Sunday, July 24, 2005

Cursing their own

A while back, Doug Jones & Doug Wilson published an article entitled “Owning the Curse,”

http://www.credenda.org/issues/16-2memorandum.php?type=print

Since their article presents some startling affinities with the current controversy over Evangelical cobelligerence, it’s worth our attention. Below are some representative excerpts which will give you the drift of their argument:

***QUOTE***

Homosexuality is primarily a judgment against the church. This is our problem, the Christian church’s problem, not someone else’s. God gave the Christian church the responsibility of leading culture, and the Church did this in the West for many centuries…The things that happen in our time and in our country are therefore our responsibility. Consequently, when society sins in this way, it is because the church has sinned, has failed to lead—“their” sin stems from our failure to lead in a godly manner. The ethical circumstances would be different inn a purely pagan culture…But God’s curse of homosexuality is a special judgment against His people.

Curses are removed by our repentance, not denunciations of “them.” We should, therefore, “own” homosexual sin. Confession and right worship. Not preaching the law to secularists.

Homosexuality is about resentment. Homosexuality is a deep longing for communion with the masculine, a longing that has been trampled by neglectful or abusive fathering. Testimony from homosexuals (male and female) often points back to a sinful father or husband.

Christian fathers are a primary cause of the curse of homosexuality….Can we not say, at this point, that the primary cause of this multi-generational break appears to sit squarely with Christian fathers? Even in our own congregations, fathers are provoking their children not only to sin, but into patterns of resentment, into patterns of homosexuality.

What if we concede that the American Christian tradition is largely responsible for the resentment that expresses itself, in part, in homosexuality?

Under a curse, we should own the curse of same-sex marriage and not fight it so far as it concerns them. That is not our calling.

In the brewing culture wars, we ought not to stand with those seeking to ban same-sex marriage. False and corrupt worship brought sodomy to us, and genuine worship leads to national reformation. Not trust in civil coercion. We should openly accept homosexual marriage in the civil realm.



For the sake of argument, we should readily grant homosexual genetic claims. God controls everything, and so we can grant any and all scientific claims about the genetic bases of sin….Every sin is genetically grounded.

***END-QUOTE***

By way of comment:

i) Perhaps the first thing to take note of is the huge factual gap between the breadth of their claims and the absence of hard evidence to warrant their claims.

At a bare minimum, we need to see some comparative statistical data showing that sodomy is more prevalent in the present than the past, more prevalent in apostate Christian nations than non-Christian nations, more prevalent in America than the Continent, more prevalent among kids of Christian fathers than kids of non-Christian fathers.

Frankly, it says a lot about Wilson and Jones that they feel entitled to make such sweeping and censorious charges in an evidentiary vacuum. Is there something about their particular theological outlook that fosters this contempt for the facts?

We are dealing here with an ethical issue: truth-telling. What right do they think they have to air their opinions and be so very judgmental unless they are in a good position to know or have reason to believe that what they say is true?

ii) What direct and halfway convincing evidence can they offer that sodomy is a divine curse on the church in America? What would even count as evidence for such a claim?

In making such brazen allegations, they are presuming to speak in the name of God. This is no small responsibility to take upon yourself--not something to be done lightly, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence.

iii) On the face of it, their premise is demonstrably false. The very fact that you have Biblical injunctions against sodomy under both Testaments assumes the prevalence of sodomy in the pre-Christian world.

iv) I agree that the church has a responsibility to exercise cultural leadership. But even if the church were to take the lead more often, it cannot make anyone follow its lead. Suppose the majority is unregenerate or reprobate? The church has no power to constrain the general culture to accept its leadership.

v) The authors have a sociological theory regarding the origins of the homosexual orientation. Let us keep in mind that this is only a theory. It is not a teaching of Scripture. Even if it accounts for some or many cases, sodomy may well be an overdetermined behavior, with multiple predispositive factors.

vi) The authors also say that we should accept the genetic theory of homosexual origins. There are two problems with this assertion:

a) We should only take that theory seriously if it’s based on solid scientific evidence, not junk science driven by an ideological agenda. The authors never interact with scientific arguments against the genetic theory.

b) On the face of it, if homosexuals are homosexual because they are hardwired to be homosexual, if this is part of their genetic programming, then fathers are not to blame for sodomy, then the church is not to blame for sodomy.

Once again, you have to wonder if there’s something about the theological outlook of the authors which cultivates for such glaringly inept reasoning.

vii) It is especially hypocritical for proponents of the Federal Vision to blame sodomy on a worldly church. The Federal vision is a recipe for dead formalism, for the abdication of church discipline and the abandonment of a credible profession of faith as a necessary condition of church membership.

viii) It is no less hypocritical for the authors to blame sodomy on bad parenting, only to deliver defenseless children into the groping clutches of same-sex parenting. If same-sex marriage becomes the land of the law, then you will have who knows how many children raised in homosexual homes--through adoption, surrogacy, court-ordered custody, foster programs, &c.

Did the authors ever bother to consider the social ramifications of their position? This is so reckless and feckless.

One thing I do agree with: the church is responsible for its own. And the
Reformed community should be policing its own. It’s high time for the Reformed community to crack down, to formally and publicly shun the likes Douglas Wilson and Douglas Jones, who speak in the name of Calvinism while they subvert and pervert traditional Reformed morality and statecraft. Far from owning the curse, they are cursing their own.

28 comments:

  1. Fantastic post, Mr. Hays. I couldn't agree more.

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  2. Wow, yet another essay by Wilson that's fallen apart like a house of cards :-)

    Last I checked, Jones and Wilson weren't inspired, which means they should be bothered to actually _argue_ for their distinctive claims.

    Any standard scholarly text on Greek homosexuality will tell you that sodomy and pederasty were much more thoroughly integrated into the culture in pre-Christian times, then has ever been the case in the days of the church.

    But perhaps Socrates was under the terms of the New Covenant :-)

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  3. | ii) What direct and halfway convincing evidence
    | can they offer that sodomy is a divine curse on
    | the church in America? What would even count
    | as evidence for such a claim?
    |
    | In making such brazen allegations, they are
    | presuming to speak in the name of God. This is
    | no small responsibility to take upon yourself--
    | not something to be done lightly, in the absence
    | of clear and convincing evidence.

    Oh, I agree with this criticism, as I outlined on my blog – but their view of a “curse” is based on their view of the kind of covenant God has with the church.

    I do not agree with their view of this covenant, so I don’t agree with their conclusion that the church is primarily the focus of the “curse”. However, I do agree that the problem is that we are now faced with a country which is trying to accept on a civil basis (which is to say, legally) what the culture is migrating toward practically.

    Their solution, however, is a critical matter: their solution is Jesus Christ first and all other methods or messages next in line.

    | iii) On the face of it, their premise is
    | demonstrably false. The very fact that you have
    | Biblical injunctions against sodomy under both
    | Testaments assumes the prevalence of sodomy
    | in the pre-Christian world.

    The problem is their application of the covenant relationship God has provided for the church, and what constitutes the church, and what that means in disseminating the Gospel.

    | iv) I agree that the church has a responsibility to
    | exercise cultural leadership. But even if the
    | church were to take the lead more often, it
    | cannot make anyone follow its lead. Suppose the
    | majority is unregenerate or reprobate? The
    | church has no power to constrain the general
    | culture to accept its leadership.

    Steve: the church is called to take the lead sacrificially. Let us suppose for a minute that the church was, somehow, healed of its evangelidoma today and it presented itself not just as justified before God but as living out its call to be a light on a lampstand, a city on a hill. And let’s imagine for a second that in doing this, there were a couple of consequences:

    (1) All those who were lukewarm or reprobate actually leave the church because the dividing line is made clear to them.

    (2) All those not churched (to use the sociological vernacular) see and hear what is being preached and reject it

    (3) The final tally is that the church finds itself in the minority of American belief systems

    If all this happened, it would not be the fault of the church – because you are exactly right to say, “the church has no power to constrain the general culture to accept its leadership”.

    But the historical reality is that when the church does these things -- when the church reforms itself, and returns to the Gospel, and lifts up Christ – the culture is overcome in the long term in spite of persecution and rejection and scorn. That is to say, make the sacrifice for Christ’s sake.

    Unlike Islam, Christianity is most successful when it is not wielding the sword but when it is beatings its swords into plowshears. When we take the view that man is evil and ought to be reformed by Christ’s sacrifice, and live that truth as well as preach that truth, we find ourselves in the place where we are travelers to a land which God has promised us.

    And before I get lumped in with Steve Camp as being Anabaptist or Amish :) , that does not mean that we live sequestered from the world. By a longshot, the best description of what I mean can be found at
    http://ecclesia.org/truth/diognetus.html
    In that, we do not see a bunker mentality but a spirit of truth pouring forth in a life of love and godliness.

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  4. For Jus Div:

    I think that the point Wilson & Jones were trying to make is that the homosexual lifestyle is trying to make a comback -- and the church has to see the spiritual implications of such a thing.

    I'm not going to defend their application of covenant theology, but their call to action -- which is, reform in the church in order to reform the culture -- is a legitimate call.

    ReplyDelete
  5. For the record, I have no doubt that Camp is a better man and a better Christian than myself.

    ReplyDelete
  6. centuri0n,

    "I'm not going to defend their application of covenant theology, but their call to action -- which is, reform in the church in order to reform the culture -- is a legitimate call."

    Oh sure, it's always legitimate to call the church back to faithfulness to the priority and prerogatives of the gospel. No doubt about it. I just don't agree that this was "the point" they were making. They were making several points, many of which were dubious.

    It is one thing to say we should "reform the church". It is quite another to say, as Jones and Wilson do say, that:

    "In the brewing culture wars, we ought not to stand with those seeking to ban same-sex marriage. False and corrupt worship brought sodomy to us, and genuine worship leads to national reformation. Not trust in civil coercion. We should openly accept homosexual marriage in the civil realm."

    That's just insane :-) We ought _not_ to stand with those seeking to ban same-sex marriage? We _should_ openly accept homosexual marriage in the civil realm? Where do _these_ outlandish ethical imperatives come from?

    From an utterly unargued socio-historical analysis. Sorry, but that's a pretty flimsy foundation for such far-reaching ethical advice.

    However, when you say, in a previous comment:

    "Their solution, however, is a critical matter: their solution is Jesus Christ first and all other methods or messages next in line."

    Sure, I agree. The gospel _always_ has the priority, not only in the institutional church, but also in how individual Christians spend their time.

    But to tell you the truth, I think there has been an equivocation on the meaning of "solution" over at the thread at stevenjcamp.blogspot.com/2005/07/justice-sunday-iigod-save-united.html No one in the ECB camp is saying that legislation is "the solution" to moral maladies. So, for instance, no one is suggesting that deterrence is a _solution_ for social ills, in the sense of eradicating them. But it is one way the law _addresses_ the problem, and it has warrant in the word of God. To charge that Christian political activism involves an abandonment of the gospel, or a substitution of something else for the gospel, is just confused. Surely we can have our gospel priorities straight _and_ support ECB. The possibility of abuse is no argument for its abandonment, in this or in any other area.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jud Div:

    I'm going to take a risky position that I haven't worked out all the way yet here at Steve's blog to help work out my thoughts and (I hope) explore the whole issue here which Jones & Wilson touched on by opining about what the church should do about Gay Marriage.

