Evangelicalism – Politics = Christianity?

Andrew Sullivan’s first experience with megachurch Praise & Worship worship came during the memorial service for David Kuo, an aid to president George W. Bush, who recently succumbed to cancer (thanks to John Fea). Sullivan was surprised by what he saw:

I have never been to a mega-church service – which is something to be ashamed of, since I have written so often about evangelicalism’s political wing. And it was revealing. The theater was called a sanctuary – but it felt like a conference stage. There were no pews, no altar (of course), just movie-theater seats, a big complicated stage with a set, and four huge screens. It looked like a toned-down version of American Idol. I was most impressed by the lighting, its subtlety and professionalism (I’ve often wondered why the Catholic church cannot add lighting effects to choreograph the Mass). The lyrics of the religious pop songs – “hymns” doesn’t capture their Disney channel infectiousness – were displayed on the screens as well, allowing you to sing without looking down at a hymnal. Great idea. And the choir was a Christian pop band, young, hip-looking, bearded, unpretentious and excellent. Before long, I was singing and swaying and smiling with the best of them. The only thing I couldn’t do was raise my hands up in the air.

This was not, in other words, a Catholic experience. But it was clearly, unambiguously, a Christian one.

That right there is enough to put any serious Christian off evangelicalism. How you go from Wesley and Watts to Shane and Shane is, of course, the wonder, genius, and idiocy of evangelicalism in North America.

But Sullivan goes on to wonder about evangelicalism without its political baggage.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that so many of us have come to view evangelical Christianity as threatening, and in its political incarnation, it is at times. But freed from politics, evangelical Christianity has a passion and joy and Scriptural mastery we could all learn from. The pastors were clearly of a higher caliber than most of the priests I have known – in terms of intellect and command. The work they do for the poor, the starving, and the marginalized in their own communities and across the world remains a testimony to the enduring power of Christ’s resurrection.

To be sure, finding a form of evangelical Protestantism after 1820 that is not tied to a political cause is difficult since immanentizing the eschaton was not a temptation that evangelicals resisted — until the Scofield Reference Bible. But Sullivan’s reflections do make you think that the means of grace, even in the diluted form that evangelicals use, is a better testimony to the truths of the gospel than all of that politicking.

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347 Comments

  1. Zrim
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Erik, since my name has come up, let me clarify what the good pastor has suggested. A few years ago I did engage at the BB with what I consider charitable dialogue. Of course, many of the points weren’t well received, so a minion went hunting and found some posts/comments on my own blog about their published preaching that the good pastors really didn’t like. But before I may post there I have to apologize for comments with which they strongly disagree made on my own blog by me. The problem is that none of the things I wrote were cause for remorse on my part–I’d say them again and have no trouble letting my mom or elders read them. I just want to be clear that I wasn’t a gadfly, just someone who takes strong reservation with their teaching.

  2. Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    The valuable lesson I’ve learned is, when you book a vacation in the Culture Warrior Fever Swamps, pack lightly, make sure and buy a round trip ticket, and only reserve your hotel one night at a time. You may be coming back home soon.

    Old Life is more like a long-term stay hotel on a temperate island paradise.

  3. Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Zrim – Well Hart has NO hope of getting back on then…

    I only went there because of the DTM link. He is to the Christian blogosphere what Jimmy Carter is in the political realm — ambassador to the world.

    I have no interest in posting stuff on sites where I know they disagree with me. Who needs the hassle?

  4. Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 17, 2013 at 10:23 pm: “Reformed people were not united around Kuyper, especially in the U.S. Have you heard of Foppe Ten Hoor? He was a leader of the Confessionalists who opposed the Kuyperians in the U.S. over 100 years ago.”

    I am definitely aware of the difference between the earlier Afscheiding and later Doleantie traditions, and how things worked out in a North American context when Kuyper’s Doleantie followers emigrated and joined the pre-existing Christian Reformed Church which had been founded by leaders of the Afscheiding.

    I think you will find that Ten Hoor was considerably more opposed to Kuyper’s views on presumptive regeneration than to his views on politics. However, I am handicapped by the fact that I cannot read Dutch and many of the Dutch Reformed discussions in the 1800s and early 1900s by CRC and RCA ministers and political leaders regarding politics in an American context have not been translated into English. I must only rely on what I have been taught in my church history classes at Calvin by professors who could read Dutch and have written on these subjects. Perhaps you are aware of works by Ten Hoor on Kuyper’s view of politics which had not been translated into English when I was at Calvin, or which my professors chose not to emphasize in their classes.

    I can make your own case better for you by pointing to the political divisions between the Anti-Revolutionary Party and the Christian Historical Union and especially the GH Kersten split over government attitudes toward Roman Catholicism. Kuyper was a dominant figure in the Dutch Reformed world of the late 1800s and early 1900s, probably the pre-eminent conservative Calvinist for most of that period. But he was not the Dutch Reformed “pope” by any stretch of the imagination.

    For whatever it’s worth, if it were not for the fact that this blog is well-known for opposition to Puritanism, I’d be arguing against Kuyper on some key points of his theology where some on this blog would probably agree with Kuyper. I think Kuyper was right on his theology of the state and wrong on his theology of personal conversion, though I certainly acknowledge he was trying to be Reformed in both areas of his teaching. Kuyper’s doctrine of covenant children certainly has numerous parallels in a North American context to the teaching of the anti-revivalists in both Old School Presbyterianism and Old School Congregationalism, though in his case he was responding to Dutch Puritanism and Dutch Pietism, which persisted much later in the Netherlands than in North America, rather than to Finney and the Second Great Awakening.

  5. Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Tim Bayly is trying to fix it so I can at least see his blog again. That was inadvertent. I give him credit for that. The Wilson Conference he put on that I watched there was extremely interesting (the Q&A, anyway) so I’m glad I can at least still see stuff like that if they post it there.

  6. Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    DTM – For whatever it’s worth, if it were not for the fact that this blog is well-known for opposition to Puritanism, I’d be arguing against Kuyper on some key points of his theology where some on this blog would probably agree with Kuyper.

    Erik- Yeah, that probably won’t help your case, but Richard will get all warm & fuzzy.

  7. Richard Smith
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    DTM: Yes, you are required by a different article of the Belgic Confession, Article 34, to “detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized…” But you are not required by anything in either the amended or unamended versions of the Belgic Confession to call for civil penalties against Anabaptists.

    Belgic 34: In this way he signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.

    This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharoah, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.

    So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies– namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works.

    For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it– for we cannot be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.

    Belgic Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture
    We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one– even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says–ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.

    Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

    For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.

    Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,”^4 and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”^

    RS: Regulative Principle of Worship:
    Worship is that only those elements that are instituted or appointed by command in Scripture are permissible in worship,

    There is no example or command in Scripture that infants are to be baptized, but instead the only command we have is that disciples are to be baptized. So if we follow Belgic 7, we should be very wary of Belgic 34.

  8. Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    Do you object to the Bayly’s fiery rhetoric and calling Christian ministers who don’t agree with their politics cowards publicly?

    If so, why do you feed their fire by posting your piece on their site?

    Are you not selling out people which which you are in closer ecclesiastical communion for the sake of people with which you are in more distant (or perhaps nonexistent) ecclesiastical communion?

    Are you presenting your Presbyterian & Reformed brothers in the best possible light to the wider world?

  9. Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm: “You embrace ‘sphere sovereignty’ while at the same time decrying “R2K”, but it seems like they have an awful lot in common.”

    There are similarities and some things in common.

    I am not an establishmentarian; I am not a theocrat; I am not a theonomist. Since “Two Kingdoms” people also reject those three positions, it is certainly true that “sphere sovereignty” may have some parallels with “Two Kingdoms” people, especially the more moderate versions. However, people in all four of those theological camps will have serious problems with key aspects of Kuyperianism.

    The bottom line issue is how Christians who are civil magistrates learn what is right and what is wrong so they can act in God-honoring ways in government. The Bible doesn’t give all the answers, certainly not in exhaustive detail, but where it does speak, I believe we have our answer.

    Civil magistrates are not to be calling things “good” in the statehouse which God requires them to call “evil” in the church.

    It seems clear that “Two Kingdoms” advocates believe otherwise.

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm: “O.K. You’ve made a case for why you can tolerate a Magistrate who does not punish Anabaptists or Catholics. What is your case for why the Magistrate should not punish people who break the first four commandments?”

    You have not heard me saying that, in principle, the civil magistrate should not enforce both tables of the Law. I would point out that with regard to the Fourth Commandment, the United States Supreme Court still says that blue laws against Sabbath breaking are legal.

    We are constrained in the United States by our Constitution. Look at what the Westminster Confession 22:4 says about lawful oaths, using the proof text of the Gibeonites: “Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.”

    The cited proof texts are these: Ezekiel 17:16-19: “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape. Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head.” Joshua 9:18-19: “And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes. But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.” II Samuel 21:1 “Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.”

    In some theoretical “de novo” Christian nation founded out of a wilderness, I might be saying different things. But we need to deal with the actual political situation in which we have found ourselves, and that means we have to accept that our national covenant is the United States Constitution. It is not a perfect document, it was written specifically to paper over some very serious problems in society (forbidding a ban on slave trading for a specified period of time, for example), and in principle it can be amended.

    Our Constitution was written specifically to prevent the establishment of a national church, while permitting the existing colonial state churches (three of which still existed) to remain in place. The Roman Catholics of Maryland were accepted right from the beginning, and an increasing number of states were admitting Jews to full civil rights.

    Under those circumstances, because of the terms of the Constitution, I can work with traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews just as the Old Testament nation of Israel was bound not only to tolerate but actually come to the military defense of the Gibeonites. In fact, God punished the nation of Israel when King Saul, hundreds of years later, broken the covenant with the Gibeonites and killed many of them. I think I could make a good biblical argument not only that I am permitted to cooperate with Roman Catholics but also that I am actually forbidden from using the sword of the state to persecute Roman Catholics due to the terms of our national covenant, the Constitution.

    Was the decision by men like Rev. John Witherspoon to cooperate with Catholics in Maryland, or with Jewish merchants and shipbuilders who, like the Roman Catholics, correctly decided that an independent America would give them much greater freedom, or with freethinkers such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, a good thing? I don’t know, and while I could make a case that it was a pragmatic decision which was unavoidable to secure American independence, it doesn’t really make much difference now.

    We’re bound by that covenant, once made, and that means some things are “off the table,” so to speak. We are the heirs of people who made commitments to recognize the freedom of religion of Roman Catholics, Jews, and various types of “freethinkers,” and based on biblical principles, we have to keep those commitments.

  10. Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    DTM – Civil magistrates are not to be calling things “good” in the statehouse which God requires them to call “evil” in the church.

    It seems clear that “Two Kingdoms” advocates believe otherwise.

    Erik – Clear based on what?

    Civil Magistrates who get it wrong will stand before God in judgment just like every other man.

  11. Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    DTM – We’re bound by that covenant, once made, and that means some things are “off the table,” so to speak. We are the heirs of people who made commitments to recognize the freedom of religion of Roman Catholics, Jews, and various types of “freethinkers,” and based on biblical principles, we have to keep those commitments.

    Erik – But earlier you told me the Constitution is subject to amendment. You bring so much pragmatism and qualification to your arguments that it is hard to take you seriously in a theological debate. When I say that I can take a Theonomist who favors strong enforcement of both tables or a Covenanter who finds the Constitution to be seriously deficient to be far superior to you in this debate I am being serious. You can’t raise a ruckus about 2K with such a long, convoluted argument and expect to be successful.

    I’m probably the only big enough nerd here to have read your whole essay which means I am a nerd par excellence. How in the world are you going to filter all of this down to the Presbyterian & Reformed masses?

    Consider briefly the preamble to the Irish Constitution:

    In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
    Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation, And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
    Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

    Maybe you need to move your project over there?

  12. Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    So exactly what standing do Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Hedonists have under your scheme of Constitutional interpretation?

    Who goofed and let them in?

  13. Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 19, 2013 at 9:26 am “Under an absolute monarchy what happens if the king decides he needs your property? Ask the Catholics who lived under Henry VIII.”

    I don’t remember saying anywhere that I supported absolute monarchies.

    Under the American system of government, citizens have tremendously more rights and freedoms to be politically involved and to criticize the government than they have historically had in most nations. We need to be grateful for that.

    When Christians have few or no freedoms — as none of the Apostles had except Paul, and even his rights as a Roman citizen were limited — the rules are different.

    You asked what happens if an absolute monarch decides he wants your property. John Knox’s doctrine of the lesser magistrates applies in some cases, but sometimes the only thing a Christian can do is pray for an end to persecution by removing a persecutor. God is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and all civil rulers will have to answer to Him in eternity.

    If you knew my background, which you probably don’t, you might know that I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to stories of older Korean Presbyterian ministers who watched women they knew being dragged off by the Japanese to be used as sex slaves (“comfort women”) by the Japanese army, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying what conservative Korean Christians did under the Japanese occupation when the government was ordering the churches to participate in Shinto shrine worship.

