To Ask and Tell, or Not to Ask and Tell: This is the Contradiction

Rabbi Bret is baaaaaaack from vacation (apparently) and he didn’t waste anytime piling on his favorite virus – the infectious disease known as Radical 2K. He reports that the URCNA Synod has decided to send a letter to the U.S. Armed Services official, drafted by the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Miltary Personnel (PRJC), that petitions the Pentagon to to hold the line on the current military policy – “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In the current state of affairs, the various branches of the military do not inquire about the sexual orientation of personnel. But if the Obama administration has its way, “don’t ask, don’t tell” will cease and instead gays and lesbians will be able to come out of the closet. According to the PJRC letter, such a change of policy might force conservative Protestant chaplains to resign because their teaching and preaching of God’s word, especially on homosexuality, will open them to the charge of discrimination. The new policy might even force chaplains those passages in Scripture where God condemns homosexuality.

Bret interprets this URCNA decision as a major smack down of two-kingdom theology.

Despite the ongoing assault against Biblical Christianity from Westminster West Seminary and it’s specious Radical Two Kingdom Theology the URCNA rightly voted to weigh in on a “common realm” issue with an almost unanimous vote to resist, by way of appeal, the US Military’s overturning of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Apparently the Synodical body was not persuaded by the R2Kt ratiocination and argumentation that the Church has no business speaking beyond the realm of the Church. With this vote there can be no doubt that the URCNA has implicitly rejected, root and branch, the foreign theology now commonly referred to as “R2K.”

One would have thought that after a well-deserved break from pastoral duties and service at Synod the good rabbi would not be so quick to hyperventilate about the meaning of this news. I can think of any number of better indications than this letter that the URC has repudiated 2k. Do the formation of a study committee or an actual report with recommendations against 2k come to mind? But if this gets Bret through the night without having to use his inhaler, so be it.

At the same time, Bret may want to regroup and consider that the policy that PRC now favors – “don’t ask, don’t tell” – was precisely the one they opposed back when President Clinton introduced it during his first weeks in office. Maybe Bret was running for Senate or doing something time consuming like that, but Reformed communions like the OPC and PCA both sent letters in 1993 informing the president of the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality. These communications were supposed to provide the official cover for Reformed and Presbyterian chaplains whose consciences might be violated by openly gay soldiers and officers taking up duties under their charge. In a contest between church and state, supposedly, the chaplains could now appeal to the explicit teaching of their own communions.

What is important to remember, though, is that these letters, also hatched by the Presbyterian and Reformed chaplains, came in reaction to the policy that the PRJC now supports. In which case, in the name of biblical Christianity, the PRJC has reversed course and determined that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is just fine and that Obama will damage the military and the nation if he tinkers with allowing gays now in the closet, to come out.

So the question for Bret and supporters of the PRJC is this: is this what healthy 1k looks like? Can the church really change its mind about the policies the Bible requires? Or is it simply the case that the Bible opposes whatever a Democratic president proposes? (Could a GOP Study Bible be in the offing?)

Even more troubling is the propensity for the chaplains from Reformed communions to manifest their opposition to homosexuality to the exclusion of other sins that the Bible also condemns. I wonder why PRJC doesn’t instruct the president about the idolatry of Mormon worship or the blasphemy of the Roman Catholic Mass? Surely there are Mormons and Roman Catholics out of the closet in the military. Some of them are likely chaplains. Does PRJC think that Clinton and Obama understand the regulative principle of worship but need help with the seventh commandment? Or is it that PRJC thinks sexual sins are more eggregious than false worship?

It could be a tough call since the Westminster Standards allow that not all sins are equally offensive. But if sexual sins are more objectionable than liturgical infidelity (you’d have trouble proving that from Israel’s experience), then why not go after porn in the military, or divorce, or adultery among heteros? I personally don’t buy the logic – on display in spades in American Beauty – that the biggest homophobes are really gay. But if PRJC wanted to avoid that sort of canard from the Hollywood left, why not send a letter or two to the president about stealing and lying?

Mind you, I understand at least some of the difficulties that gay rights create for our society and the Armed Services. Rabbi Bret is well within his duties as a citizen to register his concerns. But I sure wish he’d get his facts straight (no pun intended) about biblical teaching and the PRJC’s flip-flop on don’t ask, don’t tell.

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41 Comments

  1. Posted August 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    The government asked for their position (and those of others with chaplains in the service). Every year, a well meaning proposal to send the President or Supreme Court a letter comes before the PCA and it is voted down pretty easily. The difference was that they PRJC was asked for their position in gathering information on what the effects of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be on various chaplain services.

    Now, you could make a case that there should not be chaplains in the first place, which is reasonable, but if the OPC and PCA has chaplains and they are asked about how something might effect them, is silence a respectable or honoring response to those whom God has put over us in matters of state?

