Who's Radical Now?

The Brothers Bayly are persistent in besmirching two-kingdom theology and its proponents but their latest swipe is rich indeed. They have reprinted a mysterious piece (impossible to find anywhere else on the Net) about the enormities of the Obama administration. Nathan Ed Schumacher is the author and Tim Bayly’s foreword runs ever charitably as follows:

This piece . . . demonstrates that the silence of Emergent and R2K men in the face of the wickedness and oppression in our public square is of the same fabric. Fear of man is a principle that knows no boundaries.

I keep wondering why fear of God pertaining to the ninth commandment, you know one of those laws that the Baylys would seem to want to prevail in the public square, does not inform the way these fellows write about Christians — not to mention officers — in the church. But I digress.

Schumacher, it seems, had a conversation with a graduate of a seminary on the West Coast – hmmm – about the woes of the nation and why more ministers were not speaking publicly about such matters. Schumacher contended with the seminary graduate that the difficulties facing the United States were not simply political but moral in nature. But the seminarian responded that the church should only speak to spiritual matters. Schumacher responded:

Here we have a spirituality radically disconnected from morality – an ethereal religion not connected to historic Christianity and its application of ethics to the real world. What kind of “spirituality” or theology is this that can disregard morals, ethics, and God’s Law and even silently abide open murder?

So what is Schumacher talking about when it comes to immorality in the United States? It turns out that morality is closely tied to politics.

We live in an astonishing time in America where the President is making open war domestically on the Constitution, and openly making unlawful wars internationally – such wars outlawed by the Constitution and long vested by the Rule of Law as war crimes and open murder – and formally recognized as such by the Nuremberg trials. When a President publicly usurps the Constitution, making an open show of violating its limits on exercising power, whether it be by his making illegal war, giving secret orders, punishing American soldiers for exposing truth, building secret prisons, operating torture chambers, running kidnapping operations (rendition), publicly asserting his right to kill American citizens with no trial or process, openly publicly stealing money via “bailouts”, taxing in violation of the Constitution, openly violating the Bill of Rights, creating illegal Federal agencies and programs, etc., ad nausem, then what does that mean according to the Principles of Law? It means, without question, that he has invoked the Law of Belligerents against the American people by acting as a belligerent upon the American people themselves, because publicly assaulting their Constitution is, in fact, an assault upon them. In other words, the President is openly making war upon the American people by these belligerent actions – actions which are open, public, and undeniable. If you don’t understand this, you are not paying attention. Our Constitution formally defines this as treason.

Schumacher’s solution is for the church to call a synod:

It is long past time for church Officers to convene formal and official church councils and synods all across this land to address the open lawlessness and public sin and crimes of what passes for “our government”- and to address the way forward. Nevertheless, it is probable that they can be expected to refuse to do this – and likely that they will always have a long list of lofty “spiritual reasons” as to why they cannot accept responsibility. But if church Officers, who are the official voices of moral authority, refuse to do this then there is a deafening silence and they cannot expect to be found faithful – and the rest of us will suffer the continuing consequences of their dereliction of duty – praying that God will raise up some “Thomas Beckets” who are jealous for the church, the Law of God, and who will have the courage to say “No” to our present political “king”.

In the comments on this post, the Baylys add a curious wrinkle to the clear overreach (clear according to what follows below). When one commentator brought up the example of the apostle Paul who did not seem to be overly upset by the rule or policies of Caligula, Tim and David ever lovingly responded:

. . . we don’t need to see it happening constantly with the Apostle Paul or John the Baptist or Jesus or Augustine or Calvin or Edwards or Machen in order to know that the R2K men are wrong when they oppose the church and her officers standing against theft, oppression, rampant gross immorality, the repudiation of the rule of law, and the massive bloodshed of the slaughter of hundreds of millions of wee ones.

When you find yourself arguing that John the Baptist is no model for pastors today, you should wonder whether, just maybe, your cowardice has gotten the best of your faith.

Two aspects of this response are striking. The first is the Bayly habit of hitting below the belt – that is, questioning masculinity rather than formulating an argument. The second is that the Bible really does not need to be our guide because the existing evils are so enormous. Paul, Jesus, and the rest of the apostles may not have led protests against their societies, but their silence is only an opening for the Baylys’ shouting. Never mind that a cardinal conviction of Reformed Protestantism is that officers in the church, whether individually or collectively, need a biblical warrant for using their authority.

