Two of Old Life’s regular voices, Zrim and Jed, are having an interesting discussion — in response to a post questioning the political machinations of the hallowed Bonhoffer — about whether 2kers may legitimately appeal to the Bible in their civic duties. Zrim argues that the Bible forbids civil disobedience while Jed questions whether a 2ker may employ the Bible in this way.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Bret responds to me that his case for Ron Paul and paleo-conservatism come directly from biblical teaching on the fifth and eighth commandments.
Several points of clarification seem to be in order. First, 2kers do appeal to the Bible. They do so in their personal lives all the time. They even appeal to the Bible — you know, “my kingdom is not of this world,” does not come from Aristotle — to argue for legitimacy of 2k. Two-kingdom theology is thoroughly biblical (or at least tries to be) and its advocates don’t let differences between the kingdoms prevent them from seeing that — to borrow a line from the old E. F. Hutton commercials — when the Bible speaks, believers listen. As I have repeatedly insisted in different forums, the eighth commandment compels me to question whether I should shop at Walmart or at Gelzer’s Hardware. After Sam Walton is not my neighbor, the one whose welfare I am supposed to seek. But Mr. Gelzer is. The Bible gives some instruction about economics. I should try to apply to my life. I don’t see how that is inconsistent with 2k because it is not.
Second, this appeal to the Bible does not mean that I may require Rabbi Bret to shop locally or Jed to drink only the beers made by San Marcos breweries. Individual believers need to respect the consciences and interpretations of other believers. Some may eat meat offered to idols, and others won’t. Both will appeal to the Bible. But appealing to the Bible doesn’t settle whether believers will act in the same way about a host of matters.
Third, the critics of 2k — aside from uncharitably disregarding 2kers’ appeal to Scripture — can’t seem to fathom the difference between the claims made by individuals about biblical teaching and those of church officers and assemblies. For instance, because the Baylys’ believe the Bible compels them to protest at abortion clinics, they believe that church assemblies must call all believers to similar forms of protest. They even go a step farther and think that anyone who dissents from their application of Scripture disobeys the Bible. (Wow!) Meanwhile, folks like Rabbi Bret don’t seem to understand that his appeal to the fifth and eighth commandments for paleoconservatism leaves little room in the church for other perspectives, such as the Covenanters, libertarians, Democrats, or monarchists. Yet, the Reformed creeds insist that church assemblies should address only matters that are spiritual and ecclesiastical. In other words, when the church speaks as institutional church, she must have a biblical warrant. And that explains why the creeds don’t address education, math, or economics. The Bible doesn’t require God’s people to have a uniform method of delivering education, a base-ten system of math, or a commitment to free markets.
The bottom line is that the Bible does not solve the problems that critics of 2k think it does. If you believe in Christian liberty, which is premised upon the idea that Christians have liberty in matters where Scripture is silent — from whether or not to meet for worship at 11:00 on Sundays to whether or not to drive an SUV — then appealing to the Bible will not yield the unity or uniformity in politics or culture that Bible thumpers tout.