Friday, July 29, 2005

Christ's kingdom & the magistrate's power

John Owen was the prince of Puritan theologians, military chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and architect of the Savoy Declaration. Here’s an excerpt from a sermon of he preached before Parliament, setting forth his views on OT law:


Although the institutions and examples of the Old Testament, of the duty of magistrates in the things and about the worship of God, are not; in their whole latitude and extent, to be drawn into rules that should be obligatory to all magistrates now, under the administration of the gospel--and that because the magistrate was "custos, vindex, et administrator legis judicialis, et politiae Mosaicae," from which, as most think, we are freed--yet, doubtless, there is something moral in those institutions, which, being unclothed of their Judaical form, is still binding to all in the like kind, as to some analogy and proportion. Subduct from those administrations what was proper to, and lies upon the account of, the church and nation of the Jews, and what remains upon the general notion of a church and nation must be everlastingly binding.

Works (Banner of Truth 1967), 8:394.


The law of God


The principles by which we are to determine what element of the law enacted under the old dispensation is abrogated, and what element remains in full force under the new dispensation, are the following:

1) When the continued obligation of any commandment is asserted or practically recognized in the NT, it is plain that the change of dispensations has made no change in the law. Thus the provisions of the moral law are constantly recognized in the NT. On the other hand, when the enactment is explicitly repealed, or its abrogation implied by what is taught in the NT, the case is also made plain.

2) Where there is no direct information upon the question to be gathered from the NT, a careful examination of the reason of the law will afford us good ground of judgment as to its perpetuity. If the original reason for its enactment is universal and permanent, and the law has never been explicitly repealed, then the law abides in forced. If the reason of the law is transient, its binding force is transient also.

A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Banner of Truth 1983), 254-55.


The forensic or judicial law concerned the civil gov’t of the people of God under the OT and contained a body of precepts concerning the form of that political rule. There were various ends of it:

i) The good order (eutaxia) and legitimate constitution of the Jewish polity, which should be a true theocracy (theokratia), as Josephus calls it.

ii) The distinguishing of that state and nation from all other people and states and that that polity might be the seat of the church and the place for the manifestation of God.

iii) The vindication of the moral and ceremonial law from contempt, and so the enforcer of respect and obligation towards both.

iv) The adumbration of the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

In that law various ends must be distinguished. For inasmuch as it was a distinction of the Jewish state from the Gentiles and a type of the kingdom of Christ, it is simply abrogated because there is no longer any distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles in Christ (Gal 3:28; Eph 2:14). As the Jewish state and polity has been destroyed, so there is no need of a type to adumbrate the future kingdom of Christ, since it has already come.

But as to the good order (eutaxian) or form of gov’t of the Israelite people, it cannot be said to have been abrogated, unless relatively. Undoubtedly those things are to be accurately distinguished which in the law ere of particular right (which peculiarly applied to the Jews in relation to time, place and Jewish nation: such was the law concerning a husband’s brother, the writing of divorcement, the gleaning, &c.) from those which were of common and universal right, founded upon the law of nature common to all (such as the laws concerning trials and the punishment of crimes, widows, orphans, strangers and the like, which are of moral and common right.

As to the former, they may well be said to have been abrogated because the Jewish polity having been taken away, whatever had a peculiar relation to it must also necessarily have ceased. But ass to the latter, it still remains because it enters into the nature of the moral and perpetual law and was commanded to the Jews not as Jews simply, but as men subject with others to the law of nature.

For the distinguishing those things which are of common and particular right, a threefold criterion can be employed:

1) That what prevails not only among the Jews, but also among the Gentiles (following the light of right reason) is of common right. Thus the Greeks, Romans and others [e.g. Code of Hammurabi] had their own laws in which are many things agreeing with the divine laws (which even a comparison of the Mosaic and Roman law alone, instituted by various persons, teaches).

2) What is found to be conformed to the precepts of the Decalogue and serves to explain and conform it. This is easily gathered, if either the object and the matter of the laws or the causes of sanctioning them are attended to.

3) The things so repeated in the NT that their observance is commended to Christians.

Turretin, Institutes 2:165-68.



Scot McKnight is blogging on his deconversion from Calvinism.


I found two major weaknesses in Calvinism's theology (and also a disorientation in its architecture): first, the emphasis of its architecture is not the emphasis of the Bible. Its focus on God's Sovereignty, which very quickly becomes much less a doctrine of grace than a doctrine of control and theodicy etc, and its overemphasis on human depravity are not the emphases I found in the Bible. I do not dispute the presence of these themes; I dispute this is where the gravity of emphasis is found in the Bible. Yes, I know we all have metanarratives that put things together, and Calvinism is one such metanarrative. It works for some; it simply didn't work for me.


Several problems here:

i) The “architecture” of systematic theology is necessarily different from the architecture of canonical theology. But this is true regardless of whether you are reading in Reformed systematics or an Arminian systematics.

ii) What is the emphasis of Scripture? Well, in terms of raw emphasis, the accent of Scripture is on the history of Israel. A whole lot of material on law and warfare, genealogy, kingship, national apostasy and restoration. Presumably, though, this doesn’t represent his own theological emphasis or orientation.

iii) Either the Bible teaches the “five-points of Calvinism” or it doesn’t. The question is not one of emphasis, but presence or absence. If present, then these must be believed.

iv) McKnight doesn’t explain how “its focus on God's sovereignty quickly becomes much less a doctrine of grace than a doctrine of control and theodicy &c.,” or why he thinks that a doctrine of grace is in tension with a doctrine of control and theodicy.

v) I’d add that, in my own view, the architecture of Reformed theology dovetails quite nicely with the architecture of biblical theology. What we have in Scripture is a pattern of promise and fulfillment, with wide swaths of historical narrative, punctuated by type and prophecy, which suddenly converges on the NT. This assumes a God who is providentially orchestrating each and every event according to a preconceived plan.