    There are a lot of shades of gray between the two camps I'm going to posit here, but I think that one end of the spectrum is epitomized by Dobson, Colson, Falwell and the "religious right" -- and these people do believe that if the ship of morality in practice in our nation is off the north star, one way to right the course is to make some new laws that place government in the position of keeping moral choice-making tidy. Their ideal is that if people do not understand morals, government can teach morals to them through law.

    The other end of the spectrum would be folks like Sean Penn, Bono, Barry Lynn, Tony Campolo and the "progressives" who think that government ought to follow the developing mores of the culture and enforce "diversity" by evolving new legislation that suits new ways of doing things in the name of ... well, who knows what. Some of them use God as an excuse, and some use humanity as an excuse. Who really knows why they do these things.

    Those are the political forces at-odds with each other. But, I think, the Bible stands outside of those definitions of what is right and wrong, how we get to doing right instead of wrong, and what government is entrusted to do regarding right and wrong.

    For example, when Paul talks about the ministry of the sword which government wields, he says this:
    {{
    Rom 13:1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
    }}
    We have to think about something when we read that: it was not written in or (immediately) to a republican democracy. It was written where Caesar was emperor and god, and his functionaries had the power of life and death over their subjects. So when Paul is talking about "the governing authorities", he wasn't talking about someone whom you had to tolerate until the next election: he was talking about someone who commanded the Roman Army in almost every case for the sake of service to Caesar.

    This passage certainly applies to our elected officials today -- but if Paul was willing to say such a thing regarding Imperial power which was pagan at its very root, how much more does it apply to those who are in political power in our nation today?

    See: there is no doubt that Paul here says that we should not fear men -- because if we do what God requires of us we will have nothing to fear from these men. But Paul says, "Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience." That is to say, one must follow God's appointed authorities, but also follow one's conscience ("one" meaning "a christian" -- because Paul is writing to Christians here).

    So the "solution" Paul advocates is a Christian conscience. This answer stands pretty drastically apart from both camps on the right and the left -- because it is about something other than political power.

    But you say, 'No one in the ECB camp is saying that legislation is "the solution" to moral maladies. So, for instance, no one is suggesting that deterrence is a _solution_ for social ills, in the sense of eradicating them. But it is one way the law _addresses_ the problem, and it has warrant in the word of God.' I strongly disagree with this assertion. The "solution" to homosexuals seeking a marriage license (which is the problem at hand) is to outlaw the practice -- by constitutional amendment if necessary. The "solution" to abortion is to outlaw the practice -- even if we can't really decide if the mother, the "doctor" or both should go to jail if an abortion is performed.

    The real solution to both of these problems is Jesus Christ -- who cannot be legislated, and who's work cannot be merely put on like a t-shirt and taken off when it's not comfortable or practical.

    See: I think Wilson has a point in that we have allowed those who are opposed to God's law and God's degrees to define the terms of the engagement. We should certainly not settle for -- and not vote for, since we have that priviledge -- ungodly laws cascading into our legal system. And Wilson does cover that when he says
    {{
    Our repentance must defy all attempts to make our repentance illegal.

    Some observers argue that the true goal of homosexual activists is not to come alongside heterosexuals in the institution of marriage but rather to destroy the institution of marriage. If this is so, we must also accept the duty of submissively defying any law that requires us to not repent of our sin. This means that within the boundaries of faithful families and churches, the absolute authority of Scripture over sexual and marital matters must be held inviolate and must be publicly acknowledged, taught, preached, and practiced. Holiness is joy, and repentance begins with delighting in Triune life within our families and churches.
    }}

    There is no doubt Wilson's essay is controversial -- and in many ways, wrong. But he has something that is getting missed in all of the objections I have read so far against this piece that we cannot overlook: politics do not advance the kingdom of God. The Gospel only advances the Kingdom of God -- and not by a sword but by a cross.

    I may be completely daft for thinking there is something redeemable about Wilson's essay, but I think it's in there. It's like the passage in 1Cor 15 where Paul starts going on about those who are baptizing for the sake of the dead because they have such a strong hope in the resurrection: they got the baptism thing 100% wrong, but they got the resurection thing 100% right.

    I think Wilson gets the baptism/new covenant thing 100% wrong, but he gets the work of Christ in this case 100% right: we are tasked not to go forth and lobbieth all men but to preach the Gospel to all living things and make disciples of men.

    I vote. I will vote. You should vote. But you should be preaching the Gospel the other 364 days a year rather than worry about whether we have enough votes. It will be more meaningful in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi centuri0n,

    I think you can go to the thread on Justice Sunday at Mr. Camp's blog to get my further thoughts on the things you say here. Let me just say that when you say the following:

    "There are a lot of shades of gray between the two camps I'm going to posit here, but I think that one end of the spectrum is epitomized by Dobson, Colson, Falwell and the "religious right" -- and these people do believe that if the ship of morality in practice in our nation is off the north star, one way to right the course is to make some new laws that place government in the position of keeping moral choice-making tidy. Their ideal is that if people do not understand morals, government can teach morals to them through law."

    ... I am being totally sincere by responding that _I have no idea why you would think the above_. The notion that ECBers think the function of law is to "teach morals" is just weird to me. I certainly don't see it in their writings as their motivation for doing what they do.

    But then again, I don't know what you mean by "right the course" or "keeping moral choice-making tidy". These phrases are so vague I don't know if they properly describe the motivations of anyone or not.

    You say:

    "This passage certainly applies to our elected officials today -- but if Paul was willing to say such a thing regarding Imperial power which was pagan at its very root, how much more does it apply to those who are in political power in our nation today?"

    I'm not sure who you think this comment is directed against. The ECBers? Why? The ECBers _explicitly apply_ Paul's statement in Ro 13 to our current government. Why would you think they need reminding in this regard?

    But here's an interesting question: Paul says that the purpose of government is to be "an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." Now, keeping in mind Mr. Hays earlier comment on the theonomy-2 thread about sola scriptura, how would you define "wrongdoer"? As Christians are we called to define "wrongdoer" as imperial Rome defines it, or as sola scriptura defines it? That will have plenty of consequence for our view of the duties of government, it seems to me. Do we just get to be postmodernists and let anyone define that word any way he wants to?

    Paul is quite aware that Christian responsibilities change depending on the opportunities which are afforded to you. So, to slaves, he writes that if they _can_ get their freedom, then they should do so. Likewise, if Christians _can_ influence their government through lawful means, so that government fulfills its goal of avenging God's wrath on the wrongdoer, then they should do so. Here they are simply holding government to account for what _God_ describes as government's duty. And there are lawful means available to us today, by divine providence, that were not available in imperial Rome.

    You say:

    "So the "solution" Paul advocates is a Christian conscience. This answer stands pretty drastically apart from both camps on the right and the left -- because it is about something other than political power."

    If I understand you correctly, I couldn't disagree more (so maybe that means I don't understand you correctly :-). First, you seem to imply that attempting to pass laws through a constitutionally-approved process is somehow something other than subjection to the state and in accord with a Christian conscience. But surely that process is lawful precisely because _it is part and parcel of our currently constituted government_. So it's not as if seeking to change laws through the democratic process is rebellion against the state. That may have been the case in imperial Rome; it is not the case today. So "Christian conscience" would not lead us to abandon ECB.

    Second, given what _Paul_ says is the duty of government, then it seems to me that "Christian conscience" would _lead someone to practice_ ECB, or, at the very least, holding government accountable to enact and enforce moral laws that match up with God's standards. Of course, if God said in Ro 13 that he really doesn't care what government does, that would be one thing, but he actually says government is instituted for _a purpose_, and how unconscionable for Christians to be unconcerned as to whether government is carrying out God's purpose!

    Third, I care not for "political power". What I care about is what laws are on the books, and what laws are being enforced. Whether this somehow helps Christians as citizens in our society is utterly irrelevant to me. Why should we care about 'power'? That's not the point.

    You quote me:

    "No one in the ECB camp is saying that legislation is "the solution" to moral maladies. So, for instance, no one is suggesting that deterrence is a _solution_ for social ills, in the sense of eradicating them. But it is one way the law _addresses_ the problem, and it has warrant in the word of God."

    ... and then you say:

    "I strongly disagree with this assertion."

    You _disagree_ with the view that one purpose of law is deterrence? Really? And you think that ECBers _really are_ suggesting deterrence is the _solution_ for social ills? Any arguments here, on either point?

    The reason why I said it is "one way the law _addresses_ the problem" is to make clear that I _don't_ see it as "the solution" to the problem. Only the gospel is that. Are you sure you've understood me here?

    You say:

    "The "solution" to homosexuals seeking a marriage license (which is the problem at hand) is to outlaw the practice -- by constitutional amendment if necessary. The "solution" to abortion is to outlaw the practice -- even if we can't really decide if the mother, the "doctor" or both should go to jail if an abortion is performed.

    The real solution to both of these problems is Jesus Christ -- who cannot be legislated, and who's work cannot be merely put on like a t-shirt and taken off when it's not comfortable or practical."

    Again, you seem to be putting words into my mouth (and the mouths of the ECBers). _No one believes that the legal process is "the solution" to _any_ of these problems!_ What did I say that made you think any different? I purposely eschewed that option and then qualified my language, just to get the point across!

    I _agree_ with you that "the real solution to both of these problems is Jesus Christ." I was never advocating political activism as "the real solution," as if it regenerated individuals. That's not the point. Everything in its place.

    You say:

    "See: I think Wilson has a point in that we have allowed those who are opposed to God's law and God's degrees to define the terms of the engagement."

    How so? Did you have more to say on this point?

    You say:

    "We should certainly not settle for -- and not vote for, since we have that priviledge -- ungodly laws cascading into our legal system. And Wilson does cover that when he says..."

    Huh? We must be having a pretty _massive_ equivocation on the meaning of "ungodly laws". Wilson explicitly says that we ought _not_ to stand with those seeking to ban same-sex marriage, and that we _should_ openly accept homosexual marriage in the civil realm, and yet according to you Wilson says that "we should certainly not settle for... ungodly laws cascading into our legal system"? This interpretation makes no sense to me. It's self-contradictory. We should openly accept homosexual marriage in the civil realm but we should not settle for ungodly laws? Huh? What is such acceptance but a settling for ungodly laws?

    You say:

    "There is no doubt Wilson's essay is controversial -- and in many ways, wrong. But he has something that is getting missed in all of the objections I have read so far against this piece that we cannot overlook: politics do not advance the kingdom of God. The Gospel only advances the Kingdom of God -- and not by a sword but by a cross."

    Argh! You're committing the same mistake that "Nathan" did over at Mr. Camp's blog. _Who says_ that politics advance _the kingdom of God_? Anybody? Does Falwell say this? Does Dobson say this? Does Mohler say this? This is just utterly irrelevant. You're criticizing a claim no ECBer makes. You might as well claim that ECBers want "political remedies for moral maladies, absent the gospel of Christ" :-)

    It does not follow from Christian involvement in political activism, that the Christians thus involved _think they are bringing in the kingdom of God_. Again, that's not the purpose.

    You say:

    "... we are tasked not to go forth and lobbieth all men but to preach the Gospel to all living things and make disciples of men."

    Why is there always this false antithesis in this discussion, as if Christians are so incapacitated that they cannot possibly do more than one thing at a time? Why think that being committed to the latter precludes the former? Why think that devoting some time to the former therefore makes it a _substitute_ for the latter?

