Thursday, November 15, 2012

Waging war against culture warriors

Ed has a habit of repeating the same claims rather than advancing the argument. Since I’ve already responded to some of Ed’s contentions, so in replying to his post I’ll confine myself to newer stuff.

You assume that the only effective method for opposing something is political activism. That is sheer nonsense. I can speak out against it. I don’t have to attempt policy reform through political activism in order to be against something. If so, why and how?

Of course, I never said the only effective method of opposing “something” is political activism. Rather we were dealing with the specific case of public school indoctrination. And I said that “if you reject Christian political activism, then you have no effective means of opposing the secular education establishment.”

Ed complains about how “the educational institutions play a strategic role in the liberal indoctrination of our children.”

So what, if anything, does he propose to do about it? To merely “speak out” against public school indoctrination is not an “effective” means of opposing it. To merely be “against” something is not an “effective” means of opposing it. Rather, Ed’s alternative is an ineffectual means of opposing it. It doesn’t change anything.

While I identify strongly with the doctrines of grace, and consider myself reformed in terms of my soteriology, I do not agree with covenant theology's hermeneutic. I am good friends with Dr. Henebury and would align more closely with his views on that subject.

I am not a covenant theologian and reject their division of the law. It is based on an illegitimate hermeneutic in my view.

Dispensationalism isn’t intrinsically opposed to the culture wars. Fred Butler is a case in point.

Moreover, one doesn’t have to be a covenant theologian or “theonomist” to grant a fair amount of carryover between OT ethics and NT ethics. Consider the following monographs:

1. Toward Old Testament Ethics, by Walter C. Kaiser

2. Story as Torah, by Gordon Wenham

3. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, by Christopher J. H. Wright

4. The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, by James K. Hoffmeier

Natural theology is the basis for civil law and order.

Culture warriors like Francis Beckwith and Robert George typically ground their positions in natural law, yet you oppose the culture wars. So which is it?

We judge the church, God judges the world (1 Cor. 5:12-13)

i) Non sequitur. Christian political activism isn’t about “judging the world.” Rather, it’s about advancing or defending public policies which respect the right of Christians to discharge their divinely-mandated duties to God and to their fellow man.  And it’s also about advancing or defending social policies which promote the common good.

Far from “judging the world,” this is merciful to unbelievers. Unbelievers benefit from Christian social values. Their children benefit from Christian social values. Their grandparents benefit from Christian social values.

ii) The Pauline passage has reference to church discipline. Christian social conservatives aren’t suggesting that we should practice church discipline on people outside the church. Ed’s citation is off-the-wall.

You are not taking general principles and applying them to specific scenarios.

Ed says it’s not, but he doesn’t show it’s not.

The Law “rewarded” lawful behavior on the part of the Jews, but mostly it cursed them.

It rewards obedience and punishes disobedience. That’s perfectly consonant with what I said.

This was foreseen even before the Law was given. Again, the Law was given to national Israel. It was not given to modern American culture.

As far as that goes, Paul’s epistle to the Romans wasn’t given to 21C Americans. It was given to 1C Christians. So Ed’s objection cuts both says.

The broadest sense in terms that men are commanded to work with their hands to provide for their own. While that work is undefined, nevertheless, it means that we are to have a job. That concept falls safely within the Christian value system.

Opposing abortion, infanticide, sodomite marriage, euthanasia, &c., falls safely within the Christian value system too.

 If a man does not work, neither should he eat. If he does not work, he is worse than an unbeliever. That work might be a civil servant or something else. To say it carries so far as this political activism s a specious argument at best.

Ed is simply disregarding the supporting argument I used to illustrate my contention.

If it was possible for the New Testament Church to be socially responsible, but not politically active, why is that not possible for the modern church? I think you are being anachronistic.

Social responsibilities are not identical across time and space. For instance, American elected officials are answerable to the electorate in a way that Roman emperors were not answerable to the hoi polloi. So Ed is the one who’s being anachronistic here.

Fathers and husbands and children are given specific instructions on how to provide for their families to include their parents. Are we to think that the NT audience had no earthly idea what Jesus meant when He said this or when Paul said it? They knew full-well what Christ and Paul meant. It means to think honorably of them, and to provide for their basic needs if necessary.

