The Bible and the Politics of Sex

Discussions about the relative value of special (i.e. the Bible) or general revelation (e.g. natural law) for politics and society often bog down on the politics of sex. What about abortion? It is a heinous practice that cannot be outlawed on as flimsy a basis as natural law or private conscience. What about gay marriage? The Greeks were pretty good at natural law sorts of arguments but not necessarily reliable on same-sex relationships. Or what about women in the military? (I actually think nature is far more instructive here than God’s word, having seen some of the tortured reasoning from Presbyterian communions on women serving in the military.) The idea that most Americans will rally around an argument from general revelation to ban women from the armed services seems far fetched.

And of course beyond whether or not natural law will be more effective than Scripture in public debate is the issue of what’s right. If God requires certain kinds of holiness from his people, and believers are implicated in a host of immoral activities by virtue of their citizenship and taxes at work, then shouldn’t Christians object to laws and policies on the clear grounds of the Bible?

The problem for sufficiency-of-Scripture advocates, though, is that government these days involves a lot more than sex. After all, the president’s health care legislation is more than 1,000 pages. I haven’t seen it. I know many believers are concerned about the potential for government-funded abortion. But can this piece of legislation simply be boiled down to pro-life implications? At stake are questions about the power of the federal government, the private sectors of medical insurers, drug companies, the livelihoods of physicians, and even public health. In other words, I’d bet that 99 percent of the document involves matters that Scripture won’t resolve. And yet, Christians only seem to react to those aspects of law that pertain to abortion while insisting that the Bible is the standard for public life.

An article in the New Republic recently about copyright laws and Google’s attempts to make all books available on line illustrates the weak link in the Bible only argument. The author, Laurence Lessig, starts with the case of Grace Guggenheim, the daughter of a successful documentary film maker who wanted to reproduce digitally all the films made by her father. But Guggenheim could not complete the task. Lessig explains:

Her project faced two challenges, one obvious, one not. The obvious challenge was technical: gathering fifty years of film and restoring it digitally. The non-obvious challenge was legal: clearing the rights to move this creative work onto this new platform for distribution. Most people might be puzzled about just why there would be any legal issue with a child restoring her father’s life’s work. After all, when we decide to repaint our grandfather’s old desk, or sell it to a neighbor, or use it as a workbench or a kitchen table, no one thinks to call a lawyer first. But the property that Grace Guggenheim curates is of a special kind. It is protected by copyright law.

Documentaries in particular are property of a special kind. The copyright and contract claims that burden these compilations of creativity are impossibly complex. The reason is not hard to see. A part of it is the ordinary complexity of copyright in any film. A film is made up of many different creative elements–music, plot, characters, images, and so on. Once the film is made, any effort at remaking it–moving it to DVD, for example–could require clearing permissions for each of these original elements. But documentaries add another layer of complexity to this already healthy thicket, as they typically also include quotations, in the sense of film clips. So just as a book about Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Jonathan Alter might have quotes from famous people talking about its subject, a film about civil rights produced in the 1960s would include quotations–clips from news stations–from famous people of the time talking about the issue of the day. Unlike a book, however, these quotations are in film–typically, news footage from CBS or NBC.

The point of Lessig’s example is that reproducing documentaries becomes impossible because of the fees necessary to secure permission (again) to use footage contained in the original product. For instance, one documentary on the Civil Rights movement, considered the most complete visual chronicle of the events, will never be seen again because the original permissions have expired and the company that made the film no longer exists.

Lessig goes on to raise questions about the recent settlement of Google’s plans to reproduce books on-line. He believes that a similar set of hurdles has entered the realm of books that once only applied to other media. He concludes:

I have no clear view. I only know that the two extremes that are before us would, each of them, if operating alone, be awful for our culture. The one extreme, pushed by copyright abolitionists, that forces free access on every form of culture, would shrink the range and the diversity of culture. I am against abolitionism. And I see no reason to support the other extreme either–pushed by the content industry–that seeks to license every single use of culture, in whatever context. That extreme would radically shrink access to our past.

Instead we need an approach that recognizes the errors in both extremes, and that crafts the balance that any culture needs: incentives to support a diverse range of creativity, with an assurance that the creativity inspired remains for generations to access and understand. This may be too much to ask. The idea of balanced public policy in this area will strike many as oxymoronic. It is thus no wonder, perhaps, that the likes of Google sought progress not through better legislation, but through a clever kludge, enabled by genius technologists. But this is too important a matter to be left to private enterprises and private deals. Private deals and outdated law are what got us into this mess. Whether or not a sensible public policy is possible, it is urgently needed.

This is a long article, well worth reading for those interested in law and the future of the book. And this post hardly does justice either to the article or issues involved. But the article does illustrate a point: most of what magistrates do pertains to matters far removed from the clear moral teaching of Scripture about sex and marriage. So if some are going to fault natural law for not performing a slam dunk on the hot button topics of the culture wars (abortion and gay marriage), when will those advocates of a biblical approach to politics admit that Scripture won’t resolve important questions like this one about the copyright of words and images?

Share/Bookmark
This entry was posted in Christian politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

81 Comments

  1. Posted March 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the stimulating thoughts. I’m unsure, though, how this denies what “sufficiency-of-Scripture advocates” are saying. I don’t believe such writers would argue that we have all information necessary for every area of life. As I’ve had it explained, the sufficiency of Scripture means “sufficient divine words” for life. To actually understand how Scripture applies in a situation does require the use of general revelation and extrabiblical material. But the divine words of Scripture should govern how we use that general revelation in thinking about the issues, correct?

  2. Posted March 30, 2010 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    when will those advocates of a biblical approach to politics admit that Scripture won’t resolve important questions like this one about the copyright of words and images?

    I guess most of those would not consider copyright to be nearly as important a question as abortion and sexual morality.

  3. Posted March 30, 2010 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Wolf,

    I think that is understood. The question is, Why? One answer might be that the believing world (well, the Bible toting part anyway) is way too obessesed with sex–you know, that trait they are always pointing out about the unbelieving world.

    But if it’s a question of relative importance, the deaf students at Gallaudet U. in Washington have a long-standing heated debate over American Sign Language and Standard Sign Language. The Bible broaches deafness, so where are the Bible advocates’ answers about that? It’s pretty important to the deaf community.

  4. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I like Mark Twain’s defense of copyright. He said we must make it as sacred as whiskey.

  5. Posted March 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    One wonders if R-2K advocates ever tire of banishing the Word to the land of uselessness. It seems the Word is one tool amongst a tool box of many, many more useful tools…and the tool of the Word is good for picture hanging, but not much else.

  6. Michael Puyear
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m a whitebelt in regard to this conversation, but I have a question. Could we not speak to politics where the Bible speaks and use natural law where the Bible is silent (ie. the deaf at Gallaudet U)?

  7. dgh
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Craig, so now that you’ve gotten it off your chest again, what do you think the Bible says about copyright? Your reticence to answer the question may actually prove my point.

  8. Posted March 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Michael,

    I’d be more for speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent. But if we speak to politics where the Bible speaks then it seems to me that one implication could be that democracy’s out and monarchy’s in. Some hard bibliocrats like that, but most garden variety “Take Back America” bibliocrats seem to think democracy is one proof that the cross kicked off human prosperity (along with toilet paper, paved roads, running water and no more polio).

    Your question seems to assume something about politics I’m not sure the Bible does, namely that it speaks to politics. Not only that but that it doesn’t speak to human communication. Why would it speak one temporal human concern but not the other? It seems better to say that either it speaks to both, or that it speaks to neither but that it does speak to eternal human concern.

  9. Posted March 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I think the natural law itself makes it obvious that copyrighting mathematical algorithms and genetic material is silly and pointless.

    😉

  10. Posted March 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Zrim: I’d be more for speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent.

    Amen, BTW.

  11. Posted March 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Darryl,
    I had Zrim in mind when I posted my comment…he’s a convoluted (though devoted) follower of yours.

    Somehow, he thinks this is a particularly strong argument:
    “But if it’s a question of relative importance, the deaf students at Gallaudet U. in Washington have a long-standing heated debate over American Sign Language and Standard Sign Language. The Bible broaches deafness, so where are the Bible advocates’ answers about that? It’s pretty important to the deaf community.”

    This is actually destructive to a natural law divorced from revelation (i.e. R-2K).

    I’ll give you some questions to help you in considering copyright from an ethic informed by scripture:
    What/who is copyright law designed to protect?
    Is there an actual victim when copyrights are infringed upon?
    If so, who is injured when copyright is violated?

  12. Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, why would “Bible advocates” necessarily have an unequivocal answer about ASL v. SSL?

    (and did you mean to insinuate that you are not a “Bible advocate” … :) )

    Just because one thinks that Scripture is normative in the common realm does not mean that one thinks Scripture is exhaustive in the common realm.

