What Glenn Beck and Peter Lillback Need to Know about the Church and Social Justice

The church’s mission is not social justice if, by such equity we mean the punishment of wickedness and the reward of virtue. One way to substantiate this assertion is by looking for the word “justice” in the church’s corporate witness. A word search reveals in the Belgic Confession, for instance, that justice appears in the discussion of God’s treatment of sin and the remedy in Christ (Article 20) and in the work of the magistrate (Article 36). A similar use of the word occurs in Calvin’s catechism where he talks about the justice of God in punishing sin (Q. 154), and penalties for stealing (Q. 205). Calvin also speaks of justice in connection with the second petition of the Lord’s prayer (Q. 269), and the respect for justice that accompanies sanctification (Q. 290). In the Westminster Confession, “justice” appears only in chapter three on the eternal decree (3.7), providence (5.1), the work of Christ (8.5), justification (11.3), the function of the civil magistrate (23.2), and the last judgment (33.2). If the earliest Reformed Protestants believed the church should promote social justice, they were remarkably silent both about that part of ecclesiastical duty and the very idea itself.

If by social justice, like the way that Peter Lillback used it on the Glenn Beck show, one means various ways to improve a person’s material circumstances, such as education for the ignorant, relief for orphans, welfare for the poor, food for the hungry, and medicine for the sick, the matter of the church’s duties is contested. Word and deed advocates insist that the church carries out such work indiscriminately, that is, it provides welfare to everyone irrespective of their standing within the church (no matter whether a given congregation has the capacity to provide medical or educational assistance). Word and sacrament advocates in contrast hold that diaconal work is an important and necessary ministry but that the church’s role in alleviating misery extends only to the saints (except in extraordinary circumstances). Even then, the diaconate’s commission is not nearly as broad as the welfare state’s. Diaconal work is not an excuse, then, for the church to establish hospitals, orphanages, schools, and kitchens under the oversight of the church. The doctrine of sphere-sovereignty has long put limits on the church and given many of these functions to the family.

By the way, why exactly should the church be involved in the work of humanitarian relief or social justice when a perfectly good nation exists – in the United States, anyway – for carrying out such functions? Political conservatives may well object to the idea that the American government is perfectly good or whether the state should have nanny-like responsibilities. The Bible may not vindicate the political conservative position, but given the affinity of Mr. Beck and Dr. Lillback to the Republican party, and hence to some form of conservatism, one might think that objections to the culture of dependence fostered by the welfare state (one of the many unintended consequences of good intentions) might occur to anyone who thinks the church should give out aid as freely as the state. In fact, Paul’s counsel to Timothy in his first letter (chapter five) indicates that the apostle himself was well aware of the problem of giving assistance to the undeserving poor (in this case, widows).

So if the church’s mission is not social justice or material welfare (beyond the work of the diaconate), then why is the church constantly tempted to pursue social justice? In his interview with Beck, Lillback implied that the problem of social justice comes when it is part of a liberal theological package. What he fails to see is that the church’s involvement in social reform and political activism is the way by which churches become liberal. In other words, no good form of ecclesial social justice exists. Even if the church still preaches the gospel, social justice is the means by which the church loses sight of her purpose and the significance of her message. The reason is that to argue that the church has an obligation to pursue a political or social agenda (or even a program of material welfare), the church has already become confused about the gospel and its benefits. In the words of the sociologist, Peter Berger, social justice is a form of “works righteousness.”

Three historical examples might help to make this point plausible. The first comes from the reunion of the Old and New School Presbyterians in 1869. The language of the plan for reunion was lush with references to the political circumstances of the United States after a grueling Civil War. The implicit logic was that the nation needed a Presbyterians to unite as much as it had needed to avert southern secession. Here is how the report put it:

The changes which have occurred in our own country and throughout the world, during the last thirty years – the period of our separation – arrest and compel attention. Within this time the original number of our States has been very nearly doubled. . . . And all this vast domain is to be supplied with the means of education and the institutions of religion, as the only source and protection of our national life. The population crowding into this immense area is heterogeneous. Six millions of emigrants, representing various religious and nationalities, have arrived on our shores within the last thirty years; and four millions of slaves, recently enfranchised, demand Christian education. It is no secret that anti-Christian forces – Romanism, Ecclesiasticisim, Rationalism, Infidelity, Materialism, and Paganism itself – assuming new vitality, are struggling for the ascendency. Christian forces should be combined and deployed, according to the new movements of their adversaries it is no time for small and weak detachments, which may easily be defeated in detail. . . .

Before the world we are no engaged, as a nation, in solving the problem whether it is possible for all the incongruous and antagonistic nationalities thrown upon our shores, exerting their mutual attraction and repulsion, to become fused in one new American sentiment. If the several branches of the Presbyterian Church in this country, representing to a great degree ancestral differences, should become cordially united, it must have not only a direct effect upon the question of our national unity, but reacting by the force of a successful example on the old World, must render aid in that direction, to all how are striving to reconsider and readjust those combinations, which had their origin either in the faults or the necessities of a remote past.

Now this reunion had not addressed the theological problems that had created the Old School-New School split in the first place, namely the teaching of the New Haven Theology and the denial of the federal theology on which the Presbyterian Church’s confession depended. By the 1860s those doctrinal problems seemed to be insignificant compared to the pressing needs of the nation. This was the church of Charles Hodge, by the way.

Only four decades later, the ecumenical spirit that led Old and New School Presbyterians to lay aside differences prompted American Protestants more generally to join hands to form the Federal Council of Churches. And the reason for this amazing act of ecclesial generosity was not a church synod or council that had steered a path through the polity, sacramental, and doctrinal divisions among American Protestants. Instead, the reason for unity was social justice, namely, the need for the churches to address antagonisms within the American economy and the nation’s politics that were dividing citizens of the United States along class lines. So the Federal Council’s first act was to write a new creed, a social one:

We deem it the duty of all Christian people to concern themselves directly with certain practical industrial problems. To us it seems that the churches must stand —

For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.

For the right of all men to the opportunity for self-maintenance, a right ever to be wisely and strongly safeguarded against encroachments of every kind.

For the right of workers to some protection against the hardships often resulting from the swift crises of industrial change.