    I might as well say that "we are tasked not to go forth and write blog posts and Internet commentary but to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all men." What sense would that make? :-)

    You say:

    "I vote. I will vote. You should vote. But you should be preaching the Gospel the other 364 days a year rather than worry about whether we have enough votes. It will be more meaningful in the end."

    And if I were a fundamentalist, and a legalist, I might be laying down these silly rules for all Christians everywhere. But I'm not, so I won't.

    Think about what you are saying. _Taken literally_, your advice would _make society impossible_. For starters, you wouldn't even have any food to eat. Get it? I applaud your priorities, but that's all they are: priorities.

    Imagine someone who said: "We are not tasked to build hospitals, but to preach the gospel!" You and I both know that this is true in one sense, but entirely false in another. The interesting question is why it is false. The answer to that question will cast this entire discussion in a new light, I think.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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  9. Jus Div --

    I appreciate your thoughts, and I'm dragging this over to my blog if you'd like to com along for the ride.

    http://centuri0n.blogspot.com

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  10. Thanks, Frank.

    <<
    One end of the spectrum is epitomized by Dobson, Colson, Falwell and the "religious right" -- and these people do believe that if the ship of morality in practice in our nation is off the north star, one way to right the course is to make some new laws that place government in the position of keeping moral choice-making tidy. Their ideal is that if people do not understand morals, government can teach morals to them through law.
    >>

    Is that their ideal? We don’t pass laws to teach people morals. We pass laws to deter crime and punish crime.

    <<
    This passage certainly applies to our elected officials today -- but if Paul was willing to say such a thing regarding Imperial power which was pagan at its very root, how much more does it apply to those who are in political power in our nation today?
    >>

    I don’t deny that a non-Christian gov’t can be legitimate.

    i) But that’s not the whole story. For example, under the OT, the king was a constitutional monarchy, and he could be deposed if he got to far out of line.

    ii) Likewise, Paul’s argument in Rom 13 assumes that the magistrate is doing more good than harm. What happens when he’s doing more harm than good?

    iii) To say that non-Christian gov’t is or can be legitimate is hardly an argument for saying that we should settle for a necessary evil if it’s within our power to have something much better.

    Paul says that freedom is better than slavery. If you don’t have the opportunity to be emancipated, content yourself with slavery—but if you do have the opportunity, go for it!

    iv) BTW, it’s not as if Christian political activists are doing this as a self-serving favor to avoid the cost of discipleship. Having just laws make life more humane for unbelievers as well. For example, just look at the plight of women and children in non-Christian countries around the world. Just look at the plight of women and children in pre-Christian countries around the world. Or the plight of the weak and elderly.

    <<
    But you say, 'No one in the ECB camp is saying that legislation is "the solution" to moral maladies. So, for instance, no one is suggesting that deterrence is a _solution_ for social ills, in the sense of eradicating them. But it is one way the law _addresses_ the problem, and it has warrant in the word of God.' I strongly disagree with this assertion. The "solution" to homosexuals seeking a marriage license (which is the problem at hand) is to outlaw the practice -- by constitutional amendment if necessary. The "solution" to abortion is to outlaw the practice -- even if we can't really decide if the mother, the "doctor" or both should go to jail if an abortion is performed.
    >>

    This is trading on equivocations over the scope of the “solution.” Are laws against murder a solution to murder? Not in the sense of eradicating the problem. They don’t eliminate murder. But they do deter murder.

    What cast the issue in such all-or-nothing terms?

    <<
    The real solution to both of these problems is Jesus Christ -- who cannot be legislated, and who's work cannot be merely put on like a t-shirt and taken off when it's not comfortable or practical.
    >>

    No, Frank, the Gospel is not the real solution, of the obvious reason that the Gospel is only a solution for believers, not unbelievers. Since everyone doesn’t believe in the Gospel, and since our best evangelistic efforts will not result in everyone coming to Christ, that still leaves the question of what to do with the criminal element. The Gospel is only a solution for those who see the Gospel as the answer to their problem.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that Colson is also heavily involved in prison ministry. Nothing like a captive audience to reach the criminal element with the Gospel!

    <<
    politics do not advance the kingdom of God. The Gospel only advances the Kingdom of God -- and not by a sword but by a cross.
    >>

    As a matter of historical fact, politics can do a great deal to advance the gospel. Abraham Kuyper did a great deal to advance the Gospel. So did Constantine and Theodotius and Justinian and Charlemagne.

    Historically speaking, why are some nations traditional Christian while other nations are traditionally Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist?

    It has, in the first instance, everything to do with politics, with coercion, with the sword. As went the king, so went the royal subjects. If the monarch was Muslim so were his subjects; if the monarch was Buddhist, so were his subjects; if the monarch was Christian, so were his subjects.

    This had nothing to do with mass evangelism or national revival. Rather, it was due to mass conversion based on the conversion of one man--the king. That’s how Christian Europe became Christian.

    Now, you may say, that’s not genuine conversion—that’s just outward conformity; that’s not real faith—that’s just nominal faith.

    And you’d be quite right—for the first generation. But by crushing the death-grip of paganism, and by imposing Christian institutions on the nation, it opened up the possibility of genuine Christian piety for succeeding generations.

    Do I believe in mass conversion? No. Do I believe in conversion at gunpoint? No.

    But I mention it to disprove the thoughtless mantra which gets repeated ad nauseum the politics can do nothing to advance the gospel.

    Let’s take some other example. Let’s take European imperialism. Consider the way in which the Cecil Rhodes and the Conquistadors and the East India Co. made an opening for Christian missionaries. Or let’s take the Southern institution of slavery.

    These are repellent examples, aren’t they? Slavery. Colonialism. Do I approve? No. Nut they did quite a lot, in spite of their own worst efforts, to spread the gospel.

    Sometimes you have to bust the door down to get a hearing. Does that justify breaking down the door? Good question. I’ll pass on that for now.

    Take a more benign example. When our Republic was first founded, the Federal gov't subsidized Indian missionaries. Didn't that advance the gospel?

    <<
    We are tasked not to go forth and lobbieth all men but to preach the Gospel to all living things and make disciples of men.
    >>

    How do you propose to do that in countries where it’s a crime to preach the Gospel or convert to Christianity?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Let us take a few more examples. What misfortune would have befallen the cause of gospel had the Muslims succeeded in invading and conquering Western Europe?

    What misfortunes would have befallen the cause of gospel had Hitler won?

    What misfortunes will befall the cause of the gospel if ACLU-types succeed in criminalizing Christian expression in our own country?

    Politics is no substitute for the gospel. But political muscle, rightly deployed, can be instrumental in the spread and preservation of the gospel.

    For it takes force to repel force. Force, whether defensive or occasionally offensive, is sometimes a prerequisite for the freedom of the gospel to do what only the gospel can do.

    It's no accident that the Amish took refuge in the USA, and not Saudi Arabia or Red China.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's no accident that the Amish took refuge in the USA, and not Saudi Arabia or Red China.

    Wait a sec, didn't the Amish arrive in the USA long before either Saudi Arabia or Red China were nations? Not that it invalidates your point, of course, but I mention this as a matter of historical accuracy. (Although I could be entirely wrong myself.)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fair question. My point, though, is that they took refuge in a Christian country with religious freedom and, I might add, other Christians to fight their battles for them. They didn't take refuge in a Muslim country or Hindu country or Buddhist country or communist country where they would lack freedom of religion. Rather, they came here to escape persecution. So they depend, for their survival, on Christians with whom they disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi centuri0n,

    > I appreciate your thoughts, and I'm dragging this over to my
    > blog if you'd like to com along for the ride.
    >
    > http://centuri0n.blogspot.com

    I'd just as soon continue the conversation here, if you don't mind. Feel free to respond to my comments at your blog, and I'll reply in kind over here at Triablogue.

    The following is commentary on:

    http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2005/07/jus-divinum-conscience-and-state-1.html

    > Now what could I have meant by keeping that right choice
    > “tidy”? Simply this: that in every case, the government
    > has an obligation to legislate morality if the aggregate
    > community ceases to demonstrate the willingness to make
    > the right choices. That is to say, that the right moral
    > choice must always correspond to the right legal choice.
    > It is a view of government that I don’t think is very wise,
    > and it is not the view of government found in the constitution,
    > but it is the view these men practice in fact.

    If you think you can actually pin this view on anyone in particular, go for it. So far, you haven't.

    > I can hear the objection right away: of course these men
    > don’t want to legislate every moral action. That’s a crazy
    > exaggeration. OK: it might be.

    Yeah, it is :-)

    I don't understand. Do you want me to interact with your crazy exaggerations, or do you want our dialogue to be reality-based? :-)

    > I’d be willing to see a list of moral problems in this
    > country that they do not think are most effectively handled
    > by legislation.

    This is yet another straw man. _Who says_ that _any_ of these problems "are most effectively handled by legislation". This is the same sort of false witness that Mr. Camp repeatedly makes about the ECBers. _None of them_ think that _any_ moral problem in our country is "most effectively handled by legislation". The question is whether the law, and in particular its deterrent value, has _any role to play at all_ in addressing these issues. As Mr. Hays said, why does this issue have to be all or nothing?

    > Because they are putting the cart before the horse. Paul
    > here says that government is established by God to punish
    > the evil, but in what context does he say this? In an
    > exhortation to establish a government based on Christian
    > morals? Of course not – it is to encourage the Christian
    > that he ought to behave in a godly way, and in doing so he
    > would not have a reason to fear the government.

    Yes, and _that_ was what I meant when I said that ECBers apply Ro 13 to our present context. We should always be in submission to the state. But if the state itself permits our active involvement in the political process, then such involvement obviously doesn't constitute being submissive to the state.

    There seems to be some confusion here. You seem to think that I am making a _positive argument for ECB_ from Ro 13. No, I wasn't doing that at all, in the comment to which you draw attention. Rather, I was simply addressing _your negative argument against ECB_ from Ro 13. There's a big difference here.

    Of course Ro 13 doesn't say, "And if you ever find yourself in a constitutional republic, make sure you pass laws that reflect Christian morality!" I was simply addressing your erroneous notion that "Christian conscience" somehow _excludes_ this activity. You don't get _that_ from the text either!

    > I’ll give you my short list of counter-examples: keeping
    > sodomy illegal, keeping some drugs illegal, and getting
    > abortion to be illegal.
    >
    > Now mind you: I think all these should be illegal. The
    > question is why – for what purpose?

    I find this just strange. If you "think all these should be illegal," then why does the issue of motivation matter? I mean, is _that_ somehow reflected in the law itself? No.

    > And in that, Paul here does not call the government of Rome
    > the evildoer, does he? Of course he does not. He has just
    > called all government -- all government -- a ministry of God.

    I couldn't agree more. The point?!

    > Paul here uses wrongdoer as one who is not doing what God
    > has commanded – the word is juxtaposed against the idea of
    > one who does the godly thing. Government will punish the
    > wrongdoer; you should behave in a godly way so that you have
    > nothing to fear.

    It's not just that, _de facto_, "government will punish the wrongdoer". It's that, _de jure_, the divine purpose of government is to punish the wrongdoer. He is a minister of God _for_ something. But if that's the case, then government has a duty which is defined by the scope of "wrongdoer," which is why the meaning of that term is very important.

