Friday, November 14, 2008

Keeping up appearances

One of the revealing features of the Catholic church is the way in which her official proceedings are empirically indistinguishable from the methods and tactics of any merely human, highly politicized institution. If we didn’t already know that she had the benefit of a divine teaching office at her disposal, we might almost be led to suspect that the one true church was just another fallible, defectible, and wholly uninspired organization. The Lord truly moveth in mysterious ways.

“Among the Churches the Roman Catholic Church faced the challenge in ways which specifically interests the historian of ideas. Conservative by inheritance of centuries, more conservative by resistance to radicals in the age of Reformation, ultra-conservative because in many countries a society of peasants or labourers who of all classes had minds least open to disturbing ideas, it ws nevertheless a Church committed to history; that is, it could not sweep the challenge behind the door or pretend that it all sprang from infidel illusion. Some of the founders of modern history—Mabillon, Tillemont, Muratori, to mention only three—were dedicated priests. Tradition was important to the structure of doctrine which fed men’s faith…Tradition was continuity, and continuity was history. Commitment to tradition was also commitment to history, and a main reason why the study of Christian history was inescapable in Catholic teaching,” O. Chadwick, Catholicism and History: The Opening of the Vatican Archives (Cambridge 1978), 3.

“Facing this challenge in the realm of doctrine, Catholic thinkers began to analyse the relation between a belief and its definition in language which Newman called development. The idea of development had more than one ground, and was variously expressed, and had diverse consequences. But the momentous part of it was the recognition that history makes a difference to the religious understanding of the world,” ibid. 3.

“A Church committed by principle to historical enquiry, and simultaneously committed by its members to conservative attitudes, must experience inward tension. The worst tension was generated by the arguments over the relation between history and dogma,” ibid. 3-4.

“Soon after the Council of Trent ended is third sitting in 1563, Pope Pius IV had the plan of publishing to all the world the full acts. If he had done so, the history of European controversy would have been different. But he died, and his successor would not publish. On reflection, Rome saw that to publish the discussion which lay behind the decrees would lead to argument on the meaning of the decrees. It was better to have the decrees unadorned, part now of the laws of the Church,” ibid. 46.

“By Massarelli’s diligence, no Council in Church history was better documented. But at that date, probably with the intention of silencing unnecessary discussion about predestination and grace, popes consciously adopted the policy of allowing no one to consult these papers. Not to make them available became an established rule of the Roman Curia,” ibid. 46.

“Massarelli was secretary of the Council of Trent at all three of its phases. He kept the minutes, and wrote as many as seven different diaries of the proceedings, diaries of unequal value. Massarelli’s protocols and diaries were necessary to understand the course of the Council of Trent. No other sources, not even the reports of legates to the Pope nor the letters of national leaders or ambassadors to their sovereigns, shed so intimate a light as the papers of this efficient secretary of the Council,” ibid. 50.

“But Massarelli reported what was said. He recorded the differences of opinion, the follies as well as the wisdom of the speakers, and unedifying as well as the edifying. If Massarelli’s diaries were published, the decisions of the Council of Trent, sacred in so many minds, would no longer appear the unchallenged expression of a common Catholic mind, but the end of hard-fought debates over nuances of expression,” ibid. 50.

“This was particularly true of the early debates on scripture and tradition, the authority of scripture, and its canon. In the cold light of finality, the formulas look rigid against Protestants. Seen as the end of a long debate with differing opinions, the formulas have more nuance, more flexibility, than any Protestant hitherto supposed. The examining commission particularly objected to the minutes which Theiner [prefect of the Vatican archives] proposed to publish, and had already in proof, of the debate on the canon of holy scripture. Thus the Dominican Father Tosa, lately an enthusiast, became the main speaker on the commission of enquiry, that to publish was dangerous, or harmful to the Church,” ibid. 50-51.

“When the Vatican Council met in December 1869, it soon divided into parties on the question of the teaching office of the Church, and the nature of the Pope’s infallibility…The theoretical argument pressed sorest upon the historians. If men started to declare the Pope (in some way) infallible, the historians looked back upon the history of the Church and saw moments when the Pope was wrong, and either inferred that the Pope was not infallible or argued that the doctrine must not be defined in such a way as to cover that error. The leader of the extreme opposition, though not a bishop at the Council, was the historian Döllinger of Munich. In Rome worked two of his pupils, both historians, Acton and Friedrich. The little handful of bishops with historical training were to a man opposed to definition—Bishop Hefele of Rottenburg, Cardinal Rauscher of Vienna, Bishop Greith of St. Gall. One or two of the leaders of the defining party gave the impression that history did not matter. How shall we test an eternal and unchanging truth by the studies of academics who cannot even agree with each other? Archbishop Manning of Westminster, who was specially prominent in favour of infallibility, uttered sentences which certainly sounded antihistorical,” ibid. 61-62.

“Theiner was a historian, and therefore at this moment uncomfortable. In the division of parties the Pope, and the Pope’s men, could hardly think of the other side as fully loyal to Catholicism…He [Theiner] was a historian at a moment when historical enquiry was unpalatable. He was a German inside the Vatican at a moment when the German bishops were unanimous in opposing what the Pope wanted…One of the Jesuits was rumoured to have said, ‘Theiner is the only survivor from the early entourage of Pius IX. He must be got rid of’,” ibid. 62.

“The Vatican of 1869-70 was a different place from the Vatican of 1855. In 1855 Theiner was at home in the air of the Curia. In 1870 he no longer had a natural habitation. One example will suffice: the most unpopular or popular letters of the day were the reports from Rome to Munich, published in the Allgemeine Zeitung of Augsburg, under the pseudonym Quirinus. These letters contained a brilliant pillorying of the majority in the Vatican Council, and repeatedly used information available to no one else among the journalists,” ibid. 62-63.

“When the Vatican Council opened in December 1869, its mode of proceeding was instantly a matter of controversy; whether the heads of the Catholic states should have been invited, who should have the right to propose motions, how the debates should be conducted, whether a simple majority was enough to carry a motion. Naturally everyone wanted to know how Trent conducted its business. The Curia did not wish the proceedings of Trent to be prominent. For the debates of Trent were conducted with less control than the debates of the first Vatican Council—for one excellent and compelling reason, that the number of persons present at Rome was often ten times the number of those present at Trent. An assembly of 60 may behave as an assembly of 600 may not—that is, if useful business is to be done,” ibid. 63.

“Within the first few days of the Council Theiner received orders not to let anyone see his papers on Trent. The order was not specially directed against Theiner. Another Oratorian, Calenzio, who was working on Trent, likewise received notice to stop. Not to release even the order of business at Trent was a sign of the besieged stance which prevailed among the cardinals during the last days of papal Rome. Sooner or later the opposition would discover the mode of proceedings at Trent,” ibid. 63.

“In the spring of 1870 opposition bishops were found to possess the order of business at the Council of Trent. They made use of it in argument. The Curia inferred that the knowledge of the document could only have come from the Vatican Secret Archives. Suspicion fell on Theiner,” ibid. 63-64.

“On 12 April 1870 Pope Pius IX suddenly summoned Theiner to his presence. He was excited and angry. He said that Theiner was reported to have taken Lord Acton into the Secret Archives and given him documents for his use…He started blaming Acton—‘he is not one of us’—and Friedrich and Döllinger—and the all of the German bishops,” ibid. 64-65.

“Theiner’s fate was decided a few days before 5 June. He was out at a villa in the country, working tranquilly away at the life of Pope Benedict XIV, and received an order to return. He went to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli, who informed him what was decided; characteristically adding that he wished him well, but was powerless to help. Theiner said he was innocent, but in vain. He was required (4 August 1870) to give up the keys of the archives. They trusted him now so little that they walled up the door which led into the archives from Theiner’s apartment in the tower,” ibid. 65.

“After Theiner’s death, Professor Friedrich, by then excommunicated for his resistance to the Vatican Council, declared in the Kölnische Zeitung that it was he, and not Theiner, who gave the papers to the bishops of the opposition,” ibid. 65-66.

Lane Tipton on theonomy

I’m still looking for the best representatives of the 2k theory I can find. I’m going to comment on an article by Lane Tipton:

Before I delve into the details, a few preliminary observations are in order. Tipton is attacking one of Greg Bahnsen’s arguments for theonomy. It’s logical of Tipton to choose Bahnsen as his foil. Bahnsen was the leading theonomic theorist of his day.

But let’s keep in mind that Bahnsen died in 1995. Critics can continue to refine their objections to Bahnsen, but he can’t continue to refine his counterarguments. So there’s a certain asymmetry in these evaluations.

It’s not incumbent on me to defend Bahnsen’s particular formulation or supporting arguments. I can present and defend my own position.

I’m referencing Tipton’s article because he’s one of the more sophisticated critics of theonomy. The fact that he’s targeting Bahnsen, while a primary concern of his article, is of secondary interest to me. I’m going to consider his arguments on their own terms.

“The book of Hebrews functions as a parenesis to a group of Jewish Christians tempted to revert to the ceremonial externalism of the Old Covenant.”

I don’t know what he means by this. The Old Covenant wasn’t reducible to ceremonial externalism.

“First of all, the heart of the problem which the hearers face consists in a temptation to revert to Old Covenant externalism.”

Same problem as above. What does he mean by “externalism”?

OT piety wasn’t limited to outward rites and ceremonies. It was also concerned with the condition of the heart.

“Confirming this argument, we see at the end of 2:1 that we must not ‘drift away’11 into apostasy. In other words, the contrast in view turns on the fact that apostasy in the Old Covenant received immediate retribution in terms of temporal sanctions.”

“In other words, the Old Covenant, Mosaic death sanctions typify and anticipate the eschatological manifestation of God's righteous judgment against his enemies.”

There are some basic problems with this line of argument:

i) Tipton is arguing that the death penalty for apostasy typifies the final judgment. Now, even if we agree with him, that’s a very selective appeal to OT law.

a) It singles out capital offenses.

b) It singles out the crime of apostasy.

c) It singles out the death penalty as a punishment for apostasy.

ii) Needless to say, this leaves out of account a massive amount of OT law:

a) Many OT crimes are not capital offenses.

b) Most OT crimes do not amount to apostasy.

c) Apropos (a)-(b), the death penalty is not assigned to most OT capital offenses because they constitute apostasy.

d) Of OT crimes that are capital offenses, many could be commuted.

e) In case of murder, the death penalty is assigned, not because the murderer is an apostate, but because he violated the imago Dei (Gen 9:5-6).

f) Apropos (e), the death penalty for murder antedates the Mosaic Covenant. Therefore, we can’t assume that a particular crime is a capital offense because it figures in the cultic holiness of Israel.

g) Even if the death penalty prefigures the final judgment, this doesn’t mean the death penalty was assigned to some crimes because it prefigures the final judgment—as if the only reason to execute the offender was to prefigure the final judgment.

