Forensic Friday: Pauline Indignation

Have you noticed lately what tends to make conservative Protestants mad? In public life we see a lot of consternation about abortion, gay marriage, the thievery of the federal government, and outrage over secularists. And let’s not forget a whole lot of anger doled out upon two-kingdom theology and the spirituality of the church. (If you wonder how the critics feel, just look for the word, “radical.”)

But have you ever considered what made the apostle Paul mad? Well, his dealings with the church in Corinth were not pretty. There he found sectarianism, sexual immorality, insubordination, blasphemy, with a theology of glory worked in for good measure. But how does Paul open his letters to these Christians whom today many of the proponents of public righteousness would deem antinomian? In his first epistle he addresses them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. . .” And he follows that with the apostolic salutation, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the second epistle, even though many problems still exist at Corinth, Paul again calls them “saints” and adds the same salutation as the first letter.

But what about those Galatians, the church that may have been excelling in its zeal for the law? He refers to them as part of the church but not as saints. And while he does also extend an apostolic salutation he does not dally with affirmations of the Galatians piety or the encouragement he takes from them. Instead he cuts to the chase and says he is astonished that they have turned away from the gospel. And within 8 verses of his opening, Paul anathematizes any one who would turn from the gospel he preached. One could well imagine in our times that if a minister were insisting that believers picket at abortion clinics to show the authenticity of their faith, many would fail to object. What damage could be done by such a worthy cause? Granted, you don’t want the picketers to think they are earning merits with God because of their righteous deeds. But that is certainly not a danger in our day and besides, the wickedness of abortion is truly a blight on our nation. So why would it hurt?

But if a pastor was guilty of tolerating incest among his flock, well, the opposition would not be pretty and the minister would likely be out on his ear. But Paul’s reaction was just the reverse. He condemned those who added any works of the law to salvation through Christ. Meanwhile, he was willing to work with the church that had turned a blind eye to all sorts of immorality — even the sexual kind.

J. Gresham Machen detected a similar difference in the way Paul dealt with preachers in Galatia and those in Rome (who were preaching out of envy and strife). Machen observed that Paul was tolerant of bad motives among Roman preachers but intolerant of the Judaizers in Galatia because of the content of the respective evangelists’ messages. And this was a distinction that Machen believed his contemporaries in the Presbyterian Church were incapable of making. The differences between Paul and the preachers in Galatia, Machen wrote:

would seem to modern ‘practical” Christians to be a highly subtle and intangible matter, hardly worthy of consideration at all in view of the large measure of agreement in the practical realm. What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law, even including the unfortunate ceremonial observances! Surely Paul ought to have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity.

As a matter of fact, however, Paul did nothing of the kind. . . . Paul saw very clearly that the difference between the Judaizers and himself was the difference between two entirely distinct types of religion; it was the difference between a religion of merit and a religion of grace.

I am no believer in historical laws, but I do see the pattern repeated throughout the history of the church that when Christians begin to make the faith practical by insisting that Christianity’s vitality can only be proved by its effectiveness in changing everyday life, the Christian religion becomes moralistic. At that point, Christians become indignant about urban crime, wayward elites, and national hypocrisy. But when the church is more concerned about the gospel and the forgiveness of sins that only comes through the shed blood of Christ, they may like Paul get indignant about moralism and neo-nomianism. The reason could be that like Paul and Machen, these forensic-centric Christians know that by emphasizing good works in public life the moralizers and neo-nomians implicitly embrace the idea that being good is what makes someone or a society Christian, not faith in Christ.

So here’s a proposal: if you want truly religious affections, start by letting Pauline indignation be the norm for your anger.

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73 thoughts on “Forensic Friday: Pauline Indignation

  1. Preach it, Dr. Hart! Preaching politics and moralism is the norm in evangelical and some Reformed churches: “making the world safe for Mormons” in the felicitous phrase of Ken Myers. The Gospel has become a stumbling block and an offense in some of our churches.

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  2. Thanks for this. I do wonder why conservative Christians, especially those who understand total depravity, are so often angry at unbelievers for behaving like…unbelievers. I get that a regenerated person is increasingly going to hate and mourn for sin wherever he finds it, but…I wonder if sometimes it does come down to a jealousy for “our great American heritage,” including conservative morality, and not so much a longing to see others escape Hell and find rest in Christ. At any rate it *is* scary when there’s no anger left for false prophets, and no time/energy to reform the Church.

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  3. I do wonder why conservative Christians, especially those who understand total depravity, are so often angry at unbelievers for behaving like…unbelievers.

    OP,

    It may well be that those zealous for public righteousness don’t so much understand total depravity as they think utter depravity contra Romans 2, as in “all sinners need is the right set of rules and bad things won’t happen (or at least, the edge can be taken off).” Paul’s whole argument wrt the weakness of the law due to abiding sin seems appreciably lost on them. And when it comes to believing sinners, it is also highly questionable whether they grasp simul et justus peccator the way Paul did.

    It’s all the difference between conservative Calvinists and modern conservatives.

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  4. I’m not sure why the church’s condemnation of slavery or racism — i.e., its encouragement of civic righteousness — would amount to a denial of justification by faith alone. Maybe it does, but you guys haven’t provided any logical connection showing any antithesis between sola fide and civic righteousness. It just seems to be based on a vaguely defined danger of being like the law-works of the Judaizers.

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  5. Vern,

    Simply stated, the confusion of culture and cult is a variant of the confusion of law and gospel because culture is ruled by law and cult is ruled by gospel.

    2K is generally accused of “public square antinomianism.” What the critics seem to forget is that antinomianism is precisely what Paul was accused of (never legalism) and is generally understood to be an accusation that is made by those who have not properly grasped the gospel in the first place, nor the law in relation to it. If you think that’s uncharitable, recall how Paul had to get into Peter’s face about certain seating arrangements (sheesh, man, it’s just dinner).

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  6. Culture is ruled by law? I believe you are using “law” in respect of culture in the same sense as Paul used “law” in criticizing the Judaizers. Nevertheless, I don’t understand how “law” in the cultural sense is equivalent to “law” in the soteriological sense. How do you get from one to the other?

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  7. Zrim: It may well be that those zealous for public righteousness don’t so much understand total depravity as they think utter depravity contra Romans 2, as in “all sinners need is the right set of rules and bad things won’t happen (or at least, the edge can be taken off).”

    Yes, we’ve certainly seen that in action.

    But the Confession cautions us against automatically assuming that zeal for righteous living is evidence of a legalistic spirit: “So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace. ” WCoF 19.6.

    So I wonder how your concern (which is legitimate!!) functions. Maybe OP points the way: the issue is anger, an anger at unbelievers for acting like unbelievers.

    Simply stated, the confusion of culture and cult is a variant of the confusion of law and gospel because culture is ruled by law and cult is ruled by gospel.

    I thought culture is where Christian liberty is maximized and cult is where the RPW holds sway?

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  8. Amen! A certain contributor to NTJ just wondered “out loud” today, whether modern Christian churches would excommunicate Paul if they took a moment to read what he wrote in 1 Corinthians. I quite agree.

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  9. Vern: I’m not sure why the church’s condemnation of slavery or racism — i.e., its encouragement of civic righteousness — would amount to a denial of justification by faith alone.

    What if, instead, it functions as a common cover for loss of faith, as follows:

    Bob denies the faith. But, he’s unwilling to leave the society of Christian fellowship. And, under the preaching of the Word, he feels some kind of sorrow or indignation over sin (perhaps even the “sorrow that leads to death” of 1 Cor).

    So he takes action, and produces pseudo-fruit-of-the-Spirit, outward zeal for righteousness that consoles him over his sense of guilt, or re-directs the guilt away from his loss of faith.

    Does that scenario seem plausible?

    In other words, perhaps activism itself is not the baneful activity; merely the refuge for unbelievers within the church. The actual sin begins with unbelief, not activism.

