Dr Joe Boot on Trump and Triumphalism
Podcast transcript | About Abortion | Episode 17
Dave Brennan: Hello and welcome to this week's episode of About Abortion. I'm very excited to be joined this week by Dr Joe Boot. Joe, thank you so much for coming on today.
Joe Boot: Great to be with you Dave. Thanks for having me.
Dave Brennan: And welcome back to the UK. You've just got back from Canada?
Joe Boot: That's right, yep.
Dave Brennan: Fantastic. And I guess this must feel almost like a liberal Western democracy by comparison. Is that fair to say?
Joe Boot: Yes, it did feel good to touch down in what felt like a return to freedom and liberty in the United Kingdom. But yes, we've been in Canada for 19 years. So it is a significant adjustment as we arrive back in the UK to live, and develop the work of our Ezra Ministry in Christian Philosophy and Cultural Apologetics here in the UK.
Dave Brennan: Fantastic. So just tell us a bit about Ezra, if you don't mind. So where and what is it?
Joe Boot: The Ezra Institute was founded in Canada in 2009 as a Christian worldview think tank and and cultural apologetics training organization. Sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but what we do is we write and research, we speak, publish a journal, have a publishing house, books, and we do short term training in Christian worldview, developing a Christian philosophy for all of life, and cultural apologetics, which is the vindication of the Christian view of reality; not just in the narrow sense of traditional Christian apologetics, where we tend to think about the existence of God, the problem of evil, some of the more traditional evidential or rationalistic questions, although those remain important to address. A cultural apologetic is interested in those things, but much more broadly, how do we develop a Christian view of reality in totality?
So is there a defense of a Christian view of the law? A Christian view of family, a Christian view of human identity and sexuality, a Christian view of life, a Christian view of economics, a Christian view of business, arts, media, all of these things. How do we develop a robust defense and vindicate the Christian philosophy of life in its totality, not just a narrow subset of Church dogmatics? So it's a broader project. It includes the former, but it is much broader in its implication and application.
Dave Brennan: Excellent. And that's very much where I'd love us to go today and what you bring from that Ezra Institute world of thinking, but also your experience living across in Canada for so many years I trust will help us bring something of a sort of trans-Atlantic perspective to where we are in the UK today. Because really what I'd like to speak about, is really the relationship between the state of a nation, culturally, politically in terms of legislation, and the behaviour of the Church within that nation. Is there a causation there and how should we think about the role of the Church in influencing the nation? And of course focusing particularly on the UK, but it'd be interesting to hear reflections as well on Canada and the United States. I haven't come up with a title for this week's episode yet, but I was thinking something along the lines of ‘Trump and Triumphalism, the UK Evangelical's worst nightmare’. Because one of the things we're certainly grappling with here in the UK is a real aversion to Christians getting political. So I'm hoping we can talk about some of those things, but perhaps before we get there, maybe we should define some terms a bit. So is abortion a political issue?
Joe Boot: The question of life’s sanctity is a fundamentally religious issue, and religion touches every single area of life. So there are inescapable political implications to the Biblical teaching about human life. And this is one of the things that we, Ezra, are concerned to explain as best as we can to Christians and to the Church, is that we've tended within secularism to divide reality into a sacred and a secular space. And religion, narrowly defined, belongs to the sacred. So think of a London double-decker bus, and on the upper deck are the spiritual sacred things that are really important, like Bible reading, personal spiritual disciplines, going to Church, going to Bible study, and doing some evangelism. And then on the lower deck are the secular issues of law, politics, life, the area of education, culture in general. And the upper deck is really important, and the lower deck is less important, possibly irrelevant, and certainly not that significant to Christians. The problem is, where is the driver? The driver is always on the lower deck. And so when Christians disengage and have this dualistic two-storey view of religion, you end up actually with the culture being driven radically away from Christ.
So, the important thing to remember as Christians, is that life is religion. There is a religious root grounded in a worldview or faith perspective in every human being, in every single area of life. And so, the life issue, like every other critical issue in culture, is a fundamentally and inescapably religious issue. And because it is religious, religion is something that gets worked out in all of cultural life. The conservative thinker, Henry Van Till said that “culture is religion externalized”. And that's absolutely true. So what we believe about life and how we live politically in our cultural life as it relates to abortion, is an expression of a religious commitment. So, the answer to your question is yes, abortion is a religious issue with profound implications politically.
Dave Brennan: And I know one should never mix one's metaphors, but would it be helpful to think of it alternatively as the political, the cultural is the embodiment of the spiritual belief. So they're inescapably bound together. And so where the bus goes, we are going, whether we like it or not. And so for the Church in the UK we've got this issue, where we tend to think of the spiritual things, (Bible reading, prayer), those are important. The other things we leave by the wayside in our thinking, in our attitudes. But Biblically how do we correct that? Or to put it in another way, can it be argued Biblically that abortion, for example, is something we should be engaging? So before we get onto how we should engage politically, can we just address or should we even, Biblically, aren't we just here to preach the gospel, say our prayers? And OK, maybe within the Church reform behavior, but even that's not happening. Abortion's rife in the Church. We've got data, experience, bitter experience of just how supportive of abortion evangelicals can be. That aside, does this belong in the mission of the Church to be engaged in these things?