For the principle of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.

For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational disease, injuries and mortality.

For the abolition of child labor.

For such regulation of the conditions of toil for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.

For the suppression of the “sweating system.”

For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practicable point, and for that degree of leisure for all which is a condition of the highest human life.

For a release from employment one day in seven.

For a living wage as a minimum in every industry, and for the highest wage that each industry can afford.

For the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.

For suitable provision for the old age of the workers and for those incapacitated by injury.

For the abatement of poverty.

To the toilers of America and to those who by organized effort are seeking to lift the crushing burdens of the poor, and to reduce the hardships and uphold the dignity of labor, this Council sends the greeting of human brotherhood and the pledge of sympathy and of help in a cause which belongs to all who follow Christ.

Mind you, this statement, approved by the Presbyterian Church in which Benjamin Warfield was a minister, failed to supply proof texts for these proposals, thereby avoiding the “thus, sayeth the Lord” motivation that social justice needs. Even more telling was that these churches believed they could unite on points of public policy even while divided on liturgical, polity, and doctrinal matters that the Lord had indeed commanded. In other words, the social and political problems of the hour were obscuring the church’s basic teachings and practices.

A similar understanding of the relationship between the religious and the social, or the theological and political is at work recently in the Manahattan Declaration, the very statement that Lillback recommended to Beck at the end of their interview, when he said:

I would like to tell all of your listeners and Glenn, you personally, that you need to put your signature on the Manhattan Declaration. Chuck Colson spoke to me about this some months ago and he said, “Would you help me sign it?”

And I had the privilege of being one of the first 100 signatories. And basically, he said this — we need to bring together the movement of people across this country who are willing to die for what they believe in. And the things that are being challenged where the government is going to come to force us out of the convictions are the sanctity of life, our definition of historic marriage and our resounding commitment to protect rights of conscience of religious liberty.

In the Manhattan Declaration, not only have the differences among Protestant denominations been placed in the background compared to the pressing social demands of the sanctity of human life and religious liberty. Also Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodoxy are now united in the name of Christ and for the sake of the gospel to advocate certain moral and social causes in the public sphere. One paragraph from the Declaration supplies the “thus, sayeth the Lord” part that the Federal Council missed:

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

The specific public questions that demand a Christian response are as follows:

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

Meanwhile, these Christians who disagree on the gospel – and hence worship God in different communions – are agreed that the matters they address are on the order of the very gospel that divides them. The Declaration states:

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

These examples indicate that when churches engage in social or political programs invariably they lose their theological bearings and become liberal – as in, they lose sight of what is orthodox. (I personally do not think that everyone who signed the Declaration sees the tension between their own church’s faith, and the problems of cooperating with Christians who are not in fellowship with their communion. I also don’t know why they could not have formed a committee or association to pursue these matters without appealing to Christ or the gospel. One obvious reason is that a non-religious appeal lacks urgency and purposefulness.)

Conceivably, a historical example might be found that disproved this rule about social and political involvement generating liberalism – though the state churches of Europe would seem to vindicate this point in spades. But behind the historical record is a theological principle, namely, that when a church confuses the benefits of redemption with the comforts of a better life or the equitable workings of the state it has misunderstood the significance of the message it proclaims. Calvin, for what it’s worth, called such confusion, a “Judaic folly,” as in confusing the earthly Jerusalem with the heavenly one.

So what Beck needs is a better account of why social justice is code for liberal theology. Lillback missed a golden opportunity when he failed to tell Beck what the confession of his own denomination teaches about the mission of the church:

Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto. (WCF 23.3)

P.S. Apologies to NORM! if this is more scholarly than blogs tend to be.

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57 thoughts on “What Glenn Beck and Peter Lillback Need to Know about the Church and Social Justice

  1. What he fails to see is that the church’s involvement in social reform and political activism is the way by which churches become liberal. In other words, no good form of ecclesial social justice exists. Even if the church still preaches the gospel, social justice is the means by which the church loses sight of her purpose and the significance of her message. The reason is that to argue that the church has an obligation to pursue a political or social agenda (or even a program of material welfare), the church has already become confused about the gospel and its benefits. In the words of the sociologist, Peter Berger, social justice is a form of “works righteousness.”

    This is the argument to beat. It is the clearest exposition yet of the 2k concern.

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  2. Sounds like the Federal Council was advocating Progressivism. It’s one thing to deal with effects (hunger, poverty, etc.), another to deal with the causes (which may have been due in large part to the mass immigration of the 19th century, when the West was still open, and Big Railroad was indulging in tourist propaganda in Europe, resulting in a huge influx of immigrants).

    Seems to me the churches can deal with the effects (humanitarianism), but must leave the causes to politics.

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  3. The most obvious line of criticism concerns this para:

    Word and deed advocates insist that the church carries out such work indiscriminately, that is, it provides welfare to everyone irrespective of their standing within the church (no matter whether a given congregation has the capacity to provide medical or educational assistance). Word and sacrament advocates in contrast hold that diaconal work is an important and necessary ministry but that the church’s role in alleviating misery extends only to the saints (except in extraordinary circumstances).

    You’ve left out the obvious third possibility: that the church carries out charitable work discriminately, but not limited to extraordinary circumstances.

    And in fact, it appears that the Scripture teaches this third option. Heb. 13.2 and Gal 6.10 make it clear that our obligation is to do good to all, with emphasis on the household of faith. Discriminately, but not limited to extraordinary circumstances. The parable of the Good Samaritan rebukes the question, “But who is my neighbor?”; in the parable, the Samaritan does not stop to determine the faith status of the wounded traveler.

    So even though we rightly say that the church’s mission is to gather and perfect the saints; still and all, part of the saints’ perfection appears to be to learn how to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith.

    How can the church teach this if she does not do it?

    “Word and deed” may be overly promiscuous in its charity, but “Word and sacrament” cannot ignore the word. Otherwise it runs the risk of becoming like the man in Mark 7.9-13.

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  4. Jeff, do you really think the Good Samaritan is a model for the diaconate? There is a difference between what Christians do in their vocations and what the institutional church does corporately.