    > The clean conscience is the critical matter, and in that
    > Paul is not saying that Government will always have just
    > laws but that Christians have an obligation to follow a
    > higher law personally.

    Sure. But how does this in the slightest tend to undermine Christian political activism in our society? I guess I'm not seeing the underlying threads of your argument. I'm not able to connect the dots here.

    > Paul certainly doesn’t say that in Rom 13.

    I never intended to claim this. Perhaps you misunderstood my usage of the word "Here". I wasn't referring to Ro 13; I was just referring to the activity I had just described.

    I think the argument for ECB is a common-sense argument from general ethical duties, like love for your neighbor, combined with an understanding of the purpose of government, and of law in general.

    Nothing I'm saying here should be all that controversial. It certainly wasn't in the Reformed tradition. Check out Calvin in the _Institutes_, 2, 7, 10. Martin Luther also agrees with the civic use of the law as a restraint on evil, in his _Lectures on Galatians_.

    I'm not sure why you end by quoting a lot of verses about slaves obeying their masters. Of course I believe all this. But you neglected to quote the very passage I was alluding to: 1Co 7:21. Surely Paul's admonition there is compatible with everything _else_ he said on the subject, right? :-)

    Well, I said a lot of other stuff in my previous comment to you, but you haven't posted on it yet, so I can't respond.

    Thanks again for the dialogue.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Duh. I wrote:

    > But if the state itself permits our
    > active involvement in the political
    > process, then such involvement
    > obviously doesn't constitute being
    > submissive to the state.

    I meant: such involvement obviously doesn't constitute being *insubordinate* to the state.

    ReplyDelete
  16. | Thanks, Frank.

    Hey – if I can’t drag traffic from your site, where can I drag traffic from? :)

    | <<
    | One end of the spectrum is epitomized by
    | Dobson, Colson, Falwell and the "religious
    | right" -- and these people do believe that if
    | the ship of morality in practice in our nation
    | is off the north star, one way to right the
    | course is to make some new laws that place
    | government in the position of keeping moral
    | choice-making tidy. Their ideal is that if
    | people do not understand morals,
    | government can teach morals to them
    | through law.
    | >>
    |
    | Is that their ideal? We don’t pass laws to
    | teach people morals. We pass laws to deter
    | crime and punish crime.

    Let’s sort something out here:

    I would affirm that laws in the US are, philosophically, adopted for the sake of punishment for wrongdoing. I would also affirm that this is actually the right view of law as we read it from the Bible. In that, it is hoped that the punishment will deter those who would otherwise do as they please.

    But the objective of “deterrent” has something else in it that punishment does not: the didactic objective of the law. It’s found in Perkins & Boyce’s CRIMINAL LAW 3rd edition (1982), a standard text in many law schools, which makes the clear assertion “An incidental but very important function of the criminal law is to teach the difference between right and wrong.”

    Colson certainly believes this, if you accept him at his word:
    {{
    First, law is a moral teacher—an enduring standard by which we cultivate order and civility in society. In the biblical perspective, the law is meant to embody objective standards based on divine prescriptions for social order.

    We often hear that we cannot legislate morality, but that is not true. When we enact laws against murder, we are making a moral judgment. In fact, if you think about it, the very act of passing a law almost always involves making a moral judgment; we consider some behavior to be acceptable, other behavior not acceptable, and the law reflects that.

    This was certainly true in the Old Testament. God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments (all with moral implications), and God’s law flowed from this not only into Israel but also into the whole of Western civilization. (Even Hindus believe the Ten Commandments are a good, moral formulation.)
    }}
    http://www.pfm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=10688

    Colson would say we do pass laws to teach morals – and makes a very interesting comparison here to the 10 Commandments.

    The mentally-disordered problem for me is that I agree that in the end law is a consequence of morality, and that in the end the law can be used to teach morality. However, I only posit this in that the law is a consequence of the consciences and – not to be all charismatic here – spirits of the men who form these laws. Governmental law does not come first but last in a Christian worldview.

    | <<
    | This passage certainly applies to our elected
    | officials today -- but if Paul was willing to
    | say such a thing regarding Imperial power
    | which was pagan at its very root, how much
    | more does it apply to those who are in
    | political power in our nation today?
    | >>
    |
    | I don’t deny that a non-Christian gov’t can
    | be legitimate.
    |
    | i) But that’s not the whole story. For
    | example, under the OT, the king was a
    | constitutional monarchy, and he could be
    | deposed if he got to far out of line.

    I don’t actually disagree, but deposed by whom? For example, David was not a very good king by the time Absalom was a grown man, but when Absalom waged war against his father, he was in rebellion – he was not justified by the fact that David was not doing anything about the corruption in his own household.

    God can and did depose kings in the OT for being “out of line”, but it was God who decided and not human judges. In fact, God also deposed and decried human judges who thought they knew better than He did who were both unjust and unmerciful.

    | ii) Likewise, Paul’s argument in Rom 13
    | assumes that the magistrate is doing more
    | good than harm. What happens when he’s
    | doing more harm than good?

    I don’t think it assumes that at all – because the discourse here is to assuage the fears of those to who he is writing regarding the rule of pagans over Christians. The passage come immediately after Paul’s exhortation to overcome evil with good, and in the context that it is right to have some (right-minded) fear of authority, but that there is no reason for excessive fear because we are Christians: we are called to a higher active moral commitment, and that if we do good we will not only meet the expectations of the law but the expectations of God.

    To answer the question, “What happens when he’s doing more harm than good,” we have Paul’s ultimate example in simply giving up his life for the sake of the Gospel. There was no call to arms by the church to defend Paul (and, apparently, Peter): there was a call to live in Christ-likeness that they would face the scorn of the world in the way Christ did, which is in obedience to God.

    BTW, I think the example that government can do more harm than good is a great example of why law is a consequence of men who follow the Gospel: men without Christ will invariably seek laws that turn away from the truth, and if we who have the Gospel seek to first repair their laws and then later get back to the matter of preaching them the Gospel, we have done exactly the wrong thing.

    At the risk of going on and on about this, let’s think about something: let’s suppose that the only moral problem in society was drunkenness. Well, I can prove historically that abolishing liquor does not abolish drunkenness. But I can also prove historically that if the Gospel is preached to men, it can lead to “a very great alteration among the youth … with respect to reveling, frolicking, profane and unclean conversation, and lewd songs … [and] a great alteration among both old and young with respect to tavern haunting.” (cf. Jonathan Edwards, 12/12/1743)

    This is not a confounding “chicken or the egg” question: one will lead to the other. The question is whether the civil law leads to the Gospel or whether the Gospel is the reason for civil laws.

    | iii) To say that non-Christian gov’t is or can
    | be legitimate is hardly an argument for
    | saying that we should settle for a necessary
    | evil if it’s within our power to have
    | something much better.

    I would agree with this whole-heartedly – and apply it to the matter of whether it is better to have a society which is inherently saturated with the Gospel that requires fewer laws but has a basis for those laws in God’s decrees, or if it is better to have a society that is at war with the Gospel where those who possess the Gospel are trying to use the civil law to do what they cannot (or, in my opinion, will not) do through Church and pulpit.

    The former is “something much better”, and I would advocate that it is actually the kind of country the founding fathers wanted: a place where the Gospel was the basis for men’s action and the law was the basis for settling common disputes and reigning in those who could not exercise a clean conscience.

    The problem is that it is not the country we have today, and the solution is not amending the constitution or putting more laws on the books: it is preaching the Gospel in word and deed.

    | Paul says that freedom is better than slavery.
    | If you don’t have the opportunity to be
    | emancipated, content yourself with
    | slavery—but if you do have the opportunity,
    | go for it!

    Paul does say freedom is better than slavery, and requests (does not demand) that Onesimus be freed because he is a faithful servant of Christ. But the question is not “is freedom better than slavery” but “what is the first duty of the Christian: is it political or is it something else?” I would offer that Christians have political duties – especially in a society that claims to be a free society. But those duties are down the list from the matters of personal justice, mercy, and charity.

    I really don’t want to sound like Campolo and McLaren on this. But I have absolutely no stomach for the idea that the Gospel is intended to be a PAC.

    | iv) BTW, it’s not as if Christian political
    | activists are doing this as a self-serving
    | favor to avoid the cost of discipleship.
    | Having just laws make life more humane for
    | unbelievers as well. For example, just look
    | at the plight of women and children in non-
    | Christian countries around the world. Just
    | look at the plight of women and children in
    | pre-Christian countries around the world. Or
    | the plight of the weak and elderly.

    There’s no doubt that the Christian worldview – the Gospel worldview – has made a major impact on Western culture and western political philosophy. There is no doubt about that, and I would argue that this is exactly my point: the Gospel came first, and the reforms followed the Gospel.

    I’d be interested to hear your take on this statement: “It is interesting to note how few Catholics there were among the founding fathers of our country”.

    | <<
    | But you say, 'No one in the ECB camp is
    | saying that legislation is "the solution" to
    | moral maladies. So, for instance, no one is
    | suggesting that deterrence is a _solution_ for
    | social ills, in the sense of eradicating them.
    | But it is one way the law _addresses_ the
    | problem, and it has warrant in the word of
    | God.' I strongly disagree with this assertion.
    | The "solution" to homosexuals seeking a
    | marriage license (which is the problem at
    | hand) is to outlaw the practice -- by
    | constitutional amendment if necessary. The
    | "solution" to abortion is to outlaw the
    | practice -- even if we can't really decide if
    | the mother, the "doctor" or both should go to
    | jail if an abortion is performed.
    | >>
    |
    | This is trading on equivocations over the
    | scope of the “solution.” Are laws against
    | murder a solution to murder? Not in the
    | sense of eradicating the problem. They don’t
    | eliminate murder. But they do deter murder.
    |
    | Why cast the issue in such all-or-nothing
    | terms?

    I would ask the same question. Given Colson’s stated view that the Law is a viable moral teacher, and given the kinds of activities we are talking about here, we are not talking about the problem of theft or the problem of lying: we are talking about far more foundational issues that cannot be rectified by making a law about them.

    For example, murder and abortion (if you and I are the ones being asked) are moral equivalents: abortion equals murder. No question, right? The problem is that there is a difference between, as comparative examples, a 16-to-21-year-old girl getting bad advice from her friends about sex and then bad advice from a morally-blank “health counselor” who obtains an abortion for this girl to maintain her “quality of life”, and a fellow who gets drunk on a Friday afternoon after work and kills another fellow who is a father and husband whose only crime was working late on Friday.

    The difference has nothing to do with an innocent life being snuffed out: the difference is the same quality of difference between the fellow who kills via DWI and another fellow who kills with a knife or a gun – which is to say, motive cause.

    It is in this difference that we see the problem I am proposing with laws against same-sex marriage and laws against sodomy. The Gospel standard comes before the law because it is the Gospel standard – that is, the changed heart, the heart turned toward God and away from sin because of the grace and mercy of God – which establishes the correct motive. What same-sex marriage turns out to be is a crime of immoral motive and not a crime of merely-bad works.

    | <<
    | The real solution to both of these problems
    | is Jesus Christ -- who cannot be legislated,
    | and who's work cannot be merely put on like
    | a t-shirt and taken off when it's not
    | comfortable or practical.
    | >>
    |
    | No, Frank, the Gospel is not the real
    | solution, of the obvious reason that the
    | Gospel is only a solution for believers, not
    | unbelievers.