You might say that Reformed theology is a form of reverse engineering. If Scripture moves from cause to effect (OT to NT), then Calvinism works its way back from the effect to the cause. And it does so on the basis of implicit and explicit passages of Scripture which attribute the consequence to the agency of God.


Second, the exegesis of Calvinism on crucial passages I found wanting and sometimes dead wrong. I was once standing, years later when I was teaching at Trinity, outside my door talking with two professors about my view of Hebrews, when I simply asked one of them, "Who do you think best answers the Arminian interpretation of Hebrews?" That professor said, "Philip Hughes." I had just read Hughes and I thought it was weak. In fact, what I thought was this: "If that is the best, then there is no debate." The other professor said, "I agree, Scot. Hughes doesn't answer the questions." Then he said, "I'm not sure any commentary really answers it well." (Both of these professors were Calvinists, and still are, God bless 'em.) What I'm saying is that exegetical conclusions I was drawing (in all kinds of passages) were not answered adequately by the Calvinists I was reading. I think I gave them a fair shot.


Since McKnight says that he will follow this up with his actual exegesis of Heb 6, I’ll hold my fire for now—although I’ve already read his treatment in the TrinJ.

One thing I would say, however, is that even though early Hughes was apparently a Calvinist, late Hughes was a militant anti-Calvinist (cf. The True Image), and where his commentary on Hebrews falls along the fault-line, I cannot say. I don’t know whether his defection from the Reformed faith was incremental or sudden—and, if sudden, when it occurred.

Civics 101

Steve Camp seems to be a little bit befuddled about the nuts-and-bolts of the democratic process.


What happens when an ally in the co-belligerent fight against a liberal judiciary defects on an important value-based piece of legislation like this one? With Roe v. Wade considered to be a political plumbline for Supreme Court appointees by the White House and stem cell research a litmus test for conservative family values (thought by many to be another form of ending human life by pro-life advocates including myself) is not upheld by political conservatives, it could have a polarizing effect within the Republican Party. Do the ECB Fab Four now stand against their "Washington ally" because he’s changed his position on this issue and is no longer "in-sync" with their agenda? The ironic and interesting thing is now Senator Frist is being co-belligerent against the co-belligerents he once was co-belligerent with. Fun isn't it? Will FOTF begin a "recovery program" for former ECBers who have defected on a key point of evangelical backed valued-legislation? How will they confront this with Frist and not alienate him on other issues? Can anyone say, "Potomac two-step?"

Once again folks, when someone’s cultural burden for society, though noble, is played out by vacillating political ethics rather than immutable biblical ones, then this what you get.


There’s a simple solution to this pseudo-dilemma: it’s called “voting.” You vote for those who support your views, and you vote against those who oppose your views. If they change their views, you change your voting patterns accordingly.

This is why elective representatives are called…well…are called elective representatives. They are elected to represent the views and interests of their constituents. If, at some point, they cease to represent their constituents, then their constituents have the right to vote them out of office.

BTW, the same thing can happen in church. If, say, the pastor goes liberal, you either leave the church or make him leave the church.

God is my teddy bear

Kevin Johnson has such a peerless ability to overlook the obvious—even when he’s staring it straight in the face. If you beat him over the head with a baseball bat, he’d exclaim: “Baseball bat? What baseball bat? That must be a feather!”

Time after time he can churn out these gushy, Harlequin Romance-style devotional pieces in which it’s more important to emote all over the place and whisper sweet nothings into the ear of Jesus than to actually know the Lord and live for him.


We make a mistake if we think that our central concern as Christians should be to properly exegete the text of Scripture. Nor should we be entertaining the idea that such should be the primary concern of the Christian minister. Bible study of course is important but our central concern should be Christ.


Mark well the glittering false antithesis. From where do we derive our knowledge of Jesus if not from the Bible?

Those of us who do exegesis understand perfectly well that exegesis is a means, not an end. But without a roadway, you cannot arrive at your desired destination.


Oddly enough these are men who advocate sola scriptura and turn a blind eye to tradition–except of course the tradition they value.


This is another ignorant lie. Kevin’s ignorance is self-reinforcing. Since he doesn’t do serious exegesis, he doesn’t see how serious exegesis is done. If he did serious exegesis, he would see that trained exegetes are quite conversant with the history of interpretation. They will generally present a number of exegetical options which have been offered over the centuries, and then advocate their own through process of elimination.


Where does the Bible say that men should be trained so? Not only did the original authors of the New Testament generally avoid the sort of historical/grammatical method of interpreting the Scripture they had available to them, they often employed methods that today would be declared unacceptable by those who feel free to call biblical hermeneutics a science.


Several more of his trademark fallacies:

i) To begin with, the original audience was contemporaneous with the author. It shared the same cultural preunderstanding and background knowledge. But what was common knowledge for them is hardly common knowledge for a man living 2000 years after the fact.

ii) Since the science of archeology didn’t exist back then, it wouldn’t even be possible for someone living in NT times to bone up on Egyptology or Assyriology.

iii) What methods would be declared unacceptable? Is this an allusion to typology?


And so, I must ask, what sort of training did the original twelve Apostles have in interpreting Scripture? How many years of seminary did they get under their belt prior to our Lord’s death?


Another mindless question. Clearly we’re not in the same privileged position as those who spent three years in the Savior’s company, day in and day out.


Perhaps catholicity would be easier for us if we stuck to those things that are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ–namely, knowing and obeying Him.


“Catholicity” is Kevin’s idol, not mine. And it’s only in Kevin’s furry mind that “catholicity” has anything to do with knowing and obeying our Lord. “Catholicity” is not central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only central to a schismatic little coterie of buffet believers who take a side-dish of Romanism here, a side-dish of Orthodoxy there, a side-dish of Luther here, a side-dish of Calvin there.


