The shelf life on Tim Tebow is rapidly decreasing now that the Broncos ran into the Patriots’ capacity for cheating. So before Ricky Gervais completely eclipses Tebow in water-cooler banter, a point needs to be made about the charges of antinomianism that two-kingdom theology continues to receive. (The latest comes in a post about Martin Luther King, Jr. that uses the Civil Rights leader to cast aspersions on your humble — all about me — blogger; on the eve of MLK Day no less. The lack of charity among the lovers of the law continues to dumbfound.)
I have been rooting for the Broncos’ QB even if Tebow’s wear-it-on-your-cheek piety is not an Old Lifer’s preferred demeanor. Tebow appears to be genuine in his devotion even if he could benefit from the oversight of a Reformed pastor. But how can he possibly be a poster boy for evangelicals and the Religious Right when he flagrantly violates one of the Ten Commandments that many born-again Protestants want posted in court rooms and public school classrooms? I get it. How to interpret OT law is something that divides many Christians — and boy can theonomists be divisive about it. But Tebow’s actions are hard to square with any traditional reading of the Decalogue. In fact, U.S. Protestants used to be Sabbatarians through and through, and the NFL had to clear all sorts of Blue Laws in order to get its franchises off the ground (Saturday was already taken by college football, which was, and still is in some parts of the country, more popular than professional gridiron play.
Evangelicals may be inconsistent — which of us is not (except of course for the epistemologically self-conscious)? But the disparity between public statements and actions goes beyond the hobgobblin that afflicts small minds. The Religious Right lauds traditional Christian morality and seeks it for the nation at large. This is partly the rationale behind arriving at Rick Santorum as the evangelical alternative to Mitt Romney. Never mind that Roman Catholics like Santorum were the object of some of those Protestant Blue Laws governing the Lord’s Day. A recent column in the Washington Post (touted by the Baylys) attempted to put a positive spin on the evangelical notion that righteousness exalts a nation. It tried to extend the appeal of Tebow to his opposing QB last weekend — Ben Roethlisberger — who appears to be on the mend morally after recovering his evangelical roots. The piece also argued that evangelical piety is much more important than evangelical politics.
Tebow and Roethlisberger point to the essential aspects of evangelicalism, the ones that make it persist — its missionary, proclamatory character on the one hand, and its private, searching piety on the other. The former wants to appeal to the whole world, which is why Tebow’s family raised him not only to preach, but to persuade others with a winning demeanor. The latter wants a changed life; Roethlisberger, in evangelical parlance, rededicated his life to Jesus after a period of backsliding, because he knew no other way to break his pattern of misbehavior.
In Iowa, Santorum’s evangelical “surge” grossed him about 30,000 votes. That may constitute an evangelical moment, and it may inspire some observers to define evangelicals by their political behavior. But it is not a particularly large group from which to draw conclusions about the movement as a whole. Most evangelicals, like most Americans, don’t show up to the voting booth at all. Their political commitments are not nearly as strong as their faith commitments.
Odd that this column says nothing about forgiveness of sins through the work of Christ as being crucial to evangelical piety. Instead, it points to evangelicalism’s life-changing character and how its adherents lead moral lives. If that is so — and there is some obvious truth to this — what about the elephant in the room of the way that evangelicals (in worship and on Sunday) seem to disregard the first table of the law?
What does this have to do with 2k? Well, the critics of 2k never seem to notice that 2k advocates do care about the law and have defended especially the first table. 2kers are invariably Sabbatarian, defend the regulative principle of worship (derived from the Second Commandment), condemn the creation of images of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and fear the ways in which informality in worship may breach the Third Commandment’s call for avoiding profanity. Meanwhile, the critics of 2k, who invariably want the entire nation to follow God’s law, look the other way when it comes to the church following all of God’s law. Some of 2k’s biggest critics are advocates of contemporary worship and praise Christian football players who profane the Sabbath.
So it is false to say that 2k leads to or promotes antinomianism. 2kers follow God’s law and defend it — all of it. What seems to be 2kers problem is that we don’t apply the law selectively to public life. That selectivity may not qualify as antinomian. But it hardly constitutes the love of God’s law that 2kers allegedly lack or qualifies as honest.