    But since the Reformed hermeneutic is one of letting specific passages interpret general (or obscure) ones, why wouldn’t the specificity of Paul’s instruction in 1 Tim. 5 regarding the care of widows modify all other vague teachings about doing “good”?

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  5. DGH: Do you really think the Good Samaritan is a model for the diaconate? There is a difference between what Christians do in their vocations and what the institutional church does corporately.

    Very good point, but your post doesn’t distinguish the two…

    The problem is that sometimes, “the church” refers to an institution; at other times, to the people within the institution. In fact, the latter usage is more common in Scripture.

    So some of what’s needed in the debate is a distinction between what the church does as an institution, and what members of the church do as disciples of Christ. AND, of what constitutes which.

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  6. …why wouldn’t the specificity of Paul’s instruction in 1 Tim. 5 regarding the care of widows modify all other vague teachings about doing “good”?

    Sure. Modify away. What does Paul teaching in 1 Tim 5 about widows that modifies “do good to all, especially to those of the household of faith.”? Is there something there that is incompatible with “disriminately, but not limited to extraordinary circumstances”?

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  7. Dgh said: “Mind you, this statement, approved by the Presbyterian Church in which Benjamin Warfield was a minister, failed to supply proof texts for these proposals, thereby avoiding the “thus, sayeth the Lord” motivation that social justice needs. Even more telling was that these churches believed they could unite on points of public policy even while divided on liturgical, polity, and doctrinal matters that the Lord had indeed commanded. In other words, the social and political problems of the hour were obscuring the church’s basic teachings and practices.”

    I am not sure from this paragraph if Warfield actually approved of this or was it just the Church he was a minister at who approved of it? I know Warfield was a post-millenialist and he probably did not have a clearly thought out 2K theology either. Does anyone know if he was aware of Stuart Robinson’s works? How did Machen develop his 2K thinking if most of the Princeton seminary faculty of Warfield’s time had left this portion of the reformed heritage ignored and undeveloped?

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  8. I’ve always thought it interesting that the GS begins with an expert in the law asking Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And the answer is the same as the one given the rich, young ruler: be holy in a way that you cannot, do what Jesus did.

    The whole text is about how to be right with God (justification) and how Jesus is the GS, leaving behind his riches to rescue us (RYR) or helping us in ways the religious elites can’t (GS). To miss this forest for the trees of norming the work of the diaconate seems really…unfortunate.

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  9. I’m leading an adult SS class this Sunday on this very part of the Westminster Confession (25.3.) in our small PCA church. Any suggestions on how to do this effectively without getting myself lynched by the Religious Right/transformationalist guys in our congregation?

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  10. Is it possible for the church (the individual people) to do works which aim towards social justice, as part of their life as disciples of Jesus Christ without social justice becoming the purpose of the church by accident? (social justice here meaning caring for widows, orphans, aliens, etc)

    So, perhaps two members of one church may have different views as to how social should be accomplished, and they do their political activism as disciples of Jesus, as their vocation, but they do so again under the training of the local church, without reference to their jobs being the actual purpose of the church. All the while, even the politically disinterested members of that church do works of charity to the widows, orphans, poor, destitute, etc, because as disciples of Jesus Christ, he demands this of them, and the purpose of the church is to train all persons, regardless of their political affiliation, to do all the things Jesus commanded. (in the context, of course, of him being the resurrected Lord who offers free pardon to those who trust him..gospel proclamation)

    I think it is always a mistake for a church to think its purpose is something other than proclaming the gospel and making disciples of Jesus who glorify God and enjoy him forever. But nevertheless, sometimes disciples of Jesus are politically active, and all the time disciples of Jesus are called to care for the material needs of others. So in that sense, it seems to me, dilettante that I am, that church does “social justice things.”

    Note: I’m not keen on the Manhattan Declaration…I think that thing was a bad idea in like 13 ways, maybe even 27 ways.

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  11. First, to John Yeazel:

    Stuart Robinson [1815-1881] and B.B. Warfield [1851-1921] both contributed articles to The Southern Presbyterian Journal. Robinson wrote up until about 2 years before his death, with his last article appearing there in 1879. Warfield’s three articles appeared in 1882, 83 and 84, respectively. Both men were from Kentucky and BBW must undoubtedly have known of Robinson’s writings.

    Looking through the Warfield bibliography by Meeter & Nicole (now there’s one that could bear dusting off and reprinting!), I only saw one article, among the last published by BBW, that seemed on the surface to deal with the social gospel. It was titled something like “John Noyes and the Bible Communists” and appeared in volume 78 (1921) of Bibliotheca Sacra.

    Did Warfield or for that matter, any of the Princetonians ever critique the teachings of Walter Rauschenbusch?

    Lastly, but nothing particularly earth-shattering, here’s a brief comment by L. Nelson Bell on the social gospel:
    http://continuing.wordpress.com/

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  12. Zrim: Your 1st-use analysis of Luke 10 is very good. Now, follow through to the conclusion.

    It is certainly the case that Jesus was subverting the law-teacher’s self-justification. He wanted to be justified, and so asked a question that hoped to limit his obligation. If the “neighbor” is only his immediate neighbor, then he has no trouble loving that neighbor; and thus, he is a law-keeper.

    Jesus explodes his self-justification by

    (1) Demonstrating that our neighbors can be anyone; and
    (2) Commanding him to go and do likewise.

    As you have said, (2) is impossible — and thus, the law exposes our sin and need.

    But why is (2) impossible? Because of (1). We really do have an obligation to those we come in contact with, not just our friends (cf. Matt 5.46-47) . Our obligation is NOT merely to our immediate neighbors.

    As we begin to ask, “What is the proper 3rd-use understanding of the law to Love your Neighbor as Yourself?”, we must recognize that the “neighbor” in the 3rd use is the same as the “neighbor” in the 1st use.

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  13. Jeff,

    I’m not sure I’d say that the problem the GS parable is exposing is so much a skewed definition of neighbor as it is our sinful condition to fulfill law. I certainly agree that the inability to fulfill law is no reason not to exhort us to it (third use).