I do wonder why the Baylys do not recognize how partisanly political their moral hectoring looks. It is not as if Obama is the first president to abuse the powers of the Constitution or propose questionable economic policies. Can the Baylys or Schumacher remember the former president’s apparent disregard for the Constitution in the Gulf War, the Medicare bailout, or the Patriot Act? Do they not know that Christians on the Left opposed Bush in terms remarkably similar to the way they castigate Obama, thus making party affiliation more than biblical interpretation the basis for moral posturing?

I also wonder if the Baylys have ever heard of the United States Civil War and the debates that Old School Presbyterians had over support for the federal government. The 1860s was a time of grave national crisis also driven by a hotly disputed moral issue and the Old School General Assembly of 1861 decided to address the matter through the clumsy Spring Resolution. Here we have a church doing exactly that for which Schumacher calls and the Baylys approve — an Assembly addressing a moral and political question. And yet, Charles Hodge, a man who voted for Lincoln, believed secession was treasonous, and that treason was immoral, opposed the church taking a stand on matters that literally broke the United States apart. Hodge wrote:

. . . a man who acts on the theory of secession, may be justly liable to the penalty of the civil law; he may be morally guilty in the sight of God; but he has committed no offense on which the church can take cognizance. We therefore are not inconsistent in asserting, 1. That secession is a ruinous political heresy. 2. That those who act on that doctrine, and throw off allegiance to the Constitution and the Union, are guilty of a great crime; and, 3. That nevertheless they are not amenable in this matter to the church. The question whether they are morally guilty, depends on the question whether their theory of the constitution is right. If they are right, they are heroes; if they are wrong, they are wicked rebels. But whether that theory is right or wrong it is not the province of the church to decide.

The reason why the church cannot decide such political and constitutional matters, even when morality is involved, is that the Bible does not address these topics. Hodge explained:

The church can only exercise her power in enforcing the word of God, in approving what it commands, and condemning what it forbids. A man, in the exercise of his liberty as to things indifferent, may be justly amenable to the laws of the land; and he may incur great guilt in the sight of God, but he cannot be brought under the censure of the church.

What the Baylys (as well as most critics of the spirituality of the church) miss is the distinction between morality and authority. The Baylys go knock-kneed whenever a 2k person suggests that a moral truth should not necessarily be advocated by the church. The Bayly logic seems to be that if it is right, then all authority must be used to execute the right. But biblical teaching would also prompt questions about who has authority to enforce the good. Just because I believe drivers who pass me on the right are wrong does not mean that I have power to pull those drivers over and lock them up in our basement. The Baylys desire to marshal the church’s power behind their interpretation of the Constitution (and their assessment of the culture wars) comes dangerously close to ecclesiastical vigilantism: the church can and should do whatever is right and not bother with the technicalities such as the confession of faith or Book of Church Order. Ironically, then, in the Baylys’ twisted logic, the very constitution of the church becomes expendable in the defense of the United States Constitution.

A related point that the Baylys miss is how radical their views are compared to the supposed radicality of 2k. Charles Hodge was by no means the most vociferous proponent of the spirituality of the church. But he could see the folly of positions like the Baylys on good 2k grounds. Hodge was not a radical and neither are 2k proponents. In contrast, the Baylys’ disregard for the constitution of their church and the teachings of their confession of faith several steps down the road to anarchy.

And they call 2kers antinomian? Call again.

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53 thoughts on “Who's Radical Now?

  1. I believe the Baylys have unwittingly surrendered to the “gospel and” error. Maybe, more accurately, the “gospel and law and” or just the “law and” error. They clearly don’t believe that properly ordered, properly worshiping local churches that rightly handle the law and the gospel are enough. This enfeebled institution needs the help of the Capitol, the Court, the sword, and a militant cultural profile to do its work in the Bayly “worldview.”

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  2. Let’s say a certain commenter on this blog attends the same church as I do. Let’s also say the company this individual works for provides services for the company I work for. Let’s (pretend) they purposely overcharge us for their service, (THEY DO NOT, but for the sake of this argument let’s just go with the hypothetical) to the degree that it is causing financial harm to my company to the point that cutbacks would ensure employees losing their jobs. Certainly this would be considered grossly immoral. Finally, let’s say one of the brother’s B is our pastor (they are not!).

    Would they be OK with me taking this issue to them and demanding that they “take action” about what this company was supposedly doing? Of course not! It’s not their place. You could kind of say that it would be a confusion of the 2 kingdoms. And what if the issue isn’t as clear as I presented it? What if the other person had a different take on it and claimed it wasn’t immoral, just smart business? (the corollary being different people have different opinions on such things as the constitution, the economy or debt ceiling increase vote, etc. and last I checked Scripture is silent on such things as US fiscal policy) Hmmm… where would be the consistency with the Brothers B?!

