Pastor 2K to Tim Keller's Rescue

The watchdogs of Redeemer Church in NYC have noted Tim Keller’s response to questions in a public forum about homosexuality and gay marriage. The exchange came at the end of the interview and according to the Bayly’s transcribing powers went like this:

Lauren Green (interviewer): As a church, how should we as Christians and how should the church view gay rights and gay marriage?

Tim Keller: The Minister of the Word: Ha! I would definitely say this is time to come to a conclusion! (Laughter).

I would definitely say… a thoughtful Christian Biblical response doesn’t fit into any of the existing categories out there. It’s not a simple matter of saying there should be no moral differentiation between any kind of sexual activity. Christians can’t go there–they can’t say, “no it doesn’t matter.”

It’s also true however, that this is a country where we’re supposed to love our neighbor. This is a country where a Christian is supposed to care about a just society for ALL our neighbors whether they believe like we do or not. And that’s gotta mean our gay neighbor.

And I would say people in the more conservative movement don’t really want to talk too much about that because they’re very upset because they feel like the gay agenda is too anti-Christian and too anti-religious.

So I would say–the reason it’s good to end on this question is–it’s not something, the way forward, I don’t see spelled out anywhere in public. I don’t see anybody in public taking all the Biblical concerns about justice and mercy in that area and speaking about them. But I’m certainly not going to get started.

Just to let you know I don’t really think the current options out there–about what we should do–are really the best ones from a Christian standpoint.

The Baylys have tagged this post as “two kingdom, spirituality of the church,” which is interesting because if Keller were truly a two-kingdom fellow he would not have has a hard a time answering this question as this interview suggests. What follows, then, are a few pointers to both the Baylys and to Keller on how a 2k pastor – in New York City, no less — might answer questions about the Ten Commandments:

Reporter: What does your church think about the first commandment?

Pastor 2k: We do not tolerate the worship of Allah in our church, but in a free society many members of our church would support religious liberty for peoples of all faiths and as a session we do not believe that his conflicts with their profession of faith.

Reporter: What does your church teach about the second commandment?

Pastor 2k: Well, we forbid images of God – including Jesus – at our church, but many in our congregation are supporters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which has many depictions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and again our session does not believe it is a sin to go to museums and see such art.

Reporter: What is your church’s policy on the third commandment?

Pastor 2k: We exhort our members not to use God’s name flippantly, or as an expletive, but many of our members go to movies where Christ’s name is taken in vain and no one on the session is forcing them to repent. Some of them also listen to Rush Limbaugh whom I gather sometimes uses the words “damn” and “hell.” While we wish Mr. Limbaugh would not use such words, our session does not forbid members from listening to conservative talk radio.

Reporter: How does your church implement the fourth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We teach that all our members should avoid all forms of work on Sundays, unless they are in vocations such as the law enforcement, medicine, or public utilities. But we are not looking for the implementation of Blue Laws, again owing to the diversity of faiths and peoples who populate the United States and New York City.

Reporter: What does your church consider to be the obligations of the fifth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We do teach our members to submit to Mayor Bloomberg even if they prefer Rudy Guliani’s administration, but we are not about to endorse any party or set of candidates for the government of New York City.

Reporter: What does your church think about the sixth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We teach that murder is a sin, and that even hate is a violation of the sixth commandment – a spiritual hate crime if you will – but we are not about to go out to Citibank Stadium and tell the Mets fans to give a brotherly kiss to the Phillies fans who come up to see their team play. Please get real.

Reporter: What does your church teach about the seventh commandment?

Pastor 2k: We believe that homosexuality is a sin – as is pornography, adultery, and any form of sexual activity outside marriage. But again we recognize that the state cannot legislate Christian morality, even if some of our members are very concerned about the public policy implications of our currently licentious society. We try to make sure that our own members are living lives that conform to the teachings of Scripture. How the rest of Americans live their lives is not our church’s responsibility even though we proclaim all of God’s word weekly and publicly and call upon all New Yorkers to repent and believe.

Reporter: What is your church’s practice on the eighth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We believe that stealing is wrong but we are not convinced as a session that high tax rates are a form of robbery.

Reporter: How does your church handle the ninth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We do require our members to defend the honor of fellow members and their neighbors. But we also believe that if we name sins, address all people as sinners, and call them to repentance, we are not dishonoring their good names or reputations.

Reporter: What does your church do with the tenth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We teach our members and visitors to be content with their station in life and not envy the prosperity of others. This did not lead us to warn our members away from watching the royal wedding.