It is a common mistake for those who advocate a strict solo scriptura view to think that their read of Scripture is decidedly the correct “one interpretation” and that it has little to do with tradition. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t the case. For tradition exists wherever men exist.


Kevin is a one-trick pony with a broken leg. What a competent Evangelical exegete does is not to merely assume or assert that his interpretation is the only correct one, but to compare and contrast his interpretation with other traditional interpretations, and then defend his interpretation by reason and evidence.


Never mind that seminaries didn’t exist during the New Testament era and that men and women were often enrolled into service in the New Testament era quite rapidly after their conversion with little or no training in anything at all let alone training in the proper use of the Scriptures.


Again, this is all willfully obtuse.

i) To begin with, there was certainly a tradition of Jewish learning. Paul studied under Gamaliel. Apollos was well-educated. So was the author of Hebrews. You had the synagogue system. Jews committed Scripture to memory. Just consider how many literary allusions there are to the OT Scriptures in Mary’s Magnificat. All this from a simple Jewish girl and peasant.

ii) The NT is replete with quotations and allusions to the OT. So knowledge of the Scripture was a priority.

iii) The early church, being “early,” had a limited talent pool to draw upon.

iv) The Magisterial Reformers were keenly interested in exegesis and hermeneutics. So there is nothing the least bit “Reformational” about Kevin’s orientation.


Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. The study of the Scriptures is important.


This disclaimer is a classic throwaway argument. What he really means is: “I think serious Bible study is a big waste of time. But I don’t want to be accused of saying what I really think. So I’ll throw in this phony disclaimer to cover my flank.

Ironically, and the irony runs very deep indeed, Kevin’s touchy-feely pietism is textbook Anabaptist theology. A sweet, sugary, thumb-sucking spiritually for the inner child and feminine side.

Kevin doesn’t want a Lord and Savior—he wants a spiritual teddy bear: something that gives him that soft pillowly, feeling. And the fuzzier the better!

Pardon me for living!


Consider the Bishop of Lichfield, who at Evensong, on the night of the bombings, was at pains to assure his congregants: "Just as the IRA has nothing to do with Christianity, so this kind of terror has nothing to do with any of the world faiths." It's not so much the explicit fatuousness of the assertion so much as the broader message it conveys: we're the defeatist wimps; bomb us and we'll apologise to you. That's why in Britain the Anglican Church is in a death-spiral and Islam is the fastest-growing religion. There's no market for a faith that has no faith in itself.




That's the great thing about multiculturalism: it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures - like, say, the capital of Bhutan or the principal exports of Malaysia, the sort of stuff the old imperialist wallahs used to be well up on. Instead, it just involves feeling warm and fluffy, making bliss out of ignorance.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Witch-burners for Christ

Phil Johnson has been kind enough to respond to my reply. In order to make this exchange more readable and accessible, I’m pulling it out of the comments box and posting it here.

Steve: "The problem I have with this statement is that he doesn’t say what would count, in his eyes, as clear biblical warrant."

An apostolic command or example would be a start.

I don’t agree with this criterion, and, what is more, I really don’t suppose that Bro. Phil does either. For it would amount to the principle, akin to the Regulative Principle of Worship, only made universal, that whatever is not prescribed in Scripture is proscribed. But surely that’s ways too strong.

Rather, the criterion which we ordinarily operate under is the much weaker principle that whatever is not forbidden in Scripture is allowed. There may be some outlandish counterexamples, but that’s a rule-of-thumb.

What is the apostolic command or example that clearly warrants the London Baptist Confession? Or the Founders Journal? Or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary? Or weblogs like Pyromaniac?

Or, since you prefer the OT on these sorts of issues, explain away the implications of the biblical condemnation of Jehoshaphat's unholy alliance with Ahab, and all other such politicially-motivated alliances in the OT.

The problem here is that we have an implicit argument from analogy minus the argument. The insinuation is that EBC is analogous to the unholy alliance between Ahab and Jehoshaphat.

There is nothing here for me to explain away because the analogy has been insinuated rather than argued.

What is worse, this is a very odd analogy for a Reformed Baptist to make. Unless I’m mistaken, RBs usual argue that such an alliance is unholy due to the cultic holiness of Israel, which figures in the ceremonial law, as unique and unrepeatable feature of her role in the history of redemption. Hence, this ritual national purity is precisely the sort of thing that does not carry over into church/state relations under the New Covenant.

Incidentally, here's what I meant in that one-line remark that prompted your lengthy reply: You seem to deduce from your theonomic beliefs…

I think that “theonomy” is red-herring here. I don’t believe that the position I’m staking out here is any different from the position, say, of John Owen or the London Baptist Confession. In my understanding, RBs view themselves as squarely within the Puritan tradition.

How is my position on civic duty and the “usus politicus or civilis” of the law any different from the position set forth in the LBCF?


Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart…

2. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.

3.Besides this law, commonly called moral…

5. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Chapter 24: Of the Civil Magistrate

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called there unto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom and commonwealth, so for that end they may lawfully now, under the New Testament wage war upon just and necessary occasions.


I’m sorry to be repetitious here, but it seems to be necessary. What I’m hearing from critics of ECB has, from what I can tell, nothing at all to do with the historic Reformed Baptist position and everything to do with the modern fundamentalist Baptist position—say, somewhere in-between the Scopes Trial and the Moral Majority.

At one level, why this should even be controversial, much less an object of intense opposition, is a mystery to me given the doctrinal standard espoused by its critics.

But the explanation, I think, is simple. Here we see the unconscious impact of fundamentalism on RBs, just as we saw a similar unconscious influence of fundamentalism on the Presbos when there was an early split in the OPC between the “wets” and the “drys.” What this tells me is that the Founders still have their work cut out for them when it comes to reeducating RBs on their doctrinal history and heritage.