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  10. Methinks the Apostle Paul might not be welcome at a popular, evangelical church near me that has as one of its distinctives the following (quoting from a book called The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis):

    “Without practically-attractive, spiritually-compelling, proof-positive lifestyles, what good are our claims and pronouncements about a life-changing God? If we can’t outlive the world at every point—in our marriages, with our children, at work, with money, in our relationships, in the use of our time—why dare to speak of salvation and the abundant life?”

    Yikes.

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  11. Vern (and Jeff),

    The law is the law is the law, and none of it is the gospel. That’s Paul’s point in Romans. There is no “cultural” law different from “soteriological” law. The law which is inscribed on every heart is the same law by which every society is (imperfectly) ordered and by which all flesh will be (perfectly) judged.

    Jeff,

    A zeal for righteous living is different from a zeal to make sure everybody else is living righteously. It’s sort of like the difference between a moral man and a moralist. And I’m not so sure that “anger” satisfactorily explains what the problem is with public square legalism. That almost sounds like Erasmus conceding to Luther that the Church certainly does need to pull up its socks when Luther’s point was that there was a fundamental set of theological errors driving it all. In other words, anger is there because the public square legalists presume the point is to clean up the streets instead of, or (more craftily and perhaps more accurately) in addition to, reconciling sinners to God.

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  12. Zrim: “A zeal for righteous living is different from a zeal to make sure everybody else is living righteously.”

    Exactly. Let me add this: Since we all affirm that the way a person grows in righteousness is through the hearing of the gospel, why isn’t a zeal to preserve the pure proclamation of the gospel not evidence of a concern for righteousness? To me, it seems like it would be the only appropriate evidence of such a concern.

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  13. RL: “Why isn’t a zeal to preserve the pure proclamation of the gospel not evidence of a concern for righteousness? To me, it seems like it would be the only appropriate evidence of such a concern.”

    Because activism is chic and gives you warm fuzzies, while concern for preserving truth is boring?

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  14. Zrim, on your view of law, we would not be able to make a distinction between sin and crime. Surely, income, sales, or corporate tax laws, or a law regarding the regulation of public utilities, are not on a par with a law against taking the Lord’s name in vain, are they?

    Jeff, the situation you describe may happen in individual cases, but why should it be relevant to those who have NOT lost faith but still want to see the church encourage civic righteousness?

    Why should churchly encouragement of public morality always be interpreted as a sign of the Galatian heresy of self-righteousness? Individual instances of such thinking may occur, but obviously they do not necessarily prove a general principle — which seems to be what R2K wants.

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  15. …on your view of law, we would not be able to make a distinction between sin and crime. Surely, income, sales, or corporate tax laws, or a law regarding the regulation of public utilities, are not on a par with a law against taking the Lord’s name in vain, are they?

    Vern,

    The distinction isn’t between sin and crime, but rather between judging those inside and judging those outside the church (1 Cor. 5). In the church all sin is crime, from worshipping a false god to coveting. So, yes, embezzlement is the same as taking the Lord’s name in vain in the church.

    And this is the problem for most who are so concerned for civil righteousness: they seem to want some Decalogue enforcement but not all of it, e.g., the outlawing of abortion but not idolatry. 2K, like thorough-going theonomy, wants it complete and consistent, but, in contrast to thorough-going theonomy, in the right place. This less-than-thorough-going theonomy is the ecclesiological version of that modern creature who wants to traffic soteriologically between Arminianism and Calvinism (the “Calminian”), or sacramentally (the “Bapterian”). It seems to misunderstand that the contrasting systems are both internally consistent and at odds with each other–you cannot pick and choose.

    RL & OP, bingo. Appeal to the flesh is the whole point of a theology of glory. Using ears to hear and patiently waiting for the bread and wine to be passed just isn’t as fun or as easy as meddling in the neighbor’s affairs.

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  16. Zrim, when Paul mentioned the natural law in Romans, it didn’t include Israel’s religious or cultic laws (e.g., idolatry, etc.), else Paul could not have distinguished natural law from covenant law. Yet he says they were in some sense the same. So he must have been talking about basic moral laws, no? So why shouldn’t the polis be governed by such natural laws? They are equivalent to the basic morals or equity of biblical laws. Therefore, there is no difficulty in saying — with proper qualification — that the state should be governed by biblical law. And surely the church should encourage the state to obey these laws.

    I don’t see how in the church all sin is crime. For instance, the church doesn’t execute members for taking the Lord’s name in vain, though it might excommunicate the offender. And yet, the crime of theft may not merit any punishment by the church at al — other than admonition or counseling perhaps — but such a crime would certainly be prosecuted by the state. So there is an important difference between sin and crime.

    Again, to reiterate the main point, I still do not see the logical validity in moving from an individual possibility of the Galatian heresy to the general principle that rules out all church influenced civic righteousness. Perhaps you guys could point me to an online paper that provides this logical demonstration.

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  17. Zrim: A zeal for righteous living is different from a zeal to make sure everybody else is living righteously.

    This is an excellent point.

    And I’m not so sure that “anger” satisfactorily explains what the problem is with public square legalism. That almost sounds like Erasmus conceding to Luther that the Church certainly does need to pull up its socks when Luther’s point was that there was a fundamental set of theological errors driving it all.

    What I had in mind is that the anger is a definite, positive “fruit of the flesh” that one can use as a diagnostic. Wanting the streets to be clean, not so much. The anger isn’t the source; it’s just a better metric for seeing that things have gone off the rails.

    Clearly, the solution isn’t anger management. Rather, it’s to observe the anger, and use it as a soul-searching moment of repentance.

    In other words, anger is there because the public square legalists presume the point is to clean up the streets instead of, or (more craftily and perhaps more accurately) in addition to, reconciling sinners to God.

    Someday I would love to write a book entitled “Jesus is not a Value.” *sigh*

    And this is the problem for most who are so concerned for civil righteousness: they seem to want some Decalogue enforcement but not all of it, e.g., the outlawing of abortion but not idolatry.

    A theocrat would not be inconsistent, however, to argue that idolatry is far down the road and would require a change in the Constitution (Bahnsen, IIRC?)

    2K, like thorough-going theonomy, wants it complete and consistent

    !!!

    Complete and consistent, eh?

    There’s a long way to go for that! I’m still waiting for my copy of The Natural Law from Amazon.

    Actually, I was thinking about it in the shower. I offer the following summary of 2K, strictly for grins. For best effect, talk with your hands throughout.

    Me explaining 2K:

    The moral law written on the heart is the Natural Law. But we Mayn’t Write The Natural Law Down (waves hands emphatically) because that might infringe on someone’s liberty and betray us into a theology of glory.

    Of course, we might be concerned that the Natural Law written on the hearts of sinful man would possibly conflict with the decalogue, but fortunately that never happens, because the Natural Law is identical in content to the decalogue.

    NOW

    We understand that the decalogue is a republication of the covenant of works, given to Adam and morally binding on all his posterity. But since the decalogue is in the Bible, it applies to the church, not to the world at large. Thus, the decalogue is a kind of private republication of the covenant of works. It is given to the church to tell us how to live lives pleasing to God, except not as a principle of works.

    In the Old Testament, the decalogue was the civil law of Israel. But now, it has expired as the civil law for nations, except for the general equity thereof; which is found in the Natural Law, which May Never Be Written Down.

    BUT

    The decalogue itself is not allowed to be used in the public square; only the Natural Law is to be used in the public square. If we were to use the decalogue in the public square, we might infringe on someone’s liberty that they have under the 1st Amendment. Unless they don’t live in the USA, in which case it’s still a bad idea.

    No, the decalogue is for the church. In the church we aren’t really concerned that the decalogue might intrude on someone’s Christian Liberty because it is, after all, the direct command of God, which means it falls under the RPW.

    AND

    The RPW is very, very important. The RPW is the principle that distinguishes cult from culture. These two must be kept separate at all times. Crossing the streams of cult and culture is the root of all theological error, which is why cult and culture each have a separate chapter in all of the Reformed confessions.

    “Cult” is what goes on in church. In church, in order to preserve Christian Liberty, we have very strict rules about worship. No instruments, no hymns, no recreation on the Sabbath. Culture should stay the heck away from our worship. We’re emphatically not Lutherans, except that we really like his views on justification.