    BTW, the nuttiest facebook status I read this weekend: “my take on the downgrade to AA? One step closer to the rapture!”. I somehow missed the part in Jesus’ teaching about AAA to AA being one of the sings of his return.

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  3. Why is it so hard to understand that if the church is the servant of politics then politics is the master of the church? Why is it so hard to understand that Jesus had no interest in establishing a political kingdom, clearly saying his kingship is not of this world? Why are the Baylys still swinging the sword that Christ forbade Peter to use?

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  4. WCF 31:4 “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the common wealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”

    Bunch of radical wimps and cowards who wrote this if you aks me

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  5. Sweetness and light for an OPC commenter over at Baylyland:

    “Are you sane? Have you ever read the Bible?

    Silence from you, man!

    If you want to go into that dark night quietly, that’s your bad conscience. But don’t use this blog to seduce others to your sin.”

    A certain grade-C christian school literary flair too.

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  6. Along the same lines…

    The Kuyperians over at World Magazine published an editorial today advocating Pulpit Freedom Sunday–a day for pastors to cast aside the proclaiming of Christ in favor of speeches about political issues.

    And, yes, it’s interesting how so many of these Kuyperians–with their lust for conflating special and general revelation–were generally silent when the previous administration carried out many of the same “immoral” acts.

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  7. Interesting, Bob. I did a quick search and found a World Magazine article critical of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. I won’t say who wrote it until after the quote:

    “The first obstacle [to tearing down the separation between church and state via Pulpit Freedom Sunday] is what Scripture teaches about a Christian’s relationship to the state. In one of the best-known passages, Paul the Apostle writes, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). Is defying the law, no matter what political motivations were behind it, submitting to such authority, or opposing it?”

    “Obstacle number two has to do with the reason people attend worship services. It is not, or should not be, in order to pledge allegiance to a party, candidate, or earthly agenda. One can spend inordinate amounts of time on that subject simply by watching cable TV, or listening to talk radio, or reading the newspapers. No matter how hard they try to protect the Gospel from corruption, ministers who focus on politics and politicians as a means of redemption must minimize their ultimate calling and message. The road to redemption does not run through Washington, D.C. Politicians can’t redeem themselves from the temptations of Washington. What makes anyone think they can redeem the rest of us?”

    “churches and ministers would do better to keep their attention focused on the things above, rather than the things below, because politics can be the ultimate temptation and pollute a far superior and life-changing message.” http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/14479

    Cal Thomas wrote it. Hey Cal, become a paedobaptist and join us over here at Old Life!

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  8. One has to seriously wonder what the Bayly’s and Schumacher’s of the world think WCF 31.4 means to oppose if not the sort of thing they champion. What would ecclesiastical intermeddling look like if not calling a synod to morally condemn the magistrate? And how in thee heck would an action to civilly condemn be reconciled with a call to civil obedience in Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17?

    Bob, the Kuyperians have Pulpit Freedom Sunday and the evangelicals have Sanctity of Life Sunday.

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  9. Dr. Hart and others:

    I agree that Shumacher’s comments do have a partisan ring to them, and I think his proposal on having church synods address these moral-political matters is wrong. And I agree with the doctrine of the spirituality of the church as defined in WCF 31.4, and that the Old Testament civil law “expired” with the doing away of the old covenant theocracy and is thus no longer obligatory in the non-theocratic civil realm “further than the general equity thereof may require” (WCF 19.4). However, I’m still struggling to understand the implications of the 2K position with respect to morality and political ethics. As you know, political issues are often inextricably intertwined with questions of ethics, including ethical issues addressed by God’s Word, either explicitly or by way of “good and necessary inference” (and thus issues that may be addressed from the pulpit, at least under the category of “law” as opposed to gospel). In view of this, I was wondering how 2K advocates might answer the following kinds of questions:

    (1) Abortion is obviously both a deeply moral and a highly-partisan political issue. Let’s say a man who performs abortions for a living begins attending your church, takes the membership class, and ends up applying to the Session for membership. Should the Session accept him into membership as long as he gives a “credible profession of faith,” or should they bar him from membership until such time as he repents of his involvement in the abortion industry (i.e., should his performance of abortions be viewed as undermining the credibility of his profession of faith)?