You seem to deduce from your theonomic beliefs an implicit imperative for political activism and aggressive, formal co-belligerence (where evangelicals join cartels and forge yokes with anti-Christian religions to campaign for moral causes).

There are two separate issues here. Let’s deal with one at a time:

First of all, as regards political activism there are three possible options:

1.A Christian is duty-bound to participate in the democratic process.

2.A Christian is duty-bound not to participate in the democratic process.

3.Political activism falls under category of the adiaphora.

Now, there are arguments for and against (1). And it isn’t essential to my position to argue for (1). At least, not here and now.

However, some of the critics of ECB talk as though they espouse (2). They regard political activism as a false priority. For them, preaching the gospel should be our priority, and since political activism necessarily diverts time and resources away from that endeavor, it is wrong for Christians to invest any time in political activism.

As to (3), this can be taken in more than one way. As I’ve said before, I think the proper way to establish Scriptural warrant operates not on a one-to-one correspondence between a specific injunction and a specific practice, but on a one-to-many correspondence between a general injunction and a variety of special cases which adapt and apply that general injunction to our particular circumstances.

Now how, exactly, we apply the general norm is, in some measure, a matter of Christian liberty. There may be more than one way we can do it. But whether we do it at all is not a matter of Christian liberty.

So, for example, look at what Paul has to say about the civil or political use of the law in 1 Tim 1:9-10. How, exactly, we implement that standing obligation varies with our opportunities and circumstances. There is more than one way of enacting and enforcing this moral norm. But we are certainly not at liberty to disregard it if we are in a position to honor and uphold it.

Secondly, there is the question of what associations are licit and what are illicit. Are we talking about first-degree separatism, second-degree separatism, or what?

For example, critics of ECB are critical of alliances between Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals. This would be a prescription for first-degree separatism: don’t associate with non-Evangelicals or unbelievers.

But they are equally critical of those who, while Evangelical in their own profession, associate with non-Evangelicals. Dobson and Colson are favorite whipping boys in this regard.

That would be a prescription for second-degree separatism: don’t associate with those who associate with non-Evangelicals or unbelievers.

And although critics of ECB are fond of quoting 2 Cor 6, they don’t explain how their apparent endorsement of second-degree separatism is consonant with 1 Cor 5:9-11.

Thirdly, critics of ECB are not only critical of cobelligerence, but they are equally critical of political activism per se, on the grounds that it diverts time and attention away from the only real solution to crime and moral decline, which is the gospel.

But if that is the case, then the objection to ECB is secondary. For even if such political alliances were limited to fellow Evangelicals, whether in the form of first- or second-degree separatism, critics of ECB would still disapprove on the primary grounds that we should not lobby for legislation anyway; since legislation treats the symptom rather than the cause.

Now, I really don’t think it’s asking too much at this point that critics of ECB sort out their own position and explain what, precisely, they are opposing. Is it cobelligerence in particular, or is it political activism in general? There appears to be a shell-game going on in which critics of ECB veer between opposition to cobelligerence and opposition to political activism as though these were interchangeable.

Your line of argument isn't going to convince me, since 1. I don't share your convictions about the continuance of the OT civil law; and 2. I am not going to have time to read a series of lengthy blogposts in the patented Purple-Hays® style on that subject.

I don’t know what that means. According to the London Baptist Confession, the Decalogue instantiates the universal moral law for all of mankind during church age no less than under the Old Covenant. Do Steve Camp and Bro. Phil formally repudiate this plank of the LBCF?

So if you could home in on the issue of political activism per se; and especially if you could show me where any of the apostles or early church leaders—or Jesus Himself—advocated or participated in the pursuit of strictly political remedies for the moral decline and persecution that affected the early church; or if you could demonstrate how the early church adapted the tactics of Jewish Zealotry for the cause of Christ, that might do it for me.

This way of posing the choices is a set-up:

1.Which ECBer is advocating a “strictly political remedy” for our nation’s “moral decline”? This looks to me like a straw man argument—a straw man for which no direct quotes are ever offered, a straw man which is reiterated ad nauseum no matter how often it is challenged as a straw man argument.

One reason for this is that the two sides are not talking directly to each other. Perhaps it would a good thing for Richard Land and Albert Mohler were to sit down with Steve Camp and Bro. Phil and have a face-to-face conversation to clear up these pernicious and persistent caricatures.

2.An even worse straw man argument is the comparison with the Zealots. These were Jews who incited other Jews to the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation.

Are the critics of ECB seriously alleging that Land and Mohler and Dobson and Colson are domestic terrorists fomenting an armed insurrection against the US gov’t? Isn’t that a rather scurrilous characterization of the opposing side?

3.Again, this is not the historical Reformed Baptist position as I read the London Baptist Confession. Rather, this is a textbook example Anabaptist hermeneutics—which limits itself to the NT and to the pre-Constantinian church.

Now, there’s argument for that, and it’s an argument that deserves a respectful hearing. I’d add that there’s a lifestyle which goes along with this argument.

But I still don’t know why the burden is on me or Mohler or Land to disprove the Anabaptist position when the critics of ECB claim to be RBs rather than Amish.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Gospel According to St. Campi

What Every Evangelical Co-Belligerents Should Be Doing
...and then some

The "C-Bees," as they are now being referred to, don't know what to do with me and other biblical pro-church; pro-gospel; pro-preaching of God's Word; pro-living out your faith, pro-trusting in the Sovereignty of God when it comes to governmental authority, and pro-love thy neighbor Christians these days.

It would be preferable if Mr. Camp were to scale back the spiritual pride and self-congratulatory back-patting. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov 27:2, ESV).

For someone who likes to quote 2 Cor 4:5, Camp seems to be preaching himself these days. “Hey, look at me. I’m so biblical, pro-church, pro-gospel, pro-preaching God’s word, pro-living out my faith, pro-trusting in God, pro-neighbor love.”

