I feel sorry for those visible leaders of the New Christian Right who have to face the savage attacks of the humanists, and who also face the moralistic attacks of those former supporters who are remaining true to their anti-covenantal, anti-political presuppositions. The radical independents are upset that men like Falwell and Robison are challenging them with new, unfamiliar responsibilities — responsibilities that are meaningful only within a Christian framework of covenant theology. But neither Falwell nor Robison believes in covenant theology, with its doctrine of multiple institutions, including churches and civil governments, that possess lawful, quasi-hierarchical chains of command. Covenant theology flies in the face of independency, and the more consistent of the independents are not misled by the protests from the New Christian Right’s leaders that they are not mixing politics and religion – that is, that they are not campaigning for a new social order based on Christian law, Christian covenants, and the suppression of the humanist world order. The Baptists who are influential in the New Christian Right movement are being torn apart, epistemologically speaking. Their political conclusions lead straight into covenantal theocracy, but their Anabaptist presuppositions lead right back into pietism and ultimately into anarchism. Once a man acknowledges that there is no neutrality, he has to confront this crucial intellectual problem. Will it be covenant theology or Anabaptism? Will it be theocracy or anarchism? Or will it be a life of being caught in the middle, with humanists and independents both calling for your scalp, and with covenant theologians standing on the sidelines, watching you get ripped to pieces?
Again, we see that Baptists have good intentions, but all too often the principles they must adhere to according to their heritage hurt them in the long run. Two steps forward, three steps back.
When popular dispensational figureheads attempt to break into the political scene with hopes of changing it for God’s glory, they are accused of departing from the preaching of the Gospel and becoming political pawns. What their accusers really mean is that they are departing from “retreatist pietism,” which of course is a natural offspring of dispensational premillenial eschatology.
“Retreatist pietism” is precisely why the Church has failed to become a driving force in American politics. It’s only when we realize that the political scene is just another realm to be conquered for Christ’s glory (postmillenialism), that we can become a force for good.