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. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    DTM and 2kers,

    It might be helpful for communication to understand your answers to these questions:

    1. True-False: There is a distinction between common grace issues (math?) and sacred issues (worship?).

    2. A Christian _________ use Scripture to help reason about common grace matters.

    (a) Must
    (b) May
    (c) May Not

    3. A Christian magistrate __________ use Scripture to help reason about matters of law.

    (a) Must
    (b) May
    (c) May not

    4. A society whose laws are not derived from Scripture is (circle all that apply)

    (a) condemned because of its rejection of God.
    (b) a mixture of condemned and justified individuals who will receive their respective judgments in the eschaton.
    (c) acceptable because laws are supposed to be derived from the natural law.
    (d) doomed because of its rejection of wisdom

    5. What is the chief end of the magistrate?

  2. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Guys,

    You missed the point. Curell was engaging in ironic commentary on the Kermit Gosnell case: Will the news media view his actions as a “local crime” story, or national news?

    ;)

  3. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    My aim in discussing your church is to demonstrate the things that Neocalvinists cut people slack on and the things that they don’t. I would contend it reveals misplaced priorities about what is important in the church and in the Christian life.

  4. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    DTM – “Second, Erik, you’re an elder in your church. You would not tolerate a member who is not a spokesman for your church speaking on behalf of your church, and you should not. I’m not going to do that… period.”

    Erik – And the reason you quote Misty Irons as some sort of authority is?…

  5. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    DTM – “I truly believe the gospel is at stake when we’re dealing with issues of homosexuality”

    Erik – But not Sabbath observance? How much does the Westminster say about homosexuality and how much does it say about the Sabbath?

  6. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Jed – All bark, no bite as far as I as this waiter, and bible college dropout is concerned.

    Erik – And Moody at that. Next thing we’ll discover you’ve been waiting tables at a Denny’s that denies service to minorities…

  7. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Doug, wonderful, pietists, theonomists, and neo-Calvinists together.

  8. Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, I don’t like the wording since the questions don’t address the specific context — are we talking about 1825 USA, 1665 Geneva, or 2013 Canada. But I’ll bite.

    1) True

    2) Must

    3) Must

    4) c (but because God ordained such a society and government)

    5) order and tranquility

    Anyone claiming to be a Christian must regard Scripture for all that he or she does. My point repeatedly is that a Christian is not going to find much in the Bible about most of what a plumber or Senator is called to do. But either way, the Bible is the first authority and when its silent Christians have liberty. The only way they know if they have liberty is by reading the Bible.

  9. mark mcculley
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    jeff: was providing ironic commentary on the abortionist….

    mark: good one

    not sure how performatively effective

    does it depends on how much media?

  10. Zrim
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, which is why “may” might be a better answer, as in yes you are a believer so it should figure in, but go ahead and try to find the answer to matters political but since the Bible is spiritual you’re probably not going to find it so you may be better off consulting natural revelation.

    Must suggests something more or less neo-Calvinist. May not is ridiculous.

  11. Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Jed,

    You hold your head up high. The wonderful thing about the internets is it provides an equal opportunity for each and every man to make an ass of himself without regard to his educational background, vocation, or station in life.

  12. Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    D.G. – Doug, wonderful, pietists, theonomists, and neo-Calvinists together.

    You guys just refuse to let me get any work done.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuFCaIAnETk

  13. Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    As a mere occasional lurker, I was quite proud to get the first question in about your article. I’m not often first to the draw.

    I’m far more disappointed to not have you answer my question. Apparently, I need to post 30 comments in a row to get heard.

    So I’ll ask it again:

    Have you read Van Drunen’s “Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms?”

    Your article shows little to no evidence that you have.

  14. Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Sean asks: Doug,

    Where’s your counter exegesis, point by point, on Gal. 3?! My grandma is slow too, but she’s dead. And when are you gonna stand in the gap for God? At least Curell, though wrongly, put his “axe” where his convictions are.

    Me: First of all, I thought that was Gordon’s exegesis, no? I thought it was deplorable, but if you will lay it out for me, I will respond.

    Be careful what you ask for Sean, because Gordon’s exegesis is so weak, I feel very confident that I can tear it to shreds.

