A Christian Evaluation of Ideologies

I am loathe to enter the realm of politics and I will not until and unless required to by my ordination vows:

Bishop:  Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Body of Christ all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private admonitions and exhortations, to the weak as well as the strong within your charge, as need shall require and occasion shall be given?

Answer:  I will, the Lord being my helper.

Many social and political movements and agendas are swirling about us now, clamoring for attention and more than clamoring:  demanding our allegiance, lest we be judged on the wrong side of history.  These come from both ends of the spectrum, and neither left nor right has a monopoly on these ideologies.  They require a Christian response, and my vows demand that I speak to those who might listen.

I do not intend to engage with any of these ideologies in particular.  Rather, I wish to propose a Christian means of evaluating all of them, a set of orienting questions — hardly exhaustive but a faithful beginning — as these voices call out to us. 

Are the foundational principles of the ideology consonant with the Gospel?  Are all human being understood as image bearers of God who suffer under the burden of original and personal sin?  Are all persons called to repentance?  Is the mercy of God in Christ central so that forgiveness is offered to all who sincerely repent and with true faith turn to him?

Is the fundamental ethic of the ideology the Great and Second Commandments:  the love of God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength and the love of one’s neighbor as oneself?

Does the ideology flow from and lead to worship of God as God, or does it elevate that which is not ultimate — state, party, race, gender, autonomy, etc. — to the place of God?

Is the spirit — the ethos — of the ideology animated by and reflective of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

Does the ideology promote peace among erstwhile enemies and draw all to unity in Christ?

These questions are definitively and unapologetically Christian, for it is to my Christian brothers and sisters that I offer them.  Specifically, to Anglicans I might add another.

Does this ideology conform to the Anglican formularies:  the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and, for the ACNA, the Jerusalem Declaration, the Fundamental Declarations of the Province, and To Be A Christian (the catechism)?

A proper Christian evaluation of the various ideologies bombarding us requires wisdom, and here James is helpful:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man,unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8, ESV).

Nor is Jude far from mind:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (June 3-4, ESV).

A final note:  if you think I have written this for “them” you are both right and wrong.  I have written it for us, for all of us who proclaim Jesus as Lord.

About johnaroop

I am a husband, father, retired teacher, lover of books and music and coffee and, as of 17 May 2015, by the grace of God and the will of his Church, an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Diocese of the South. I serve as assisting priest at Apostles Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN, and as Canon Theologian for the Anglican Diocese of the South.
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