Certain crimes carried the death penalty because that was a just punishment for the nature of the crime. The sentence fit the crime. Indeed, the author of Hebrews explicitly makes that very point: “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” (2:2, ESV).

And that would be true of any Mosaic penalty—not just the death penalty.

Therefore, Tipton’s fundamental objection to theonomy strikes me as a massive overstatement. He’s extrapolating from one case to a raft of disanalogous crimes and penalties.

“This is the first hint that he does not allow the category of semi-realized eschatology to inform his understanding of the manner in which the author explains the fulfillment of typological sanctions in Christ.”

A “semi-realized eschatology” doesn’t eliminate the need for a civil or criminal law code.

“The civil sanctions are subservient to typology.”

Why should we accept that claim? Why not take the common sense view that the civil sanctions were practical. That Israel had a civil and criminal law code because Israel was a nation-state, and every nation state must have a civil and criminal law code?

“The entire Old Covenant Mosaic order is a typological kingdom, which has definite implications for the nature of its sanctions.”

Of course, this simply begs the question in favor of Meredith Kline’s idiosyncratic opinion. Tipton has done nothing to establish such a sweeping thesis.

In sum, his conclusion doesn’t begin to follow from his premise. The scope of actual argument is quite modest. His conclusion far outstrips the scope of his argument.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

VanDrunen on natural law, pt. 2

I’m continuing my examination of VanDrunen’s defense of 2k theory:

It may seem at first glance that looking at Scripture redemptive-historically actually rules out much hope of gaining biblical guidance in waging a culture war. Any moralistic approach would appear more potentially fruitful. After all, fighting a culture war is about action. Interpreting Scripture as if it centers around the redemptive work of God through Christ, as useful as it might be for understanding the Gospel message, does not immediately strike us as providing fertile ground for a development of social ethics. Perhaps this is why an evangelical Christianity so desperately seeking to be relevant finds a biblical-theological approach at best somewhat interesting theoretically, but quite unusable when it comes to setting forth the bottom-line. And how to live life here in the world, a topic under which social ethics falls, really is the bottom-line. Or so thinking tends to go.

The critic of biblical-theology is correct to a point. A redemptive-historical approach does not offer an immediate or easy answer to problems of social ethics, and if living life in this world is the bottom-line, then biblical-theology is somewhat irrelevant. Yet, biblical-theology would argue that living life in this world is not at all the bottom-line. And it would also argue that though it offers no easy and immediate answers to problems of social ethics, it provides the only firm foundation for discussing such issues, without which the Christian ethicist will sooner or later go wrong. Perhaps at times biblical-theology is short on specifics, but it is only by recognizing the big picture which biblical-theology provides that one has a solid basis on which to discuss specifics.

One of the questions this raises is the integration of natural law theory with biblical-theology. Are these logically related to each other, or are they simply glued together? Is one the primary foundation, while the other is tacked on?

On the face of it, his natural law theory seems to be more optimistic than his biblical-theology.

And it’s clear that he’s not getting natural law theory from biblical-theology, or vice versa. So what do they really have in common?

A Reformed biblical-theology demonstrates how their situation is so closely aligned with ours. Their situation was, in fact, typological of ours. We understand that the Promised Land of Israel was a new Garden of Eden, a holy theocratic land whose very ground was sacred. Only those in good covenant standing with God were allowed to remain there. Both these in turn were the protological types of the eschatological, eternal heavenly kingdom of God. We understand as well that the exile to Babylon was a new expulsion from the Garden of Eden. As Adam was convicted of being a covenant breaker, and no longer fit to live in the holy land, so the people of Israel, convicted of transgressing the covenant God made with them through Moses, were no longer fit to live in their holy land. Both these in turn were types of our situation today. There is no geopolitical nation today which can be called God's special holy land. We are a people in exile. We are a people who live with Adam east of Eden. We do not live under a Davidic king. The Mosaic Law is not our constitution. We, like the Israelites, live in Babylon. Little wonder is it, then, that New Testament writers used the term "Babylon" to represent the alien city in which God's church dwells (e.g. 1 Pet. 5:13, Rev. 18).

At this point it’s hard to distinguish typology from allegory. Yes, there’s a sense in which the history of the Chosen People prefigures the history of the church. But the Chosen People went through many stages: the prediluvians, the nomadic existence of the patriarchs, the captivity of the Israel in Egypt, the Exodus, the punitive nomadic existence in the wilderness, the conquest and settlement of Canaan, the punitive Babylonian deportation and captivity, the post-exilic restoration, the Interadventual Period, &c.

It seems very arbitrary for VanDrunen to single out the Babylonian Exile as the super type of the church. Why be so selective?

In terms of historical analogies, there are times when Christians are dominant, and other times when Christians are out of power or powerless and persecuted.

Why treat the historical situation in 1 Peter as if that were paradigmatic for the church age?

Again, to treat the Mosaic Law as totally unique and unrepeatable merely begs the question. True, the Mosaic Law is not our constitution. This doesn’t mean it contains no transcultural norms. The Mosaic Law is not an arbitrary fiat. It commends some conduct because some conduct is inherently commendable; it condemns some conduct because some conduct is inherently condemnable. It assigns certain penalties because they are inherently just. There’s more to the Mosaic law than ritual purities or impurities.

Many of the laws don’t typify anything. That’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to regulate a nation-state. Any just state would have many similar laws.

Some of the laws are antiquated in their specific form, but contain generic principles which retain their validity. Other laws are very closely tied to the socioeconomic conditions of the ANE or Israel’s tribal society. Still other laws are distinctive to the cultic holiness of Israel.

In verses 5 through 7 of Jeremiah 29, the prophet lists a number of things which the people were to do in regard to Babylon and the culture which surrounded them. He tells them to build houses and settle down, to marry and have children, and to pray for the peace and prosperity of the city where they lived. What strikes us about these instructions is their seemingly high regard for life in Babylon. The people were not to reject relations with the Babylonians and seek a violent return to their land.

Of course not! The Babylonian exile was a divine punishment. And they had to do their time.

To rebel would have been rebellion, not merely against their Babylonian overlords, but against the Lord of hosts.

Not only were the Israelite exiles not to shun interaction with the Babylonians, but they were also not to seek to reform it according to the Mosaic Law.

Once again, this overlooks the obvious. They were POWs. They were at the mercy of a hostile superpower. Of course they were in no position to impose the Mosaic Law on their masters.

And the Mosaic Law always drew a distinction between foreigners and members of the covenant. It wasn’t a case where it was either applicable to foreigners in toto or inapplicable to foreigners in toto.

For just as the Babylon of Jeremiah's day was legitimate, so is the Babylon of ours.

This is very equivocal. God had a providential purpose for Babylon. And even a corrupt state may be preferable to anarchy. But to say without further qualification that Babylon was legitimate disregards the many prophetic indictments of Babylon.

We must take care to heed the instructions of Jeremiah yet today. That these really are still applicable to the New Testament church is confirmed in passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.

The problem, once more, is how selective VanDrunen is in applying the OT to the NT church. Why limit yourself to a passage in Jeremiah regarding the Babylonian exiles?

It looks like VanDrunen began with his preconceived notion of the church, and that notion selected for the corresponding types and prooftexts.

VanDrunen on natural law, pt. 1

I’ve been looking for the best representative I can find for the 2k theory. Given his training, I’d expect VanDrunen to make about as good a case for 2k theory as anyone. So let’s review his arguments:

The topic of natural law, however, is very large, and I can only touch on a few of the relevant issues. In what follows, I will be making a few assumptions that there is no space here to try to prove. Perhaps most importantly, I assume that we live in a religiously pluralistic world and that we will continue to do so until Christ returns. God has not established a theocracy in the world today, nor does he will that Christians try to set up a theocracy by their own efforts. Rather, Christians must live in a religiously pluralistic world and work within these constraints, as difficult as that may be.

i) It isn’t clear what he means by this. On the face of it, his statement is equivocal. Yes, the world as a whole is religiously pluralistic. But, of course, this doesn’t mean that individual countries are religiously pluralistic. At different times and places, there’s been a lot of religious homogeneity. So how is his sweeping generality relevant on a nation-by-nation basis?

Is he saying it would be okay to be theocratic as long as your own country happens to be religiously homogenous? Is it only out of bounds to be theocratic if your own country happens to be religiously heterogeneous?

ii) There are degrees of religious pluralism. For example, an evangelical might have no objection to a Catholic magistrate as long as he were a socially conservative Catholic—whereas he might find the prospect of a Mormon magistrate more objectionable, and take strenuous exception to the prospect of a Muslim magistrate.

iii) Is VanDrunen’s argument a merely pragmatic concession to practically necessity? Or does he have a principled objection to theocracy even if that enjoyed popular support?

iv) I assume he thinks there are limits to tolerable religious diversity at the public policy level. What if Muslims want to impose Sharia on Christians? Or what if Muslims what to carve out a Sharia zone for the Muslim minority? Then what?

v) Finally, there’s an obvious sense in which the law is inherently coercive. Clearly a lawbreaker doesn’t agree with the law. So it’s not as if the passage of a law is contingent on anything like unanimous consent.

In answering this question, we should not ask more of natural law than it can provide. Natural law certainly does not reveal to the conscience a detailed public policy. We would do better to begin by affirming that natural law teaches the basics of God's moral law, and hence provides a framework for thinking about law and public policy, from which framework people in the exercise of wisdom should develop particular laws and policies in response to particular situations.

Of course, this is one of the objections to natural law theory. Can it suffice as a freestanding alternative to Biblical ethics?

Natural law is the moral revelation that God gives in creation itself. Romans 1:18-32 speaks of things that may be known of God from creation, including a great deal of moral knowledge. Romans 2:14-15 speaks of the law of God being written on people's hearts, such that even those without access to the law revealed in Scripture are held accountable to God through their consciences.

His appeal to Rom 1:18-32 is more secure than his appeal to Rom 2:14-15, which a number of distinguished exegetes identify as Christian gentiles rather than pagan gentiles.

Here is one area in which natural law becomes a helpful resource. When appealing to natural law, believers need not feel that they are compromising their Christian convictions, for natural law is authoritative and true; it is part of God's own revelation, after all. Neither need Christians fear that they are appealing to a standard that is unknown or foreign to unbelievers; God has inscribed the natural law on the heart of every person (Rom. 2:14-15), and all people know the basic requirements of God's law, even if they suppress that knowledge (Rom. 1:19, 21, 32).

Bracketing his debatable appeal to Rom 2:14-15, I don’t object to this argument up to a point. But this doesn’t mean St. Paul regarded natural law as an adequate alternative to revealed law. In 1 Tim 1:9-10, for example, Paul applies some key provisions of the Mosaic law to unbelievers. (See commentaries by Towner and Liefeld.)

