Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is Dr. Dobson Darth Vader?

I have only a passing knowledge of James Dobson. I don’t read his books or listen to his radio show.

But I’m mystified by why or when Dr. Dobson became one of the black hats in the eyes of some conservative Christians. I know they object to his political activism, but what’s the problem with that? Here’s a little info on Dr. Dobson’s professional background and political activism:


Dobson was for 14 years an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, and served for 17 years on the Attending Staff of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in the Division of Child Development and Medical Genetics. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (1967) in the field of child development. He is a licensed psychologist in the state of California, a licensed marriage, family and child counselor in both California and Colorado, and is listed in Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare.

Dr. Dobson has been heavily involved in governmental activities related to the family. He served on the task force which summarized the White House Conference on Families and received a special commendation from President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the National Advisory Commission to the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1982-84. From 1984-87 he was regularly invited to the White House to consult with President Reagan and his staff on family matters. He served as co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory Panel for Tax Reform, in consultation with President Reagan, and served as a member and later chairman of the United States Army's Family Initiative, 1986-88. He was appointed to Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography, 1985-86. Dr. Dobson was also appointed in the spring of 1987 to the Attorney General's Advisory Board on Missing and Exploited Children, and to Secretary Otis Bowen's Panel on Teen Pregnancy Prevention, within the Department of Health and Human Services. In December, 1994, Dr. Dobson was appointed by Senator Robert Dole to the Commission on Child and Family Welfare and in October, 1996, was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission. Dr. Dobson is married to Shirley, and the father of two grown children, Danae and Ryan. He resides in Colorado.



Because of his professional training as a pediatrician and child psychologist, Dr. Dobson happens to be concerned about the culture we're raising our kids in, and he's using his public platform to lobby for their wellbeing.

For the life of me, I can't see why it's out of bounds for a Christian layman to do that. He’s a model of responsible Christian citizenship.

To oppose this is just a blind reactionary impulse which owes a lot less to Scripture than a fundamentalist tradition—and I do mean “tradition”--of social isolationism.

Do we not want laws that protect our young against kiddy porn and pedophiles?

I realize that some folks are rightly upset because he's too cozy with Rome, but that's not political, that's theological. That's based on his defective theology.


  1. Well, the idea here seems to be:

    1. Passing laws won't solve the problem of pedophilia.

    2. People believing the gospel will solve the problem of pedophilia.

    3. Therefore, to the extent that other evangelicals jump on Dobson's bandwagon, to that extent they are denying the power of the gospel.

    You don't need me, I think, to help you point out the huge flaws in this 'logic' :-)

  2. BTW, here's a typical screed against Dobson:


    ... just in case you want to see where people like Mr. Camp are coming from.

  3. I now see that I am behind the times. You must have been referring to the following entry today:


    ...which says, in part:

    "4. Political Activism (Dr. James Dobson) -- this attacks the very work of God. Def.: Trying to address moral decline by political means, they have succeeded in turning the body of Christ into a political action committee or religious lobbyist. The great emphasis in their mantra is placed on political legislation rather than regeneration. Theonomistic in nature, they also embrace ecumenism; one's faith or doctrinal convictions aren't central or foundational for unity in fighting the cultural wars. Simply uniting on "the cause at hand" is the important consideration here. Mixing Dobson's psychological view of sanctification into this frey only heightens the concern here. A wide constiuency of evangelicals seem to confuse conservative political views with orthodox faith. Patriotism is being equated with biblical Christianity."

    Of course, the many claims here -- false at worst, unargued at best -- are legion. And while some of Mr. Camp's claims are true, their relevance to anything _bad_ isn't really brought out in logical fashion.

  4. He keeps uses phrases like "PAC" or "religious lobbyist" as if the label did the work of an argument. It begs the question entirely. What's inherently wrong with a Christian PAC or Christian lobbyist? Simply to label something or someone as such is not argument against it.

  5. Steve,

    You say:

    "What's inherently wrong with a Christian PAC or Christian lobbyist? Simply to label something or someone as such is not argument against it."

    Yes, I get the impression that many of Mr. Camp's entries are not really intended to persuade anybody who disagrees with him, but are more 'cheerleading' for the people already on his side, since we all 'know' that he's obviously right. (Right? :-) But if you approach it from the standpoint of being someone who's already committed to ECB, you won't find much there to actually challenge your views. I mean, the mantra "political remedies for moral maladies, absent the gospel of Christ" can't possibly be seen as an _argument_. It's just slapped on all and sundry, with little thought as to whether it actually _applies_ to the people he's talking about.