  2. Ronnie
    Posted August 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Jared,

    Just because the government asks for their position it doesn’t mean you give an unbiblical answer. If PRJC is dealing with this as a moral issue then just as Dr. Hart stated they should talk about the other moral issues. What about those who have abortions? Should they be allowed to serve? What about Gays in other institutions? Should “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be the law there? On the other hand if PRJC is dealing with this a practical issue then definitely shouldn’t be providing the Armed Services advice. It is a bad to get in the politics of this thing and the wrong position on top of that.

    Ronnie

  3. Posted August 2, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    This will be ironic, since I am working as a hospital chaplain this summer, but maybe this displays the unworkability of chaplaincy as an ordained ministry. I’m sure some of this concern is that a PRJC chaplain would not be able to advise a soldier of the sin of their actions if homosexuality is blessed by the Pentagon. If a “minister” cannot rightly apply the word, how is he rightly understood as a minister of the word?

    My point is either the PRJC should object to chaplains being limited (which would happen) or else chaplaincy as an ordained office should be revisited…which perhaps should be done anyway considering the nature of the churchless minister, without the keys of discipline, the chaplain is asked to be.

  4. Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Has the PJRC sought clarification on exactly what repealing DADT would have for their chaplains? I realize that the military was asking for our ecclesiastical position on the policy, however, all disputes over the validity of the chaplaincy aside, our NAPARC denominational concerns are not squarely with the policy per se, but with how our chaplains are affected. Maybe a more appropriate response would have been along these lines: “The DADT policy is outside our denominations concerns and expertise to comment on specifically, however we would ask that any modifications to this policy that the US military is currently contemplating would not require our denomination’s chaplains to minister outside the bounds of our statements of faith, and that they can still deal with homosexuality as a biblically unsanctioned lifestyle, and in fact a sin before God. So long as our chaplains are not demonstrably affected, we currently have no further comment.”

    BTW Dr. Hart – one of my bible college profs (at the Moody Bible Institute no less) suggested a running of the “I Hate the World Study Bible” for certain home-school and exclusive christian ed. proponents, maybe it could be nicely packaged with a “Republican Study Bible” for better marketing.

    Maybe this sort of comment could have been expanded upon, but endorsing a policy that we were, less than 2 decades ago vehemently opposed to sure makes us look silly.

  5. Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Somehow the last to paragraphs were flopped sorry.

  6. Ronnie
    Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Jared,

    I think it is unworkable as long as the the military tries to limit what a Chaplain can say and to whom they can say it. A minister should be able to call a sin a sin, whatever it is. On the other hand, a sin such as homosexuality shouldn’t prevent one from serving in the military any more than a host of other sins that are present amongst serving soldiers. Furthermore, why is it only the military that gays cannot serve? I think the church is being snookered by the culture. Instead of us leading with consistency and calling all men everywhere to repent of their sins we react to the culture and politics of the day by singling out a sin in a specific institution.

    Now don’t get my wrong, I think there are some practical issues that may come into play by gays serving in the military that may not be present by other sins, but PJRC is not making a practical argument( which they shouldn’t ), but instead a moral argument which is wrongheaded.

    Ronnie

  7. Ronnie
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Jed,

    Very good post. I like your hypothetical response that we should have given.

    Ronnie

  8. Bob Patterson
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Darryl,

    Your confusion of the 1993 federal legislation, signed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress and signed by President Clinton, with Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enforcement regulations that allows the military to essentially bypass the provisions of the 1993 law (which states that sodomy is incompatible with military service) contributions to your less than charitable response to the PRJC. I have not seen the PRJC letter, but conservatives (both religious and nonreligious) support the 1993 legislation but oppose the enforcement regulations which has created the current conflict in the military, as the Clinton regulations allow individuals into the military who are inclined to engage behaviors that federal law requires their discharge once their behavior is revealed.

    I don’t believe the PRJC has reversed course. It has always supported the 1993 federal law. What it opposes is the current attempt to repeal that law by President Obama and his high-level appointees at the Pentagon. Nothing wrong with that, especially since the vast majority of service personnel and officers support the 1993 law. Nor is expressing support for a good law outside the boundaries of the Reformed tradition, especially by a guild of Reformed chaplains that, with good reason, fear the consequences to their work from the politically correct effort to deconstruct the military. The presence of Roman Catholic and Mormons in the military does not change the culture of the military — but the push to welcome so-called sexual minorities into the military will indeed change the culture of the military as well as the freedom of these chaplains to minister in this unique setting. In fact, the 2K doctrine provides a plausibility structure to allow Reformed chaplains in work in the same temporal sphere with Roman Catholics and Mormons and Jews.

    One other point: The empirical data on crime statistics does suggest that those who engage in sodomy may be more “homophobic” than those who engage in natural sexual relations. Most violence to homosexuals occurs in domestic settings by their same-sex partners.

