Call 2 Fall: An Exercise in Bad Biblical Exegesis

Family Research Council reinterprets 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Family Research Council is asking evangelical pastors to participate in their July 5 event, Call 2 Fall. In a video, Tony Perkins says,

“I don’t think I have to explain to you that our nation is in deep trouble. One glance at any paper in the nation, on any given day, the headlines scream at us that America is in trouble: economically, culturally, socially, and, yes, spiritually. The Scripture (sic) gives clear direction to us in what we are to do in a situation like this. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a very familiar verse.
It is up to God’s people, to his spiritual leaders, to call a nation back to him. Not the politicians, not those who are in power, not those who have great influence, but rather God’s people. The Family Research Council recognizes the role that pastors play, the spiritual leaders – the importance of having them lead this nation back to God.”

Evangelical musical artists (Point of Grace, Manwell, a member of Sidewalk Prophets, and a member of Sonicflood) also have a video to explain this event:

The website, call2fall.com, explains:

The Call 2 Fall Declaration comes straight from the pages of Scripture:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The journey back to God, to His forgiveness and favor, begins on our knees in humility and repentant prayer. Consider the words of the Declaration prayerfully:

I will answer God's call to fall on my knees in humility and seek His face in repentance so that He might forgive my sins and heal our land.

So here are the key components of the FRC’s claim:
1. The United States of America is God’s land, in the same way that Israel was God’s land in the time of 2 Chronicles. The USA needs to get back to its Christian heritage.

2. The United States is a Christian nation. Therefore, “the politicians,” “those who are in power,” and “those who have great influence” cannot do the good that the nation needs. It is the duty of Christians to bring about righteousness in our nation.

3. The nation’s economic, cultural, societal, and spiritual demise is due to the nation losing its call to be God’s Christian nation.

4. The remedy to this demise is for God’s people (i.e., Christians) to fall to their knees and pray – humbling themselves and praying that the nation would turn from its wicked ways.

5. If Christians will pray the prayer of 2 Chronicles 7:14, God promises that he will “hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” that is, the United States of America.

Here are the problems with each of these components.
1. The Family Research Council is ripping 2 Chronicles 7:14 out of its biblical context and applying it specifically to the United States of America.

This passage (2 Chronicles 7) is about the dedication of the Temple of God that Solomon succeeded in completing. After the LORD filled the Temple, King Solomon dedicated the temple by sacrificing 22,000 head of cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. They held a festival celebrating the dedication of the Temple. After all the celebration, everyone went home, including King Solomon back to his royal palace. There the LORD appeared to him and said that he had “chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” But that if the people of God were to fail to observe their side of the covenant, they will experience some awful things: He will “shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…” But these things could be halted if the people of God were to have a contrite spirit: “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Then the LORD warned Solomon that if the king were to turn away from God’s decrees and commands then he would exile the people of Israel from the land and reject the Temple. “All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them--that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’”

So, the questions we need to ask are these: What are the proper analogs for the people of God, King Solomon, the Temple, and the land of Israel in our day? If we are to follow the logic of the Family Research Council, the analog is found, somehow, in the United States of America.

So the “People of God,” for the FRC, are the Christians that live in the USA, and “the land” is the land of the United States. Okay, but then who is “King Solomon?” What is “the Temple?” If we elect a non-Christian president, will we be exiled from North America like Israel was exiled from their land?

2. The FRC wants America to be a Christian nation, and therefore implicitly rejects the biblical understanding of Common Grace that says that God has established governmental authority, whether that authority is Christian or not (see Romans 13:1). They seem to believe that all non-believers, being totally depraved, can only do harm to the American society. They see non-Christian politicians as analogous to the non-believing rulers in Israel.

But the new Israel is not the United States. The new People of God are not Americans.

The new Israel, the new people of God, is the people who follow Jesus Christ from every nation. The Kingdom of God is not limited to any particular nation; it is a trans-national kingdom, made up of people who are bringing God’s kingdom to the entire earth as it is in heaven.

Notice the Isreal-type titles that Peter gives to Christians: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) The FRC makes it seem that these Israel-type titles should be applied to Americans.

3. The nation’s economic, cultural, societal, and spiritual demise are due to a lot of things, not least of which is the increased secularization of our culture. That is granted. But I contend that the decline of America is not because the nation has lost its Christian heritage, but rather because evangelical Christians have lost our ability to have cultural influence. And the more we fight for a “Christian nation” and preach that we need to “take this country back for God,” the less we will have cultural influence. Culture is “upstream” to politics. When we take seriously our role to bring salt and light into every aspect of life, when we strive for justice for those who are oppressed, when we love rather than fight, when we look like Christ on the cross rather than crusaders with militant intentions, then, and only then, will we be able to influence the culture.

4. The “Call 2 Fall” needs to be leveled on us Christians who have muddied the gospel with our patriotic syncretism. I find it laughable that the Family Research Council is saying that if Christians humble themselves and pray, then those terrible non-Christians in the nation will not have their way and our land will be healed. Doesn't sound too humble to me.

We need to humbly say that true Christians do not rule by coercion (forcing others to live as Christians have determined they must), we need to humbly win hearts and minds by love and good deeds. And we need to bring about political change not by saying “Thus sayeth the Lord,” but with good secular arguments that make sense in the public square.

5. If Christians will pray the prayer of 2 Chronicles 7:14, God promises that He “will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Is there a better way to apply that verse today?

Maybe this: In the New Testament, the “land” has been expanded to encompass the entire cosmos. God’s intention is to heal all of his Creation.

The Temple of the Old Testament has been expanded to the person of Jesus Christ, who dwells not in a single place, but in the temple of his people through His Spirit.

God’s healing of the cosmos is accomplished as we humbly admit our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for not only our personal healing, but for the ultimate healing of the entire cosmos, when “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)


Wickle said...

The FRC's idolatry of the US is pretty well-established. You've done a great job with plucking it apart here, but the bad news is that too many people are okay with the idea that the US is God's new chosen nation.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't be too surprised that it's easier for a rich man in Jesus' time to get into the kingdom of God than it is for an American to do the same. (Referring, of course, to the camel and the eye of the needle.)

Bob Robinson said...

You've got that right.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Bob. You bring clarity to the issue.

It is routine, and too bad, as though that group is conservative, they certainly are not of a strict fundamentalist kind. This kind of thinking is rampant, or strong in certain Christian sectors of our nation. I had one person tell me awhile back that no mosques should be built in our land. They don't begin to understand the true vision of the founders of this country, and they fall into this error you speak about here.

Andrew said...

Thank you for your insightful posts! I love your blog, and how it teaches folks to really love God with all their minds too! (Too often it seems that groups like the FRC encourage the phrase "be transformed by the removing of your minds" rather than by the renewing)

Un-coincidentally, right after reading this post, I received a chain email from a friend using 2 Chronicles 7:14 in fallacy. The friend, who spam-forwarded the email to everyone, is one of those conservative FRC/fundamentalist supporter types, and we've had our disagreements in the past (I'm more of a liberal). Any thoughts on how should I approach/confront her about this?

Also, I'd be interested in reading about your thoughts on the issue of civil unions and gay marriage, and your recommendations/evaluations of the different kinds of church/Christian responses there are to it.