Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Naked Public Square

Years ago, the late John Neuhaus published a famous book entitled The Naked Public Square, in which he inveighed against attempts by the liberal establishment to exclude Christian input on the sociopolitical issues of the day.

However, there are some professing believers who don’t even wait for the liberal establishment to strip them of their rights and duties. They voluntarily disrobe.

We can see these theological streakers or strippers in action on issues like “torture.” They have abdicated their intellectual responsibility to bring an independent voice to bear on the issue.

Instead, they let organizations like the ACLU to define the issue. Let the ACLU define what forms of interrogation constitute torture. Let the ACLU define the rights of terrorists. Let the ACLU define the morality of “torture” and interrogation. Their involvement in this debate is limited to rubberstamping the ACLU position.

Now, there are some obvious problems with this attitude:

1.If Christians sit out this debate, then the policy will be set by unbelievers, whether secular hawks like Richard Posner or secular doves like Barack Obama. So the US will still have a policy, but Christians will have no input in the policy. By default, the values of unbelievers will dictate our national policy.

2.If you really think there are some lines we shouldn’t cross, then you need to participate in this debate.

What methods of interrogation are appropriate, and what methods are inappropriate?

Are some methods appropriate in some situations, but inappropriate in other situations?

Are some methods inappropriate regardless of the situation?

What rights is a terrorist entitled to?

You can either be a mouthpiece for the NYT, like Jim Wallis, or you can bring some independent judgment to bear on these questions.

I recently read two articles that raise difficult questions:



These are serious questions that demand serious answers. Who is going to answer these questions?

Do Christians have any answers? Or do we simply punt the ball to the secular elite?

We don’t have the Bush administration to kick around anymore, so we now need to make some adult decisions on our own. Is Obama the official grown-up in this debate? Or do we have something to contribute on the subject of counterterrorism?


  1. I might suggest thinking about it.

  2. Steve: Or do we simply punt the ball to the secular elite?

    Vytautas: That way we could play defence. They will come up with an understanding of what torture is, and then we will offer a response.

  3. Hey Steve,

    James White is responding to a list of accusations that a recent convert to Catholicism is making about how consistent Calvinism would lead to such and such doctrinal conclusions (i.e. if taken to their logical ends).


    James is responding to the following link.


    I'm wondering if you'd be interested in responding too. Heh Heh. That is, unless you've addressed most of these things in the past.

    Here's the list

    1) Nestorian, in that the Logos cannot assume a fallen human nature.
    2) Manichaean, in that nature is inherently evil.
    3) A Monothelite, in that in conversion, the divine will supplants the human will. And this would go for Christ's divine will as well.
    4) A tri-theist, because God the Father cuts off His own Son in the crucifixion (and maybe the Holy Spirit as well?): but Jesus, in all orthodox Trinitarianism, shares the same divine will as His Father.
    5) A gnostic iconoclast, because the Logos cannot be imaged.
    6) A pagan, in that the Father can damn the Son of His love in wrath, splitting the Trinity: something more akin to Zeus.
    7) A Pelagian, in that you have the same view of pre-lapsarian man as Pelagius, and what must be lost is human nature, because nature is grace.
    8) An ecclesiastical relativist, because there is no authoritative Church.
    9) Un-deified, since the Logos' holy Flesh is not your food, because there was no true henotic union.
    10) A liberal higher critic, since Luther can slice up the canon, it follows so might anyone.
    11) An agnostic, in that human reason is so damaged by the fall and total depravity, it cannot accurately reason about God and ever attain certainty.

  4. Annoyed Pinoy,

    That isn't Dr. White responding; it's TurretinFan.

  5. Yes, it is I, not Dr. White - though it is on Dr. White's blog.

  6. Well, that explains why the brainy Dr. White seems *even more* insightful than usual. ;-)