible is about. To the contrary, as I’ve already mentioned, I would say it is a terrible use of the pulpit because it grossly misrepresents God’s mind, which is what one expects to find emanating from the pulpit.
With regards to that portion that is in bold I must ask Phillips who he thinks the Republic belongs to. It is true that the pulpit is the institution of the Kingdom but for that matter since the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof so is the Republic. One cannot consistently place a dichotomy between the pulpit and the Republic as if God owns the former and not the latter. When Republics are walking askance of their rightful King Jesus then the pulpit must rebuke the Republic in the name of King Jesus. When Republics are in submission to King Jesus then pulpits must teach people to be in submission to authority. Rev. Phillips problem here is the problem of all two kingdomists, and that is that he wants to interject a compartmentalized reality between the reality of Christ’s Lordship over the pulpit (Church) and a reality where, according to two kingdom thinking, Christ is Lord in a different (non-explicit) way. Rev. Phillips says that the pulpits only legitimate use is the preaching of King Jesus. I agree. If King Jesus is over the Republic then should not the pulpit occasionally speak King Jesus’ mind to the Republic? That is what Wright was doing. Wright’s problem though is he serves a different Jesus than the Jesus in the Bible.
In the italicized section of Rev. Phillips quote above he once again does the compartmentalization thing. According to Phillips the pulpit is for greater things then politics, and yet Phillips just said that, the only legitimate use of the pulpit is to preach King Jesus. Rick, is Jesus King over politics? Is Jesus King over economics? Is Jesus King over education? Is Jesus King over civil jurisprudence? Is Jesus King over the arts? If, as you say Rick, we are supposed to preach King Jesus then I don’t know how it is when we preach Christ as King over the political realm we are abandoning the greater things that you say the pulpit is for. Now, we both agree, that not only Christ’s Kingship must be proclaimed from the pulpit but also Christ in His role as High Prophet (thus engendering sermons on epistemology, philosophy illumination, inspiration, revelation, etc.) and Christ in His role as High Priest (thus engendering sermons on soteriology, sacramentology, hamartiology, etc.). This is why the preachers job is so burdensome Rick, because we have to speak about everything precisely because Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King over everything. Who is sufficient for such a task?
Next as it touches the italicized section we must understand that separation of Church and State never, ever, meant that the Church couldn’t speak to the any realm it darn well pleased. The separation of Church and State only meant that the Federal State couldn’t force a national denomination on the states, who were free to have their own State denominations as they chose. Further, the Separation of Church and State where it functions properly doesn’t mean the division or divorce of Church and State (as if that could ever happen) but rather it means that each realm functions only within its proscribed and God ordained boundaries. Rick, the danger of eclipsing Church and State separation today comes not from politically charged pulpits but rather from the State who wants to become the holder, not only of the Sword, but also of the Keys and of the Rod.
Now in reference to Phillips last sentence it looks like he is trying to hedge his bets. It looks like he is saying that the pulpit can speak to these areas as long as everyone is guilty. Well, the good news Rick is that it is a target rich environment on that score. Still, the idea that King Jesus speaks equally to the abortionists as he does to the pro-lifer in a convicting word on that issue is nonsense. I appeal to James to be sustained. In the book of James Jesus speaks a condemning word to the oppressors (Rich) that he does not equally speak to the oppressed. In short Rick, there will be times that the Church speaks to support some view, and some person holding that view, because it and they are being consistent with the law and the testimony of the King, while correspondingly and simultaneously speaking an unequal word against positions and candidates which and who are inconsistent with the declamations of King Jesus — and all that from the pulpit.
Thus endeth the lesson.
5 thoughts on “Chit Chat Between Opposing Pastors On Pulpit Manners”
Whoa. Aren’t you making a few leaps here? While Phillips doesn’t explicitly state the church has an obligation to speak to the culture, he doesn’t explicitly state that only individuals may speak ala Westminster West. Now, maybe you know from other writings of Phillips that he holds the later position, a fair argument, but to deduce that from this article is a stretch.
Further, he states “King Jesus speaks from His Word on matters that pertain to politics” is an explicit statement that the pulpit should then be used to address those matters. The scope of the article is politics. To conclude that he wouldn’t be of the same mind as you as to the obligation to address cultural, social, economic, law, etc. from the pulpit is overstating your case, at least as far as this article is concerned.
While I’m with you that the scriptures address all of life and Jesus is King where ‘ere the Sun …, and also that the church is deficient in this area (I think Phillips would agree), we still must be exacting in our argumentation. The scope of his article was limited, as is my response, and I think you’ve overstated your case.
To be honest I think that Rev. Phillips is confused. He says some things, as you noted in your comment, that would make one think that he is going to go in the direction that you and I are sympathetic to but then he says this,
Now when he says that I can’t help but conclude that what he is saying is that the Church pulpit should not be used to speak on national politics issues. I don’t know how else to interpret that statement. Maybe you have an idea that I can’t come up with on how that statement should be interpreted?
Also when I combine the blockquoted statement of Phillips in this comment above, which, by the way, has an exclamation point, with the following Phillips statement,
And then I read the earlier Phillips Statement,
I am inclined to think that Phillips is saying that it is individual evangelicals who should speak persuasively to the culture and not the Church as the Church since the Church keeps politics out of the pulpit.
Again, I am open to any reading that has a reasonable foundation for interpreting that differently.
Thanks for holding my feet to the fire,
p.s. — Maybe somebody as well as Paul will weigh in on this.
I carry no brief for Phillips. He’s a Michigan grad.
I was getting pretty edgy reading this. If I say I’m disagreeing with your post I would say nothing. Reading this is meaningless waste of time.