    Hang on a second there, Steve: that’s exactly wrong. The Gospel results in believers, but the Gospel is the solution God provides to all men through proclamation. Even if all men do not accept it, the only solution for the liar, the murderous heart, the adulterer, the idolater, the delinquents (great blog post there, btw), etc. is Jesus Christ.

    The Gospel may only effect those who will believe, but it still comes first. Even in the Bible, the Law (big “L”) – the first covenant – is obsolete and fading away because this new covenant is a better one. That doesn’t mean the Law (big “L”) has no function, but its ministry is to point people to the new covenant.

    And in that, the Gospel comes first. When Paul went to Athens, he did not preach the Law first: he preached the Gospel first.

    Now you may be arguing: “Frank: what happens, for example, when you are in Soviet Russia or Communist China? Should you not be fighting for political reform in order to pave the way for the Gospel?” I say, “No. You should be preaching the Gospel, which will in itself pave the way for political reforms.”

    I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, Steve, but I think the view you are advocating thinks too little of what the Gospel is capable of. The view that civil law can and should proceed the Gospel is the same kind of view that having a “Purpose Driven” church makes way for the Gospel: it’s the cart before the horse.

    | Since everyone doesn’t believe
    | in the Gospel, and since our best
    | evangelistic efforts will not result in
    | everyone coming to Christ, that still leaves
    | the question of what to do with the criminal
    | element. The Gospel is only a solution for
    | those who see the Gospel as the answer to
    | their problem.

    Well, let’s look at the case of the founding fathers, who were overwhelmingly Christian men. They established a system of law that was based on the premise that the Christian value system is common in the population. Does that mean that they had no laws? Of course not. Does that mean that all Americans were Christian? I don’t think so. What it means is that in a Christian majority – and we’re not talking about 51% or 60% but in the neighborhood of 85-90% -- we establish fair and consistent laws, among which is the establishment of the right of free exercise of religion.

    The sad and scary thing is that people today read that and say, “they meant that the Muslim, the Hindu and the Buddhist have the same right to practice as the Christian, so the Christian – who is inherently evangelical and seeking converts – must be suppressed.” You and I both know that what the free exercise of religion means is that the Christian religion must be allowed to fulfill the great commission. (cf. Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, 1802)

    When the Gospel is the premise and the law is the conclusion, the law is in a context of Christian society where (most) men are offering up charity, mercy, and the context that these are done in Christ’s name. The law in that context has a different objective than a law established in a nation where sin is a joke on TV.

    | Oh, and let’s not forget that Colson is also
    | heavily involved in prison ministry. Nothing
    | like a captive audience to reach the criminal
    | element with the Gospel!

    I think this fortifies my point about Colson: he thinks the civil law is the same thing as the divine law, and in our country, sadly, that day (if it ever was here) is long past.

    | <<
    | politics do not advance the kingdom of God.
    | The Gospel only advances the Kingdom of
    | God -- and not by a sword but by a cross.
    | >>
    |
    | As a matter of historical fact, politics can do
    | a great deal to advance the gospel. Abraham
    | Kuyper did a great deal to advance the
    | Gospel.

    Irving Hexham, in CRUX, vol. XIX, #1, March 1983 offers a very quick summary of Kuyper’s political philosophy, and because I am a doofus I refer to that summary rather than Kuyper’s work directly. That said, Kuyper’s view of politics was not that it should reform men because that was the purview of the church.

    http://www.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/papers/irving/kuyperp.html
    All typos, btw, are from this site and my from my ham hands.

    Hexham says Kuyper’s view is that the State itself has three duties to perform. They are:
    1) to draw a boundary between the different social spheres to avoid social conflict. Thus, there is a boundary between the domestic and the corporate life of man. For example, the worker should never be misused by his employer in such a way as to deprive him of a home life or private interest, because such a development would mean that the corporate sphere has illegitimately invaded tire domestic sphere;
    2) to defend individuals and weak elements within each sphere. In saying this Kuyper appears to envisage a subdivision of each social sphere into further spheres. Within the domestic sphere, for example, there is a separate sphere of education, which must not be confused with the sphere of marriage, or vice versa;
    3) to coerce all the separate spheres of society to support the State and uphold its legitimate functions. Thus, each sphere has an obligation to render whatever dues necessary for the maintenance of the overall unity of society as protected by the State.

    In that, Kuyper sums up Calvinist political thought in three theses:
    A) God only - and never any creature - is possessed of sovereign rights, in the destiny of the nations, because God alone created them, maintains them by His Almighty power, and roles them by His ordinances.
    B) Sin has, in the realm of politics, broken down the direct government of God, and therefore the exercise of authority, for the purpose of government has subsequently been invested in men, as a mechanical remedy. And
    C) In whatever form this authority may reveal itself, man never possesses power over his fellow man in any way than by an authority which descends upon him from the majesty of God.

    And I would agree with Kuyper in all of this. The question is whether this view precedes the Gospel or proceeds from the Gospel – and plainly it is the latter as is exemplified by Kuyper’s motto "a free Church for a free State". The Gospel comes first.

    | So did Constantine ...

    ... grumble grumble grumble ... Ending persecution was a good thing. Making Christianity the religion of the Emperor: I think we might talk about that one.

    | ... and Theodotius ...

    He did good in advancing Nicene uniformity. We might also talk about the imnplications of him and Gratian publishing an edict that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, and the active suppression of pagan temples.

    | ... and Justinian ...

    He had a zeal for religious unity – Christian religious unity, no doubt. I’m not sure, however, that the persecution of the Jews and the Hellenists was a high-water mark in advancing the Gospel.

    | ... and Charlemagne.

    I’m not sure that we can equate the reunification of the Holy Roman Empire with the cause of the Gospel.

    | Historically speaking, why are some nations
    | traditional Christian while other nations are
    | traditionally Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist?
    |
    | It has, in the first instance, everything to do
    | with politics, with coercion, with the sword.
    | As went the king, so went the royal subjects.
    | If the monarch was Muslim so were his
    | subjects; if the monarch was Buddhist, so
    | were his subjects; if the monarch was
    | Christian, so were his subjects.
    |
    | This had nothing to do with mass
    | evangelism or national revival. Rather, it
    | was due to mass conversion based on the
    | conversion of one man--the king. That’s
    | how Christian Europe became Christian.
    |
    | Now, you may say, that’s not genuine
    | conversion—that’s just outward conformity;
    | that’s not real faith—that’s just nominal
    | faith.
    |
    | And you’d be quite right—for the first
    | generation. But by crushing the death-grip
    | of paganism, and by imposing Christian
    | institutions on the nation, it opened up the
    | possibility of genuine Christian piety for
    | succeeding generations.

    This is why I like chatting with you, Steve: you’re always 100% rational. You’re a good counter-point to me personally. :-)

    However, saying something like “crushing the death-grip of paganism” is absolutely centuri0nistic. Paganism did not have a “death grip” on Christianity – not in the secular historical view where they may be seen as at odds but hardly one overcoming the other apart from persecutions, and certainly not from the standpoint that Jesus Christ is Lord, bro.



    | Do I believe in mass conversion? No. Do I
    | believe in conversion at gunpoint? No.
    |
    | But I mention it to disprove the thoughtless
    | mantra which gets repeated ad nauseum the
    | politics can do nothing to advance the
    | gospel.

    Well, I certainly didn’t mean to be “thoughtless”. And I didn’t say that politics can do or does nothing to advance the Gospel: what I have been saying is that one has to come first – and if it is politics, we have made the wrong choice.

    | Let’s take some other example. Let’s take
    | European imperialism. Consider the way in
    | which the Cecil Rhodes and the
    | Conquistadors and the East India Co. made
    | an opening for Christian missionaries. Or
    | let’s take the Southern institution of slavery.
    |
    | These are repellent examples, aren’t they?
    | Slavery. Colonialism. Do I approve? No.
    | But they did quite a lot, in spite of their own
    | worst efforts, to spread the gospel.

    In almost all of those examples, however, would you agree or disagree that we are still paying a price for the fact that the Gospel came after the heel of a boot rather than coming first wearing shoes of peace?

    For example, to use something you and I have been on about for a couple of weeks, did colonialism in Africa result in Christian cultural inroads, or did it result in Christianity being seen as a tool of (a-hem) the White Devil?

    | Sometimes you have to bust the door down
    | to get a hearing. Does that justify breaking
    | down the door? Good question. I’ll pass on
    | that for now.
    |
    | Take a more benign example. When our
    | Republic was first founded, the Federal gov't
    | subsidized Indian missionaries. Didn't that
    | advance the gospel?

    Another great example, I think, in which Christianity takes a bad rap for bad political policy which still lingers to this day. I’m pretty sure that most Native Americans who are actually Native Americans (not the white guys in rusty trucks with 1/16th Chicasaw ancestry who produce a tribal membership card for reservation rights when they don’t want to pay sales tax) are not practicing Christians at this point, but I could be wrong.

    | <<
    | We are tasked not to go forth and lobbieth
    | all men but to preach the Gospel to all living
    | things and make disciples of men.
    | >>
    |
    | How do you propose to do that in countries
    | where it’s a crime to preach the Gospel or
    | convert to Christianity?

    By breaking the law. There is no doubt in that situation that we are called to break the law – not just lobby for changes – for the sake of Christ. The Jews claimed Paul was breaking the law by preaching Christ rather than Caesar, and he continued to break the law.

    | Let us take a few more examples. What
    | misfortune would have befallen the cause of
    | gospel had the Muslims succeeded in
    | invading and conquering Western Europe?

    My opinion is that I can’t see how that would have been good, but:
    * it is also an error of category to equate “Muslims sacking Rome” with “Homosexuals want the watered-down version of marriage currently provided by US Law”.
    * This “what if” overlooks God’s sovereignty in History.

    | What misfortunes would have befallen the
    | cause of gospel had Hitler won?

    Ditto.

    | What misfortunes will befall the cause of the
    | gospel if ACLU-types succeed in
    | criminalizing Christian expression in our
    | own country?

    We preach the Gospel anyway. If somehow it becomes a crime to preach the Gospel in this country, I submit to you that, God willing, I will preach it until they kill me – and not just in words but in deeds.

    | Politics is no substitute for the gospel. But
    | political muscle, rightly deployed, can be
    | instrumental in the spread and preservation
    | of the gospel.

    I’m sorry: I think the Gospel is more powerful, and more broad-reaching, than politics. That’s not meant to slam you, Steve. It is meant to contrast the view that we ought to leverage political gains to implement laws which reflect our view of the faith down to the mint and cumin (which, I will admit, is a centuri0nism and hyperbole) against the idea that the Gospel is the power to save and it doesn’t need any help from the sword. It’s important to note that when we read Rom 13, Paul doesn’t say that the government makes it possible to preach the Gospel: it says that if we are living by God’s word, we will have no reason to fear government.

    | For it takes force to repel force. Force,
    | whether defensive or occasionally offensive,
    | is sometimes a prerequisite for the freedom
    | of the gospel to do what only the gospel can
    | do.
    |
    | It's no accident that the Amish took refuge
    | in the USA, and not Saudi Arabia or Red
    | China.

    Yes, I agree that the political climate in the past has been one in which the Amish – who don’t seem to be of the world, but in what way are they in the world? – could find some safe harbor. But they are isolationists in the religious sense – they want no contact with those who do not believe what they believe. I am sure that’s not the Gospel, either.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Jus Div --

    I gave the citation of what Colson thinks about the law's function in teaching morals in my post to Steve. I don't think it is a leap to say his cohorts share this view.