2k is complicated, but it doesn’t tie its pastors in knots.

97 thoughts on “Pastor 2K to Tim Keller's Rescue

  1. I personally don’t see it as too complicated. It made sense to me years ago when I first heard of the ideas on the WHI, and it make even more sense to me today. What I see as complicated (and VERY burdensome!) is transformationalism!


  2. I’m with DJ except I would add that not only is it not that hard, I don’t see what’s so wrong with this that constantly vilify you and, by extension, all of us who hold to and practice this.

    Thanks for laying this out in such a simple fashion (without oversimplifying). I’ll certainly be passing this post along to my congregation to help them understand, as well.


  3. DGH: Your reply soundly beats Tim Keller’s “um, well, er, kinda, sorta…” incoherence of an answer. And that’s exactly what us wrong with transformationalism. When its supporters are pushed to provide some real answers to tough questions, they punt.


  4. This was great.

    MRJ, it’s hard to see what the American naysayers actually do differently insofar as they continue to live in the country and attend churches that confess the 1789 WCF over the 1646, or equivalent. Embracing transformationalism or an optimistic eschatology may just mean grumbling constantly about how those who reject the Gospel don’t keep the Law, and how it’s borderline antinomian to note that even those who embrace the former have ongoing struggles with the latter.


  5. 1C: Should societies be free? Would unfree societies that do not allow freedom of religion/worship be criticized? If you lived in an unfree society would you “support” the smoldering out and repression of religion by the authorities? Moreover, do you “support” any and all religious expression in a “free” society, or do you qualify? If the latter, where and on what basis? Finally, what is meant by “support,” as that term is ambiguous, conjuring up some considerably unsavory interpretations of your answer.

    2C Does this include “supporting” going to see “Piss Christ” and marveling at its artistic bravery and beauty?

    Moreover, who is “we?” Surely the idea that images of Christ are sinful is held by some “transformationalists” and also not held to by some “2Kers.” This claim is not a unique and specific entailment of “2K” theology, and I wish 2Kers would stop co-opting positions that are not entailments of 2K and pretending that 2K owns them or uniquely teaches them.

    5C Again, why present this as “2K?” Is the endorsing of candidates from the pulpit something that is entailed by “transformationalism” or is it just that some transformationalists have done so? And, what do you make of 2K pastors who endorse candidates on their blogs and stump for leftist (or rightist) politics, pushing and lauding such thinkers as, say, Noam Chomsky(esp. troubling considering 2K pastors usually have no room for apologetics but nevertheless push atheists like Chomsky on their untrained congregants)? Considering pastors stump for issues on their blogs, and even WSC seminary stumps for political issues on its blog, isn’t it simply semantics to pretend as if 2K doesn’t involve itself in politics when you have pastors and seminaries doing so, just not on Sunday. As if that’s a relevant distinction. If a pastor doesn’t endorse Obama on Sunday but then does so on his blog on Monday, and then 2K lauds this as somehow better than what some transformationalists have done, isn’t that just a loophole trick?

    6C I don’t get it. How is this “the” 2K answer? What about abortion? Indeed, what about the members of a church who might vote for women to get abortion on a single issue ticket? As a “2Ker” aren’t you a “confessionalist?” And doesn’t your catechism state, “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any? But we have been told time and time again by vetted 2K spokesmen that members of your church may vote, say, on a States Right’s single issue vote for whether the state will keep abortion legal in said state, that abortion may be kept legal. Wouldn’t this be violating the 6th commandment? If so, how can it be that approved 2K spokesmen can tell us that any who think church members may not so vote (in the above described circumstance) are not being 2K on the matter? Who is right? You pretend to have “the easy answers” but almost all your answers are too vague and safe, which looks like the real reason it looks so simple and easy.

    7C Shouldn’t the state legislate some “natural law?” And since this law comes from, and would not exist without, the Christian God, how can you say you don’t think the state should legislate “Christian morality?” Just because you’re not pointing to chapter and verse? Well, to us atheists and non-Christians, it sure looks like you want to legislate Christian morality. Indeed, even your talk of a natural law betrays the fact that you’re beholden to a theistic worldview where you think such things are intelligible and meaningful.

    8C And what if it could be shown to your and the session’s satisfaction that certain taxes were theft? What would the session say then?

    9C So can we name the sins of public political figures?