BTW, who supplies the point of contrast here? Is Mr. Camp charging that men like the Rev. Dr. Mohler or the Rev. Dr. Lamb are unscriptural, anti-church, anti-gospel, anti-preaching God’s word, anti-living out your faith, anti-divine sovereignty, anti-neighbor love?

And while we’re on the subject, in what sense is Camp especially pro-church? Isn’t CampOnThis a classic example of a parachurch ministry? I know plenty of Christians who regard parachurch ministry as anti-church.

In addition, if Camp seriously thinks that the C-Bees are infringing on divine sovereignty, then he clearly has a fatally compromised notion of divine sovereignty. Is God hamstrung by the actions of the C-Bees? Have they succeeded in thwarting his will?

Some want to adopt the ever dying-out, irrelevant, and "screaming for a voice" Theonomy/Reconstructionist view (I think I saw three of them the other day singing on a street corner in downtown Nashville, "We Are the Champions of the World" holding up signs chanting, "postmillennialism rules!").

Notice, once again, how he substitutes a label for an argument (“theonomy/reconstructionism”).

When men don’t use arguments, it’s because they don’t have arguments.

Actually, Camp’s position amounts to an eccentric Anabaptist or fundamentalist version of postmillennialism. If you just keep on preaching the gospel and do nothing else, that will pan into a golden age in which everyone is regenerate, which is the true solution to all our social-ills.

And others, thinking if they can get their kind of judges and congressional leaders elected/reelected the course of moral decline will be reversed in our nation.

Perhaps Mr. Camp would like to back up this charge with some direct quotes.

Whatever extreme you might find yourself, one thing is for certain, I haven't seen people get their dire up like this in a long time over political issues. I understand their angst, for ECBers are emotionally charged, politically motivated, but desperately trying to find a Scriptural foundation for their existence and efforts. The problem is... none exists. They are deafening silent when it comes to "Biblical Belligerence" (BB's).

Now Mr. Camp indulges in mind-reading. Maybe he should change the name of his blog from CampOnThis to Dial-a-Psychic.

BTW, do we really need to indulge in mind-reading to divine what the motives of a Christian child psychologist and pediatrician like Dr. Dobson might be?

Perhaps if Mr. Camp spent less time belittling men like Mohler and Land and Dobson and spent some time interviewing victims of child rape or kiddy porn, he wouldn’t be quite so flip about their efforts.

Again, he keeps charging them with “desperately trying to find a Scriptural foundation for their existence and efforts.” Surely he’s in a position to question the Rev. Dr. Land or the Rev. Dr. Mohler directly. Has he ever done so? How did they answer?

If he has never asked them to their face, although I assume that he has the connections to do so, then what right does he have to smear them?

I can honestly say, to all of those who are on the opposite side of the biblical fence on this issue, if these "Justice Sunday" little gatherings were to have a biblical objective of informing the body of Christ across our land on the following I would be affirming you and not challenging your quest for cultural relevance and change.

If Mr. Camp is so concerned with elementary honesty, why doesn’t he have an honest conversation with the Rev. Dr. Land and the Rev. Dr. Mohler?

Here is my ECB olive-branch:

1.) define and explain the role of government, Scripturally;

2.) define and explain the role of the church, Scripturally;

3.) define and explain the role of the individual believer and the role of the church in a pagan society and to government, Scripturally;

4.) define and explain civil obedience, Scripturally;

5.) define and explain civil disobedience, Scripturally (how we are to engage society and/or government when we disagree with its practices and moorings)

6.) define and explain the key issues facing our culture from a biblical worldview, Scripturally;

7.) define and explain why the body of Christ should be praying for our government officials in those matters, Scripturally; and then lead them in a time of collective prayer;

8.) define and explain ways in which we can bring the gospel into that arena so that we can fulfill the Lord's clear command for the church in the Great Commission, Scripturally;

9.) define and explain how God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, as regenerated beings in Christ through the Holy Spirit, practically unfold itself in this arena, Scripturally;

10.) and lastly, define and explain what kind of actions as citizens of this earth, upholding the laws of the land, but yet faithful first and foremost to the Lord and His Word, can practically engage themselves in these issues without compromising their testimony, the gospel, or the standard of God's Word? Scripturally.

I have an even better idea. Suppose we hold Mr. Camp to his own doctrinal standards. He calls himself a Reformed Baptist. At his blog he has a link to the LBCF (1689).

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart…

2. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.

3.Besides this law, commonly called moral…

5. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Chapter 24: Of the Civil Magistrate

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called there unto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom and commonwealth, so for that end they may lawfully now, under the New Testament wage war upon just and necessary occasions.

Just compare the above with the following statement by Steve Camp and ask yourself whose position is out of step here— Dr. Mohler’s, or Mr. Camp’s?

Where ECB comes in (a term I coined) is that they are trying to fight spiritual battles with carnal weaponry (2 Cor. 10:1-4). Abortion, Gay marriage, etc. are not political problems, but are issues of the heart and are spiritual ones. They need the gospel; not legislation.

We don't have the right biblically to go around holding unsaved people to that same standard (1 Cor. 5; Rom. 6:20) as they do in many of their writings and radio broadcasts (Being constantly critical of non-believers for living like non-believers.)

Moving on:

If the C-Bees purpose and practice for gathering were anything resembling the above, I would support them. But with one important exception clause: we would still need to work through the unbiblical practice of co-belligerence (making allies in the cultural wars with nonbelievers violating 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1) that they currently and naively embrace.

Anyone can quote Scripture. T.D. Jakes, Brian McLaren, Benny Hinn, and Benedict XVI can all quote Scripture. It’s one thing to quote Scripture, quite another to understand what it means.

Camp is fond of citing 2 Cor 6:14-7:1. But where’s the exegesis?

There are two basic interpretive issues in this passage of Scripture, centering on v14--since the rest is epexegetical: (i) who are the “unbelievers,” and (ii) what does it mean to be unequally “yoked”?