    So the failure to come to a conclusion about dialects of signing is neither here nor there. It’s an improperly posed question.

  13. Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    One reason, perhaps, that Christians might speak out about sexuality is that Western cultural norms about sexuality are clearly counter-Scriptural.

    So while obsession might be a legitimate explanation, blatant obviousness might be also.

    That said, I think obsession is clearly in the cards.

  14. Eliza
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Just because the Bible is not clear on every possible issue of politics and “culture” , does not mean that supernatural revelation does not far surpass, because it is supernatural and God-given, the dependability of so-called natural law.

    If natural law has moral imperatives, how do you know they are ethical? And, are these naturally-derived moral imperatives discovered by a sort of majority vote?

  15. Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Craig: One wonders if R-2K advocates ever tire of banishing the Word to the land of uselessness.

    I don’t see the justness of this criticism.

  16. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,
    I offer you this:
    “the president’s health care legislation is more than 1,000 pages. I haven’t seen it…I’d bet that 99 percent of the document involves matters that Scripture won’t resolve.”

  17. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m all in favor of the normativity of Scripture, and I do believe that Scripture is relevant to HR3590, but at the same time, I find it hard to find a text of Scripture that resolves the justice of this:

    “SEC. 2714. EXTENSION OF DEPENDENT COVERAGE.
    ‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—A group health plan and a health insurance
    issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage that
    provides dependent coverage of children shall continue to make
    such coverage available for an adult child (who is not married)
    until the child turns 26 years of age. Nothing in this section shall
    require a health plan or a health insurance issuer described in
    the preceding sentence to make coverage available for a child of
    a child receiving dependent coverage.”

    Is provision either absolutely necessary or absolutely forbidden within a Scriptural framework?

    What I’m getting at is that DGH’s denial is directed against a strong form of Scriptural sufficiency, one in which Scripture gives us every answer. While I don’t think this denial is entirely helpful, I also recognize that he isn’t saying that Scripture gives NO answers.

    So the question is where that leaves us … but I don’t think it’s banishing the Word to the land of uselessness. Do you?

  18. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    …why would “Bible advocates” necessarily have an unequivocal answer about ASL v. SSL?

    Well, they seem to have unequivocal answers about how to solve the political question of abortion. Why not questions about human language? It all matters, so why do some questions get the lion’s share of attention?

    Craig,

    Since you had me in mind when you wondered if R-2K advocates (“radical” sure is a funny way to spell “reformed”) will ever tire of banishing the Word to the land of uselessness, does that mean you think the church is useless?

  19. Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,
    do you think that SEC. 2714 undermines any Biblical notions? Describing a 26 year old as an adult child? To view a 26 year old who is physically/mentally capable of being self-sustaining as a dependent undermines the very notion of honoring one’s father and mother…lest you think this is a stretch, consider that Jesus taught in the instance of men designating funds as “corban”, but not supporting their father and mother, as a violation of the fifth commandment…applicably, an “adult child” would be dishonoring his parents if he remained a dependent in this sense of SEC. 2714.

    DGH doesn’t merely believe the Bible doesn’t sufficiently speak to societal ills/policies, he doesn’t seem to believe it offers anything of relevance. Further, when men seek to advance piety within the Church, he is quick to describe it as moralism…his paradigm appears to be this. God’s Word either:
    1) Offers law (which creates despair)
    2) Offers gospel (giving us a sigh of relief from law)
    3) Offers disembodied doctrines floating around in a realm divorced from us but are pretty neat to think about.

    As far as living goes, where the Bible is silent, there is liberty…and the Bible is pretty dog-gone silent (YES!).

  20. Posted March 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Zrim: Well, they seem to have unequivocal answers about how to solve the political question of abortion. Why not questions about human language? It all matters, so why do some questions get the lion’s share of attention?

    The Bible gives unequivocal answers about whether elective abortion is a permissible activity. (I’m fairly confident you agree with this.)

    The Bible does not give unequivocal answers about whether signing in ASL is a permissible activity.

    So it stands to reason that the Bible has more obvious relevance to abortion than the Gallaudet controversy. Isn’t that obvious?

    So I guess the only question is, Why are Gallaudettes up in arms about it?

    (in passing … do you have a personal interest in the question?)

  21. Posted March 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Craig,

    Let’s grant for the sake of argument that your analysis of Sec. 2714 is correct. I think you make some good points about it.

    Now, you are the representative from your state who’s going to vote on it. Is Sec. 2714 a deal-breaker?

    That’s the part that Scripture doesn’t resolve — how to pass legislation in the environment where political compromise is necessary to get things done.

    As to DGH’s hermeneutic, I’ll let him address that. I know only that he believes in the 3rd use of the law, which does seem to have a non-obvious relationship to a “pure” law/gospel hermeneutic.

  22. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Craig,

    I don’t think that either side of the 2k debate maintains that the bible has nothing to say about important issues in culture. So far as I am aware there isn’t a 2k-er out there who sees abortion as anything less than a violation of the 6th command. The bigger issue, at least to me is the question of how scripture is applied in the common sphere, and what the church and her officers have to say to the broader culture.

    The church has been clearly commissioned to call sinners to repentance. Transformationalists et. al. bear the onus of demonstrating our commission to speak out from a biblical perspective to issues of public policy. The latter is a bit trickier than the former.

    Not to bait you too much, but your 2714 argument has a flip side. Cultural and economic forces have protracted the time between adolescence and adulthood for a variety of reasons good and bad. We have moved from a labor intensive society to a knowledge intensive society, which means that the minimum skill set required to enter into a knowledge based profession is much higher than that of a manufacturing job. Hence, young adults are spending more time in college and thus are dependent longer on their parents, making that provision a little more sensible. Now how does the bible speak to that? Are grad students dishonoring their parents by maintaining coverage from them as dependents? Trying to apply the bible here becomes a but spurious don’t you think? Maybe there is a different criteria for us to evaluate current legislation, like common sense, social and economic analysis, and feasibility. I think that is what Dr. Hart is speaking to.

  23. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,
    I wouldn’t oppose gov’t mandated health insurance based on sec. 2714, I wanted to simply show that it isn’t difficult to apply the Word to policies….not to say that there aren’t difficult questions to answer, however, it’s unfair when certain men want to know if a fifty cent increase to a toll for road construction or 45 cent increase is most biblical…then deciding to shrug one’s shoulders and throw the babies out with the trash (like they do in China, apparently…”medical waste”) because we can’t seem to decide if traffic tolls are biblical or not.

    Governments may impose taxes, but may they regulate our health? May they impose themselves to such an extent that we begin to think that in them we live and move and have our being? I’m trying to remember where I read this verse in the last week, but can’t find it…it basically says that the number of leaders a nation has increases when its wickedness increases…which is exactly what this sort of a bill does…there is a connection between a growth in leadership/bureaucracy within a nation and wickedness.

    There was no compromise necessary to this vote…either a yes, or a no…a “no” should have been the vote.

  24. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    By the way, there are those who have offered biblical arguments regarding copyright issues. I don’t know that it deals with all the specific issues raised above, but the general framework is there. For example, see Vern Poythress’ article here: http://bit.ly/azjOIe

    You might not agree with his conclusions, but to say that therefore the Bible can’t be used to discuss such an issue seems wrongheaded.

  25. RL
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Craig:

    I hope you don’t mind my butting in, but I’m troubled by some thing that you posted (and more troubled that you didn’t answer Zrim when he asked you about). It’s this: “One wonders if R-2K advocates ever tire of banishing the Word to the land of uselessness.” I’m sure you know that the two kingdoms that us 2K advocates speak of are the the spiritual kingdom (the church) and the civil kingdom (society). If you grasp that distinction, and I bet you do, then you know that you called the spiritual kingdom (the church) “the land of uselessness.” Surely, that’s not what you meant, is it?

  26. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Jed,
    I’m 2K…just not R2K.

    Do you believe the move away from men working with their hands is a good thing? Do you believe that the length it takes to be educated is a good thing? Do you think public education is a good thing?

    The length of time it takes to be considered “educated” is a result of government stepping into family/church spheres…ironically, my argument would rest on a principle of sphere sovereignty many R2Kers would support. Further, men work with their hands less because of governmental meddling resulting in manufacturing going overseas (and other factors, of course).

    The main difference between my belief in sphere sovereignty and that of some in the R2K camp is that I actually believe the spheres are distinct while some R2K advocates think spheres are really only theoretical…for them, whatever the government does is okay since this is really their world…we can have our family/church spheres if the state-god say we can…hence, R2K presupposes 1K.

    If, however, we actually maintain the spheres we pay lip-service to, you will find we’re speaking to political life (“transformationalism” as you, and others, like to label it) regularly. The WCF 23.3 defines the role of the government…which is telling in itself.