The fact that most unbelievers, though refusing to worship the true God, still to some significant extent acknowledge and live by the truth of his law as it is known by nature is something for which Christians can be very grateful. Because of this, societies generally retain some degree of order and justice. And it provides Christians with the opportunity to engage unbelievers in genuine moral dialogue on issues of public policy. But how exactly does one make arguments from natural law and thus put it to use in the public square?

Up to a point, I don’t object to common ground appeals. But public policy tends to be set by a social elite, not the man on the street. And elite opinion may be militantly anti-Christian.

There comes a point where almost nothing is out of bounds. Then what?

Most every unbeliever, in fact, accepts the truth of at least some aspects of the natural law. True, they do not accept it for what it really is, the revelation of the living and triune God. But most people, when pressed, would admit that acts such as murder, stealing, and lying are immoral, and they themselves generally avoid such actions. Most people would also claim that law and government exist to protect people against those who would kill, rob, or defraud them.

For Christians, it would seem most helpful to begin not with the feelings of sinful human beings, but with that which Scripture teaches is revealed in the natural law. A passage such as Romans 1:29-32 shows clearly that sins such as disobedience to parents, murder, adultery, theft, and lying are violations of natural law that all people, at some level, know. Christians may be confident that appealing to people's natural knowledge of these things is valid and legitimate, even when unbelievers deny these truths and when believers themselves do not know exactly how to turn such appeals into good arguments.

If unbelievers deny outright that acts such as murder and theft are wrong, there is very little Christians can do except note the utter impossibility of civil life under such assumptions. As noted above, however, most people do not deny this.

But sophisticated unbelievers don’t generally deny that theft and murder are wrong. Rather, they simply redefine certain actions. They don’t say abortion is murder, but deny that murder is wrong. Rather, they deny that abortion is murder.

I don’t see how VanDrunen would be able to argue down a secular ethicist like Peter Singer or Thomas Nagel.

It seems to me that one of the best ways for Christians to make natural law arguments is to begin with these general truths that most people would not dispute and then attempt to show, by use of wisdom and appeals to common sense, how more particular or controversial actions would or would not be consistent with these general moral truths. In other words, by arguing that particular actions are wrong because they tend to promote killing or stealing (which most people admit are bad things), or by arguing that particular actions are right because they tend to promote life or the protection of property (which most people admit are good things), one may construct natural law arguments that have a certain chance for effectiveness. I do not believe that there is any foolproof way of making persuasive natural law arguments, but if we do attempt to make such arguments in a careful and civil way, by God's grace we may make some progress toward moving society in a more just direction.

But a secular ethicist can appeal to common sense as well. One of the tacit assumptions in VanDrunen’s position seems to be that a natural law theorist is a deontologist. Hence, certain things are intrinsically right or wrong. You do your duty, as natural law dictates, irrespective of the consequences.

Yet I don’t see why a natural law theorist couldn’t equally be a utilitarian. There are situations in which utilitarian arguments enjoy a lot of popular appeal or intuitive appeal. Yet utilitarian ethics is also quite ruthless.

To his credit, VanDrunen tries to apply his theoretical construct to some real life issues:

As observed above, nearly everyone, at some level, believes that life is valuable and therefore that lethal violence against others should be prohibited by law. Most people would also agree that this applies, perhaps especially, to those who are weak and unable to defend themselves. Based upon such convictions, people today overwhelmingly condemn infanticide as a terrible crime. Beginning from this widespread acknowledgement of natural law truth, we could attempt to show how these proper moral sentiments are inconsistent with a pro-choice abortion position.

To do so, we might imagine a newborn infant and then begin moving the clock backwards on his young life. As we envision his life in reverse, an appropriate question to ask is at what point something radical happens to this child to change his status from one of personhood, deserving full legal protection of his life, to one of non-personhood, unprotected from the one who would snuff out his life. What we observe as the clock runs backwards is that the development of this child is continuous, without a drastic, radical event to distinguish clearly one stage of life from another...Based upon the social consensus that infanticide is immoral, then, a compelling argument can be made, based upon observation of the natural process of fetal development, that life should be protected from conception on.

There are two problems with this argument:

i) It would be easy for a utilitarian to justify infanticide. He might say there are situations in which this is a necessary form of population control. The alternative is mass starvation. It isn’t clear to me how a natural law theorist would argue him down.

ii) Another problem is that VanDrunen is trying to extrapolate from borderline cases. It’s an application of the sorities paradox. How many grains of wheat constitute a heap? Is there an exact threshold? No.

It’s true that fetal development ranges along a continuum. And so there’s no bright line between one stage of development and another. But that’s more intuitively persuasive when you compare one phase with the immediately preceding or succeeding phase. There’s more evident discontinuity if you compare and contrast earlier and later stages. The more so if you limit your analysis to the physical characteristics of human life. (A Cartesian dualist could ground personal identity in the soul.)

Take the light spectrum. That is also a seamless continuum. Red shades into orange, then yellow, then green, and so on. Does this mean there’s no discernable difference between red and blue? No.

Likewise, the fact that dawn and dusk are borderline conditions doesn’t mean that noonday and midnight are borderline conditions. We can still tell the difference between night and day. Just not around the edges. And we can still demarcate Monday from Friday.

Despite the assault on the nature of the family that arises from certain quarters of contemporary culture, most people still recognize the unique, natural, morally rich relationship that exists between parents and children. They acknowledge that parents have certain responsibilities to provide for and train their children, and that children have certain responsibilities to submit to their parents' authority. Most people also acknowledge the important, though clearly different, natural relationship between siblings. They acknowledge that siblings have moral obligations to love and respect each other, without a relationship of authority existing between them.

Beginning with these shared convictions, we might ask what sort of condition a person produced by cloning would find herself in. She would certainly have no normal identity as a daughter and sister. What relationship would she have with the woman from whom she was cloned? In a certain very real sense, she is her mother. Yet, in a strictly genetic sense, she is her identical twin, and therefore her sister. Is the cloned person to treat as a mother a person who is her sister genetically? Or is she to treat as a sister one who decided to bring her into existence by replicating herself? The scenario seems hopelessly confusing. The natural bonds of mother-daughter and sister-sibling (not to mention the troubling removal of any father from the picture), which most people today still recognize as vital for establishing a person's identity and stability in life, are twisted beyond ordinary recognition. One of the revolting aspects of incest is the possibility that a person could become simultaneously the parent and grandparent (or, father and uncle, etc.) of a child, with all of the tragedy and confusion that such a scenario creates for the parties involved, especially for the child. Human cloning produces a scenario even more bizarre.

There are a couple of problems with this argument as well:

i) Cloning is just an artificial form of twinning. It isn’t obvious why natural cloning is morally permissible, but artificial cloning is intrinsically evil.

ii) Who, exactly, is wronged in this procedure? The clone? But does this mean it would be better for the clone if he didn’t exist? If I were a healthy human clone, if I’d matured to adulthood, would I feel wronged because I’d been brought into existence by this method? Would I have been dealt an injustice? But apart from that process, I wouldn’t even exist.

VanDrunen makes a clone sound like an orphan. And there’s a tragic aspect to orphanhood. But even if the two are analogous, it’s better to be an orphan than a nonentity. And some orphans turn out better than some kids who were raised by their biological parents.

What about rape and incest? Rape and incest are evil. But the baby is not the injured party. The mother is.

Keep in mind that I’m not attempting to consider all the pros and cons of cloning, or stake out a personal position. I’m merely drawing attention to the fact that it’s easy to come up with common sense counterarguments to his common sense arguments.

Far as the curse is found

Genesis 3:1-5

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" 2And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

I’m continuing my miniseries on the significance of the serpent in Gen 3. What would the figure of the serpent have meant to the original audience?

Unbelievers treat this account as a cross between Aesop’s Fables and a just-so story. For modern unbelievers, a snake is just an animal. A talking snake is impossible since snakes lack the vocal cords and brainpower to speak.

But, of course, it’s not as if talking snakes were a normal part of life in the ancient world. So this interpretation is scarcely plausible, even if you deny the inspiration of scripture.

So what would this account signify to an ancient reader? Keep in mind that Genesis in particular, and the Pentateuch as a whole, was addressed to Jews who had resided in Egypt for over 400 years. What was the significance of venomous snakes in ancient Egyptian culture?

Before I proceed any further, a definition is in order:

Uraeus: The Egyptian name for the cobra. A representation of the sacred asp, snake, or serpent, or of its head and necked, employed as an emblem of supreme power, sometimes specifically as worn on the headdress of ancient Egyptian divinities and sovereigns (OED).

Now let’s consider a few examples:

“The Egyptians associated serpents in general with magic. Even Pharaoh's uraeus, itself an embodiment of the cobra goddess Wedjet, was believed to imbue Pharaoh with magical power,” S. Noegel, "Moses and Magic: Notes on the Book of Exodus," Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 24 (1996), 48.

“We may see the snake as the embodiment of the commonest Egyptian word for ‘statement’ (tjd), written as a serpent, a word that appears in Egyptian magical texts as a synonym for ‘spell’," ibid. 50.

“The clearest expression of the dual nature of ‘venom spitting’ is embodied in the symbol of the uraeus, through which the powers of the feared serpent are made to serve gods, the kind, and mankind,” R. Ritner, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice (Oriental Institute 2008), 83.

“The presence of the goddess Beset conforms to the imagery of the ivory knives where she also appears, with her power over noxious animals indicated by the standard device of the ‘master of animals’ pose, used elsewhere by Heka, Horus, and underworld deities, ibid. 224.

“The animals most commonly held are to snakes, which become two saves crossed upon the chest of Heka,” ibid. 224n1041.

“As a protective image, the uraeus is common,” ibid. 224.

“See the use of four uraei to guard the cardinal points in the temple rituals at Edfu on behalf of the kind and in the ritual of the House of Life on behalf of Osiris. The fire-spitting serpents repel enemies and demons at night,” ibid. 224n1042.

“For the Egyptian bedroom, various protections have already been discussed, but these are supplemented by a formal ritual for ‘4 uraei of pure clay with flames in their mouths,’ placed in each corner of the room in which men and women sleep together.120 Acting as defensive ‘nightlights’ against nightmares and pests, the serpents are noted in written records from Deir el-Medina and Ptolemaic temples, while actual clay serpents have been excavated throughout Egypt, and related serpent imagery even appears on the legs of beds.121 Similar protections for sleep are placed on headrests, where Bes (grasping snakes) is depicted to repel night terrors, noxious animals, etc.122.”

As we can see from these examples, the snake often functioned as an occultic being or emblem in ancient Egypt. It’s a symbolic embodiment of a numinous reality.

This background helps to explain why the figure of the serpent in Gen 3 requires so little introduction. A sagacious and malevolent snake would be no ordinary animal. Rather, it would be a visible emblem or omen of an invisible evil force. It moves within the aegis of witchcraft and black magic.

And how would the original audience understand the curse?

