Saturday, August 11, 2012

Political antinomianism

Plenty of folks were lauding Chick-Fil-A and denouncing the pro-gay community when I checked my Facebook news feed on Friday. While I agreed with those who support Chick-Fil-A’s freedom of speech and view of marriage, I thought it might be helpful to add a complementary perspective into the mix. So I posted the following remark, “I’m not a prophet, but I suspect that it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for many who patronized Chick-Fil-A on August 1st.”

Hence, it’s not enough to be “straight” and support heterosexual marriage. Standing up for the First Amendment and morality is good and well. But what’s ultimately important is not where you stood (or stand) on “Chick-Fil-A Day” but where you’ll stand in relation to Jesus on Judgment Day.

But sometimes I wonder if our opposition to homosexuality and advocacy of Christian values doesn’t come across primarily as a misguided attempt to create a “Christian nation” rather than a humble endeavor to win our fellow non-Christian Americans to the kingdom that is “not of this world.” In the words of Joel Rainey, who actually went to Chick-Fil-A on August 3rd in an effort to reach out to gays,

    When I read about Jesus’ words and actions in Scripture, I see a Savior who aggressively pursues relationships with people who are far from God, and who simultaneously displays a strong reticence toward fighting over the control of temporary kingdoms. His mission was, and is, much larger!4

I just wanted to remind folks–whether believers or non-believers–that the ultimate issue isn’t what one does with the First Amendment or marriage but what one does with Jesus and the gospel. And in doing so, I hoped to prod my fellow believers to think not only in terms of preserving the moral fiber of our country but also (and more importantly) of promoting the gospel by means of declaring the fact that, as one of my good friends puts it, “we’re all in this sinful mess together.”6

I’m not convinced that buying a sandwich from CFA on August 1st was the only way Christians could show their support for the CFA’s First Amendment rights and views on marriage. And while it may help to preserve our American liberties, I’m not sure how much it will serve to advance the cause of the gospel. In the words of the hymnwriter:

    For not with swords loud clashing
    Nor roll of stirring drum
    But deeds of love and mercy
    The heavenly kingdom comes.

This is the kind of smug, otherworldly pietism that I often run across in certain Reformed Baptist circles.

i) You have ministers who talk down to laymen. Even if a layman says or does something right, the minister thinks his role is to remind the layman–as if the layman needs reminding–of another “complementary” truth. The minister imagines that, unlike the layman, he brings a balanced perspective to the issue.

The effect is to relativize away whatever good the layman did. But as Bishop Butler wisely observed, we should resist the impulse to discountenance what good because it wasn’t better.

ii) Ironically, it’s the position of Gonzales that’s unbalanced. The Bible preaches law as well as gospel. Duty as well as grace. It isn’t all gospel all the time.

Some Baptists like Gonzales promote political antinomianism.

iii) God put us in this world. This is the world we must function in. This is the theater in which we must practice our faith. This is where we must live out what we profess, until we die or Jesus returns.

We're living in the here-and-now, not the hereafter. We need to be faithful to the situation God has put us in. If we're faithful in the present, the future will take care of itself. 

iv) Christian men have a duty to protect and provide for their dependents. Christian political activism, or “push back,” is one of the ways we’re called upon to defend the welfare of our dependents. If, say, a totalitarian state takes control of your kids, then you can’t raise them in the faith. Then you can’t perform your parental duty as a Christian father. Likewise, if the state reserves the right to euthanize your elderly mother, you can’t perform your filial duty.

v) Sure, what “ultimately matters” is what happens to us after we die, not before we die. In that sense, if you have a toddler who wanders into a busy intersection, or a toddler who approaches a rattlesnake, it’s ultimately unimportant whether he’s run over. Ultimately unimportant whether he dies of snakebite. Yet you still have a duty to protect the toddler from harm.

If a mugger jumps your wife while the two of your are walking in the park, it’s ultimately unimportant whether or not he rapes her and murder her. Does that mean you should preach the gospel to the mugger rather than defending your wife?

If a lifeguard fished a drowning swimmer out of the water and resuscitated him through CPR, would Gonzales find fault because the lifeguard failed to evangelize the swimmer?

If a sharpshooter caps a schoolyard sniper, thereby saving the lives of innocent kindergartners, would Gonzales find fault because the policeman failed to evangelize the sniper?

vi) All goods are God’s goods. We should be thankful for every good thing. It’s more important to distinguish between good and evil than distinguish between greater and lesser goods.

vii) We’re not going to win everyone to Jesus. And the law is primarily for unbelievers, not believers (1 Tim 1:9-10).