    Then there’s this tid-bit: WCF 31.4 “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”

    We see the spheres are distinct…the Church does not have the sword…however, the Church may concern herself with governments in extraordinary cases (i.e. weighty things, or out of the ordinary); or by way of advice FOR SATISFACTION OF CONSCIENCE if required by civil magistrate.

    Is advice or satisfaction of conscience ever inquired of us by the magistrate? I hear there’s this thing called voting. To make your case, you would have to argue that what we see going on is not extraordinary, not unconscionable, and we aren’t required to give our input when we cast our ballots or petition our leaders who are representing us.

    Given the reality we as Christians have living in this nation, how is a Christian to approach governance? As an unbeliever, or as a believer?

  27. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    RL,
    I said this: “One wonders if R-2K advocates ever tire of banishing the Word to the land of uselessness. It seems the Word is one tool amongst a tool box of many, many more useful tools…and the tool of the Word is good for picture hanging, but not much else.”

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out how you and Zrim decided this means I think the Church is useless. If anything, I’m saying R2K relegates the Church to the land of uselessness.

  28. RL
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Craig,

    I hope you can be patient with me. I would love to join the broader discussion that you guys are having, especially because I sense that you have a strong libertarian instincts. I like that. But I think it would be a much more fruitful discussion if I can come to understand how you view the 2K distinction.

    Most recently, you said, “R2K relegates the Church to the land of uselessness.” I appreciate the clarification, but find that this is also unsettling. All of the 2K folks that I read and talk with (and especially the guys who participate on this blog) adhere to distinctions that preserve the Church’s usefulness. For example, a bright-line distinction between the spiritual and the civil kingdoms, makes clear that the Church qua Church should attend to heavenly things. The Church advances the eternal kingdom through the Word preached, prayed, sung, and taught. Are these things useless when it comes to state building? Yes. Worldly kingdoms are advanced through force, intimidation, and power. The state wields the sword. The Church wields the Word.

    Instead of using the Word to establish the unity of Spirit in Christ’s Kingdom, which results in a church marked by peace and love, 2K-deniers want to use the Word to determine upon whose head the State’s sword should fall, which results in a state marked by strife, dissension, endless power struggles, violence, and war. In other words, it results in a state similar to every other earthly state. What could be more useless than that?

  29. dgh
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    Craig, if you are going to critique 2k it would really help if you described it accurately. You only deal with caricatures and if I read the catechisms aright playing fast and loose with the 9th commandment is a no no. (see doctrines aren’t just “neat” little things to think about.)

    God’s word reveals his moral law (so does general revelation). But saying that the morality of the Bible applies to public life gets pretty sticky. The 3rd use of the law does not apply to non-believers. It puts the cart ahead of the horse. And that is why 2k people are reluctant to assert biblical standards in public life. It’s as if we are telling non-Christians to act like Christians when they aren’t Christians. 2k protects the gospel.

    Now if you want to proclaim God’s law in public life to drive unbelievers to Christ, great. Let’s have more of that. But that isn’t the way I see the Baylys using the moral law on matters like abortion and gay marriage.

    So the point, lest you missed it, is that the Bible has different standards for believers and non-believers. And I don’t see you acknowledging this. All you do is say “radical” when a 2k person points out this obvious reality.

    2kers also do not defer simply to whatever government decrees. Are you kidding?!? I am registered a libertarian and though I generally don’t care for contemporary libertarianism I am no fan of the modern nation-state. I am, an anti-federalists, states rights American. And the funny thing is, I see nothing in the Bible that tells me to be this. To be a member of the church of Jesus Christ you don’t need to be a Republican or DEmocract or Libertarian. But if you make the Bible a political and legal book then what does that do to the church’s indifference to politics (WCF 31.4)? I do think American’s may and should resist the centralization of consolidation of power in Washington. The basis for this is the American political tradition of limited government and federalism. But I don’t think Christians need to do this.

    Why won’t you recognize this as a plausible argument? Why is this radical (thanks for echoing Wilson, the Baylys and Rabbi Bret)?

    And by the way, you still haven’t addressed the point of this post. What does the Bible say about permission to reproduce texts and images? I get it that the Bible says things about private property. So does Kant. But what is your exegesis for accepting or declining the settlement with Google?

  30. dgh
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    Joel S., how does Poythress’ article address the New Republic article? And is the U.S. guilty of sin if it does not use the Bible to determine its copyright legislation?

  31. Zeke Zekowski
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    RL said: “Most recently, you said, “R2K relegates the Church to the land of uselessness.” I appreciate the clarification, but find that this is also unsettling. All of the 2K folks that I read and talk with (and especially the guys who participate on this blog) adhere to distinctions that preserve the Church’s usefulness. For example, a bright-line distinction between the spiritual and the civil kingdoms, makes clear that the Church qua Church should attend to heavenly things. The Church advances the eternal kingdom through the Word preached, prayed, sung, and taught. Are these things useless when it comes to state building? Yes. Worldly kingdoms are advanced through force, intimidation, and power. The state wields the sword. The Church wields the Word.”

    This nails it, RL. Craig’s view of the church as only “useful” if it is somehow dictating public policy is an extremely low view of the church. I guess the 1st Century Church (and Apostles) that never demanded Caesar to pass certain laws was useless as well.

    And Craig, I don’t want to get too far off topic but since you brought it up, what age does the Bible give for adulthood? 18? 20? 14? Any other general parameters? If it doesn’t give a specific age, then doesn’t that age change from society to society? And if that ages from society to society, what is inherently wrong with the snippet of the health care bill posted above? Assuming your analysis of the 5th Commandment is correct, in this society can’t a 26 year old be considered to young to qualify for adulthood in the same way the Bible means it? You probably see where I’m going with this…

  32. Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Fellas, I don’t have time to get into a detailed response yet…but I used to be R2K.

    I did not say the Church is only useful if it’s dictating public policy. I did say:
    “One wonders if R-2K advocates ever tire of banishing the Word to the land of uselessness. It seems the Word is one tool amongst a tool box of many, many more useful tools…and the tool of the Word is good for picture hanging, but not much else.”

    I also said:
    “DGH doesn’t merely believe the Bible doesn’t sufficiently speak to societal ills/policies, he doesn’t seem to believe it offers anything of relevance. Further, when men seek to advance piety within the Church, he is quick to describe it as moralism…his paradigm appears to be this. God’s Word either:
    1) Offers law (which creates despair)
    2) Offers gospel (giving us a sigh of relief from law)
    3) Offers disembodied doctrines floating around in a realm divorced from us but are pretty neat to think about.

    As far as living goes, where the Bible is silent, there is liberty…and the Bible is pretty dog-gone silent (YES!).”

    I realize it’s tempting to trot out the old tired lines of Finneyism, moralism, assertions like other views make the church and state one, and more…but I’m asking you to try to read my comments in context. I’m not limiting my criticism of R2K to it’s dismissal of the Word’s relevance to public policy…it dismisses much more than that, including personal piety.

    Also, if any of you are truly interested in a discussion, please consider responding to points I’ve raised. Things like:
    “The main difference between my belief in sphere sovereignty and that of some in the R2K camp is that I actually believe the spheres are distinct while some R2K advocates think spheres are really only theoretical…for them, whatever the government does is okay since this is really their world…we can have our family/church spheres if the state-god say we can…hence, R2K presupposes 1K.”

    and

    “Given the reality we as Christians have living in this nation, how is a Christian to approach governance? As an unbeliever, or as a believer?”

  33. Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    “Joel S., how does Poythress’ article address the New Republic article? And is the U.S. guilty of sin if it does not use the Bible to determine its copyright legislation?”

    As I said, I don’t know that it addresses all the details. One can’t expect a single article to do that. All I’m saying is that some have made an attempt to address copyright issues from Scripture (and given that the article was written in 1995, I’m sure more could be said). Poythress may or not be right, I have no idea. It just seemed like what was being said is that one can’t use Scripture to even discuss copyright issues.

    As far as your last question, that’s one I’m really thinking through right now. Actually, it’s one of the reasons I just recently began reading this site, because I’m seeking clarity on the issues of R2K, etc.

  34. dgh
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Craig, the point of this post was about the Bible and copyright laws regarding Google books. You keep trying to change the subject. That’s not sinful. But it is impolite.

    Joel, if the Bible addresses copyright, then we have a “thus, sayeth the Lord.” Do we really expect the Bible to be used in that way, to micromanage the federal behemoth that is Washington, DC.?

  35. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Darryl, you selectively invoke God’s Law (as noted already on the Bayly Blog). I did not bear false witness against you, however, you have done so repeatedly. I stand by what I’ve said. If convinced otherwise, I will be happy to apologize…but why not care for me, Darryl, in the way you had hoped the Baylys would with you?