    Talking church politics is easy here. The worst thing that could happen to anyone in this debate if the General Assembly does something bad is they might lose their pulpit or have to join another denomination.

    Imagine a situation where a General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has been called to decide whether to endorse worship of the Japanese Emperor as god. All over the country, Japanese soldiers were watching the trains to keep conservative commissioners to the General Assembly from getting there. Once the commissioners arrived, soldiers were stationed along the walls of the assembly hall watching the commissioners who did get to the Assembly to see how they voted. Then, once the General Assembly decided shrine worship was acceptable, the Japanese went throughout the entire country arresting, torturing, and sometimes murdering faithful Christian pastors and elders on the grounds that they were rebels against not only the Japanese occupation government but also the native Korean Presbyterian church.

    The president of Chongshin Theological Seminary in Seoul, which is now the largest Reformed seminary in the world, has a poster on his wall with the pictures of all the graduates of his seminary who were martyred either by the Japanese or later by the Communists. The persecution was horrible, and the worst part was that a fair number of Korean ministers compromised, agreed to cooperate with Shinto shrine worship, and installed shrines in their churches. One of the few good things that happened as a result of the persecution was that it put Christians on the same side as anti-Japanese patriots, and ended for Koreans the stigma that Christianity faced in much of the rest of Asia as a so-called “foreign faith.”

    Theology has consequences. There are reasons why most of the mainline Presbyterian missionaries to Korea “caved” and decided to say Shinto shrine worship was acceptable.

    Not all did, however. Among the refusers was Rev. Bruce F. Hunt, an Orthodox Presbyterian missionary who was born in Korea to missionary parents, worked among Korean-speaking Christians in Manchuria which was at that time also under Japanese occupation, was arrested, came close to being killed, and was eventually kicked out of the country during a prisoner repatriation. I can’t quickly find verification of this online, but I’ve been told by OPC ministers who knew Hunt that rather than submitting to Japanese intimidation, Koreans lined the streets as he was being taken to the courtroom shouting support for him, seeing (to their surprise) an American missionary who was willing to stand up for his faith.

    Years later, once the Japanese lost World War II, the Korean collaborators in the Presbyterian Church were kicked out of the church. They had cooperated with the Japanese and had created a new liberal seminary replacing an older conservative seminary that the Japanese had shut down. The Koreans badly needed to reopen a seminary to train minsters and to get help from missionaries to rebuild their denomination. Who did those Koreans call? A tiny denomination known as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which was known to Koreans almost exclusively because one missionary was willing to stand up for his faith.

    It wasn’t too long before the Orthodox Presbyterians realized they were totally overwhelmed, and had no way to raise enough resources to help a group of Koreans which was already dozens of times larger than the total membership of the entire Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The OPC went to the Christian Reformed Church, which, at the same time it was spending large amounts of money to resettle Dutch refugees in Canada and the United States, took offerings in lots of rural churches that were used to rebuild the campus of what is now Chongshin University in Seoul.

    My wife happens to have her bachelors’ degree from Chongshin’s undergraduate program. It might interest you to know that the pastor of what was once the CRC’s second-largest church, Los Angeles Korean Christian Reformed Church, left the CRC in significant measure due to my work exposing homosexual activism in the CRC, took about 40 percent of the Korean CRC membership with him and all but one of what were at the time five Korean CRC “megachurches,” and a few years later was called to become president of Chongshin University. He’s the pastor who conducted our marriage and found it rather interesting that one of the American conservatives who had convinced him to leave the CRC was marrying a Korean.

    Now Erik, what you don’t know, because I haven’t said it here, is that my father-in-law was a sergeant first class in the South Korean Army and a combat medic fighting the Communists during the Korean War. My brother-in-law was the South Korean Special Forces. I have relatives who were dragged North by the Communists as “enemies of the people” and have not been seen since the end of the Korean War. My Korean relatives served the South Korean government at a time when it was fiercely anti-Communist but not necessarily very Christian.

    I might know a little bit about what it is like to live in a country where people can be killed for their Christian faith, and to serve bearing arms under a government which does not have American laws on civilian control of the military.

    Christianity has a lot to say to people facing very difficult circumstances and very hostile governments.

    Theology has consequences, Erik. So do political decisions. Rev. John Witherspoon was not playing games when, as president of what is now Princeton, he decided to become a member of the Continental Congress and join the American Revolution. Bruce F. Hunt was not playing games when he openly defined the Japanese and refused to participate in Shinto shrine worship. My relatives were not playing games when they knew whatever they did was being watched by the Japanese, and when, during their service in the South Korean military, they understood that their lives and the lives of their families and extended families were at stake based on their actions.

    I don’t know about you, Erik, but as a Christian citizen, I’d like to do what I can via the ballot box so neither I nor my children have to face from the American government the sorts of conditions my family in Korea had to face in the none-too-distant past from Japanese occupiers, North Korean Communists, or South Korean dictators who were their own commanders.

  14. Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Richard, you lost me on “all laws a state passes” are either in accord with God’s law or opposed to it. Does that mean speeding laws? Does that mean the order of creation or biblical teaching?

  15. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    DTM – If you knew my background, which you probably don’t

    Erik – I must have missed it the 10 times you told me about your background. I’m joking (kind of). Have a good Lord’s Day and shoot me if you see me here on it.

  16. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    One last thing…

    DTM – It might interest you to know that the pastor of what was once the CRC’s second-largest church, Los Angeles Korean Christian Reformed Church, left the CRC in significant measure due to my work exposing homosexual activism in the CRC

    Erik – Please tell me you didn’t have to go undercover…

    Your story about Korea, while moving, has little to do with this debate. Neocalvinism would have had no impact on whether or not the Japanese invaded Korea.

    I also doubt if our political activism or lack thereof has a tremendous impact on whether or not we have freedom of worship. God controls these things and we press on regardless of the political climate. Besides, the best way to further robust Christianity is to focus on the health of the churches, not the health of our legislatures, court houses, or executive branches.

    Or are you saying it is coincidental that evangelicalism has shrunk theologically at the same time that its political influence has grown?

    Fight for your right to have praise bands and seeker-sensitive sermons?

  17. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm: “DTM – We’re bound by that covenant, once made, and that means some things are “off the table,” so to speak. We are the heirs of people who made commitments to recognize the freedom of religion of Roman Catholics, Jews, and various types of “freethinkers,” and based on biblical principles, we have to keep those commitments. Erik – But earlier you told me the Constitution is subject to amendment. You bring so much pragmatism and qualification to your arguments that it is hard to take you seriously in a theological debate. When I say that I can take a Theonomist who favors strong enforcement of both tables or a Covenanter who finds the Constitution to be seriously deficient to be far superior to you in this debate I am being serious.”