Joe Boot: You've touched on one of the most important and profound artificial dichotomies, artificial divisions, that doesn't belong in the Christian worldview. And it expresses itself in how we think about the life and role of the Church institute. So let's talk about it in these terms: From a scriptural standpoint, the central thrust of the meaning of the Bible is the Kingdom of God. So Jesus came proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. We often forget that. People talk about the Gospel. But Jesus came proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now the word kingdom in the New Testament, basileia, is used dozens and dozens of times. The word Church, ecclesia, is only used a handful of times, appears only at a couple of moments in Jesus' ministry.
So the message of the Kingdom of God and the functioning and life and role of the institutional Church are involved in each other, but they need to be distinguished. So God's work in history is about the expansion and the extension of His Kingdom under the Lordship of his appointed King, Jesus Christ. So you look at Psalm 2, Psalm 110, we look at all the prophecies, e.g., in the Book of Daniel about the uncut stone. It’s going to shatter all the false empires of men. And then Jesus' parables about the Kingdom of God. He doesn't teach parables about the Church. He teaches parables about the Kingdom of God - the mustard seed, the leaven within the loaf and so on. And then the ecclesia is a called-out people who are on mission in terms of the Kingdom of God. So actually Biblically, what has priority is the Kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God in all of life, throughout God's good creation that's been marred and distorted by sin, and the redemptive work of Christ is going to go into every area that has been touched by the destructive work of sin’s power.
So redemption in that sense is creational. It's cosmic. It's not institutional for one narrow aspect of our life in the world as God's people. So the word of God comes to God's people, His children, believers. And the kingdom of God is the priority. Now, within that, you have the centrality and the vital importance of this called-out people, the Church. And the Church comes together as a form of government, actually. That's where the very word is borrowed from in the ancient world. A gathering that's concerned with the affairs of God's Kingdom. And there in the Church, we preach the word of God, we administer the sacraments and we exercise Church discipline, so that as a people, we are prepared and equipped to go out on mission in terms of the Kingdom of God.
Now, the way in which we tend to use the word Church, in popular parlance as Christians, is, that building at the end of the road. And then if we're more switched on to this discussion, we think no, of course the Church is not the building, it's the people. And we're used to hearing that kind of expression. But we will still speak of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Lutheran Church in Germany, the Baptist Church, and actually, those are the ways in which the Bible doesn't speak about the Church. It actually talks about the Church as an invisible body, the body of Christ. There's the historical, actual Church in the world right now all over the globe; that's another meaning of the word Church in the Bible. And then there is, what we might call the Church in a given region. So the Church in Corinth, the Church in Ephesus, the Church in London, the Church in Norwich, the Church in Birmingham. That's all God's people historically situated there.
And then there's the local Church, which is a particular gathering of people within the Church, let's say in Birmingham, there are multiple local Churches governed by specific elders in a given region, where an individual Christian might go to worship, hear the word, receive the sacraments, hopefully experience the exercise of Church discipline, although you've already alluded to the fact that is not happening for the most part. And where we are equipped and set out on mission as his people in terms of the kingdom of God. And I think this is where the critical mistake that you are alluding to, actually happens. We conflate the kingdom of God and the Church. We collapse them into one and we think the kingdom of God only exists within the ecclesia. And if you really want to serve God, then Dave, you have to become a pastor, you have to become a minister, you have to be in full-time ministry, because that's the only place where you can really serve the Lord if you're really serious.
That is a complete misunderstanding of the Biblical message, and it runs us into trouble when you talk about politics, education, law, abortion, sexuality, human identity, all of these issues, and suddenly the question arises, “Should the Church really involve itself in politics?” The called-out ecclesia, the institutional Church as an institution, doesn't have a direct responsibility. In other words, the pastor doesn't have the responsibility of being the local judge or the local civil magistrate or running for office in politics. But the local pastor in the local Church does have the role of teaching and the word of God and applying it, and Christ’s Lordship, to abortion, to law, to, to all of these different areas of life so that we are equipped as Christians to go out in Kingdom service. And as a Christian, I might be a lawyer, I might be a teacher, I might be a judge, I might be a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. But whoever I am, and whatever I'm doing as a Christian, the word of God speaks to me in that field and in that space, to apply God's word in his Lordship. So that's where the risk comes in, is people assume that guys like you who are talking about the importance of Christians engaging the issue of abortion, think that you are saying that the Church institute needs to take over politics. That's not what we're saying. The Church institute does not need to run political life, but Christians, in political life, need to be equipped by the Church to apply a Christian worldview in their political life. And it's rooted in this confusion of a failure to properly distinguish between the Kingdom of God (the basileia) and the Church (the ecclesia).
Dave Brennan: OK, so that cultural engagement then, how is that distinct from just evangelism? So without wanting to stereotype, there is an idea out there that a good Christian banker pays their taxes, goes home, loves his wife, gives to the Church, and evangelises to be fair, he's there to evangelise. How is this pursuit or the advancement of the Kingdom of God more than evangelism?
Joe Boot: Yes. That's a great point too. Because evangelism in that early metaphor we had of the double-decker bus is on the upper deck. That's really important - snatching brands from the burning. But actually the economy and people's economic life, is in the lower deck, and there isn't necessarily a distinctly Christian view of that. So two things I think are important. First, evangelism is the calling of every Christian to share the good news about Christ the King, the Evangel, that the King is on his throne, and that he's calling people to repent, to enter it, to come to the foot of the cross and find new life in Christ - evangelism. And then there is the question of evangelisation. And evangelisation is a bigger project than personal evangelism. Of course, personal evangelism is an aspect of evangelisation in the same way that the Church is an aspect of the work of the Kingdom of God. But evangelisation is about the inculcation, it's about the application, the steady realisation of the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ in the various different aspects of my life. For example, when I lead my family as a father and as a husband in the right way in terms of the word of God, I may not be personally evangelising my wife, or even my children, in just giving them the gospel, but in the application of God's word to my family life… Imagine, towns and villages are made up of families. And imagine if you saw a turning to Christ of many people in a given town or village, and then those families applying the word of God to their lives. You would begin to see what we would call the Christianisation of their cultural life, their social life, of their educational life. So personal evangelism, in the narrow sense, is about verbally sharing the redemptive work of Christ with somebody.
