And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken (I Kings 18:24).
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
God answers covenantal rebellion with fire. Covenant-breakers rarely admit this fact, and covenant-keepers prefer not to think about it. This makes covenant keepers a poor match for covenant-breakers in history. Christians are so afraid of offending covenant-breakers that they keep silent regarding Gods fire. They are afraid that covenant-keepers hold the hottest torches in history. I call this scarecrow theology.
In the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy meets three companions along the yellow brick road: the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion. The only thing that saved them in the end from total irrelevance and personal failure was their willingness to fight when the forces of evil threatened someone they loved. Seldom have three fantasy characters better fit the description of the modern church. The scarecrow had no brain, and was terrified of fire: a fundamentalist. The tin man had no heart, and every time it rained, he became frozen stiff with rust: a Calvinist. The lion was a coward, yet he had a powerful appearance and a roar that kept getting him into dangerous situations: a European state church, best characterized by Eastern Orthodoxy. The theology of Christianity is scarecrow theology: the denial of God’s predictable corporate sanctions in history.
A Question of Historical Sanctions
Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 teach clearly that God brings corporate sanctions in history: positive (the shorter list in each chapter) and negative. God announced Himself publicly to the Israelites by delivering them from bondage in Egypt: positive corporate sanctions for Israel, negative corporate sanctions for Egypt. The Ten Commandments begin with this statement: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). The defining characteristic of God under the Mosaic Covenant was His power over history, as demonstrated by His deliverance of His people from bondage. God is the sanctions-bringer in history.
In the New Covenant, the defining characteristic of God is His deliverance of His people from eternal punishment: the transition from death to life. This transition takes place in history. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting lite: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (I John 3:14).
It would be a terrible error to conclude that under the Mosaic Covenant, covenant-keepers were not heirs of eternal life. Every evangelical Christian acknowledges this. But it would be an equally terrible error to conclude that under the New Covenant, God does not bring corporate sanctions in terms of men’s response to His revealed law. Yet virtually all evangelical Christians today deny that God does this in the New Covenant era. This is scarecrow theology.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)