    I am skeptical of the common rendering of the GS to mean, “Be good” instead of the much more profound, if less common, take away that Jesus is good for us. But let’s go with the “be good” idea for a second, where you seem to suggest that far away neighborliness is superior to up close neighborliness, which seems an inevitable way to go with the “be good” track. The problem I have here is that it tends to trivialize ordinary piety for the sake of an extraordinary one. It’s the “Easy to be Hard” syndrome. Remember the movie “Hair!” when Cheryl Barnes’ social activist husband (“who cares about strangers, who cares about evil and social injustice”) is leaving once again to crusade on behalf of the far away neighbor, leaving his family to fend for themselves? It’s pretty sad. The fact of the matter is we are all ordained over a very proximate piece of earth. Isn’t it actually superior, to say nothing of wiser, to mind that bit of earth over which we are ordained, minding one’s own business, working quietly to support and nurture a family and participating in the dilapidated and world-worn machinery of mundane public service? Why the need to cast one’s eye to places where one has no influence when there is plenty to take care of right in front of you? And, I don’t know about you, but even the power to help what is proximate seems questionable daily. It’s not that I have anything against my far away neighbor, it’s just that I have my hands full right here.

    In short, I am as skeptical of the “be good” interpretation of the GS over against the “Jesus is good for you” as I am of what it typically means to be good. I’ll let Jesus take care of the far off part (as in condescending to us from the heavenlies) and do what I can right here.

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  14. Jeff, you wrote that we really do have an obligation to anyone with whom we come into contact. Do you really believe this? Even more pressing, do you really practice this? If you’re in a grocery store with your wife or your kids, do you really think that the other shoppers have more or even an equal claim on your attention, affections, and duties as your kin?

    It seems to me this is precisely the way that Paul modifies the “do good” passages by assuming that we know something about the generic widows to turn them into ones whose families should care for them versus ones whom the church should support. I doubt any of us knows that background on the “anyones” we encounter in a mass society.

    Remember too how upsetting Paul’s instruction was. In the OT, widows and orphans generally fell into the category of needing support. Think of the way many prophets dinged Israel for neglecting widows and orphans. Now Paul comes along and take a classic status of victim and says that some widows do not need church support.

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  15. Dgh, I agree, although I think that Paul, by saying especially believers in the “do good” passage in galatians, means specifically people with the same confessional standards as myself. I think the case for Christians actually helping widows and orphans is rare indeed.

    For instance, if a single mother comes to the church and needs help but she subscribes to the baptist faith and message, then, firstly, she does not count as the “especially believers” group, and secondly Paul is right, her family should care for her(and shame on her for being a single mother). I could administer a sacrament to her if she is willing to be receive a proper catechism, but that is as far as things could go.

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  16. DGH: Jeff, you wrote that we really do have an obligation to anyone with whom we come into contact. Do you really believe this? Even more pressing, do you really practice this? If you’re in a grocery store with your wife or your kids, do you really think that the other shoppers have more or even an equal claim on your attention, affections, and duties as your kin?

    Great questions. The way I presented it in the ethics class is that we have gradated circles of obligations: First to God, then our families and the family of believers, and then to neighbors at large.

    We must absolutely reject the notion common in progressive circles that our obligations are flatly equal to every person without distinction. Such an idea makes a mockery of relationships.

    (This is the core reason, BTW, that I reject utilitarian ethics: it replaces relationships and loyalty with calculation).

    But rejecting equal obligation does not mean rejecting obligation altogether. Whatever else we may say about the parable, Jesus clearly intends for the Pharisee to realize that his definition of “neighbor” is deficient, just as James (who quotes Jesus in his “royal law of love” section, 2.8) clearly intends for his readers to realize that their definition of neighbor is deficient.

    Do I practice it? What do you think? Do you think that I either love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength on a regular basis? Or that I love my neighbor as myself on a regular basis? On the basis of my posting practices alone, I would have to say that I betray a higher regard for myself than I ought.

    And that’s the point. Part of the First Use of the Law is to understand how profoundly deep the obligation of the Law goes — and therefore how impossible it is to keep. Otherwise we become like the Pharisees, seeking to justify ourselves and legalistically asking, “Who is my neighbor?”

    Love God, love neighbor. These two commands break us. And then our consciences are quieted by resting in Jesus.

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  17. DGH: I doubt any of us knows that background on the “anyones” we encounter in a mass society.

    Remember too how upsetting Paul’s instruction was. In the OT, widows and orphans generally fell into the category of needing support. Think of the way many prophets dinged Israel for neglecting widows and orphans. Now Paul comes along and take a classic status of victim and says that some widows do not need church support.

    He also says that some out-of-work folk don’t deserve church support (2 Thess. 3). Surely part of the point here is that we have to take the time to find out the background on the “anyones”? That loving people is not a matter of indiscriminately throwing money around?

    I agree that Paul is teaching that not all widows are deserving of being supported. That fits pretty nicely with our third option: Give discriminately, but not limited to extraordinary circumstances.

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  18. Zrim: I am skeptical of the common rendering of the GS to mean, “Be good” instead of the much more profound, if less common, take away that Jesus is good for us.

    Both are clearly in view. First, you are absolutely correct that Jesus is the one who is good for us. Whether or not He has Himself in mind as the Good Sam, it is unquestionable that “there is only one who is good”, and that He is in point of fact the true good Samaritan

    But second, it is also unquestionable that Jesus places this Law-teacher in the position of being taught by the Law. He commands him to “go and do likewise.”

    James also brings this same command, Love your Neighbor as Yourself, to bear in his discussion, calling it the “Royal Law of Love.”

    So in our eagerness to see Christ in Luke 10.25ff (and we are indeed eager to do so!), we should not gloss over the fact that there is a command here.

    But let’s go with the “be good” idea for a second, where you seem to suggest that far away neighborliness is superior to up close neighborliness, which seems an inevitable way to go with the “be good” track.

    Not at all. It’s odd to me that you so often deal with what I “seem to suggest” and so little with what I “say.” 😛 It’s like having a cell-phone conversation in a tunnel.

    You’re placing a particularly utilitarian spin on “neighbor”, making all people of exactly the same value. In point of fact, Scripture seems to suggest a certain hierarchy. God is of course first; our families next, along with the family of God; and our distant neighbors last. One of the great virtues in Scripture is hesed, covenant faithfulness. That presupposes that we make covenants with some and not with others.