  9. Posted August 3, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    This is crazy. Homosexuality is an abomination. To try to excuse it in anyway is absurd. I am not into this whole 2K/theonomy discussion. However, I am definitely not a 2K advocate if this is any indication of it. And yes there are degrees of sin. God did not bring down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, because they were cheating on their taxes.

  10. Posted August 3, 2010 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    This is not to say that heresy is less than. A false “gospel” is a more serious issue. Look at Paul’s anger at the church in Galatia, compared to his measured response to the church at Corinth. So homosexuals desperately need to hear the gospel, just as all men and women do. However, we do not minimize the seriousness of the issue, because of that.

  11. dgh
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Bob, sorry if I get the policy matters wrong. But the churches and conservatives did oppose “don’t ask, don’t tell” which was the compromise that barred military recruits from asking whether applicants were gay. Yes, the policy that banned gays stayed in place. But Clinton’s policy, as I understand it, prevented the military from asking about an applicants orientation. That compromise, don’t ask, don’t tell, was what many conservatives opposed because it let gays into the military as long as they weren’t open about it.

    Now the chaplains are defending that policy. I understand that I would likely do the same in order to defeat the current initiative. But the chaplains do look inconsistent. And the point of the post is that the church will also look pretty inconsistent on a regular basis if it thinks the Bible reveals policy.

    I am also troubled by the chaplains argument that says their witness will be compromised. The photo that accompanies this post is the ordination of the first Marine female chaplain. As it stands, our conservative chaplains serve alongside liberals, and some how they aren’t starting a fundamentalist controversy within the Pentagon. They think they are not guilty of serving two masters. I wonder.

    Eric, Sin is an abomination. So what is the government to do with sinners? Do we round us all up and put us in prisons or deport us all? Who would be left to keep the economy chugging?

    This is not an excuse for condoning homosexuality. It is a reason for asking why do some single out homosexuals as the chief among sinners.

  12. Richard
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    dgh,

    I worshipped and worked with Army Protestant chaplains for almost twenty years while serving with the Army in Germany. Your analysis is spot-on. The argument that their witness will be compromised beyond repair by repeal of DADT is a joke. Your photo says it all–compromise took place a very long time ago. It’s a shame some of our Reformed denominations are spending so much time on this issue instead of stepping back to ask how to best be a Reformed witness to our military and build up families in the Reformed faith. I saw little effort in the last area during my time in the Army.

  13. Bob Patterson
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Darryl,

    Given the confusion over DADT and the 1993 law, I wouldn’t be surprised that when the chaplains say they now support DADT, what they really mean is that they support the 1993 law. DADT is not up for repeal — the 1993 law is. DADT can be rescinded by executive order.

    I agree that the chaplains should avoid making religious arguments for their position — simply argue that the repeal of the 1993 law is not good for the military, not good for America, and not good for the chaplaincy. This is policy matter, not so much a religious matter. That way they avoid confusing the two kingdoms and weakening their authority in matters related to the ministry of the Word.

  14. Posted August 3, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    The singling out question is interesting. The military question seems more or less parallel to the civil one certain states are embroiled in. In both cases, I think the standard issue answer is something along the lines of “we’re not singling out anyone, the gays started it.” I wonder if that’s what the response was when fornicators wanted fornication laws deleted and when adulterers wanted no-fault divorce laws in place. Not that I have any interest in condoning sin, but does anybody consider the dangers of criminalizing sin? Isn’t there just as much chance of becoming “theonomic” as there is in becoming “Sodom and Gomorrahic”?

    The other interesting angle in the military question is how the rationale for maintaining the DADT status quo is that it will make things personally uncomfortable for certain chaplains holding to the full counsel of God. Not that I have any interest in seeing anyone’s livelihood threatened or in making witness to the full counsel of God any harder than it already is, but it does seem quite strange to want a policy in place in order to circumvent personal cost for gospel witness. Or is there a clause to the Great Commission that says to make going forth easy before going forth?

    I agree that the chaplains should avoid making religious arguments for their position — simply argue that the repeal of the 1993 law is not good for the military, not good for America, and not good for the chaplaincy.

    But, Bob, how can they argue it’s not good for the military or America when that doesn’t seem to pass the test of the spirituality of the church? Isn’t a military or civil question exactly not ecclesiastical? As to how they can argue it’s not good for chaplaincy, see my question above about circumventing personal cost for gospel witness.

  15. Darrell Todd Maurina
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I live outside Fort Leonard Wood. This is a live issue for me.

    Do you really think Machen “did address a similar problem in his own time” when he opposed his presbytery endorsing Prohibition when most of the delegates had already left?