    One wonders, Darryl, when you demonstrated a careful attention to “duty” for Tim Bayly to address you privately on your public errors why you would choose to address a perceived sin on my part publicly when you have access to my email address.

    As you said to Tim:
    ” Our polity does distinguish public and private sins. A public sin would be adultery or abortion, that is, something that is obvious. But since a lot of people do not think that 2k is a sin, then 2k doesn’t qualify as a public sin. It is not obviously sinful.”

    A lot of men would agree with my summation of R2K…so what I’ve said wouldn’t qualify as a public sin (on your terms). Why address it publicly?

    You also said to Tim:
    “Tim, my intent was for you to come to me privately in the manner of Matt. 18 before issuing a declaration publicly that says I encourage people away from holiness, sanctification, and piety. That is a serious charge. It should not be done lightly. You have my email address. If you want to disagree with me, fine. If you want to point out implications of my views that you think I have overlooked, fine. But it is irresponsible to hold someone to the implications of their views as if those are their views, especially if you think those implications are sinful. If you think they are sin you have a duty to try to correct the brother along Matt. 18 lines.”

    Amazingly, you followed it up with this:
    “But you see, this is the message I get from you guys. You don’t seem to think the rules apply to you because you seem to think you have the truth and that truth appears to give you carte blanche when it comes to etiquette or even polity.”

    Do the rules apply to you, or only when convenient? If I have slandered you publicly, I do think it is acceptable to address it publicly…however, given what you have written previously, you may want to beware that you don’t sin against me. I don’t say this for my benefit, but your own. If you are concerned with personal piety, then the weight of Matthew 7:2 will come home:
    “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you”

  36. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Darryl: “Craig, the point of this post was about the Bible and copyright laws regarding Google books. You keep trying to change the subject. That’s not sinful. But it is impolite.”

    RL, Zeke, Joel, and Jeff all seemed interested in discussion and pressed further in that direction…and to say your post was about the Bible and copyright laws seems a bit disingenuous.

  37. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Jed: I don’t think that either side of the 2k debate maintains that the bible has nothing to say about important issues in culture.

    I think SOTC advocates could make this clearer. Many of their lines of reasoning … “What does the Bible have to say about plumbing?” … “How is Scriptural relevant to governing?” … come across as rhetorical questions whose implication is “The Bible has nothing to say about these issues.”

    If indeed the Bible does have something to say about important issues in culture, then the apparent rhetorical questions obscure this fact.

  38. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Jed: Maybe there is a different criteria for us to evaluate current legislation, like common sense, social and economic analysis, and feasibility.

    But we might also use “common sense”, social and economic analysis, and feasibility, all subordinate to the Word, and that’s what I’m arguing for.

  39. Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The Bible gives unequivocal answers about whether elective abortion is a permissible activity. (I’m fairly confident you agree with this.)
    The Bible does not give unequivocal answers about whether signing in ASL is a permissible activity.

    Jeff, since both SR and GR give unequivocal answers about whether elective abortion is permissible, I’ll go one further: you don’t the Bible to tell you the answer is no. But I’m not as interested in the moral question “may she or mayn’t she?” as I am in the political one “who gets to decide?” I’m states’ rights on this one, but the interesting thing is that I see nothing in the Bible to back me up. I’d much rather cast my lot with Bork than the Bibliocrats. He doesn’t seem to bring up the Bible when criticizing Roe (whose problem, BTW, was the stripping of rights away from states. Some are concerned for the rights of concepti, some for women, but mine is for the rights of local magistrates to rule themselves as they see fit, even if I disagree with their conclusions).

    But, really, the larger point is that if the Bible really does speak to every square inch of life then why does it seem that Bibliocrats are only concerned for certain corners of life?

  40. Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Craig,

    When I asked you if you think the church is useless, it wasn’t because I think you think the church is useless. It was to make the point that your view sure makes it seem that way, because when 2K says the Bible is the church’s book and the church’s alone you seem to think that is to weaken the church. But God called Abraham, not Abe’s family, and the Decalogue was given to Israel, not her neighbors. If God published himself to only certain people and excluded others, how does it follow that the Bible should be the property of the excluded group?

    But I think others here have correctly identified the premise you are working with: the church is only as useful as she is relevant to the cares of this world (well, certain cares, to keep with the point of the post). But you forget that the church is only relevant to the cares of eternity. The interesting thing is that your side often accuses 2K of cowardly hiding the gospel under a bushel. But in point of fact, 2K wants to keep it unfettered from the traditions and cares of men so that it can shine as brightly as possible. I won’t return the favor and accuse you of cowardice (or of being “convoluted,” ahem), but only suggest that when we make the gospel relevant to the cares of men we make it lose its saltiness and light. The gospel makes sinners right with God, full stop. It doesn’t solve the world’s social ills, etc. When it comes to ecclesiology, to add any other mission to the gospel is like adding works to faith in soteriological questions. Romanists don’t deny faith but they do deny faith alone. In the same way, it seems to me that Bibliocrats don’t deny the gospel but they do deny the gospel alone.

  41. Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Jeff,

    Quick qualification – I’m no 2k expert, just a participant in the conversation. There doesn’t seem to be a monolithic 2k position, rather a strata. I’d recommend WSCal’s Christ and Culture conference series, which is now available online to demonstrate. Bob Godfrey’s opening lecture “Every Square Inch” is excellent. He frames the whole discussion quite succinctly without caricaturizing 2k-ers or Kuyperians. He also concedes the 2k strata.

    To be clear I think there are some issues, such as certain aspects of human rights and sexuality that are pressing contemporary issues that the Bible speaks to either directly, or by clear implication. I see Paul addressing these issues in his customary Christian instruction. For example, he condemns sexual deviancy, such as orgies, emphatically dictating that believers are to have no part in this common cultural practice. He also instructs slaves and masters in how they are to relate. However, he does this in the confines of the church, where the saints are concerned. He doesn’t extend these cultural critiques into mandates for the state.

    There are other issues like plumbing, intellectual property law, political theory where the Bible has little or nothing to say. We both get that the Christian plumber should plumb to the glory of God, as should a Christian magistrate govern to His glory. However, beyond this, the rules of plumbing and governance should, in my mind be derived from natural law and natural knowledge. I know that this gets stickier for the magistrate, who might have to administer laws that he is averse to as a Christian such as allowing Mormons to assemble to worship, when he views the content of their worship as blasphemous. However he (as an American) has certain Constitutional obligations to uphold freedom, even when its exercise might seem sinful to him. He has to be careful that he isn’t unduly imposing God’s law through coercion upon those who are not in submission to it. Even in extreme cases like abortion, I think it is best to approach these practices on the basis of case law, the Constitution, habeas corpus etc. rather than on the basis of “the bible says so” in governance and civic discourse. Of course his Christian convictions are going to inform his views on abortion, but how these are applied is a different issue altogether.

    I would ask you if a believer’s common sense analysis, in submission to the Word is inferior to an unbeliever’s, whose should win the day? What if, in the Google case a non-Xian comes up with a better argument on intellectual property and copyright law? Whose analysis should we go with? It’s not that our views should be insubordinate to the bible, but to hold that our views are subordinated to the Bible, when the Bible has little, if anything to say directly to the view in question, then the criteria of subordination is so vague it seems out of order to say anything definitive about it.

  42. Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Zrim,
    I’m not sure you could have misconstrued my position any worse than you have.

    “It was to make the point that your view sure makes it seem that way, because when 2K says the Bible is the church’s book and the church’s alone you seem to think that is to weaken the church.”

    Please cite where I said, or implied that the Bible belongs to the world.

    “how does it follow that the Bible should be the property of the excluded group?”

    It doesn’t, and thankfully, I didn’t say as much. Do you think the revelation of God’s Word is for the world? Was Jesus’ incarnation in any way relevant to the world?

    “But I think others here have correctly identified the premise you are working with: the church is only as useful as she is relevant to the cares of this world”

    Flippant ignorance on your part. Willful at that. I clearly, unequivocally related that R2K does more than affect a Christian’s role in the civil sphere…I know you really want the opposite to be true, it makes it much cleaner when you open up the R2K lingo text book.

    “But you forget that the church is only relevant to the cares of eternity.”

    No, I don’t. There are eternal consequences to infanticide, women in the military, women submitting themselves to employers and not their husbands, and eating and drinking apart from thankfulness…to name but a few. R2K removes eternal perspectives on temporal matters, thus creating a divide where a Christian seeking to live in piety risks being labeled a moralist, or when the Christian pleads the case of the weak, poor, and widow, he makes these temporal insignificancies into eternal kingdom interests.

    “It doesn’t solve the world’s social ills, etc.”

