1. How do you pronounce the word “othismos,” and who is behind the Declaration?

2. What is the goal of the Othismos Declaration?

3. What will be done with the information collected from signers?

4. Isn’t this effort a blurring of the separation between Church and State? In other words, isn’t it wrong for pastors and Christians to engage in the public square in this way? Shouldn’t they concern themselves with the work of the Church and leave these issues to the discretion of the government?

5. Are you saying that Christians are the only ones fit to govern in the United States?

6. Can the civil government be trusted to do the right thing?

7. It would seem that the United States is teetering near moral collapse. Does the government play a role in averting it?

8. Do you really think the Othismos Declaration will change anything?

9. What does the Declaration mean by “This would require Christian dissent”?

1. How do you pronounce the word “othismos,” and who is behind the Declaration?

The word “othismos” is pronounced oh-thiz-MOSS. As the Brief Explanation makes clear, the Othismos Declaration “is an effort by Michigan pastors from various branches of Christianity moved by a first concern for the State of Michigan and her citizens.”

2. What is the goal of the Othismos Declaration?

The goal of the Declaration is to respectfully communicate to the civil authorities the intent to remain true to God, His Word, and His Natural Law—even if such fidelity requires dissent. Additionally, it pledges loyalty to the founding documents of this nation and the General Principles by and from which the documents were fashioned.

3. What will be done with the information collected from signers?

The information will not be sold or shared with anyone. It will be used only for communication purposes.

4. Isn’t this effort a blurring of the separation between Church and State? In other words, isn’t it wrong for pastors and Christians to engage in the public square in this way? Shouldn’t they concern themselves with the work of the Church and leave these issues to the discretion of the government?

To all three questions, the answer is emphatically no. Succinctly, the Othismos Declaration is an exercise in distinguishing the standard of Church and State properly, both according to its historical interpretation as well as its theology and practice.

In a letter to Rev. Frederick Schaeffer in 1821, James Madison noted that the truest understanding of the Church and State relationship was located in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther’s theology of the Two Kingdoms—that is, the Kingdom of the Right Hand and the Kingdom of the Left Hand.

Luther knew the Kingdom of the Right Hand as the authority given by God to the church to preach the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins. He understood the Kingdom of the Left Hand as the authority God has given for establishing temporal or secular government for the sake of enforcing and maintaining order for the general welfare of society.

Both kingdoms are under the supreme rule of Christ and ordained by Him. Both are distinct in their purposes. The Right Hand Kingdom flexes the Gospel muscle of Christ’s mercy in order that the world might know Him and be rescued from sin. The Left Hand Kingdom flexes the muscle of the Law in order to provide order, curb sin in this fallen world, and to stem chaos.

As far as the intersecting of these two kingdoms—pastors and Christians engaging in civil affairs—Saint Paul’s insight by way of 1 Timothy 2:1-6 is one example from among many:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

Here Christians are instructed to pray, intercede (ἐντεύξεις—appeal through dialogue, discuss by way of interview), and give thanks “for kings, and for all that are in authority,” which is the Kingdom of the Left. This is done so that Christians “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (V. 2B). Paul continues that this “is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (V. 3). Why is this good and pleasing in the sight of God? Because it provides the opportunity for all people “to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Paul precisely affirms his meaning of truth in the final verse of the text: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all…”

5. Are you saying that Christians are the only ones fit to govern in the United States?

It is true that many of the Founding Fathers believed it logical to prefer Christians when choosing those who would govern the citizens of this nation. It was John Jay, the Secretary of State under George Washington and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who offered rather crisply what is easily discovered among the writings of many of the Founders, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers” (Letter to John Murray, 12 October A.D. 1816).

Nevertheless, the answer to this question is no. We are not saying that Christians are the only ones fit to govern in the United States. The Bible offers plenty of examples of unbelieving rulers who served God’s purposes for good government and the preservation of His Gospel. We are saying that the church and her members are indeed compelled to engage in governmental affairs. We actively intercede in the midst of the Kingdom of the Left, horizontally mindful in our work toward encouraging legislation and governance that is in alignment with the will of God revealed in the Scriptures and discernible according to His natural laws. In our present form of government this takes the form of elections, lobbying, and the like. We do not engage in these things because we are seeking to be “Dominionists”—that is to say that we believe that only Christians are capable of holding office and ruling faithfully. Time and time again we see how this is simply not true. Instead, we actively interface with the Kingdom of the Left in order to do exactly as Saint Paul has instructed: to establish and maintain a public context that provides for the Christian church to exist peacefully so that the field remains set for the Gospel to be given freely—whenever and to whomever we choose—and without fear.