    First, apart from the Bible Presbyterians and a few of the older RPCNA Covenanters, I think most people in the modern conservative Reformed and Presbytrian world understand that the state had no biblical ground to ban alcohol consumption. The state does have biblical ground as well as natural law grounds to ban homosexuality and homosexual acts — as, if I remember correctly, every one of the original 13 states did at the time the Constitution was adopted.

    If anything, I can see why a Reformed elder or pastor might argue that we cannot endorse “don’t ask, don’t tell” because it is an unbiblical compromise with sin, and the church ought to call for active efforts to extirpate homosexuality from civil life. Of course, that’s not realistic in the current climate, and I could see a theologically legitimate argument that it is better to stay silent than to endorse halfway measures.

    Second, and more importantly, Machen quite correctly protested that it is an abuse to have a presbytery go on record endorsing **ANYTHING** of substance when a large majority of the delegates have left.

    To compare that to what the URCNA synod just did doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to a good parallel.

  16. Ken
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    “Isn’t there just as much chance of becoming “theonomic” as there is in becoming “Sodom and Gomorrahic”?”

    No, there isn’t.

  17. Posted August 3, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    But why not, Ken? I mean, if we’re by nature legalists preoccupied with law instead of libertines preoccupied with license then wouldn’t follow that theonomy (or some form of it) would be the greater danger? Or maybe you don’t agree with the premise.

  18. Ken
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m considering whether or not I agree with your premise.

    But from a purely pragmatic position, the odds that a 21st century Western state would somehow, within a generation say, swing on the pendulum from extremem libertine to fundamentalist/thenomic strains credulity. So when you say “as much a chance”, in this current cultural climate, I’d say, “not a snowball’s…”

  19. Posted August 3, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Oh, come on, Ken, the awesome alliteration alone is enough to sell the L-laced premise (look, even more alliteration).

    Seriously, fair enough on the pragmatic point. But doesn’t hyperbolic rhetoric at least deserve a response in kind? “Today it’s homosexuals, tomorrow it’s pedophiles and beastialits!” “Oh yeah? Today it’s Prop 8, tomorrow it’s Leviticus 20.” You have to admit, if a state can grant marital rights to gays one day, then turn around and gain popular support to strip those rights away then thr slouch toward punishing homosexuality isn’t quite as far-fetched, is it?

    But I’ll re-phrase in a more principled manner: shouldn’t 2K Reformed be as concerned (if not more) for the theonomic impulse than the automomous slouching?

  20. Ken
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    If one reads Seutonius, one sees that the links between sodomy, pedophilia and bestiality are not as hyperbolic or theoretical as a Westerner-raised-within-a-culture-still-trying-to-shake-itself-of-its-largely-fundamentalist background would like to admit. (Do I get points for hyphenations?)

    As you probably remember, I believe that natural law allows the state a compelling interest to punish sodomy. If a state wanted to base their decision to do so on the compelling nature of a particularly ancient law text, say Leviticus 20, I wouldn’t quibble. But such a position is not by definition theonomy; in some circles this would be referring to either ancient wisdom or perhaps even to the obvious.

    As to whether or not 2k Reformed, as understood as historically enacted by Calvin, Knox, Westminster, et al., would have been more concerned, I’m going to guess “no.” If by 2k Reformed you mean Enlightenment-addled American presybterians – in their first 100+ years, then I’ll guess “no” again. If you mean post Civil War presbyterians who instead of sticking with historic Reformed principles have embraced all manner of heresies and have suffered the resultant deleterious effects within their own communion(s) then I’d say “yes.” To which 2k tradition are you referring?

  21. Ken
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    dgh,

    “It could be a tough call since the Westminster Standards allow that not all sins are equally offensive. But if sexual sins are more objectionable than liturgical infidelity (you’d have trouble proving that from Israel’s experience), then why not go after porn in the military, or divorce, or adultery among heteros?”

    Can’t flip back and forth between authorities when convenient (WCF and the OT) when using an argument from authority.

    C’mon, dgh, don’t you know that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds? But seriously, there are ebbs and flows in any struggle. Many parents fail to punish the “little” sins but eventually wake up when something more serious occurs. Are you suggesting that because this missed some offenses that they should then forego their right to punish any offenses? Really?? But perhaps I misread you… Perhaps you’re suggesting that the various denominations in NAPARC “go after porn in the military, or divorce, or adultery among heteros”, I’m all for it. You write the overtures and I’ll play the whip rounding up the signatories.

  22. dgh
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Ken, so we agree, the Chaplains (and by implication the Baylys) are inconsistent for singling out one particular sin. See, we are making progress.

  23. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Scary, but yes we agree if you think the Chaplains should be fighting this fight, though it should be to have the freedom to counsel biblically and therefore to uphold the 1993 law not the DADT policy which latter tactic you rightly skewer.