    Meanwhile, “Culture” is what goes on outside of church, in the public square. This is the realm of law. I mean liberty. I mean Natural Law. No, scratch all that.

    What I mean is, The public square is ruled by the Natural Law (which is identical to the decalogue, but May Never Be Written Down), so that when we are in the public square, we are free to follow our consciences and should maximize our liberty. Plumbers especially.

    The Bible has no specific directions about plumbers. It follows therefore that plumbers are free from any pious opinions about their plumbing. This principle sounds like the RPW, but since it applies to the public square, we know it isn’t.

    SO

    For believers, there is the decalogue. For non-believers there is the Natural Law. The Natural Law is identical to the decalogue, except Not Written Down Anywhere. Except in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6.

    *BAM* My head exploded.

    Zrim: …but, in contrast to thorough-going theonomy, in the right place. This less-than-thorough-going theonomy is the ecclesiological version of that modern creature who wants to traffic soteriologically between Arminianism and Calvinism (the “Calminian”), or sacramentally (the “Bapterian”). It seems to misunderstand that the contrasting systems are both internally consistent and at odds with each other–you cannot pick and choose.

    Unless the real truth is tension and inconsistency. I think that’s entirely possible.

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  18. Of course the most burning question in this entire thread is …

    Are Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler experiencing Pauline indignation or is there another cause to their indignantion-furrowed brows?

    Methinks they have just spotted the Ten Commandments at the court house…well may be not.

    Matt

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  19. Vern: you write, “I still do not see the logical validity in moving from an individual possibility of the Galatian heresy to the general principle that rules out all church influenced civic righteousness.”

    Several responses: 1) could you find a biblical passage that tells the church to be involved in pursuing civic righteousness? Where were Jesus or the apostles working to transform their cities?

    2) if there is not biblical warrant for the church to do this — and you won’t find a description of the church as a social transformer in any of the Reformed creeds; they are all about the church saving and nurturing the elect — then if you read the Bible in a way that provides a warrant for social transformation, you may have already tipped your hand. You may be saying that what the church is called to do, saving the elect, is as important as what the state does, punishing evildoers and rewarding good.

    3) And if you think the state is a model for the church, punishing sin and rewarding virtue, you have embraced the Covenant of Works.

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  20. I don’t see how in the church all sin is crime. For instance, the church doesn’t execute members for taking the Lord’s name in vain, though it might excommunicate the offender. And yet, the crime of theft may not merit any punishment by the church at al — other than admonition or counseling perhaps — but such a crime would certainly be prosecuted by the state. So there is an important difference between sin and crime.

    Vern, how the church disciplines sin is different from how the state punishes crime. The church disciplines spiritually in order to restore one to communion, the state corporally in order to serve justice. And I’m not sure how a believer who thieves doesn’t receive discipline by his church even as he is punished by the state, but I suspect it owes to a relatively low view of church membership and the sacraments. I understand that different sins require different admonitions just like punishments should fit crimes, but the point is that the kingdoms are as different as law is from gospel.

    Again, to reiterate the main point, I still do not see the logical validity in moving from an individual possibility of the Galatian heresy to the general principle that rules out all church influenced civic righteousness.

    Whatever the arguments 2K-SOTC make that seem illogical, I suppose one just has to wrestle with Paul’s whole point in 1 Cor. 5, especially “what business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” Seems to me one has to do some pretty creative maneuvering to circumvent his implication that it’s none of the church’s beez wax and, instead, has a mandate to mind her own house. Plus, isn’t minding one’s own house hard enough without taking on the neighbor’s problems?

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  21. Unless the real truth is tension and inconsistency. I think that’s entirely possible.

    Jeff, my point was that 2K and theonomy (soft and hard) stand as diametrically opposed as Calvinism/Arminianism or paedobaptism/credo-baptism. If you’re prepared to say about these systems that the “truth lies somewhere between,” I suppose you have a point. But confessional Reformed orthodoxy takes sides.

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  22. Except that it hasn’t taken sides consistently. Once again: Calvin’s 2K is not your 2K. Calvin’s 2K was entirely compatible with a theocracy that neither you nor I would want to live in.

    So was Calvin a “soft theonomist”, since sides must be taken?

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  23. Jeff,

    To be fair to Calvin and to expose those who try to appeal to him:

    1) he believed in the spirituality of the church. He could not be clearer about not looking for the kingdom of heaven in the civil government at the beginning of his discussion of the magistrate. (4.20). To look for the kingdom of Christ in the state was to commit the “Judaic folly.”

    2) Calvin believed in Christian norms for society and the state.

    3) Calvin believed in natural law as a further set of norms for society and the state.

    4) Calvin lived at a time when Constantinianism was still the expectation — the church was an agency of the state by virtue of religious establishment.

    2kers reject or are ambivalent about 2 and 4.

    Anti-2kers are ambivalent or reject 1 and 3. But they are dishonest about 4 and do not come clean about 1789 and all that.

    Which makes 2kers closer to Calvin than anti-2kers.

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  24. Jeff,

    Yes, this side of heaven we will struggle with consistency applying the Bible’s 2k theology. But I think the fear of the Lord is the key. Transformationalists want us to tell society how to fear the Lord, but the Lord gave many serious warning to those who added to the Word of God with their own traditions, as well as laying burdens on others they were not able to bear, so it is enough to stick with the imperatives in Scripture that are based on the indicatives, and allow believers freedom of conscience in how to apply them in society. In other words, there is much more involved in gospel ministers fearing the Lord than telling President Obama how to make policy or the congregation how to vote.

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  25. Zrim, I’m troubled by the equation of jurisdiction and opinion.

    It’s one thing for a minister of the gospel, clothed in churchly authority, to dictate public policy to the magistrate — say, Falwell, Wallis, or Bart Stupak’s archbishop.

    Clearly, that’s an overstepping of jurisdiction boundaries, a contempt for the authority of the magistrate. Its endpoint is Henry IV in the snow, begging forgiveness from Greg VII.

    But isn’t it different if one is preaching through Proverbs — we should preach through Proverbs, right? Not just Galatians or Romans, though I find myself teaching on Galatians a fair amount — and Proverbs concerning wealth arise. At that point, don’t I have an obligation to explain what these mean, and in so doing, explain what they mean concretely, i.e., in real life? And those applications might include, for example, the Lottery or current capitalist practices or some other such.

    It almost seems like you want a minister to avoid any preaching of application, lest he accidentally utter a pious opinion that is not Scripture.

    But if we have such a high threshold as that, then we might as well dispense with the sermon and just have readings out of the Bible.

    That’s not to say that I approve of preaching that is not expository. I’m just saying that a necessary part of exposition is application…which might well mean that the preacher preaches the Word to the magistrate. Do you object to that?

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  26. Jeff, it’s not inconsistency, it is paradox. That’s what happens when you realize that the order of creation runs toward law and justice and the way of grace runs toward forgiveness and mercy. Christians live in both worlds and its hard to sort out the tensions. But 2k is a start.

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  27. Zrim and DGH:

    Well, OK. I can appreciate paradox, what with wave-particle duality and Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem and all living in my neighborhood.

    But my question is, is “2k” the right way to frame the paradox? The only way?

    Put it this way: There’s been a huge, and mostly good, emphasis on this blog on being Confessional. We want first and foremost for our doctrine to be genuinely Biblical, and not just go teaching pious opinions, and so we limit ourselves to Scriptural teaching, which is most reliably reflected in the Confession.

    So now let’s test: Is the 2k doctrine genuinely Confessional? OR, is it opinion built around a sparse Confessional framework?

    On the plus side: I can see in the Confession that the civil magistrate has a separate jurisdiction from the church. I can see that the church is not to meddle.

    On the minus side: I can’t see that Scripture is not given to the magistrate. For one thing, we are told that the general equity of the decalogue remains as the standard for the nations. And for another, I find it hard to believe that when the Westminsterians wrote

    “God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”

    that they had in mind a “good” that could be known apart from Scripture.

    So on this score, it seems like REPT is not an obvious interpretation of the Confession.