    (2) Homosexuality is another one of those moral/political issues. Let us say our nation goes in the direction of some nations today (from what I understand, various European nations, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) and makes it a “hate crime” to speak out against homosexuality and “gay marriage”, even from the pulpit. Should ministers of the gospel continue to preach the biblical sexual ethic of Holy Scripture from the pulpit (which obviously includes advocacy of an interpretation of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and the condemnation of homosexuality as an abominable sin and “unnatural”), even though the civil authorities have directed them to “cease and desist” from such speech, and even though preaching against homosexuality is interpreted by many today as political speech (homosexuality being a highly-partisan political issue)?

    (3) Let’s say a well-known politician is a member of your church. It is election time, and let us say that in his political campaigning he has clearly, openly and demonstrably lied about his competitor for political office. Should the Session of his church ignore his bearing of false witness against his neighbor because this false witness was done in the public, civil, political realm (after all, bearing false witness and misrepresenting one’s political opponents is “business as usual” in the game of politics today)? Or could such a church member in politics be held accountable and publicly censured for bearing false witness in such circumstances?

    Many other hypothetical scenarios could be imagined, but I would be intrigued (and perhaps also enlightened in a good way) to know how my 2K brethren would answer such questions. Thanks for any help you can offer.

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  10. Geoffrey,
    It seems to me that there is a big difference between the Church disciplining its members for public sins and advocating for a political stance. Going one step further, a member of our church may conclude that the state has no business banning abortion, gay marriage, gambling, working on Sunday, and idolatry even if engaging in these activities is sinful. So I could see a church that simultaneously disciplines a member for entering a homosexual union and does not discipline another member for campaigning against proposition 8.

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  11. GW, what sdb says. It seems to me one way to navigate your hypos is to distinguish between personal behavior and political outlook, which seems as difficult for some as distinguishing between the moral and the political. So what Christian Jane does with her unwanted pregnancy is different from what she does in the voting booth. The first falls under the jurisdiction of the church but the second not so much. And if we don’t want the biblical morality on homosexuality to become considered hate speech politically then maybe we should stop the same sort of moralizing of politics (and politicizing of faith) that gives rise to that sort of thing. After all, if the church may discipline someone for his/her political conclusions then why can’t the state punish someone for his moral speech?

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  12. GW, I wonder how you might answer the following questions:

    (1) A local congressman is applying for membership to your church, and he has repeatedly voted against measures that would criminalize the use of statutes, icons, and pictures of God, Christ, or Mary in religious worship. His stated reason is that though he believes that such things are an abomination and a sin against God, such a law violates the Constitution. He vows to continue to oppose such measures. Should he be accepted into membership? Does it matter if his Constitutional argument is wrong?

    (2) Assume the same basic situation as the first question, but the law is different. The congressman now opposes a narrowly written, non-sectarian anti-blasphemy law that would prohibit anyone from “taking the Lord’s name in vain”?

    (3) Suppose the law in the second question gets passed, and suppose that all relevant courts have found it Constitutional. The person seeking membership is a police officer who refuses to enforce the law (i.e. he won’t write tickets, arrest, or testify against people who have broken the law) because he thinks it violates the Constitution. Is this an issue for the church?

    (4) Would your answer to any of these change if the law being opposed was one that outlawed abortion?

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  13. GW, to add a contralto part to the harmony already established, I don’t understand why these questions would necessarily occur to you about 2k unless you’ve been reading critics who don’t understand the difference between the church’s corporate witness (the decalogue at least as explained by our catechisms) and the church’s authority regarding the public sphere. The Hodge argument hangs on the difference between what is moral and what is actionable before the courts of the church. Plus, no 2ker that I know has any problem thinking that those who use pornography or play the lottery commit sin or that the church should discipline such sinners. But who is making pornography or state lotteries the basis for concerted Christian political action?

    One more wrinkle, it is not exactly the case that we have a consensus in Reformed circles about application in preaching. So a preacher who does not go after abortion or homosexuality may not necessarily be guilty of cowardice. He may simply be preaching the text that emerges from going through a specific book of the Bible. Not only are murder and homosexuality topics that come up infrequently in the Pauline letters, for instance, but applying biblical prohibition to public or private behavior may not be what the pastor ordered.

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  14. Geoff, my answer is a little different.

    The church declares what the Lord has revealed. The church binds where his word binds, directly or by clear inference. But a vote for a candidate, referendum, etc., has dimensions that are not addressed by the scriptures. Federal power or state power? This statutory construction or that statutory construction? This prolife candidate who is weak on other issues or that prochoice candidate that strong on other issues? If we prohibit one kind of behavior, might the next step be to prohibit a kind of christian behavior? Is is it fiscally responsible or even practically possible to have the state enforce a particular law?