    10C Again, why think this is something unique about 2K? Does non-2K entail that its proponents will warn people away from watching the royal wedding? However, watching the royal wedding is spending time, and Christians are to be wise with the time given, what is your position on the matter? Is it a wise use of time to watch the 4 hour extravaganza with bon-bons in hand, or if you had 4 hours to “waste,” would it be better to read A Secular Faith, plant a flower, help a neighbor, study a passage of Scripture, practice memorizing the catechism or confession, or pray with that time? What does 2K say? Does it matter at all what we do with our time?


  6. Westminster Confession of Faith 23.1 (from the OPC website):
    “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 evildoers.”

    1. Magistrates are under who?
    2. For whose glory?
    3. How are “them that are good” and “evildoers” defined, apart from the moral law?


  7. Old Light, from the standpoint of the moral law exclusively, who is “good?” So shouldn’t the magistrate punish everyone? Not if the standard for public life is different from that for belonging to the church.


  8. Pastor 2k: Well, we forbid images of God – including Jesus – at our church, but many in our congregation are supporters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which has many depictions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and again our session does not believe it is a sin to go to museums and see such art.

    Do you forbid images of God because they are evil and sinful? If so why is it ok for your church members to be supporters of such organizations? If we follow that logic you could say you don’t allow your members to worship Allah in church, but they are free to worship Allah elsewhere? What am I missing here?


  9. Ronnie, isn’t there a difference between seeing an image that, in a sinless world, would not exist (in a sinless world, there would be no savior or incarnation), and kowtowing forehead-to-the-floor in front of the image?


  10. Ronnie, when I watch movies that depict the violation of almost every commandment that’s not the same as personally breaking every commandment. Confusing the distinction between behaving personally and behaving otherwise is the the same confusion Paul demonstrates above in his point about the sixth commandment: voting in such a way that keeps abortion legal isn’t the same as having or performing one. Why is this so hard?

    Hi, Paul.


  11. Hi Zrim,

    I’m waiting for Darryl to make your distinctions, because as my questions demonstrate, things can get hard for Darryl too. Of course, he’ll still pretend that 2K doesn’t tie him in knots, but Tim Keller could have given that appearance too had he ignored questions and instead opted for softball question that he wrote and answered.

    Oh, and Zrim, I will hammer this home for you again: THE CONFESSION doesn’t make the distinction you do. You claim to adhere to “the Confessions” yet you have no problem ignoring them when it doesn’t say things the way you would. You’re more 2K than the Confessions you claim define your 2K. Got it? It is “the Confession” that claims that it is the Christian’s duty to do all that can lawfully be done to “protect” the life of any. Per my scenario, the vote is a “lawful endeavor” which resists the taking of life, and it is the Christian’s duty, per the Confession you claim to hold to, to vote against the legality of abortion in the situation so described.* The case against your position is logic-tight, you can avoid it only by embracing irrationality. I’ve shown you to be wrong by premises you claim to hold to. This is called self-refutation.

    Now Darryl, what was that you said about the 6th commandment? I’ve tied Zrim “in knots,” how ’bout you?

    * Note: another premise needed is that the unborn is fully human, but Zrim says he agrees with that, so he’s hoist by his own petard.


  12. Ronnie,

    Darryl lets members of his church view images of Christ at the MET or AMC movie theater but doesn’t let them view images of naked men and women engaged in sex acts at The Rusty Spur theater. Not even if they have an artistic interest in such things. Watching a porno isn’t the same as breaking a commandment, per Zrim. Of course, answering stuff like this will require more complex and nuanced answers, which tend toward knot-tying.


  13. Paul: you are so right (esp. the 9:25 a.m. post)
    Actually I thought this dgh post was a farce until I started reading serious responses to it.


  14. Ronnie, well, the reason might have something to do with my son still being my son even if he doesn’t believe in my God. But your question poses a more difficult one for you, how do you live in a country that allows such organizations? How do you in good conscience pay taxes? How do you participate in any organization that is not confessionally defined?


  15. Ronnie, btw, Paul thinks I control people whom I serve as an elder. Paul believes in control — even in controlling other people’s blogs and worldviews. Is that a theonomic tic?


  16. Eliza, thanks! That is the first time anyone (owner or patron) at Old Life has uttered the words “you’re right” about one of my comments! 🙂 I feel fulfilled now. I will sleep good tonight. 😀


  17. Ronnie, note Darryl’s 1:52 comment and then his comments to his hand-picked interviewer regarding the 9th commandment. Darryl’s a “do as I say, not as I do,” kind of guy. On a serious note, what’s going on is that he finds it more convenient to misrepresent me, lie about me, or blow me off than to deal with any criticism I offer. Some say he’s afraid to debate me, I just think he’s peeved that Don Mattingly was one of my top-5 favorite players growing up.