    That rebuts most of your initial objections.

    ReplyDelete
  18. centuri0n wrote:

    "That rebuts most of your initial objections."

    LOL! Sure, if you say so :-) There's nothing like a shortcut to real dialogue ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Centuri0n writes:

    > I would agree with this whole-heartedly – and apply
    > it to the matter of whether it is better to have a
    > society which is inherently saturated with the Gospel
    > that requires fewer laws but has a basis for those laws
    > in God’s decrees, or if it is better to have a society
    > that is at war with the Gospel where those who possess
    > the Gospel are trying to use the civil law to do what
    > they cannot (or, in my opinion, will not) do through
    > Church and pulpit.

    Because, of course, you know that most ECBers would _agree_ with this laughable false dichotomy you are attempting to impose upon them.

    Right? :-)

    ECBer Board Meeting:

    "Well, let's see, here, we have a choice. Do we want a society of inwardly obedient Christians, or do we want a society of moralistic Pharisees coerced by the sword? Hey, seeing as these are our only choices, how about abandoning the former and just pursuing the latter! Sounds great!"

    ;-)

    > The problem is that it is not the country we have today,
    > and the solution is not amending the constitution or putting
    > more laws on the books: it is preaching the Gospel in word
    > and deed.

    Because, of course, you know that most ECBers would _agree_ with the notion that "putting more laws on the books" is _the solution_ to all the moral ills we have in our country today.

    Right? :-)

    Glad you've done your homework here ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. centuri0n writes:

    > But the question is not “is freedom better than slavery” but
    > “what is the first duty of the Christian: is it political or
    > is it something else?”

    Because, of course, you know that most ECBers would agree with you that "the first duty of the Christian is political".

    I mean, come on? You're _happy_ just tossing out these outrageous charges, and think they'll really stick for a reasonable reader?

    The problem isn't that everything you say is false. It's that you're offering up obvious truisms, and then acting like anyone disagrees with you.

    ReplyDelete
  21. centuri0n writes:

    > But I have absolutely no stomach for the idea that the
    > Gospel is intended to be a PAC.

    Let me know the next time Dobson wants to make belief in Jn 3:16 the law of the land. I must have missed that Citizen Action Update ;-)

    > There’s no doubt that the Christian worldview – the Gospel
    > worldview – has made a major impact on Western culture
    > and western political philosophy. There is no doubt about
    > that, and I would argue that this is exactly my point: the
    > Gospel came first, and the reforms followed the Gospel.

    This is just weird. Are you saying that _all_ of the 'reforms' took place _apart from the political involvement of Christians in their own society_? You act as if these 'reforms' took place because _all individuals in the society without exception_ were already Christian or something. Surely that's not the case.

    > It is in this difference that we see the problem I am proposing
    > with laws against same-sex marriage and laws against sodomy.

    I thought you were already on record as saying that you wanted things like sodomy to be illegal.

    > The Gospel standard comes before the law because it is the
    > Gospel standard – that is, the changed heart, the heart turned
    > toward God and away from sin because of the grace and mercy of
    > God – which establishes the correct motive. What same-sex
    > marriage turns out to be is a crime of immoral motive and not
    > a crime of merely-bad works.

    You can't be serious. Practically speaking, "the Gospel standard" doesn't come before the law for the _unbelievers_ in our society. So what are we going to do about _them_?

    Let's not outlaw murder in our society until everyone is a Christian? Let's not outlaw murder until all would-be murderers refrain from murdering by having the right motive for so refraining? What sense does this make?

    > Hang on a second there, Steve: that’s exactly wrong. The
    > Gospel results in believers, but the Gospel is the _solution_
    > God provides to all men through proclamation. Even if all
    > men do not accept it, the only solution for the liar, the
    > murderous heart, the adulterer, the idolater, the delinquents
    > (great blog post there, btw), etc. is Jesus Christ.

    Still more of the same equivocation on 'solution'. If someone persists in being an unbeliever, then the gospel will not deter them from murdering someone's children. But laws against murder, properly enacted and enforced, have a chance at doing this.

    What's really strange is that your theory of the state is now no longer applicable to the passage that _you_ brought up: Ro 13. The state can be and is the "minister of God" _even if there's no gospel whatsoever in the society_. The state was "the minister of God" in Roman society long before Christ ever showed up on the scene.

    Let's face it: you're placing conditions on the state that the Word of God nowhere does.

    > The Gospel may only effect those who will believe, but it
    > still comes first. Even in the Bible, the Law (big “L”) –
    > the first covenant – is obsolete and fading away because
    > this new covenant is a better one. That doesn’t mean the
    > Law (big “L”) has no function, but its ministry is to point
    > people to the new covenant.

    Yup, I called it right. You simply reject the civil use of the law in the Calvinistic and Reformed tradition. What you cite above is certainly _a_ use of the law that the Reformed gladly accepted. But it's not the _only_ use. So when you say "its ministry," you've scaled things back considerably, biblically speaking.

    > Well, I certainly didn’t mean to be “thoughtless”. And I
    > didn’t say that politics can do or does nothing to advance
    > the Gospel: what I have been saying is that one has to come
    > first – and if it is politics, we have made the wrong choice.

    And ECBers the world over are saying, "Politics comes first! Politics comes first! It's the first duty of the Christian!" Right? :-)

    Come on, this is all a straw man. You're not arguing against anyone in particular.

    > It’s important to note that when we read Rom 13, Paul
    > doesn’t say that the government makes it possible to
    > preach the Gospel

    Nope, he says that in 1Ti 2:1-7 :-)

    ReplyDelete
  22. centuri0n,

    BTW, the reason why I haven't dignified your Colson quote with a real comment, is because I refuse to interact with 'reasoning' like the following:

    > I gave the citation of what Colson thinks about the
    > law's function in teaching morals in my post to Steve. I
    > don't think it is a leap to say his cohorts share this
    > view.

    "Colson makes a passing remark in a children's book about one function of the law, in his view. Therefore, this is a major plank of Colson's justification for his ECB activity. Therefore, this is a view that unites all ECBers." ;-)

    Leaping Lizards, that's quite a leap (or two)!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Colson published that comment on his web site regarding the function of the law to teach morals. It wasn't in a comic book or out of context.

    The link I provided was to his PFM web site.

    Sorry that's not a valid way to cite sources for you.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Given the length of all the responses I have made today, I apologize upfront that I did not give Jus Div all the attention on this matter he may have wanted to get. Tomorrow is another day.

    | Centuri0n writes:
    |
    | > I would agree with this whole-
    | heartedly – and apply
    | > it to the matter of whether it is better to
    | have a
    | > society which is inherently saturated
    | with the Gospel
    | > that requires fewer laws but has a basis
    | for those laws
    | > in God’s decrees, or if it is better to
    | have a society
    | > that is at war with the Gospel where
    | those who possess
    | > the Gospel are trying to use the civil
    | law to do what
    | > they cannot (or, in my opinion, will
    | not) do through
    | > Church and pulpit.
    |
    | Because, of course, you know that most
    | ECBers would _agree_ with this
    | laughable false dichotomy you are
    | attempting to impose upon them.
    |
    | Right? :-)
    |
    | ECBer Board Meeting:
    |
    | "Well, let's see, here, we have a choice.
    | Do we want a society of inwardly
    | obedient Christians, or do we want a
    | society of moralistic Pharisees coerced
    | by the sword? Hey, seeing as these are
    | our only choices, how about abandoning
    | the former and just pursuing the latter!
    | Sounds great!"
    |

    Speaking of short-cuts around dialog ...

    Please tell me: Is the church in America today in need of significant reform, minor reform, or no reform?

    If the answer is “significant reform”, then the problem is not what is and is not illegal: it is what is and is not being preached from the pulpit and lived out by the church. What you have done in ridiculing my view of ECB is miss the point that their time would be better spent fixing their own house rather than complaining about the neighbor’s lawn.

    If we had a perfect legal system in which the appropriate number of laws and binding court decisions existed so that the laws of the land reflected God’s law in a way which did honor to God, but our churches remained as they are, would we be honoring God by binding the non-believer to standards that we do not uphold inside our own churches? I would say "no". And the "no" come from the place that heaping condemnation on unbelievers and making them live up to the law is not the method of preaching the Gospel the NT outlines.

    Whatever happens at ECB meetings, the rest is clear: Dobson and Colson are constantly on the radio calling for political activism – and ignoring the internal sickness of the church which they are petitioning to take action. Please don’t pretend these fellows are trying to do both/and: they have no standing to do both/and, they have no conviction to do both/and, and they demonstrate no willingness to do both/and.

    | > The problem is that it is not the
    | country we have today,
    | > and the solution is not amending the
    | constitution or putting
    | > more laws on the books: it is preaching
    | the Gospel in word
    | > and deed.
    |
    | Because, of course, you know that most
    | ECBers would _agree_ with the notion
    | that "putting more laws on the books" is
    | _the solution_ to all the moral ills we
    | have in our country today.

    Since you have provided zero evidence to the contrary, and I have cited Colson’s own words on the matter and the legal resource he bases this premise on, I would say the score is at least 1-0. By the way, when was the last time you saw one of these guys out there petitioning the church to reform its ways and, say, institute formal, local discipline on members who violate Scriptural mandates against adultery and divorce?

    Maybe that makes it 2-0.

    ReplyDelete
  25. centuri0n,

    You wrote:

    > It wasn't in a comic book or
    > out of context.

    I understand. It's a legitimate citation. I was simply pointing out that the book in question, _Answers to Your Kids' Questions_, is a children's book in the sense that it's a reference guide for teenagers. Indeed, it's based on Colson's 'Breakpoint' radio commentaries, which IIRC are a few minutes long each.

    I don't doubt that Colson says what he says there. I do have doubts that it has the significance you impute to it. (For instance, notice that nothing he says in the three paragraphs you cite, or indeed in the rest of the piece, helps to explain what he means by the phrase 'moral teacher'.) But most importantly, I do have doubts that a snippet from a radio commentary in a book for teenagers is somehow representative of Colson's reasons for ECB, much less representative of ECBers at large.

    Keep in mind my original claim which you say you are addressing through the Colson quote:

    > The notion that ECBers think the function of law is to
    > "teach morals" is just weird to me. I certainly don't
    > see it in their writings as their motivation for doing
    > what they do.

    The idea that you've discovered some foundational motivation for ECBers, pervasive among the ECBers, just isn't credible to me. And the idea that you can just generalize from Colson to everyone else is, well, strange, to say the least.

    Finally, you're focusing on what is at best a tangential aspect of our dialogue. As far as I can tell, I spent perhaps two sentences on it. Most of my main points have remained unaddressed.

    Indeed, as I explain over at Mr. Camp's blog, ECB is not unjustified because some ECBers have the wrong motivation for it. What matters in the end is _my_ motivation for supporting it, not that of others.

    Still, if you'd like, I'd be happy to concede _arguendo_ that one (among many) functions of law in society _is_ to teach morals, in the sense that it is a witness to accurate moral judgments (to use Colson's phrase). How would that affect my broader assessment of your arguments against ECB? As far as I can tell, I was only making an introductory, tangential point at the beginning of that comment.

    > The link I provided was to his PFM
    > web site.