    That said, the Samaritan was still the neighbor to the wounded man. Our obligation to the stranger is not the same as to our wife; but it is not negligible, either.

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  19. Jeff,

    Not to pile on, but just to piggy back dgh’s point with a little real-world experience. I’ve had personal experience with a Reformed transformationalist church that prides itself on the Good Samaritan ethic where the far off (and maybe not so far off) neighbor is prized. At the same time that a petition was being passed around to shake an unneighborly finger at a local strip joint an unwed mother in the church was having her third illegitimate child baptized.

    Now, you might say this is clearly a problem. But it just seems to me that you don’t end up with this sort of scenario if you don’t first begin with an assumption that we are specially obligated to the far off neighbor or everyone we come into contact with, instead of an ethic that demands we keep our own houses in order. The ethic you’re pushing sounds good, until you realize that it just may be an excuse to neglect the more difficult complexities of family life. After all, it’s way easier, and more fun, to point out the errors of the household down the street than to deal with your own family’s mess.

    The way I presented it in the ethics class is that we have gradated circles of obligations: First to God, then our families and the family of believers, and then to neighbors at large.

    This is what some call the totem-pole ethic. It trends to be a highly rigid system that, not only seems to conceive of God as an equal amongst many instead of sovereign over all, but dictates to someone a code of obligations that just doesn’t square well with everyday life. If followed strictly life would actually be more difficult. The fact is that sometimes my work comes before family, and sometimes family before work, and sometimes work before church, and sometimes church before work. Sometimes my pagan neighbor needs me before my Christian neighbor or family. Again, another ethic that sounds good but seems to throw a stick into life’s spokes.

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  20. So in our eagerness to see Christ in Luke 10.25ff (and we are indeed eager to do so!), we should not gloss over the fact that there is a command here.

    It seems that we may, once again, come to a difference of emphasis between us. I understand you don’t want to obscure the first use (and Christocentric) interpretation. And I know you understand that I don’t mean to diminish the third-use interpretation. But consider that to emphasis (prioritize?) the first-use interpretation one will also get the third-use, as in the imperative-indicative hermeneutic, as in all first use includes third use but not all third use includes first use. One really doesn’t get the third use by emphasizing the third use. That, plus even pagans get the third use interpretation of the GS, it makes sense to them. Does that signal anything to you?

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  21. The sermon on the mount, and the beatitudes in particular, were they spoken to merely the individuals and addressing their vocational interactions? How do all of the imperatives in the epistles, which address holy living in the world, relate to the fact the NT letters were written to actual church bodies? If the members are called to an ethical worldview, which implies making objective moral decisions in relation to the society he or she lives in, the church body the letter was addressed to is the collective organic of those members, how is the group not obligated in the same sense, especially in light of the fact the letters are to the church?

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  22. Zrim: That, plus even pagans get the third use interpretation of the GS, it makes sense to them. Does that signal anything to you?

    Yes … that ignoring the third use interpretation of the GS flies in the face of common sense. 🙂

    Zrim: But consider that to emphasis (prioritize?) the first-use interpretation one will also get the third-use.

    Yet here you are, a strong first use advocate, arguing against the idea that neighbor includes the people we come into contact with. That suggests to me that taking a 1st-use-o-centric perspective might not automatically convey a proper 3rd use understanding.

    Zrim: This is what some call the totem-pole ethic. It trends to be a highly rigid system that, not only seems to conceive of God as an equal amongst many instead of sovereign over all, but dictates to someone a code of obligations that just doesn’t square well with everyday life.

    Now, this criticism is quite confused. On the one hand, you push back against saying that “neighbor” includes everyone, on the grounds that it fails to prioritize our families. On the other, you push back against saying that we have a special obligation to our families, on the grounds that it creates a rigid totem-pole system.

    Do you really want to argue both sides at once? What do you really believe?

    Perhaps you have been reading too much into things. For example, you say

    But it just seems to me that you don’t end up with this sort of scenario if you don’t first begin with an assumption that we are specially obligated to the far off neighbor or everyone we come into contact with…

    But the word “specially” is opposite to the position staked out here. We are *specially* obligated, first to God, then to family.

    Likewise, I say that God comes first, but you say that this makes God “first among equals.” What an odd reading. Do you really deny that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and that the second is to love neighbor as self?

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  23. Geoff,

    Your hypothetical situation is fraught with problems, but at a level I think we do have a fundamental duty to those in our own fellowships before anyone else. But what I really like is your plan to kick someone when they’re down, that’s a gracious tactic indeed. What’s crazy is it sounds like you would actually do this.

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  24. Zrim, you and DGH suggests an important modifier to “Love your Neighbor.”

    That is that we are NOT God.

    We are neither omniscient, to be able to understand the complex outcomes of our decisions.

    Nor are we omnipotent, to be able to solve the world’s problems.

    Nor are we sovereign, to have the right to do so.

    Rather, Love your Neighbor, in the parable, has to do with the person we see in front of us, the local neighbor. Our focus is local, not universal.

    So in arguing that we have obligations to those with whom we have contact, I’m not arguing for egalitarian obligations.

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  25. Yet here you are, a strong first use advocate, arguing against the idea that neighbor includes the people we come into contact with. That suggests to me that taking a 1st-use-o-centric perspective might not automatically convey a proper 3rd use understanding.

    No, just like JP isn’t arguing against union, second use isn’t arguing against third use. They are both prioritizing matters. (Sort of like when you and your family are at the store and you attend your misbehaving children before my misbehaving children. In fact, if we mind our own houses then we don’t have to worry so much about others’. Again, to prioritize isn’t to exclusivize.) But attending my household is third use. Attending everyone is pretty disorganized and badly mannered.

    We are *specially* obligated, first to God, then to family.

    Likewise, I say that God comes first, but you say that this makes God “first among equals.” What an odd reading. Do you really deny that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and that the second is to love neighbor as self?

    When you put God next to others, instead of sovereign over all, you are making him something of an equal who gets first attention. What I’m saying is that because we are obligated to God (first and greatest) we are also obligated to others (second), i.e. it’s organic. From there we must prioritize based upon our circumstances and demands. Sometimes I forfeit family vacations because of work duties, sometimes work has to get along without me because my daughter has a field trip that needs chaperoning. And so forth. By your scheme, wouldn’t I always have to work backwards up the pole to the point where maybe I’m sitting in a monastery, after I’ve quit my job to stay home?