Evangelisation is about the application of Christ's Lordship and his word, to every area of life so that the plausibility structures around us in law, in politics, in the family, in social life begin to be structured in such a way that they lead us towards the Lord Jesus Christ. So these are mutually reinforcing. Let me just give you one illustration of that. There was a book a few years ago by Mary Eberstadt, a sociologist, who wrote a book called How the West Really Lost God. And it's assumed that people as they stop believing in God, stop believing in the family as central to human society. And there's certainly truth in that. We look at today, as 44% I think of British children will at some point live in a home with only one parent. But what she shows in this interesting book, is that it's a reciprocal relationship that actually as the family collapses, and our idea of fatherhood and family, (because God reveals himself in covenantal terms, in familial terms,) as family collapses, people stop believing in God. So it's not just tell people about Jesus so they come to Him, because as you've said, you can have people who accept the propositions of the gospel, but can live in rebellion against God's law most of their Christian life, and never actually apply it, and therefore have no cultural impact.
So evangelisms that narrow an important issue of communicating verbally something that Christ has done, but being not just a hearer of the word, but a doer of the word, is critically important in the process of evangelisation, where we begin to change the very plausibility structure of our society. And that's been done to us, if we look for example, at the radical issue of human identity and sexuality today, in the way the radical movements have sought to shift our perception of human identity, sexuality, and marriage. Look how that's reshaping the culture. Tiny minority of people shift the plausibility structure of a culture, so that corporations, businesses, schools, the law, Churches even, everything is being radically altered in terms of a totally pagan vision of human sexuality and identity.
And that's because an ideology there, which has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, is being applied. Here we are as Christians with the word of God in our hands, and the power of the Holy Spirit at our disposal. What if we actually started the process of evangelisation, not just personal evangelism and applied our faith? How many more people would pour into the kingdom of God? I mean if you don't know what a father is, because you've redefined the idea of parenthood, and you don't know what marriage is, how do you understand a Biblical message where history begins with a marriage, God reveals himself as Father, God's relationship to his people is as a bride for Christ and his Church, and history ends in a marriage? That's the essence, that's part and parcel of the message of the gospel. If you destroy that framework socially, the message starts to fall on deaf ears because the categories aren't there to even understand it. So that's the difference I think between personal evangelism, and the banker, the illustration you used, if we can put it this way, it's not just that we need bankers who are Christian, and have a Bible study and a prayer meeting for bankers at their bank. What we need is, yes, bankers who are doing that, but bankers who have a Christian view of banking, who have a Christian view of economic life, who have a Christian view of debt, who have a Christian view of how we should use our funds, who have a Christian view of markets. Many Christians don't think in those terms, but if we want to liberate life in terms of the fullness of life that Christ comes to bring us in John 10:10, being a Christian banker is not just being a banker who happens to share that Jesus loves the clerk sat down on the floor of the bank. It means developing a Christian vision of money and of economic life and how we can bring the prosperity that God wants to bring into people's lives, through the reality of the gospel, by a Biblical vision of money.
Dave Brennan: And so could you almost say that kind of evangelisation is itself, apart from everything else, pre-evangelism that's actually making the gospel more intelligible? It's adorning the gospel, it's introducing the gospel, again, through the flesh, the embodiedness of the faith. I think that was a lightbulb moment I had some years back, actually. I was at an evangelism conference that Andrea Williams was speaking at, and I definitely came very much from that way of thinking: the only thing that matters out there in the world is evangelism. That was my mindset, and the penny just dropped for me as Andrea was speaking. Apart from anything else, this cultural engagement stuff serves evangelism. Because without it, we're removing those contact points.
Joe Boot: That's precisely what William Wilberforce argued, because similar questions were raised even in his time about slavery, about various social issues. He said, “Changing the law doesn't alter anybody's heart, but it gradually changed the structures in which people live that will gradually shape people's hearts.” Law is a teaching device. So you have a precept and a penalty, and the penalty is teaching people the value of the precept.
I'll give you an example from Canada. Up until 1950, the maximum penalty for rape in Canada was the death sentence. Now, what did that communicate to Canadians about the value of women, about the value of the protection for the family and the vulnerable in our society? Today you are unlucky if you get prosecuted at all for that offense. Whereas if we said, “If you jaywalk it's $100,000 fine. And if you rape somebody you're unlucky if you get prosecuted at all, but if you do, it's a hundred bucks.” You see how law (precept and penalty) is teaching values. You'd look at that culture and say, “Wow, they really value the free movement of traffic.” So as we look at things like law and education, what we're seeing is values. Law is teaching us what really matters. So as laws change, people's behavior change.