Genesis 3:13-15

13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
14The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock_ and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

Let’s compare this with Egyptian lore:

“The traditional understanding of these animals as defeated and trampled enemies has been questioned by Quaegebeur…The primary notion of such images, however, is to express the deity’s mastery of the beasts…The animal is shown to be subject/subservient to the god, whether as an assistant or opponent. In either case, the iconologic notion remains ‘superposition=control.’…The primary magical method of neutralizing serpents, et cetera, is to make their attack recoil on themselves…The cobra is first and foremost a dangerous animal; its dangerous force may be controlled and thus directed by a god…The image of a god walking on (‘controlling’) a uraeus is therefore not so surprising…the deity controls and directs the force which the animal incarnates,” The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, 128n583.

First of all, there’s the generic significance of tramping your enemies underfoot. A symbol of abject subjection by a conquering power.

Added to that is the irony of cursing a creature which is, itself, emblematic of evil spells. An agent of black magic becomes an accursed object. The hex redounds on itself.

This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that the Hebrew name for the serpent already has divinatory and imprecatory connotations.

To that extent, the account of the fall is, among other things, a subtle polemic against the appetite for sorcery and idolatry of the very nation which held the children of Israel captive for centuries. Just to rub it in, Moses will revisit the theme of ophiomancy in the Book of Exodus (cf. Exod 4:2-4; 7:8-12).

Cartesian Compatibilism?

I remember a while back when Reppert was struggling to find good critiques against compatibilism he posted a paper that wondered whether compatibilism ruled out dualism. Andrew Baily, PH.D. candidate at Notre Dame, offers a negative answer in his paper 'Cartesian Compatibilism.' It would be the highest of ironies indeed if compatibilism ruled out Cartesian dualism while Descartes held to a compatibilism while also being the paragdigmatic dualist (at least according to most, but that's another post).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In The News...

The Geopolitical community has been having a devil of a time as of late in dealing with the recent outbreaks of genocide. The potential epidemic has been spurred on by pro-genocide arguments from high-ranking members in the Atheists for Genocide Coalition, or, AGC. What has caused the civilized world consternation is that the AGC's pro-genocide argument initially began as a pro-choice argument. AGC's chief spokesman, Dr. Zachary Moore, defended his pro-genocide argument before world leaders at the United Nations headquarters in New York today. Protestors gathered outside and could be heard chanting "No more Moore" as the conference went on inside. One demonstrator, who wished to be referred to by the pseudonym, Dawsonian Beethrack [sic], claimed that she was upset with Moore because he was "a proud and arrogant man" who would rather "defend his crappy pro-choice argument at all costs" rather than drop it and "use the hundred or so more respectable pro-choice arguments." Hundreds of other women protestors in fear of losing their right to choose due to Moore's insistence that his argument for pro-choice is the only logical one, and his subsequent insight that the being pro-genocide follows strictly from it, could be seen holding signs that read, "Moore's a Mooreon."

Inside, Moore demonstrated his almost impeccable logic when he relayed for world leaders how he came to hold his pro-genocide position. Moore quoted at length his comment to pro-lifer Paul Manata that initially got him thinking. Moore recalled the comment that inspired him t become pro-genocide in that now infamous debate,

"Let's analogize from sovereignty over one's body to sovereignty over one's habitat. Paul and his wife just bought a lovely new house- they have sovereignty over it, and can decide who stays in the house, and who does not. Let's imagine that their friend Craig comes to stay with them, and they give him a room, over which he has sovereignty (ability to decide who comes in the room, and who does not). Although in real life, Paul and Craig are great friends, let's say that he and Craig have a falling-out, and Paul wants him to leave. Craig, although enjoying sovereignty over his room, does not have the right to force Paul to allow him to stay in the house against his will. Paul's sovereignty is complete throughout the house, including Craig's room, and therefore Craig must vacate. Whatever challenges and threats Craig may face outside of Paul's house may be something for Paul to consider, but they do not infringe Paul's sovereignty or remove his right to kick Craig out the door."
Moore also spoke on how this above argument for abortion worked even if the unborn baby was "fully human." He waxed intellectual that the above argument, along with what Manata dubbed "the gimme," allowed home owners to remove their bothersome house guests with a vacuum strong enough to rip their arms and legs off, or burn them alive with chemicals, or perhaps pull just their legs and torso out of the house with a giant pair of forceps and then shove a spike into the back of their head. Moore claimed this logic was rigidly derived from his prior claims. He then said that it came to him like "a flash of light" one night while drinking Boddingtons beer (12 of them). He told the group of slack-jawed kings, presidents, prime ministers, and other dignitaries, that it was intellectual honesty that drove him to see that men who owned nations could do whatever they wanted to do whatever was in their nation. He said, "My analogy must hold if I am to answer Paul." He then used his power point presentation to make his point clear:


Body --> House --> Country

Meanwhile, world leaders discussed what to do about the killings. They claimed that while the logic was undeniable, genocide just wouldn't work. With this claim world leaders have driven a wedge between the logical and the pragmatic. Needless to say, this has sparked a new debate since pragmatism has been the de facto philosophy of the civilized nations since the early part of the 20th century. Nevertheless, some have questioned the former claim. So a new conference will be held to question what some think is a "no-brainer:" "Is Moore's argument really logical?" From this reporters perspective, it would appear not. Indeed, as I interviewed a prominent metaphysician at Notre Dame regarding this, he said that Moore was simply "An ignorant red neck."

Inept Mental Moves...

...of which the atheological argument from predation may be an example of. See Vallicella.

Prescient Musings

In the near future, citizens of Colorado will be called to vote on whether red, blue, and yellow, should be the primary colors.

Hart to Hart

I’ve been having a heart to heart with Robert Wagner and Todd Pedlar over at Green Baggins. On second thought, maybe the Hart I’ve been debating over there isn’t that Hart, but another Hart. Only Stefanie Powers knows for sure.

In any event, here’s my side of the argument. I realize that this gets to be dry and tedious. However, if Christians are going to criticize the policies of an Obama administration (to take one example), then we need to have a moral platform from which to level our criticisms. We can’t just wing it by the seat of our pants.

steve hays said,
November 6, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Todd said,
“Some interesting thoughts, but I think you need to ask some questions, such as, why don’t the Apostles ever address the sins of Rome?”

i) I think you’re overlooking the Book of Revelation, a major theme of which is a scathing indictment of imperial Rome (as almost all commentators acknowledge).

ii) Beyond that, this also goes to a traditional dispute between the Magisterial Reformation and the Radical Reformation.

Anabaptism makes the same point you do, and takes it to a logical extreme.

The traditional Reformed response is to say the silence of the NT in this regard is an incidental consequence of its pre-Constantinian situation, and we can fill the gap by supplementing the NT with the OT.

steve hays said,
November 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Todd said,
“Sure there is. All God’s laws are just because he spoke them, but again, you are not taking into account that biblical laws are conditioned by covenant. Just because something is proper for one covenant does not mean it is proper for all of them…It was just for Israelite widows to be required to marry one of her husband’s brothers after her husband’s death, if he died childless, in order to continue the family line of the dead husband (Deut 25), but I don’t see a lot of theonomists continuing this practice today. Of course, you can always file this into the ‘ceremonial’ pile and be done with it.”

Do you really think that’s a serious response to the opposing position? Why would that injunction be “conditioned by covenant”? It would be more reasonable to say that this provision was conditioned by the socioeconomic situation of the ANE. That’s why it doesn’t apply today.

Of course, even in that instance, the NT is also concerned with the welfare of widows. It simply takes a different form. So there is an underlying principle which carries over into the new covenant.

It’s just a straw man argument to suggest that we insist on the identical application of specific provisions. That was never the issue. The issue is whether some of the civil laws exemplify general norms. Try to refocus your attention on the actual position you presume to oppose.

“It was just for the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child Canaanite because of their idolatry and because they were defiling the Land, but it is improper and sinful to do this to idolaters in the new covenant age.”

You have a habit of jumbling everything together. That injunction presupposes the cultic holiness of Israel. So that would be ceremonial, IMO.

At the same time, the Mosaic laws of warfare aren’t purely ceremonial. Like any nation-state, Israel needed to defend herself against external enemies.

“The law of Israel was the law of the land of Canaan, a land that typified heaven.”

That’s a gross overstatement. Israel was a national-state. As such, many of her laws were laws regarding social conduct, of the sort every nation-statement must legislate.

Feel free to explain how all the Mosaic laws and penalties regarding sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence typify heaven.

steve hays said,
November 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Todd said,
“So theonomists get to pick and choose which laws they can apply directly and which they can use only the general principle for statecraft. So since the death penalty was applied to homosexuals we can apply that directly, but since it would be awkward to apply Deut 25 directly we can just use the general principle. Very convenient, but how do you justify these distinctions Biblically?”

i) You’re not debating theonomists in general. At the moment, you’re debating me. It would behoove you to focus on my arguments.

I notice that you employ the tactic of deflecting objections to your position rather than answering them. But you have your own burden of proof to discharge. Punting to what you think is problematic in the opposing position does nothing to vindicate your own.

ii) Marriage is a creation ordinance Levirate marriage is not. Levirite marriage is adapted to a tribal society with clan ownership of property, which, in turn, selects for endogamy.

This is a case of drawing principled distinctions based on the underlying rationale for a given law. For you to call that “picking and choosing” is not a rational counterargument. It’s just an invidious characterization. If you can’t do any better than that, then you must not have a defensible position.

iii) I already discussed the issue of criteria in answer to Lane. Try to keep up with the debate:

“Who decides which OT civil penalties are valid as written, and which ones we should only take a general principle from?”

“Who decides” is an exercise in misdirection. That’s the line of argument that Catholics and Orthodox use to attack the right of private judgment.

It comes down to which side has the better of the argument. If you have a problem with that standard, then you’ve disqualified yourself from arguing for your own position. After all, “who decides” that your position makes more sense than theonomy or 2K? It would behoove you to avoid self-refuting objections.

“That was easy. In your opinion that law is ceremonial so you don’t need to obey it as written. And you say we are autonomous in our application :-)”

Once again, I didn’t say that. You’re not responding to me. Instead, you’re deflecting the objection rather than answering the objection. If you can’t defend your position by honest means, then that’s a tacit admission that your position is indefensible. Your evasive maneuvers betray the weakness of your position.

“The entire Mosaic Law presupposes the cultic holiness of Israel. “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it” (Deut 6:1). The Law of Israel was the Law of the special Land.”

And even if it was not a “special land,” it would still need many of the same laws.

“Maybe not ceremonial in the strict sense, but those laws only made sense under a God-ordained theocracy in a typological setting. There were many times God required Israel not to fight her enemies, but to allow the Lord to fight for them, would you apply those requirements to the state also?”

You continue to employ a mindless all-or-nothing approach. Even if Israel was not a “special land,” she would still need to defend herself against external enemies.
Israel didn’t need to defend herself merely because she was a holy nation. Rather, a national which happened to be holy needed to defend itself.