    Go ahead and make my day. I dare you! I double dare you!

  15. kent
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Have you read Van Drunen’s “Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms?”

    Answer by “them”: It doesn’t matter. Van Drunen has a hidden agenda that he and his ilk are hiding, if only we were smart enough to figure it out… so reading him doesn’t answer any questions…

    Me: I give up…

  16. Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Brian,

    DTM has not read it, but he has concluded from the title that it is a very bad and dangerous book. I had a similar experience with the books, “Home Repair in 20 Easy Lessons” and “Celibacy: God’s Solution for a Pure Church”.

  17. Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Kent questions: Have you read Van Drunen’s “Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms?”

    Me: If I thought one penny went to this useless, poor excuse for a theologian, (Van Drunen) I would repent with sack cloth and ashes for a month! Van Drunen is a snare to the body of Christ! And when we all come into agreement with that obvious truth, we can have a book burning party in his honor. Really Kent, you need to lay off of these R2K authors, they make you soft in the brain.

  18. Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Kent, in all seriousness, the whole premise of the book is ridiculous, and waaaaay off target! Van Drunen’s definition of 2K starts him off on the wrong foot. To make matters worse, he is a smart aleck. For me to take the time to read him, is time wasted on pure poppy cock!

  19. sean
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Doug, I never said it was mine.

    Dougiefresh; “Be careful what you ask for Sean, because Gordon’s exegesis is so weak, I feel very confident that I can tear it to shreds.”

    Me; Damn you’re reliable. Here you go; Remember read left to right top to bottom. He’s gonna ask you to hold a couple of concepts in your mind at the same time as you read, so take your time, take some breaks, don’t get kick the dog(it’s not his fault), you might want to light candles, mumble to yourself , rub your juju, whatever you need to do, and in the end, remember it’s o.k. to cry. You’ve been wrong before, so no biggie.

    http://www.tdgordon.net/theology/abraham_and_sinai_contraste.pdf

  20. todd
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    “When you insinuate that any nation can dismiss the written law of God, you make yourself an enemy of Christ. Stop it!”

    Doug calls me an enemy of Christ, DTM calls me a coward, and some OP pastor in Colorado called me a false shepherd because my kids attend public school.

    Don’t you just love modern Presbyterianism? It kinda gives you warm fuzzies all over, doesn’t it.

    I think I need a dose of Waiting for Guffman. Don’t tell anyone, but I think Corky is gay. shhhh…

  21. Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Todd,

    Some people ask me if I was the class clown. And I say no, but I sat next to him, and I studied him…”

    Or if this will make you feel better..

    But, but there wasn’t going to be swimming in m’show…You’re bastard people! You’re all bastard people, I am just goin to go home and bite my pillow!

  22. Zrim
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Todd, some days it’s enough to tempt one to pope (shhhhh):

    Catechism of the Catholic Church 2229: “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.”

  23. todd
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    And Jed,

    I was shopping for my wife Bonnie. I buy most of her clothes and Mrs Pearl was in the same shop! And it just was an accident you know, we started talking… about panty hose, she was saying… whatever that’s not the point of the story…

  24. sean
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Todd, everyone is brave on the interweb. Even the Baylys. It reminds me of one of my dogs, who after the threat has been neutralized, by her sister, procedes to chuff and bark as if to say; “see what I did there! good thing I was here to thwart that!” Her sister meanwhile has returned to her post at the corner of the yard where she can eye the dogs at the houses to the back and side of us while simultaneously monitoring both gates to the yard. Just keep on trucking.

  25. Jeff Cagle
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Sean: “Everyone is brave on the interweb…”

    Which shows how bad people are at assessing risk. Everything you’ve ever said, visible to everyone.

  26. Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Let me get this straight. I can go with Doug who is a frequent blog commenter who one time took a class from Bahnsen or Van Drunen who is an elder in the OPC (Doug’s denomination, I believe), a seminary professor, an attorney, and the chairman of the committee that crafted the OPC report on justification.

    There hasn’t been a decision this hard since http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiuCKv3tooc

  27. Jeff Cagle
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Zrim,

    For some reason I’m hearing Lucille Ball: “do you pope out at parties? All your troubles can be solved with this biddle lottle. Vitameatavegemin … So tasty, too. Just like can’y. Honest.”