    Erik, yes, the Constitution is subject to amendment. That’s obvious.

    I would argue that based on the Gibeonite principle, which is affirmed by the Westminster Confession, a deal is a deal and even if the United States became an overwhelmingly evangelical nation, we don’t have the right to break that deal with Roman Catholics. Same for Mormons, by the way, after admission of Utah to statehood.

    The situation with Jewish people and what at that time were called “freethinkers” is less formal but I’d argue that the same principles apply. Nobody but a fool would argue that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were not legitimate heroes of the American Revolution. The same is true for a number of Jewish people at the time of the Revolutionary War.

    Things changed between 1620 and 1776, and we can’t just draw a straight line back to Plymouth Rock, as some evangelicals do, and act as if all those who fought for American independence were conservative Christians.

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm: “DTM, So exactly what standing do Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Hedonists have under your scheme of Constitutional interpretation? Who goofed and let them in?”

    Practically, because of the First Amendment, they have the same rights today as any other American. That is not going to change anytime in the foreseeable future.

    Realistically, America is so far away away from the point that we could pass a constitutional amendment to change the First Amendment that, with all due respect to my Covenanter friends, it is silliness to even discuss it. We’re talking about theoretical possibilities that are all but impossible in the real world, barring radical changes that none of us can expect based on what we see today.

    Since you’re persistent and are going to push me anyway, I’m going to act against my better judgment and answer your theoretical question.

    First, I will point out that opposition to the introduction of foreign faiths, not just raw racial bigotry, was a factor behind the Chinese Exclusion Act. There was a day not that long ago in American history that Chinese and other Asian immigration was viewed as an utterly foreign influence bringing people to American shores who could never be Americanized. That looks kind of silly now that several Asian countries are considerably more Christian than most European countries, but there was a day that religious affiliation of a culture was a factor in setting immigration policies.

    Second, I agree that theoretically, unlike the situation with Roman Catholics, Mormons, and probably “freethinkers” and Jewish people, some future Christian American government would have the biblical right to amend the Constitution and expel Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

    That might be a really good idea with adherents to Islam who refuse to renounce Sharia law — we do have precedents with illegal Japanese Shinto shrines in California during World War II, when Shinto meant worshiping the Japanese emperor, the head of an enemy government.

    So yes, an amendment like that would be possible in theory. I think it would be biblically permissible to pass an amendment barring any Muslim from coming to the United States unless he formally rejects Sharia law and renounces the concept of holy war or jihad on behalf of his faith. However, the chances of amending the Constitution to allow such a law to be passed are about equal to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church ordaining a practicing homosexual minister or amending the Westminster Standards to create an office of bishop. Theoretically either of those things could happen, and we can discuss in the abstract what would need to happen to allow those changes to occur, but neither is even remotely on the realistic horizon.

  18. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 19, 2013 at 9:34 am: “DTM – There are many things the civil magistrate could and should be doing, but failure to protect unborn babies and formal endorsement of sodomy via homosexual marriage are both pretty horrible abuses. Erik – Can you give Confessional support for these sins being more serious than not observing the Sabbath? If it’s just your opinion, why do I need to be bound by that and disciplined if I disagree with you?”

    With regard to murder, whether of unborn babies or of adults, I would point out that under civil law at the time the Parliament was reviewing and adopting the Westminster Standards, Sabbath breaking was treated differently from murder. Original intent counts.

    With regard to homosexuality, I’m not aware of a great deal of case law in England or Scotland on homosexuality at the time of the adoption of the Westminster Standards. If you want to argue that my interpretation of Romans 1 does not have confessional standing, you have a point. Homosexuality simply wasn’t a major problem at the time of the Westminster Assembly, as it is today.

    However, is it not clear from Romans 1 that God sends homosexuality into cultures which have rejected him? If that is not true, is it not clear that homosexuality is in a worse category of sins because it comes about as a punishment for disobedience.

  19. Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 1:23 am: “DTM: 3) take action against Two Kingdoms theology without needlessly antagonizing people who are not only self-identified “Old School” theologians but also are legitimately part of that tradition. … Erik – Taking action against Two Kingdoms Theology?”

    Yes, taking action.

    Writing my essay is action. So is interacting with y’all here on this website so I can learn more about what you believe and why.

    I can think of a lot of wrong views against which I have take action over the years. Not all actions mean formal charges, if that your underlying question.

    When I saw a PCA friend arguing that Roman Catholics need to be rebaptized if they join his church, I took action by telling him that while he does have part of the Southern Presbyterian tradition on his side, he needs to seriously reconsider whether that part of the tradition was influenced more by John Calvin or by the Baptist culture of the 1800s, combined with virulent anti-Catholicism. I pointed out that there is only one case in Scripture where rebaptism happened — the disciples who knew only the baptism of John and had never heard of the Holy Spirit. I pointed out that if baptism is in the name of the Trinity, God is the prime agent in baptism and all the miscellaneous errors that men add to the baptism don’t change that.

    Since you are a URC member, I expect you will agree with me and believe I was right to act.

    Since the person involved is in the PCA, he’s acting in accord with part of his denominational tradition and that means my actions were all I could or should do. He’s not required to rebaptize Roman Catholics but he’s within his rights to do so.

  20. Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    D. G. Hart posted April 20, 2013 at 8:43 am: “DTM, on point three, how is what you describe – an elder excommunicating someone one day for homosexuality and the next day voting for homosexual marriage — any different from one day excommunicating someone for not attending worship services consistently and repeatedly and then next day voting to repeal legislation that required citizens to attend church?”

    I’d argue the difference is that I see the state punishing people for working on the Sabbath in the Old Testament, but not for failing to attend religious worship.

    Mandatory church attendance laws are wrong because they cross over from the proper sphere of the state and move into the sphere of the church. The civil magistrate does not have the right to force churches to admit people into their buildings. Therefore, a mandatory church attendance law actually is a backhanded mandate of the state on the church.

  21. Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    D. G. Hart posted April 20, 2013 at 8:43 am: “On the fourth point, do you really mean to say that I am going to deny the Lord’s Supper to a recent adult convert who has been to the U. of Michigan, was a member of NOW, and is a member of the Democratic Party, who has yet to be convinced that homosexuality is a sin? Really? We actually administer the supper to polygamists in Reformed churches around the world.

    This is helpful, Dr. Hart. I may need to think through the implications of the Presbyterian opposition to Dutch Reformed views of confessional membership, and what it means to have a credible profession of faith.

