Rabbi Bret Borrowing Capital from Those 2k Swiss Bank Accounts

On the one hand, I am touched that the good Rabbi would devote ten-plus paragraphs to refuting the a minor question I raised about epistemological self-consciousness. On the other hand, I am hurt that Bret shows more charity to Ron Paul than to me. Despite the crusty and vinegary exterior, I am really a pussy cat in person, without claws — the effects perhaps of living with cats for more than two decades — and not to be missed I can cry with the best of them, being the son of a private first-class Marine who was a weeper. I try to console myself that Bret is only opposed to 2k as a set of ideas; he does not dislike (all about) me.

Still, the tolerance that anti-2kers show to non-Reformed Protestants (e.g. Ron Paul) and even to non-Christian ideas (more below) is puzzling and suggests a level of personal antagonism that is unbecoming. In the case of Ron Paul, Bret tries to justify his intention to vote for the libertarian Republican as consistent with Christian faith because this proposed vote has received flak from a theonomist whom he apparently follows on Facebook. Bret explains:

I intend to vote for Rep. Ron Paul if I can I do acknowledge that there are issues he supports that I do not think are Christian. Paul’s recent vote supporting homosexuals in the military is not the vote a Christian man would have made. Also, Ron Paul’s fuzzy stand on illegal immigration is a head scratcher. I also would that Rep. Paul would clearly articulate that the Constitution as it currently stands outlaws Abortion, and because of that States should overturn laws on their books that are contrary to that Constitutional requirement. I also do not believe that Dr. Paul’s Libertarian instincts will work in a country that has been balkanized by both it’s legal immigration policy pursuit since 1965 and it’s benign neglect of illegal immigration. . . .

Our greatest need of the hour in order to restore biblical statecraft is for someone to slay the Leviathan State. This is the platform on which Dr. Paul is campaigning. Biblical statecraft will not be restored until the Leviathan state is slain. First things first. To suggest that any Christian who intends to vote for Ron Paul is abandoning biblical principles for voting and statecraft is like a Jew complaining that the person who stopped the rape of his wife was not circumcised. It is true that there are faults with Dr. Paul, but currently he is the gentleman who promises to help us with our most current and pressing problem. Mr. Ritchie just isn’t thinking correctly.

First things first? Does not the first table of the law come before the second table? Does not doing what is right in God’s eyes take precedence over what may be beneficial to the survival of the United States? In which case, could it be that Bret is letting his own political convictions dictate what comes first? As I’ve said a guhzillion times, Covenanters would not construe first things this way. They refused to vote, run for office, or serve in the military because the first thing — Christ’s Lordship — was not part of the U.S. Constitution. I disagree that the Constitution must include such an affirmation. But I greatly admire the Covenanters’ consistency and wish Rabbi Bret would be as hard nosed in the political realm as he is with (all about) me in the theological arena.

What seems to be operative here is that Rabbi Bret borrows selectively from 2k by using non-biblical standards for evaluating the United States’ political order. He says we must follow wisdom in the current election cycle. Well, what happened to the Bible as the standard for all of life? And just how do you get a license to practice such wisdom (when 2kers are the ones who issue them)?

Additional evidence of the Rabbi’s appeal to wisdom and implicit use of 2k comes in a good post he wrote about the differences between “classical” conservatism and neo-conservatism. I’ll paste here only one of the piece’s five points (though the entire post is worthwhile for those who don’t know the differences among conservatism):

Neo-conservatives believe that America is responsible to expand American values and ideology at the point of a bayonet. This was the governing ideology of progressive Democrats like Woodrow Wilson who desired to make the world safe for Democracy. However, before the Wilsonian motto of making the world safe for Democracy (a motto largely taken up by the Bush II administration) Wilson understood the American instinct for a humble foreign policy by campaigning in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Before American entry into W.W. II the classically conservative approach to involvement in international affairs was one of modesty, as seen in the previous mentioned Wilson approach to campaigning in 1916. Classical conservatism, as opposed to neo-conservatism embraced the dictum of John Quincy Adams who once noted that, “America is a well-wisher of liberty everywhere, but defender only of her own.”

However, today’s conservatism is internationally militantly adventurous. What is sold by those who have co-opted the title of “conservative,” is the exporting of American values but the dirty little secret is that the American values that are being exported in the name of Democracy is just a warmed over socialism combined with some form of Corporate consumerism.

Good point, but where exactly is the justification for this from Scripture or the Lordship of Christ or the antithesis? I’m betting that loads of Christian Reformed Church ministers and laity who invoke the antithesis every bit as much as the Rabbi does, would never countenance Bret’s understanding of U.S. foreign policy. In which case, either the Bible speaks with forked tongue about a nation’s military involvement or all neo-Calvinists are dictating to special revelation what their “wise” observations of the created order and contemporary circumstances require. Why then are 2kers guilty of doing something illegitimate if Rabbi Bret or liberals in the CRC do the very same thing?

