Some people seem to hear adjectives such as “biblical,” “fundamentalist,” “religious,” and “Christian” as synonyms. Being interested in good word usage as I am, I do all I can, in my little corners of civilization, to combat that impression.
I react to conjoining some of the labels of eternity,¹ on the one hand, with political matters of this life, on the other — as though God were exclusively the God of one country or even of one, time-bound planet.
Recently I came across a two-word label that I find ill-conceived: “biblical civilization.” To be sure, portions and aspects of civil society may surely be improved by responsible attention to things in scripture — and God pays attention to both this life and the next — but civil society is not the real bailiwick of scripture (nor is “biblical” the same thing as “scriptural,” exactly, but that’s beside the point here).
If believers were intentionally to attempt to divorce some Christian labels from secular, political, and civil thought processes and actions, it might actually keep thoughtful atheists from assuming that all of us believers want to make the secular world a Christian world.
In other words: atheists seem (rationally) threatened by Christian extremists who want to make God out to be a rightist political tyrant. Given that this is not the era of God’s having one national group that receives His special care, to move decidedly away from ill-begotten daydreams of theocracy² might help matters in broader civilization. Here, I take to task such entities as the American Family Association (whose radio commentator was recently so woefully off-base as to have the relationship of the Christian and government turned on its head), that activistically anti-gay Topeka church, Muslim extremists, and a lot of sincere souls who just don’t get that Jesus’ ultimate goals have nothing to do with this world’s systems.
Personally, I don’t look for this world to improve substantially, but if a secular civilization were to reflect on the Bible responsibly, that reflection would doubtless accompany other, positive actions and attitudes — all of which would have desirable effects in matters of this life and the next. (For thoughts on apoliticism and the so-called apocalyptic worldview, see here or perhaps here.
Whatever our slants and takes on how scripture does or does not relate to geopolitics, it would probably be good to start paying more devoted, responsible, rational attention to scripture in churches.
¹ Not that “fundamentalist” is in any real sense an eternity word, but it (weakly) describes something that some people sincerely feel is related to eternity. As for “religious,” I tend to shy away from that and resist the label for myself altogether. For me, it smacks of thoughtless, ritualized practice.
² Christians generally think one way or the other (see image below; this admittedly simplifies the situation) about what constitutes God’s Israel today. I have no qualms in asserting that God’s people today comprise a group that has nothing directly to do with geopolitical Israel.