  18. Darryl, isn’t Eliza the person who said that even if your position was at odds with a bible verse or two, that doesn’t matter? Talk about a LOL.


  19. Okay, I see the usual 2K ducking is commencing, so I’ll leave for now. But remember, I’m the only one who knows how to untie those knots I put Darryl in. Of course, some 2Kers can untie him by hacking away at the ropes with a meat cleaver like a clumsy butcher, painstakingly untying the knots is just too time consuming, what, with all that time booked out to watch things like the royal wedding.


  20. Re: I’ve tied ___ “in knots,” how ’bout you?

    You haven’t tied anyone in knots. It’s merely impossible to debate illogical comments that often primarily consist of what psychologists call projections and normally show a lack of basic understanding of Christian liberty and common-sense decision making. It gets really interesting when the comments boast of debating skills when it’s obvious the skills are primitive at best.


  21. Paul, regarding 6C, I’m not connecting things. Are you saying that its a violation of 2k thinking for 2K’ers to say that a church member MAY NOT vote to uphold a vote on abortion? If that’s what your saying, I fail to see the inconstancy you’re accusing. If that’s not what your saying, please explain.


  22. Come on Lily, Paul is enamored with his debating and superior logical cognitive skills. And very humble about it too. I don’t understand why he does’nt like Ben, Vern and the lawyer Van what’s his name just go away. He is bent on something but I am not sure what- maybe saving the Church from us misguided confessionalists. And he goes after the big dog with a vengeance. He has not resorted to profanity yet but is using pornography now as examples in his posts. Is this like that guy who kept going after Calvin but was later burned as a heretic? I don’t think Darryl has delusions about his own importance- I am not sure about Paul though.


  23. DJ, he’s referring to a hypothetical he’s posed and maintained with me. He’s saying that to behave politically is the same as behaving morally or spiritually. So there is no principled difference between voting in a way that protects legalized abortion and either having or performing an abortion in one’s own person, or presumably by extension that a vote for pre-emptive war, a doctrine that doesn’t pass any test of just war, is the same as attacking innocents and violating the sixth in one’s own person. All who do so are subject to church discipline. He’s saying that Roman ecclesiology which withholds the cup from church members who hold office and have the wrong politics beats the Protestant formulation of the spirituality of the church. He’s saying that instead of opposing a political view of a fellow believer politically (duh) one should oppose it ecclesiatically (double duh).


  24. Paul: That is the first time anyone (owner or patron) at Old Life has uttered the words “you’re right” about one of my comments!

    Ya know, you’re right.



  25. Yep – you’re right, John Y. Perhaps trying to behave with a little inspiration from you… I can put an 8th best construction on this situation?


  26. Ronnie, when I watch movies that depict the violation of almost every commandment that’s not the same as personally breaking every commandment. Confusing the distinction between behaving personally and behaving otherwise is the the same confusion Paul demonstrates above in his point about the sixth commandment: voting in such a way that keeps abortion legal isn’t the same as having or performing one. Why is this so hard?

    ZRIM, Darryl, and Joseph

    Thanks for the feedback. I understand and embrace the distinction between personally committing the sin and being a witness to a sin. I also understand that in this world we will always have to support organizations financially and in other ways (e.g. buying their goods and services, tax money ) even though they are guilty of breaking commandments. However, I think we can be a bit too simplistic or black and white when explaining these things. For example, there is a distinction between watching porn movie for enjoyment vs watching a serious film with a love scene isn’t it? Likewise is there not a distinction between seeing a book with an image of Jesus on the cover vs going to watch “The Passion of Christ”?

    Maybe I misread Darryl, but I read him to be saying the church doesn’t do certain things or you don’t do them in church, but you can do them in world. No image of Christ in Church, but OK to have an image at home, or just watch images all you want on the big and small screen? It seems to me it is much more complicated than that and we need to apply prudence to these things. In general though, I’m in agreement with much that is said.


  27. Point well taken, Ronnie. It seems to me there is a distinction between those things, and what may help make that distinction is the one between bad judgment and sin. Is it sinful to take in Mel Gibson’s festival of sights in such a way that it calls for discipline? I doubt it. I tend to think it’s bad judgment in need of instruction and exhortation. Speaking of being a bit too simplistic or black and white, it could be that to leapfrog over bad judgment and deem something sinful is just that.