And as Blaise Pascal, a wonderful Christian apologist mathematician pointed out, actually, if you can get people living like Christians, acting almost as though they're Christians, suddenly the structure of their lives, the plausibility of the gospel is there. The law is a school master that leads us to Christ. Paul says so, and that's why he affirms the use of the law in 1 Timothy:1 in a civil context. So it's a terrible mistake to think that all that's needed is this very narrow, verbal sharing of a few propositions about Jesus and my personal life, as though that is going to transform somebody's life and heart and family, (which is what we're ultimately driving at,) and culture, so that we are in line with God's word. The more we can see people recognising… humor me with one final illustration what I'm trying to say here. Billy Graham in the 1950s, came to Britain for a series of evangelism crusades, something that most evangelicals would agree, “Now that’s evangelism.” Here you've got a man saying, “The Bible says”, preaching the gospel in these large events. In the 1950s with the Harringay crusades he was filling stadiums every night for several weeks. So impressed and impacted was Winston Churchill at the time by this, that he invited Billy Graham to 10 Downing Street for a conversation which Billy Graham relates in his biography Just As I Am.
And you would look at the Harringay crusades of the fifties and say they were very successful in terms of the number of people that came forward and responded to the message. Billy Graham comes back in the 1980s, at which point I'm now alive and a small boy, and I'm being taken along to these crusades by my parents, and they were not even a fraction of the success or of the attendance, or1950s! What's happened between the 1950s and the 1980s? Has Billy Graham lost the anointing? Is the gospel no longer powerful? Was there something wrong with the planning and the execution? No, it wasn't any of that. It was to do with the change in the culture, a change in the education of the people. When you said in 1955, "the Bible says", you're dealing with a culture of people who grew up on the Bible, who took the Bible seriously and respected it. You say, "The Bible says" today to Generation Z, many of them wouldn't even know what you were talking about. Radical de-Christianisation has massive implications for evangelism. Talking about repentance from sin in the mid 1980s compared to the 1950s is a completely different issue, in the same way that Peter speaking to Jewish proselytes in Acts 2 to converts to Judaism, 3000 converted in a day, telling them, “Jesus is your Messiah”, to Paul speaking to radical pagans in Acts 17, is a completely different proposition. Here's a group of Biblically illiterate pagan philosophers. The fact that some of the leading members of that council became followers of Paul is incredible. Yet you hear evangelicals sometimes saying about that, "Look, Paul wasn't very successful in Act 17, but look at Peter in Acts 2 because he stuck to the gospel". It's complete nonsense.
So that difference between the 50s in England and the 80s, illustrates the point we are making, that the cultural shift in the collapse of the Christian worldview and de-Christianisation in that period, meant a far less, a much reduced impact for those evangelism meetings because of what's taken place in the de-Christianisation of the people. That's the mutually reinforcing issue of evangelisation, the work of the kingdom of God, and simply personal evangelism.
Dave Brennan: And fundamentally that's Christians becoming de-Christianised in their behavior. That's where it starts. Would you agree that what we're talking about primarily, is Christians behaving as Christians? It's Christians being Christians in the world. That must have been what stopped to some degree.
Joe Boot: Yeah. That's a good point too. Again, the images of the Bible are salt and light. And being a preservative, being like leaven in the loaf. And as goes the Church, we might say, so goes the world. If God's people, if the ecclesia, the called-out people, who are called out to be concerned with the issues of the Kingdom of God for their king, who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the ruler of the kings of the earth, if they stop applying the faith, if they stop externalising the reality of the Lordship of Christ in every area of life, then the seasoning impact is radically reduced. The preservative stops taking effect where the light is now under a bushel. It's not up on a lampstand so all can see it. And yes, it starts almost imperceptibly, but you can absolutely trace the steady collapse of the West, the de-Christianisation of our culture, to liberalism in the Church in the latter part of the 19th century, the inroads it made into the mainline Churches, the decimation of the Churches through liberalism, its denial of the reality of the gospel, the identity, the Lordship, the Kingship, the death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, session of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the denial of those realities, the Church gets hollowed out. First, the men leave in the late 50s, 60s, some of the women stay and then the women start to tip out.
And of course, the only places today in the West where we’re clinging on, is in orthodox forms of Catholicism, and strong evangelical pockets of the faith where people have remained true to the gospel. To an extent of course we've got profound weakness even in those evangelical pockets because of this dualistic view of the faith. And of course, that becomes even more popular as the cultural pressure increases because, with de-Christianisation comes marginalisation and increased persecution for the Church that puts pressure on Christians to keep their mouth shut, not to apply the faith. And then you get eschatologies of escape from the world and you get pietistic theologies developed that basically say, “Leave the world to itself, it's not our concern,” which becomes a mutually reinforcing prophecy of de-Christianisation and further decline. So yes, as the Church surrenders the truth of the Kingdom of God and the reality of the gospel, do not be surprised when society follows and then begins to fall off a cliff.
Dave Brennan: Now I'm sure there will be people out there who will still be misunderstanding some of this and what they have in mind is a sort of, theocracy, (Is caliphate the word, the Muslim caliphate?) then we're going to force non-Christians to act as if they're Christians. So, what can you say to that idea? Because I think that's what some people think you’re talking about when you talk about the Kingdom of God, more than just evangelism. And that appears to me what people are running a mile from. So can you just comment on that? What's going on with that thinking and what are we actually saying?
Joe Boot: In terms of that boogeyman word, ‘theocracy’, the first thing I would say about that is that every social order in the world is a theocracy, because behind every social order is an idea of sovereignty, and behind every concept of sovereignty is a divinity concept. So even if you take a radical secular approach, Vox Populi, Vox Dei, of the French Revolution. the voice of the people is the voice of God. You have a divinity concept there.