    But the interesting problem in my scheme is the paradox between being obligated to Jesus in ways that are in tension with all earthly duties and devotions. If my family comes between me and Jesus I am told to hate them and forsake them. My wife and daughters are told the same thing about me. My daughters are told in the fifth to honor me, yet in passages like Luke 9 & 14 they are told something else:

    “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

    And when it comes to that highest temporal good, life itself, we are all told “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

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  26. Michial, I’m not sure what you’re asking but of course the NT was written to the church. Are you trying to suggest that because of the NT’s ethical imperatives then the church has a duty (and perhaps authority) to implement them much the way the state enforces its laws? You would have a point if you were a theonomist or an Anabaptist. But no Reformed church has ever regarded the church’s authority as political.

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  27. Zrim: What I’m saying is that because we are obligated to God (first and greatest) we are also obligated to others (second), i.e. it’s organic.

    No disagreement here. I don’t see any conflict between our statements.

    Zrim: From there we must prioritize based upon our circumstances and demands. Sometimes I forfeit family vacations because of work duties, sometimes work has to get along without me because my daughter has a field trip that needs chaperoning. And so forth.

    OK, you’re talking about the implementation of priorities. And you point out, rightly, that the priorities should not be rigidly implemented.

    Zrim: By your scheme, wouldn’t I always have to work backwards up the pole to the point where maybe I’m sitting in a monastery, after I’ve quit my job to stay home?

    No, a rigid implementation scheme is not implied If it were to be the case that the only way to glorify God is to sit on a pole in a desert, then we would have to quit our jobs and sit on poles in the desert (and have weird visions).

    But in fact, true religion consists in part in caring for widows and orphans, so the pole concept is out from the start. There is an organic relationship, as you say, between loving God and loving man (this is ubiquitous in James).

    Still and all: there will come a time when I must sit down and assess my priorities. My work might demand 5 hours and my family might demand 5 hours. I have to triage somehow, and the core concept of priorities helps guide that.

    But the interesting problem in my scheme is the paradox between being obligated to Jesus in ways that are in tension with all earthly duties and devotions. If my family comes between me and Jesus I am told to hate them and forsake them. My wife and daughters are told the same thing about me. My daughters are told in the fifth to honor me, yet in passages like Luke 9 & 14 they are told something else.

    Right. That’s what I’m talking about. Granted all the stuff about organic-ness, there is still a hierarchy of priorities.

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  28. Jeff,

    Well, if we’re agreed about the organic and complicated nature of these things, the necessity of priority, etc., I’m still not sure how what I am calling “the totem pole ethic” works for you. For me, it’s always smacked of a popular evangelical piety, which itself seems to ape a user-friendly Americana civil religion cross-stitched on a desk in a cubicle. I don’t get it. It compartmentalizes life in such a way that I don’t recognize my own experience. If I were in your ethics class I’d still be raising my hand. Figuratively, of course.

    Right. That’s what I’m talking about. Granted all the stuff about organic-ness, there is still a hierarchy of priorities.

    Before you agree to swiftly, careful now. My point there was a pretty hard 2K one that aims to put an eternal perspective on temporal cares, not to bolster the totem pole thing.

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  29. Zrim: If I were in your ethics class I’d still be raising my hand.

    Yes, it was very much a discussion-oriented class, so the back-and-forth would be welcome.

    I’m not sure you’ve correctly identified a “totem-pole ethic”, partly since the term has not been carefully defined, and partly because I’m not sure yet where we disagree.

    You seem to agree that

    (1) Loving God and loving neighbor are the two great commands.

    (2) Loving God is prioritized over loving neighbor. I would say, absolutely prioritized. Would you agree to that also?

    (3) Within loving neighbor, not all neighbors are equal; some have greater claim on my resources and affections (wife, children, fellow church members).

    (4) In implementing our temporal priorities, triage will be necessary, so that a rigid scheme is unwise.

    (5) Loving God is organically related to loving neighbor in that the first entails the second.

    So what’s left?

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  30. Jeff,

    I’m not sure how else to say what I already have. The “God first, then family, then church, then country” or whatever just seems like a pretty sophomoric ranking system. I don’t know what purpose it really serves a mature piety. It’s almost as if its purveyors want to tick off a daily list of duties the way a child might tick off his bedtime routine. Or a way to relieve the inherent tensions that seems to inhere being a citizen of two kingdoms at once.

    So I am not sure the clunkier language that “loving God is absolutely prioritized over loving neighbor” works for me as much as saying that we are at once commanded to honor our fathers (Ex. 20:1) and hate them (Luke 14:26). The totem pole ethic seems to think that’s easy to solve, but I don’t. At worst, I think it’s a tension to be endured. At best, I think it’s a matter of striving to put eternal perspective of temporal devotions. An dit all just seems way more complicated than the two-dimensional ranking system seems to assume.

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  31. Sounds like DGH is just a bit of a typical academic left-wing political type who also holds to Reformed Theology, which is sort of like being a weekend heroin addict.

    And so DGH doesn’t want to give right-wing crazies like Glenn Beck or Mr. Lillback any credit for seeing the truth in the phrase ‘social justice’, while DGH still wants to hold on to…oh, wait a minute, I’m kind of lost in this assessment of DGH’s post above…

    I said it before: Glenn Beck was merely pointing out that when the left says ‘social justice’ they mean ‘government tyranny’ (which the left likes, by the way); and Lillback was simply concurring. The issue of the church in all this came in because of the Obama administration’s move to get churches involved in their ‘social justice’ campaigns, which Beck was warning said churches about. Everything else is over-analyzing from the perspective of the little bailiwicks and sacred cows of Reformed academics. (Not to mention one Reformed academic saw another Reformed academic on a popular worldly TV show – selling his books in large numbers no less – and felt that was a good enough reason to complain a bit…whether on-point or not…)

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  32. Christian, you might have a point if Lillback and Beck were complaining about Bush’s faith-based initiative, or if Lillback ever criticized old George Washington for mixing religion and politics. But their logic seems to be, as long as the right guys are mixing religion and politics then it’s okay. But if the wrong guys do . . .