  28. Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    ““When you insinuate that any nation can dismiss the written law of God, you make yourself an enemy of Christ. Stop it!” Doug calls me an enemy of Christ,….

    Under Mikelmann’s Perspectivalism, all you need to deal with annoyance is a modified perspective. Personally, Doug brings a smile to my face as I consider that, if he had the magistrate he wanted, he would be in stocks within 90 days for abusive and slanderous language to those whom he owes 5th commandment honor. Then he’ll he find out that the civil law doesn’t make him more spiritual when he is banished to the neighboring 2K state for being a repeat offender. Yes, and then he will be continuously abusive to the 2K magistrate who gives him his very freedom

  29. sean
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    MM, that’s why it rarely pays to be easily offended. Between Old Bob and Doug, I get a guaranteed laugh most every day. Is there anything better than Old Bob’s biographic rants and sentence structure? It’s awesome.

  30. todd
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Sean,

    Thanks. Unfortunately, there are too many ministers out there using the gospel as another law – to control and manipulate others, and exalt themselves. (Not that I have anyone specific in mind of course.)

  31. Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Sean, that and OB’s denial that he loves visiting Old Life. Good stuff.

  32. Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I can’t make myself dislike Doug & Old Bob, even if I try. Still not crazy about Richard, but working on it.

  33. Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Rev. Bordow wrote: “Doug calls me an enemy of Christ, DTM calls me a coward, and some OP pastor in Colorado called me a false shepherd because my kids attend public school.”

    Just to avoid my misunderstandings, I have not said you are an enemy of Christ. I have not said that you are a false shepherd because your kids attend public school. My daughter attends a Christian school. I went to a public school. That is a parental choice, it often depends on local needs and circumstances, and I will only with great hesitation criticize a parent’s choice for their own children, though I may have strong views on what choices are better or worse than others.

    As for whether you are a coward, that is a word I used only in one place in the essay, right at the end, as follows: “With all due respect to people who call themselves conservative Calvinists — if the trumpet of the church gives an uncertain sound on murdering babies in the womb and advocating official state recognition of sodomy through marriage out of fear that we will offend people, the church has lapsed into cowardice. God will not look kindly on cowardice in the church.”

    If you are afraid that taking a stance on abortion and homosexual marriage will offend people, the word “coward” does apply, but I didn’t have you in mind when writing that phrase. I do know pastors — and you probably do, too — who are always concerned to avoid offending people in their church on a whole wide range of issues, sometimes covering up that with fine-sounding phrases like “not turning away seekers” or “letting only the gospel offend, not secondary issues.”

    There is some truth to those statements. Certainly we do not want to offend people over things that are not based on the Bible. But on things where God has spoken, I am much more worried about offending God than offending people.

    I hope you are, too. If you are, the word “coward” does not apply.

    Either way, I cannot know your heart.

  34. todd
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    DTM: explanation accepted, thank you. Though if you are not even sure that applies to us, it may not have been the best way to end your article on that which you were critiquing.

  35. Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, the word “common grace” carries connotations in Dutch Reformed circles that I don’t generally choose to get into. I am not Protestant Reformed, but I don’t think it’s helpful to get into fights with Protestant Reformed people or others who share their views. Also, the term “common grace” has been abused so greatly on the liberal side of the spectrum in Dutch Reformed circles that I’m not sure it’s as helpful in addressing political questions as it once was.

    However, I think I can answer the intent behind your series of questions by making two statements:

    1. There are many things the Bible does not address directly, and others which the Bible addresses only by implication.

    2. When Scripture is silent, the church has no business speaking.

    To amplify those two points, while individual Christians have more freedom than the institutional church when dealing with implications of Scripture (as opposed to good **AND NECESSARY** consequences), even individual Christians need to speak with great caution when we’re dealing with matters of implication rather than direct teaching of Scripture.

    To cite a real-life example from our English Reformed history, the Puritans in Parliament spent a tremendous amount of time debating whether the proper form of government was a monarchy, a republic, or some other system. I think that was asking a question to which the Bible does not give an answer. While the Bible does have a great deal to say about what justice means, and how a magistrate is to act, and how people are to obey their rulers in all things except those contrary to Scripture, and how the purpose of the civil magistrates is to protect their people from evildoers (who sometimes include the higher magistrates, by the way), arguing over whether a nation should have a king or a president or a parliamentary system is a matter of political prudence, not biblical principle.