    Then, if the church is going to bind in the political realm, I sure hope I’m told that in the membership interview and I hope I’m told whether the church is going to take Calvin’s view, the view of Puritan New England, the view of Billy Sunday, etc. Ad hoc binding is no way to run a church.

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  15. On further review, what dgh said. Nothing about 2k really gives a unique answer to your questions. Performing abortions is a censurable sin, slander is a censurable sin, and I would fully expect my pastor to go ahead and condemn sexual sins as he preaches through the books of the Bible.

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  16. DGH,

    I’m curious to hear why playing the lottery is necessarily sin, granting that it’s nearly impossible to win anything for your money (at least without a statistics Ph.D). And they won’t be printing 10th commandment-themed scratch cards anytime soon. But I know churchgoers who occasionally play or gamble, and given sufficient moderation and detachment, I’m unsure why it’s verboten.

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  17. Thank you all for your helpful responses to the questions I posed in my previous post. As I had stated, I’m still struggling to understand the 2K position (I’m fairly new to this whole “2K vs. Kuyperianism/Transformationism” debate), so those were the kinds of questions that came to my mind.

    Regarding abortion and homosexuality: I guess my position is that even non-theocratic civil governments have a responsibility to uphold God’s “creation ordinanance” of marriage, and to protect human physical life. If abortion is demonstrably the murder of a human being, then the civil government has a moral obligation to protect human life and to punish murderers. (I believe that a pre-born child can be shown to be a full human being, not only biblically, but also medically.) And since marriage is a common grace creation ordinance that is foundational to any stable common-grace society, I would argue that the civil government has the right and authority to make laws that protect the integrity of this creational institution. Laws regarding blasphemy and worship and enforcement of the Sabbath are another matter (since these laws would pertain only to a theocratic situation). (Of course, I do think the civil magistrate has the responsibility to protect the right of its citizens to worship freely according to their conscience; and thus a Christian’s right to observe the Christian Sabbath unhindered should be protected by law, just as a Jew’s legal right to observe Saturday as his Sabbath.)

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  18. Geoff, I think it’s very important to distinguish:
    1) What “I” think the magistrate should do.
    2) What the church may dogmatically say the magistrate should do.
    3) The way I would vote.
    4) The way the church may dogmatically say how to vote.

    The important distinctions are between 1 & 2, then 3 & 4. 2k or not, I see #2 and #4 as very important. Those who are against 2k often seem glide too easily from personal opinion to mandatory, church-backed positions.

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  19. GW, as one who agrees with you in being morally and politically opposed to abortion and homosexual marriage, I don’t think the point is what moral and social ill should enjoy civil sanction. The point is what role the church has in telling the magistrate, directly or indirectly, how to sort it all out. And my understanding of the spirituality of the church is to say no role whatever, full stop. That seems to be the clear implication of “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the common wealth…”

    Now, I do think many take the exception clause—unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate—to mean, “But when it comes to political conclusions you think are especially important then forget the intermeddling stuff and politicize faith to greater or lesser degrees, your call. Oh, and if the other guy who has another political conclusion which is different from yours and invokes the exception clause then you can revert back to the intermeddling stuff and accuse him of social gospel and kingdom confusion.” For my own part, though, I read the exception clause to be when the state begins doing things that may cause the church to have to compromise herself, in which case we may pipe up and humbly plead her own case.

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  20. MK, I would argue that gambling is sinful when it is a form of bad stewardship. But I have a special tick when it comes to state lotteries since it is in effect a back door tax on the poor.

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  21. Excellent post, as always, Dr. Hart. Your comments about the Left using almost the exact same terminology to oppose Bush is a very good one.

    The Baylys never cease to amaze me. The post itself, along with so many of the comments, reflect such superficial analysis of Scripture and so many intrinsic philosophical contradictions it’s almost futile to cherry-pick all the specific errors. I did notice several eyebrow-raising comments:

    1. As Dr. Hart mentioned in the OP, no reference to the article or link provided. Simply that the source is the Baylyblog. Sketchy, to say the least.

    2. In comment #11, one of the Bros. Bayly says that a pastor should let his conscience decide how he should address the policy sins of our president/leaders. Yet this goes against so much of their teaching, such as when they call “unfaithful” those pastors who do not picket abortion clinics, as has been documented on OldLife in the past. Saying that pastors MUST picket abortion clinics to be faithful does not sound like letting one’s conscience decide the best way to approach these issues.

