Rome is Burning, Part 1

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The comparisons are inevitable.

Peel away the emotion, the romanticized delusion, the pleasure-induced coma, and we are confronted with the picture of a nation dying. It's not a modern-day Grapes of Wrath story — as the mainstream media would have us see it — about the trials and tribulations of itinerant, God-fearing farm workers searching for a better life. It's not about a strident, xenophobic, hopelessly outdated few who oppose them, especially when this "opposition" is neither vocal nor few. It's not just about the U.S., especially when Europe finds itself in the same dire situation.

Yes, Rome is burning again, and the elite still don't care.

Last August at WithChrist.org, Dan S. wrote:

The President and his Administration's failure to secure the Nation's borders will probably go down as one of biggest policy blunders and moral failures of the decade. America's southern border is being overwhelmed by violence, crime, and property destruction associated with the smuggling of drugs and human-cargo into the United States. New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson was forced to recently declare a 'state of emergency' in counties on the border. Of course, Mexico has suffered for centuries from spiritual darkness, corruption, crime, and poverty--the social fruits of Catholicism. Quite obviously, George Bush sees it differently. (August 14, 2005)
Historical Perspective

Libertarian writer Steven LaTulippe compares the 43rd U.S. President, George W. Bush, to Theodosius the Great. Who was Theodosius? He was a Roman emperor in the late 4th century who allowed the barbarians to settle in the Empire as a concession to mounting military losses.

The word "barbarian" comes from the ancient Greek barbaros, meaning a person with different speech and customs. The "Conan the Barbarian" sense of the word does not entirely apply to ancient Rome. But when we think of Rome falling to the barbarians, our mental image is of an invading horde of uncouth belligerents. It turns out the invasion was a lot less war-like than we are popularly led to believe.

That's what makes Rome's end so pathetic, in the truest sense of the word. Rome went out, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

In January 2004, Tulippe wrote:
Essentially, the proponents of Theodosius’ policy made three arguments. First, was that the expulsion of the Germans was simply impractical. There were too many of them already within the borders, and their deportation would involve potentially explosive conflict. Second, was the belief that the intruders would eventually succumb to the overwhelming power of Roman culture and assimilate…becoming productive Roman citizens. Third, was the belief that the importation of this new population would economically benefit an Empire which was suffering from a declining population.
They were wrong on all counts. Within 100 years, the Western Roman Empire was gone, and the Dark Ages were ushered in.

Populist columnist Frosty Wooldridge cited these statistics back in January:
From January 2000 to March 2005, a whopping 7.9 million legal and illegal immigrants settled into the United States. Over half of those immigrants arrived as illegals in that five year period.
Four of those years were the first four years of the Bush administration.
7,000 to 10,000 illegal aliens according to Time Magazine, pour across our borders every night of the year equaling 3,000,000 annually. They number over 15 to 20 million and there is no end to the line that grows by 85 million desperately poor added to the world yearly.
In his recently published book, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Oxford historian Peter Heather argues that insatiable imperial expansion combined with unfettered immigration of the Huns and the Germanic tribes were the most significant factors leading to the death of the Roman Empire.
The Romans were deeply embroiled with war in the East the Persian empire. Emperor Valens was forced to admit Gothic hordes. All went well until food supplies ran short and tempers flared. From the Gothic War until the fall of Rome, continuous pressure from the Huns forced more barbarians into the empire. Eventually, the immigrants grew more powerful than existing Roman authority.
(Heather disputes the popular theory that Rome was also in social and moral decline at the time. To believers, the social and moral decline of the West, circa the 21st century, could not be more obvious. In Scripture, the superpower of the world faces judgment before the world as a whole — Revelation 18:2.)

Time Is Not Standing Still

After Theodosius I, it took nearly 100 years for the Western Empire to finally expire. At the time of its death in 476 A.D., the Roman Empire had lasted 500 years. It had succeeded the Republic, which itself lasted 500 years. The United States, however, is a mere 230 years old. But things today are moving at a considerably more rapid pace.