    Does that help?

  36. Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    What is your Scriptural basis for the doctrine of “the trumpet of the church”?

    How is this to be carried out? In the mass media? Open air preaching? Hauling people into our services and making them hear our sermons? Press releases? I’m serious.

  37. Jed Paschall
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    Here’s the crux of the issue – saying homosexuality is a sin is biblical, and in some circles offensive. I don’t think there is a person here who disagrees with this. You, however make an issue of orthodoxy over how the government treats the matter in terms of policy. Where is your warrant for calling someone a spiritual coward who disagrees with you politically?

  38. Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    DTM – While the Bible does have a great deal to say about what justice means, and how a magistrate is to act, and how people are to obey their rulers in all things except those contrary to Scripture, and how the purpose of the civil magistrates is to protect their people from evildoers (who sometimes include the higher magistrates, by the way), arguing over whether a nation should have a king or a president or a parliamentary system is a matter of political prudence, not biblical principle.

    DTM – I’m honestly scratching my head on your apparent belief that private property is not biblical, that due process is not found in Scripture, that the rights of individuals vis-a-vis groups are not delimited in Scripture, and that it is somehow unbiblical to believe that there is a “wrong way to go about expressing a grievance when it might have legal consequences.”

    Which DTM am I arguing with?

  39. Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    @ Rev. Bordow… thank you for your comment. I want to say more, but I need to leave soon. City council meets tonight and it will be a long and nasty meeting. Bottom line is the police chief and other senior officers in the department are being accused of covering up a murder by the third-ranking officer in the department several years ago. Civil lawsuits are certain, and a state investigation is underway that may lead to criminal charges. This is a horrible nightmare and it is not going away soon.

    I do believe, based on several years of reading Two Kingdoms people on the internet, that some of what I see is fundamentally a fear of offending people, couched in flowery language of not offending potential converts. Sorry, but that’s “seeker sensitive” stuff that belongs in broad evangelicalism, not Reformed churches.

    I also believe that the “Two Kingdoms” movement is a moving target. I need to deal with its advocates as individuals. Some of them seem to make a lot of sense. Others are off the dock. The whole movement is new, it’s in flux, and it will take time to sort things out.

    What needs to be done is to determine, based on the confessions and the Scriptures, where the limits lie. That is not going to be an easy task.

  40. Jeff Cagle
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    Yes, that does help. In Framian terms, I think we just agreed that the situational perspective is available to non-believers.

    So next question: can you imagine a situation in which a magistrate mightly *rightly* not outlaw a particular sin?

  41. Zrim
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    …some of what I see is fundamentally a fear of offending people, couched in flowery language of not offending potential converts. Sorry, but that’s “seeker sensitive” stuff that belongs in broad evangelicalism, not Reformed churches.

    DTM, first, 2kers are usually the same ones with a robust ecclesiology which has no use for the seeker-o-sity you mention, championing more staid and means of grace oriented doxology. You realize the Baylys lurch more in the direction of non-offense. They claim Reformed but here is what they say on baptism:

    Baptism was instituted by our Lord. It is a Sacrament of the Church marking those who are members of the New Covenant community. Like the other Biblical Sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism does nothing by itself. Saving faith is necessary for us to receive grace through this visible sign. This much we are agreed upon with Reformed Protestant brothers down through the centuries.

    However, Protestants have been divided over the proper time and mode of Baptism. Concerning time, a compelling Biblical case can be made for baptizing only those adults who make a credible profession of faith. But a compelling Biblical case can also be made for baptizing the believer’s children. Some of the most respected fathers of the Church have stood on opposite sides of this debate. Martin Luther and John Calvin believed children of believers should be baptized. John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon believed only adult believers should be baptized.

    Concerning the proper mode of Baptism (how and where the water is applied), Scripture is silent. Recognizing how divisive these issues have been across Church history, we are committed not to divide over them.

    How EV-Free, latitudinarian and unoffensive compared to the actual baptismal language of the P&R forms, particularly Belgic 34.