    Machen’s point was that which ever side mixes religion and politics, they’re the wrong side. If that makes Machen a left-wing Reformed academic, then so be it.

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  33. Bush’s faith-based initiative was not about inserting socialism into churches and furthering government socialist activity. You can’t equate the two. The subject of that Beck show was socialism and it’s wolf in sheep’s clothing tactics. And if Christianity has no part in our civic life and our political leadership and so on then we are quickly on the road to hell (and no, we don’t have hell now, get out in the world some before any flippant remark like that might be allowed to come out of your mouth). American exceptionalism is based on the fact that we recognize God as the foundation and guarantor of our human and individual rights, and not man. Also, the system of government and economy of a free people requires adhering to a standard that exists above man. George Washington *knew this* and stated it. This is not the same as founding a theocracy, which is what you imply with your phrase “mixing politics and religion.”

    You and other Reformed like you with similar approaches and beliefs need to stop allowing the world to make you afraid and embarrassed.

    When all the mocking and angry atheists and leftists die they will be puppies on the freeway. They are dead now and will be just as dead in death. Hopefully you have the life of the quickening Word of God and the Spirit in you. You don’t want to get beyond the veil and look at those who now are controlling you and say to yourself: “I was a coward. I was also embarrassed of my faith. I equated it with every false belief manufactured in the heart of fallen man. I fell short. My King witnessed me falling short. I can’t justify this as the common weakness we all have *because I knew enough to know better.*”

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  34. Jeff,

    Maybe you should take off your Campolo cap?

    Or more seriously, maybe you could explain what it means to say “…we have gradated circles of obligations: First to God, then our families and the family of believers, and then to neighbors at large.” I understand what it means to be obligated to others because I am obligated to God, and then work out the complications my co-obligations to others from there. But I don’t know what it means to be obligated to God first, then others, because it almost sounds like there are times I won’t be simultaneously obligated.

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  35. Bush’s faith-based initiative was not about inserting socialism into churches and furthering government socialist activity. You can’t equate the two.

    Christian,

    You’re sort of right. Dubya’s faith based initiatives were meant to bolster the Republican virtue of less government, but I’m not so sure those of us to esteem much higher the spirituality of the church can let the effort off the hook when it comes to insertions. After all, the idea was to foist the world’s disenfranchised back onto churches (and other private outfits). That meets the felt needs of Republicanism, but it irritates the SOTC. When you think about it, it was genius on Rove’s part, because it appealed to the conservative Republican virtue of less government as well as that same constituent’s inner religious New Schooler that scorns something like the SOTC; he’s the same guy who thinks the church really is the world’s soul, hospital, moral backbone, etc.

    So, it would seem your implicitly giving Dubya a pass probably means you’re still not getting the point here. You still seem to think neo-Republicanism much less a threat to the mission of the church than neo-socialism. But going by Dubya’s FBI’s, where there is no such thing as that horrible doctrine of the SOTC, I’d say it is a menace.

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  36. Zrim: Maybe you could explain what it means to say “…we have gradated circles of obligations: First to God, then our families and the family of believers, and then to neighbors at large.” … I don’t know what it means to be obligated to God first, then others, because it almost sounds like there are times I won’t be simultaneously obligated.

    That’s an odd reading. The idea of a priority is not to preclude simultaneous obligations, but to provide guidance in sorting them out if a conflict arises. No assumptions about “one obligation at a time” are made or implied. The only assumption made is that

    (1) IF a conflict of obligation arises, and
    (2) IF that conflict cannot be skillfully resolved without breaking an obligation, THEN
    (3) Some obligations carry more weight than others.

    The Scripture does this. You cited Luke 14; we could also look at Deut. 13.6 and a whole host of other passages. We must obey God rather than man, right?

    Zrim: I understand what it means to be obligated to others because I am obligated to God, and then work out the complications my co-obligations to others from there.

    Yes, and I’ll bet that the “working out” involves setting some priorities, right? Unless you cast lots for every decision.

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  37. Christian, you are aware, I hope, that the Reformation happened before the American revolution. Believe it or not, Europe had a lot of state-run welfare that the churches supported. In fact, many European Protestants scratch their heads about evangelical American politics and the way they turn Masons like George Washington into orthodox Christians.

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  38. We must obey God rather than man, right?

    Well, yes, but we must also obey our parents and magistrates. Paul says to disobey the magistrate is to disobey God. More tension the ranking system fails me on.

    I’ll bet that the “working out” involves setting some priorities, right? Unless you cast lots for every decision.

    Well, admittedly, sometimes I do flip coins when stuff gets rough, though that’s rare.

    But, yes, since you’re speaking with a radical prioritizer it should go without saying that I understand the value of prioritizing. But remember that I’ve pointed out before that to prioritize isn’t to exclusivize. So sometimes my obligations to work beat out my obligations to my family, and vice versa. Nobody wins my devotions all the time. That can make for grumpy wives and bosses, which can be uncomfortable. And when things get uncomfortable I can easily see how the ranking system might promise relief. Maybe you don’t mean to share space with them, but it seems to me that the ranking scheme is a favorite of the Promise Keepers crowd, where there’s lots of promises made to families that aren’t kept. And, if you ask me, that’s because the ranking system either doesn’t understand tension or it doesn’t like it and tries to live in ways life just doesn’t allow.

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  39. Zrim: But remember that I’ve pointed out before that to prioritize isn’t to exclusivize.

    I remember that quite clearly! Now, go back my posts and think about them in terms of “priority” and not in terms of “exclusivity.” They’ll make a lot more sense that way.

    Zrim: So sometimes my obligations to work beat out my obligations to my family, and vice versa. Nobody wins my devotions all the time.

    (I’m assuming that you are placing God himself outside the scope of this statement.)

    More needs to be said here. With the understanding that Zrim is not the norm for everyone else, still and all, I’m betting that you don’t just say “it’s all ‘tension'” and then make random, intuitive decisions. When the boss asks you to work overtime the day of your daughter’s piano recital, you probably reason it through.

    How?