Now Ed is shifting ground. He’s no longer appealing to the specificity of the command, because the wording of the command is actually quite vague. Instead, he’s appealing to a cultural preunderstanding.

It does not mean cut the centurion’s throat and overthrow the government to make things better for them. Nor does it mean to engage in efforts to dethrone Caesar because his policies are oppressive to my family, my kids, and my parents.

Notice how Ed acts as if Christian Americans working within the democratic process is analogous to fomenting a violent insurrection.

Now, as a matter of fact, Protestant historical theology does have a theology of revolution, but that’s a side issue in the current discussion.

Defending your kids against a godless culture can be achieved by pointing out the sin in that culture and how that culture engages in one God-hating behavior after another. It means indoctrinating your kids in the way of God. It means living God’s values at home so they can see the difference in the Christian group as opposed to the godless community at large.

Notice how blinkered he is. He takes for granted a situation in which Christians still enjoy parental rights. In which Christian parents still have the freedom to raise their kids in the faith.

But that’s precisely what’s coming under increasing attack. Ed isn’t prepared to deal with the real-world situation confronting us.

Submission to the civil government is the command of Paul.

I dealt with that before:

That government was far more encroached upon the NT Church than American government is.

Wrong. Modern information and surveillance technology makes it possible for the state to be far more intrusive than was possible in Roman times.

Paul said nothing about pushing them back.

That wasn’t a live option back then and there.

He offered no letures telling the church that the government needs to be pushed back so that we can have religious liberty and live in a nice moral culture in which to serve Christ.

Ed acts as if “living in a nice moral culture” is just a favor to Christians who wish to avoid suffering. But a country that’s influenced by Christian social values is beneficial to unbelievers as well.

How about prayer? Paul told Timothy to pray to that end. Isn’t it possible that the vehicle God uses to accomplish this is prayer?

Ed is treating prayer as a substitute for action rather than a preparation for action. But prayer isn’t a way of just fobbing our responsibilities onto God and telling him to do it for us.

If, after having done all we can, we find ourselves in a position where prayer is our only remaining recourse, then so be it. But that’s not an excuse to be like the proverbial fool who doesn’t think ahead, doesn’t take precautions, then cries out to God when foreseeable and preventable disasters overtake him.

Of course it must also be within His divine plan that we live in such a culture and this seems to be an unspoken assumption on your part and the part of all those American Christians who think we deserve religious liberty for some reason when most of our brothers and sisters live in dire circumstances.

i) To begin with, Ed fails to distinguish between civil rights and divine rights. Christians do have civil rights under the US Constitution. So, yes, that’s something we’re entitled to as American citizens.

ii) Do we deserve religious liberty from God? No. But who suggested that this was an issue of getting what we deserve?

Yes, many Third World Christians live in dire circumstances. Does Ed think we should promote living in dire circumstances?

If we lose our rights, it is by divine decree.

And if we don’t lose our rights, it’s by divine decree. And if we defend our rights, it’s by divine decree.

I don’t lose sleep over the possibility that Christianity may be underground in America in 50 years or even sooner.

Since Ed won’t be alive 50 years from now, it’s easy for him not to lose any sleep over that prospect.

And notice the self-fulfilling nature of the prospect. If enough Christian Americans follow Ed’s passive, reactionary example then, of course, they bring it on themselves. They make inevitable what was not inevitable.

I know God is faithful. My hope is not in the American way of life. My hope is built on Christ.

That’s one of those self-congratulatory pieties that makes the speaker feel oh-so devout, but it also twists the real issue out of any recognizable form.

Ed acts as if this is just about preserving the American dream. About Christians having a nice standard of living. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But that misses the point. For instance, I believe it’s currently legal for a Christian student at a public junior high or high school to form a Bible club. That’s his religious right under the Constitution. And thus far that’s been upheld in court. The public school can only ban a Bible club by banning every other student club.

But he’s not doing that for his own benefit. Rather, that’s a way of reaching out to his lost classmates. Yet Ed would deny them that hope. As long as he’s got his ticket to heaven, then to hell with the up-and-coming generation.

