In Part 1 we have seen that the practice of religious nationalism is incompatible with the nature and the purpose of the church. In Part 2 we defined religious nationalism and surveyed its roots. We uncovered the presence of the false gospel and its claims and practices. We left off asking if this gospel presents any problems, or in other words, “Is there any danger in a church knowingly or unknowingly proclaiming the false gospel of religious nationalism?”
The Dangers of the False Gospel of Religious Nationalism:
1. Confuses Patriotism with Commitment to Christ
The first danger posed by the false gospel of religious nationalism is the confusion it brings between patriotism and commitment to Christ. The issue is not that patriotism is bad and therefore sinful. The issue is our heart. Our hearts are so easily distracted, pulled in many different directions, ready to give allegiance to any and everything that tugs at our emotions. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). While in context Jesus is speaking about the incompatibility of going after the world’s goods and loving God, in the broader truth, this incompatibility extends to anything that competes with Christ for our affections, including love of country. When country and honor of man are elevated to the level and praise of Christ within the church, our hearts are unable to love and honor both equally therefore we end up loving one and despising the other or we blend them into some new form of worship flowing out of this false gospel. The normal response is either the diminishing of Christ for the love of man and country or the blending of the two. The reason for this is that anything other than full commitment and submission to Christ is easier. Of course we will keep Christ or God in the picture but the true measure of our faith is how patriotic we are rather than the fruit and faithfulness that flows from true conversion. This leads many to a false affirmation of their faith because they attend the special services, sing the songs, recite the pledges and play the part, while in truth, their hearts remain unchanged, sin unchallenged and are spiritually dead. The danger in the false gospel of religious nationalism is that as it is proclaimed those in the church will be forced to decide between Christ or country and only one can truly save and it’s Christ alone.
2. Diminishes the Worship of Christ
The second danger posed by the false gospel of religious nationalism is the diminishing worship of Christ. This is inevitable when anything or anyone is elevated or equated with the person and work of Jesus. In particular, religious nationalism proclaims the accomplishments of man for the sake of country, equating the sacrifice of men and women on the battlefield with the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), are often quoted in reference to those killed in battle and the American military’s fight is related to that of Christ’s fight against sin and death. What this does, whether acknowledged or not, is unworthily and undeservedly elevate the temporal afflictions suffered by sinful human beings deserving of wrath for their own sins with the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ who was undeservedly murdered by his own voluntary choice so as to accomplish true salvation for all who would believe. There is truly no comparison. Both who Christ is and what he did are complete categorical differences from what any man has done, no matter how self-sacrificial. Whenever man is elevated within the church the worship of Christ is diminished. The Bible is clear; Christ alone is worthy of worship. Revelation 5:12-13 declares, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” The danger of the false gospel of religious nationalism is its inherent ability to diminish the worship of Christ, who alone is worthy of our praise and who alone is to be honored and praised within the church.
3. Over-Generalizes Christianity: “God” vs “Christ”
The third danger posed by the false gospel of religious nationalism is its over-generalization of the faith, preferring to emphasize/speak of God rather than Christ. This may seem trivial at first thought but the Scriptures show otherwise. God has progressively revealed himself in the Scriptures. Beginning with creation he has been gradually revealing himself more and more to his people, coming to the pinnacle revelation of himself in the God-Man Jesus Christ. By the shedding of Christ’s blood for the new covenant, there is no longer any worship of God that does not recognize, come through and specifically emphasize Christ himself. The problem with religious nationalism is that is generalizes its worship to only speak of “God”. “In God We Trust”, “God Bless America”, “Endowed by their Creator”, and “One Nation Under God” are just a few examples of this over-generalization. The danger is that many may be confirmed in their “general religion”, proclaiming belief in and worship of God for national blessings (Deism) while neglecting or even denying Christ, the supreme revelation of God and God himself. If we are ashamed to name the name of Christ, then he will be ashamed of us before the Father. We worship God only because of what Christ has done for us and and worship of God is always through Christ. It is God the Father who has made much of Christ, giving him the name above every name, making him Lord over all things, making the world his footstool. Ultimately, this is a salvific issue. Confession of and belief in God saves no one for all know there is a God whether they acknowledge it or not and not all are saved because salvation is only found in Christ. Acts 4:12 proclaims, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
– Part 4