Thursday, March 03, 2011

Hart failure

Over at Green Baggins, Reed DePace has posted the 2k principles of Darryl Hart. I’m going to comment on some of his principles.

Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.

i) And what is the duty of church members when the state punishes goodness and rewards wickedness?

ii) How does that mesh with the natural law component of 2k? Even if we treat the alleged silence of the NT on civil disobedience or revolution as prohibitive thereof, surely it's easy to come up with natural law justifications for civil disobedience or even revolution. Take a natural law social contract theorist. If a magistrate oversteps the bounds of the social contract, if he flagrantly violates the terms of the social contract, then wouldn't that warrant tyrannicide–as a last resort?

There's a basic tension between the 2k appeal to NT ethics and the 2k appeal to natural law ethics.

iii) Who’s the magistrate?

In many times and places you don't have an orderly transition of power. Rather, there are often rival claimants to the throne.

Take a banana republic where the opposition candidate wins fair-and-square, but still loses to the reigning dictator. One candidate has the votes, the other has the tanks.

So who should Christian citizens submit to? The de jure magistrate or the de facto magistrate?

iv) And that, in turn, raises yet another problem: which takes precedence: the law or the magistracy?

Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that civil law codifies natural law. The opposition candidate has the law on his side.

But the reigning dictator has the army behind him. He's bribed the generals and the foot-soldiers. So he's not going to step down without a fight. He must be forced from power.

So where does the civic duty of the Christian lie? Should he support the lawfully elected candidate, or the military dictator?

If natural law sets the standard, then presumably he should support the lawfully elected candidate even if that would involve fomenting revolution against the ruling party.

On the other hand, 2k proponents constantly cite Roman gov't as their limiting case. Submit to Nero. Submit to Caligula. Yet many Roman emperors were usurpers.

So do we submit to the usurper, and support the status quo–or do we support the legitimate claimant, even if that's seditious?

Does natural law require us to be traitors?

Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians [sic.], and assemblies.

i) What was the duty of church members during the Arian controversy? Wasn't Athanasius bucking the establishment?

What was the duty of Luther, Calvin, Vermingli, and other first-generation Protestants? Was it to follow their individual interpretation of Scripture or defer to the religious establishment (i.e. Rome)?

If Hart lived in 16-17C England, would he side with the Puritans or the church of England? Weren't the Puritans the dissidents in relation to the established church?

ii) Wouldn’t it be more sensible to say the true interpretation binds the conscience? After all, it's possible for individuals to be right and collectives to be wrong.

Do the sessions, presbyteries, and assemblies of the PCUSA bind the conscience?

iii) What if one Presbyterian denomination disagrees with another on some point of doctrine or practice? Does it bind the conscience of a church member when he belongs to one Presbyterian denomination, but ceases to bind the conscience when he changes membership? 

1 comment:

  1. Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.

    Does Darryl Hart condemn those Christian colonist church members (both clergy and lay) who rebelled and disobeyed the English magistrates before and during the American Revolution?

    Does Darryl Hart condemn Dietrich Bonhoeffer for rebelling against Hitler and the Nazi regime?