    Further: It seems like to me that not only is the magistrate called to maintain “good”, but also “piety.” And to protect the Church of our Lord (and not necessarily other religions). WLC 191 tells us that when we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”, we are to pray among other things that the magistrate will countenance and maintain the church.

    And here, REPT takes a definite pass. The REPT magistrate’s duty to the church is limited to non-harrassment, and most certainly not any positive promotion of piety.

    So here, REPT seems like a strained interpretation of the Confession, and of WLC 94, 95, 98, and 191.

    And then there’s the overall structure: cult and culture, gospel and law. While I can appreciate the symmetry and all, it strikes me that neither Scripture nor the Confession presents matters in this way.

    So here, REPT seems somewhat like pious opinion.

    So while I’m in full agreement with you that we live in paradox, and 2k is a stab at dealing with this paradox, I’m dismayed by apparent “2k-positivism” — the assumption that people’s real problem is their failure to cut the cake in the 2k way.

    It’s like 2k becomes a doctrinal test, ya know?

    I think that’s what sparked my interest and concern a year and a half ago (That long ago? Wow). I didn’t put it like that at the time, partly because I was still trying to understand the issue, and partly because my thinking was still in process, but I think that’s my core concern: REPT’s status as doctrine and controlling paradigm, rather than opinion.

    Sort of like certain people see union everywhere … 🙂

    The problem is not so much that we might try talk about the ways and means of preserving the jurisdictions of church and state. That’s important, and you’ve been right to point out the evangelical and theonomic failure here.

    Rather, the problem is the assumption that anyone who fails to think in the 2k way is a crypto-glory-legalist. That seems like an illegitimate foreclosure to me. Sorting people’s hearts based on their adherence to 2k distinctives implies that 2k is not merely a good idea, but really a rule of faith.

    Is that where we want to be?

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  28. Except that it hasn’t taken sides consistently. Once again: Calvin’s 2K is not your 2K…

    Jeff,

    When I say that CRO takes sides I am thinking ecclesiastically, not in terms of any particular theologian. And the confessional formulations most assuredly and consistently take sides soteriologically and sacramentally, even if individuals don’t. But if getting a blessing from a father means that much to you, when Kuyper explicitly disagreed with Calvin and the confessions with regard to BC 38, helping to get it revised, that counts as “my 2K” getting both an ecclesiastical sanction and an individual blessing.

    It almost seems like you want a minister to avoid any preaching of application, lest he accidentally utter a pious opinion that is not Scripture.

    I’m of the mind that extraordinary members have an obligation on them that is just plain different from ordinary members. Simply put, they have to hold their social and political views very close to their chest in ways private members like me don’t. I have great respect for the burden this places on certain men, especially those who have very strong political views, to balance this stricture with the need to also apply the preached Word. It can’t be easy. But, as in other vocations that demand tight controls on personal and public speech, that doesn’t mean the rules may change. I don’t pretend to know how playing by the rules looks like exactly, but if the take away from any preaching is simplistic conclusions on social behavior or political outlooks, etc., then something has gone pretty wrong.

    I have found that this point comes home for most Presbyterian and Reformed when it comes to “substance use and worldly amusements.” For whatever reasons, they get the problem with Christian codes that render Presbyterians living like pietistic Methodists; they can smell legalism a mile away when it comes to booze and movies, and bravo for it. But apply the same set of principles to politics (and, ahem, education) and they turn into Methodists.

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  29. Jeff, how could the Scripture possibly be given to a non-Christian magistrate? This seems to me one of the weakest and least considered part of the anti-2k position. So we have a non-regenerate person, who cannot know the truths of Scripture, in fact, suppresses them in his heart, but he is supposed to use Scripture. If you’re going to be Van Tillian I don’t see how an unregenerate person could ever use Scripture. And yet it is often the anitheticals who are the criticize 2k.

    The alternative, of course, is to say that only Christians may hold office. You’re welcome to that position. We have a word for it. Theonomy. I guess another is some kind of selective use of Scripture, sort of like saying the magistrate must enforce the second table but not the first. I still cannot fathom that one since Christian families, churches, and Israel were not to enforce only one table.

    I grant you WLC 191. I think it shows how little use the WLC received and so the revisers in 1789 were not aware of that reference to the magistrate. But WLC 94-96 I don’t understand. The moral law can be construed as part of natural law. General revelation and NL are as much revealed as Scripture. So I don’t know why you only see the Bible = moral law.

    On cult and culture, again I ask where in the NT do you find examples of Christ or the apostles pleading with the magistrates to make Scripture the norm for public life? In fact, in the cases where you do see people around Jesus doing this, he usually tells them, as he told Peter, put away the sword, a new era is here. The state and the covenant community are not decoupled. Isn’t this also the point of Gal. 3:28. There is not Christian culture the way there was an Israelite culture. Cult and culture are not overlapping.

    Finally, as for the positivism, I suspect you might say 2kers are a little defensive after reading the likes of the Baylys, Rabbi Bret, Doug Wilson, and even the Kerux folks. People keep telling us we are radical and that this position is foreign to the tradition. Positivism does work both ways. 2kers are more than willing to acknowledge that not everyone agrees with us. The other side has not been so tolerant. And when they exclude us they do so in pretty moralistic, legalistic, and civic religion ways.

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  30. Zrim: But apply the same set of principles to politics (and, ahem, education) and they turn into Methodists.

    Duly noted. But isn’t the problem there a problem of illegitimate foreclosure (i.e., oversimplifying) rather than failing to distinguish the kingdoms?

    Put it like this: What if a member wants to apply some kind of “Christian code” within the church — say, Thou Shalt Not Take a Walk on Sunday, For That is Recreation.

    I don’t see how “2k” helps us here. The problem is creating a rule based on word of man instead of Word of God — regardless of the jurisdiction.

    I don’t pretend to know how playing by the rules looks like exactly, but if the take away from any preaching is simplistic conclusions on social behavior or political outlooks, etc., then something has gone pretty wrong.

    This is an interesting point, and I’m in visceral agreement with you. Is the problem with “simplistic” or with “jurisdiction”? Or both, perhaps?

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  31. Jeff, the Christian who wants to ban walking on Sundays must if a Presbyterian play by the jurisdictional rules. First he has to go to the brother who walks on Sunday and raise his concerns. Maybe he backs down after hearing the brother’s reasons. If not, then he goes to session. This is jurisdiction writ large (unless, with the Baylys, you can be session, presbytery and General Assembly in your singular self).

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  32. Daryl,

    Obviously, there’s no proof-text that says the church must say a word to politicians. But surely the word of God has implications that go beyond the church! I don’t mean churches should get down into partisan politics — that’s just a caricature — but they should be able to apply biblical morality to both individuals and the state. As Jeff said, it’s just application.

    Obviously, most ministers and church members are not sufficiently conversant with day to day political issues, any more than they are conversant with engineering or particle physics. Hence, they should speak with caution about such things — plus take care not to have their 501c3 status revoked by going partisan. But they can still apply general principles based upon biblical truth or morality, and let voters decide specific cases. Why is that wrong?

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  33. Vern, are you meaning to say that because you have the Bible you can tell anyone what to do? (I know that sounds over the top, but it really does seem to be the implication.) Why stop at politicians. I see someone walking down the street and they give the finger to someone else. Do I say something? Do you?

    You see you children not brushing their teeth. You’ve told them to brush their teeth. But it’s been a bad day. Does the fifth commandment require you to chastise them 24/7?

    So with all the vice that goes on in politics — see The Wire — how would Christians ever have a chance to read the Bible on any day the politicians were working?

    Even if the Bible were the standard, when would you stop applying?

    BTW, when did Paul tell the emperor to clean up his act? Here jurisdiction matter. Paul was a Roman citizen. And where does the NT teach about applying the law to the nations outside the context of proclaiming the good news?

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  34. “Rather, the problem is the assumption that anyone who fails to think in the 2k way is a crypto-glory-legalist. That seems like an illegitimate foreclosure to me. Sorting people’s hearts based on their adherence to 2k distinctives implies that 2k is not merely a good idea, but really a rule of faith.”