In answer to the first question, this is what a couple of the major commentators have to say:


Historically, the meaning of “unbelievers” has often been taken as a call for separation of Christian from Christian…On this interpretation, “unbelievers” are seen as false believers, apostates…But nothing in the passage suggests that “unbelievers” are false believers are false believers; the OT quotations are used in a way analogous to the call for Israel’s separation from the idolatry of Babylon. Care must be taken not to press the exegesis of these OT citations beyond their original intention.
Rather, the meaning of “unbelievers” must be determined by other uses of that word where it chiefly occurs, namely, within Paul’s two Corinthian letters. Such uses make it clear that “unbelievers” are unconverted Gentiles.

P. Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 1997), 344-45.

The option which makes the most sense in the context understands the apistoi to be non-Christians. Paul uses the word consistently in the Corinthian correspondence to refer to outsiders (see 1 Cor 6:6; 7:12-15; 10:27; 14:22-24; 2 Cor 4:4). The references to idols, the terms associated with separation from foreign gods, and the sharp antitheses that permit no compromise all indicate that “unbelievers” do not refer to false brothers who claim allegiance to Christ, however misguided, but to non-Christians who espouse values, beliefs, and practices that are antithetical to the Christian faith. The “unbelievers” are therefore the “unconverted Gentiles.”

D. Garland, 2 Corinthians (Broadman 1999), 332.


In answer to the second question, W. J. Webb offers no fewer than eight different possible interpretations. Cf. Returning Home: New Covenant and Second Exodus as the context for 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 (JSOT 1993), 203-12.

Not surprisingly, Thrall concludes that the reference is “unspecific” (ICC 1994, 473) while Harris says that “we must remain uncertain” (NIGTC 2005, 501).

Among the possibilities, Harris proposes the following:


Paul may be calling the Corinthians believers to withdraw from “the cultic life of the city” in general, or, more specifically, from any participation in pagan religious practices or ceremonies associated with local temples or cults. Either way, he would be demanding withdrawal from (at least) membership in local pagan cults and attendance at the lavish banquets held in temples under the auspices of a god. But the entreaty may be broader…Examples would include the contracting of mixed marriages and initiating litigation before unbelievers in cases involving believers.

Ibid. 501.


Garland’s interpretation is similar. Cf. Ibid. 333. So, based on what the major commentators have to say, Camp has simply misappropriated the text.

Let us also keep in mind that any valid interpretation of 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 needs to be consistent with 1 Cor 5:9-11.

And let us hope that Mr. Camp can do better than quote a footnote from a popular study Bible.

Read the Apostle Peter's instruction to the dispersed and persecuted under Nero's ruthless reign. They didn't picket; they didn't boycott; they didn't lead protests or petition drives. They didn't using politics to solve the moral ills of our nation, partnering with nonbelievers, and letting Romanists, who deny sola fide, share time behind the "sacred desk" in Bible believing Baptist churches on the Lord's Day because they're against the demise of family values. And they didn't make family values a cultural moral cause. They evangelized (Titus 3:1-8)!

Observe, once again, that Camp is simply assuming, without benefit of argument, that 1 Peter was written during or after the Neronian persecution. But as one scholar says:


There are good grounds for thinking that Peter would have mentioned the Neronian persecution if it had started, so that he could remind believers in Asia Minor of the intensity of suffering experienced by roman Christians. Therefore I would date the letter around AD 62-63 before the onset of the Neronian persecution.

T. Schreiner, 1,2 Peter, Jude (Broadman 2003), 36-37.


Speaking for myself, I’ve never had much respect for Christians who pay lip-service to the authority of Scripture, but don’t bother to do serious exegesis. Their token deference to the authority of Scripture is an empty show unless they care enough to crack the books and found out what it really means. But that’s just me.

Blogspotting with Bro. Phil

Phil Johnson has done me the honor of expressing a public point of disagreement. Let me say at the outset that Bro. Phil is performing a magnificent service to the Christian community as an information clearing house for men like John MacArthur, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, among others.

Needless to say, all these men, Bro. Phil included, have done far more good for the cause of the kingdom than I’ll ever do. I’m a Lilliputian, craning my neck to behold their Olympian exploits!

Still, there’s room in the kingdom for Lilliputians as well as Gullivers, so I’ll continue to do my little best for the cause.

In the current debate over political activism and cobelligerence, I have not directed any of my comments to Bro. Phil. Since, however, he has now interacted with something of mine on this particular issue, I think I ought to make an effort to be responsive to his concerns.

And the rationale for mobilizing the church to political activism is extremely muddy and without any clear biblical warrant. Even Steve Hays has not been very convincing on this issue.

The problem I have with this statement is that he doesn’t say what would count, in his eyes, as clear biblical warrant.

I have written a recent essay (“Cobelligerence”) in which I discuss, at a general level, what I think would count as Biblical warrant for what we do.

In addition, Jus Divinum posted on my blog a comment which I thought was very germane to this whole question:

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.

So I’m more than happy, to the best of my limited ability, to accommodate Bro. Phil’s request if he could accommodate me by spelling out his own criteria, or explaining what, exactly, he did not find convincing in my discussion thus far.

At first glance, I don’t agree with the way he has cast the issue here. I don’t see the ECBers as mobilizing “the church.” What I see them doing is to mobilize Christians.

Now, since most Christians are church-goers, and since church is where they all come together at one time and place, if you want to mobilize Christians, you naturally reach out to them where you can find them—just as if you want to evangelize teenagers, you go to where teenagers hangout, such as a shopping mall or video arcade or high school or sunny beach.

Is Campus Crusade mobilizing the university to do evangelism? I don’t think so. It is simply making use of its facilities or going to where the students go.

In fact, the church is often used as an information-clearing house to disseminate information. The pastor will use the occasion of the worship service to make announcements about various extra-curricular activities involving church members.