    Again, you seem to think there are areas with no significance, or relationship to God. Many of the “policies” people like me advance are *negative*…they prevent certain cruelties, inequities, and lawlessness…positively, consider abortion: If America were to ban abortion, does that solve illegitimacy or show men how to be fathers and women to be mothers? No. Do I believe that should be legislated…no…that’s for godly Christian counsel, discipleship, and the Church. Restraining evil is in no way perceived on my part as being the equivalent of legislating regeneration…in fact, Paul seemed to think government was there to bear the sword and restrain evil…yet who defines evil?

    “When it comes to ecclesiology, to add any other mission to the gospel is like adding works to faith in soteriological questions.”

    The WCF seemed to think it could define the role of government and what it should protect…has this Reformed confession added to soteriological questions? Of course not. The question addressed by WCF 23.3 wasn’t soteriological, and neither are my own in this discussion. Mine are about piety, a piety that takes the epistle of 1 John seriously. Mine are also related to the role of Christians in a representative republic.

    Are there no takers on the items I raised?

  43. Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Craig,

    Briefly, WCF 23.3 was written in a very different social setting. It doesn’t seem to me that the divines had the same expansive rights to the freedom of expression that we have today. So speaking on matters of conscience for them represented true cost, depending on who was in power. I seriously doubt that they advised the state on every issue that they even strongly disagreed with. What 23.3 doesn’t clarify is the criterion of extreme instances, or the divergence of ecclesiastical conscience. If the church is to speak to the state in these extreme instances, maybe this should happen at the level of the presbytery, where we as Presbyterians aren’t beholden to one elder or one congregation’s conscience.

    I think we have to bear this in mind when we feel impelled to advise the government on the basis of conscience. If you were to press me on the issue, I think the only extreme instance that I would hope my session, and presbytery would bring to the state’s attention is if for some reason our freedom to assemble, and to worship according to our consciences were to be deprived. Beyond this, I can’t see much value in the church inserting itself into the affairs of the state. At least that’s the way I see it.

  44. Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I was speaking to WCF 31.4 not 23.3.

  45. Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    “Joel, if the Bible addresses copyright, then we have a “thus, sayeth the Lord.” Do we really expect the Bible to be used in that way, to micromanage the federal behemoth that is Washington, DC.?”

    Dr. Hart, to me, that seems like an insufficiently nuanced way of discussing the issue. Does the Bible address carpet color? No, not really. But could there be some biblical principles to guide such a decision? It seems that there could be (biblical principles regarding finances, etc). Would I be then saying there is a ‘thus says the Lord” about carpet color? No, but I should use godly (biblically informed wisdom) wisdom to guide me in my decision.

    As I said, I’m trying to think through exactly how all that should work. I fail to see how natural theology works any better, but as I said, I am thinking through these issues (hence why I’m here). It seems that there are really two different questions (1) Does the Bible address the specific issue? (2) If Scripture does address the issue, should we use it to discuss the issue in the public square? It seems to me that it is possible that the Bible does give us sufficient divine words to address the issues. The second question is the one I am unsure of.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  46. Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Jed: There are other issues like plumbing, intellectual property law, political theory where the Bible has little or nothing to say. We both get that the Christian plumber should plumb to the glory of God, as should a Christian magistrate govern to His glory. However, beyond this, the rules of plumbing and governance should, in my mind be derived from natural law and natural knowledge.

    OK, as long as we understand that the “beyond this” is never omitted.

    In other words, I want to be clear that we are *never* talking about two different realms in which two different sets of norms apply.

    I would ask you if a believer’s common sense analysis, in submission to the Word is inferior to an unbeliever’s, whose should win the day? What if, in the Google case a non-Xian comes up with a better argument on intellectual property and copyright law? Whose analysis should we go with?

    It’s not about man. If the believer’s analysis is inferior, then too bad. But how would we know that the believer’s analysis is inferior or the non-believer’s superior? That basis for determination is our “meta-ethic”, and it is that basis that should decide the final analysis.

    In other words, if the believer’s analysis suffers from errors on points A, B, and C; but the non-believer’s analysis suffers from being insubordinate to the word, then the analysis we go with should remedy the known faults of either.

    If we’re in a political situation where compromise is inevitable, then we have to rank our norms in order of importance somehow. Which is why politics is seamy.

  47. Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Zrim: But, really, the larger point is that if the Bible really does speak to every square inch of life then why does it seem that Bibliocrats are only concerned for certain corners of life?

    Limited resources, sheer exhaustion. Seriously … Bibliocrats of the Falwell variety operate under a semper reformanda mentality, I think because they need society to be perfect for whatever reason (similar to progressives). There’s no end to that.

    Zrim: Jeff, since both SR and GR give unequivocal answers about whether elective abortion is permissible…

    But they don’t. SR is clear: thou shalt not kill, with exceptions seen in case law. GR is unclear: killing feels yucky, except when it doesn’t.

    SR is clear: man is made in God’s image. GR is unclear: what does it mean to be human?

    You’re on the horns of a dilemma. If GR is identical to the decalogue, then we have the moral GR in written-down form already, and there’s no sense pretending that our “GR” is anything other than the 10 Commandments. But if GR is not identical to the decalogue, then it is a moral standard that is apart from and contrary to (at points unspecified) from God’s law, and we’re back to heteronomianism.

    So which is it?

  48. Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Zrim: But I’m not as interested in the moral question “may she or mayn’t she?” as I am in the political one “who gets to decide?” I’m states’ rights on this one, but the interesting thing is that I see nothing in the Bible to back me up. I’d much rather cast my lot with Bork than the Bibliocrats. He doesn’t seem to bring up the Bible when criticizing Roe (whose problem, BTW, was the stripping of rights away from states. Some are concerned for the rights of concepti, some for women, but mine is for the rights of local magistrates to rule themselves as they see fit, even if I disagree with their conclusions).

    Yes, “who gets to decide” is a real question. But abortion as a civil rights issue is more pressing. If one really believes that the fetus is a living human being (checklist: Human? yep. Living? yep. Organism? yep.), then abortion is a violation of the 5th Amendment.

    But all of that is political baseball. The question for a Christian magistrate is, does abortion permit one human to murder another? And if so, then (a) sexuality is incidental; and (b) it would seem that the “murder” aspect would move this to a high priority.

    In short, I think the high priority of abortion is justified.

    That said, one real area of liberty might be how to address the problem. It may or may not be that criminalization is the best route. The Bible is not actually going to give an answer to that question.

  49. RL
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Did any of you guys read that Poythress article linked to above? I have plenty of respect for that man’s educational training and strong intellect, but that’s one of the goofiest things I’ve ever read.

  50. Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,

    Let’s be realistic, intellectual property law, and copyright law are relatively inert qualities, that you will have an exceedingly hard time extracting a definitive biblical stance on. There is precedent in case law, as well as legislation that currently governs this. You are going to be hard pressed to find a judge or a lawmaker, or a lawyer that will evaluate the merits of Google’s ambitions based on a Christian meta-ethic. I get that we all have presuppositions, but we have gone through this before in prior conversations. The Christian doesn’t by virtue of regeneration necessarily have a better take on natural, secular discussion than a non-Xian. It all hinges on the quality of one’s argument.

    What if there were 2 Xian lawyers battling it out on the Google case? Maybe RL could speak to this better than I, but the lawyer is bound to represent his clients interests so long as he is not breaking any laws. The religious merits of the argument will probably never be discussed. There will be a winner and a looser in the legal process, but both attorney’s, so long as they did their job well can go home knowing that they executed their vocation in a God-honoring way. How is the meta-ethic in play?

  51. Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    SR is clear: thou shalt not kill, with exceptions seen in case law. GR is unclear: killing feels yucky, except when it doesn’t. SR is clear: man is made in God’s image. GR is unclear: what does it mean to be human?

    Jeff,

    First, I just don’t accept your premise that GR is fuzzy on murder. I have no idea how pagan civilizations were built if they were so clueless about human life. And if you think SR makes things clearer, and thus is a link to building better societies, you still have to deal with the fact that murder took place in Israel. Again, human sin is the problem, not that human beings aren’t using the right book. So God says not to murder, so what? That doesn’t solve anything. If simply making the rules clear to people were really the point, then I should be able to build the perfect tennis player by simply explaining all the rules and what it takes to win every time: hit it back in such a way that your opponent can’t return it. Never mind my student is a big, fat uncoordinated slob. Huh?

    Second, does it really matter if anyone acknowledges the one true God to ground a prohibition of murder? I mean, when a pagan deals rightly with me I don’t make much fuss about his reasons, all I care about is being dealt with rightly. When my unbelieving neighbor keeps himself from killing me I don’t quibble about why. He seems to know that killing it wrong. And what about when believers deal with me wrongly? It would seem that knowing that I am made in God’s own image didn’t really keep him from bearing false witness against me. Call me radically convoluted, but I’d much rather explain sinful behavior by the doctrine of sin instead of by epistemological knowledge or ignorance.