    Second, not so fast on impugning those of us who take seriously the offense of the gospel. I’ll be the first to join you in bemoaning the hyper-sensitive age of the easily offended. But there really is such a thing as giving wrong offense. 2kers don’t want politics to impede or obscure the gospel under a bushel. We want it to shine brightly and unfettered. We want its proclaimers to exercise due caution so that it might get tangled up in the traditions of men and the cares of this world. Can you seriously read “A Sermon to the President” and not see how the Baylys are simply Protestant liberals of the rightist variety?

  42. Posted April 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Jed, ding ding ding ding.

  43. Posted April 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Lee, I didn’t mean to ignore your post. I have just now seen it. I have been skimming this thread and the other similar thread, responding to the items which appeared to be the most problematic and which could cause serious problems if I didn’t respond immediately.

    With regard to Van Drunen, I have avoided saying anything about Van Drunen other than that he is a self-identified “Two Kingdoms” supporter. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that is accurate.

    I am interested in Van Drunen’s work, but scanning a book and analyzing it in detail are not the same thing. I have talked to people in the camp of those who object to “Two Kingdoms” theology who think Van Drunen is probably the best of the “Two Kingdoms” advocates and makes the most sense, and say he also has a fair amount of the Roman Catholic “natural law” legal tradition on his side. I need to dedicate some major time to doing some serious study of his viewpoint and I don’t think it’s fair for me to characterize his views further until I have taken the time to do serious analysis of his work.

    My guess is that when I get done not only reading his work but also reading detailed reviews of his work by others who may have picked up things I would have missed, I’m going to end up saying that I don’t agree but that I can see his point. That’s pretty much the conclusion to which I’ve come with some other moderate “Two Kingdoms” people.

  44. Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    DTM,

    So if Van Drunen is “moderate” 2K, who is “radical” 2K other than Misty Irons – boo!

    Can you give instances of “radical” 2Kers saying negative things about Van Drunen and other “moderates”? Surely there must be some, no?

    If Hart is your only “radical” who has published, I’m not aware of any problems between Hart & Van Drunen. They both seem to be on the same page and have both written on these issues in “New Horizons”, the OPC Magazine.

  45. Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    You also say in your essay that you possibly foresee charges and church discipline coming out of all this. If you’re not an officer, how are you going to facilitate that as a layman? If not you, who will be? Name some names if you’re not just blowing smoke.

  46. Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Jeff Cagle wrote: “So next question: can you imagine a situation in which a magistrate mightly *rightly* not outlaw a particular sin?”

    In practical politics, I can imagine virtually anything. Our state legislature, during the debate over requiring motorcycle helmets in Missouri, had people making arguments that car drivers should be required to wear helmets. I dealt with a candidate once a few years ago who seriously advocated putting a “seasonal Sea World” in, which produced guffaws of laughter with people joking that he wanted to use Army cargo helicopters to lift the whales out of the tanks and bring them to warmer climates in the winter. I ignored the guy after that crazy interview thinking he had no chance — and then he won his race, defeating the incumbent in a low-turnout election. I have seen elected officials seriously arguing that the solution to speeders is to threaten to shoot them from the roadside, and telling a humane society representative that the solution to dog problems is “shoot, shovel and shut up.”

    Some politicians act on the basis of principle — both wrong principles and right principles. Many politicians act on the basis of what they think their constituents want, viewing themselves as primarily answerable to the majority opinion of those who elected them. Ambition is not unheard of among elected officials, for obvious reasons, and corruption, incompetence and laziness are problems as well.

    The bottom line is that such phrases are “politics is the art of the possible” and “politics is the art of compromise” are very often accurate descriptions of how our laws get made.

    Trying to navigate those choppy waters while holding to Christian principles is not an easy task, and not uncommonly, politicians have to decide which vote will cause the least damage rather that which vote is the ideal solution.

  47. Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Erik, I’m trying to go through your points and respond. It will take time.

    You wrote this: “Which DTM am I arguing with?” in regards to these two quotes from me. I don’t see any contradiction between the two things I said. Can you help me understand why these, in your view, are somehow contradictory?