    Another worthwhile point is when believers start asking for specific lists of things they may or may not do. Legalism is always crouching and seeking whom it may devour.


  28. Ronnie, sure it’s more complicated and that’s what Christian liberty involves — Christians with different standards in the way they live out their calling and understanding of Scripture. The point is that the church has certain uniform standards and her members don’t. The longing for consistency stumbles precisely over such complicated variety.


  29. Sebastian: That’s funny! But yup, you would want a warning. And pass it along to Chris & Ginny too!



  30. *like*
    concerning 8th commandment:
    Rom.13:7 says “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed…”

    But, indeed, not all who claim that taxes are owed them are truly owed taxes. How can a session take a position on who is truly owed taxes at all?! They cannot. Practically speaking, it is impossible to be properly disciplined in the church over failure to pay taxes if it the (“tax evading”) church member professes in clear conscience about not owing tax.


  31. Baus and Darryl,

    I wonder if it’s possible to covet something without the potential to steal that thing. It seems that to covet implies an inappropriate desire for something that belongs to someone else. If it indeed belongs to someone else, then it would seem there is the potential to take it from that other person and a desire to do so would be covetous. There is the possibility of being mistaken about who it belongs to, where it actually belongs to you, but you think it belongs to Mike and then you desire it. Is that covetous since you believed it belonged to Mike, when in fact it belongs to you?

    I wonder if it’s possible to covet someone’s property in the exercise of my voting privilege. I suppose not, since if I’m theologically informed (by nature and the absence of any clear demarcations on the topic in scripture), I would know that property rights (what belongs to whom) norms are turned off vis-a-vis civil governments. Thus, any vote I cast no matter what my mental state may be — I could even sincerely believe that checking the box would result in the government seizing 100% of the property, land, and money from widows and orphans and giving it to me personally — would not (could not) be covetous. It simply cannot be, since government confiscatory actions (i.e., taxes) have unlimited power and authority (from God no less) to define where property rights exist and do not exist. Government taxing behaviors, by definition, cannot involve coveting, ever.


  32. Joseph, the heart of covetousness is the heart, as in “discontentment with our own estate; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.” If seeing Red Sox tickets on the desk of a coworker makes me bitter over my lack thereof, and if I feel resentful that my coworker gets to spend three hours in a baseball shrine, I am guilty of coveting. It does not matter if my coworker is holding them for me – all the motions of my heart are the same.

    The same is true if I am discontent with my income, dislike wealthier people because of their wealth, and express that covetousness in somehow voting for progressive taxation. Really, it doesn’t require a vote or any action at all to consummate the sin of covetousness, and nothing about the role of the government somehow annuls it.


  33. “Michael Mann” (are you not the real Michale Mann? why is your name in quotes?),

    I agree. But suppose then that we’re talking about the 8th commandment. And supposing I could get the government to confiscate property from others and give it to me, then since I achieved that end through taxation, I am not be guilty of stealing? So what might be stealing if I did it with my own hand is not because I got the government to do it for me. That makes sense given that the government defines property rights.


  34. Joseph, I take your point to be that there may be insufficient causation between the intent to sin and the full effectuation of the sin. So I might be full of murderous intent and spray a crowd with gunfire but miss them all. OK, but so what? David probably hoped that an attenuated causation and his acting under color of the magistrate’s authority might leave him innocent of the death of Uriah, but the prophet Nathan thought otherwise. The inability to act according to one’s intent is usually an excuse under the law of man but not under the law of God.

    I say this based I what I understand your premise to be: that the underlying act is wrong, and the individual intends to promote that wrong through the machinery of the State. Certainly the State may legitimately do some things that would be sin to an individual, like punishing crimes. But the State may sin by unjustly punishing, too.

    The fact that the State has authority over its citizens does not exculpate it from all its actions, including its actions in the area of property rights. If an individual promotes injustice in that area (e.g., “all property of widows over sixty shall be confiscated and given to members of the US Senate”) the individual has sinned.

    Where are we going with this?


  35. I was moving toward the point that if the State may sin by unjustly punishing, it may sin by unjustly taxing too. God’s grant of taxing authority is not unlimited.