    Jeff,

    I don’t think anyone is judging hearts here, at least we shouldn’t. The point is more one of implications. I am preaching through I Cor 15, and Paul brings out many implications of the Corinthians’ bad theology that the people did not consider. They would not have believed that denying the resurrection of believers necessarily denied the resurrection of Christ. But they had not thought through the implications of their theology. In the same way, many would not think that preaching against certain political or social policies and institutions (national health care, public schools, etc…) is legalistic, but it does introduce a soft legalism into the church, intended or not. Ask any member with different political or educational convictions than the outspoken pastor if he feels such legalism, and he will tell you so.

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  35. DGH: BTW, when did Paul tell the emperor to clean up his act?

    Acts 24: Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

    It’s a little messy — righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come were in the mix, along with faith in Christ Jesus. (and cluelessness too … a bribe?)

    And then later,

    Acts 26: At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

    “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

    Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

    Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

    What do you think — was Paul aiming for a change in belief only, or for a more comprehensive change in life? On the inside track, we know that Paul put forensics before sanctification. His message is not, Fix these things according to those values, and you shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    But it sure sounds like he was aiming for Felix and Agrippa and Festus to become disciples of Jesus, which would have meant praying Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    And once you start praying that, then the next question is, What is God’s will in my life? Including the common calling.

    Messy, messy, messy.

    … are you meaning to say that because you have the Bible you can tell anyone what to do?

    Since Vern isn’t Pope, he’s probably not saying that. You’re hearing it as person-to-person, one man telling another what to do.

    What about God-to-person? It’s not

    “I have the Bible, so I tell you what to do”

    BUT

    “You have the Bible, so tolle, lege.”

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  36. The Christian who wants to ban walking on Sundays must if a Presbyterian play by the jurisdictional rules.

    Oh, you know how it goes. Procedure, Schmocedure. What really happens is that some Bible study starts getting “serious about the Sabbath.” And then they start saying stuff, just under the radar, about how it’s grevious when they see “people” disrespecting the Lord with recreations on His day.

    There’s more than one way to effect a ban.

    Part of ministry, IMO, is teaching the gospel in such a way that these kinds of behaviors don’t take root.

    But in any event, the point was that Christian Liberty cuts across cult and culture.

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  37. “I don’t mean churches should get down into partisan politics — that’s just a caricature — but they should be able to apply biblical morality to both individuals and the state.”

    Caricature? – show me an example of a minister applying biblical morality to the state without getting into partisan politics or taking sides in the culture war?

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  38. Put it like this: What if a member wants to apply some kind of “Christian code” within the church — say, Thou Shalt Not Take a Walk on Sunday, For That is Recreation.

    I don’t see how “2k” helps us here. The problem is creating a rule based on word of man instead of Word of God — regardless of the jurisdiction.

    2K doesn’t help with the question of Sabbath-strolling by believers because it’s not supposed to. Its purpose is to set the broader parameters about who gets to say what to whom and why. The specifics get hashed out once the general rules are established. If the fire department is telling the police department how to police, and the mayor steps in to remind the fire department of the rule that that fire departments don’t run police departments, the next logical question isn’t, “Yeah, but how does that rule help us decide between red trucks and yellowish-green ones?” It doesn’t, it’s meant to send everyone to their proper corners and figure out their own business.

    “I don’t pretend to know how playing by the rules looks like exactly, but if the take away from any preaching is simplistic conclusions on social behavior or political outlooks, etc., then something has gone pretty wrong.”

    This is an interesting point, and I’m in visceral agreement with you. Is the problem with “simplistic” or with “jurisdiction”? Or both, perhaps?

    Both. But I think simplistic conclusions tend to be borne of jurisdictional confusion, which is not too unlike getting all sorts of odd notions about union when the priority of justification is messed with.

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  39. Obviously, most ministers and church members are not sufficiently conversant with day to day political issues, any more than they are conversant with engineering or particle physics. Hence, they should speak with caution about such things — plus take care not to have their 501c3 status revoked by going partisan. But they can still apply general principles based upon biblical truth or morality, and let voters decide specific cases. Why is that wrong?

    Vern, it isn’t wrong. But the point is that that seems to happen a lot less than it’s supposed to. Take Bishop Bayly’s sermonizing to Obama as an example, or John Piper’s Sanctity of Life Sunday sermonizing (or his general “No, Mr. President” messages). Most of “conservative” Christendom, Protestant and Catholic, praises this sort of thing in one way or another. But these instances are pretty good examples of just how utterly confused and misguided American religion is about jurisdiction.

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  40. Obviously, most ministers and church members are not sufficiently conversant with day to day political issues…

    Nor are they required to be. God established requirements for the ordination of ministers (1 Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:7-9). God nowhere requires of them political training or knowledge. This is the other side of the jurisdictional coin. There are abundant examples of pastors and ministers overstepping their bounds, but we need to also consider that a pastor can be a victim of the same jurisdictional confusion. We shouldn’t impose requirements on God’s ministers that aren’t grounded in Scripture.

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  41. Jeff, I don’t see how your example of Sabbath rumblings hurts 2k any more than anti-2k. The situation you describe would be as much a problem in the Baylys’ churches as where I worship.

    Plus, who ever said Christian liberty was a category only for the culture? My discovery of the SOTC stemmed in part from the Presbyterian Church’s passing motions in support of the 18th amendment and what happened to Machen when he voted no.

    Christians have liberty to pursue legitimate callings in the culture. Christians have liberty in the church not to submit to the doctrines and commandments of men. Why is that a problem for 2k?

    Regarding Paul before Felix, do you really mean to say that when a minister is being tried by the civil authorities, and one of those authorities asks the minister to hear more about his teaching, this is the “thus, sayeth the Lord” moment for picketing at abortion clinics? I mean, I could see Frame making that leap but not the reasonable and moderate Jeff Cagle.

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  42. dgh: Do you think Dr. Harold O. J. Brown and Francis Schaeffer were wrong to speak out like the prophets of old against abortion? Do you think that after 37 years of legal abortion that people in the church are not getting abortions? Or that homosexuality in our culture has not affected church members (the Ted Haggard guy for example)? Pastors should speak out again sin in the church and as way of by-product, in the culture. But abortion is a modern day holocaust of sorts. Doesn’t it strike you as such? (btw, I think that many “preachers” like to inveigh against homosexuality and abortion because those sins, they think, are “out there”. We’re safe. We can feel self-righteous). I think the differences you have between Paul and the emperor and John Piper and Obama is that in the US we can speak out. It’s part of the process.

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  43. Eliza, “like the prophets of old”? Huh? Where was their commission from the Lord? Were they speaking to the covenant community or to the American nation? Do you think that America is the embodiment of Israel?

    Do I think abortion and homosexuality exist in my communion? probably. Do I think that most OP’s know these are sins? Yes. Even Ted Haggard knew that he was wrong. That’s why he covered it up. And he happened when so many modern-day Browns and Schaeffers were speaking like prophets of old?

    Do you really think if the church speaks out more the sins will lessen?

    Also, do you want me telling your children what is and what isn’t sinful? Might there be some limits to what we think is true? Or do we just have to speak out about sin all the time?

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  44. JRC: What do you think — was Paul aiming for a change in belief only, or for a more comprehensive change in life? On the inside track, we know that Paul put forensics before sanctification. His message is not, Fix these things according to those values, and you shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    But it sure sounds like he was aiming for Felix and Agrippa and Festus to become disciples of Jesus, which would have meant praying Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    And once you start praying that, then the next question is, What is God’s will in my life? Including the common calling.

    Messy, messy, messy.

    DGH: Regarding Paul before Felix, do you really mean to say that when a minister is being tried by the civil authorities, and one of those authorities asks the minister to hear more about his teaching, this is the “thus, sayeth the Lord” moment for picketing at abortion clinics?

    JRC: ?!?!

    I’m having this day where I say one thing and it comes back to me in barely recognizable form…

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  45. Zrim: But I think simplistic conclusions tend to be borne of jurisdictional confusion, which is not too unlike getting all sorts of odd notions about union when the priority of justification is messed with.