    I would have major problems with admitting the person you describe to church membership, not based on being a NOW member or a Democrat, or based on questions about whether homosexuality is a sin, but based on open denial that homosexuality is a sin.

  22. Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 5:07 pm: “DTM – The civil government is not, under the American revision of the Westminster Standards, to give preference to any specific denomination of Christians. That doesn’t mean the civil government shouldn’t act in accordance with Christian values. Erik – Without me wading back through your essay, what is your historical evidence for that? It sounds eerily similar to what evangelicals are always saying about why America is indeed a Christian nation.”

    I was referring to the Westminster Confession, not what is being said by a modern evangelical.

    The civil magistrate’s task is “to protect the church of our common Lord” but not to give “preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest.”

    The relevant text is taken from WCF 23:3: “…Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger….”

  23. Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm: Have you lost sight of the possibility that maybe the Southern Presbyterians didn’t condemn slavery because Jesus didn’t? Aren’t you presuming the political application of your biblical interpretation again?”

    I don’t know how I missed this comment by you earlier.

    Do you believe that slavery, as practiced in the American South, was biblical? Do you not believe it needed to be abolished?

    If you’re serious in that position, then I guess I am correct in linking at least one Two Kingdoms advocate to slavery. I’d like to use you as an example, but I’d rather change your views.

    Please read the biblical exegesis against Southern chattel slavery in this essay by Jonathan Edwards Jr. and then let’s talk about slavery:

    http://www.gilderlehrman-announcements.org/teachers/scholars/HSP03.EAA6.Gamertsfelder.pdf

  24. Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Erik Charter posted April 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm: “Consider this question for a second. Slavery is going on. A Christian in the South owns slaves and treats them well. He goes to a slave auction and his neighbor, who is cruel to his slaves is bidding against him. He sees a slave who seems to be less than healthy and knows that his neighbor will be cruel to this slave if he buys him, so he bids more than market value for him so he can treat the man with kindness. This is how Christianity works in the real, fallen world. Christian people don’t always have the luxury of looking back 150 years with their noses held high and dictating how the world should have been.”

    Short answer: how about buying the slave and letting him go free, on the grounds that stolen property does not legitimately belong to the person who purchased it?

    Longer answer:

    I truly can’t believe I’m debating this argument here. I rarely see such comments outside League of the South circles. I didn’t expect them from a “Two Kingdoms” advocate. Y’all usually run from any suggestion that “Two Kingdoms” theology can legitimately be used to defend slavery.

    But in any case, please read the link I posted to the essay on slavery by Jonathan Edwards Jr.

    I hope after reading, you will decide that there is at least one example of gross evil and wickedness in the state which was correctly opposed based on Christian principles.

    Abortion and homosexuality are horrible evils. I cannot think of any other evil in American society which we have ever officially tolerated which was that bad, except for slavery.

  25. Richard Smith
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    D. G. Hart: Richard, you lost me on “all laws a state passes” are either in accord with God’s law or opposed to it. Does that mean speeding laws?

    RS: That would be included, yes. Just and wise speeding laws fit under the sixth commandment for the well-being of people and also of the eight commandment regarding the state (you shall not steal).

    D.G. Hart: Does that mean the order of creation or biblical teaching?

    RS: The laws that a state education committee passes would indeed reflect something of that.

  26. Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    DTM, if mandatory church attendance laws are wrong, then Calvin and the Puritans were wrong, then you are R2K in comparison to Calvin. Yet you don’t see that you imbibe from the waters of political liberalism. You think you carry the same torch of Kuyper and Calvin (as if they agreed). And you fool lay people into thinking that Calvin and Kuyper agreed and that the lay people agree with Calvin and Kuyper. It’s a lie. Don’t you worry about breaking the 9th commandment? (I don’t mean to be heavy handed in invoking God’s moral law, though you and the Baylys aren’t reluctant to do so. I actually don’t think you have lied. But you have misrepresented 2k and the history of Reformed Protestantism. At some point it might be better for you to think before you write — I mean “act.”)

  27. Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    DTM, what is wrong with your brain? Just because someone does not declare slavery to be sin (we are slaves of Christ, right, and he bought us with a price, right?) does not mean that someone advocates slavery as a social, political or moral good. This is fundamentalism — black or white, good or evil, no sense of living in a world of moral brights and darks.

  28. Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    DTM, sure, by the slave, let them go free, and fast forward to Atlanta in 1970. What about the liberated African-American who has to live with Jim Crow, etc.? You make it seem as if manumission solves all problems, as if laws against abortion are going to stop abortion. I am no fan of abortion. I am also not prepared to live in a society where women who don’t want their children take to back alleys. Laws don’t fix anything. (Don’t tell Doug.)

  29. Richard Smith
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    D. G. Hart: DTM, sure, by the slave, let them go free, and fast forward to Atlanta in 1970. What about the liberated African-American who has to live with Jim Crow, etc.? You make it seem as if manumission solves all problems, as if laws against abortion are going to stop abortion. I am no fan of abortion. I am also not prepared to live in a society where women who don’t want their children take to back alleys. Laws don’t fix anything. (Don’t tell Doug.)

    RS: But we also don’t argue about laws against murder just because people who murder at times do it in alleys.

  30. Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    DTM – If you’re serious in that position, then I guess I am correct in linking at least one Two Kingdoms advocate to slavery. I’d like to use you as an example, but I’d rather change your views.

    Erik – Go for it. I would love to own your newspaper after I sue you for libel. I’ll turn it into the local shopper.

    You’re an excellent demagogue when your pious sense of moral outrage overtakes your ability to think rationally.

    Use the adjective “advocate” of me regarding slavery, I dare you. I know lots of high-powered attorneys.

  31. Richard Smith
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter
    DTM – If you’re serious in that position, then I guess I am correct in linking at least one Two Kingdoms advocate to slavery. I’d like to use you as an example, but I’d rather change your views.

    Erik – Go for it. I would love to own your newspaper after I sue you for libel. I’ll turn it into the local shopper.

    You’re an excellent demagogue when your pious sense of moral outrage overtakes your ability to think rationally.

    Use the adjective “advocate” of me regarding slavery, I dare you. I know lots of high-powered attorneys.

    RS: DTM, now you know why rational debate/discussion is not always possible with certain people. It is sort of like when a person without a real rebuttal resorts to yelling.

  32. Posted April 21, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Dick,

    People with good attorneys don’t need to yell. They just cash checks when other people act like idiots at their expense. As an unemployed minister I suspect you’re pretty much judgment proof so I’m content to ignore the inane things you say.

  33. Posted April 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Imagine a session that consisted of D.G., Zrim, Sean, myself, Mikkelmann, and Todd. We would have a blast together.