You take communism, radical communism in Marxism. You've essentially got the infallibility of the party and you've got the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the God, if you will, is manifest in the authority of the party. If you go to parts of the Islamic world, of course, Allah is at the root of the social order. And of course, behind every idea of law, whether it's Islamic law or Marxist law, or pagan law, whatever it may be, you've got the idea of morality lying behind and beneath every conception of law, because all law is reinforcing, is the legislation of morality or its procedural there too. At least within the juridical aspect of our lives, that's where it's being expressed. So you never get away from morality. Behind morality, a source of sovereignty and behind the idea of sovereignty, a divinity concept.
So whether it's Islamic, secular, Marxist, whatever it may be, you have a theocracy. And as was seen very clearly from the queen's funeral this past couple of weeks in England and people then hearing about, even in some of the words of the funeral, or at least the commentators commenting on the funeral, the nature of the coronation oath, and Britain is a theocracy, right? It has a recognition constitutionally of the supremacy of Christ. People seeing on the queen's coffin the sceptre of justice and righteousness, and then the orb, the earth with the cross at the top, symbolising the rule and empire of the Lord Jesus Christ, under which the monarch, and under whom the monarch serves, also in extending the sceptre of justice.
And then she's given in the coronation that the Bible as the royal law for the government of all princes. That goes all the way back to ancient Israel and the requirement that the king read the law every day, and not elevate themselves above the people and so on. So the first thing to point out with this sort of boogeyman theocracy is that you do not get away in any society in the world, from a divinity concept and from an idea of sovereignty, lying at the root of every social order.
And in the West, historically that has been Christian. It's been the rule of Christ. In the United States the President still takes the oath of office on the Bible. It used to be on an open Bible to Deuteronomy 28, invoking the blessing and cursing of God upon Israel for Covenant violation. That is the history of Christendom. Sorry if people don't like it, but that's just the reality, that there was a recognition of Christ's sovereignty, and every social order is a theocracy of some form or another. Now to the question of the imposition of something, which as you say is the kind of thing that people get scared about. Are we wanting to, like some Sharia Islamic caliphate, enforce Christianity on people?
Notice, first of all, that all law is coercive. Police officers don't give you advice, generally speaking. You don't get pulled over for doing 80 in a 30 and get told, “It would be really helpful if you could just slow down a bit, thanks. That's the advice of the government.” No, you're going to get a ticket, you're probably gonna have your car impounded at that speed. It brings the element of coercion with it. So right now, every Christian in this country in Britain, is being coerced to pay for abortion. In Canada, they're being coerced to pay for sex change operations and for euthanasia. We're being coerced to do all kinds of things that actually we don't really want to do as Christians.
We're being coerced in our state education system in Britain against our will and our wishes. So to have a state, for the state to function means coercion, because that's the essence of the state. That's why we have to be very careful where we bring the state, because wherever you bring the state you bring its God-given character, because the state is important, the state is ordained of God. And it's necessary for the restraint of evil. So wherever you bring it, you have to be very careful because if you bring it into areas it shouldn't be, it's going to bring its coercive authority to bear.
So none of us should think, “Oh, nobody's being coerced right now.” No, the culture is being coerced by law. The question becomes, “Whose law is it and who is Lord?” And a really important question that this comes down to for Christians, is, do we actually believe really in our heart of hearts, that the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the principles of his Word and of his Law, of the decalog, of His commandments, of love of neighbour, and love of God, are for our good and for the blessing of all people? If we don't believe that, then yeah, forget God. Just leave it to go to hell in a hand basket. But if we actually do really believe that Jesus is Lord, and that His word is true, and that His commands are not burdensome, and that if the Son sets you free, you really will be free, and that his Law, as the apostle says, is a law of liberty, then we will, for the good of our neighbour, and for the love of our neighbour, want to see God's Word being brought to bear in every area of life. Now, you cannot impose laws that people don't want on an unwilling population. That's a simple reality. So you're not going to be able to impose, at least at this stage, Sharia law, for example, on Britain. You are not going to be able to impose Hindu law on Britain. What we've been doing though for about 70 years is slowly repealing Biblical law. Because Biblical law is nascent within English common law, going all the way back to Alfred the Great. It's so much been part of our everyday lives we don't even notice it. But, the working week, even things like inheritance law, and property law and all of these things, they're so much part of our own history that we don't even notice the way the Bible's playing a role in our lives. But we've been repealing our laws on marriage, we've been repealing Christian law on divorce, we've been repealing our blasphemy laws. We've been replacing them for other blasphemy laws - what you can and can't say. So you don't actually ever rid yourselves of them. What happens is that law that favours the new God now comes into play and coerces people. So what we're not saying is that what we can do is lay siege to the levers of power in Britain, take control like statists and revolutionary radicals, which is what actually we are dealing with among pagans in our culture, and then now holding these levers of power, impose Christianity on the entire land against their will. That's not going to happen, and that's not the Christian way. Our way is regeneration, not revolution. But as we work and serve in the sharing of the gospel in all these areas of life, so if we're Christians in law, we're Christians in politics, we're Christians in education, we're Christians in any given area, in advocacy, in campaigning to change people's minds like you do at CBR UK, you're reaching hearts and minds, so that when laws are brought forward to the legislature, or changes in educational curricula are brought forward, that actually they'll be welcomed. And I think we're already beginning to see, in this country and in Europe, and in the United States, (look what just happened with Roe v. Wade,) we're beginning to see people say to themselves, “We're getting a bit tired of the last 70 or 80 years of this revolution against basically Christianity and Christian values. It's destroying us, and we may not understand it all. We may not fully understand what this Christianity is all about or have a good handle on what the Bible is all about, but what we do know is that it felt a lot better back then than things do right now, even back in the 70s and 80s. The way we cared for our children, thought about the family, thought about marriage, thought about life”. And actually, interestingly enough, I think the younger generation coming through are becoming very disillusioned with where our culture is at. And so that is a moment of great opportunity for Christians to take our message into the public space, not just cloistered within the walls of the Church, but into the public space and say, “This is good for all of us. This is for the common good. This is what has blessed our nation in the past for centuries. This is what can bless us again if we conform to this”. Sometimes people can receive the blessings of obedience to God without actually even having personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They can be the recipient of obedience because God promises blessing on certain behavior and cursing on others.