    This is just hanging in front of me begging for a snappy comeback. I’m not sure that you’re clear of the charge of “odd notions about union.”

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  46. Eliza,

    Do you think that after 37 years of legal abortion that people in the church are not getting abortions…I think that many “preachers” like to inveigh against homosexuality and abortion because those sins, they think, are “out there”. We’re safe. We can feel self-righteous.

    This is always an interesting tack. It has all the appearances of humility, but it always seems more like a feigned humility in order to still justify meddling. I’ll be blunt: no, I don’t think that after 35+ years of legalized abortion that most pious women in our midst are committing this sin. Maybe you think that is naïve. But I happen to think this strategy is asking us to accept a pretty low opinion of our own, to say nothing of showing little faith in the work of the Spirit in our midst. This isn’t to say we don’t have our gross sins. But the argument seems close to this scenario: my daughters’ school legalizes plagiarism and cheating. Then I, after years of nurturing them in the good and observing pious fruit, all of a sudden start assuming they’ll engage in wrong behavior simply because the powers that be allow it now. I strongly oppose the new policy (blustering about “the fall of western civilization” due to dumb policies in the schools). I post position papers on my daughters’ bedroom doors explaining the dangers of plagiarism, and I begin casting suspicious looks at them in public to prove I don’t think my own are beyond sin. Good strategy, perhaps, to persuade the powers that be that this isn’t about persecuting the heathen, but in the meantime I’ve made a shambles of my home life.

    So when people say that “pastors should speak out against sin in the church and as way of by-product, in the culture” it sure sounds an awful lot like recklessly using our own as pawns to make the political points that consume us. It’s like being at a family reunion and berating your own chaste child at an elevated pitch about the dangers of fornication in order to make a point to your cousin across the room who refuses to raise his daughter the same way.

    I think the differences you have between Paul and the emperor and John Piper and Obama is that in the US we can speak out. It’s part of the process.

    Not everything lawful is profitable, which is the point here. It seems difficult for 21st century believers to understand that just because their political arrangements encourage and even reward citizens to be openly and crudely critical of their leaders (even disobedient) that they have to square that with biblical commands to seek his honor, etc. (civil obedience). American polity isn’t as nurturing to Christian piety as we seem to assume.

    Plus, you seem to be suggesting that we don’t see any examples of apostolic reprimands because the polity disallowed it in ways ours encourages it. But if socio-political evils are part of the church’s commission, I don’t see why Paul’s political arrangement disallowing him to “speak out” should stop him. It also disallowed him from testifying to Jesus, but he carried through. Did Paul shrink from one commission even as he was bold about another? It would seem there is a difference between civil disobedience and cultic disobedience, one hasn’t any biblical warrant and the other does.

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  47. after years of nurturing them in the good…

    Zrim, I’m glad you said that since I know you’re a catechism man (for yourself and your offspring). I’m going to use it to transition to this point: Why does the OPC need to speak out about the taking of life, sexual immorality, or any other violation of the moral law when anyone with a library card or Internet access can read our ecclesiastically sanctioned exposition of the Decalogue in the shorter and larger catechism?

    This brings me to another point. Everyone I know who supports the 2K distinction (myself included) also advocates for the use of the catechisms both in the church and in the home. Doesn’t that fact alone debunk all these farcical claims that 2K is simply code for antinomianism? If you want to see how a church is supposed to take the righteous requirements of the law (or the duty of man) seriously, thumb through the Westminster Larger Catechism. Start at Question 91. I guarantee that your misconceptions will be shattered by Question 106. This would be a beautiful exercise to do with your family this Lord’s Day afternoon.

    You can read the WLC here: http://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/cc/lc/

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  48. Zrim: But the argument seems close to this scenario: my daughters’ school legalizes plagiarism and cheating. Then I, after years of nurturing them in the good and observing pious fruit, all of a sudden start assuming they’ll engage in wrong behavior simply because the powers that be allow it now. I strongly oppose the new policy (blustering about “the fall of western civilization” due to dumb policies in the schools). I post position papers on my daughters’ bedroom doors explaining the dangers of plagiarism, and I begin casting suspicious looks at them in public to prove I don’t think my own are beyond sin. Good strategy, perhaps, to persuade the powers that be that this isn’t about persecuting the heathen, but in the meantime I’ve made a shambles of my home life….

    Yep, it’s a pretty ridiculous scenario. Does it fit?

    If your daughter’s school legalized plagiarism, would you feel that you should say nothing at all about the new policy?

    Let’s take a different scenario. Suppose your church ran a school. And suppose that the school decided to have a school function, say a school play, on Sunday.

    You say to yourself, “This is a ministry of my church, teaching kids to engage in work on Sunday.” But you aren’t personally connected, directly, to the play.

    Should you say anything? What if your advice is rejected? Does the jurisdiction matter here?

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  49. Brown and Schaeffer were speaking to both world and nation (as well as Christians and non-Christians). Both men thought they did have a commission from the Lord–to speak on behalf of the perishing who have no voice.

    If we speak out more [against sin] will they lessen? I guess that’s the point!! The Spirit works with the Word. I thought the whole point of being saved by Christ was that we were created for good works (i.e., not for sinful ones).
    By definition, the most pious women in our churches are not getting abortions. 🙂

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  50. Did David sin because Nathan was lax in his prophetic proclamation against rooftop adultery and murder? Was Jewish Klineanism preventing authoritative application of the Decalogue to the magistrate? Agreed on being created for good works, but I’ve understood this as meaning that somehow God works in us to bring glory to Himself in ways that we can’t anticipate or understand.

    Jesus’s genealogy seems instructive there. Rahab gave up prostitution, but the Scriptural account focuses on her hanging a thread. That of Judah and Tamar is even subtler about the moral renovation element. And all those details fade in light of a larger purpose that God accomplishes through them despite themselves.

    I guess it’s debatable whether it happens to us to the same extent that it did those in the inscripturated drama of redemption. But the thought that I was chosen by God from eternity past because of something I could decide or accomplish intentionally on earth is disconcerting to me, even with the emotional cases that send Reformed-worldview hearts aflutter, like conscientious child rearing or not having abortions or whatever Christian thing we’re doing outside of the corporate church this side of redemption. Accomplishing which of these requires the blood of the Lamb of God? They may be means to God knows what, but they’re not the point of salvation, or at least I hope not.

    Not sure that relative piety is that simple either, but at least we’ve jettisoned most of the efforts of the impious psalmist for that of the pious Methodist and blind lady. score.

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  51. This brings me to another point. Everyone I know who supports the 2K distinction (myself included) also advocates for the use of the catechisms both in the church and in the home. Doesn’t that fact alone debunk all these farcical claims that 2K is simply code for antinomianism?

    RL, I guess it all depends on who one asks. Ask Rabbi Bret and I’m antinomian. Ask my daughters and I’m a legalist (catechism and Lord’s Day observances).

    Jeff, re my hypothetical, instead of pushing the analogy down a host of rabbit trails, it was meant to make a broader point about what we’re asking ourselves to do in order to justify violating the SOTC. The price sometimes seems to be using our own in disingenuous ways and ultimately harming them. These tactics (“we have as much sin here as the world does”) also seem to unwittingly give fuel those who would that the church is full of hypocrites. I rather think our problem isn’t that we abide blatant sin in the church so much as we want to vanquish it from the world. We’ll always have the charge of hypocrisy leveled, but I think some of the unnecessary heat might be reduced if we abandoned the idea that we are the world’s moral police and just minded the weaknesses in our own household.

    By definition, the most pious women in our churches are not getting abortions.

    Eliza, and that’s because they’ve been nurtured in the good or because the church has made sure to tell the magistrate what’s what about particular legislation? But I am also saying that most of our women are pious and don’t need position papers tacked to their bedroom doors. Evidently, what some need are reminders of the SOTC.

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  52. Jeff, you keep acting as if Christians who pray, thy will be done means that there is a Christian way of plumbing or being a magistrate? So Felix becomes a Christian? Then he makes George Washington his president?