  1. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

    You cannot call someone who trusts God to run this ship the way He sees fit, Antinomian.
    You can protest gay marriage or not, you can eat or not eat at Chick-Fil-A, it does not matter. Why?
    Because only one type of marriage is sanctioned by God and God does not care what the world thinks about it. The world says divorce for any reason is fine, God does not. So in God's eyes many are committing adultery, no matter what the world says about it.
    In other words, the world system is fallen and falling as predicted in the Bible and no matter how you vote or what you protest, you can't change that.
    It does not matter which politician or what laws you vote for, God's plan will work out no matter what.
    So, why are so many Christians "of the world" instead of just "in the world"?
    The world votes for a king, the Christian already has a King. The world is concerned with its own laws, but the Christian has only one law, Love! So, why does the Christian not say with Jesus, "let the dead bury their own dead" Then turn and follow Him?
    Why not come out from among them, be separate and stop touching the unclean things?
    He who has an ear, let him hear!!!

  2. Bob

    "It does not matter which politician or what laws you vote for, God's plan will work out no matter what."

    It does matter. Your denial is fatalistic. God's plan doesn't work "no matter what." Rather, God's plan works through means. God uses politicians, voters, and laws.

    1. So are you saying God's weakness is made up for by mans abilities? God does not even need our worship, he can raise up the stones to do that, so why does he need professing Christians to defend Him or His ways? He does not, He says go, but if they don't receive you, leave and go elsewhere, taking your peace with you. What do you think Jesus means?

  3. Chapter and verse please???

    1. God uses Pharaoh, Cyrus, Pilate, Nebuchadnezzar, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, &c. And even in the OT, good kings make a difference, just as bad kings make a difference. Brush up on 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles.

    2. Why use the old covenant to try and prove a new covenant point??? Even in the old covenant, it was the people who demanded a king other than God.
      And, now sadly, even under the new covenant, some professing Christians are still looking for an earthly king to save them.

    3. That is the way most modern day professing Christians try to prove their looking to the old covenant, behold, all things have become new.

    4. Pilate, Caiphas, and the Sanhedrin figure in the NT, not the OT. Your grasp of Bible history is abysmal.

      In any event, it doesn't matter what Testament they appear in, for it still proves the point that God works through means, including politicians.

    5. Bob

      "That is the way most modern day professing Christians try to prove their looking to the old covenant, behold, all things have become new."

      That's the heresy of overrealized eschatology. You need to learn how to distinguish inaugurated eschatology from the final state.

    6. Why insult, the law of love applies here. I was referring to your brush up portion "Brush up on 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles." or have these books suddenly become part of the new covenant.
      Why when presented with the obvious, can people not just acknowledge it instead of stooping to insults?
      Just admit when you have no idea, don't insult, it's unbecoming a Christian.

    7. Yes, they are part of the new covenant. The OT is part of the Christian Bible. And they document the nature of God's providence. Moreover, Christ and the Apostles often preach the Gospel from the OT.

      You're not entitled to claim your position as the obvious position. And, yes, you have a lot to learning how to present an argument for your position.

    8. overrealized eschatology... okay... no...
      The true heresy is under-realized eschatology (“dominionism”).

    9. The Gospel, yes! What do you think the Good News is? Not this garbage!

    10. I cannot believe you tried to claim anything you have said here is part of the gospel. I hope that is not what you meant.

    11. You're reacting rather than interacting with my post. Learn how to read. Learn how to reason.

    12. I read it correctly, I said you are trying to prove a new covenant point with the old covenant and you said even Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel from the old covenant. How was that misread? The Gospel means good news (actually, good news of the Kingdom) as you know, and nothing I have read here comes close to that.
      I just think the the old covenant can be interpreted by shining the light of the new covenant on it, but you cannot interpret the new covenant by using the old covenant principles. (new and old wine skins etc.) Jesus came to reveal the truth of the old, the old did not come to reveal the new.

    13. Your dispensational distinction is irrelevant to the fact that God uses means, including political means, to realize his plans. That's true in NT history as well as OT history.

      Moreover, you're reducing everything to the gospel, which repeats the same mistake Gonzales made. The new covenant is not reducible to a lawless gospel. The NT teaches law as well as gospel.

  4. "This is the kind of smug, otherworldly pietism that I often run across in certain Reformed Baptist circles."

    Really? What do you think the reason for that is?