The compression and intensity of events in the last 100 years are totally unlike pre-20th century levels. Hundreds were killed and thousands were wounded in the Battle of New Orleans, which culminated the War of 1812. It turns out America and Britain had already signed a peace treaty in Belgium two weeks earlier. The news simply had not reached the enemy combatants on the field.

In 2006, worldwide travel and communication are at unprecedented levels. Consequently, knowledge is increasing at an astounding rate never before seen. (These last few decades are often referred to as the Information Age.) Economists now argue that knowledge and innovation drive the modern economy, not the old bedrock factors of land, labor, and capital. It all means that, in the 21st century, a nation's decline can and will occur that much faster. And America's decline need not be speculation any longer; we see it happening (very quickly) before our own eyes.

Christian Citizenship

Illegal immigration, and globalization in the bigger picture, are not morally neutral issues. The lawless influx of immigrants into any nation is not something to be celebrated or rationalized by Christians, as some church leaders are doing. Spiritual separation does not mean forfeiture of earthly (national) custodianship or some kind of acquiescence. Patriotism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive, and patriotism certainly does not mean dominionism.

In April 2005, Dan S. addressed the subject in his With Christ blog:
From time-to-time, we receive comments from those who have fallen prey to what I call dispensational asceticism. These individuals have come to appreciate the unique role of the Apostle Paul and his message to the heavenly Church; however, they go too far in asserting a unitary citizenship for the Christian. This is contrary to the dual (primary and tertiary) citizenship model taught and lived by the Apostle Paul. Their hearts are in the right place; but their minds are not. This is typically the realm of soul eradication. Sadly, a few dispensationalists today even lay claim to being "super-spiritual" or "super-apostles" (2 Cor.11:5).
He continued:
The Church, the Body of Christ, holds dual citizenship. See Acts 16-23 where the Apostle Paul exercised rights under his Roman citizenship. One might ask, "If Paul believed Christians had only a heavenly citizenship, why then did Paul "interfere" in the Roman legal system? Why did he not just remain silent?" Similarly, why are the Pauline epistles filled with instruction regarding the earthly (Matt.20:30) institution of marriage? Why would the Hebrew epistle call marriage "honorable", if engaging in such an union was worldly and contrary to one's heavenly citizenship. Paul warns of those who "forbid" believers to marry (1 Tim 4:3).

...The Risen Lord does not deem the heavenly Christian’s moral influence ("salt") upon the world to be “interference.” Further, having this moral influence is not the equivalent of seeking to usher in the Millennial Kingdom--a patently false accusation.

While heavenly Christians are called to "live in the world", we are warned against spiritual warfare by fleshly means (2 Cor.10:3-5), being "entangled" by the affairs of the world (2 Tim. 2:4), adopting the "principles of the world (Col.2:8), or being a "friend of the world" (James 4:4). But nowhere are we taught to withdraw from the world. This is not Pauline. (April 10, 2005)

7 comments:

Lum said... on 4/12/2006 8:53 AM  

Eye opening information. I believe that history is the greatest predictor of future prophetic events since there is nothing new under the sun (Ec 1:9). This info is further evidence that the USA (not the EU) is the revived Roman Empire.

I do have one small disagreement and that is the statement that Christianity and patriotism are not mutually exclusive. I believe they are. No man can serve two masters. Contrary to Dan S. assertion, Paul did not “interfere” with the Roman legal system. In Acts 16:23 we see that Paul did not invoke his Roman citizenship and allowed himself to be beaten. In Acts 17:7 Paul is accused of treason against Rome and flees the city. In chapter 19 he is accused and threatened in Ephesus and makes no mention of his Roman citizenship. The famous passage in 22:25 where Paul does assert his Roman citizenship to avoid being beaten turned out to be God’s plan by which Paul was sent to Rome to preach the gospel.