    And when he makes a habit of it, you probably reason through your response as well.

    How?

    And, if you ask me, that’s because the ranking system either doesn’t understand tension

    Actually, a ranking of priorities is what creates the tension. If there were no priorities, then each decision would be, like, totally groovy. People who do not prioritize anyone are called “friendless” and “single.”

    Only in a world where there are competing priorities, can there possibly be tension.

    That’s not to say that PK does a particularly good job with that. I’m just saying that living life in the Now and Not Yet doesn’t mean ditching the concept of priority. I think you agree, right?

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  40. Sorry if someone brought this up in the comments (which I haven’t yet had the time to carefully go over) but, if I am not mistaken MORMONS weren’t INVITED to sign the Manhattan Declaration because they are not “Christian” according to the ecumenical understanding of the MD.

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  41. That’s not to say that PK does a particularly good job with that. I’m just saying that living life in the Now and Not Yet doesn’t mean ditching the concept of priority. I think you agree, right?

    I do. But I don’t think I’ve said anything about “ditching priority.” My point has been that the temporal life demands prioritizing in the midst of inescapable tensions. And from where I sit, the ranking system just seems to gloss over that sort of complication. Again, I’m pretty sure you get that, but I’m just a little stumped as to why you’d then employ the ranking rhetoric.

    FWIW, instead of “God first, then others,” I’d rather say that because we are obliged to God we are obliged to others. I just think that fits better with the two commandments on which hang all the law and prophets. That, plus it draws befuddled looks from Promise Keeper types–I love doing that.

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  42. Jon,

    If that’s true then it only goes to show the limits of the program as opposed to 2K. I mean, if one is really serious about the sort of worldly cares these projects press, who cares if a guy wears secret magic skivvies and thinks he’ll be deified one day instead of glorified? If my neighbor at the town hall meeting agrees with me that Walmart shouldn’t be allowed in our backyard, I couldn’t care one whit less about his religious devtotions. Now, if he wants to join me at the Table, he’s got lots of work to do.

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  43. Zrim: Again, I’m pretty sure you get that, but I’m just a little stumped as to why you’d then employ the ranking rhetoric.

    The “ranking rhetoric” is nothing more nor less than a way of expressing priorities. So when you went after it, I inferred (wrongly) that you were engaging in a radical-but-inconsistent assault on the concept of priority. Which made me wonder whether you vowed to “forsake all others” to Mrs. Zrim ever so long ago.

    I agree with you that our obligation to others flows out of our obligation to God. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all ethical obligations flow out of the character of God and our relationship to Him as creature. A “command” is a command precisely because its source is the Lord.

    Zrim: f my neighbor at the town hall meeting agrees with me that Walmart shouldn’t be allowed in our backyard, I couldn’t care one whit less about his religious devtotions.

    Agreed, to a point. Remember Lot (and his wife).

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  44. So what Beck needs is a better account of why social justice is code for liberal theology.

    But it is code for progressive, redistributive economic politics. Why not just be honest about it? If you think in sum total the Gospel argues more for Obama/Pelosism than against same-sex marriage or abortion, then just say so. The rest is unnecessary. Glenn Beck has nothing to do with any of it except calling a spade a spade. I just don’t see the problem here.

    Is “social Gospel” politics statistically correlated to liberal social politics? I’d think heavily so, although the black churches would probably be an exception.

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  45. So, Jeff, where does that point begin? It just seems to me that if one thinks Walmart should stay out (or abortion morally and politically opposed, etc.) he’d want all the bench strength he could garner. Why limit the signatories over something that is irrelevant to the task? I mean, does the MD outfit not understand that the Mormon church is absolutely gargantuan and could only help efforts? But something tells me the idea that general revelation is insufficient to govern general tasks is afoot again…

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  46. Jeff,

    No. Jon suggested that Mormons weren’t invited to sign the MD. I had suggested that one’s religious devotions don’t seem to bear directly on a worldly care, so to exclude people who agree with you seems self-defeating. You said you agreed to a point. I was asking you where that point started.

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  47. Oh, sorry to be slow there.

    Recall that in my view, there is not a bright line between the kingdoms. So I would say that if my neighbor joins me in opposing Wal-Mart, then I might make common cause with him, but I would be careful to circumscribe the common cause so that our agreement did not entangle me heavily.

    So I might sign a petition saying “We don’t want Wal-Mart on MD27”; but I might not sign a petition saying “We don’t want Wal-Mart on MD27 because Wal-Mart exploits workers.”

    Committing myself in that way seems far too open-ended.

    The point about Lot and his wife is, he was content to live in the city of man without ever noticing that he and his family had adopted the worldview of Sodom. The downside of treating the city of man as “neutral space” is that we can fail to realize how we are buying into the system.

    Or put another way, one of the functions of The World (in the Johannine sense) is to demand or suborn buy-in, and we need to be on the alert for it. My neighbor’s opposition to Wal-Mart might be perfectly legit, or perhaps he’s trying to pressure Wal-Mart to change its stance on X.

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  48. So I might sign a petition saying “We don’t want Wal-Mart on MD27″; but I might not sign a petition saying “We don’t want Wal-Mart on MD27 because Wal-Mart exploits workers.”

    Jeff, this is my point. If you and I don’t want Walmart going in then what difference does the reason really make? Maybe my reason is that it exploits workers but yours is that it exploits and erodes local community. If your petition reasons that it exploits and erodes local community then what do I care since the end result is to keep it out? (Do petitions reason?)

    But jump back now to the MD. If what is so important is promulgating the conviction that life is sacred (and, by implication, should thus be protected by law) why exclude people who agree with you? I mean, if I think states should be afforded their rights to govern themselves with regard to abortion, I’ll take signatures from whomever agress with me: a Presbyterian, a Baptist, a Catholic, an atheist, a Mormon, a theomomist, or a satanist. Wouldn’t exlcuding people not like me be, at best self-defeating, and, at worst a sort of epistemological bigotry? One begins to wonder if the issues these projects mean to address aren’t really what’s at stake here, but that something else is going on.

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  49. I’m sorry, Darryl. I’m sure this was an excellent post, but you lost me at “Glenn Beck and Peter Lillback…”.

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