    I do think there is a difference in kind here that you’re refusing to recognize. I would bet that many Chaplains would counsel parishioners against adultery, porn use and unlawful (biblically speaking) divorce. I’m not aware that in any of those situations they would be prosecuted for the counsel and/or dismissed from the service for proffering said counsel. As the EMU case suggests, it would seem that Chaplains face the specter of being thrown out of the service for counseling against sodomy.

  24. dgh
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Ken, yes, there is a difference. The chaplains are not broadcasting to the president their opposition to porn or to female chaplains. Don’t you think that odd?

  25. Posted August 4, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Ken,

    I’m thinking of the sort of 2K that led Kuyper to say in his quest to revise Belgic 36 that “We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians.” But all men are products of their times, no? Could it be that Calvin’s theocratic time was a problem?

    Just how do you figure that basing law on Lt. 20 isn’t theonomy, or at least some form of it? But it seems to me that you’ll never get gays punished as you wish until you get at least a theocracy. Why not set your sites way higher? I mean, wanting gays punished in the midst of a liberal democracy is a bit as silly as wanting Anabaptists unharmed in the midst of a medieval theocracy. Otherwise, it just looks like you have something against a particular class of open sinners (gays), which may be the actual case.

  26. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    dgh,

    Not odd, but sad, yes. I think they should also voice opposition to female warriors. But as I said before, the Chaplains have missed the boat in the past, maybe they’re waking up now and perhaps success with regard to opposing sodomy will create a willingness to tackle the other issues you point out.

    Zrim,

    So are you arguing that until, what – 2 decades ago? – most American states had laws outlawing sodomy and were therefore by definition theonomic entities, but then the courts came along and with a few decisions magically changed them to liberal democracies? Don’t remember too many people marveling at the theonomic status of said states then, so I think your immediately leap to theonomy is simply wrong. From Alfred to now, Christians in government have been using the Bible to influence their politics. For you to equate such influence as theonomy/theocracy in all cases is simply uninformed.

    Yes, Zrim, I do have “something against a particular class of open sinners.” [Have to admit that I'm not quite sure what you would call an "open sinner" - do murders or pedophiles count?] Are you suggesting that you don’t? Wouldn’t you like to see a corporation that blatantly lies about its product prevented from doing so?. What this comes down to is that my class of open sinners who deserve punishment includes sodomites and yours doesn’t. I say that the reason they should be included is that their activity undermines the family which undermines the society upon which a liberal democracy is based. Yes, I happily admit my conclusion is informed by what the Bible teaches about sodomy.

    What I’m trying to understand is why you don’t include them as a group that commits a type of sin that deserves greater scrutiny and punishment by the civil magistrate. As you’ve commented in the past – not all sin is deserving of civil punishment, and I would agree, even the Bible, even a theonomist (!) agrees with that premise.

  27. Posted August 4, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Ken, whatever else is involved in our disagreement I have to say I think it may be a case of where each thinks virtue and morality are primarily nurtured. I say it’s the home. Something tells me you’re nodding in agreement, but then I don’t understand the apparent accent placed on legislation. The home makes people, the state simply (and imperfectly) orders their public lives. But you make it sound like if the state isn’t not only keeping them permanently single but also hanging gays (and let’s throw in fornicators and adulterers for good measure, m’kay?) the family suffers. But I don’t see what the gay couple living around my corner or the fornicators next door have to do with my making of my children. God ordained me and their mother alone to make them, as in sola familia. All sorts of others do all sorts of things not in accord with our moral code. So what?

    It just seems like you hang way too much on the magistrate, and despite whatever ostensible status you may give it, likely way too little on the family, which seems like the classic affliction of the New Schoolers as opposed to the Old Schoolers.

  28. Richard
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Ken,

    Based on my experience with military chaplains–no, this will not be not a “wake up” call which will soon have them opposing, say, female chaplains, which are now a pervasive part of the Protestant chaplain corps. As I recall, the UCMJ outlaws sodomy, still (Article 125). Until and unless this is changed, officers, including chaplains, will have a duty to counsel soldiers against this offense.

  29. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Zrim,

    To use Leviticus merely as an example, the law prescribed different consequences for different sins. Some sins were not punished civilly, but required sacrificial atonement; other sins, sins against society, required civil punishment. Sodomy (and adultery and some forms of fornication) were in the latter category. Leviticus prescribed death as the appropriate punishment; I won’t say that God’s punishment was unjust. But as I’m not a theonomist, I won’t say that in the new covenant we’re mandated to carry out the jot and tittle of Moses’ law, but I would say that civil magistrates can (do and have) use it as a pattern of thought to help them determine what is and is not subject to civil penalty. And I think its a fair conclusion that God does think that the gay couple living next door has an detrimental impact on a society made up of heterosexual families which is why He mandated the death penalty for it. To that end, the fact that numerous cultures, not Western or Christian, have proscribed sodomy would seem to underscore the obviousness of my position. Its only societies that have a low view of the family and the marriage covenant that seek to alleviate or eliminate the penalties for sodomy (throw adultery in there too if you want). Find an exception as you can, but I think the rule is easily demonstrated in history.