    I really don’t understand why you keep making it seem that 2k is messy, and why you don’t acknowledge the mess on the anti-2k side. I do not think it is messy that a father does not turn the other cheek (our Lord’s command) when his 12 year old son insults him. Meaning: the Bible is littered with commands, that need to be juggled. Sometimes the commands are at odds. Was it really God’s will for Solomon to cut the baby with rival mothers in half? Wisdom is also in order and I don’t see room for it in your view. God’s will is one thing. Now implement it. As if no muss, no fuss.

    A big one that applies to magistrates is Rom. 13, submit to the powers that be. Felix was to submit to Rome. If he couldn’t submit in good conscience then he resigns. The same goes for plumbing. You follow the authorities of the trade. If you’re a radical Amish and don’t believe in indoor plumbing, then you don’t plumb. Why is that so messy?

    And if you’re an apostle with a commission to preach the gospel, you preach the gospel, and if you’re an evangelist you preach outside the setting of the church. If the civil authorities tell you not to preach, you don’t picket, you continue to preach and face the consequences.

    What is messy on your side is that praying thy will be done seems to mean not abiding by laws that do not recognize God as the will behind the law. I really do wish the critics of 2k could somehow come clean on 1789 and either revolt and try to establish a nation that follows God’s revealed will or went into exile and established such a kingdom in Iceland.

    Bottom line, what you see as messy is not. You just don’t agree. But I don’t see an alternative from you. 2k doesn’t give you what you want. But what do you want? What is your Christian magistrate supposed to do if he gets elected in the U.S. or is part of the Roman empire’s officialdom?

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  53. Eliza, did Brown and Schaeffer have commissions different from ordination? Where did they get it? If not and they are pastors, why do they single out one particular sin? Why not state lotteries?

    Look I get it. Abortion is a categorical wrong. But aren’t there other sins too? And what about all those who don’t get abortions? Do they need to hear the law so they can be convicted of sin and look to Christ?

    In other words, what it the calculation by which you decide to rescue only some of the perishing?

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  54. Brown and Schaeffer spoke as they did because abortion is the slaughter of the innocent right up to the moment of birth. Before Joe Brown died in 2008, about 49 million abortions took place in the US. Would that not call for some kind of response? Brown called the task that of a “watchman-witness” and he noted (in Death Before Birth) the distinction between “moralizing” and “preaching the gospel.” He talks about the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:3). Brown even says, “It is no good to argue at this point that Israel was a theocracy and that God’s Word was also civil law.” His position, which I know you have no agreement with, is that it is our responsibility to warn our fellow Christians and our fellow Americans of the danger of death that comes with transgression of God’s moral law.” And to save the innocent as far as we can.

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  55. Eliza, how do you “KNOW” what my position is, as if I don’t think the church has a responsibility to proclaim God’s will publicly (as in public worship every Sunday)? You assume I don’t believe that simply because I don’t agree with the means that you advocate. There are other ways to oppose abortion than the tactic chosen by Brown and Schaeffer. It is odd that you deem any other means than yours a violation of God’s word.

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  56. DGH: Jeff, you keep acting as if Christians who pray, thy will be done means that there is a Christian way of plumbing or being a magistrate? So Felix becomes a Christian? Then he makes George Washington his president?

    What is messy on your side is that praying thy will be done seems to mean not abiding by laws that do not recognize God as the will behind the law. I really do wish the critics of 2k could somehow come clean on 1789 and either revolt and try to establish a nation that follows God’s revealed will or went into exile and established such a kingdom in Iceland.

    I know you’re in a hurry, but this is a very strange construction of my words.

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  57. Jeff,

    I think when you admit, as you have consistently here, that general revelation is insufficient to construct civil society it is then hard to imagine that you aren’t saying that special revelation bears on nation building and maintenance. And, if that’s true, it’s hard to know exactly what you have against any effort to either revolt against a secular nation or establish a sacred one. Maybe you don’t like “the sound” of such things, which is a step in the right direction. But as much as I like intuition, that’s just not enough to distinguish your views from scarier or otherwise dubious ones. You know?

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  58. Jeff, apologies if I misread your views. But I am really puzzled where you stand or what your complaint about 2k is, and this is after a lot of interaction here and at your blog. I suspect you are not where Rabbi Bret is. But then he is to the right of the Baylys since Bret actually embraces theonomy. You seem to have regard for Frame and his understanding of biblical authority and some things he’s written about politics play right into the Baylys’ hands.

    So if you could at least isolate one point, either regarding Rom. 13, WCF 23, or the U.S. Constitution it might help.

    Or you could answer as briefly as you like the following?

    Do you think the Bible should inform the decisions of a non-Christian magistrate?

    Do you think the Bible is at odds with the U.S. Constitution?

    Do you think America’s founding was Christian?

    Can a Christian submit to a magistrate who is not a Christian, and who doesn’t follow the teaching of Scripture?

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  59. This is where I am in my thinking so far.

    (1) Yes; but the Church should not be the enforcer. This one requires the longest answer, so see below.

    (2) Probably. Especially under the current interpretations of privacy and eminent domain.

    (3) Marginally, inasmuch as Presbyterian theory of government influenced the Constitution. Otherwise, not so much.

    (4) Certainly.

    Why Yes on (1)? Because the moral Law, which is reflected in Scripture, is binding on every man, Christian or not (WCoF 19.1). So it is that the general equity of the civil law remains binding on the nations. (WCoF 19.4)

    That said, it’s none of the Church’s business, in general, except in perhaps “extraordinary cases”, to tell the magistrate how to interpret or apply the general equity thereof. Opinions may be expressed; but they do not and cannot carry the weight of the authority of the Church as binding on the magistrate (WCoF 31.4).

    In other words: the magistrate’s duty to Scripture (which does exist in the Confession, not only in 19.1, but also implicit in 23.1 and in the very existence of chapter 23 itself), is his business, his jurisdiction; and he is accountable coram deo for his actions.

    I think the problem you have in understanding me is that when I say “duty to Scripture”, you think “duty to the Church”, since the Church is, after all, given broad authority to interpret Scripture.

    But in fact, the Church’s authority to interpret Scripture is limited to explicit commands and good and necessary inference; whereas individuals, attempting to apply Scripture in their particular situations, may well have to go with “inference to the best conclusion.” (Think: a missionary to the Massai has to decide how to handle polygamous men who convert to the faith.)

    Thus, because there is very little in the way of explicit command to the magistrate in Scripture, the Church has very little to say to him. Instead, his duty to Scripture is, again, primarily coram deo.

    What if he fails in his duty? Well, the Church might issue advisory opinions, in extreme cases (I think abortion might qualify). But it cannot demand obedience, which is where I think Falwell and Wallis run off the rails. And to a lesser extent, the Bayley duo.

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  60. Zrim: I think when you admit, as you have consistently here, that general revelation is insufficient to construct civil society …

    Yes.

    … it is then hard to imagine that you aren’t saying that special revelation bears on nation building and maintenance.

    Also yes.

    Zrim: And, if that’s true, it’s hard to know exactly what you have against any effort to either revolt against a secular nation or establish a sacred one.

    Construct that in syllogism form. I’m not being snarky; it’s just that

    (1) Scripture has bearing on the governance of nations, so
    (2) Revolting against a secular nation is a positive good.

    is like the famous

    (1) Make a product
    (2) ??????
    (3) Profit!

    The missing steps are non-obvious, at best. And counter-examples are ready to hand:

    (1) Scripture has something to say about parenting, so
    (2) Rebelling against a non-Christian parent is good.

    (1) Scripture has something to say about church worship, so
    (2) Railing publicly against the elders for not being exclusive psalmists is good.

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  61. Jeff,

    Then maybe the question for you should be: what keeps you in submission to a secular state? If your answer is something akin to Romans 13, I don’t see how that is really any different from anything 2K is saying. But, the thing is, you seem to consistently carve out special space for the churchly influence of the state, and it isn’t clear to me how this isn’t some form of wanting to see a sacred nation result.