  36. MM, is it really true that when an individual promotes certain jurisprudence that he has personallysinned? So when Ron Paul calls for the legalization of prostitution he’s sinning? Why can’t one simply say he opposes particular legal arrangements instead of suggesting that anyone who affirms it is sinning? Otherwise, I don’t know how this logic is really any different from the Moral Majority et al.


  37. Joseph, do states really sin? Are states made in the imago Dei? Can states become members of the church and compelled to repent upon pain of discipline? If not, how can anyone say it actually sins?


  38. Zrim, review the premise. Joseph’s premise, as I understood it, was the State doing a wrong and an individual intentionally promoting it. It’s a God’s-eye view, as it were, for purposes of the conversation.

    My Bible has nations and kings being rebuked and being the subjects of judgment so yes, a magistrate can sin, and God may visit the magistrate’s jurisdiction with judgment. And, unless you buy into the “Nazi excuse,” an individual may sin by engaging in the sin of a state.

    Do you deny any of this?


  39. Zrim, I know the discussion you are itching to have on this one and I largely agree with you but maybe on an different basis. Your basis, if I may go by your comments here, is that the State can’t sin. My basis is liberty of conscience, i.e., it is rare that political activities can be definitively established as sin so we may not speak for God in declaring such to be sin. You seem to want bright lines and absolutes in this area.


  40. MM, my Bible has that as well. But my hermeneutic is personal, not geo-political, so while I understand God judging individuals I don’t see how God judges states. And what I’m driving at is that to suggest someone is sinful is a serious charge. Maybe a higher bar is called for, one that doesn’t include geo-political viewpoints but personal behavior. Or, speaking of bright lines and absolutes, do you think it’s categorically impossible to work in certain regimes? What would you say to an Iraqi Christian who suggests that to work for the Shock and Awe Administration is to be personally culpable for murder, the same way being a Hitler Youth is culpable? But aren’t there more questions that need to be asked of individuals beyond what regime or policy do you promote, like what did you do with your hands?


  41. Joseph, I know, that’s the point of a personal hermeneutic, but so do vagabonds. Am I sinning when I give one a few bucks and end up promoting his drunkeness? Maybe you choose prudence over generosity, but I’d be careful not to call your choice sinful.


  42. Zrim, I don’t see how God judges states *or* individuals but, you know, the Bible tells me so.

    Under the WCF synods and councils may petition the magistrate in “cases extraordinary.” That’s kind of messy, right? Which cases are extraordinary? Mayn’t the church overuse this clause and meddle where it should not? It’s not a bright line but it’s the right line. I can live with “seldom but possibly.” Back to the topic at hand, I think a person could be held accountable for promoting a sinful action of a magistrate in an extraordinary situation. Such should be extraordinary because state actions usually have a number of possible motivations and effects, the first of which we cannot see and second of which we may not be able to predict.

    So maybe 99.9 % of the time such actions cannot be authoritatively declared to be sin. But if I’m in the President’s cabinet, convince him that everyone of Mideastern descent in the United States should be put in death camps and then come to elder Zrim (I think you’re a deacon but stay with me) to confess that as a sin, would you tell me I didn’t sin?


  43. Or suppose church member Joe is the swing vote on the Supreme Court deciding whether to overturn Roe v. Wade? Certainly that’s an extremely unusual fact patter, but would elder Zrim advise that a decision either way would be equally acceptable?


  44. MM, I agree that the exception clause is dicey. I do think the onus lies on those who think they have an extraordinary ground and show how it isn’t merely what lots of people really, really, really don’t like. For my part, I think it best to keep it to when the state is compelling the church to compromise herself in some way. Otherwise, oppose or affirm politically.

    But I’m not much for fantastic hypotheticals (Paul, is that you?). I’ll maintain that there is a category for bad judgment and one for sin, a category for political opposition and one for spiritual discipline. How that gets played out in application may not be easy, but harder for me is to level spiritual judgment on those I politically oppose (or affirm). I mean, do unto others, right? As much as I might abhor and oppose my congregant’s politics, I couldn’t bring myself to wield the table until he sinned personally. But like my wife says, I’m such a stickler.


  45. Joeseph, why would I be advising politically? But if church member Jane wants to know what to do with that unwanted lump of hers the answer is clear (see it through on pain of discipline, for those not clear).


  46. For what it’s worth, I’ve been out and about and away from my computer. Underlying poser- Paul often stated that I imagined motives rather than answering statements, a typical logicians way of thinking, so, underlying poser was as cryptic a motive I could come up with. An underlying poser is one who wants to be seen for some reason and cloaks it in an admirable way- how’s that?

