Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cooperating on the “Historical, Western World View”?

Dr. David Snoke, a physicist from the University of Pittsburgh, is asking the question, To what degree can we [Reformed Christians] cooperate with members of the Catholic church and other churches?

After ruling out what he calls “the doctrine of ‘holy separation’”, he goes on to explore a “three-fold” view of “not only ‘churches’ and ‘false religions’, but a third category which I would call ‘churches with radically different views of authority, and consequently radically different concepts of God’s salvation’”. Into this third group he places Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Liberals, Charismatics, and some cults.

Some may disagree with my short summaries, but I think all would agree they have radically different views from the Reformed and Protestant “Scripture alone” and “by grace alone through faith alone”. But I would say that we can find foolish Christians, who are nevertheless real Christians, in each of these.

He is clear to say “I would not view it as wise to cooperate with any of these groups in an evangelistic or discipleship ministry”, and “I would not want to have any official cooperation with, say, the Catholic church or PCUSA, even in a cultural project”.

Then he posits:

But I can support the idea of a board of trustees of a non-profit which includes individuals who, in my view, have made unwise decisions to join such churches, but who themselves are scholars, mature at the personal level, confess Christ as Lord, and show the fruits of repentance toward God. I would want the freedom and level of friendship to be able to continue to try to persuade them of the failings of their churches.


But I think in some contexts that a cultural endeavor which presents the “historical, Western world view” could have great value even without a consensus on such important concepts as authority in the church and the concept of salvation.

He says, “One place where this comes up, obviously, is my own involvement with the ID (intelligent design) movement, which includes many Catholics such as Michael Behe... I am working through the issues, and would welcome feedback on pitfalls that may be faced.”

What do you think?


  1. Good stuff to consider John,

    Looks like the co-belligerence stuff found here-

    1. Thanks for the links Ron.

    2. 12 Dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence

      Ron, I completely forgot about this post and was pleasantly surprised to see that I had commented on this thread. Here's my first comment:

      "12 dangers of Evangelical Cobelligerence"

      I've always enjoyed this exchange from a post called "Witch-burners for Christ."

      Phil Johnson: "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)."

      Steve Hays: "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.