    As to hanging things on the magistrate, I think I’m simply applying sphere sovereignty (a 2K category!) and expecting him to administer his sphere. For the reasons outlined above, which is a fairly typical pattern in Western legal history, I think sodomy belongs in the magistrate’s sphere. [I think adultery and fornication do as well, but as I keep trying to tell dgh, I'm willing to fight one battle at a time.]

    I teach my children that murder is wrong (hatred too!). I expect the other children in my neighborhood learn that murder is wrong in their homes as well. I also think that every parent expects the magistrate to punish murderers. I teach my children that sodomy is wrong; I expect the magistrate to punish sodomites.

    And you think I’m a New Schooler? I think that’s a bit anachronistic; if we’re using historical categories, I would have placed myself somewhere in the magisterial reformed camp, pre-Westminster. But perhaps you would define Knox & Calvin as New Schoolers? I guess the label doesn’t really matter, but it is curious given the subject matter at hand.

    If anything, it is contemporary evangelicals whether in the CRC, PCA, GARB, etc. that have, contrary to the history of the church, now decided that sexual sin is merely a private affair. That’s “new school.”

  30. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Richard,

    I’m sorry to hear that you don’t think it will be a wake-up call. I suspect the wake-up needs to happen first within the sending denominations.

    It sounds as if you are familiar with military law; how does DADT and the 1993 law interact with the UCMJ now? Is the ’93 law the statute within the UCMJ, or does Article 125 predate the controversy of the last 17 years?

  31. dgh
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Ken, if you’re a good Kuyperian, which magistrate is responsible for legislating sexual sin? And if you are against viewing sexual sin as a private matter, perhaps you can explain your own involvement in seeking appropriate legislation. I’m not doubting your sincerity. I’m just wondering if you do more than talk about it on blogs and even preach about it from the pulpit.

  32. Richard
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Ken,

    Article 125 predates it–but it is still good law since it is part of the 2010 UCMJ. DADT is not part of the UCMJ.
    The sending Reformed denominations need to be re-evaluating the role the Reformed clergy should be playing in the military. Will they? I sincerely doubt it.

  33. Posted August 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    But as I’m not a theonomist, I won’t say that in the new covenant we’re mandated to carry out the jot and tittle of Moses’ law, but I would say that civil magistrates can (do and have) use it as a pattern of thought to help them determine what is and is not subject to civil penalty.

    Ken, so then idolatry, Sabbath violations and credo-baptism would have to be punishable, right? Assuming your answer is yes (but only one battle at a time, right, so today sodomy and tomorrow credo-baptism?), then please explain how you’re not some form of theonomist.

    But see, 2K says everything from idolatry to sodomy is subject to punishment. But first it’s an ecclesiastical understanding and not civil, which is to say only believers are subject to these laws. And second, it’s not punishment but discipline. Punishment is about casting out wrongdoers, while discipline has an eye toward reform and reconciliation. So, no, sexual sin isn’t a private affair. It’s quite public, but by public I mean the halls of the church.

  34. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Zrim,

    I think you keep ignoring that your version of 2K doesn’t line up with its original version. So when you say “2K says…” you’re not really speaking for 2K, but rather for a postmodern American version – with all the baggage that entails. Calvin’s version of 2K, which is the recurring dominant form, would indeed include a civil understanding as well as an ecclesiastical one. In fact, I think he was in favor of punishing the Ana-credobaptists, and not just with excommunication.

    As to a form of theonomist, it’s quite clear that in the mid-80′s that presbyterians made a distinction between theonomy as advocated by the Tyler crowd and it’s older Westminsterian history of applied 2K. But if you’ve now become the definer of theonomy, then your definition is fairly broad (anyone who looks to the Bible for guidance when it comes to making civil law), and if that’s the definition, then I’ll gladly claim the moniker…as would virtually the entire Western church since Constantine.

    What you still refuse to recognize, however, is that sodomy/adultery are quite injurious to the public, and you don’t have to be a “theonomist” or even a Christian to recognize that fact…though it helps.

    But I’m curious, since you don’t seem to be a fan of a civilly-applied 10 commandments – all of which I think have been a part of American jurisprudence – “greatest country on God’s green earth and all that -dgh”- for the better part of two centuries…How do you decide which of the commandments are just too “theonomic” to be applied in a liberal democratic society? Murder? Lying? Why/how does the civil application of the stricture against adultery inherently violate the ethos of a liberal democratic society? Even the pagan Romans understood adultery was bad for the state.