Likewise, many church bulletin boards and websites are used to advertise various community events, such as a gospel concert or Christian speaker at some offsite location.

In the meantime, let’s take a parallel example. Indeed, let’s lift our examples directly from Bro. Phil’s playbook:

It depends, of course, on how much of your message or your testimony you have to stifle in order to "team up." If your allies are Jewish and you hold back from declaring the exclusivity of Christ in order to hold your coalition together; or if your allies are Roman Catholic and you carefully avoid any discussion of sola fide or sola Scriptura—then you are sacrificing your distinctives for a lesser cause than the proclamation of the gospel. It happens all the time.

The pattern has been that those who invest the most in "the culture war stuff" are often the last ones to press the actual claims of the gospel, declare the truth of redemption through Christ's atoning work, proclaim the exclusivity of Christ, and preach the full and unadulterated gospel.

By the way, if you want to see this principle in action, tune into "Focus on the Family" for six months and keep a record of how many times the gospel is clearly affirmed on that broadcast, compared to the number times you are exhorted to write your senator or participate in this or that boycott, campaign, or protest.

I am convinced that the kind of political activism they were involved with is incompatible with the true calling and priorities of the gospel ministry.

The unspoken, but operating assumption here seems to be every-member evangelism. The priority for every Christian is to be engaged in some form of evangelism, whether mass evangelism or friendship evangelism.

Now, I’m all for personal witnessing. But one question I’d respectfully pose to Bro. Phil is where he finds clear biblical warrant for every-member evangelism—as well as how the biblical warrant for every-member evangelism is any more direct than the biblical warrant for Evangelical cobelligerence.

In fact, one could just as well make a biblical case against every-member evangelism. One could argue that the whole point of the church as a body of believers consisting of different members with different talents is that every Christian does not have the same calling in life—every Christian is not an evangelist or minister of the gospel.

Indeed, wasn’t that a basic principle of the Reformation? Catholicism had, and still has, this two-tier piety between the laity and the religious. To be a family man or wife and mother is second-best.

But the Protestant Reformers repudiated this monkish, split-level piety. A Christian could serve God outside the priestly vocation.

What is more, in Presbyterian polity and ecclesiology, it would be considered out of order for a man who is not a church officer to be preaching the gospel as if he were an ordained minister of the gospel. When Bro. Phil and others are criticizing Dr. Dobson for not doing, many Presbyterians would criticize Dr. Dobson were he to do that very thing on a regular basis. They would say that this activity belongs to the regular ministry of the church. Indeed, they regard any parachurch ministry as usurping the prerogatives of the church. Where Bro. Phil comes down on this, I don’t know.

One final observation and comment:

They become obsessed with issues like getting prayer back in schools, ignoring the fact that any prayer ever sanctioned by the American government would have to be a prayer that implicitly denies Christ's rightful lordship.

I happen to agree with Bro. Phil about this. But I’d say two things:

i) The reason we don’t have more astute leadership in ECB is that those who are more astute are attacking ECB rather than taking the lead and making it better.

ii) It is quite true that ECB can get detoured into token issues like school prayer. However, it’s my impression that those who criticize ECB for getting detoured into token issues continue criticize ECB when it redirects its efforts to causes rather than symptoms.

Why would the only gov’t-sanctioned prayer be a non-sectarian prayer? Because that is how the Supreme Court has twisted the Establishment Clause. But when ECBers lobby for nominees whom, they hope, will exercise judicial restraint and respect original intent, they come in for the same criticism. And when someone like Judge Moore gets really radical and says that the whole point of the Establishment Clause was to prohibit the Federal gov’t from meddling in the religious autonomy of the states, he, too, comes in for the same criticism.

That, then, is my Lilliputian contribution to this phase of the debate.

The Open Bible

A favorite Protestant slogan is “The Open Bible.” This, in turn, becomes the name for many churches and Christian ministries.

And this “Open Bible” philosophy is a basic part of my own Christian theology. What it means for me is that the entire Bible is available to the Christian for moral and theological guidance. If you want to know what the Bible teaches on some particular topic, you simply turn to whichever book or chapter of the Bible that has the most to say about that particular topic.

If you want to know about sola fide, a natural place to start is Romans or Galatians. If you want to know about covenant theology, a natural place to start is Hebrews. If you want to know about church office, a natural place to start is the Pastorals. If you want to know about the life of Christ, a natural place to start is the Gospels. If you want to know about church history, a natural place to start is Revelation. If you want to know about ecclesiology, a natural place to start is Ephesians.

If you want to know about creation, a natural place to start is Gen 1-2. If you want to know about the fall, a natural place to start is Gen 3. If you want to teach boys how to be men, a natural place to start is Proverbs. If you want to know about the laws of warfare, a natural place to start is Deut 20.

There’s no one place to start. No one place you go every time. Rather, you begin wherever you find whatever answer you’re looking for, in whatever book or chapter of the Bible answers your question.

I have a problem when Christians treat the OT like a ladder we kick aside once we reach the NT. That’s the view of Marcion. That’s the view of the Anabaptist. To some extent, that’s the view of the fundamentalist.

It’s also the view of some moderate-to-liberal types, according to whom the OT is less inspired than the NT—that progressive revelation means progression from darkness and error into the bright light of the gospel truth.

That’s not the view of the Presbyterian. That’s not the view of the Reformed Baptist. That’s not the view of the Reformed Anglican.

There are, of course, discontinuities between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. And where, exactly, or where, even roughly, we draw that line is one of the distinguishing features which differentiates one Reformed tradition from another, as well the Reformed tradition from Christian traditions outside of Calvinism.

A Reformed Anglican draws the lines a little differently that a Presbyterian, and a Presbyterian draws the lines a little different than a Reformed Baptist. This accounts, in no small part, for varieties of Calvinism within the Reformed community.