“Surely a modern magistrate may find wisdom and help from the Mosaic Law in general, as well as from Greek and Roman law, but the laws of Israel were for the special, theocratic nation that typified the church.”

Laws against theft and murder (to take two examples) aren’t “special” to Israel. Israel didn’t have laws against theft and murder because she was “special.”

A blind man is special. And it’s against the law to murder a blind man. But not because he’s special. His visual impairment is incidental to the crime.

“Because in heaven there are no sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence; and each individual, or Christ for them at the cross, will/have been legally judged at the justice seat in heaven for these sins.”

i) Typology doesn’t prefigure nonentities. In a type/antitype relation, both relata exist.

ii) More to the point, Israel had laws regarding sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence, not because they “typified” anything, but because every nation-state needs laws to regulate certain forms of social behavior. Otherwise, social life is impossible.

iii) Unless you believe in universal atonement or even universal salvation, Christ did not atone for every criminal.

iv) Likewise, the atonement does not absolve a thief or murderer. He is still liable to punishment here and now. Even if God forgives me for murder, that doesn’t amount to pardon. You’re confusing crimes with sins.

steve hays said,
November 9, 2008 at 11:55 am

D G Hart said,
“Mr. Glaser, thanks for the reference to pastor Bret’s use of Rom. 13 to justify civil disobedience. I wonder if that’s how Paul, the apostles or early Christians read it. The historical record would seem to indicate they did not since they did not resist a state that is far more tyrannical than the U.S.A. So quite possibly, Paul meant it the way that most Christians have read it, as a directive not to take matters into our own hands because it is God who established and ordained the magistrate.”

I’m not going to discuss the details of Bret’s exposition. Instead I’ll simply respond to Hart’s reply:

i) Let’s step back a few paces. To my knowledge, Green Baggins is a Reformed blog. Theonomy is well-represented in the Reformed tradition. The 2K position of someone like Meredith Kline is not. Kline was a theological innovator. He held very eccentric views on common grace and statecraft.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with questioning Reformed tradition. But it’s not as if the onus is on theonomy to disprove 2K. 2K is not the default position, which theonomy must overcome.

At a minimum, both sides have their respective burden of proof to discharge. Kline (and variants thereof) does not supply the standard of comparison.

ii) Hart was general editor of the Dictionary of the Presbyterian & Reformed Tradition in America. His own position is unrecognizable in relation to Reformed tradition if you compare it to the entries on “American Revolution, Presbyterians and the” (18ff.) or “Politics, Presbyterians and” (192f.).

That doesn’t mean his position is wrong. But let’s keep in mind which side of the debate is arguing from the Reformed viewpoint.

iii) Does Hart take the position that the Apostles were pacifists?

iv) He begs the question of whether the NT is the only relevant source of information on statecraft. But that’s the very issue in dispute.

Under the Mosaic law, the king was a constitutional monarch. By implication, he could be deposed if he strayed too far from the terms of the covenant. And that wasn’t purely theoretical. Under the reign of Athalia, the high priest did, in fact, stage a successful coup d’etat.

v) The Reformed tradition developed a theology of revolution. That was necessary because Catholic monarchs, at the instigation of the papacy, were attempting to extirpate the Protestant movement.

Does Hart repudiate the Reformed theology of revolution? Are there absolutely no circumstances in which Christian citizens are entitled to rebel?

We wouldn’t even be here today, having this discussion, if our Protestant forebears hadn’t found it necessary to take up arms and defend their freedom of religious expression.

vi) Notice that Hart doesn’t actually attempt to exegete Rom 13. As Jewett points out in his recent (2007) commentary, there’s a conditional element to Rom 13 (802-803). The Roman magistrate was not an absolute monarch.

Now, we can have a debate over when civil resistance or revolution is called for. At the moment I’m only interested in Hart’s general or hypothetical position.

steve hays said,
November 9, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Todd said,
“Well, I was debating self-proclaimed theonomists and you stepped in challenging me. Forgive me for not being able to keep up at one time with the multiple nuances of those against the 2k position; chalk it up to my subversive education at WSC.”

It doesn’t take anything to keep up with what *I* said to *you*.

And I said nothing about your WSC education, so that’s yet another diversionary tactic on your part.

“Since you seem to be angry…”

You’re in no position to know my psychological states.

“Well, I stand by my criticism of picking and choosing. My point is that it ends up being subjective and convenient which laws and penalties theonomists want to enforce in modern society and which they only want to only glean a general principle from, since the Law does make these distinctions itself.”

To the contrary, some of the laws are specifically adapted to the socioeconomic system of ancient Israel.

“What standard? If you have an exegetical challenge to my position then let it fly.”

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing all along.

“I’m sorry if you think you can jump in in the midst of an on-going debate and expect me to remember your posts from days ago.”

Every comment on this thread is a named comment. Pretty easy to know who said what.

And it’s not as if you have difficulty distinguishing comments by Hart from comments by Ritchie (to take one example).

“The Bible decides - c’mon, keep up with the debate - just kidding.”

I was responding to you own your own grounds. I see you have no counterargument.

“I gave the example of Deut 25, and you dismissed this law as ceremonial, though an argument could be made that this is a very moral thing to do.”

No, I didn’t “dismiss” it. I gave a reason. Pay attention.

And I didn’t say it was ceremonial. I said it was adapted to the socioeconomic conditions of the ANE in general and Israel in particular. That’s not ceremonial. The ceremonial law is concerned with categories of ritual purity and impurity. Pay attention.

I also said the underlying principle is still valid—which would not be the case if it were ceremonial. Pay attention.

You don’t really listen to your opponents. You simply operate with your preconception of what the opposing position amounts to, and you then reply with stock answers that are unresponsive to what your opponent actually said.

“My point is, theonomists want to require others, by law, to submit to the Mosaic code. But get three theonomists together and ask them which codes and penalties are to be enforced as written, and which are ceremonial and the principle only should be enforced, you rarely find agreement, even among themselves.”

You could say the same thing about any theological disagreement.

“It ends up being very subjective which laws and penalties you decide are ceremonial and typological and which ones are not.”

You continue to use a self-refuting objection. If mere disagreement entails subjectivity, then that relativizes your own alternative as well.

“I disagree that the Law itself separates these categories in a way you can use them for modern statecraft.”

Because you disregard the historical context, even when that lies on the face of a given injunction.

“Yes, but even those laws are covenantal, even those warfare, criminal, etc…laws presuppose the preamble to the Ten Commandments, that Israel is a special, redemptive theocracy unto the Lord, which cannot be translated into the NC state.”

The fact that they’re bundled into a covenant doesn’t mean they have no validity apart from the covenant. To the contrary, if they had no intrinsic merit, they wouldn’t be codified in the first place.

Israel is not a purely cultic entity. Rape, theft, murder, sodomy, bestiality, &c, weren’t illegal because they were ritually impure, but because they were morally impure.

Of course many of the laws can be translated into the NC state. Moral injunctions are transcultural.

“Again, the same criticism. Just because Israel had laws dealing with warfare, criminals, social welfare, and NC states have laws dealing with warfare, criminals, and social welfare, does not mean that Israel’s laws were given as an example of how all states outside the OT theocracy should be run.”

Why not? It’s an inspired law code. It gives you a window into God’s moral evaluation of social conduct. Rape, theft, murder, sodomy, bestiality were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.

Moreover, this is not merely a matter of personal ethics, but social ethics, which is directly germane to any nation-state, with its civil and criminal law code.

“Right, the OT theocracy the type, the church the anti-type. Canaan the type, the new heavens and earth the anti-type, the death penalty against Sabbath breakers the type, the Final Judgment the anti-type.”

No, you said these laws were a type of things that *don’t* happen in heaven. Types don’t prefigure nonentities or nonevents. “Antitype” doesn’t mean the *opposite* of the type.

Moreover, it’s a reductio ad absurdum for you to say that a law against rape or murder or sodomy or bestiality prefigures heaven. Your typology makes the most fanciful allegorist look sober-minded by comparison.

The function of a civil or criminal law code is not to prefigure the eschaton. Rather, the function of a civil or criminal law code is to regulate social conduct in a fallen world. It has no purpose in the Consummation. It’s purpose is for the here and now.

“Okay, now you’re just getting silly. Surely you understand I didn’t imply universalism.”

That’s the logic of your statement. And I wouldn’t take anything for granted at this point.

“Of course he is liable to punishment now, that doesn’t mean the penalties of the Mosaic Laws were given to inform us today how they are to be dealt with.”

i) You’ve been casting the issue in terms of eschatological judgment. Now you’re shifting gears.

ii) And what punishment do you think he is liable to now? What source and standard assigns a just punishment?

steve hays said,
November 9, 2008 at 3:24 pm

D G Hart said,

“Greenbaggins is an American Reformed blog. In case you didn’t notice, the American revisions of the Westminster Standards have taken a lot of grief at this blog in the last several weeks.”

i) In case you didn’t notice, that’s irrelevant to my response to you.

ii) In addition, the American revisions to the Westminster Standards are also irrelevant to Klinean 2K. Klinean 2K is not interchangeable with the revised standards. Not even close.

“For that reason, theonomy is much more an oddity in the U.S. among Presbyterians and Reformed than is the 2K view.

Which is why I’m putting this debate in historical perspective.

“Now the same people who supported the American revolution were the same Presbyterians who revised the Standards. I actually think they are different points, one having to do with the duties of the magistrate, the other with legitimate rebellion. But let’s not forget that both the Puritans and the Presbyterians were not keen on English rule, especially when it meant an aggressive Anglican church.”

Which doesn’t mean they held a position that bears any resemblance to Klinean 2K.

“As a Presbyterian, I do not follow the revolutionary Presbyterians in their justification for American independence.”

I’m not debating the theological justification (or not) of the Revolutionary War. But the fact that they were political activists, to the point of fomenting insurrection against the crown, puts them on a very different side of the 2K debate than your position. Whatever else they were, the Founding Fathers, and the Presbyterians who supported them, weren’t pacifists.

That doesn’t establish who is right or wrong in this debate. But let’s not treat something like Klinean 2K (or variations thereof) as the norm, of which theonomy is the deviation.

“I respect the wisdom of those deist founders.”

To say all the founding fathers were deists strikes me as a gross oversimplification of the historical record.

“It sure looks like the Apostles were pacifists personally, except maybe for Peter in the Garden. They didn’t rebel, they didn’t encourage Christians to rebel, and they willingly suffered for their beliefs. No, they were Anabaptists. They believed the state and the sword are legitimate institutions of God’s providential control. But they weren’t rebels. And they didn’t obey the state (obviously) all the time.”

i) I think it’s good to see you go on record as saying that 2K is committed to pacifism. And imputes pacifism to the Apostles. That helps to clarify the alternatives.

ii) Of course, I don’t agree. There’s an obvious reason the Apostles didn’t incite revolution. It would have been futile. I wouldn’t expect them to urge Christians to commit mass suicide by fomenting open rebellion against the military might of the Roman authorities.

iii) Does this mean the Apostles didn’t believe in the right of self-defense? Do you yourself deny to Christians the right of self-defense?