In every case Paul uses his Roman citizenship only to advance the gospel, never to affect societal change in the political sense. As a U.S. citizen and I am hurt and disappointed by the things I see happening in this nation. Politically I oppose unfettered illegal immigration but I also understand this is happening because it is part of God’s judgment on this nation. All God’s judgments are righteous and true. We will not stop them. We may delay them but eventually they will come because they are ultimately for our good.

There is coming a time when Christians in the USA will be forced to choose between patriotism and Christianity. Matthew 24:9 says we will be hated of all nations. That will include the USA. True Christians will be persecuted by the government beast even here. Many professing Christians, blinded by the spirit of patriotism will make the wrong choice. I am not saying we should withdraw from the world only that like Paul we should use our earthly citizenship for the advancement of the gospel. That is our call The idea that we are to outwardly change society by political means is one of the great deceptions of our time.

Anonymous said... on 4/12/2006 4:47 PM  

Steve, thanks for taking the time to share your insights here and for your excellent site, as well. Keep up the good work.

"Patriotism" probably requires some qualification. A blind patriotism puts itself above a believer's primary citizenship in Heaven (and ignores that God formed the nations). A subordinate patriotism recognizes the need for both Christian separation (the priority) and national sovereignty/identity.

The concept of "nation" goes beyond government to mean a shared language and social and religious customs. Many nations (e.g. Russia) have endured different forms of government while maintaining their integrity. The U.S. is a notable exception in that its government has remain unchanged for a long period of time. Because of that, her citizens have come to believe that democracy is what makes America America rather than the shared (imputed) acceptance of her Judeo-Christian roots (i.e. cultural Christianity). America as a nation is perhaps already a thing of the past. (Not in the political sense: the values of her populace changed.) What has taken its place is a democracy of ill-fitting pieces, yet many continue to believe that democracy is what made America such a unique place.

Patriotism (as in national sovereignty/identity) is a hindrance to globalism and seemed relevant here.

"There is coming a time when Christians in the USA will be forced to choose between patriotism and Christianity." It looks as if events are leading up to that, but it may end up being a choice between Christianity and the "human family" (as opposed to any one country). Still, like you say, "True Christians will be persecuted by the government beast even [in the U.S.]."

"The idea that we are to outwardly change society by political means is one of the great deceptions of our time." Agreed. We also see that the churches committed to dominionism or a "social" gospel are vainly conforming to the popular culture to achieve their ends.

There is a fine line between fatalism and reality, as we know. Despite the dire world situation, Christians must still exhort the truth and defend the faith from the positions where God has placed them. Paul knew what the Roman authorities could and would do, but he kept fighting until it was God's will that his fight was finished. So, we can't get ahead of ourselves.

bellacqua said... on 4/13/2006 1:57 PM  

Burning Rome 1 & 2: Thanks for this scholarly post. I had been thinking about the immigration thing especially for the past two weeks (due to its heighted media attention) and am encouraged to see it tied to biblical perspective in this insightful way.

Kristen said... on 4/14/2006 7:39 AM  

"'There is coming a time when Christians in the USA will be forced to choose between patriotism and Christianity.' It looks as if events are leading up to that, but it may end up being a choice between Christianity and the 'human family' (as opposed to any one country)."

I agree; I believe that globalization will change the meaning of 'citizen' as boundaries are erased.

Before I got saved, I had a "Global Village" sticker on my car. I didn't know why--I just liked the idea of harmony in globalization, but it was a vague idea to me at the time. I think people in the world are being conditioned, both overtly and indirectly, to see being a "global citizen" as a very positive thing.

Anonymous said... on 4/14/2006 10:34 AM  

I have long thought that the USA and ancient Rome have much in common. All one has to do is read an unaltered history book to see the similarities. However, I do not believe that America is the revived Roman empire of Scripture. During endtime events, post rapture and perhaps pre-rapture the USA will become a nonentity. Either by military destruction/occupation or by simply fading away into second nation status, much like modern England. Either way, America is on its way out. It grieves my heart for I am a patriot of this county.

I fully understand that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles as a representative republic, not a democracy. Democracy is another word for mob rule.