    P.S The “extraordinary circumsatnces” argument is tricky. Have you ever noticed how examples of extraordinary circumstances almost always ever have to do with the same triad for evil: abortion, slavery and the Third Reich. Aren’t there lotsa things that could be deemed extraordinary? What about preemptive war? That seems pretty extraordinary. I don’t know–somehow it always seems like “extraordinary” is code for “whatever really irks me.”

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  62. Jeff, Thanks. I certainly understand differences better, though I don’t understand the coherence of your view. For instance, if the non-xian magistrate is to conform to Scripture because of the moral law’s claims on all men, then shouldn’t the magistrate enforce Scripture on all men? It seems you have a recipe for non-Christian theocracy. Plus, I don’t see the advantage of this arrangement. On Christian grounds it actually suggests that someone can follow biblical morality (whether magistrate or citizen) without the work of the Spirit. I don’t see, in other words, why natural law doesn’t give us all we need in the state.

    That’s especially the case with privacy and eminent domain. Why do these cases reveal that the Bible and Constitution are at odds. Why not the silence of the Constitution about God or religion?

    And I don’t think it’s crucial, but I don’t see any real evidence of Presbyterianism influencing the American political order.

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  63. dgh: First, I don’t think opposing abortion “by any other means” a violation of God’s Word. I was explaining the rationale of Brown and Schaeffer and recommending their stand. And, I was answering your question–why pick on abortion instead of state lotteries?

    I think it’s odd that people say–We can’t tell such and such to obey God’s Word (even though God’s Word is for everybody to obey–everybody is required to do so), because–they aren’t Christians so they don’t accept the Bible. We have to use reasoning, logic, natural law. As if anybody came into the world believing the Bible (John the Baptist and few others, I suppose). Seems like people want to throw in the towel before they’ve even begun.

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  64. Eliza: I agree with you on the principle: the incoherence of the 2k position (to me) seems to be that the Natural Law agrees with the decalogue, but we aren’t allowed to use the decalogue to illumine the Natural Law.

    But I with DGH on the jurisdiction question. Who is the “We” who is going to tell the magistrate to obey God’s Word?

    For example: do I have the right to walk into your church and start exercising discipline, since I’m an elder in my church?

    No … because your church is not in my jurisdiction. Likewise, while the church might issue advisory opinions on abortion, they don’t have the right to start making demands on the magistrate, because he is out of the church’s jurisdiction. Even if he’s a member of a church, unless his work as a magistrate is clearly and obviously and directly against a command of Scripture. Abortion-on-demand is very close to that, and I think the RCC has actually been correct in withholding communion from its pro-choice members.

    The fact that our system allows the church to make such demands doesn’t mean that it’s right to do so, just as the fact that our system allows 50 pieces of junk mail per day to show up in my mailbox doesn’t mean that it’s right for companies to do so; or that our system allows “gentlemen’s clubs” to advertise up and down I-95 doesn’t mean that it’s right for them to do so.

    To put the most positive construction on SOTC that I can, its best point is that the church needs to self-police its use of free speech and cease pouring (as much) energy into changing the culture, diverting those resources into evangelism and worship instead.

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  65. Zrim: Then maybe the question for you should be: what keeps you in submission to a secular state? If your answer is something akin to Romans 13, I don’t see how that is really any different from anything 2K is saying.

    Yes, there are similarities. Like I said, I’m some kind of 2K, just not your kind exactly. I think “personal theonomy” probably best describes my view.

    Zrim: But, the thing is, you seem to consistently carve out special space for the churchly influence of the state, and it isn’t clear to me how this isn’t some form of wanting to see a sacred nation result.

    See above. Think again about our test-case. An official of the FDA who is a member of a PCA church (we have two, and our pastor is a former official also) will likely not receive direct instruction from the church. They never have, in my 16 years with the church.

    BUT

    Scriptural teaching will, cannot help but, have an influence on this question: What is Good? And thereby, Scriptural influence will enter the government. (For example, a Christian FDA official is more likely to think of scientific truth in objective terms, instead of in utilitarian terms.) We can’t help that influence, unless we want to say that (a) church members cannot be government officials, or (b) church members are strictly forbidden from using the Bible to think about what is Good.

    I’ve been in conversation a bit over the past year with my pastor about our online discussion. His first reaction was interesting: “Of course there is a Christian way to carry out one’s common calling. A Christian magistrate, like Daniel, will see himself first and foremost as a servant. And that servant mentality puts a completely different frame around one’s work.”

    Zrim: The “extraordinary circumsatnces” argument is tricky.

    Well yeah! But it’s in the Confession, so unless you want to re-revise it to say “under no circumstance”, then you’re stuck with the messy problem of figuring out what qualifies.

    And yes, I think the state lottery is a problem — a Tax on the Mathematically Challenged.

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  66. And to the larger point, Dr. Hart: Yes, I think that indignation over a corrupt gospel is more important than indignation over social issues. Cultures will be cultures, but the church should police itself first.

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  67. DGH: On Christian grounds it actually suggests that someone can follow biblical morality (whether magistrate or citizen) without the work of the Spirit.

    Only if one confuses “should” with “can” … which of course we shall not do. 🙂 The biggest shoulds in the world, Love God and love neighbor, fall under the category of “can’t.”

    DGH: I don’t see, in other words, why natural law doesn’t give us all we need in the state.

    Well … since should != can, what we “need” in a teleological sense is the second coming.

    What I’m getting at is that you’re jumping straight to “what we need” (means) without first asking “what is the goal?” (ends).

    If the goal of the magistrate is to defend and encourage those who do good and punish those who do wrong (and I’ve heard a rumor that this is so), then one “needs” to know what is Good.

    And if the natural law is written on the sinful heart, and is therefore inconsistently seen — as Paul argues, then providing Scripture to illumine the natural law is an improvement, even if it doesn’t lead to perfection.

    That’s my take.

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  68. We can’t help that influence, unless we want to say that (a) church members cannot be government officials, or (b) church members are strictly forbidden from using the Bible to think about what is Good.

    Jeff,

    Both A and B make little sense to me. But so does the idea that believers are influential the way you seem to imply, which is to say positively. Not only do I think believers do way more maintaining than they do influencing, but I think that when we do influence it is at least as problematic as it is positive–we’re part of the problem. The idea that we positively influence seems an odd way to interpret the doctrine of abiding sin.

    Well yeah! But it’s in the Confession, so unless you want to re-revise it to say “under no circumstance”, then you’re stuck with the messy problem of figuring out what qualifies.

    Am I? Actually, it seems to me that the burden is on those who want to qualify something to demonstrate why the church needs to take it up. Moreover, you have the burden of where to draw the line and say to another who wants his cause taken up, “Yeah, that’s not extraordinary enough.” I don’t envy such an arbitrary burden. All I think the church’s task is in relation to the world is the unfettered gospel, which is why “the church reformed and always reforming” is the better slogan over “the world sets the church’s agenda.” Taking up extraordinary tasks seems like hiding our light under fettering bushels, despite anti-2K charges of cowardice, etc.

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  69. And if the natural law is written on the sinful heart, and is therefore inconsistently seen — as Paul argues, then providing Scripture to illumine the natural law is an improvement, even if it doesn’t lead to perfection.

    I think the 2K answer to this is that what you are actually arguing for is that the inconsistency in recognising natural law is necessarily greater than any inconsistency that Christians might experience when using Scripture to illumine natural law. Which given both common grace and that Christians are also simultaneously sinners and saints is by no means guarenteed.

    But verses such as John 13:35 or 1 Peter 2:12 would seem to suppose that on aggregate santification leads to a real difference between the two communities, so maybe this is where such differences in capabilities bubble up from.

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  70. Jeff, I think 2k does have ends or goals in view. The Natural Law is what maintains a semblance of order in this world. It is not going to give us the end of the new heavens and new earth. That means a non-christian magistrate has all he needs to govern well.

    And while I do think that NL matches the decalogue in broad strokes, the 2k view of the law is of a first use sense. It restrains evil. Again, it seems to me to work as well as can be expected in a fallen world.

    But once you think about Christian America and the good old days (not to say you do this), then you begin to think we need more special revelation.

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