    Now imagine a session that consisted of Theonomist Doug, Old Bob, Revivalist/Baptist Richard, and Gadfly Bible-Belt Presbyterian Darrell Todd Maurina. Wow, that would be an adventure. I would give them a week together.

  34. Posted April 22, 2013 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    Good grief. I wake up early Monday morning and find legal threats.

    Erik Charter posted April 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm: “DTM – If you’re serious in that position, then I guess I am correct in linking at least one Two Kingdoms advocate to slavery. I’d like to use you as an example, but I’d rather change your views. Erik – Go for it. I would love to own your newspaper after I sue you for libel. I’ll turn it into the local shopper. You’re an excellent demagogue when your pious sense of moral outrage overtakes your ability to think rationally. Use the adjective ‘advocate’ of me regarding slavery, I dare you. I know lots of high-powered attorneys.”

    Erik, please calm down.

    You’ve misread my post. I did not say and do not believe that you are an advocate of slavery. I’ve never believed that.

    Even if I had written what you seem to think I wrote, under New York Times v Sullivan (the key case in modern libel law) you are either a public figure or a limited public figure, and that means it is all but impossible for you to win a libel lawsuit against someone who criticizes you in public for your publicly expressed views. Even before New York Times v Sullivan, the legal doctrine of “fair comment and criticism” has been in force for more than a century.

    In case you want to argue that I am wrongly appealing to secular legal standards, go back and research the John Peter Zenger case, a colonial New York libel lawsuit from the generation prior to the Revolutionary War. The Zenger case underlies our modern First Amendment as well as our constitutional rights to non-excessive bail and several other rights we now take for granted but which were not always firmly fixed in statute law or constitutional law. You’ll find that Zenger was an organist in a Dutch Reformed church in New York City, and a newspaper publisher, who won a libel lawsuit filed by a colonial governor whose activities had been exposed by Zenger’s anti-government newspaper. Zenger’s case used the English common law principle of jury nullification to create a right for reporters to criticize the government, but there are solid biblical principles underlying that case and its overturning of the false doctrine upon which criminal libel was based, namely, that criticizing the government is inherently wrong because it causes people to lose respect for government officials.

    But even if none of that were legally true, the fact of the matter is that I did not say and do not believe that you are an advocate of slavery.

    Words mean things. Grammar counts. However, since you and perhaps others misunderstood my meaning, let’s get that out of the way right now. In no way, shape or form do I believe now, or did I believe on Saturday, that you are an advocate of slavery.

    Here’s what I did write: “I truly can’t believe I’m debating this argument here. I rarely see such comments outside League of the South circles. I didn’t expect them from a ‘Two Kingdoms’ advocate. Y’all usually run from any suggestion that ‘Two Kingdoms’ theology can legitimately be used to defend slavery.” And again in the section of my post which you quoted, “DTM – If you’re serious in that position, then I guess I am correct in linking at least one Two Kingdoms advocate to slavery. I’d like to use you as an example, but I’d rather change your views.”

    Are you not a “Two Kingdoms” advocate? That’s what I said. Not that you advocate slavery. There is a very big difference between those two things.

    It is beyond dispute that the Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” doctrine was linked to slavery. As you yourself posted on April 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm: “Have you lost sight of the possibility that maybe the Southern Presbyterians didn’t condemn slavery because Jesus didn’t? Aren’t you presuming the political application of your biblical interpretation again?”

    Erik, I’m going to ask again that you read the essay by Jonathan Edwards Jr. against slavery. You will find detailed biblical exegesis and historical facts arguing that slavery, as practiced in the American South, was unbiblical and needed to stop.

    I am emphatically **NOT** saying that you advocate slavery. I never did say that because I don’t believe you believe that.

    What I am saying that the “spirituality of the church” doctrine was used, historically speaking, to silence critics of slavery. I think that is beyond dispute. It is also beyond dispute that at least some “Two Kingdoms” advocates claim to be in that Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” tradition. In this case A=B, B=C does not necessarily mean A=C, but it does mean they are linked.

    Maybe you are a “spirituality of the church” advocate as well as a “Two Kingdoms” advocate. Maybe you aren’t. I don’t know. The two are not identical.

    Furthermore, just because somebody thinks that the “spirituality of the church” doctrine means the institutional church shouldn’t discuss slavery doesn’t automatically mean they support slavery. I have never denied that lots of Northern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” advocates were opponents of slavery.

    What really I’d like to find out is what you think about the Jonathan Edwards Jr. essay giving exegetical grounds from Scripture to oppose slavery as it was practiced in the American South.

    That, as I see things, is the key issue. Do you believe that there were good biblical grounds for the church to oppose slavery, or do you believe that Christians shouldn’t oppose slavery because Jesus didn’t? I don’t know what you believe and I’d like to hear it from you rather than guessing what you believe.

  35. Posted April 22, 2013 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    It may be of some relevance here that Joel Belz and other conservative “culture warriors” were on the right side of a recent and quite nasty fight over racism in the PCA’s Western Carolina Presbytery from 2007 until 2010, while some solid conservative “Old School” Southern Presbyterians such as Dr. Morton Smith were on the wrong side.

    Interestingly, the Bayly Blog received some serious criticism from the supporters of Dr. Neill Payne, the former PCA elder who was run out of his PCA church for racist views, because the Baylys also took the right side on this issue.

    Here are the links.

    Church Confronts, Expels Member For Racist Views
    By Adelle Banks, Religion News Service (via Huffington Post)
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/04/church-confronts-expels-m_n_671083.html

    Church Denomination Roots Out Racism
    By Sonia Scherr, Southern Poverty Law Center
    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/rooting-out-racism#.UXSt6aJJOAg

    A Denomination Confronts its Past
    By Sonia Scherr, Southern Poverty Law Center
    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/rooting-out-racism/a-denomination-con#.UXSty6JJOAg

    Disciplining racism: It all came down to just a couple votes…
    By David and Tim Bayly, BaylyBlog
    http://baylyblog.com/blog/2010/07/disciplining-racism-it-all-came-down-just-couple-votes

    And for those who want to see how bad the “Old School” tradition can get, here’s another link:
    http://bradley.chattablogs.com/archives/2010/07/why-didnt-they.html

    Let me be crystal clear that I am most emphatically **NOT** saying all Old Schoolers are racist bigots, let alone defenders of slavery or racial segregation. That would be nonsense and contrary to historical fact as well as present reality.