    You simply disagree with my premise: sodomy/adultery are bad for society, and not just because they are damaging to one’s spiritual condition. They destroy the relationships between husband and wife which destroys the marriage covenant, fatally weakening the family, which fatally weakens the rest of the society that is built on that marriage covenant. This is a pretty standard Reformed understanding of the teaching of Scripture.

    You believe that the culture can plunge itself into sexual sin without socio-political consequences. This is not simply incorrect, its delusional. You continue to oscillate between spheres as you find it convenient without ever offering a recognizably Christian argument as to why a society should tolerate sodomy/adultery.

    No one is asking the Church to pass civil judgment on this sin; I simply expect the magistrate to do his job.

  35. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    dgh,

    “if you’re a good Kuyperian, which magistrate is responsible for legislating sexual sin? And if you are against viewing sexual sin as a private matter, perhaps you can explain your own involvement in seeking appropriate legislation. I’m not doubting your sincerity. I’m just wondering if you do more than talk about it on blogs and even preach about it from the pulpit.”

    Evidently you’re not reading from Zrim’s version of Kuyper. Remember, Z stands with Kuyper over and against me (and apparently Calvin).

    I’ll pretend your “which magistrate” is a serious question, and as a subscriber to subsidiarity, I’d put it as close to local as possible. Different states have different laws. I’m willing to let different magistrates make different decisions. I’m also very willing to let them make the wrong decision and then call them to make the right one.

    As to my participation, which is a very subtle “change the topic” maneuver, I’m not a legislator nor magistrate, nor a pastor. What I do is not germane to our subject, but it may comfort you to know that I don’t perceive participation on this blog as “doing” anything other than provide opportunity for debate. The battle is in the churches, the neighborhoods and the hearts and minds of those within my local community.

  36. Posted August 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Ken,

    I don’t think I’ve ignored how what I am saying doesn’t line up with Calvin’s medieval and theocratic 2K. I have already said I stand with Kuyper in his disagreement with Calvin, etc.

    You ask, “How do you decide which of the commandments are just too ‘theonomic’ to be applied in a liberal democratic society? Murder? Lying?”

    I simply reject the premise of your question, which seems to be that the civil magistrate must decide which commandments are to be applied. But the civil magistrate (of a liberal democracy or the Ming Dynasty) doesn’t need to pick from special revelation. He has everything he needs in general revelation. Plus, the Bible belongs solely to God’s people. He gave it to Isreal alone, not their surrounding neighbors. Instead of farming it out to the pagans we should actually be a lot more jealous for it. I mean, talk about adultery: whatever damages come to society at large by legalizing sexual sins, what about the damages that come to the church by playing fast and loose with his Word? But I take it you probably are more scandalized by the Decalogue NOT hanging on public walls like some two-bit fluzzie. For my part, I’d prefer it to be safely at home where it belongs.

  37. dgh
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Ken, my point was not to change the subject but to see if you were a deny the public-private distinction in public but a live-with-the-public-private distinction in practice. Sounds like I got it right. So you’re complaint with 2k is what? You don’t practice what you preach. 2k gives you a theory for practicing what you preach. Boy, you guys are inconsistent. But I’m glad we can be your doormat. After all, we are pacifists.

    I agree that sexual immorality is a social problem. But why single out homosexuality? You still haven’t answered that one.

  38. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    You stand with Kuyper on his disagreement with a particular portion of Calvin’s 2K theology. I could be wrong, but I’m betting Kuyper doesn’t stand with you on the best course of action for a Christian to take when requested by the state to help define marriage.

    “I simply reject the premise…”

    Now we’re getting somewhere.

    We could go down the path that all law is the enactment/enforcement of morality, and so perhaps my narrowing it to the commandments was jumping too far ahead. So I’m going to pick up on your theme…

    You argue the Ming dynasty magistrate has what he needs in general revelation {you don’t say for what but I’ll presume that you mean he has enough to be a good magistrate.} Bahnsen,the theonomist, would disagree, but…drumroll…I would agree with you. And I’d say that if special/natural revelation is enough to condemn/prohibit murder and lying, its enough to condemn/prohibit adultery and sodomy… But I think I made that point several posts ago when I mentioned non-Western/Christian cultures somehow discovering that sodomy was a bad thing and thereby outlawing it.

    Now discerning the clarity of the message of general revelation is a challenge to be sure. It might be that the Ming magistrate would look to laws of other nations for guidance or wisdom. Are you seriously suggesting that if he asked to see your copy of the Scriptures you’d refuse his request? Or perhaps you’d allow his perusal but forbid him from gleaning anything?