Which leads me back to the deep emotional wound mentioned at the outset. In his response to my post on epistemological self-consciousness, Bret says that it all comes down to this:

I mean that is what this boils down to isn’t it? Van Til repeatedly emphasized the necessity of epistemological self-consciousness while Darryl is suggesting that each man must do what is right in his own unique epistemological self consciousness. One epistemologically self-conscious Christian likes Kant, another epistemologically self conscious Christian likes Hegel. Vive la différence!

This is an odd summary of the entire difference since at the beginning of the post Bret says that the notion of the Lordship of Christ was hardly a Dutch Reformed idea, and then he goes on to say that it all comes down to a point made (as he understands it) about the Lordship of Christ by a Dutch-American. But aside from the intellectual hiccup, does Bret really not see that his own support for Ron Paul throws the antithesis to the wind. Paul doesn’t have to be a Reformed Christian affirming the Lordship of Christ to gain Bret’s support. Bret’s analysis of conservatism doesn’t need to follow the dictates of the antithesis in order for it to be wise. And yet, if I or other 2kers don’t follow the antithesis when recognizing a common realm of activity for believers and unbelievers, or when finding truths by which to negotiate this common terrain other than from Scripture (only because the Bible is silent, for instance, on basements or how to remove water from them), we are relativists and antinomians. (We don’t even get a little credit for putting the anti in antinomian.)

Until the critics of 2k can possibly create a world in which the antithesis applies all the time, they will be indebted to 2k for borrowed capital. The reason is that it is impossible to live in a mixed society if the sort of antithesis that will ultimately result in the separation of the sheep from the wolves is going to be the norm. The antithesis requires not only withholding support from Ron Paul, but also opposition to a political order that would allow him on the ballot (not to mention that difficult matter of what to do with Mitt Romney’s Mormons or Rick Santorum’s Roman Catholics). Bret believes that the “Escondido” theology will one day pass away like the Mercersburg Theology did. I too believe it will, whenever God chooses to separate believers from unbelievers. But until then, as long as we live with unbelievers, guys like Bret will need and use 2k theology. I only wish he’d show a little gratitude and start to pay off the debt. He is well behind in payments and snarky about it.

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7 Comments

  1. mark mcculley
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Mike Horton: Dispensationalism is the only thing that mainline Presbyterians have managed to denounce as heresy in the 20th century. I’ve written enough critiques to dispel any legitimate suspicion of being a closet dispensationalist. However There is a kind of American Protestant activism (fueled especially by Charles Finney and the revivalistic legacy) that regards moral, cultural, and social reform as the main business of the church.

    Christ the King is actually present with his kingdom. And what happens? … we might expect the
    banners to be unfurled, the wicked and the oppressors (whoever we identify as such) destroyed. Surely, if ever in this present age, we were to expect a total transformation of the kingdoms of this age into the kingdom of Christ, it would have been in Christ’s earthly ministry. Yet he just preaches the gospel, forgives sins, heals the sick, and marches toward the cross.

  2. GAS
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    ahhh… so according to the good rabbi we need to destroy statism so we can install the correct statism?… and why would homos in the military be particularly anti-christian?… If Paul was for homo interior decorators would that be okie dokie?

  3. Mark Van Der Molen
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Mark McCulley, could you supply the source of that Horton quote?

  4. Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Mark McCulley, I think the quote is better (especially for clarity) without the ellipses —

    “A lot comes down to how we relate the “already” of Christ’s kingdom to the “not yet” that is still up ahead. I recently read a blog post somewhere in which the author (a mainline Presbyterian) said that dispensationalism is the only thing that mainline Presbyterians have managed to denounce as heresy in the 20th century. I’ve written enough critiques of the dispensationalist way of reading the Bible to dispel any legitimate suspicion of being a closet dispensationalist. However, I think this blogger makes a point. There is a kind of American Protestant activism (fueled especially by Charles Finney and the revivalistic legacy) that regards moral, cultural, and social reform as the main business of the church. If dispensationalism rejects the “already” of Christ’s kingdom, the opposite error is the downplay the “not yet.”

    Notice that throughout the Gospels, Christ the King is actually present with his kingdom. And what happens? The outcasts, prostitutes, and other assorted sinners are forgiven and welcomed to the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even the healings are signs the reveal Christ’s kingdom chiefly as a ministry of salvation from sin, death, and hell. Here, with the King present in person with his kingdom, we might expect the banners to be unfurled, the wicked and the oppressors (whoever we identify as such) driven out and destroyed. Surely, if ever in this present age, we were to expect a total transformation of the kingdoms of this age into the kingdom of Christ, it would have been in Christ’s earthly ministry. Yet he just preaches the gospel, forgives sins, heals the sick, and marches toward the cross.”

  5. Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Maybe Bret is to theonomy what Dubya (and Wilson) is to conservatism. When will he start saying “REformed” and “theononomy”?

  6. mark mcculley
    Posted February 1, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  7. Posted February 1, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Nice succint summary of the main point of FROM BILLY GRAHAM TO SARAH PALIN in the link Marky Mark posted.

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