    Yes, “who gets to decide” is a real question. But abortion as a civil rights issue is more pressing.

    I realize both lifers and choicers agree that it’s about the individual rights of one group or another, but I disagree. I don’t think it’s a civil rights issue. I think it’s a jurisdictional question. But I’m not about to picket Planned Parenthoods or Pregnancy Resource Centers, frothing at the mouth about how each is a slaughterhouse of states’ rights. I’m radical that way.

  52. Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    First, I just don’t accept your premise that GR is fuzzy on murder. I have no idea how pagan civilizations were built if they were so clueless about human life. And if you think SR makes things clearer, and thus is a link to building better societies, you still have to deal with the fact that murder took place in Israel. Again, human sin is the problem, not that human beings aren’t using the right book. So God says not to murder, so what? That doesn’t solve anything. If simply making the rules clear to people were really the point, then I should be able to build the perfect tennis player by simply explaining all the rules and what it takes to win every time: hit it back in such a way that your opponent can’t return it. Never mind my student is a big, fat uncoordinated slob. Huh?

    The GR is fuzzy on whether abortion is murder.

    The tennis player analogy “swings and misses” with me, so to speak (sorry, couldn’t resist), in that you’re back to building better societies, which isn’t the point.

    The point is, the Christian Magistrate is normatively obligated to Scripture.

    I don’t think it’s a civil rights issue.

    How is the 5th Amendment not relevant here?

  53. Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    RL: Did any of you guys read that Poythress article linked to above? I have plenty of respect for that man’s educational training and strong intellect, but that’s one of the goofiest things I’ve ever read.

    Twice, now. He sounds like Stallman. Which parts do you find goofy?

  54. Posted March 31, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    “Did any of you guys read that Poythress article linked to above? I have plenty of respect for that man’s educational training and strong intellect, but that’s one of the goofiest things I’ve ever read.”

    I didn’t make any claims that the article was on the mark. I was merely pointing out that some have discussed copyright issues from Scripture. You might not agree with the case he’s made, you might think it’s goofy, but my point was just that some apparently do think Scripture speaks to copyright issues. Also note that the article was written in 1995. That’s 15 years ago. Clearly things need to be discussed in new ways as technology has expanded since then.

  55. Posted March 31, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    The GR is fuzzy on whether abortion is murder.

    Then you have no choice but to say to those who disagree with you around the cultural table, “The Bible says abortion is murder. Solved.” I don’t understand how you think you’ll get very far when many of them don’t subscribe the Bible. You have to appeal to what everyone subscribes to, which is to say the law written on the human heart. And just because some people don’t get it doesn’t mean GR is fuzzy—the fault isn’t with the law but with people (Ro. 7).

    Besides, I thought you admitted that GR was sufficient for general tasks? Now it’s fuzzy again? I guess I’m still fuzzy on your notion of sufficiency.

    The tennis player analogy “swings and misses” with me, so to speak (sorry, couldn’t resist), in that you’re back to building better societies, which isn’t the point.
    The point is, the Christian Magistrate is normatively obligated to Scripture.

    Jeff, I get your concern about the CM. But the CM lives with others. He doesn’t just exist to “glorify God” in some ethereal way. He actually has to get things done. There is just as much a vertical responsibility as there is a horizontal one. I have Christian subordinates, but I don’t evaluate their performances by saying they “glorified God” because they, too, have to get things done. And we all understand we are obligated to Scripture, but often in the course of getting things done we disagree about how that should happen best. And neither of us can just appeal to the Bible when my solution X diverges from their solution Y. I know you want to avoid the question of building society and make it about glorifying God, as if for the believer these are somehow mutually exclusive (?), but you just can’t. We’re social creatures.

  56. RL
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Jeff:

    Regrettably, I’m pretty busy right now, so please pardon my brevity and sloppiness. In short, some of the ideas appearing under the heading “Property and the Bible” seem goofy. Especially the paragraph that ends with this sentence: “By copying, they display the presence of God and spread blessings to other human beings who enjoy the fruit of copying.” That and the prophets-copied-so-copying-is-good argument. I think these follow woefully short, and I think its also a bit careless, in light of recent debates within the OPC and PCA concerning the Creation account, to rely on it for a copyright argument, and overall I thought his arguments lacked the sort of precision that I consider a hallmark of his best writing, though I still disagree with it at places.

    I think Poythress confuses some of the most basic categories of intellectual property law, but he didn’t claim to be an expert in that. Larry Lessig, on the other hand is an expert, and he does the same thing, only, I think, he does it intentionally. I am really short on time–if CVD’s reading he can elaborate. First, they both fail to properly and precisely distinguish between copyright, patent, and trade-secret protection and the way these things work together. Second, they fail to explain how copyright law does not protect ideas or facts it only protects the expression (e.g. presentation and arrangement). So that table of the was missing from the article that Lessig writes about may be protected by copyright law, but only those aspects of it that are essential to its presentation. The knowledge, facts, and ideas conveyed in that table do indeed belong to everyone, and a careful and courteous publisher would have included those ideas and facts in the article (i.e. put them in paragraph form with brackets or reword the table or put them in a footnote). The missing information was caused by sloppy publishing not copyright law.

    As to Poythress, KFC’s and Coke’s secret recipes are secret because they’ve kept it secret, not because of the copyright law, and because an axe is not an “expression” (unless its hanging on the wall in some post-modern museum) it is not afforded any copyright protection. If the axe has any IP protection it has patent protection, and patent protection is designed to do exactly what Poythress wants to do–it creates an incentive for people to reveal their secrets for a limited time in exchange for limited monopoly over the design or process. That’s why you have to file your patent with the patent office–so that they can give it away to anyone who asks aften the patent expires. There are different kinds of patents, and duration of the patent protection varies, but the most popular patents in the US are only last for 14 to 20 years.

    Hope that’s not too confusing.

  57. Mike K.
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Lessig’s Free Culture is his standard work on the subject. It’s been a couple of years but I don’t remember him worrying about patents or trade secrets. His primary concern there was the damage inflicted by copyright on our cultural development. He also has youtube videos discussing fair use.

  58. Mike K.
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  59. Posted March 31, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    RL: Thanks.

  60. Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Zrim: You have to appeal to what everyone subscribes to, which is to say the law written on the human heart. And just because some people don’t get it …

    There’s the problem in a nutshell. You’ve got a split personality about the universality of the NL. On the one hand, we all subscribe to it in such a way as to make just laws with it; on the other, none of us does. Not some; none. Paul is pretty definite about this.

    You’re concerned that I won’t get very far by saying, “The Bible says so.” And maybe I won’t.

    How much further will you get by saying, “Because it’s just the right thing to do”? Isn’t that going to be interpreted as “Because I say so”? (And in fact, is it really different from that?)

    You hope that the NL in people’s hearts will lead to conviction so that you can get some agreement. But why couldn’t I have the same hope? At least, I’m appealing to a means that God uses to convict people, instead of just saying “because I say so and you know I’m right.”

    Zrim: Besides, I thought you admitted that GR was sufficient for general tasks? Now it’s fuzzy again? I guess I’m still fuzzy on your notion of sufficiency.

    GR can get the city built. It won’t make its laws just.

    The Romans, to whom you appeal as a fine example of GR, thought that not merely abortion, but the exposing of babies and even killings by the pater familia were just fine. Murder-for-sport in the gladiatorial games was standard entertainment — and Tertullian sure didn’t feel shy about critiquing it using Scripture.

    In fact, he explains that the games are not culturally neutral:

    Now nobody denies what nobody is ignorant of-for Nature herself is teacher of it-that God is the Maker of the universe, and that it is good, and that it is man’s by free gift of its Maker. But having no intimate acquaintance with the Highest, knowing Him only by natural revelation, and not as His “friends”-afar off, and not as those who have been brought nigh to Him-men cannot but be in ignorance alike of what He enjoins and what He forbids in regard to the administration of His world.

    Tertullian, at least, was not a fan of the “sufficiency of NL.”

    Zrim: I have Christian subordinates, but I don’t evaluate their performances by saying they “glorified God” because they, too, have to get things done. And we all understand we are obligated to Scripture, but often in the course of getting things done we disagree about how that should happen best. And neither of us can just appeal to the Bible when my solution X diverges from their solution Y.

    Never? Or not always? Being vague on this point obscures a huge difference.

    I know you want to avoid the question of building society and make it about glorifying God, as if for the believer these are somehow mutually exclusive (?), but you just can’t. We’re social creatures.

    I agree with you: there is unity between our actions and the glorifying of God in those actions. It follows therefore that the Scripture, which contains all things necessary for us to glorify God (WCoF 1.6), will have be used in a unified fashion with GR.