As a believer in Jesus Christ the best response I can have is to become more like Christ in His humanity. There will come a time when when we as believers must choose our Lord or our country. And to be honest, the way things are going in this country it will not be a very hard choice. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will never change, He is the Petra on which we all can stand and never falter. They make take our livelihood, property and even our lives but they cannot touch our souls. They are sealed forever in the loving hands of our Father.

Rome fell, America is not far behind. The similarities are uncanny until one understands that history truly does repeat itself.

DanS said... on 4/16/2006 4:58 PM  

Dear Lum:

I can understand your concern and why, given your background, you are put off by the appearance of co-mingling Christ and America. I would never advocate any form of blind nationalism; rather, I believe Christians have an obligation to stand on the highest ground possible in any situation. I do recommend the book, Never Before in History, America's Inspired Birth, Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner, for believers to gain some appreciation for things "American" and the price paid by those who came before. Political and religious freedom are rare in the history of the world, and America is one of the few islands of freedom left. Let's take a look at a few of your comments.

In Acts 16:23 we see that Paul did not invoke his Roman citizenship and allowed himself to be beaten.

I can agree with the first part of your assertion, but "allowed himself to be beaten" is a clear example of reading into the text something that is not there. Each of the three events you raise are examples of mob violence by Jews and Greeks--both of which could care less for Paul's dual citizenship. Their desire was for harm, not justice. From the text we see that Paul and Silas were really at the mercy of both the slave owners and the Romans magistrates. The NIV states they were "seized" and "dragged...into the marketplace." Why didn't Paul and Silas walk? Maybe there wasn't alot of room for any such "allowing" in the heat of the moment. While your interpretation is a possibility, I'm inclined to believe that both Paul and Silas were swept along quickly and really didn't get an opportunity to 'reason' with either the mob or the Roman magistrates.
In Acts 17:7 Paul is accused of treason against Rome and flees the city.

Yes, again we have a mob (vs. 5) situation and I find no accusation of "treason" nor "fleeing the city." Which translation of the Word are you using? Take a close look at the text. The mob comes for Paul and Silas, but not finding them, "dragged" those they did find (Jason, et al) before the city officials. They are accused of welcoming into their houses, those (Paul and Silas) who have caused "trouble all over the world!" Note that in spite of all the emotional turmoil, Jason and company were allowed to post bond and then released. If your thesis was sound, they should have avoided the political/civil process and refused bond.

In chapter 19 he is accused and threatened in Ephesus and makes no mention of his Roman citizenship.

Again we have mob violence. Why would Paul mention his Roman citizenship to the mob of Greek businessmen? Paul did want to defend himself (vs. 30), but the disciples forbid it due to the risk of further violence. It was the city clerk who was able to ultimately diffuse the crowd by an appeal to court justice (vs. 38). Paul is protected by Roman law and the mob is in risk of being charged with rioting! A "political" figure thus defends Paul.

The famous passage in 22:25 where Paul does assert his Roman citizenship to avoid being beaten turned out to be God’s plan by which Paul was sent to Rome to preach the gospel.

Can you not see God's plan in the other situations? In Acts 16:25-26, God works an incredible miracle. In Acts 17:6, the text says that the mob "did not find them" (hidden?). Later, they were sent to Berea were many Jews and Greeks, both men and women believed. Wasn't this God's plan?

In every case Paul uses his Roman citizenship only to advance the gospel, never to affect societal change in the political sense.

"Only"? Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:8-10 and explained the appropriate use of politics--i.e., legislated morality. "We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers..." Was Paul indifferent regarding those for whom the law was made? It is rather clear to me that Paul didn't separate spreading the gospel and affecting (upholding) social and moral norms. He didn't play one off against the other.