    A Lutheran vrs. Calvinist response- If Paul was a Lutheran he would not have listed each of the commandments and then thought of something as an objection to Darryl’s brief synopis of the commandments. I think this has to do with how Lutherans understand the 3rd use of the Law and how Calvinists understand it. Lutherans just seem to be convinced that they don’t come close to doing the Law like they are supposed to so why try to convince yourself that you are. And why nitpic about it?


  47. Darryl, as I read about at Gene Veith’s web site, which I am not sure is true or not, is that Lutheran’s believe that the image of God that was partially lost to us at the Fall is restored to us by faith alone and not by conforming to the Law of God through our progressive sanctification. I am not sure how this person came up with that belief but that does seem plausible.

    And, I am not sure what “That’s why God gave us prayer closets” means. I am guessing something like don’t try to flaunt or convince others of you’re moral righteousness or something like that.


  48. Zrim, would you think Judge Joe was looking for juridical advice if he asked your eldership for its understanding of the authority of the state to protect such acts?


  49. Joseph, hypotheticals are hard enough without adding the complexity of discerning motivations of the made up characters to boot. But your original question seemed to suggest the possibility of a spiritual judgment of a political view; and isn’t spiritual guidance implied in “asking one’s eldership”? But if it is juridical advice then why seek a spiritual counselor? How about a jurist? But I’m also not a jurist, so my question is why are you asking me anything about this? But if you want my mere non-binding opinion, I’d be glad to share it.


  50. Zrim, yes, I think spiritual advice is implied in asking one’s elders. So, if I understand you correctly, political activities have no substantial spiritual aspect that would warrant seeking wisdom from a professional churchman. Indeed, to seek such would be inappropriate.


  51. Joseph, try a thought experiment: I’m currently trying to sell my home and buy another. Do I go to my elder to ask for economic guidance on which to buy and which to sell? Or do I go to my realtor? I say realtor (if it helps, he’s Dutch Reformed).

    Your line of questioning involves a set of politics that many have successfully persuaded is also spiritual, and by entension that any involved with it are not only acting politically but also spiritually. I disagree. So if someone wants spiritual advice on a political view my response would be to correct that wrong presupposiition (and perhaps suggest he seek someone actually fit for that sort of advice), which is actually spiritual guidance after all, just a different variety.


  52. Zrim, okay. Interesting.

    So, Judge Joe was nominated to be a ruling elder, the same month that he wrote the majority opinion guaranteeing the abortion right. He’s otherwise qualified for the office. In your view should his legal opinion impair his fitness for office? It was, after all, strictly speaking merely a legal opinion. Am I understanding you right?


  53. Joseph,

    The operative legal questions in reversing Roe are: (1) do statutes criminalizing abortion run afoul of substantive due process; and (2) given that the Court has already twice answered the former question in the affirmative, do the circumstances satisfy the Court’s stringent test for reversing its prior rulings?

    I frankly don’t see how a presbyter–at least if he lacks some measure of legal training–has anything to contribute to answering those questions.

    You seem to be suggesting that a jurist should ignore legal precedent (and, presumably, his or her oath of office), and rule from the bench based on the opinions of church sessions. After all, few, if any, legal disputes are completely devoid of some moral element. If a jurist needs to consult a session on reversing Roe, then there’s just as much reason for that jurist to consult a session on whether a civil plaintiff is equitably estopped from recovering damages on a claim of contract breach.

    By your reasoning, we become a theocracy, where sectarian church leaders become the de facto civil magistrate.


  54. Joseph, it seems like what I have said thus far would be enough to answer. But like Jeff suggests, I am inclined to think that there is a conflict of interest in your scenario. To my mind, what keeps Joe from ecclesiastical office is his political obligations, not his legislative views or actions.


  55. Jeff,

    Are federal and state employees equally bared from serving in church office? Military personnel? Postmen? How about attorneys? Attorneys, after all, are as a matter of law “officers of the court.”


  56. Joseph, my term “disqualified” was probably too strong. I was trying to express a matter of *wisdom* (don’t serve two masters) rather than a matter of absolute rule.

    And the general principle would be, if you have substantial authority in the civil realm, then you ought not wield substantial authority in the church and vice-versa.