    If that means that by using SR I mark myself as an alien in this world and a citizen of the next, that may be necessary. For the sake of charity I can be as flexible as I may be — but there comes a point where flexibility becomes disloyalty, and at that point the flexing must stop.

  61. dgh
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Craig, I didn’t say you violated the ninth commandment. What I said was that you are not paying heed to the ninth commandment. When you say that 2k relegates the church to uselessness, or that 2kers submit to the government as in a 1k world, or that 2k destroys piety, you are making assertions that do not present 2k accurately. You are trying to make it look as bas as possible. As I read the catechisms on the ninth commandment, that is not what we’re supposed to do.

    Now, I can live with mischaracterizations. But then behind these points is your other language of 2k being a system of sin. You don’t ask whether 2kers hold to the views you say we do. You don’t try to persuade us from the error of our ways. You merely bang the gavel — condemned.

    Again, that may be okay for some. But when you are very protective of the sixth commandment and are sure to bang 2kers for not adhering to it the way you do, it sure does look selective the way you step around the 9th commandment.

    And, I’m still waiting for your proof texts on copyright, Google, and books. You get one more swinging miss and then you’re out.

  62. dgh
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Joel S., why do you suppose that the Bible is the place to go for carpet color? Why isn’t there godly wisdom outside the Bible? Can’t you see that looking for carpet color in the Bible doesn’t make Scripture more but less important? It trivializes it.

    Someone may go to the Bible for this. But it may actually be an instance not of devoutness but folly.

  63. Bob
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Of various forms of IP rights, copyright is most closely linked to Christian (albeit Catholic) theology. European Roman Catholics believed that artistic works reflected the spirit of the artist. Therefore, the unauthorized reproduction somehow violated the spirit of the artist. Of course, this justification seems to lose a bit of force in today’s world, where artists generally assign those rights to media conglomerates. The economic justification for copyright protection is a bit flimsy.

    I can’t see that SR (or Christian theology, generally) would have much to say about patent law. Heavily Reformed countries in Europe, such as Holland and Switzerland, were some of the last developed countries to enact patent protection that was consistent with the Paris Convention. Still, patentees do not fare well in enforcing patents in the Western District of Michigan.

    “[S]o long as they did their job well can go home knowing that they executed their vocation in a God-honoring way.” Hmm. If only that were true, Jed. When I practiced in a firm, I was just trying to keep my sanity while dealing with the pressures of firm life (e.g., insanely long hours, lots of profanity-laden yelling, constant fire drills, lots of drinking, etc.). But in general, I agree. Every client has a story to tell that explains why, if the law is just, it ought to vindicate its conduct. So, good lawyers generally invest a lot of time developing a meta-narrative that frames the relevant facts of a case. But each side generally has a decent story to tell, as most civil litigation involves cases where the facts cut both ways.

    Can anyone explain to me why some evangelicals seem to be obsessed with criminalizing abortion? In five centuries of common law, early-term abortion has never been treated as murder. So, it makes no sense to start doing it now. Besides, if we treated early-term abortion as murder, we’d also have to start investigating miscarriages as potential homicides and we’d have to ban most oral contraceptives (because they often have an abortifacient effect). So, why only picket Planned Parenthood facilities? Why not CVS also? After all, if life starts at conception, then oral contraceptives have murdered far more “unborn babies” than abortion.

  64. Posted April 1, 2010 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Re abortion:

    (1) “In five centuries of common law, early-term abortion has never been treated as murder. So, it makes no sense to start doing it now.”

    There’s a study by a fellow at U-Mich that demonstrates conclusively that early-term abortion was not treated as murder because of evidentiary reasons: until “quickening”, there was no proof of pregnancy.

    As the situation changed, so did the law.

    I don’t know if I’d be able to find it again; my bookmarks at school were clobbered when my profile blew up in January. But if you’re interested, I could try.

    (2) Oral contraceptives may, infrequently have an abortifacient effect. The only studies done to my knowledge have been on horses, indicating a 1% mortality rate of fertilized eggs in horses.

    That was enough for us to avoid oral contraceptives, but not so much that one could conclude that oral contraceptives have murdered far more unborn babies than abortion.

  65. Posted April 1, 2010 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    DGH: Why isn’t there godly wisdom outside the Bible?

    This needs explaining…

  66. Posted April 1, 2010 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    GR can get the city built. It won’t make its laws just.

    Jeff, this seems like more bifurcation, and I don’t understand it. Part of what it means to build a city is to maintain law and order. But I also keep getting the sense that you are still not distinguishing between proximate justice and exact justice. So GR helps build a city, which necessarily includes making just laws, but the building and making respectively are always going to be imperfect.

    Can anyone explain to me why some evangelicals seem to be obsessed with criminalizing abortion? In five centuries of common law, early-term abortion has never been treated as murder…

    Bob, as with all obsessions, I tend to think it owes less to logic and a lot more to emotion (i.e. being on the right side of righteousness, fear and loathing, etc.). This isn’t to trivialize the honest moral concerns of some, but I think those more genuine get pretty well drowned out by the power-obsessed mania of group-think culture warriorism. If it weren’t abortion it’d be something else.

    And to the extent that such mania is really in the DNA of evangelicalism, that’s all fine and good. But what bothers me is when Reformed and Presbyterian join in. I mean, we’re supposed to be about sobriety and sanity, not mania. And not to hit a nerve to close, but it’s curious to me how so many P&R criticize evangelicals for lots of things, (and rightly so), but when the a-word is mentioned they can go just as ape, and you’re not sure if you’re listening to a Presbyterian or an evangelical. It almost seems like a case of “they can’t because they’re them, but we can because we’re us.”

  67. Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    The Romans, to whom you appeal as a fine example of GR, thought that not merely abortion, but the exposing of babies and even killings by the pater familia were just fine.

    Jeff, I know you don’t like my point that the Roman system of justice has to be understood as stellar in order to understand it as typological of God’s perfect justice against sin. But typology, by definition, means that what is typifying is but a shadow of what is being typified. Joshua wasn’t Jesus, and Roman justice wasn’t righteousness, but they serve a purpose in pointing to a larger reality. Again, approximation versus exactitude.

  68. Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Zrim: This isn’t to trivialize the honest moral concerns of some…

    Sure seems like it. If I want to honor the honest moral concerns of some, but downplay the mania of others, then I use words to esteem the honest moral concerns instead of using words to criticize the mania. It’s a matter of relative volume levels, of drawing attention to what is good and right instead of to the misbehavior of the clowns.

  69. Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    “Joel S., why do you suppose that the Bible is the place to go for carpet color? Why isn’t there godly wisdom outside the Bible? Can’t you see that looking for carpet color in the Bible doesn’t make Scripture more but less important? It trivializes it.

    Someone may go to the Bible for this. But it may actually be an instance not of devoutness but folly.”

    I don’t believe I said the Bible was the place to go for carpet color. I said that no, Scripture does not address carpet color. So I’m not going to the Bible to look for carpet color. But if I’m a Christian, surely I should be formed by the Scriptures so that I make such a decision by the Scriptural principles that have (hopefully) shaped my life. E.g., I know from Scripture what my priorities should be in spending money, etc. Those biblical principles that I have hopefully learned should guide me (whether I go searching in Scripture when the carpet decision comes up or not).

    I’m not denying by any means that you must use extra-biblical information in your decision. Surely one must know all sorts of things to make a good decision in this situation. But it seems to me that a rigid divide between “godly wisdom outside the Bible” and the godly wisdom I attain from reading and applying Scripture would be somewhat paralyzing. How can I make such a dichotomy if I worship Christ and read Scripture with the intent that I would be changed more into his image?

    Thanks again for your thoughts as I try to think through these issues.

  70. Posted April 1, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    If I want to honor the honest moral concerns of some, but downplay the mania of others, then I use words to esteem the honest moral concerns instead of using words to criticize the mania. It’s a matter of relative volume levels, of drawing attention to what is good and right instead of to the misbehavior of the clowns.

    Jeff,

    That’s one way, yes.

    But you’re a veteran of classroom management, yes? Do you diffuse the class clown by ignoring him and up-playing the good behavior of the obedient? The mania still needs to be addressed instead of ignored because I think it points to something pretty significant. Granted, responding to the mania can be a bit like rewarding a disobedient child with the negative attention he seeks, but that’s why I think the mania should probably be addressed more indirectly than directly. Sort of like the grown ups who discuss the problem child between themselves before removing the problem element into the hallway instead of in the classroom where he gets the show he wants. If only removing the cultural clowns into the hallway for discipline were as easy as removing the class clowns.

  71. Posted April 1, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Zrim: Do you diffuse the class clown by ignoring him and up-playing the good behavior of the obedient?

    Absolutely. And if I need to call out the class clown, I do it in private if possible. Rarely, only rarely, do I make a public example of the clown — because to do so is high-stakes and allows him an element of control.