Some additional comments:

This has essentially nothing to do with the fact that Jason’s speech is offensive. That last time I checked, when you become aware that you have offended your brother, you are supposed to go and be reconciled.

That’s simplistic. It’s not enough to be the offended party. You need to be the wronged party. You need to be justifiably offended. The offending party must sin against you, not merely offend you. Anyone can be offended by anything. But that’s not self-warranting.

We should be deeply concerned with those who are vulnerable. But are we to show that concern through imposing Christian values on a godless culture or by some other means?

He talks about imposing Christian values as if that’s onerous.

 How did the early church deal with abortion?

The NT church wasn’t in much position to deal with abortion.

How did it deal with the homosexual issue? Did Paul tell the Roman Christians to lobby Caesar so as to outlaw it? I don’t find Paul even hinting at such actions. He preached repentance. He called it what it was. But he never spent time trying to have it banned.

This is deliberately obtuse. The persistent refusal to take into account radically different circumstances. Christian Americans have opportunities that Christians in the AD 50s did not.

Your divorce analogy is not unlike the rape scenario used by abortionists.

I didn’t use a divorce analogy. I didn’t use an analogy. I discussed divorce because Ed brought it up.

I am talking about the fact that church discipline is almost non-existent for current abusers of grace who do not take God’s word nor the Christian community seriously. These political pastors refuse to act because of the scandal or because people might leave or whatever. I asked one pastor if he was going to act in one case and he told me he was not their Holy Spirit. Another pastor simply allowed the woman to resign and when that happened, even the presbytery did nothing to address the issue. Both of these men were and are highly vocal in their speech against gay marriage. It is hard for me to take either one of them seriously.

What makes him think his anecdotal experience with two pastors is a representative sample group?

So what? Pragmatism? Hypocrisy is just as offensive or perhaps more so to God as the behavior the culture warrior seeks to eradicate. So what, you eradicated sodomy, you replaced it with rank hypocrisy. Nice job!

i) Ed is being dishonest here. I used a hypothetical argument (“But suppose, for the sake of argument…”). I don’t concede the actual hypocrisy. 

ii) Moreover, he is ignoring my actual argument. Hypocrisy doesn't make doing the right thing wrong. 

iii) In addition, it’s not morally compromising when culture warriors avoid futile battles. It’s morally compromising if effecting the right result lies within your power, but you decline it. It’s not morally compromising if you don’t do what you can’t do.

So, not, it’s not hypocritical to pick your fights if you choose issues where you have a reasonable prospect of winning or making gains while declining to waste time on issues–however meritorious–where you have no realistic prospect of success or meaningful progress.

Ed’s objection lacks moral seriousness.

They would only be hypocritical if the doctor accepted your presuppositions about abortion being murder. He does not! Therefore, as far as the doctor is concerned, he is being quite consistent with his worldview. I am going to try to frame this up more clearly using sodomite marriage and divorce.

It’s hypocritical because he arbitrarily protects the life of the toddler, but not the life of the baby.

Therefore, we will turn a deaf ear when our members divorce because it really isn’t that big a deal after all.

When is “when.” If, say, a minister takes a pastorate in which a couple got divorced and remarried (without biblical sanction) 20 years earlier, what is the new minister’s responsibility?

The old “end-justifies-the-means” argument. How many other sins should Christians commit in order to transform the culture? Hypocrisy of any sort is a sin.

i) Once again, Ed is being dishonest. Once again, I was using a hypothetical argument (“Suppose, for the sake of argument…”).

ii) As a matter of fact, sometimes a given end does justify the requisite means. Not every action is intrinsically right or wrong. If an action is intrinsically wrong, then the ends can never justify the means. However, in situations where the action isn’t intrinsically evil, the ends can be justificatory. 

So what are the guiding principles that help you pick which batter takes the top of the list? And where is the exegetical support for that? Where is the exegetical support for engaging in political battles to begin with? All I have seen is an obscure statement about general principles and logical inferences. From where? General principles from where?

He’s posing questions I already answered.

And there is consensus on this, right? Who gets to say which ones are more destructive? The PCA? This opens the can of worms around who decides which issue to attack.

Now Ed is just being willfully contrarian.

I used the term adultery in place of fornication for that reason. Since adultery is the cause of so many divorces, it can only help the institution of marriage to outlaw it.