    Postmen do not wield substantial authority, nor ensigns. But generals and judges do. Attorneys should be disqualified for other reasons. *rimshot*


  57. Jeff,

    What “other reasons” would serve as a basis for a per se ban on attorneys serving as presbyters? Or if you are merely offering a cheap shot against all members of a profession, then I’d suggest that your statement reveals character issues that ought to disqualify you to serve as a presbyter.


  58. Hey Bob, lighten up a little.

    Q: How many attorneys does it take to roof a house?
    A: It depends on how thinly you slice them.


  59. Dear Pastor 2K,

    When all the blue laws are gone and Sunday ceases to be the day of rest in our society, and many if not most of your members are expected to be at work selling goods and services, when will your church gather to worship Pastor 2K? Even J. Gresham Machen defended the utility of blue laws and experience has amply shown that Dabney was right when he said “where there is no Sabbath there is no Christianity”

    But I’m also confused as to the application of the moral law above. You seem to be saying “there is no ‘usus politicus’ of the moral law.” You teach regarding the seventh commandment, “we recognize that the state cannot legislate Christian morality.” But what, if not morals, are our laws to be based on? And surely a consistent application would say that not only is it impossible to make adultery illegal if “we cannot legislate Christian morality” but it is also impossible to make perjury, murder, theft, and public indecency illegal as well, as these are expressions of Christian morality. As Hodge said, “That which is right under any relation is intrinsically obligatory upon the moral agent standing in that relation. If it be moral, it is obligatory.” It is not just the Christian, but also the homosexual who is bound by the obligations of the moral law, and we do neither him nor anyone else any favors when we remove the common grace constraints placed on our sinful desires by righteous civil laws.


  60. Pastor Webb–Generally I agree with your position, although I would categorize dgh’s position as R2K. There are plenty of 2K folk who would disagree with his positions. But why fuss about labels.

    The R2K position is that only natural law can be the basis for laws in the “common realm”. So that doesn’t include commandments 1-4.The other 6 are considered reflected in natural law, and thus appropriate for this kingdom. R2K agrees that all are bound by God’s moral law, but that they are not bound by them civilly, just religiously, and that on the Day of Judgment, they will be held responsible for not keeping them unless covered by Christ’s righteousness.

    You say, “we do neither him nor anyone else any favors when we remove the common grace constraints placed on our sinful desires by righteous civil laws.” Depends what you mean by that. The law really does not touch our desires anyway; I may desire to shoplift something, but unless I do, no law would touch me. So I assume you mean “our sinful actions.”

    Everyone used to say, “You can’t legislate morality” by which I suppose they meant, you can’t make people righteous by civil law. True enough. Wasn’t it Rushdoony (or maybe Bahnsen) who wrote “By What Standard?”. If we do not use a Christian standard, then I suppose we are left with “natural law” which is problematic because we don’t all see “natural law” the same way. Should birth control meds and devices be legal? What about those who do not see homosexual behavior as “unnatural”? Should Friday or Saturday or Sunday or no day be special and holy? What is the place of toleration of false religions? Should we allow Mormon temples and Muslim mosques to be built if we operate under the rubric of natural law?

    I think Machen would be surprised to the lengths, and may I say distortions, which his followers have taken his general libertarian positions.


  61. So Andy, (and we’ve been through this before at Old Life), are you in favor of the state punishing blasphemy and idolatry? After all, if the law is based on morality (which is not necessarily the same as Christian morality — that is, law forged in the context of the covenant of grace), surely you can’t have morality without theology. Which means that the state has to enforce laws governing the worship of God.


  62. Eliza, and don’t you think the apostle Paul would be surprised by the specificity of Christian norms that American believers have for their rulers?

    BTW, there is no 2k textbook on THE basis for civil laws. General revelation and the light of nature are murky when it comes to many aspects of civil polity. I’m really not going to go to the mat on whether to drive on the right or left side of the road, and I’m hardly going to say that it must be based in morality.


  63. DGH: Yes, I think the apostle Paul would be surprised by the silly things professing Christians say to one another, like, “You don’t like Bush? Are you a Democrat?” Or “Sarah Palin’s a Christian. Vote for her.”

    There’s just a lot of ridiculous thinking, or better, nonthinking, among Christians. However, having “blue laws” is not among those ridiculous thoughts.


  64. Eliza, so the demands for Sunday laws shifts according to the political order in place? Why would a democracy require a holy Lord’s Day more than Nero’s Rome? Your answer suggests that God’s law is not binding at all times and places.


  65. Weren’t the Westminster Divines stupid; and even the American revisers.
    What were they thinking?


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