This is no apologetic for a social gospel. It is a plea for not stripping the gospel of the 'here-and-now' elements of accountability and justice. Today's fundamentalist and evangelical churches are plagued with passivity regarding doctrinal and moral error, accountability and justice. To some degree, I believe it is due to a backwash of the fundamentalist retreat from the world. The Apostle Paul should be an example for getting our priorities in order. We are not to focus on "affecting societal change" if unless the change is in our homes and our churches. Secure that realm and society will follow. Hear Paul's comment against Corinthian passivity, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?"

Lum said... on 4/20/2006 4:19 PM  

Dan,

Good points but I must respectfully disagree on a couple of items.

You said:
I can agree with the first part of your assertion, but "allowed himself to be beaten" is a clear example of reading into the text something that is not there. Each of the three events you raise are examples of mob violence by Jews and Greeks--

The Acts 16 episode was not simply mob violence. The mob did physically restrain them but they took them to the magistrates. These were civil officials not religious officials. Further they accused them of teaching customs which were not lawful for Romans to observe. The magistrates then ordered them beaten and held in jail. Again I say Paul in this case made no mention of his citizenship which he later invoked to avoid being beaten.

I will allow that the incident in Ephesus was one of mob violence rather than a Roman civil issue. However it should be noted that Paul did not make any attempt himself to placate the crowd with an appeal to lawful arbitration. Paul held his peace and God sent a government official (the townclerk) to speak on his behalf.

Regarding the Acts 17 issue you said:
Yes, again we have a mob (vs. 5) situation and I find no accusation of "treason" nor "fleeing the city."

May I point you to Acts 17:7 where the crowd claimed and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, [one] Jesus.

If that isn't a charge of treason against Rome I don't know what is.

Then verse 10 says And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.....

That look suspiciously like fleeing the city if you ask me.

Certainly I see God's plan in each of these situations and if I implied otherwise (which I don't think I did) I stand corrected.

All that being said, I stand by my assertion that Paul never invoked the law for social or cultural purposes. The passsage you cite in 1Tim 1 is simply not a treatise on the law as an instrument of social change in the civic sense. Paul here is making a distinction between those in the church who would demand that we live by the law of Moses rather than the grace of Christ. This is obvious from the plain reading of verses 6 - 7

From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm

He's speaking of the law as it applies to the faith, not as it applies to the culture.

You said:
Today's fundamentalist and evangelical churches are plagued with passivity regarding doctrinal and moral error, accountability and justice.

I agree as it applies to the church we have certainly ignored doctrinal and moral error and have failed to be accountable. But that is not because the culture has become immoral and unaccountable. I would contend that the truth is just the opposite. The culture is a reflection of the church. Since the church has become apostate the culture has followed.

Do you know why judges can't seem to read and follow the constitution without adding their own ideas and desires? It's because the preachers of America can't read the Bible without adding to in their own traditions.

Yes, Paul said in 1Cor 5 that we are not to judge those outside the body of Christ but that we were only to judge those within. This statement seems to me to undermine your argument rather than prove it.

As for the book Never Before in History, America's Inspired Birth, I have not read it but having been a student of history for many years I am probably familiar with the arguments put forth in it. I do not deny God's hand in the formation of this nation.

However as a Christian I must always place the truth of scripture ahead of what my patriotic desires for this nation may be. The fact of the matter is that Romans 13:1-2 was in the bible in 1776. It was not added later

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Our great and pious founding fathers conveniently ignored this passage of scripture and fomented a rebellion against the authority of the King who's authority was ordained by God. I would remind you that many former colonies of the British Empire gained their freedom without resorting to a violent rebellion, Canada and Australia being the two most prominent.

God has raised up many nations for his purposes over the millenia. All have been used by God, some have been used as vessels of honor, some of dishonor and some have been used as both as various times in history.

While America has been used as a vessel of honor at times there is no promise, scriptural or otherwise that we will always be used as such. Liberty comes not from a system of government but from the spirit of the Lord (2Cor 3:17). The deeper the church has sunk into apostasy, the deeper our nation has fallen into debauchery and tyranny.

Our duty as Christians is to proclaim the power of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only by the power of the gospel can men be changed. Only as men are truly changed by this power will society be transformed.

 

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