    I know too many self-described Old School people in very conservative Southern churches who aren’t racists. Maybe they stay quiet in their own circles; I don’t know. But they certainly had no problems telling me they supported my interracial marriage and my background working in a black inner-city church, and I take that at face value, especially when one of them asked me years to write an article on inner-city missions. (I declined because I didn’t think I had much to offer and better material was already available by others on the same topic.)

    What I **AM** saying is that I believe that the Old School Southern Presbyterian doctrine of “spirituality of the church” hamstrings the church’s witness when it comes to rebuking evil in society, and both slavery and racial bigotry are among those evils that need to be rebuked because they are contrary to Scripture.

  36. Posted April 22, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    DTM,

    You’ve been warned. If I see you writing about me being an advocate of slavery or a racist in one of your many posts on one of your many blogs, lawyer up. I see how you continually smear good men like Michael Horton even after you have been corrected. Since you’ve revealed yourself to be a cheap demagogue once you can’t win an argument through reason I’m done talking to you. I’ll await the charges in church courts against 2K thinking. Until then, bug off.

  37. Posted April 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    I realize that you are not at all on board with the libertarian platform, possibly you see too many moral entanglements entailed in their emphasis on broad personal liberty. I can understand this, and I appreciate where you come from, as a more or less reluctant libertarian, I am not necessarily “on board” with the way many people exercise their civil liberties, and I am in disagreement with the Libertarian platform on abortion in particular.

    But, what I don’t see in your comments here, or in your essay over at the BB, is an understanding that no matter what political position, aside from highly obscure idiosyncratic groups, “picking a side” is going to involve moral trade-offs – if not in one’s own eyes, then at least from those who approach politics from a different side. So, in my case, where I believe that homosexuality is a sin, and should be dealt with accordingly in the church, but in society, gays should be accorded equitable liberties in the civic realm – my views are morally abberant, and even dangerous, because I have not though through the theological/moral implications of such a view?

    However, you say, I believe in the modern world we are fools if we think the oceans will protect us as they once did, and we now have no choice but to be aggressively involved in politics beyond our borders. which aligns you with neo-cons, and those on the left who are more hawkish – at least on the issue of foreign and military policy. I am not here to argue that you are wrong to hold these views, just to point out that in such a stance there are very significant moral implications. The US has engaged in torture, and even when such policies have been directly dropped, we have farmed out “enhanced interrogation” operations to other allies. The US has employed a policy of using drones to carry out counter-terrorism measures that kill many innocents. There are also questions about the propriety of a pre-emptive war in Iraq. Questions of our foreign policy creating unnecessary blowback in terrorist producing regions, etc.

    I am sure you have addressed the morality of war issues adequately in your own mind, and well enough to defend your position against those who would question the moral implications of such policies, and even clear up what you would perceive as misconceptions surrounding the morality of a more proactive military policy. But, there is a significant number of people who are not persuaded by these arguments, and view US foreign policy as morally hazardous. There are even many Christians that believe that the US has failed to uphold the 6th Commandment, engaging in unjust wars.

    I bring up this example not to argue over your position here, but to bring up the point that political stances are often going to entail complicated ethical reasoning – for example to justify when it is OK for the state to engage in warfare; or how much the state should be involved in matters of sexual preference, marriage, religion, etc. Given the complexity of such matters, don’t you see a real danger in turning a political position into a matter of doctrinal orthodoxy? Does this run the risk of absolutizing politics in the church, and endangering the meaningful exercise of liberty of conscience that we confess as Reformed Christians?

    In other words, what criteria are you employing to decide that some of the political implications of 2k are so dangerous as to need to sound the alarm? Is it just issues that you passionately disagree with, or is there an objective standard? Because it sure comes across in your essay, or in the e-mail that went out a year or so ago, that the reason you are sounding the alarm is because you don’t like the politics of certain 2k advocates.

  38. Posted April 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Jed, you’re asking some really good questions.

    Scripture does not address every issue of statecraft, and in some cases only general principles are given.

    You raise the issue of overseas torture and other abuses of American power. I think you may know that I live and work outside Fort Leonard Wood where one of our former commanding generals, David Quantock, was, at his earlier rank of colonel, the man assigned to clean up the mess at Abu Ghraib. He later became the head of the Army’s military police school as a one-star general, was promoted and sent back to Iraq to be in charge of all detention operations there, then came back to Fort Leonard Wood to command the installation. He is now the provost marshal general (i.e., top police officer) and head of the Army’s CID (criminal investigation division). I add this to indicate that I am directly aware of how bad things can get when people wearing the American uniform and representing the United States bring disrepute on our country by doing evil things.

    Some people think we made the right decision to go into Iraq. Some people think we made a terrible decision. That’s a question which probably can’t be answered one way or the other by Scripture.

    On the other hand, it is very clear from Scripture that some of the things done by our soldiers over there, such as sexual abuse of prisoners, was totally wrong. The junior NCOs and junior enlisted people in that renegade unit were hiding their actions from officers because they knew they’d get in trouble if caught, but the simple fact is that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the person in charge of that prison system, allowed a command climate to develop in which lower-level people could get away with really bad things because they knew they wouldn’t be carefully watched.

    Surely you and I can both agree that Scripture teaches that sexual torture and humiliation of prisoners is wrong, regardless of whether we agree on the invasion of Iraq.

    It seems to me this is a clear example of where Scripture does and does not speak to issues of government. One decision — whether or not to invade — is a very difficult decision which requires wisdom and application of moral principles, but the answer is not clear and evident from Scripture. Another decision — whether or not to sexually humiliate prisoners — is clear and obvious. You just don’t do that kind of thing.

    Hope that helps.

  39. Posted April 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    Thanks for the response. Hopefully we can move closer toward at least a solid mutual understanding of where each-other stand.

    It seems to me this is a clear example of where Scripture does and does not speak to issues of government. One decision — whether or not to invade — is a very difficult decision which requires wisdom and application of moral principles, but the answer is not clear and evident from Scripture. Another decision — whether or not to sexually humiliate prisoners — is clear and obvious. You just don’t do that kind of thing.

    I am in full agreement with you here. And I think it goes to illustrate a broader point. Scripture certainly assists us in evaluating the morality of what happened at Abu Ghraib, but one needn’t be familiar with Scripture at all to understand the moral breach that some of our troops committed. Scripture would be highly beneficial in calling these perpitrators to repentance and faith in Christ, but their court martial employed their own military codes of conduct (stuff you would be more familiar with than I) to adjudicate their cases. One of the major tenets of 2k is that Scripture’s primary use is within the church to minister to her people, and to call those outside to repentance, but it doesn’t function well as a treatise on political policy.