    1. That's historically complex. It goes back to Anabaptism. It's also related to the fact that Baptist churches have not been state churches. They've been on the outside of the political establishment. So I think that feeds into a tradition that views political activism as worldly.

      It also goes to different views of the church, where Presbyterians regard the church as a mixed community whereas Baptists regard the church as a regenerate community.

      In addition, there's the force of institutional inertia. Ideas are contagious. Once they catch on, they spread. Take over. It becomes an unquestioned axiom. And it serves to demarcate one religious community from another. Indeed, it becomes a point of pride. This sets us apart. This makes us more spiritual.

  5. Again, professing Christians who try to change the world through worldly means have a form of godliness but deny Gods power to do it without them!

    1. To claim it's through "worldly means" begs the question.

  6. They are "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

    1. Quoting Scripture fails to demonstrate that Scripture applies to the case at hand.

    2. No, actually the application, from my point of view, is obvious.

    3. And you fail to demonstrate that your viewpoint coincides with the viewpoint of Scripture. You don't get to stipulate that the application is valid. That's something you need to show.

    4. The showing of it is obvious. Lu 7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

    5. You suffer from overweening spiritual pride.

    6. I must be suffering from something, because it seems to me, you are the one coming off as arrogant here. I have not tried to insult you at all. I thought the comment section of this blog was for comments. I did not realize that if a person of average intelligence disagreed with the you openly, they then be insulted.

    7. You're not making constructive comments. Instead, you've draped yourself in a mantle of spiritual superiority. Instead of reasoning for your position, you spout formulaic, self-congratulatory slogans. I've give you ample opportunity to make a case for your claims.

  7. Oh, my comments are directed to Steve...

  8. "Why use the old covenant to try and prove a new covenant point???"

    Bob, you really need to wrestle with what you seem to be implying here. It is not so far a fall into Marcion's long shadow.

  9. Sorry, Steve. I think I'm responsible for bringing Bob and his genius and humility here. He has already been banned from posting comments on my blog, but I linked to your article, and I think he just followed it here.

  10. That's correct!!! See, if you cannot answer without insulting, you then get frustrated and block the person. God forbid someone would use your platform to bring an opposing viewpoint.
    You bloggers want to use the worldwide web to spout your rhetoric, but your not prepared to answer someone with another position without slinging insults.
    I did not put your blog in my inbox, I just injected my thoughts into something that was sent to me.

    1. By the way, Bob, do you think it's always fallacious to use ad hominem arguments?

      What do you think about Doug Walton's stuff?

      Or Peter Geach:

      Ad hominem arguments. This Latin term indicates that these are arguments addressed to a particular man - in fact, the other fellow you are disputing with. You start from something he believes as a premise, and infer a conclusion he won't admit to be true. If you have not been cheating in your reasoning, you will have shown that your opponent’s present body of beliefs is inconsistent and it's up to him to modify it somewhere. This argumentative trick is so unwelcome to the victim that he is likely to regard it as cheating: bad old logic books even speak of the ad hominem fallacy. But an ad hominem argument may be perfectly fair play.

      Let us consider a kind of dispute that might easily arise:

      A. Foxhunting ought to be abolished; it is cruel to the victim and degrading to the participants.

      B. But you eat meat; and I'll bet you've never worried about whether the killing of the animals you eat is cruel to them and degrading to the butchers.

      No umpire is entitled at this point to call out "Ad hominem! Foul!" It is true that B's remark does nothing to settle the substantive question of whether foxhunting should be abolished; but then B was not pretending to do this; B was challengingly asking how A could consistently condemn foxhunting without also condemning something A clearly does not wish to condemn. Perhaps A could meet the challenge, perhaps not; anyhow the challenge is a fair one - as we saw, you cannot just brush aside a challenge to your consistency, or say inconsistency doesn't matter.

      Ad hominem arguments are not just a way of winning a dispute: a logically sound ad hominem argues does a service, even if an unwelcome one, to its victim - it shows him that his present position is untenable and must be modified. Of course people often do not like to be disturbed in their comfortable inconsistencies; that is why ad hominem arguments have a bad name.

    2. Bob,

      This is not a platform for you to simply spout your opinions, which you refuse to justify through rational argumentation.

  11. On the one hand, Bob said:

    "I have not tried to insult you at all."

    On the other hand, Bob said:

    "you are the one coming off as arrogant here"

    "What do you think the Good News is? Not this garbage!"

    "I cannot believe you tried to claim anything you have said here is part of the gospel"

    "professing Christians who try to change the world through worldly means have a form of godliness but deny Gods power..."

    "Just admit when you have no idea"