    DTM – While the Bible does have a great deal to say about what justice means, and how a magistrate is to act, and how people are to obey their rulers in all things except those contrary to Scripture, and how the purpose of the civil magistrates is to protect their people from evildoers (who sometimes include the higher magistrates, by the way), arguing over whether a nation should have a king or a president or a parliamentary system is a matter of political prudence, not biblical principle.

    DTM – I’m honestly scratching my head on your apparent belief that private property is not biblical, that due process is not found in Scripture, that the rights of individuals vis-a-vis groups are not delimited in Scripture, and that it is somehow unbiblical to believe that there is a “wrong way to go about expressing a grievance when it might have legal consequences.”

  48. Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Erik Charter Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm: “You also say in your essay that you possibly foresee charges and church discipline coming out of all this. If you’re not an officer, how are you going to facilitate that as a layman? If not you, who will be? Name some names if you’re not just blowing smoke.”

    Erik, I have no intention of filing any charges against anybody. Other people are perfectly capable of doing that, should it be necessary, and will do a better job since they know their denominational contexts and what will “fly” in specific presbyteries or classes.

    At this point, we’re in the stage of public debate to find out what people believe and why they believe it. Here’s my view, which could change and is only tentative.

    1) Some “Two Kingdoms” people truly do hold an Old School Southern Presbyterian view of the spirituality of the church. They hold the older view, once common in Southern Bible Belt churches — not only Calvinists but also fundamentalist circles — that politics should not be discussed in church. In many cases these people are pretty fiery right-wing Christians but are active in non-ecclesiastical organizations to promote their views of what Christians should be doing in politics. They don’t object to applying Scripture to politics; they just think it’s the job of laymen outside the institutional church and think ministers should stick to purely ecclesiastical issues.

    I have no significant problem with that position. I’m not sure I agree but in most cases I really don’t care whether the institutional church takes official stands or not.

    2) Some “Two Kingdoms” people hold basically the same views as the “Christian right” on the hot-button issues of modern social conservative politics, but believe the case should be made based on natural law and not Scripture.

    That group is divided into two categories, some who advocate the position as a matter of pragmatism — i.e., let’s do what works to get votes — and some who advocate that position as a matter of principle, arguing that in the civil realm, we must make our case based on a common core of “general revelation” moral standards.

    I disagree with the second version of that position and also to some extent disagree with the first version, but I can see their point. I don’t view either position as being grounds for discipline in our current American context. I would have a very different view if we had a formal national covenant or had officially established Christianity as the state religion, but that is not the case in the United States and that means I don’t have to go through the gyrations that conservative people face in Northern Ireland or Scotland over those issues.

    To the extent that “Two Kingdoms” people fall into one or the other of those two camps, I think we’re having an intramural debate in which one side or the other has to be wrong, but neither are heretical.

    I am not yet convinced all “Two Kingdoms” people fall into one or the other of those two camps.

    On the other hand, I’m certainly not saying everyone else is to be condemned, but rather am saying that these two groups constitute what I’m willing to call a “moderate Two Kingdoms” position and am not yet sure what I think about groups progressively more militant than what I have just described.

    I find it very hard to accept the idea that a Christian can endorse civil unions or same-sex marriage in the state under any circumstances. Ditto for abortion.

    Saying “I’m personally opposed to aborting babies but don’t think it should be illegal” is logically the same as saying “I’m personally opposed to lynching black people but don’t think it should be illegal.” As a society, most of us recoil in horror at the second, and quite correctly so, but have accepted the first, not for reasons of logic but because abortion has become common.

    That ought not to be.

  49. Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Todd, when you ridicule christian men who are concerned with our culture, by calling us culture warriors you indict yourself! I do consider you my brother in Christ, but this R2K perspective is surely below the belt. Please remember I use hyperbole to drive home my points. I still love you “in Christ”. Sometimes one needs to shake the tree, so to speak.

  50. Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    DTM states: “Saying “I’m personally opposed to aborting babies but don’t think it should be illegal” is logically the same as saying “I’m personally opposed to lynching black people but don’t think it should be illegal.” As a society, most of us recoil in horror at the second, and quite correctly so, but have accepted the first, not for reasons of logic but because abortion has become common.

    That ought not to be.”

    Me: I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for your level headed responses, they are much better than my blasts.

    Keep pressing on!

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