So the notion that those who want a transformative Christianity, a Christianity that speaks to culture, not just to personal evangelism, are some sort of Constantinian boogeymen waiting in the wings of history to impose by violent force Christianity on the culture, is worse than pejorative, it's a kind of slander. To say that's what William Wilberforce was up to, for example, would be an insult against one of the founders of modern evangelicalism. No, he had a proper grasp on relation of law and gospel, on their integration, and he understood that the good news that Christ is King has implications for the whole of Christ's domain, which is the entire cosmos. And that His word is true, not just when I'm inside the four walls of an ecclesiastical building for a liturgical service, but it has implications when I'm at the bank on Monday morning, when I'm in the classroom, when I'm at the dispatch box, when I'm in the courtroom, when I'm at the hairdresser. Wherever I am, the Lordship of Christ and His word has implications. And as we share the gospel personally and as we apply the good news of the Kingdom of God broadly in society, that two-handed approach, like two pedals on a bicycle, is what is going to propel us forward. And we have to just destroy this artificial dichotomy between those two things, and say that this is all part of the Christian’s calling in the world.
Dave Brennan: Yeah. I found it very helpful what you pointed out there, that you can't get away from theocracy. You can't get away from a divinity concept of sovereignty. And I think one of the big problems we're up against is this illusion of neutrality, that there is such a thing as spiritually neutral, or there's such a thing as morally neutral.
And I think a lot of us Christians have fallen for that. We think there is no Christian response to the economy, therefore it's immaterial how we respond in our actions and even politically, even on issues that clearly are moral, like abortion. In a sense you could say they are especially moral or the morality of it is especially clear, especially evident.
Reasonable minds might disagree over specific tax thresholds, but we're talking about here the killing of innocent children. And yet the other side have done such a good job at trying to convince us that abortion is a morally neutral issue, is a preference issue. If you don't like abortion, don't have one. But you should not interfere with other people's personal choices. And actually for the large part, we've bought that, but if we recover this idea, this reality, that there's no such thing as neutral. You are tacitly supporting the baby genocide, and albeit under coercion to some extent with our taxes, but that is the status quo. We are all contributing to a genocide. There's no neutrality here. And so what are we doing with our voices? What are we doing with our hands and how are we actually seeking to influence the culture on that issue?
It'd be interesting to just revisit Roe v. Wade there. You were, I guess, still in Canada when that news broke just about. We were here in the UK and the response amongst Christians was really very interesting. There are certainly some Christians who were celebrating, giving all the thanks to God. There are others who would say that they're privately pro-life, but were admonishing one another not to celebrate or be triumphalistic about this. And I even know some friends of mine were in Churches. They were celebrating and they got a slap on the wrist actually from their leadership that said, "Do you know what? We shouldn't be trumpeting about this. And there are some people in this Church who think differently anyway on abortion". So obviously there's a bundle of issues there. There's people don't even know where they stand as it were on the issue, purely speaking. But there is this great aversion to the spectre of the religious rights in America. And one gets the sense that genuinely a lot of UK evangelicals hate Trump more than they hate abortion. Just judging by their behavior, how they speak about what gets them really animated. They definitely don't want to be associated with Trump, but if they're part of the pro-choice, apathetic, accepting the status quo, they're actually quite comfortable with it.
So how do we tackle that? What's going on there with this aversion to the religious right. Because I think there is in UK Evangelicalism, there's almost a pride that we are not like our simpleton American cousins. We're far more nuanced and thoughtful, than to jump both feet, and I guess the parody is, and pledge our unqualified allegiance to the Republican party . So what's going on there and how can we think our way round this in the UK?
Joe Boot: I think part of it is rooted in your first, very important summation about the myth of neutrality. Jesus said, “If you're not for me, you're against me. He who does not gather with me scatters abroad.” Because as I explained in the beginning, there is a religious route to all of these issues. It comes back to the heart of man, and the heart is not simply the seat of your emotions. It's the root of your being. It's the self, it's the ego. When the heart is transformed, that's the root of our being. Think of it like the palm of a hand. And these might be the various aspects of our lives our thought life. So our thinking, our feeling, our doing, our being. But the heart is the palm of your hand, that's at the root of your being.
So that means that if you've been transformed by Christ, there can be no area of neutrality in any area of your life. Paul says that the man who is at emnity against God, he cannot obey God's Lord. He won't do God's will. He's at emnity against God. If you've had your heart transformed, then in every single area of your life, the myth of neutrality is exploded.