This is the epitome of religious liberty. We pray and we labor in the public square in order to maintain religious liberty, which is a context where Christ’s message is given room to dominate as the Lord allows, not for the rising domination of the ones who bring the message. We actively work in service and support of the government toward maintaining its ordained purpose while praying and working for the repentance and amending of those in authority who violate the government’s ordination when they brazenly work to stifle the church’s freedom to proclaim Christ and live in peace according to His mandates. The Othismos Declaration is an effort—an iteration—of this very important position.

In summary, then, Christians are not seeking to take control of the government, but rather are showing themselves to be prayerful, mindful, and actively concerned. And it is a concern for the Kingdom of the Left that arises from our citizenship in the Kingdom of the Right. Christians desire public servants—Christian or otherwise—who most closely parallel the Word of God, or at a minimum, work with eyes set upon governance which serves to provide for the Christian church to exist in peace and quietness while enjoying an unhindered freedom to communicate the Gospel truth to all.

6. Can the civil government be trusted to do the right thing?

If one approaches the question from the perspective of the Two Kingdoms theology, then yes.  God did not establish and ordain the government to do wrong, but rather to uphold and do that which is good and true (Romans 13:4). Of course the Kingdom of the Left is an enterprise administered by sinful men and women, and so we shouldn’t expect perfection. However, this is all the more reason for Christians to observe and engage in the affairs of the state according to the Word of God. By doing so, the Kingdom of the Left may be held accountable to God and to its ordination for service.

7. It would seem that the United States is teetering near moral collapse. Does the government play a role in averting it?

Again, if one approaches the question from the perspective of the Two Kingdoms, then yes. If it is as noted above, which is that the government is in place to enforce and maintain order for the general welfare of society, it would thus be necessary for the government to abide by the tenets of Natural Law. Much of what is happening in America today is due to the disregard for Natural Law at the expense of the traditional family (the marriage of one man and one woman resulting in children). The traditional family is the principle building block of all societies throughout history. If the government were to hold to its ordination, it would support and defend these institutions. This would certainly be a factor for stabilization in what is currently an extremely volatile and unsteady context.

From another perspective, the Lord Jesus asked rhetorically of His disciples in Luke 18:8, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” His point being that as the world continues to turn through the ages in decay toward undoneness, we ought not always expect that the church will increase and thrive. It is very possible that she will find herself struggling and in decrease. Of course the promise still stands that the gates of hell will never prevail against her. She will never cease to exist. Either way, no matter if the church’s ranks are surging with might and vigor or barely a remnant, the truest hope for a society in moral decline is the proclamation of the Gospel—the good news that Jesus Christ is the Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil. This message is the only one with the power to convert and convince hearts for the producing of the fruits of righteousness. This being said, it is imperative that the church understand her role as salt and light in a world of darkness, and that she do what she can to engage with the government in order to stem any efforts to prohibit her message of truth from being shared in its fullness and practiced as the Lord has given.

8. Do you really think the Othismos Declaration will change anything?

It isn’t our assignment to transform the hearts of anyone. As mentioned before, that is the task of the Holy Spirit by way of the Word of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). We are called to be faithful. Christ declared, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35). Even before this, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against His church and the Gospel upon which it is securely built (Matthew 16:18). This is our hope. It is a good one. History proves the Lord’s words to be true. The rising and falling of kingdoms is and has been plentiful throughout the world, and yet, here the Word of God remains among the Lord’s believers.

The Othismos Declaration is a resonation of these things.

9. What does the Declaration mean by “This would require Christian dissent”?

Dissent is non-agreement and active opposition. Dissent takes different forms in different circumstances. The circumstances often determine the forms. Ultimately, Christian dissent is governed by Christ and His Word. Christians are not to attack in order to impose. Christians are not to wield vengeance. Christians are positioned to uphold objective truth. Christians are called to move forward in defense of justice. They are called to protect and defend.

Throughout history, as Christians have toiled in this way, the humility of persecution and/or martyrdom has often been the result.

To say that an act of the government would require Christian dissent is to say that Christians would be required to labor in faithfulness by way of the Word of God in order to reverse the act of the authorities knowing that the end of such efforts could result in imprisonment and/or death.