Discipling the Nations is one of the more interesting and likely controversial books I have read in some time. A treatise of the author’s interpretation of Biblical Civil Government, it is worth the time taken to read it.
In the Introduction he begins by professing:
“We are fond of saying, “the Bible has all the answers,” yet we systematically ignore or downplay the specific answers the Bible provides for our cultural and political problems. Why do we believe that the Bible has application to our homes and churches, yet deny its application to the life of our nation?”
Indeed, it is an interesting point to ponder! Just how much do we as Christians look to God’s word for civil government applications? He goes on:
“Obviously, the Great Commission must begin within the hearts of individuals. Individual souls must be called to repentance and faith in Christ. But that is just the beginning of the task. Christ went on to declare that His teachings were to extend beyond the individual to the nations themselves. “All nations” are to be discipled and taught to observe all that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:19-20) What did Christ command? Obviously He based His commands on the whole Bible. Included within those commands are very specific directives for civil magistrates. These directives have been largely ignored by the Church for at least the last century.”
Here is the crux of his book:
“The claims of Christ in Scripture are comprehensive. No sphere of earthly activity is outside His jurisdiction. Every sphere of earthly activity is to be subjected to Christ for His glory in history, and that includes “city hall.” As Isaiah declares: “the government shall be upon His shoulder.” (Isa. 9:6)
The rest of the book details how this is to come about. Part 1 touches on an almost “untouchable” subject for many Christians, the U.S. Constitution. What are its strengths and honest weaknesses? He discusses limited, delegated powers, ruling morally, Federalism, Republican Reform, what the Founders really meant via The Federalist Papers, the Puritans and their governmental choices, a Biblical Religious Test versus no Religious Test, Patrick Henry’s resistance, and issues with national sovereignty. He goes on to discuss the amendments to the Constitution and “Judicial Misinterpretations.” There is a great deal covered in only the first part of the book.
Part Two delves into the decline of our nation. It is a thoroughly depressing chapter, but one that needs to be confronted. He concludes this chapter with: “It is becoming more and more evident that America is on the verge of serious collapse—spiritually, politically, and economically.” I have to say I agree with him.
The next chapters discuss faulty blueprints for recovering the nation and then presents some potentially workable ones. I felt his comment here on the faulty ways we attempt to rescue society was important:
“Christians today have quite a bit of zeal for tearing down the “idols of Baal” (such as abortion, sodomy, pornography, etc.). However, we have very little zeal for rebuilding a civil order based on the authority of God’s law. We are willing to accept almost any standard for political righteousness except the law of God: conscience, majority rule, conservatism, common sense.”
He ends this paragraph with a similar comment to one quoted in the beginning of the review regarding the Bible’s authority: “We are very fond of saying that “the Bible has all the answers,” but we then proceed into the political realm as though the Bible were completely silent.” I quote this again because it seems to honestly be the most relevant kind of point to think about. How can we do this? Do we do this? The discussion then follows on law and its origins, Natural Law, Law of Nations, as well as Biblical Law.
Part Three is entitled, “God’s Blueprint for Civil Government.” It is a very challenging section. You will encounter discussion of Covenants with God versus Social Contract Theory, “The Right of Revolution,” the contrast between a republic and democracy, and the definitions of republican government in the church as well as the state. He also deals with the judicial system and offers alternatives to our current overcrowded and probable unjust system. “How does this work itself out into practical politics?” he asks us. He proceeds to outline how this would work and how it did work on a very small scale in his local area.
His thoughts are provocative and really make you think:
“I believe that Matthew 28:19, 20 requires us to "disciple the nations" as a necessary consequence of faith or baptism into Christ. After conversion we are instructed to "teach them all things, whatsoever I have commanded you." As Ken Gentry points out in "The Greatness of the Great Commission" the word "ethnos" is better translated "cultures" than "nations." Jesus was specific in that he did not use the word "anthropos" (man) or bascilica (government). Rather the Great Commission requires us to transform our cultures from the ground (individual) up in the power of the Holy Spirit. Culture is the manifestation of the faith of man in every realm. Why would Christ give us such a command if He did not expect it to be fulfilled, especially since he said in context "all power is given to me on heaven and earth"? To deny that the cultures will be discipled is to deny His power.”
I cannot really argue with that at all. Christ did command us to obey Him though I struggle with some of the means to accomplish this end that he presents in the book. This is an adventurous work that attempts a great deal. At the end of every chapter there are discussion questions for further thought or group use. The author is unabashedly post-millennial. He felt that our legislators, even those who claim Christ as their Savior, were weak in Biblical worldview so he founded ClassicalFree Virtual Academy. He is doing something about the culture war.
I found Discipling the Nations to be profoundly thought-provoking, motivating, and refreshingly sound in many of its explanations, but still could not completely embrace the post-millennial under girding. How likely is it that this optimistic godly governmental system will come about? Only God can know the future, but He is God after all—and He can certainly do all things.