    So, I want to draw on a couple of illustrations of the point that Scripture isn’t used to determine political policy, and I think these are areas in which we probably agree:

    - Scripture forbids blasphemy – our government allows it
    - Scripture forbids idolatry – our government allows for the free exercise of all religion, idolatrous ones included
    - Scripture forbids fornication and adultery – our government criminalizes neither

    Now, I am sure that we both agree that all of these issues are sins, and they should be dealt with using appropriate disciplinary measures in the church, regardless of what our government deems legal or society deems permissible. We wouldn’t want our churches disciplining members because they are against society criminalizing these sins.

    On the other hand, what do we do on more controversial issues, like the current debates over gay marriage, where a Christian agrees with Scripture that homosexuality is a sin, but doesn’t think the state should forbid same sex marriage, or a civil union arrangement? Obviously there is going to be sharp political disagreement over the matter amongst Christians who land on one side of the issue or the other. But, assuming all sides agree on how the church should handle the sin of homosexuality in discipline matters, and that it should be called a sin in the pulpit (when it is addressed in passages being preached on), should Christians be held to account by the church for holding divergent political views on the matter? My answer is no, Christians can disagree, even profoundly, over political and cultural matters and still come together peacefully in the Church, without fear of spiritual oppression for their views.

    What I have seen happen over this issue is quite the opposite from this at times. In the case of Misty Irons, she has become a byword over her stance on gay marriage, even though she maintains homosexuality to be a sin, having her reputation trashed by some (I am not accusing you of this) who have a duty according to our confessional standards to protect her reputation. To be associated with such views is to invite the very public derision of not only bloggers, but church officers. This matter, probably more than any other I have witnessed has demonstrated that liberty of conscience is only valuable in some Reformed circles if you walk in lock-step with certain party lines. Whether or not it is intended, political matters have risen to become standards of orthodoxy, and there are segments in the Reformed world that seek to rid Reformed churches of those who hold divergent political views on certain hot-button matters. To me this serves only to undermine the fundamentally spiritual mission of the church.

  40. John Sizer
    Posted April 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Erik, In the words of Sgt. Hulka, “Lighten up, Francis!”

  41. Posted April 24, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    John,

    You just made the list, buddy.

  42. Posted April 25, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Jed Paschall, you make some important points in your comments posted April 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm.

    We’re close but not in complete agreement here, however.

    You say that the government allows blasphemy, idolatry, fornication and divorce. Your conclusion from that seems to be that if we agree on some areas where the government tolerates sin, there’s no logical reason for the government not to tolerate even more sin.

    Using your words, “Now, I am sure that we both agree that all of these issues are sins, and they should be dealt with using appropriate disciplinary measures in the church, regardless of what our government deems legal or society deems permissible. We wouldn’t want our churches disciplining members because they are against society criminalizing these sins.”

    Three responses:

    First, I grant the “slippery slope” logic that once we have granted the premise, we will unavoidably move from granting the premise to ending up and the logical conclusions, but I don’t grant the premise. We actually are **NOT** in agreement that “we wouldn’t want our churches disciplining members because they are against society criminalizing these sins.” Many of those decisions were made long ago, but I could very easily imagine the elders of a Reformed or Presbyterian church getting very upset with a legislator who was a member of their church who voted to decriminalize fornication or adultery. In our modern world, church discipline is rare anywhere, but that’s the fault of the churches involved.

    Second, even as bad as our society has gotten, we have not actually endorsed fornication or adultery, as we would be doing with endorsing homosexuality if we approve homosexual marriages. There’s a big difference between government failing to do something it should be doing and government actually endorsing sin.

    Third, it is factually incorrect that we have no civil penalties for any of those sins. We do still have some cases where adultery can result in criminal charges.

    For example, the Uniform Code of Military Justice **DOES** allow prosecution of adulterers. The concept is that if people cannot be trusted to be faithful to their vows to their spouse, they cannot be trusted with potentially life-and-death decisions in a military command context. Seems like pretty good logic to me.

    Prosecutions for adultery are rare but they do happen, and the threat of losing one’s military pension and benefits is far from irrelevant in restraining bad behavior. Yes, bad things definitely do happen, but the threat is there and the fact that the penalty is sometimes applied, often in very high profile cases where senior leaders lose everything due to their lack of zipper control, makes those bad things less frequent and less serious than they otherwise would be. That’s the purpose of a criminal law — restraining bad behavior by people who can’t or won’t control their own behavior without external compulsion to do so, and providing an example to others of the consequences of bad behavior.

    I would argue that even in our current highly debased society, we can and should work for laws which create negative consequences for sinful behavior. For example, it should be possible for people to cite the adultery of a husband or wife in controversies over child custody and financial arrangements during a divorce. I like the idea of a “covenant marriage” in which an engaged couple would have to decide whether they want to agree to much higher standards for divorce, thereby forcing the engaged man and woman to ask each other some tough questions if one or the other doesn’t want to do so.

    We also need to deal with the reality that in certain circumstances, the civil government cannot and **SHOULD NOT** apply laws in specific cases which do apply in general situations.

    Even under the Old Testament, there were situations where the Israelites were required to protect people who belonged to false faiths. The most obvious example is the Gibeonites. Once they made a treaty with the Israelites, even though they did so under false pretenses, the Israelites were not only forbidden from attacking the Gibeonites but actually required to come to their military defense. Hundreds of years later, God severely penalized the Israelites because Saul killed the Gibeonites. This principle is cited as a Scripture proof by the Westminster Confession, which in WCF 22:4 says this about lawful oaths: “Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.”

    Because of our First Amendment, and because of the agreement more than two centuries ago to tolerate Roman Catholics in Maryland, we are forbidden from doing some of the things which a hypothetical Christian nation might otherwise do, and which **WERE** being done elsewhere at the time of ratification of the United States Constitution. Maybe that agreement was good; maybe it was bad. It really doesn’t make a difference today. Much as the Israelites had to not only tolerate the Gibeonites but also come to their military defense, and were severely penalized by God for breaking their word centuries later to the Gibeonites, America is restrained by our national covenant, the Constitution, in what we can do with regard to false worship.

  43. Posted April 25, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Typo alert. I wrote “You say that the government allows blasphemy, idolatry, fornication and divorce.” I meant to say “You say that the government allows blasphemy, idolatry, fornication and adultery.”

    Divorce is a different question and I didn’t mean to raise that here, except in the context of covenant marriages.

  44. Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
    topic to be really something which I think I would never understand.

    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.

    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  45. Chortles Weakly
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    That spam comment is money!

  46. Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Chortles, the spam sticks. Like Homer said, “it’s funny because it’s true.”

  47. Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Sweet. This is the string where I threaten litigation against DTM. An Old Life instant classic.

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