There is a way to think and live in terms of Christ and his Lordship in every area of life. So I think that's absolutely vital, and I think there's a lot of this that if my first point would be, I think in Britain perhaps more than in the Christian community in America, there is the prosperity of this myth of neutrality that, “Oh, we are common sense Brits, and we always take the middle road. We're balanced. We're the classic English, British compromise. We always find the compromise solution. We take the happy medium, these extreme rednecks in the United States, they lack the kind of nuance.” So there's the myth of neutrality. I think there's also conceit, if I can put it that way, as a Brit, myself, there's a British and English conceit that we are better than our American brothers and sisters in Christ, that somehow our Britishness, our reserve, we think of ourselves as more balanced and so forth. At what point does Christ spew us out of his mouth for our so-called irenic posture with all of these things? And I think the whole Trump phenomena for a start, having lived in North America for almost two decades, I have numerous Christian friends in the United States and ministry leaders across the United States, who I admire and respect enormously, of people who hold very similar positions to myself, who were not supportive particularly of the Trump presidency.
They would've preferred a Ron DeSantis type figure, for example, there in Florida. So I think that's all an excuse. It's smoke and mirrors. There are different views of Trump as a person. We can have the discussion about that. This show is probably not the best place for it.
I think that of Trump personally, my first question to people on that issue, would be, okay, we may not like his tweets, but let's have a discussion about the actual policies that the man implemented. He was the first US president ever to appear at a pro-life march in the United States. His Supreme Court picks by any measure, but from a Christian standpoint, were better than anything we've seen in a very, very long time. And so what I want to say is, okay, let's have a concrete policy discussion about the policies that the Trump administration with Mike Pence, who was an evangelical as the vice President, were implementing. That would be the place to start. Not personalities, orange hair, rhetoric, Twitter, all of that kind of stuff that tends to just obfuscate, and put style over substance. You've got to take a look at Ron DeSantis in Florida. Okay. So there you've got (I think he's Catholic actually) somebody who's serious, who is every bit as conservative as any previous Republican, more so than Trump, ideologically for certain. But he doesn't come in for the same kind of vitriolic attack. So I think that's a red herring, that sort of Trump doctrine. In fact somebody recently was writing some sort of review of my work and talked about the Trump doctrine mindlessly, and this is just a red herring. It's nonsense. What are the issues? What is the challenge that we're actually facing?
And with Roe v Wade, the fact that you've described some responses in the Churches there that I would call nothing short of aposty from the living God. We are forced in Western nations today in many contexts to celebrate Pride, fly flags. People are told to rejoice in marches down the street, at rebellion against God. And we can't thank the Lord and rejoice when a piece of legislation is likely to prevent the slaughter of thousands of children in the womb? If we can't rejoice at that, what can we celebrate? And again, most Brits misunderstand what actually happened even in the Roe v Wade case, which was the Supreme Court saying, as they looked again at what was a notorious miscarriage of justice at the time, is that this is not a case for the federal government. This is not a federal issue. And so again, a lot of Brits don't understand American politics at all. They don't understand the federal and the state system. This is an issue for the states themselves to deal with. That's what the Supreme Court effectively said. This is an issue for the various states. It is not a federal issue. And so if various states want to regulate and reduce abortion through legislation, that is up to state legislatures. That is something to be rejoiced in because it also is about localism. It's about local accountability. It's about political power not being radically removed from people, but being closer to people. What does the state of Texas want? What does the state of Florida want? What does the state of New York want? So why wouldn't those states and their legislatures be able to make those decisions? So it’s a misunderstanding.
It's the same with the whole notion of separation of Church and state in America. The separation of Church and state has to do with a doctrine of the jurisdiction of the officers of Church and state. It is not about the separation of religion from the state. And in fact, during the constitutional period, various states are allowed establishment. Various states are allowed, but there could be no federally established Church because of course, the experience of the founders in America had been escape from a persecution in England, and they didn't want to be in a possible situation of persecution again at a federal level in the United States. So having this sort of hysteria that came up around that was misplaced. And then the notion that somehow this was the fruit of gun-toting rednecks trying to take over America in some kind of wave of Taliban-style, but just Christian instead, nationalism, is utterly absurd and bears no relationship whatsoever to what is going on in the United States today.
And I travel constantly into the United States to speak and to work with ministry partners there, and that is a complete misrepresentation of what's going on. And I have to say, Dave, some of the most lovely Christians, some of the most generous Christians, some of the most faithful Christians I've ever known, in my life, are American evangelicals, who are concerned for the Gospel, the Glory of God and the Kingdom of God. And I think this sort of long-enduring anti-Americanism that's endured to some degree in British culture, we're up in arms about any form of prejudice/ racism in our culture, but it's fine if you're a totally anti-American and a prejudice towards people in the South or whatever. That's a completely acceptable form of prejudice, even amongst Christians who love the same Lord. There's no place for it, in my view in the Church or in the Kingdom of God. If we want to have a discussion about the merits of policy, and the merits of legal decision, and the merits of the place of God's word in political life, let's have that discussion. But these sorts of jibes and insults and tired clichés, are total red herrings, and I don't think have any place in the discussion today.
Dave Brennan: I totally agree. And actually, this is anecdotal, but I would say possibly the number one objection or hesitation I've heard in my work from pastors is, “We wouldn't want to do this the American way.” That is literally what they say. We wouldn't want to do this the American way, or we don't want to come across like the Americans.
Joe Boot: My first question would be, “What are we talking about? What is the American way? What freedom, liberty, advocacy, what?”
Dave Brennan: Doing something against the genocide?
