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Election season: A most dangerous time of spiritual warfare

Voting booth
LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

The time for elections is here — a most dangerous season.

It is a period when, considering the issues, the battles are much more than merely political: it is a time of spiritual warfare.

Meanwhile, secular establishments shout to churches: “Stay away!”

There is a level at which this warning is appropriate. In these columns on politics and the church I try to distinguish between The institutional Churchseeking to become a powerful political bloc, or, worse, even a political party, and individual churches living in and ministering to their localities.

The Church organized as a political force takes us back to the worst of the Medieval period when the powerful monolithic institution became the kingmaker and fell into corruptions of doctrine, behavior and ministry.

While that type of political engagement needs to be resisted, the involvement of local congregations based in and ministering to their localities should be encouraged.

In short, The Churchshould hold the entire political system to account, without becoming a powerbroker and kingmaker, while local churches get into the gritty trenches of political engagement.

The struggle for the throne, be it the pedestal from which the dog catcher reigns, or the Throne of the universe, is the target for displacement — especially the attempts to displace and replace incumbents — healthy politics in a free society.

“Displacement” in a negative sense is the aim of the antichrist. “Anti,” in Greek means “against,” and “in the place of.” The antichrist and his hordes are empowered by a spirit of opposition and imposition. The antichrist opposes Christ and seeks to impose himself in the place of Christ.

It was Lucifer’s attempt to displace Christ from the Throne of Heaven that got him expelled (Isaiah 14:12). Lucifer is still seeking thrones for himself, and weak, spiritually naïve human beings seeking power easily come instruments of his quest.

It is God Himself Who establishes and authorizes jurisdictions. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16: “For in Him (Christ) all things were created, whether in Heaven or on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

Proper governance is essential for the polis, the earthly city, in a fallen world. Yet this doctrine is distorted and itself satanic when it falls into the hands of sinful men and women who claim authorization of “divine right” to do whatever they wish to gain power.

But that does not invalidate God’s establishment of human thrones and dominions.

Thus, a campaign to win a throne is a battle about authority to govern. And that is very much God’s concern because true authority is granted, from higher to lower, as Colossians 1:16 and other passages reveal. One can seize power if strong and tricky enough, but one cannot have authority for use of power unless God sanctions it. True authority is granted from the higher to the lower, and the Throne of God is the highest of all.

Politics is therefore a high calling to servanthood, essential to the well-being of a society. However, unauthorized usurpation from people who do not seek to serve but to dominate, rule, and steal is satanic.

What part of this is not the business of churches?

Politics indeed is a spiritual business because it has to do with truth, ethics, reverence, respect, and other qualities revealed in the character of Christ.

God “elected” Adam and Eve in the Garden to be His representatives in caring for it, and thus gave them “dominion.” Their experience teaches us that what has dominion over the human will determine how the human handles his or her dominion over the jurisdiction — whether the Garden of Eden or the various governing jurisdictions of a vast nation.

In these times when chaos is assaulting the gates and walls of the “garden” of civilization, we must understand what is at stake. When we do, we will see that this is a most dangerous time because spiritual warfare is upon us and many of us don’t know it.

We need push-back.

Saint Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2 that there is a “restrainer” who holds back the “man of lawlessness” who presses into the gates of the world, desiring to spread anarchy everywhere. If the “restrainer” is in place, the ultimate of chaos — Hell — is held back, But there will be a point at which the restrainer is removed, and the “man of lawlessness” will surge in.

Many theologians believe the “restrainer” is the Holy Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit is not some mystical force suspended in the skies, but the Third Person of the Holy Trinity Who indwells the world through His habitation in the Church invisible.

At a strategic moment in God’s plan, that Church will be removed from the world. When that happens, the fury we see now, whose full impact is restrained, will be turned loose. Ultimately, Christ will return to Earth, and renew the Garden Paradise by establishing His cosmic Kingdom in this world.

Until then, we must fight the good fight.

Some read that admonition and conclude that churches must once again form well-armed armies and launch holy war or organize themselves into political parties.

But this is not the call on churches. Rather, churches are to fill the earth with God’s Word, fill the earth with praise for Him and His transcendent majesty, fill the earth with prayer on behalf of our suffering planet and its people, and fill the world with truth — and that includes truth about political issues, policies, and positions, and get out the vote.

This is the push-back that we need in this most dangerous season when strife and chaos storm the gates, and only the churches can provide it.

Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest  book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming  spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.

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