    If only removing the cultural clowns into the hallway for discipline were as easy as removing the class clowns.

    I hear ya. My slogan in the 80s was, “Can I fire Jerry Falwell?”

  72. Posted April 1, 2010 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    So Zrim, which horn of the dilemma do you grasp? Are your NL arguments a covert appeal to the decalogue? OR are they an appeal to a different moral standard altogether?

  73. dgh
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Jeff, godly wisdom outside the Bible means that non-believers have a host of insights into human existence. Since this wisdom comes from general revelation, it is from God.

    Joel S., as I see it, not making the distinction between Scripture and wisdom outside the Bible is incredibly paralyzing. It leads me to think that I need to consult the Bible for everything I do in life, when God has given us good gifts of learning, wisdom, friends, relatives — all sources of counsel that are usually easier to access than looking through sixty-six books of different genres spanning almost two millennia and trying to figure out God’s will for which part-time job I should take. Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to diminish the authority or truthfulness of Scripture. I am rather trying to highlight how precious and how other the message of Scripture is, while also recognizing that God has given us other sources of wisdom.

  74. Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    …which horn of the dilemma do you grasp? Are your NL arguments a covert appeal to the decalogue? OR are they an appeal to a different moral standard altogether?

    Well, the law written on the heart and the law written on stone are not at odds but are one and the same. But I’m not comfortable characterizing that as a “covert appeal” to a peculiar covenant. It sounds like you want to force on my behalf a theocratic conclusion because I admit the two laws are one and the same. In other words, I’m not keen on your rather two-dimensional dilemma. I’m with Reformed writers who make these necessary distinctions:

    1. Because the civil and ceremonial laws were specifically and intentionally tied to the Old (Mosaic) covenant, they were fulfilled in the Kingly and Priestly work of Christ and are therefore no longer binding on the Christian.

    2. The Mosaic civil law, because it was specifically and intentionally tied to the temporary and typical Old (Mosaic) covenant, it was never intended to serve as norm for any other state than Mosaic-Davidic theocracy.

    3. Any attempt to re-impose the Mosaic civil laws or their penalties fails to understand the typological, temporary, national character of the Old (Mosaic) covenant.

    4. The moral law, to the degree it expresses the substance of God’s moral will and is not tied to the ceremonies of the Old covenant continues to bind all human beings.

    5. In the New Covenant, only the second table of the Law can be said to bind the state.

    6. There are two kingdoms: that of the right hand and that of the left.

    7. Both kingdoms are under the authority of Christ, but are administered in diverse ways.

    8.In each kingdom, Christians live under Christ’s lordship according to the nature of that kingdom.

    9.The kingdom of the Right hand describes the ministry of Word and sacrament.

    10.The kingdom of the left hand describes the exercise of power in the ecclesiastical and civil realms.

    11. Because of the distinction between the two kingdoms and because the Decalogue is substantially identical with natural law, Christians should advocate laws and policies in the civil realm on the basis of the universal, natural knowledge of the second table of the law.

  75. Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Darryl,
    I don’t believe I’ve simply dropped the gavel and said “condemned!” without an argument. Feel free to *specifically* argue…or show me where my reasoning is *specifically* flawed.

    With regard to copyright law, I thought my questions answered you. Thoughts are not property. The ink and paper they are placed on are. Biblically, I may not steal your books, but biblically, your written thoughts may be copied by me on my own paper with ink, or electronically…though I can’t do so legally…well, not for 50 years or so :)

  76. Posted April 2, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Zrim, there’s a lot to agree with in your summary.

    There’s really just two things that are not settled for me. First, #5 is appealing, but how do we know that it’s true? After all, the biggest and most obvious thing that the natural law teaches is that there is a Creator who is to be worshiped instead of the creation.

    Second, in relation to #11: Perhaps you feel that my dilemma is “two-dimensional” because I don’t consider motive. That is, by calling NL a covert appeal to the decalogue, I make it seem like you’re trying to be sneaky.

    But actually, I think you’re trying to be polite, or agreeable, or “common denominatorish.” You want to live in the common realm with your fellow men, believer or otherwise, with as broad a basis of agreement as possible.

    My question is, “What happens when the agreement breaks down?” You say X, Alice says Y, now what?

    I don’t think “because the Natural Law says so” helps one iota more than “because the Bible says so.”

    And in any event, an astute non-believer will notice that your version of the Natural Law just happens to coincide with the 10 Commandments every time. When I’ve discussed abortion, for example, with non-believers, I make natural-law type arguments. Nonetheless, they are dismissed as “religious.”

    That’s where we are in the culture.

    Guys, I’m going to take a hiatus from this discussion. The Advanced Placement exams loom in May and my energies are required. Thanks for your time, and for your patience with my persistence.

    JRC

  77. Posted April 2, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    “Joel S., as I see it, not making the distinction between Scripture and wisdom outside the Bible is incredibly paralyzing. It leads me to think that I need to consult the Bible for everything I do in life, when God has given us good gifts of learning, wisdom, friends, relatives — all sources of counsel that are usually easier to access than looking through sixty-six books of different genres spanning almost two millennia and trying to figure out God’s will for which part-time job I should take. Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to diminish the authority or truthfulness of Scripture. I am rather trying to highlight how precious and how other the message of Scripture is, while also recognizing that God has given us other sources of wisdom.”

    Dr. Hart, thanks for your reply. This sort of reasoning makes me very nervous, but I will need to spend some time thinking about it.

  78. Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    My question is, “What happens when the agreement breaks down?” You say X, Alice says Y, now what?

    I don’t think “because the Natural Law says so” helps one iota more than “because the Bible says so.”

    Your question seems to presume that disagreement is a problem. I don’t see it as a problem, I see it as an inescapable condition of life east of Eden. And when I try to settle my disagreement with my unbelieving neighbor by appealing to a book he doesn’t subscribe I don’t see how that is any different from my Mormon or Muslim neighbor settling ours by pulling out the Book of Moroni or the Koran. Those are special books that some subscribe and others don’t. We all have to appeal to a book we all agree with. And, even then, problems won’t be solved and we all still have to live in a world that doesn’t shake out the way we think it should. But my pilgrim theology tells me that’s just the way it is and why. Get up the next day and try again and learn to live with failure, as well as with the idea that, as persuaded as you might be about whatever, you could be wrong and the other guy could be right.

    And in any event, an astute non-believer will notice that your version of the Natural Law just happens to coincide with the 10 Commandments every time. When I’ve discussed abortion, for example, with non-believers, I make natural-law type arguments. Nonetheless, they are dismissed as “religious.”

    I hear you. But, Jeff, people come in contexts. My unbelievers know my religious devotions, and I’ve no need whatsoever to hide them (so much for hermetically sealing off my faith in the public square). And if I am unduly dismissed for my views simply because someone else smells a rat, well, I can’t solve for that. Nor do I really want to. That’s their problem, not mine. But if being dismissed bothers you that much, try making the abortion question one about states’ rights. Unless, of course, you have an allergy to being dismissed by fellow believers, in which case, stick with the natalism and you’ll be very popular.

    Best in your test prep. We’ll be waiting for you here in Assessment-ville, trying to figure out what the heck your kids are trying to say.

  79. dgh
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Craig, I’d say that calling 2k a “system of sin” is banging the gavel. And it’s not as funny as when members of the Monty Python troop did it.

  80. Posted April 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Darryl,
    I didn’t say I hadn’t dropped a gavel…I *did* say this…which I will reproduce for you:
    “I don’t believe I’ve simply dropped the gavel and said “condemned!” without an argument.”

    Big difference. I’ve given arguments…you’ve given: ad hom, misstated what has been said, misunderstood what’s been said, shifted subjects, snarked, made “witty” comments, asked more questions while being sure to never answer anyone else…then pout ’cause someone messed up the castle you tried building in your sand box.

    I then invited you to do this:
    “Feel free to *specifically* argue…or show me where my reasoning is *specifically* flawed.”

    Which you haven’t done. With your reference to Monty Python, misstating what I had actually said, and then not taking up task of answering…I just got 3 of DGH’s pre-packaged responses from a single dive into the grab-bag…and you were able to so so in 2 sentences. Kudos.

  81. dgh
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Craig, how can I argue with your reasoning since you don’t even understand 2k. You have boxed with shadows but have not actually dealt with the actual ideas of 2k or the theological rationales for them. As I said above: “When you say that 2k relegates the church to uselessness, or that 2kers submit to the government as in a 1k world, or that 2k destroys piety, you are making assertions that do not present 2k accurately. You are trying to make it look as bas as possible.” And on the basis of the worst possible construction of 2k you say it is a system of sin.

    That sounds a lot like a gavel — but from a kangaroo court.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>