    Justice is justice, whether the pagans believe it originates with God or not. Paul in Romans quite clearly acknowledges that pagans and their magistrates can and have acted justly without the special revelation given to God’s people. But how does Paul know that they’ve acted justly? I’d suggest that its because the pagan magistrates punished evildoers, and Paul knows an evildoer when he sees one because not only does he have general revelation but he has special revelation to boot. So he can say with confidence that the pagans sometimes keep the law better than the Jews who have the law because he’s seen the measuring stick.

    In your last couple of lines I think you’re mixing kingdoms again. There is no doubt that adultery is bad for a culture…I think we agree there, but apparently you don’t think that civil society should try to restrain it. I think at root you take issue with the basic 2K concept of sphere sovereignty, that or you deny the fact that a single action can indeed be a sin requiring discipline within the church and simultaneously a criminal act requiring punishment within the civil realm. Church deals with its side and the state with its; I think that’s a fair assessment of traditional 2K theology.

    I’m not sure why you think I’m playing fast and loose with the Word. I haven’t even begun to make a biblical case. I thought we were simply arguing about the basis for good law and its proper application in the civil realm? Then you go off on a rant about the public display of the decalogue. That’s off topic, but, to pull it in, even the recent American judiciary has ruled that a decalogue display as a historic display is perfectly okay…because they recognize that even in the civil realm its had a dramatic influence on our concepts of justice. Even the pagans recognize this (and I think that might somehow fit a definition of general revelation). That said, I think it certainly belongs in the home as well and on that we can be agreed.

    Look – if your (and dgh’s) point is that because our evangelical forebears punted on divorce and adultery thereby making any defense of a traditional view of sodomy untenable in the current cultural climate I would and do agree. If the two of you are arguing that the only solution to a sick society is a healthy church, then I agree with that too. [none of these situations are either/or scenarios. If dgh’s macro point is that a sick culture isn’t likely to take its cues from a sick church, then I’d agree that he’s probably right. So perhaps in a way the faithful in American find themselves in a Jeremiah-like role; I hope not.

  39. Ken
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    dgh,

    It’s your blog, so I’m going answer your latest, and then give you the final word…

    “Ken, my point was not to change the subject but to see if you were a deny the public-private distinction in public but a live-with-the-public-private distinction in practice. Sounds like I got it right. So you’re complaint with 2k is what? You don’t practice what you preach. 2k gives you a theory for practicing what you preach. Boy, you guys are inconsistent. But I’m glad we can be your doormat. After all, we are pacifists.”

    Using the means at my disposal to call the magistrate at multiple levels is somehow living “with the public private distinction in practice?” Just because I didn’t bother to tell you what I’ve done or do or will do, you presume to have gotten it right? I’ll turn the other cheek on that one dgh, or should I say another part of my anatomy because that’s something of a low blow even for you.

    Jesus said “render unto Caesar…” and so we pay our taxes to a government that consistently breaks its social compact with the people. Presumably the apostle Paul agree with Jesus’ admonition, and paid his taxes, but that didn’t stop him from reminding the magistrates of their lawful duty. I like to think that I do the same, though I’ll admit I haven’t been laid out for a whipping…yet.

    Are you suggesting that the only consistent position for a traditional 2Ker when faced with an immoral government is armed rebellion?

    “I agree that sexual immorality is a social problem. But why single out homosexuality? You still haven’t answered that one.”

    I guess I assumed this wasn’t germane to a discussion on the particular sin of sodomy. But as you keep going there… I haven’t singled out homosexuality; that’s just the immediate target. You may find this unkind, but I blame your generation for punting on divorce and adultery thereby making sodomy the issue of my time. I do believe that adultery is the umbrella category under which sodomy falls, and so I think it a more widespread evil than sodomy. Unfortunately, the current crop of pagans don’t see adultery within their general-revelation field of vision – and we both know that the reason for that is that the church has failed its own in this area – but I’m doing my best to point it out. When the state forces me to commit adultery, I’ll decline and take the punishment, or perhaps flee if that’s an option.

  40. Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    There is no doubt that adultery is bad for a culture…I think we agree there, but apparently you don’t think that civil society should try to restrain it…If the two of you are arguing that the only solution to a sick society is a healthy church, then I agree with that too.

    Ken, yes we can agree that adultery is bad for society (how could it be good?) and that it should be restrained. But I think where we diverge is how it should be restrained because we also disagree about what functions as the soul of society; I say it’s the family, not the church. Familial bonds restrain adultery. (And where you speak of “solutions” to a sick society I’d rather speak of “causes.” Sorry, but solution-speak is just so new school-y.)

    You dismiss my point about whoring out the Word to the world (alliteration alert) by calling it a rant and off topic. But I am serious. How could that possibly be off topic?

    Your answer to singling out gays is interesting. Saying it’s the “immediate target” because it’s presumably the one that is in the field of vision of the current crop of pagans, seems to amount to something like, “The world sets the church’s agenda.” That sounds really familiar.

  41. Posted October 3, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Hello!

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