    Right, I read it.

    > Sorry that's not a valid way to cite sources for you.

    No, it was entirely valid. I apologize if I came across as harsh. I don't dispute the citation, just its significance. The idea that it "rebuts most of [my] initial objections" seems perverse to me, when one actually rereads my posted comment.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi centuri0n,

    > Please tell me: Is the church in America today in need
    > of significant reform, minor reform, or no reform?

    It's desperately in need of significant reform.

    > If the answer is “significant reform”, then the problem is
    > not what is and is not illegal: it is what is and is not
    > being preached from the pulpit and lived out by the church.

    Again, I find this strange. You've simply persisted in your original false dichotomy, which I thought I pointed out to you. Put simply, there's an equivocation here on "the problem". Is the need for reform in the church perhaps _the most important problem_ facing society today? I'd be willing to say, 'Yes'. Is the need for reform in the church _the only problem_ anyone should be addressing in society today? I must say 'No'. For one reason, if I say 'Yes,' and everyone happens to agree with me, I daresay I won't have any food or electricity tomorrow, and all the police will disband. Not pretty.

    Think again of Mr. Hays' howlingly funny dentist analogy. On your view, it's a complete and total travesty that a Christian man would spend 40-50 hours a week cleaning and fixing people's teeth. Where's the eternal consequence in _that_? How can the church get 'reformed' by doing _that_? Therefore, it's obvious that the guy is doing something wrong.

    Surely this reasoning is lunacy. And repeating the phrase "the problem," "the problem," "the problem" mantra-like is not going to salvage the faulty reasoning. It's not only liberals who can be reductionistic in their approach to how Christians should live in society. Conservative, even Reformed, evangelicals can be reductionistic as well. I think I'm coming across a case of it; that's all I'm saying.

    > What you have done in ridiculing my view of ECB is miss
    > the point that their time would be better spent fixing their
    > own house rather than complaining about the neighbor’s lawn.

    Think about this utter legalism you're foisting on the entire church, the collective body of your brothers and sisters in Christ. According to you, apparently, if someone isn't preaching the gospel full time for, what was it again?, 364 days a year, what they spend their time doing instead is of little worth.

    Has the Reformation doctrine of vocation really died? Would you really go up to the Christian dentist and say, "Hey, your time would be better spent if you gave up that fool's job, and started preaching the gospel everywhere. And if you're not qualified to be a pastor, at least publish some good Christian books written by other people. Because otherwise, your life is worthless, pal. After all, I'm talking about 'the problem,' and who are we to avoid solving 'the problem'?"

    I haven't "missed" your point. I deny it.

    > If we had a perfect legal system in which the appropriate
    > number of laws and binding court decisions existed so that
    > the laws of the land reflected God’s law in a way which did
    > honor to God, but our churches remained as they are, would
    > we be honoring God by binding the non-believer to standards
    > that we do not uphold inside our own churches? I would say "no".

    Gee, this is no different from the argument that says, "I can't become a Christian, because there's so many hypocrites in the church". Except that in this case, you're actually _advocating_ the silly argument!

    _Of course_ if the churches are filled with murdering, adulterous, sodomizing pederasts, the churches should be purging the evil from among them! But how is _that_ an argument that therefore the laws of the land should not reflect God's principles, and that Christians should expend no effort to hold the state to account? This is just one, big "does not follow".

    > And the "no" come from the place that heaping condemnation
    > on unbelievers and making them live up to the law is not the
    > method of preaching the Gospel the NT outlines.

    Well, first, I know of plenty of Puritans who would disagree with you, but let's put that aside. You're still whacking straw men. _Which ECBers_, exactly, characterize their activity as a "method of preaching the Gospel"? You're condemning them for not fulfilling a purpose they don't set for themselves in the first place. You might as well say, "Filling cavities is not the method of preaching the Gospel the NT outlines." So?!

    The question you have to ask yourself is, are Christians permitted to pursue social goods that are neither spiritual nor eternal? Or must _everything_ they do be a form of "preaching the Gospel"?

    > Whatever happens at ECB meetings, the rest is clear: Dobson
    > and Colson are constantly on the radio calling for political
    > activism – and ignoring the internal sickness of the church
    > which they are petitioning to take action.

    You _know_ this, do you? You _know_ that they ignore this in their personal lives, and in their church relations?

    Beyond this, are you of the view that _every_ Christian must make it their life's calling to reform the church?

    The legalism here is just seeping in through every crack in the wall.

    The work of ECB is _not_ the work of the church, in the sense of a fulfillment of the Great Commission. It's something else.

    If I had a radio show where I helped people fix their homes, by allowing people to call in and explain their house repair problems, and I give advice, would I be sinning? On the grounds that, for 40 hours a week, I'm "ignoring the internal sickness of the church"? That's just absurd.

    Again, I ask: are Christians permitted to cooperate together in order to pursue social goods which are neither spiritual nor eternal? Or did the entire Reformation just collapse into Campus Crusade fundamentalism and legalism when I wasn't looking?

    > Please don’t pretend these fellows are trying to do both/and:
    > they have no standing to do both/and, they have no conviction
    > to do both/and, and they demonstrate no willingness to do
    > both/and.

    I don't think they _have_ to do both/and, as individuals. You have a reason to think otherwise?

    >>> The problem is that it is not the country we have
    >>> today, and the solution is not amending the constitution
    >>> or putting more laws on the books: it is preaching the
    >>> Gospel in word and deed.
    >>
    >> Because, of course, you know that most ECBers would
    >> _agree_ with the notion that "putting more laws on
    >> the books" is _the solution_ to all the moral ills we
    >> have in our country today.
    >
    > Since you have provided zero evidence to the contrary, and
    > I have cited Colson’s own words on the matter and the legal
    > resource he bases this premise on, I would say the score is
    > at least 1-0.

    First, this isn't a game. Let's not be interested in 'scorekeeping'. But second, I can't believe my eyes. You're actually saying you can toss out these blanket claims about all ECBers, and support it with some quote from Colson? Have you ever heard of a hasty generalization?

    What's hilarious is that _the Colson quote itself_ gives zero support for your claim, even in an inductive manner. Nowhere does Colson say, or imply, that "putting more laws on the books is _the solution_ to all the moral ills we have in our country today." Let me know when you find a quote that supports _that_ claim, will you? Personally, I haven't found it anywhere.

    You're confusing "the law is a moral teacher" with "the law is the solution to all moral ills".

    > By the way, when was the last time you saw one of these
    > guys out there petitioning the church to reform its ways and,
    > say, institute formal, local discipline on members who violate
    > Scriptural mandates against adultery and divorce?

    I don't know. When was the last time _you_ "petitioned the church" on this?

    Gimme a break, Dobson is a psychologist, not a pastor. He doesn't have to fulfill the role of a pastor. Neither does a dentist, and a thousand thousand other kinds of people who aren't pastors.

    Of course, one major name does come to mind: Al Mohler. He's advocated church discipline on his blog many times, not to mention in his seminary addresses and biblical preaching. It's all online.

    ReplyDelete
  27. <<
    Colson would say we do pass laws to teach morals – and makes a very interesting comparison here to the 10 Commandments.
    >>

    i) Let’s get something out of the way at the outset. I, and I think I speak for Jus here as well, am not interesting in defending everything that every ECBer says or does. Colson is a lawyer by training, not a theologian. Dobson is a pediatrician by training, not a theologian. I don’t look to these men for my political philosophy.

    These guys have a lot of critics, some of whom are much more astute than they are. But I prefer a second-rate man who’s prepared to get his hands dirty and do the hard, thankless work over a first-rate thinker who jeers from the cheap-seats.

    ii) I’m concerned with the general principle of cobelligerance and political activism. The case for or against that doesn’t depend on the ability of Falwell or Robertson or Dobson or Colson to articulate their message.

    iii) Yes, the law can be a teaching tool. But the law is also for those who are unteachable—for those who don’t have a conscience.

    <<
    I don’t actually disagree, but deposed by whom?
    >>

    Look at the coup d’etat in 2 Chron 23—staged by the high priest, no less!

    <<
    To answer the question, “What happens when he’s doing more harm than good,” we have Paul’s ultimate example in simply giving up his life for the sake of the Gospel. There was no call to arms by the church to defend Paul (and, apparently, Peter):
    >>

    The Neronian persecution took place around 64. Romans was written around 57. 1 Peter was evidently written before the onset of the Neronian persecution.

    It is anachronistic when Christians quote these letters as directly addressing the question of what do in the face of persecution—based on what a terrible person Nero was.

    We also have examples of God’s people fighting back. Esther is a canonical example. The Maccabean revolt is another example. Both in precept (Deut 20) and practice, Israel had to defend herself.

    It would have been suicidal for a tiny Christian minority to pick a fight with the Roman army. That doesn’t mean it’s always wrong for the church to defend herself. You bide your time.

    <<
    BTW, I think the example that government can do more harm than good is a great example of why law is a consequence of men who follow the Gospel: men without Christ will invariably seek laws that turn away from the truth.
    >>

    Sorry, but this reflects the Manichean outlook of Anabaptism. It has no room for common grace.

    <<
    I would agree with this whole-heartedly – and apply it to the matter of whether it is better to have a society which is inherently saturated with the Gospel that requires fewer laws but has a basis for those laws in God’s decrees, or if it is better to have a society that is at war with the Gospel where those who possess the Gospel are trying to use the civil law to do what they cannot (or, in my opinion, will not) do through Church and pulpit.
    >>

    With all due respect, this is an empty prescription. To begin with, those who believe in this prescription are already doing it, and those who don’t are not. So, according to your own prescription, things are not going to get any better because those who think that we should only preach the gospel are already doing that—except for all the time they spend attacking ECBers.

    My answer to them is, hey, if you can make it work, let’s see you do it. Don’t talk about it, do it! Make it happen! In the meantime, don’t oppose those who have an alternative (and complementary) vision.

    And while I’m at it I’ll comment on a variant of your prescription which you raise with Jus. Should ECBers be putting pressure on Evangelical denominations to get serious about church discipline in case of adultery and divorce?

    i) Christian leaders with a megaphone should certainly use their megaphone to promote the purity of the church. And they can do more than one thing at a time.

    ii) But, as a practical matter, if the church could be a lot better, it would be a lot better. The reason it isn’t a lot better than it is is the people in the church—both in the pulpit and the pew. And there’s not a whole lot that you and I can do about that. You don’t have much leverage because if they shared your priorities, they’d already have cleaned up the mess, and if they haven’t cleaned up with mess by now, it’s because they don’t share your priorities.

    It goes back to the old conundrum that those who need to hear don’t have ears to hear, while those who have ears to hear don’t need to hear.

    You can go back in time, decade upon decade upon decade, and read the same complaints about how dead and worldly the church is. But just talking about how bad off the church is and telling people in the church that they should be doing a better job doesn’t do a dime’s worth of difference since, at best, it comes down to a faithful pastor with a faithful few who do all the work while the rest are, at best, just along for the ride; or, at worst, either a faithless pastor or else a faithful pastor who’s up against faithless few who are spoiling to oust him.

    And while we’re on the subject, if I disagree with how Mohler or Colson or Falwell or Robertson or Dobson are spending their time, why should I be spending my time telling them how they should spend their time? It’s unlikely that I’m going to change their mind. In the meantime, why don’t I lead by example? Why this incessant, “the other guy should do this instead of that”?