There may be occasions when it would be futile or counterproductive to exercise your rights, but do you deny, even as a matter of principle, the right of Christians to practice the true religion if that entails passive or active disobedience?

If an armed burglar broke into your home and threatened your wife and kids, would you repel his aggression with lethal force if you had the opportunity? Or would you practice “personal pacifism”?

What if Muslim-Americans begin to impose Sharia law in American cities where they are dominant? Should the authorities resist that imposition?

iv) In the long run, Rome didn’t succeed in stamping out the Christian movement. But the story doesn’t always have a happy ending. It didn’t have a happy ending in France. Or England under Bloody Mary. Or in the Muslim conquest of the Mideast and N. Africa.

“But for Christians I would imagine that the NT needs to be taken into account.”

Can you quote any theonomist who denies that?

“And that the different order that comes after Christ with the abrogation of the theocracy, is more decisive for Christian reflection on politics than is Deuteronomy.”

Of course, you’re simply assuming a radical discontinuity between OT social ethics and NT social ethics. But to take your own example, “It has often been pointed out that the list of sins in [1 Tim 1:9-10] not only recall the so-called ‘vice lists’ found in ancient moralistic writings, but follow topics in the Ten Commandments (Deut 5:6-21),” W. Liefeld, 1 & 2 Timothy/Titus (Zondervan 1999), 64.

So Paul sees continuity between Deuteronomic ethics and NT ethics at the very point where you assert discontinuity. You can have Plato and Aristotle—I’ll take Paul.

BTW, how would you argue against an ethicist like Peter Singer? What moral leverage would you use?

“I think you need to be careful in asserting that Reformed theology developed a doctrine of revolution. For starters, those who did not submit developed a doctrine of “resistance.” But many, including Calvin, counseled against resistance, and advised submission.”

It naturally varied with the threat level and the historical circumstances of the individual Reformer. While she was alive, Calvin had the support of Jeanne d’Albret. And they were both hoping that her son (Henri) would side with the Protestants if and when he became king. That didn’t take their side, although he did promulgate the Edict of Nantes—which was better than nothing.

steve hays said,
November 10, 2008 at 9:03 am

D G Hart said,

“Steve Hays: that’s fine. You appealed to the tradition of American Presbyterianism and it didn’t work out for you. Those Presbyterians were good colleagues of deists and other ‘idolaters’ by theonomic standards. They were also responsible for revising the Westmisnter Standards in ways that theonomists and Covenanters loathe. I guess that’s your bad.”

You’re deliberately ignoring the context in which I cited them. You have suggested that while the original Westminster Standards supported theonomy, the American Presbyterians who revised the Westminster Standards took a position far closer to your own.

But, as you’ve now made clear, your opposition to theonomy is based on your quasi-Anabaptist interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. That simply reinforces the contrast between 2K (as you conceive it) and the Presbyterians who revised the Westminster Standards.

Therefore, my appeal works out just fine for me. This serves to confirm the very point I used to illustrate. Try again.

Let’s also keep in mind that the original purpose of the Establishment Clause was to preserve the religious monopoly in certain states of the Union which already had an established church.

“Yes, I see that they were activist, and yes, I see that my disagreement with that activism means I give them two cheers rather than three. But I’m not sure how many cheers you have for them, other than that they resorted to arms. They certainly didn’t do so for the reasons you advocate.”

Whether intentionally or not, you have a penchant for missing the point. Did I indicate approval of their actions? No. I didn’t render a value judgment on their actions.

Rather, I explicitly cited their example to draw a historical contrast between their Presbyterianism and yours. And my point still stands. Try again.

Whenever we debate someone, it’s helpful to clarify at the outset how much common ground we have with that individual. How much can we take for granted? Every position assumes a prior position. So how far back in the series do we need to go?

If this is an intramural debate between one Calvinist and another, then there’s less that either side has to prove or disprove (as the case may be). However, your position isn’t much different than Ron Sider’s, at which point this ceases to be an intramural debate where both sides share the same Reformed framework.

At this juncture, based on your own representations, the case for 2K is predicated on Anabaptist hermeneutics, which, in turn, entails a radical discontinuity between OT ethics and NT ethics.

Fine. Anabaptism (and variations thereof) is entitled to a respectful hearing. But it also means that the split between theonomy and 2K occurs much lower in the tree.

“By personal pacificism I meant that I and the apostles (I guess) believe that Christians should turn the other cheek. (Talk about discontinuity.) The logic of turning the other cheek would seem to be a speed bump to armed insurrection. It would also appear to go against self-defense. In cases where my wife’s life, or those who needed assistance, were at stake, I’d do something physical (not sure what since I don’t own a gun). That’s why I’m not a real pacifist. I also believe the state bears the sword legitimately and that Christians may serve in the military or police. But if it were just my own life, I think the NT ethic is clear.”

You keep citing the Sermon on the Mount without bothering to exegete it. Quoting Scripture and understanding Scripture are two very different things.

Your appeal to the Sermon on the Mount is flawed in at least three basic respects:

i) On a general note: as NT scholars like France (2007 commentary on Matthew) point out, Jesus deliberately uses hyperbolic and paradoxical examples to drive home his point. By contrast, you’re as woodenly literal as Tim LaHaye.

ii) On another general note, as France also points out, the Sermon on the Mount is set in the context of a shame culture where certain words and actions were an affront to the injured party’s personal honor. This could even be an actionable offense, although no physical harm was inflicted.

iii) On a specific note: many commentators have noted that, since most folks are right-handed, a blow to the right cheek would involve a backhanded slap. As such, this is not a case of assault and battery. Rather, this is a slight to the injured party’s honor.

Jesus is rejecting the honor code which would justify personal retaliation for public humiliation. It has nothing to do with self-defense.

I don’t see any evidence that you’ve done your exegetical homework. If you have, it doesn’t show. Quoting chapter and verse is no substitute for grammatico-historical exegesis.

“(I don’t think the NT is clear that tea tariffs warrant rebellion.)”

A diversionary tactic, since that was no part of my argument.

“And as far as theonomists not using the NT, your allie Daniel Ritchie has had a devil of a time finding support for theonomy in the NT. By asking him for NT texts, he accused me of being a Reformed Dispensationalist. Apparently the NT is a stumbling block to some theonomists (not to mention the Sermon on the Mount).”

i) Another diversionary tactic, where you try to deflect attention away from my argument. When you resort to these decoys, that merely betrays the weakness of your own position.

ii) And, once again, you haven’t exegeted any NT text. So you haven’t established your claim on the NT. I already corrected your erroneous appeal to Rom 13 (where I cited Jewett). And I countered your rejection of Deuteronomy by citing 1 Tim 1:9-10, along with a reference to Liefeld’s commentary on that passage.

For a more detailed discussion of this passage, see Towner’s analysis (2006 commentary on Timothy/Titus, 124ff.), where he also draws attention to the OT background, viz. the 5th and 6th commandments, as well as the Levitical proscriptions against sodomy.

When are you going to shoulder your burden of proof by actually mounting an exegetical argument for your position rather than assuming what you need to prove?

steve hays said,
November 10, 2008 at 9:56 am

Todd said,
“You’ve mentioned that Revelation criticizes Rome, and that you believe some of the Mosaic laws are culturally informed and therefore not directly applicable in our culture; any other exegesis I have missed from you on this thread?”

And you’ve not demonstrated any flaw in my appeal to Revelation, which was in direct response to your erroneous claim regarding the silence of the NT concerning the Roman regime.

“Again, my disagreement with you is that I believe it is invalid to use the Mosaic law in the way you are suing it, to try to discern the principles or the direct applications and use them for modern statecraft.”

Your belief is not an argument.

“That’s funny, I was thinking that about you.”

Document where what I said was unresponsive to what my opponent said.

“How so? Demonstrate the inconsistency of the 2k position. I don’t have the conundrum of trying to discern which Mosaic laws apply to modern statecraft directly, which only in principle, and how they apply. How is that relativistic?”

I don’t have to demonstrate inconsistency since I was responding to you on your own terms, and that was not your argument. Your argument for subjectivity was based on mere disagreement.

And, of course, it’s not as though the 2K proponents agree with each other. Lee Irons and Scott Clark are both 2K proponents, but they fundamentally disagree over the role of natural law as the alternative source and standard of social ethics. And I seriously doubt that all 2K proponents share Darryl Hart’s denial of the right of self-defense.

“This is where we disagree. The similarities between the civil laws of Israel and NC state laws are only formal similarities. The OT laws had intrinsic merit for God’s holy, theocratic people. I could make the same case for a NC law, as in Paul’s command not to marry unbelievers. The law is a covenantal law for God’s covenantal people, with no real correspondence to any civil law of modern government. That is how I believe the Mosaic Law in its entirety is to be understood.”

You act as if you’re a theological voluntarist, according to which a divine command is an arbitrary fiat. What was immoral yesterday is moral today, while what was moral yesterday is immoral today.

The covenant is not what makes something moral or immoral. Rather, the covenant codifies (to some extent) the moral law. Sodomy is not immoral because it’s illegal; rather, sodomy is illegal because it’s immoral (“illegal” according to Mosaic Law).

“Well, I would say both. They were also ritually impure because they defiled the land, God’s special presence.”

If you say they are both, then you’re admitting that they are illegal under OT law because they are immoral. And if they were immoral then, they remain immoral now.

Hence, you admit that, to some degree, the Mosaic law codifies the moral law. And the moral law is transcultural.

“Yes, and 2k disagrees with this theonomic premise. The Mosaic laws and penalties were never meant to be translated into the NC state. We believe that is a misuse of the OT law.”

Stating your opinion is not an argument.

“Now of course the underlying natural law realities discerned in the Mosaic law, such as the general idea of penalties for crimes, punishing harm of neighbor, etc…will be codified at some level in every NC state, but these ideas were already codified in societies before the Law came.”

In that event, they can be translated into the NC state.

And these ideas were not uniformly codified in pagan societies. To some extent, the Mosaic law is countercultural. In many respects it’s an explicit repudiation of heathen social ethics.

“There is a difference between saying the law reveals what is sin in God’s eyes, and that the penalties prescribed in the Mosaic code are apt penalties to be used for NC, non-theocratic states. The former we affirm, the latter we deny. For example, the Law makes clear God’s views of idolatry. But we deny the penalties against idolatry in Israel can be used in NC non-theocratic states, or that a theocratic state is a goal NC Christians should attain to.”

You try to use one example to discredit every example. That’s an argument from analogy minus the analogy. You would have to show that sodomy and idolatry (to take one example) are equivalent. Given the cultic holiness of Israel, it’s easy to see why idolatry would be a capital offense—for Israelites.

Remember, there were resident aliens in Israel who worshipped false gods. That, of itself, was not a capital offense. It was a capital offense for a member of the covenant community. That is quite different for something like bestiality.