    Of course, Mr. Camp regularly posts quite a bit of good theological material, again and again. He's definitely one of the good guys, and deserves our respect for a variety of reasons. But on this particular issue, I haven't seen anything resembling a robust argument for his view. Go back and read some of the older stuff about Dr. Mohler. It's truly awful "I can read Mohler's mind" kind of stuff.

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  7. Here's the problem:

    "He is a licensed psychologist"

    Most people that I know that think Dr. Dobson is off track is because he relies more heavily on psycology than scripture.

    I used to listen to his radio show a *long* time ago. Most of the time I enjoyed it, but that was before I knew much about biblical counciling. Well, at least less then I know now. Plus when he would bring orthodox jews or other non-christians on I would get upset.

    My 2 cents,


  8. Agreed: I don't think there's anything wrong with a Christian like Dobson lobbying the government for certain interests, e.g., passing anti-pornography laws, etc. Certainly other groups have the right to do so, why not Christians too?

    However, as you pointed out, the problem is with Dobson's theology, and where it intersects with his politics. He is indeed far too cozy with groups like the RCs. Even if both RCs and Protestants share the same values regarding, say, abortion, by uniting politically, I think it sends the wrong message to many people that political unity over certain issues may be more important or at least more needful than unity over the Gospel.

    Of course, it doesn't have to be that way, particularly if unbelievers and believers are more discerning, and can judge that Dobson is simply uniting with RCs over a political issue and not necessarily a theological one, but practically speaking it sure doesn't look that way since most are not that discerning. And I think that may be problematic for Dobson.

  9. Also, it doesn't look that way because it doesn't seem like, as far as I can tell anyway (and I could be wrong since I don't follow Dobson too closely either), Dobson himself doesn't exactly go out of his way to distinguish between political unity over moral issues important to us as a nation and spiritual unity over the Gospel when there is opportunity to do so -- such as, for example, when having RCs on the air, and yet in the same breath praising their stance on abortion but not making it clear to audiences that they do not necessarily share other aspects of their faith. I find Dobson too eager to blur the lines over theology in order to advance his politics (even when those politics are clearly biblical, such as anti-abortion) when in my opinion he could instead better clarify things.

  10. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a Christian PAC.

    There is something wrong with having a "Christian PAC" that doesn't really have anything to do with being Christian -- it just trades on the name of Christ to reach a political end.

    For example, You can find Focus on the Family's "guiding principles" here:
    And it sounds great -- until you want to ask questions like "What do you mean 'church' or 'the message of repentance and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ'?" Would Mormons object to this statement? How about JWs?

    Colson's pfm.org fares better in that they walk the curious down the Roman road (more or less) in their link on the main nav bar "Who is Jesus?", and they have a statement of faith based on the early creeds.

    Taking action in the political realm will always turn out to be messy and, in my view, unsatisfying -- and in that we prolly have to roll out some slack to folks like Dobson and Colson.

    And let me admit something: in the end, even if Colson and Dobson turn out to be "black hats", my complaint is really not with them personally even if they exemplify in some way what I am kvetching about in this discussion. My complaint is that the church in America has turned to fellows like these to do the work of "social reform". I'm sure Jus Div will argue that changing/implementing laws actually is social reform, and he would be right -- but only about half-right.

    Evangelidom lost this battle about 40 years ago when it sold out to a secular social vision and tied itself to bad allies for good causes. It wanted to seem smart and relevent, so it did things like abandon the inerrancy of Scripture and loosened the bounds of church discipline (to the place where there isn't any to speak of) in order to make peace with the culture to do some social good.

    When it did that, it lost other battles it didn't see coming -- like the battle for the family, and the battle for the unborn. Did it lose those battles in the courtroom and the congress? Yes, sure it did. Was that where the majority of the fight was made? No way -- not even remotely. Those places are where the battle "ended", not where they started. They were consequences, not causes.

    In that, the real reform is still "out there". What if the church was listening to John MacArthur rather than Rick Warren? What if we were reading Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis rather than Malcolm Maclaren and Tim Lahaye? What if we were training up disciples that knew the word of God rather than the words to the Hillsong catalog or Philips Craig & Dean?

    That's where the great awakening lies: not in making sure we get "our laws" passed (which has its place) but in first making sure that the church represents itself in the culture explicitly as God has commanded it to be. Let us remember that the weightier matters of the law have always been justice, mercy and faithfulness.

  11. Excuse me: Brian Maclaren. That's what I get for posting at Oh-dark-hundred.

  12. centuri0n wrote:

    "That's where the great awakening lies: not in making sure we get "our laws" passed (which has its place) but in first making sure that the church represents itself in the culture explicitly as God has commanded it to be. Let us remember that the weightier matters of the law have always been justice, mercy and faithfulness."

    I agree with you completely on these matters of priority, and in fact I could not have stated it better!

    In the interest of showing that we probably agree much more than we do not...