    3. The Baylys are so far off in their analysis of Paul, Jesus, John the Baptist, etc. it appears to be obfuscation. They use Paul at the Areopagus as an example of him confronting social practices/policy. But Paul was addressing a personal, specific sin, namely idolatry. He wasn’t addressing Athenian law or even social custom as much as he was the personal, widespread idolatry – mostly self-idolatry – of the Greeks. And I would be quite afraid of a pastor who preached like John the Baptist. Even Jesus didn’t preach like John the Baptist – John had a very specific calling that we are not necessarily called to emulate today, unless the Baylys like those Midwestern locusts. And John never addressed the policy of Herod, but his personal sin; he never told Herod his tax policy was unjust or his ties with pagan Rome were unwise. The fact that the Baylys would use these examples to support their point smacks of exceptionally poor scholarship or blatant intellectual dishonesty. Or maybe both.

    4. At one point they comment that each of us is a “king” in a democracy, and therefore as a church we have the right to act in a way that men under the yoke of the Roman Empire might not have had. Again, this is such a foolish and ignorant argument it’s hard to know if they are really serious. In a democracy, or a republic, each citizen isn’t a little mini-ruler. They cast votes for representatives, who then rule. The methodology of selecting rulers is different from Rome, but the end result is the same: we have civil rulers who were placed in their office by God. The emperors of the Roman Empire murdered or maneuvered politically to ascend to the throne, European kings used any number of means to take the crown, and in America today we hold elections. But ultimately God gives us rulers and we are to obey even the most wicked tyrants, as Calvin admonishes. Again, either this is obfuscation or the Baylys need to go back to 4th grade social studies.

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  22. Zeke, plus if I am a king, then my neighbor is a queen and we know what happens when monarchs disagree — someone dies. Maybe a federal republic with a Constitution is a way to conduct foreign relations with my royal neighbors.

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  23. What do folks here mean by “what a church (or pastor) may dogmatically say”?
    You’re all about not binding people’s consciences.
    How dogmatic can a pastor get? Some pastors get pretty dogmatic about spiritual issues that have no clear basis in Scripture, yet they seem to think that’s OK.
    Where do you draw the line? What if the Standards do not teach it? Can a pastor teach it or is that binding the consciences of the hearer? What if the pastor teaches contrary to the Standards?

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  24. Eliza, I am intending to say that a pastor may declare what the Bible declares. He must not confuse that with his own opinion or any other opinion, widely held or not. This tends to be violated by the introduction of moralistic legalisms (think of fundamentalists) and political issues (such as evangelical culture warriors). I also think worldviewism (often in the “reformed” church, unfortunately) tends to transform mere philosophical opinions into dogma.

    We should greatly appreciate our pastors when they carefully stay within the bounds of the Bible – as vanilla as that may seem to some – and resist the temptation to impose their own opinions or get the congregation revved up by joining in the latest movement, and synching with the hot opinions of the day.

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  25. “a pastor may declare what the Bible declares…”
    But apparently not if these Biblical declarations are current political issues.
    Whatever has become politicized is then not fair territory for preaching.
    If you look at the Larger Catechism, you’ll see under the Ten Commandments a lot of things that might now be considered politicized. Nevertheless these should be addressed in a sermon.

    I find that pastors (R2K pastors) do present their opinion (what do you mean by “impose”?)–on the death penalty, on the republication of the covenant of works, on the ethics of lying.

    You’ll never get away from that. If I find the pastor’s opinion unbiblical, Berean nobility says I am not under any compulsion to agree with it and make it a rule of faith and practice. Ditto for what he says on implications of the Bible for politics.

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  26. So, Eliza, you see no distinction between personal opinion and biblical preaching? If not, you need to strengthen your Berean nobility a bit. How about this: a church may not declare that apple pie is the best dessert, Barbara Bachmann should be president, or that we have an obligation to bring back Prohibition?

    Does your larger catechism tell us whether we should be in favor of constitutional amendments or any particular military intervention? Where does it say “thou shalt vote X”? Doesn’t your WCF state that Christ has “given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints” – not to tinker with the politics of the day? And doesn’t your WCF state “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary.” I’m not making up anything new here.

    Back at you: why do you want pastors to declare politics followed by “thus sayeth the Lord” and “amen?”