“Yes, I was using too much already/not yet thinking in a short sentence, which does look confusing. Point being, the Law is being fulfilled in the church, which is filled with God’s Spirit from heaven, which lives in God’s heavenly presence through Jesus, so the positive requirements of the Law have an already dimension (besides the forensic element of imputed righteousness). The Mosaic penalties for sin will be fulfilled at final judgment, which I think is one of the points of the Sermon on the Mount. They have already been fulfilled at the cross for the elect.”

You’re confusing justification with sanctification. Christians are justified in Christ. But Christians are still under the moral law. Your position sounds antinomian.

And Paul’s statement in 1 Tim 9:9-10 involves an application of Mosaic law to unbelievers. So unbelievers are also subject to the moral law (in this case, codified in the Decalogue and Levitical proscriptions against sodomy).

“Have you considered Hebrews 2:1-4? I’ll let a good 2k Texan, Lane Tipton, respond better than I ever could.”

Tipton’s conclusion doesn’t even follow from his own premise. If the Mosaic sanctions represent a “semi-realized eschatology,” then they would have both historical and eschatological manifestations. They would be exemplified in the here-and-now as well as the hereafter.

And we don’t need to turn to the NT to find a distinction between “now” and “not yet.” The OT has a Day of the Lord. Evildoers who escape justice in this life will receive their comeuppance in the afterlife. So there’s no dichotomy between temporal penalties and eternal penalties. Try again.

Moreover, the fact that Mosaic sanctions anticipate the final judgment doesn’t mean that Mosaic sanctions exist solely to anticipate the final judgment, as if they had no other function. A nation-state needs to outlaw certain forms of social conduct.

“I’m sorry, I believe the Bible refuses to answer that question for you. I do not believe the Bible is interested in granting the political solutions for happy, peaceful, religious political kingdoms of man in the new covenant, so I answer that question the same way I answer the husband who wants to know why God doesn’t tell us how to cure his wife’s cancer, and how is a doctor to know how God might want him to heal her.”

Now you’re ducking the consequences of your own position. You admitted that a criminal is liable to punishment now. But you deny that Scripture tells us what punishment he’s liable to.

Okay, so what’s your alternative? What would be a just punishment? If 2K can’t even begin to answer that question, then civil and criminal penalties are utterly arbitrary. Is that the cash-value of your position?

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 9:58 am

Todd said,
“Well, being A-mil and not prone to partial preterism, I may have a different view of Revelation than you do.”

I take the same position as Beale and Poythress: amil/modified idealism. Try again.

“But I think the picture of the state in Revelation much more supports the 2k position. The state being criticized in Rev. is not just Rome, but all states and government authority. Rev. demonstrates that state authority is never Christian, and through the church age this human authority will at some level persecute believers. The kingdom of man will always be the kingdom of man this side of the consummation. I do not think this picture in Rev. nullifies the argument that the Apostles never verbally criticize or attack the civil authorities or their policies, or ever command the church to.”

Now you’re moving the goalpost. This was your original question, which you posed as a challenge to theonomy:

“Some interesting thoughts, but I think you need to ask some questions, such as, why don’t the Apostles ever address the sins of Rome?”

Even on the view of amil commentators like Beale and Poythress, the Roman regime is a target of John’s censure. The fact that John uses the Roman state to illustrate a general principle (“not just Rome”) doesn’t subtract from the fact that Revelation involves a very pointed criticism of the sins of Rome—with special reference to the Roman magistracy.

I answered you on your own grounds. If you were honest, you’d acknowledge the point and withdraw your original objection.

But no, you now indulge in special pleading to salvage your original claim even though you have to modify your original claim in the process. In Revelation, John clearly criticizes the civil authorities and their policies. Amil commentators have no difficulty recognizing that fact.

I’d add that Revelation doesn’t demonstrate that state authority is “never” Christian. There were no Christian states or governments at the time it was written. The immediate setting is the Roman Empire, with historical allusions to pagan nations in the past.

“True, but we are not disagreeing over special revelation, but how to apply general revelation to civil law, which we admit is difficult because we do not have direct prescriptions. The accusation against using general revelation to guide civil law is usually that it is arbitrary, yet I see theonomists using the Law in the same way, arbitrarily.”

So, by the logic of your objection, 2K is just as “subjective” as theonomy, in which event your objection was self-refuting. Try again.

“No, I think I have answered this many times. A sin can be a sin in any covenant administration, but the specific penalties for that sin in a certain covenant administration may not be appropriate for different covenant administrations. That is biblical theology, not moral relativism.”

Unless you think the Mosaic penalties were unjust, then what was just then is just now. A just penalty is a moral norm. A universal. Justice is transcultural.
If you deny that, then your denial commits you to moral relativism.

At best you could argue that we are free to be more merciful. But a just penalty still sets a moral threshold of what a crime deserves. It deserves no less than this (possibly more), whether or not we give the criminal what he deserves.

“Yes, homosexuality is immoral. But that doesn’t mean because the death penalty was prescribed for homosexuals under the Mosaic law, that that is the expected standard punishment governments outside the theocracy should implement. Do you?”

It means that capital punishment is a just penalty for sodomy. So it wouldn’t be wrong to execute sodomites.

As I’ve also pointed out, in my response to Keister, under OT laws, some penalties could be commuted. And the Mosaic law also distinguishes between penitent and impenitent sinners.

I’ve already been over this ground before. Pay attention.

BTW, sodomites have a habit of seducing underage minors. How do you think that crime should be punished? Or should it be a crime?

“Besides homosexuality being sinful, Paul tells me to seek to associate with them (I Cor 5), not seek to establish a society where we may put them to death. I think we’re beginning to go around in circles on this issue.”

You’re confusing the duties of the church with the duties of the state. Do you think we should treat all crimes as cases of church discipline? In that event, you’d repeal all laws against all sex crimes, property crimes, crimes of violence, &c.

“Immoral and illegal are not the same thing. Many sins were illegal under Moses that cannot be illegal in NC states.”

Now you’re evading the force of your own statement. You have a dishonest streak.

You admitted that in some cases, the Mosaic civil law overlaps the moral law. Where they intersect, why wouldn’t we continue to outlaw those actions which violate the moral law? Isn’t the moral law transcultural?

“I don’t remember saying uniformly, but yes, many societies already contained laws against murder, theft rape, etc…before the Law. That’s all I meant.”
And they also contain immoral laws.

“That argues for my position. The fact that they were in many respects counter cultural is due to their theocratic nature, which was unique to OT Israel.”

No, it’s due to the fact that paganism is morally depraved. As such, pagan nations often had laws that violate the moral law of God. Take child sacrifice.

Or do you think we should decriminalize child sacrifice? After all, the prohibition against child sacrifice was just a unique, theocratic prohibition, right?

We wouldn’t want to impose a unique, theocratic law like the prohibition against child sacrifice on a NC state, now would we?

“Right, I understand that theonomists are not suggesting a righteous state would persecute everyone who didn’t believe the established religion based upon the distinctions you mention above. Yet I have my doubts whether that would hold up in practice. History has not left a good record of what Christians do when they are given political power to establish or enforce religion.”

I see. Does history have a better record of what unbelievers do when they are in power? Do you think that Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot or Idi Amin has a better track record than Abraham Kuyper?

“I said the Law was being fulfilled in the life of the Christian. Anti-nomian?”

No, you’ve said they were fulfilled in the life of Christ, not the life of the Christian. I can quote your own words back to you verbatim if you can’t remember what you said.

“The same Paul who in Romans said the purpose of the Law was to expose sin and drive people to Christ? Yes, the Law is for unbelievers, but is the Apostle suggesting in I Tim that unbelievers are subject to the OT civil penalties of those particular laws, or that they as unbelievers still need the Law to expose their sin before God?”

In Reformed theology, there are three uses of the law. Do you reject Reformed theology in tha respect?

“Yes, as Lane wrote, the here and now is the cross (for believers), the hereafter is the Judgment Seat (for unbelievers).”

Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5,10), or Herod (Acts 12:23). Even in the church age, divine judgment is manifested in the here-and-now as well as the hereafter.
“I don’t know, what is the best treatment for cancer?”

That is hardly analogous. In penology and jurisprudence, the question at issue is a moral question, involving moral norms. Universals.

What social behavior is wrong? What social behavior should be outlawed? What’s a just punishment for a particular crime?

That involves a question of justice. Timeless norms. Moral absolutes.

The best treatment for cancer is not a question of abstract, universal truths about right and wrong. It’s a purely contingent, person-variable issue.

What works for one cancer patient may not work for another.

How’s that comparison the least bit relevant to the just punishment for child rape (to take one example)?

If you really think that penology is analogous to medicine, then that commits you to moral relativism since medication is person-variable.

You don’t show much evidence of having thought through your position.

“If your answer to my question on cancer is utterly arbitrary, then I guess my answer would be ‘yes,’ but I still like the category of wisdom and natural law for politics and legal penalties, just like I do for curing cancer.”

Fine, let’s see you apply natural law to actual cases. According to natural law, are the following actions right or wrong?

Therapeutic abortion
Eugenic abortion
Elective abortion
Voluntary euthanasia
Involuntary euthanasia
Virtual child pornography
Birth control
Therapeutic cloning
Surrogate motherhood
Negligent homicide
Defensive warfare
Preemptive warfare
Civil disobedience
Remedial punishment
Retributive punishment
Capital punishment
Corporal punishment

Which actions are morally licit, and why? Which actions are morally illicit, and why?

Assuming that you regard one of more of these actions as wrong, which of them should be outlawed?

After you identify which actions would be crimes, also state what just penalties natural law would assign to these crimes, and why.

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Todd said,
“The law is being fulfilled in the church, God’s people (not only Christ, as you asserted I wrote.)”

I see you can only remember one thing at a time. Before you said that, you also said this, in which you used an either/or formulation:

““Because in heaven there are no sex crimes, property crimes, and crimes of violence; and each individual, or Christ for them at the cross, will/have been legally judged at the justice seat in heaven for these sins.”

Therefore, on your formulation, the individual doesn’t have to keep the law.

“Seeing your responses in this debate, you use some standard rhetorical debating techniques. You try to make your opponents look bad by constantly accusing them of deliberate dishonesty, as if you know their hearts, and then you speak to them like children to try to make them look ignorant. But if you think it works, go ahead.”

And you use some standard evasive maneuvers. When someone answers you on your own grounds, and you move the goalposts, that’s dishonest.

“As for the OT penalties, I don’t know how many times I can answer the same questions, so this will be my last time with you.”

That’s because all you have are prepared answers. And when someone poses a question for which you have no prepared answer, all you can do is repeat the same unresponsive answer. You’re unable to advance the argument beyond your formulaic replies.

“But you may want to get a hold of L. Tipton’s full exegetical paper on this point, for he does a wonderful job of refuting theonomy concerning the OT penalties.”