Most-all of us draw a line where the ceremonial law is concerned, but of course, that, itself, becomes an issue of where the ceremonial law leaves off and the moral law begins. Although we agree on the general distinction, we must still deal with the specific question of how to classify which parts of the law as ceremonial. And every Calvinist is confronted with this question—whether he’s an Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Xrecon.

For me, sola Scriptura includes whole-a Scriptura—the whole Bible. The Bible is a two-way street. We can go from the OT to the NT, but we can also go from the NT to the OT. The NT writers didn’t detonate the bridge between the Testaments so that we could no longer cross over from one side to the other and back again.

The NT is an open book, but so is the OT. The NT doesn’t close the book on the OT. As long as we make due allowance for patterns of promise and fulfillment—a Christian should not feel any inhibitions about looking to the OT for moral guidance in matters of personal and social ethics. Let's not treat the OT like an "adult" bookstore.

Contrary to Marcion, the God of the NT is the same God as the God of the OT. And the Bible of Jesus was the OT. Indeed, the Bible of the Apostolic church was the OT. The NT does not supplant the OT.

Human nature is the same under both Testaments. Sin is the same under both Testaments. Grace is the same under both Testaments.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The new religious common ground


What do Dr. Dobson, Al Mohler, Pat Robertson, Charles Colson, T.D. Jakes, Billy Graham, Brian McLaren, Franklin Graham, the late John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all have in common? The "Gospel of Life"—unity found in cultural moral causes. Biblical truth is no longer the common ground for some evangelicals in ministry—but it has been traded for “cultural cobelligerence” – the coming together, regardless of faith beliefs, with anyone for the sake of fighting societal moral slippage. In other words, adopting political remedies for moral maladies absent of the gospel. In an age where Christians and secularists alike are saying that, “doctrine divides; truth breeds biblical elitists; sound theology limits your exposure, effectiveness and alliances; how are we going to win the culture war if we don't expand our base and broaden our constituency?” We shouldn’t be the least surprised at that kind of thinking. It’s time that we wake up and smell "the postmodern political plastination" of Protestantism—for the faith is being hijacked right from under our noses.


Actually, the state of the Evangelical movement is far worse of than that.

What do Dr. Dobson, Al Mohler, Pat Robertson, Charles Colson, T.D. Jakes, Billy Graham, Brian McLaren, Franklin Graham, the late John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all have in common? They all use Crest toothpaste. The "Gospel of Life"—unity found in orthodontical causes. Biblical truth is no longer the common ground for some evangelicals in dentistry—but it has been traded for “orthodontical cobelligerence” – the coming together, regardless of faith beliefs, with anyone for the sake of fighting cavities. In other words, adopting orthodontical remedies for tooth decay absent of the gospel. In an age where Christian and secular oral surgeons alike are saying, how are we going to win the war against tooth decay if we don't expand our base and broaden our constituency?” We shouldn’t be the least surprised at that kind of thinking. It’s time that we wake up and smell "the postmodern prosthodontics" of dentistry—for the faith is being hijacked right from under our gums.

Thankfully for us, Mr. Camp has an alternative:


For the Christian, the answer to this dilemma should be simple: partner with other believers, be dedicated to the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Sola Fide), according to the authority of God’s Word, under the accountability, with and through the support of the local church.


However, this alternative raises a couple of pesky questions:

1.When he says that we should partner with other believers, to what does that stand in contrast? Take his own illustration:

What do Dr. Dobson, Al Mohler, Pat Robertson, Charles Colson, T.D. Jakes, Billy Graham, Brian McLaren, Franklin Graham, the late John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all have in common?

Is he saying that none of these men rank as fellow believers?

Suppose we drop JP2, Benedict16, McLaren and Jakes from the list.

That leaves Dobson, Mohler, Robertson, Colson, Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham.

Is he saying that they are not fellow believers?

If that’s not what he’s saying, then if they are fellow believers, would he still be opposed to those six men coming together to lobby for laws banning abortion, child pornography, same-sex marriage, and so on?

2.In addition, he assumes that Christians have the freedom to preach the Gospel. But many secular organizations are attempting to criminalize Christian expression as hate-speech—either through liberal legislatures or the courts.

This is already in effect in parts of the EU and the UK. And inroads are being made in our own country as well.

Should Christians, through the democratic process, exercising their Constitutional rights of free speech, free assembly, and the ballot box, unite to oppose these efforts to shut down the gospel?

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.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Juvenile delinquency

One of the demagogic objections to God’s law is the Mosaic penalty for juvenile delinquency (Exod 21:15-17; Lev 20:19; Deut 21:18-21; 27:16). Those who hate the Bible deliberately misrepresent this penalty as though it meant that parents should execute a five-year-old who throws a temper tantrum.

That, of course, is not what is in view. What’s in view are young men. Don’t think preschoolers--think marauding street gangs who commit murder and mayhem.

And their particular crime takes the form of a direct assault on the institution the family. No doubt the severity of the divine penalty says a lot about the Biblical position on parental authority and the sanctity of the family in contrast to our own time and place.

The family was and is the fundamental unit of society. God took preventative measures to safeguard the integrity of the family. It is no accident that our own society is in a state of moral implosion because we, and especially the liberal elite, have disempowered parents.

Since I affirm the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture, I do not distance myself from God’s word. What God once commanded cannot now be intrinsically evil or unjust. Indeed, the fact that he once commanded it shows it to be intrinsically right rather than wrong.

Speaking for myself, I regard the Mosaic penalty for juvenile delinquency as a logical extension of the creation mandates regarding marriage and family (Gen 1:28; 2:23-24). But I grant that godly men can differ over the degree of detailed continuity or discontinuity between the Testaments.

What, however, the church cannot allow are false teachers who simply rebel against God-given authority, and incite others to join them in their seditious ways (cf. Jude 4, 8),

Cursing their own

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

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:


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.


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.