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  27. So, Eliza, if it’s true that if one finds the pastor’s opinion unbiblical, and thus is not under any compulsion to agree with it and make it a rule of faith and practice, then when Tim Bayly rebukes the President in a sermon which includes this opinion:

    Violence is not always wrong. Killing is not always forbidden. Opposition to abortion does not obligate us to oppose all forms of killing. In saying this I make a biblically defensible statement. God has given the power of the sword to the state so that it may judge and execute judgment. This is true internationally and locally. Condemnation of the vile sin of abortion, the murder of an infant, an innocent, in its mother’s womb is not the same as the death penalty, properly applied. Nor do I believe that Dr. Tiller’s killer necessarily acted inappropriately as self-appointed judge, jury and executioner.

    Is it permissible for me to take serious exception to this rhetoric as nurturing something completely the opposite of the biblical instruction to honor the king and civil obedience, or as something that actually encourages more than it discourages civil disobedience, vigilantism and violence?

    Or when I do so is it “unfaithful” and to “deal falsely with him”?

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  28. Zrim – that quote – yikes!

    Zeke – great points – especially #3 & #4. What fascinates me is this idea that to not speak to politics from the pulpit is considered cowardly, and to speak out against the President as a pastor takes courage. What is so courageous about saying in a sermon what Glenn Beck freely says on T.V every day? It’s a free country. No one cares if we call out our president, even with threats of God’s judgment. Not even arguing for the rightness or wrongness of it at the moment, but why is that considered so courageous?

    And since when do we speak law to people without a gospel? How does calling out the President for disregarding the Constitution preaching only Christ and him crucified? If you follow law with the good news of the gospel at least you are following the NT’s use of the Law, but since when is the church to spread the news of God’s law (which is bad news) without the good news of the gospel right upon its heels?

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  29. Mann,
    I do not want pastors to preach politics. Machen spoke out against Prohibition. Would it be wrong for a pastor to explain the Biblical teaching on drinking alcohol in the midst of the pro- and anti-Prohibition discussion that was going on in the U.S.? Of course not. He wouldn’t tell folks to “vote against the 18th amendment” but I believe an exposition of the Word of God in that area would certainly be warranted. Just because the issue of alcohol had at that time become politicized should not deter a pastor from addressing an issue.

    What I am saying is that, although you probably don’t see it, R2K pastors “impose” (I guess you call it) things a lot. Because they may not hit the hot button issues of abortion or homosexuality, you think that’s OK. I call it an opinion when it cannot be backed by the Word of God, when it is opposed by the standards of the church (like the WCF).

    Zrim,
    the sermon (by Tim Bayley) contains two different things. The first part is apparently a defense of the death penalty, which he (and I) think is biblically defensible.. The last line “nor do I believe” signals his own personal opinion, which I find poppycock.

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  30. Eliza, I’m specifically addressing when the pastor speaks from the pulpit. Away from the pulpit pastors have all kinds of opinions, although I think it’s best for the church if they refrain from leadership roles in such things lest they give the impression that their activism is the action of the church.

    I’ve never been under a radical two kingdom (R2K) pastor, have you? It’s hard to respond to your vague “R2K pastors impose things a lot.”

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  31. To answer your last question–yup. But without knowing who you can still respond!!

    But I should have added this concerning what I read as Bayley’s defense of the death penalty:
    He should explain where this is found in God’s Word. He should find the various passages dealing with it and explain them, interpreting Scripture with Scripture to make his purported point. I think that is incumbent on pastors for whatever they are teaching. Just saying “this is biblically defensible” is not what a pastor should do. He should open the Word and show what things are clearly taught there. Anyone can SAY anything, but nobody should heed their “opinion”–on the death penalty, abortion, alcohol consumption, or tattoos–unless it is shown from the Bible. The use of the WCF is also appropriate, though subordinate to the Word.

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  32. Eliza, glad for your poppycock on the lame opinion. But the point of “A Sermon to a President” wasn’t to make a case for capital punishment, which is why there wasn’t various passages dealing with it, etc. The point was that Tim Bayly politically opposes abortion and wanted the President to know it and bring the force of the pulpit to bear. He wanted to bring heavenly sanction down on political conclusions. Todd wants to know where the courage is in something like that. But to advocates of the spirituality of the church it does take a lot of nerve to speak politically for God where he has been silent.

    But you also say that “just because the issue of alcohol had at that time become politicized should not deter a pastor from addressing an issue.” I think I know what you mean and your point is well taken. But I think at the same time the 2k point is that officers of the church have a duty to be discerning of the times and wise enough to know the dangers of politicizing faith. From where I sit, there is plenty of howling and posturing about being clear on biblical morality. But comparatively speaking there is very little concern about what it means to confuse faith with politics. It’s almost as if that’s not really a problem at all. Maybe it seems like 2kers overreact, but maybe that’s because there is an unchecked assumption on the part of the perceiver that the gospel and the traditions of men really do go hand-in-hand.