If you’ve read his paper, and he does such a wonderful job of refuting theonomy, then you should be able to reproduce that refutation in response to me.
“Again, the OT Mosaic penalties are just, in that all sins deserve death, and Final Judgment will be just against all sins. The OT penalties typify Final Judgment, they are not appropriate for this NC age.”

Bad answer. Not all sins are crimes. The Mosaic law criminalized some sins, but not others. That’s because it’s a legal code for a nation-state, and not all sins are the proper subject matter of a civil or criminal law code. Rather, the Mosaic law singles out a number of sins which are most germane to social ethics.

“The OT penalties typify Final Judgment, they are not appropriate for this NC age.”

i) That’s an incoherent objection. If they typify the final judgment, then they typify the final judgment under the OC age as well as the NC age. So, by your logic, they were equally inappropriate for the OC age.

ii) Moreover, you fail to distinguish between crimes and penalties. Even if, ex hypothesi, the penalties typify the final judgment, this doesn’t mean that the crimes typify the final judgment—as if the only purpose of criminalizing these activities was to typify the final judgment. Rape wasn’t outlawed because it typifies the final judgment. It was outlawed because it’s the sort of sin which destroys the social fabric, and that’s impermissible in a nation-state (or any society).

iii) You also have an odd habit of oscillating between heaven and the final judgment, as if these were interchangeable. At an earlier point you said these crimes typified heaven because such crimes don’t exist in heaven.

But that’s a very different argument. And at other points you say they typify the cross, or they typify the church.

For you, they typify just about everything except the state.

“As for that long list of sins (is birth control a sin?) in your previous post, I would be fascinated to read what you think you believe the just biblical, civil penalties should be for each.”

I’ve been blogging on social ethics for several years, so you’re behind the curve. And the fact that you try to shift the burden of proof is a backdoor admission that you can’t begin to offer a constructive alternative.

“As for me, given man’s sin nature, I think the Lord has done a pretty good job of preserving society for thousands of years through natural law, so I am content with this type of preservation until he returns.”

i) Both the OT and NT contain scathing indictments of pagan morality.

ii) And when, once again, I challenged you to make good on your own claims, you drew a blank. You were the one who said that you turn to natural law for guidance, as an alternative to OT ethics.

Very well, then. Let’s put that to the test. How does that abstraction cash out in specific cases? As soon as I ask you to state how natural law actually applies to a raft of real world examples, you wimp out.

So, by the way you respond in silence as soon as I list some concrete examples, and ask you how many, if any, natural law would classify as wrong; how many, if any, natural law would criminalize; and what just penalties natural law would assign to each, your appeal to natural law turns out to be a vacuous placeholder which offers no specific moral direction on the most fundamental questions of penology and jurisprudence. Thanks for illustrating the utter bankruptcy of your 2K alternative. Once we peel back the label, there’s nothing underneath.

iii) Oh, and birth control is an excellent test-case. Natural law theorists typically oppose birth control on the grounds that contraception is unnatural or contrary to nature since the natural purpose of sex is procreation, which contraception deliberately impedes.

So, if you’re going to invoke natural law as your source and standard of ethical guidance, then feel free to mount a natural law justification for birth control.

“And Luther’s warning about a theology of glory verses a theology of the cross transcends all traditions and denominations; they are warnings every Christian needs to heed.”

They constitute a frontal assault on Reformed theological method.

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Todd said,
“So I answer that question the same way I answer the husband who wants to know why God doesn’t tell us how to cure his wife’s cancer, and how is a doctor to know how God might want him to heal her.”

That comparison involves a fatal disanalogy. You’re comparing God’s revealed will (i.e. preceptive will in the OT) with his decretive will.

The fact that we don’t know the mind of God in matters where he keeps his own counsel is irrelevant to the debate over the degree of discontinuity between OT ethics and NT ethics—where he has disclosed his will, at one time or another.

“Again, the OT Mosaic penalties are just, in that all sins deserve death, and Final Judgment will be just against all sins. The OT penalties typify Final Judgment, they are not appropriate for this NC age. If that is moral relativism in your eyes, so be it.”

Many Mosaic crimes didn’t rise to the level of capital offenses. Therefore, if you think the death penalty typifies the final judgment, and many Mosaic crimes didn’t carry the death penalty, then, by your own logic, many Mosaic crimes and penalties don’t typify the final judgment. So their justification is more mundane.

“Most of the laws already on the books against murder, rape, theft, arson seem fine to me.”

On what basis do they seem fine to you? How would you argue down an ethicist like Peter Singer, whose moral intuition is very different from yours?

Keep in mind that, even in our secularized culture, many of our criminal laws reflect a Christian legacy.

steve hays said,
November 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Todd said,
“I think natural law argues well against abortion (murder is wrong, we can see, especially with modern science, that the fetus is a child).”

Seems to me a natural law theorist could argue for abortion, or infanticide. Traditionally, natural law theory has been the province of Catholicism, so the results of natural law theory have a way of coinciding with Catholic moral theology.

But what about a secular natural law theorist? In the animal kingdom, a mother may reduce her litter by killing the runts. Or the stronger siblings may kill the runts. This improves the chances of survival for the remaining offspring since they don’t have to share the food.

Likewise, a natural law theorist might argue that exposing the child of a large family is for the common good. Better to have a few well-fed kids rather than many malnourished kids.

Biblical ethics would forbid this ruthless utilitarianism, but I don’t see how natural law theory does so.

Likewise, what are the results if we apply natural law theory to the rationing of medical care?

Todd said,

“I think Scott Clark has well demonstrated that natural law is historically reformed, and I am convinced of his research, so we may leave that as one of our many disagreements.”

i)Which misses the point. I didn’t say that natural law theory is at odds with Calvinism. What I said, rather, is that natural law theory has a way of rubberstamping the ethical presuppositions of the natural law theorist. If he’s a Catholic natural law theorist, he will “discover” that natural law underwrites Catholic moral theology. But if he’s a secular ethicist, he will “discover” that natural law underwrites secular ethics, of one variety or another.

ii)Moreover, there’s a difference between claiming that natural law can supplement God’s preceptive will, and claiming that natural law should supplant God’s preceptive will.

“But the Bible teaches that men, apart from the Mosaic Law, through conscience know God’s moral law (Rom 1:32), so if abortion is morally wrong I can appeal to the conscience, as well as science.”

Of course, this is very hypothetical since all your doing is to appeal to the generic category of natural law rather than mounting an actual argument against abortion based on natural law.

What I see is some 2k proponents make these vague, promissory claims about the moral resources of natural law theory, but I don’t see them go beyond their purely programmatic claims to do the actual spadework. As I’ve already said, it’s a 3-step process:

i) Show, from natural law theory, what forms of social conduct are wrong
ii) Show, from natural law theory, what wrongful forms of social conduct should be outlawed.
iii) Show, from natural law theory, what just penalty should be assigned to unlawful forms of social conduct.

Point me to a 2k proponent who has done this. If you can’t, it’s a vacuous appeal.

“I could appeal to the Bible also if he was willing, but I would make the point that his conscience backs the Bible on this.”

What part of the Bible could you appeal to? You’ve already written off OT ethics in toto. If you’re going to limit yourself to NT ethics, then you need to repeat the same 3-step process:

i) Show, from NT, what forms of social conduct are wrong
ii) Show, from NT ethics, what wrongful forms of social conduct should be outlawed.
iii) Show, from NT ethics, what just penalty should be assigned to unlawful forms of social conduct.

“How would following the law of God written on the conscience hurt people this way?”

i) If you’re alluding to Rom 2:14-15, I incline to the view of scholars like Cranfield, Gathercole, Jewett, Wright, and Zahn that this has reference to Christian gentiles rather than pagan gentiles.

ii) In real world situations, we’re often confronted with apparent ethical dilemmas. Appeal to conscience is useless to resolve these quandaries since the problem is generating by conflicting intuitions. When intuition is divided against itself, intuition can’t be its arbiter. You need more tools in your ethical toolkit.

“Except that I consider NC statecraft outside God’s decretive will, like I do the curing of cancer, so the comparison works for me.”

i) A Calvinist doesn’t regard anything as outside of God’s decretive will. Did you mean preceptive will?

ii) So you think the NT is silent on statecraft?

iii) The issue is larger than statecraft. It goes to the general issue of Biblical ethics, whether OT ethics or NT ethics. Statecraft is a subset of Biblical ethics.

For example, whether the Bible speaks to the moral status of abortion is a separate issue from whether the Bible speaks to church/state relations.

“Well, I don’t relegate those more mundane laws as completely outside the realm of typology concerning Canaan as a picture of the new heavens and earth, but in my view even the smaller Mosaic penalties were not written to be used as guides to NC statecraft.”

i) Once again, you’re moving the goalpost. You originally said that Mosaic laws are typical because the death penalty typifies the final judgment.

When I answer you on your own terms by pointing out that many Mosaic penalties felt short of capital punishment, you shift grounds. That’s not an honest reply.

ii) And it’s silly to say that every Mosaic law typifies the final state. That turns the Mosaic law into an elaborate allegory of heaven—which results in any number of fanciful, arbitrary, and mutually exclusive allegorical interpretations of what a given law typifies.

iii) As I’ve mentioned on several occasions now, many of these laws have a completely practical, down-to-earth purpose.

iv) And as I also pointed out, you keep oscillating over what the Mosaic laws typify. They typify the church. No, they typify the final judgment. No, they typify the consummation.

These are not convertible propositions. If Mosaic laws typify the church, then they apply to the church age, not the consummation.

You seem to have a very ad hoc notion of what they typify. The only thing they have in common is to avoid at all costs ever allowing them typify the state. It’s a purely reactionary position, driven by your distaste for theonomy.

“I would argue that past history and common sense aptly demonstrates that throwing millions of more dollars at Africa will not solve their problems, as one example.”

I’m not discussing foreign aid. I’m discussing Singer’s position on issues like abortion, infanticide, eugenics, euthanasia, &c.

Peter Singer appeals to common sense, too. He’s a utilitarian, and invoking the common good is often intuitively appealing. Killing 50 to save 100. That sort of thing.

“What would be the point of using biblical arguments if he, or those listening to such a debate, didn’t even accept the innerancy of Scripture?”

i) To begin with, Christians need a principled position for themselves. Regardless of what the world does, we are answerable to God for our own actions. So we need to be clear on what God requires of us as individuals, regardless of whether we can convince or compel other men and women to do right.

ii) We also need a principled position to demarcate the permissible limits of cooperation or compromise with the unbeliever. Up to a point, it’s okay to seek common ground. But what we share in common with the unbeliever must be grounded in God’s moral law for mankind, and not mere expediency.

iii) A Christian natural law theorist will be arguing from (and for) a theistic version of natural law theory. In many cases that will already involve him in a debate over the religious foundations of morality. As long as we have to argue for theistic ethics, why not argue for Christian ethics?