Which disregard the limitations of the democratic process.

In addition, lying was not a violation of the covenant? Leviticus 19:11 clearly commands the Jew not to lie to one another. Hence, lying is a violation of the covenant. In Jer. 9:3-5, lying is characterized as evil.

Now Ed is playing bait-n-switch. I said lying per se is not an OT “crime.” 

Romans 2 makes a great case for natural law as the foundation for civil law.

Perhaps, although that interpretation is debatable.


  1. I don't understand the "natural law" argument. As far as I can see, the Natural Law described in the Scripture is nothing other than the moral law of God that is written on the heart of every man. Also, traditional English Jurisprudence (at least up through Blackstone) recognizes the two as essentially the same, and we Americans get our legal system primarily from England. All conservative Evangelicals are doing is attempting to conserve the influence that the Natural/Moral Law has had in our legal system.

    1. Conserving natural law in our legal system is right. But is that the business of the church? Is the church called to that end? There is no exegetical warrant for that argument and that has been my point all along. One, it is illegitimate to impose the old covenant on secular gentile nations and two, the gospel goes to the individual, not to nations per se. The message is repent and believe the gospel, not change your laws and become more moral.

    2. Ed, I think Steve and others have already pointed out that they are not talking about "the church" but Christian individuals, and that there is a difference. Someone mentioned one example already: the church is not called to love your wife. There are many others.

      >> Conserving natural law in our legal system is right.
      If it is right, then it cannot be wrong for Christians to support such.

      As for biblical basis, what about these:
      "Love your neighbor as your self"
      "Whoever knows to do what is right and does not do it is sin" (James 4:17)

      While there are priorities (e.g., to your family or the household of the faith first), all things being equal, individual Christians are called to love their neighbor. Some biblical examples are helping the poor and the orphan. But it doesn't have to stop there. Early Christians helped the orphans that were left to die as babies. Why shouldn't modern Christians attempt to help those babies in their mother's womb through political means?

    3. Nick, do we not begin to risk legalism when we begin to impose ideas like political activism as a duty required somehow by Christians because this supposedly falls into the category of good works? It is an exegetical leap to extrapolate political activism from caring for widows, ophans, and the poor. Since the Church is theg gathering together of individuals, I contend that without the individual, there is not church. Secondly, when you get down to it, there are no commands to the church per se, but to the individuals that make up the church. It is a false dichotomy to say that the Church's mission and the individual's mission are not the same.

      I think the Church is responsible to tell the truth, to preach the gospel, to demonstrate that it takes Christ seriously by living in a manner worthy of the gospel. But to push it to the place of political activism and social and legal reform is built upon exegetical sand in my opinion.

    4. Ed, I do think some forms of "political activism" do fall into the category of good works. Take for example, Nazi Germany. I am sure the Jews there would have thought it would be a good work if Christians had opposed, politically, the wholesale slaughter of Jews. And that's more than just an analogy to abortion -- they are almost identical realities, for they both involve the slaughter of innocent human beings.

      I am not saying that argument applies to all types of political activism, but you are taking it to the other extreme: political involvement is never required from the Christian, irrespective of the historical context. That's your view, isn't it? I think it is wrong, particularly with respect to abortion. That is not loving your neighbor as yourself.

      And let me be clear. Political activism in my view does not mean you have to be a politician. A vote, when there is a choice of a pro-life (or pro-life enough) political candidate, would be the least one could do.

  2. Far from “judging the world,” this is merciful to unbelievers. Unbelievers benefit from Christian social values. Their children benefit from Christian social values. Their grandparents benefit from Christian social values.


    1. No one argues to the contrary. Of course they benefit from Christian values. but that is not the point. Christian social values are distinct to the Christian group. We have produced many a false Christian because they think all they have to do is adopt our values, check off the list and whamo, they are saved. Look around. Its hard to miss. We benefit society the most by carrying out our mission. Are we called to preach the gospel to American or to Americans? Is it our duty to impose bits and pieces of the old covenant on the American legal system? We preach repentance to individuals. We do not impose the Old Covenant on secular governments. We are called, not to make godless men more moral, but to preach the gospel so that immoral men may become godly. That is a big job and it requires every ounce of energy and focus we can give it.

