By Nathan Eshelman
There are few men in this world to whom I owe so much. While many readers may say that Dr. Beeke has been an influence in their lives through his writing, his preaching, and his conference messages — I have so much more that I owe to Joel Beeke.
Dr. Beeke has been a key figure in forming me into the minister of the gospel that I am. Four and a half years of study under his instruction at Puritan Reformed Seminary have shaped and molded my spiritual life, my family, my sanctification, and my pastoral ministry. The very first sermon that I ever preached began with the two of us storming the throne room of grace as we prayed in his study. Dr. Beeke laid hands on me as I was ordained to the Gospel ministry here in Los Angeles, CA. He has preached in my pulpit on numerous occasions as he has visited the West Coast. He continues to pray for me and my “success” as a minister within the RPCNA. I really believe that any crowns that I receive in glory will be partially his crowns as well.
Positive Elements in Dr. Beeke’s Article
As I read over (a number of times) Dr. Beeke’s article, Why My Conscience Won’t Let Me Not Vote for Romney, and prayed through the argumentation in the article, I was reminded of my instruction from Dr. Beeke. Always begin criticism with a positive because the hearer will respond better, and it is with sincere pleasure that I do so now.
There are many positive applications in Dr. Beeke’s article. I appreciate his call to protect the life of 98% of abortions in America (Mitt Romney claims to be opposed to 98% of abortions in the US). I was challenged to think about the primaries and convicted concerning how I do not call on my own people to seek office. I was encouraged that Dr. Beeke called on the church to consider the fact that they will stand before God and give account for what they have done in the flesh. And of course, I appreciated the fact that he called on Christians to NOT vote for Obama! These are great applications that we should take into the polls as Christians.
Humanistic, Relativistic, and Moralistic Political Theory
However, I found the article lacking principle based on the Word of God. There was no biblical view of the magistrate put forward. There were no arguments based on the person and work of Christ (to whom the nations were given as an inheritance). You see, if I did not know the author, the portion of the article that instructed Christians to vote for Romney would not help me understand any foundational purposes for casting this vote other than fear; fear of what God’s providence has in store for our country.
Each of the reasons (save the final judgment) were reasons that humanists, moralists, and relativists are also using to defend voting for Romney. That’s not enough. The Word of God is not silent on the issue of the state and it is not silent on the issue of the church’s responsibility to preach to the kings and princes of this world.
Was biblical truth preached or was moralistic relativism promoted? It pains me to say that Jesus was not lifted up in the article.
A Call to Confessionalism: Principles, Not Pragmatism
Dr. Beeke is part of a denomination that claims to uphold both the Belgic Confession of Faith as well as the Westminster Confession of Faith, yet there was nothing of those confessional principles within the call for the church to vote for Mitt Romney. But the fact remains Reformed Christians are a part of a confessional heritage. Our confessions are summaries of what believe the Word of God teaches.
As confessional Christians, we must stand on our confessions as the principles of our Christian life. Below is the opening paragraph of Article 36 of the Belgic Confession of Faith, Dr. Beeke’s primary subordinate standard:
We believe that our gracious God, because of the depravity of mankind, hath appointed kings, princes, and magistrates, willing that the world should be governed by certain laws and policies; to the end that the dissoluteness of men might be restrained, and all things carried on among them with good order and decency. For this purpose He hath invested the magistracy with the sword, for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. And their office is, not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also that they protect the sacred ministry, and thus may remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship, that the kingdom of antichrist may be thus destroyed, and the kingdom of Christ promoted. They must, therefore, countenance the preaching of the word of the gospel everywhere, that God may be honored and worshipped by every one, as He commands in His Word.
How can such a high and glorious view of a magistrate in subjection to the gospel be confessed as an article of faith and then pragmatism be promoted as the application of that confession?
If our confession does not match the current reality in our culture, we should not stoop to the level of the failing culture, but we should call men and women back to a confessional understanding of the teaching of God’s Word concerning the magistrate. Ideas like “we are not electing a pastor” and “our constitution does not have a requirement of religious profession” are not helpful in instructing the church.
We need to stand on principle and have all of our application flow out of those principles. This is part of being confessionally Reformed. To abandon our confession as a way to promote an agenda that is opposed to our confessions is not standing with our forefathers.
The Reformers and Puritans: Ministers Who Changed the World
You see, the Reformers and Puritans were men of conviction and men who were not afraid to stand on the Word of God even if the status quo was against His Word. One of the wonderful things about Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, of which Dr. Beeke is president, is that men are trained in the gospel ministry with the Reformers and the Puritans cheering us on to take up the banner of truth and biblical conviction.
Men like Guido DeBres as he tossed the Belgic Confession over the wall, calling on the magistrate to conform to the Word of God. Men like Martin Bucer who wrote De Regno Christi, a structure for what a biblical government and culture would look like. Men like John Knox who called Scotland to turn unto King Jesus. Men like the Westminster Divines, who despite civil war, pressed ahead to stand for truth and a magistrate under submission to Christ. Men like the fathers of the Dutch Further Reformation who called for the magistrate to uphold both tables of the law. Men like the Covenanters who were slaughtered on the moors of Scotland over a biblical political theory. Men like the American Puritans who saw the opportunity for a city on a hill (See the chapter in Dr. Beeke’s Puritan Theology that espouses the American Puritan ideal of the city on a hill). Men of confessional conviction with a clear doctrine of the state.
Where is our conviction when we can look at our forefathers, who suffered so much and lost so much and proclaimed so much, and then say, “They just wouldn’t understand. This is a different time.” Where is the Puritan Reformed conviction? Where is the reformation heritage? Promoting the status quo of the GOP is not the way ahead. It’s a deep compromise that is against our confessional heritage and against the fathers in the faith to whom we look for encouragement to live out the Christian life.
A Way Ahead
So what should we do as confessionally reformed Christians? Promoting a Bishop of one of the fastest growing cults in the world is not it! I have been asked on occasion why there are not more Reformed men in politics. Why don’t we see leaders be raised up to promote biblical truth?
I truly believe it is because what the church has to say on this issue is the same as the moralistic, humanistic, and pragmatic talking heads of our age. The church will not prosper so long as she binds men’s consciences to vote for someone who hates our God and the true religion.
You see, the Scriptures do have a political philosophy. We may disagree on some of the applications of that philosophy, but on this we can agree:
The nations of the world are called to “kiss the Son lest they perish (Psalm 2).” This is our message to the kings and rulers of this age. How can they take us seriously, when we bring the gospel to them, if our actions declare that we do not believe the nations are called on by God to kiss the Son. We need to stand on our confession of biblical truth and see that a new generation of political reformers are instructed from God’s Word, not the Red-State-Blue-State-Status-Quo.
As much as I love my professor and friend, Dr. Beeke, I must disagree with him in this matter. When you, reader, stand before God on judgment day and He asks you what you did with your vote, I hope you can say that you lived radically unto Him and called on the princes of your nation to kiss the Son and submit to the true head and heir of the nations.
This is why my conscience will not allow me to vote for Mitt Romney. It has been instructed by the Word of God through our reformed confessions. It is a close race, that is for sure, but in God’s sovereignty, we do not have a man in the fight. We need a man who will kiss the Son. Only this will get us on track as a nation.