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  33. Eliza, actually, Machen did not speak out on prohibition. Even his explanation of his vote against a motion in his Presbyterian (pro-prohibition) went unpublished until 2004.

    What you fail to see, since you are on record over at the Bayly blog, is that compartmentalization is precisely what is called for. A person who is a minister is also a variety of other offices — father, citizen, husband, Rotary Club member, bowling team captain, etc. Recognizing the diversity of memberships we have requires compartmentalization, and also means what a citizen endorses would not be the same that he would affirm as a pastor.

    That doesn’t mean that a pastor would be two-faced — endorsing prohibition as a pastor and opposing it as a citizen. It means he would address it as a citizen but not address it as a pastor and not let it enter his ministry.

    And yes, 2k does impose. But the imposition comes from Scripture and the way the Reformed tradition has interpreted the sufficiency of Scripture. If the Bible does not speak to it, the church may not speak to it. And since most of the moral matters that agitate theonomists and the Baylys and the neo-Calvinists are bound up with institutions and policies that the Bible does not address, a pastor as pastor has no more right speaking about a constitutional amendment than he does about the criteria of beautiful painting.

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  34. dgh:
    I think R2K overreacts to things (as Zrim says). I agree that “imposition” comes from Scripture. And I don’t buy a man’s opinion–whether it’s on Michelle or Sarah or Mitt or death penalty or global warming. What good preaching is, is an exposition of the Word, not a voicing of opinions on current events–or any other topic–be it skirt length, tithing, or special music.

    You and I agree about the compartmentalization, but differ on the rightness or wrongness of it.

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  35. Eliza, so if you think compartmentalization is wrong, I suppose you disagree with the Confession of Faith 31.4 about the church not meddling with political and temporal affairs.

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  36. Does WCF 31.4 conflict with WCF 23.2 & 3?

    2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

    3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord…

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  37. Eliza, the issue isn’t what a magistrate may or may not do. It’s compartmentalization. I don’t know how you can get to 31.4 without some kind of compartmentalization, what some people call, differentiation. And in case you didn’t notice, that compartmentalization is different from the norms guiding OT Israel. If you don’t want compartmentalization, you may want to return to Jerusalem.

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  38. Sorry, I haven’t been paying much attention for a while – could someone define R2K, please? I’m assuming it’s an insult (since it’s paired with emergent).

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  39. Russ, I believe Rabbi Bret, a radical pastor in the CRC, was the fellow to put the radical in R2K. Here is what he says:

    So, we see that there are two Kingdoms but that these two Kingdoms do not exist in isolation from one another as we find in R2K theory. Each operate in their appointed sphere fulfilling their divine commission and as such they work in harmony together as they are both chartered as under Christ and His authority. There is no bi-polar existence between Church and State as we find in R2K. Each in their own place, each having their own role, and yet both interdependent upon one another as each move in submission to the Great High King, the Lord Christ.

    If you go to ironink.org, you’ll find over 300 posts kvetching about r2k.

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  40. And don’t forget the final “t.” At least, in the original drawing boards the complete phrase was “R2Kt,” which was a way of designating individuals who were afflicted with the two-kingdom virus, as in “radical two-kingdom types.”

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  41. dgh: Jerusalem…or Scotland.

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/12/hugh-martin-on-duty-of-civil-magistrate.html
    “Some, indeed, would object to national recognitions of religion, and such royal calls and injunctions to observe its duties. Civil magistracy, they tell us, is a civil, temporal, earthly institution, having under its regulation the affairs of time and the world, and having nothing to do with religion; — and the civil magistrate, or chief ruler, they would accordingly prevent from in any way intromitting with religious matters — matters belonging, not to time, but eternity, not to this world, but the world to come.There are a number of grievous errors wrapt up here in one.”

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  42. Eliza, you keep changing the subject. What on earth does this quotation have to do with me or the point, well made in the confession of faith, about compartmentalizing ecclesiastical and political affairs?

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  43. Ah – I get it. There are more comments on this blog than most blogs have blog content, so I took some time off and fell behind. I probably should have been able to figure it out, but all I could think of was Russell Kirk. The “t” is a nice touch, though if viral connotations was the goal, I’d have gone with R2K+.

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