Joe Boot: Doing something? Acting against genocide? Allowing the highest court in your land to follow the law to actually apply the constitution? What exactly is the substance of that objection, “We wouldn't want to be like the Americans”. What does that even mean? That's the problem with it. And if being more like American Christians means being bolder to speak out for life, being bolder to speak for Christ publicly, and working in terms of litigation, and in terms of advocacy for the unborn, for those who are being cut to pieces in the womb, for those experiencing chemical abortion in the womb, for the destruction that reeks on the lives of mothers and families, and the ruin it's doing even demographically to our culture, the ruin it does to our economy. All of these things have a vast implication. If that's what it means to be a bit more American in England among Christians, then I say bring it on. Because the question should not be, “Is that being more American?” The question should be, “Is it being more Christ like? Is it being more faithful to the Word of God?” Now, there may be things in Britain where we are being faithful to the Word of God, more so than perhaps in America or in Canada, or in South America, or in Africa, maybe. If we are being more Biblical in some area, let's do that. But if the Americans are being more scriptural and more faithful to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in an area, then let's do that. It's not whether it's American, British, African, Asian, South American, or anything else. It's, is it what God requires?
Dave Brennan: And wouldn't it be great if we had that humility to learn from our American brothers, sisters, our Chinese brothers and sisters. That's really helpful. Thank you. I'm conscious that I would love to sit here all day long. Let me just give you one last question, if I may, drawing this together. What do you think needs to change? What would you like to see change in the UK evangelical Churches thinking on this? What needs to change? How should we be behaving with regard to abortion specifically, but more broadly, the cultural mandate? If you were to boil it down for us a bit, what would be the one thing or the few things that really need to turn around?
Joe Boot: You've used an expression there that I don't think we've used so far in the podcast, and that is the ‘cultural mandate’. What we call the Great Commission in Matthew 28, that the Lord Jesus gives, in many respects is a restatement of the cultural mandate in a post-sin world. So you have the pre-sin world of paradise: rule, subdue, take dominion and so forth. Then you have the problem of sin entering. Actually you get a form of the cultural mandate restated post-sin when Noah emerges from the Ark. And that command to rule and subdue has never been rescinded, but it's unsafe to rule and subdue in a sinful world without the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So the Great commission doesn't begin ‘…going into all the world and preach the Gospel.’ How does it begin? “All authority in heaven and on earth,” Jesus says, “belongs to me. Therefore, you can go.” And he doesn't say, “Do personal evangelism.” He says, “Disciple nations.” Not even individuals, of course that's involved in that, but “disciple nations and teach them everything I've commanded.” And John the apostle said, “The world could not contain the books of all the things Jesus taught,” and we know everything that He taught was in line with the fullness of his Word because He says, “Man can't live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” So the mandate is, “Teach and apply, in my authority, this word, this truth, this gospel, to all of the nations. And I'm with you in doing it.” Now, if we could do that, and that's the meaning of the cultural mandate post-sin, that we can only rule and subdue in terms of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his Word. And if we could see a reconciliation of those ideas in terms of the truth of the Kingdom of God, if there was one concept that, from this interview, I would say that we've lost, it is the reality of the basileia of God. I challenge any Christian, look, go into your concordance, go to a Bible dictionary. Look up that word Kingdom. Look how many times it appears. Then look up the word Church and see how many times it appears in the teaching of Jesus. And you will see the Biblical emphasis is the Kingdom, the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we could recover in the evangelical Church a vision of the Kingdom of God and of the cultural mandate, so that the ecclesia takes its proper place within that, advancing the Kingdom, bound to the Kingdom, never separated from it or lessened in importance, but so that those concepts aren't collapsed into each other, so that the only time you are expressing the Kingdom is when you're in Church or doing something ecclesiastical. If we could dispense with that dualism, recover the Biblical vision, and recognise that culture is simply religion externalized, it's our faith applied, in 20 years, we would be in a radically different place for the gospel in this country. We would be in a radically different place in the family, in school, in politics, in education, in every area of life. We'd be in a radically different spot. And our love for the Lord, and I think the enthusiasm in particular Dave of men, because men in particular need a cause, men rally around a cause and that rallies families around a cause. If you just sit men in a pew in Church and say, “Be more holy, be nicer, and tell people about Jesus,” but they don't think that’s their vocation, their work, that there's no martial plan, that there's no cause for them to go to bat for, then the Church collapses. And yet the imagery of Paul in the letters is a martial imagery. We are soldiers of Jesus Christ. Be a good soldier of Christ. Take up the armour of God. “This is a battle,” he says. We are in a conflict. We're in a cosmic configuration that requires men of faith and valour and power to step forward in terms of the Kingdom of God. If we recover that image of the Kingdom we recover some of the martial imagery of the Bible that there is a cause for which to fight.
And that calls men forth in the Church, which calls families to the fore and which takes us into every area of life seeking Christ's victory. To assert the crown right of Christ the King. Think of the martial imagery of the queen's funeral - soldiers bearing the queen on their shoulders, the military bands, the display of that martial imagery. This is a kingdom, it's the United Kingdom and it serves a greater King. That's not ungodly, that's not toxic masculinity. That's the language of the Bible. And if we can recover that as we think about the Kingdom of God and the cultural mandate, we will be in a radically different place a generation from now.
Dave Brennan: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Joe, just tell us your podcast so people can follow you up.
Joe Boot: So if people want to hear more of that week by week, they can tune into the Podcast for Cultural Reformation. That's wherever they get their podcasts from, or it's also available on the Fight Laugh Feast Network. And they can find us at ezrainstitute.com.
Dave Brennan: Fantastic. And as you've been told at the beginning, this is About Abortion. Please do share, comment, etc, and do pass this on to others you think might appreciate it. Thanks so much for listening in, and we'll see you again next week.
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