Hopefully by the end of the Spring Bank Holiday today, Northern Ireland will know the names of the three MEPs who will be representing this part of the United Kingdom in the European Parliament.
Irrespective of who is elected, there will be a huge challenge for the Christian Churches in the days ahead. Should they just adapt to meet the challenges of the secular drift in society, or should they make a stand for Biblical values?
One of the major problems in trying to chart a way forward spiritually for the Christian Churches is that they are so radically divided theologically.
I was brought up in traditional Irish Presbyterianism. Taking the 2018 General Assembly as a benchmark, even that denomination is badly split over the issue of marriage equality.
And even within the broad Presbyterian family in Ireland, there are deep divisions on same-sex marriage. Fundamentalist denominations, such as the Free Presbyterian Church and Reformed Presbyterian Church (also known as the Covenanters) are clearly theologically opposed to same-sex marriage.
However, the much more liberal Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church (also known as the Unitarians) would support marriage equality. All this begs the question - who speaks for the real Presbyterian tradition in Ireland?
The marriage equality issues have sparked a massive debate within Christianity about Old Testament scripture versus New Testament thinking. Some Christians believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God and it must be taken as a whole; others maintain the teachings in the New Testament outranks the theology of the Old Testament.
The source of this argument heralds from the view there were three main laws outlined in the Old Testament.
Firstly, there was civil law, which deals with disputes between individuals and expired with the demise of the Jewish civil government.
Secondly, there is the ceremonial law, which expired with the fulfilment of the priestly work of Jesus Christ, especially His death on the cross.
Thirdly, there is the moral law. Many theologians believe there is no expiration of this law because it is based on God’s character.
There is a body of thinking within the Christian Church broadly which adheres to the view that congregations and fellowships should forget about getting involved in the political discourse, but instead should concentrate on ensuring Christian flocks know and gain the benefits of ‘abundant life.’
In practical terms, where the Old and New Testaments can have an accommodation is in the third law - the moral law. Much of this strategy is based on the words of Jesus in the New Testament text from the Gospel of St John, commonly known as John 10:10.
Taken from the King James Version, this verse reads:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
What is this ‘abundant life’ which Jesus talks about? Is it a reference to blessings which God gives Christians once they become born-again believers on earth, and also to the eternal life which they will enjoy once they enter heaven after death.
Does this mean that the Church should focus on a social agenda among its flocks and the wider community rather than get involved in the worldly arena of politics?
This would tend to support the ‘come ye out from amongst them’ theology. But if Churches ignore the political world, they cannot complain when politicians pass laws which run contrary to the teachings of Scripture.
Perhaps a pointer to the way forward can be found in the final book of the Old Testament, Malachi.
In Chapter 3, verse 10, it states:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Are we Christians missing our goal in this life? Have we become so consumed with trying to please secular thinking that we have totally missed our true aim in society? Have we become so caught up with ritual and religion that we have abandoned the real meaning of the Christian faith?
In this verse 10, is God challenging us Christians to test Him and see what can be achieved for the faith? If we give ourselves completely to serving God, He will reward us with blessings.
Could one way in which we Christians can influence society is to get involved in politics so that legislation can be passed which protects Christian values?
However, many Christians are simply too scared to put their heads above the parapets of society and defend Biblical principles because anti-Christian groups are so well organised in terms of their propaganda.
Like looking through a window, Malachi 3:10 urges Christians to look through a spiritual window to see what blessings are in store for those who follow the Christian faith.
But can Malachi 3:10 be interpreted as a call to action for Christians - namely, they SHOULD get involved with political movements and campaigns.
After reading Malachi 3:10, many Christians want to opt out of the political process through fear. Maybe they should have the courage to read an even more powerful verse in Malachi 3:11.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
The way forward for the Churches is, therefore, Biblically simple - mobilise and organise politically; either get involved with existing political parties and movements and influence from within. If that is not suitable, form an Irish Christian Party with the New Testament Beatitudes as the political manifesto.
Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s slot, Call Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, as part of the ‘At The Table’ show.
Listen online at www.thisissunshine.co