    2. We are called, not to make godless men more moral, but to preach the gospel so that immoral men may become godly. That is a big job and it requires every ounce of energy and focus we can give it.

      Well, we are to preach the gospel, and men becoming more godly is one purpose, but another is to bring greater culpability on those who do not become more godly.

      But, that's a side point. Here's the problem- while the gospel itself can transcend cultural boundaries, evangelism cannot. Our very ability to be able to preach the gospel is threatened all the time by our rapidly decaying legal system. Simply preaching the gospel sounds nice, but is woefully naive. The more Christians are involved in the legal system, the more opportunities they have to preach the gospel so that immoral men may become godly. If we do what you suggest and make a dichotomy between the two, then it's no wonder these immoral men don't become godly. We aren't there to evangelize them, and if they run amok with their anti-Christian behavior, they'll enforce measures to prevent us from doing that in the first place.

      What will we do then? Scratch our heads and wonder why it happened??

    3. Your view seems to imply that God is not really the one who puts governments in place to pass those laws to begin with. Should Christianity become illegal in America, it will be because God decree it to be so in eternity past.

      If we die for preaching the gospel, then I suppose we will be extremely blessed. Christians are nowhere instructed to make sure you preserve your religious liberty to continue to freely practice your Christianity in the open. Jesus informed the disciples that they would die for their faith. He told them men would slander them, speak evil against them falsely, and do all kinds of wicked things to them. How were they to think about this? Jesus said they are blessed when they suffer for His name. So we should think it is an honor to suffer for Christ. Second, how should we respond? By doing all we can to avoid it? No, by rejoicing and being exceedingly joyful.

      I think part of the issue is not being able to preach the gospel freely. I think we don't want to suffer, to do without, to experience hardship for Christ. We like our freedom, our comfort, our things. I really believe that many professing Christians are motivated by selfishness more than they are the good of others. I do not think this is the case here at Triablogue of course. I believe this blog is godly, sound, and Spirit-filled. These are good men and they usually have a good audience. We just disagree on this issue.


    My latest response and treating four texts that deal with the Christian and civil government.

  4. Ed, if you would, would you put Daniel's words into perspective; like Dan. 2:44-45 & 7:9-14? Seems to me those prophecies are "all" inclusive giving the "Church" a leg to stand on in "all" forms of governance? Thoughts?

    1. I do not subsribe to dominion theology and interpret these verses as the eternal kingdom of God and of Christ. The NT texts are quite inconsistent with your understanding of these passages. Of course I suppose you might say that they were written prior to the event. I am also not a preterist in any sense of the word. I am historic permil. If you are familiar with that view, then you are familiar with my view.

  5. Ed, also I would include Micah 4:1-7 in that request.

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  7. Ed,

    thanks for your answers.

    My first thought about them comes out of your first sentence: "I do not subsribe [sic] to dominion theology and interpret these verses as the eternal kingdom of God and of Christ."

    Hmmmmmm. So then it is safe to conclude about you that in your view the [eternal] Kingdom of God and of Christ existed prior to Genesis 1:1, covers all time from Genesis 1:1 until time is no more and is a part of this creation and will be as it is then, now and hereafter the eternal Kingdom of God and of Christ? And also, that the mission of the Gospel message by anointed messengers is so that all the "Elect" hears it in their generation and that these "Elect" in their generation are known before the foundation of the world predestined to hear it in their own generation by being redeemed by the Blood Christ in their generation by Christ Who is the One Who was sent by Our Eternal Heavenly Father to save His people from their sins?

    You state about yourself: "I am also not a preterist in any sense of the word."

    Ok, if you would share this, how do you involve yourself in the affairs of the United States of America (assuming you are a citizen of the United States) and practical aspects of being active in her process of governance?

    Do you believe you have this particular calling: 2Ti 2:4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

    Being an historic premillennialist would you give some understanding then to what Jesus "meant" when He is recorded answering the Pharisees question about the kingdom of God saying this:

    Luk 17:20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,
    Luk 17:21 nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."

    Let me ask you, do you believe the Kingdom of God is already in the midst of the world of nations that presently exist and influencing the world's governances however they are done?