    BTW, what makes you think that preaching the gospel is less offensive than passing laws? Do you really think for a moment that if, say, Kennedy stopped doing his history lessons on the Founding Fathers and spent all his TV time with hellfire sermons on sin that Maureen Dowd and Andrew Sullivan wouldn’t be provoked?

    As I assume we know from our OT history, preaching doesn’t always make you a lot of new friends and converts. In fact, we know that from NT history as well. Preaching the gospel is a sure-fire way of making enemies by the boatload. If, instead of pushing for a particular piece of legislation or a judicial nominee, he spent his time telling the world on national TV that Muhammad and Gandhi and Buddha were burning in hell, and that all Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists are hell-bound as well, wouldn’t that make him at least as unpopular as his political activism, if not a good deal more so?

    And yes, that’s precisely what the law is for—for the unregenerate, for the reprobate, even for the Christian backslider.

    What is “better” is to do the best you can.

    <<
    The problem is that it is not the country we have today, and the solution is not amending the constitution or putting more laws on the books: it is preaching the Gospel in word and deed.
    >>

    What does this faceless abstraction do for the victim? The point of laws is not to eradicate crime, but to make it manageable. Without law, crime spirals out of control.

    Is the theory here that preaching the gospel will solve the problem in the long run?

    Neither legislation nor evangelism is going to solve the problem of sin or crime. Both will cut down on the problem in different ways.

    Is there something wrong with partial, short-term solutions? If, say, we can save a few thousand kids from pornographers and child molesters in the interim, is there something wrong with that? Or should they be sacrificed for some long-term objective?

    Why the either/or? How many extra dead or broken children is a free gospel concert by Steve Camp worth to you? And why is that the choice?

    Since tomorrow isn’t promised us, why can’t we work on today, one day at a time? Why don’t we try to do the most good we can in the present and the near future?

    Seriously, Frank, exactly what laws do you, or Camp, oppose? Should we not have laws against kiddy porn? Should we not have laws against pederasty? Should we not have laws against child rape?

    <<
    I would offer that Christians have political duties – especially in a society that claims to be a free society. But those duties are down the list from the matters of personal justice, mercy, and charity.
    >>

    Aren’t these laws merciful and charitable to the potential victim?

    <<
    I’d be interested to hear your take on this statement: “It is interesting to note how few Catholics there were among the founding fathers of our country”.
    >>

    Wasn’t Maryland one of the original 13 Colonies to ratify the Constitution?

    <<
    we are talking about far more foundational issues that cannot be rectified by making a law about them.
    >>

    Seems to me that passing and enforcing a law against same-sex marriage is a pretty direct and effective way of preventing most same-sex marriages.

    BTW, I’d rather make the issue homosexuals adopting children.

    <<
    It is in this difference that we see the problem I am proposing with laws against same-sex marriage and laws against sodomy. The Gospel standard comes before the law because it is the Gospel standard – that is, the changed heart, the heart turned toward God and away from sin because of the grace and mercy of God – which establishes the correct motive. What same-sex marriage turns out to be is a crime of immoral motive and not a crime of merely-bad works.
    >>

    i) By this logic, why not abolish all laws. I’m not being facetious here. You and Camp and others constantly use examples that scream for counterexamples. Every argument you use against anti-abortion or anti-pornography laws could be used against every other law in the criminal code. What is your principled criterion for drawing the line anywhere, or drawing the line where you do?

    ii) In what sense does the Gospel come before the law? Theologically speaking, the law comes before the gospel. Conviction of sin comes before faith and repentance.

    iii) Again, you and Camp keep speaking as though you were either universalists or an especially starry-eyed brand of postmillennialists. Preaching the gospel only saves those who will be saved by the preaching of the gospel. It will not change the heart of the reprobate. Indeed, it will harden the heart of the reprobate.

    iv) BTW, I really don’t care about motives. The purpose of the law is to make people do the right thing for the wrong reason. Since they won’t do, or desist from doing, the right thing for the right reason, you deter misconduct by the threat of force—punishment. A presupposition of the law is that the law is for the ill-motivated, not the well-motivated.

    v) Again, what we have here looks like a parody of the bleeding-heart liberal whose only concern is for the rights of the accused, and not the victim.

    Suppose that Dobson is an utter and complete hypocrite. Suppose he succeeds in strong-arming through some legislation that has Draconian penalties for those caught using child to produce kiddy porn. What does the potential victim who is spared that fate care about whether or not Dobson was a hypocrite with a double standard because he wasn’t telling the church to reform her ways? Given a choice, I’d much rather have a hypocrite who does the right thing for that child than a saint who stands in his way.

    <<
    Hang on a second there, Steve: that’s exactly wrong. The Gospel results in believers, but the Gospel is the solution God provides to all men through proclamation. Even if all men do not accept it, the only solution for the liar, the murderous heart, the adulterer, the idolater, the delinquents (great blog post there, btw), etc. is Jesus Christ.
    >>

    Sorry, but that’s just so much pious nonsense. The gospel is only a solution for those it was intended for—for the elect, for the redeemed. Nowhere in Scripture is the gospel presented as the answer to crime.

    Nowhere in Scripture is the gospel presented as the remedy of all sinners—not, at least, according to Reformed hermeneutics. That is not the design of the atonement, either in intent, scope, or effect.

    The gospel is not an all-purpose substitute for a criminal law code. And, at the risk of repeating myself—the best way to evangelize the criminal element is in prison. Convicts see a lot more time inside a chapel when in prison than when they’re out on the loose.

    You might as well say that war is not a solution to a murderous heart. But this palters on an equivocation. Killing a Nazi before he kills you does nothing to cure his evil heart. But it is a solution to the social threat posed by the Nazis.

    <<
    And in that, the Gospel comes first. When Paul went to Athens, he did not preach the Law first: he preached the Gospel first.
    >>

    Again, this commits the dual fallacy of ripping a passage out of its historical context and equivocating over the use of the law.

    <<
    Now you may be arguing: “Frank: what happens, for example, when you are in Soviet Russia or Communist China? Should you not be fighting for political reform in order to pave the way for the Gospel?”
    >>

    i) I have never said that we put law before gospel or gospel before law. They serve different purposes. This is not a question of chronological sequence. The law has more than one function, you know. This is not a question of evangelistic strategy.

    ii) In addition, as Jus and I have both pointed out, everything in its due time. Fighting for political reform under Mao or Stalin would be futile.

    <<
    “No. You should be preaching the Gospel, which will in itself pave the way for political reforms.”
    >>

    You and Camp keep assuming that this is a viable alternative. Just try that out at the Grand Mosque of Mecca and see how far you get.

    As Schaeffer used to say, a totalitarian regime cannot tolerate two competing absolutes. The state cannot be the absolute if the gospel lodges a rival claim.

    <<
    I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, Steve, but I think the view you are advocating thinks too little of what the Gospel is capable of.
    >>

    I believe that the Gospel is fully capable of all that God intended for it. God did not intend the gospel as a substitute for a criminal law code—just as God did not intend a criminal law code as a substitute for the gospel. They serve different and equally indispensable purposes in the economy of God. It isn’t all church and no state, anymore than it’s all state and no church.

    <<
    The view that civil law can and should proceed the Gospel.
    >>

    You keep acting as if Jus and I treat the law as a preparation for the gospel. That’s not the use of the law we have in view.

    In fact, both law and gospel are ultimately for the benefit of the elect. The law protects the church against the reprobate by restraining the reprobate who, left to their own devices, would destroy the elect. The state is an organ of common grace.

    I mention Kuyper because Kuyper was a paradigmatic Christian political activist. He was an ordained minister. He founded a political party. He was prime minister. He founded a denomination. He founded a university. He founded a political periodical. He founded a religious periodical. He was a full-orbed social reformer.

    <<
    | ... and Charlemagne.

    I’m not sure that we can equate the reunification of the Holy Roman Empire with the cause of the Gospel.
    >>

    He defeated the Muslims in Spain, was a church reformer, and patron of education.

    The Byzantine emperors come in for a lot of well-merited criticism, but they established a beachhead for Christian missionary outreach.

    <<
    And I didn’t say that politics can do or does nothing to advance the Gospel
    >>

    I appreciate the admission. I would like to see you wrest the same concession from Camp.

    <<
    For example, to use something you and I have been on about for a couple of weeks, did colonialism in Africa result in Christian cultural inroads?
    >>

    Yes, it did make inroads. Why is the Anglican Communion so much more populous and evangelical in the S. Hemisphere than up North? Rotten mechanism, but…

    Mind you, I’m making an argument from the greater to the lesser. If good can come out of these obvious evils, what about a more benign sponsorship of the gospel by government?

    <<
    Another great example, I think, in which Christianity takes a bad rap for bad political policy which still lingers to this day. I’m pretty sure that most Native Americans who are actually Native Americans (not the white guys in rusty trucks with 1/16th Chicasaw ancestry who produce a tribal membership card for reservation rights when they don’t want to pay sales tax) are not practicing Christians at this point, but I could be wrong.
    >>

    No, that is due to the Westward expansion, which came later—when the Indians “got in our way”. The 49ers and all that. Anglo/Indian relations were much better in Colonial times.

    <<
    | How do you propose to do that in countries
    | where it’s a crime to preach the Gospel or
    | convert to Christianity?

    By breaking the law.
    >>

    They’d shut you down before you could make a dent. Islam has had a stranglehold on the Mideast 1000+ years by now. It drove out the Christians.

    <<
    | What misfortunes will befall the cause of the
    | gospel if ACLU-types succeed in
    | criminalizing Christian expression in our
    | own country?

    We preach the Gospel anyway. If somehow it becomes a crime to preach the Gospel in this country, I submit to you that, God willing, I will preach it until they kill me – and not just in words but in deeds.
    >>

    Tine, if it comes to that. Should we do nothing to oppose the ACLU-types? Not challenge them in the courts and Congress and legislatures? Just roll over and play dead?

    <<
    I’m sorry: I think the Gospel is more powerful, and more broad-reaching, than politics. That’s not meant to slam you, Steve. It is meant to contrast the view that we ought to leverage political gains to implement laws which reflect our view of the faith down to the mint and cumin (which, I will admit, is a centuri0nism and hyperbole) against the idea that the Gospel is the power to save and it doesn’t need any help from the sword. It’s important to note that when we read Rom 13, Paul doesn’t say that the government makes it possible to preach the Gospel: it says that if we are living by God’s word, we will have no reason to fear government.
    >>

    More fatal equivocations.

    i) The gospel doesn’t need the sword in the sense of conversion at sword-point. No one’s advocating that.

    ii) But there’s such a thing as a theology of the state. And there are times when the Gospel does need the sword to protect the Church against her enemies.

    Notice how Paul gamed the legal system so that he could preach the Gospel to the imperial household. Paul, with cool-eyed calculation, parleyed his Roman citizenship into political capital which he could then cash it to pry open doors for the preaching of the Gospel.

    iii) We have nothing to fear from death. But you keep missing the point. This is not about us. This is about keeping the cause of the gospel alive, and passing it along to the next generation, and reaching the lost with the gospel. It’s for their benefit, not ours. The point is not to escape suffering. This is not “our” get-out-of-jail-free card. This is “their” (posterity’s) get-out-of-jail-free card.

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  28. Jus, among other things--excellent points about creeping legalism and the denial of the lay vocation.

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