Wishing Evangelicals Would Leave Politics Alone

Before all of the anti-dualists and despisers of otherworldliness get riled up, the point of this post is not for evangelicals or any kind of Christian to abdicate their duties as citizens. Instead, it is that injecting religion into politics has neither helped politics nor aided religion.

Two recent confirmations of this come from Mikelmann’s post on Rick Santorum’s appeal to evangelicals. He notes that Santorum, some kind of conservative Roman Catholic, has had more appeal to Protestants than those in his own communion. (Lyman Beecher and Josiah Strong are rolling in their graves.)

So, whereas John F. Kennedy seemed to put to rest the idea that a Catholic President would be subservient to the Pope, Santorum has made it an issue all over again. So he must be the choice of Catholics, right? Not according to the New York Times:

Many Catholics take issue with Mr. Santorum’s approach to their faith. Mr. Santorum, polls show, has lost the Catholic vote in every primary contest so far, some by wide margins.

Putting this all together, the Catholics don’t support a Catholic who won’t separate his church from the state, but the Politico-Evangelicals do. And that, my friends, is one more reason why politics is such a great spectator sport.

The second comes from an interview with Carl Trueman and Derek Thomas in which they were asked about the challenges of living in the United States as British citizens. Trueman replied in a way that should embarrass American Christians:

The challenge is often knowing who are the genuine Christians and who are the mere cultural ones. It is not so much the case in Philadelphia but in many parts of the South, church is still the place to go to be seen and to set up business deals after the service.

My wife recently remarked to me that, in the UK, we rarely knew how friends at church voted. Politics simply was not part of the conversation and nobody presumed to assume that you voted one way or the other. There is still a certain overlap here between politics and theology, some aggressive manifestations of which can make life uncomfortable for a foreigner. The ‘culture war’ aspect of the church is one of the strangest aspects of the church here from a foreigner’s perspective.

Again, none of this means that evangelicals should retreat from the public square, though it does suggest entering the public square as citizens rather than as believers would be a help. But it does mean that until we clear up confusions like evangelicals supporting Roman Catholic candidates on Christian grounds and non-American evangelicals feeling estranged from evangelicalism’s politicized atmosphere, the folks who insist on the value of religion for public life have some work to do.

48 thoughts on “Wishing Evangelicals Would Leave Politics Alone

  1. A hearty amen from this Baptist, who views Roger Williams as a hero, and knows something about the contribution of Baptists to religious liberty in this country.

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  2. You assume that the foreigners are beginning from the right starting point. This assumes an awful lot. Perhaps their point of view is mistaken. Are you aware of the ecclesiastical and cultural debacle that is the UK? I’m not sure this is the best argument. I’m also not sure I understand why Christians shouldn’t talk of politics after worship. Is not God the author of government? Even in its corrupt state it is still a reflection of his sovereign rule. Is not much of what passes for US government today ungodly and encouraging immorality? Shouldn’t Christians make ethical decisions about the government they have and even more want? Isn’t God displeased with the nation in a federal sense because of our leader’s choices? Even more, shouldn’t the leaders of the church help their people make these ethical distinctions? And really, is Dr. Trueman not able to distinguish who is and is not a true Christian? Your commentaries are consistantly logical and thoughtful. But this time, not so much. In Christ.
    Michael

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  3. Excellent point, D.G. I was making this point – less scholarly of course – to a friend of yours last week!

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  4. While I am not a culture warrior (I voted for Gov. Huntsman who has subsequently dropped out of the race), I continue to be amazed at how little self-criticism evangelicals from the U.K. tend to have about their own positions. Why should the differences between the U.S. and the U.K. be resolved in favor of the U.K.? Is simply giving up on the slaughter of millions of unborn children really the option that Christians in the U.S. should emulate?

    Furthermore, it should be obvious that in a country (or group of countries) where church attendance may involve less than 6% of the population (source: Religious trends 5, Brieley Table 2005 12.9.1) the relationship between church members and politics is going to be different than in a country like the U.S. which is still quite religious.

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  5. I should have been clearer. The 6% attendance figure that I noted was for weekly church attendance. Approximately 15% of the population in the U.K. reports attending church at least once per month. The point remains the same if it is compared to the 43% of Americans who report (source Gallup 2010 poll) that they attend church weekly or nearly every week and the 54% of Americans who report that they attend church about once per month or more frequently.

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  6. @David Booth – I don’t see how the point of this post requires American citizens to discontinue the work against abortion. To my mind, abortion is a violation of the individual’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – hence the Constitutional understanding of the individual’s right to life being violated by other individuals, against the Constitutional framework. That is a case that can be won, state-by-state, if federalism(state rights) is invigorated(as it should be). There is a big difference between citizens getting involved in this issue as citizens, in comparsion to the Rick Santorum danger-zone of trying to impose a Biblical norm of morality and culture uniformly on a free society. We have two problems here, evangelicals seem to leap from with little though: One, Biblical morality jettisoned from its otherwordly, thus powerful context when used outside of the historical-redemptive root of Holy Scripture, thus the Christian Faith. Secondly, the Bible – and its teaching – carries no legal standing in America … So why would a Christian offer a polemic against abortion based on the Bible to summit state law, Federal Law, or cultural change? It seems to me, the legality of abortion is a horrid law to many unbelievers, religious or not, based on general moral convictions and a constitutional perspective seeking the freedom of the individual. There is a consenus out there to be mined by the “light of nature” – and it would seem wise to use this to try and reclamate laws which free and liberate the unborn child. I understand your concerns, but the broader concern, that is a Christianity removed from its central root – call it nominalism, theoistic deism, is a huge problem in our land … And Christianity, especially in America, is increasgingly becoming a faith defined by its political connoations and NOT the creeds of the faith. The civil, moral, bare bones Christianity for cultural warfare is to blame for this … It is why so many evangelicals who are conservative, and even those who are not, consider mormons Christian; why people like Glenn Beck are considered evangelical … There is so much confusion about what is Christian and when it is talked about it is so often completely removed from its actual doctrinal creed and teachings. I just do not see how Christians using Christianity in the public square – as part of the culture war – has illumined the faith, nor reformed our cultural or polity atrophy.

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  7. Hi David,

    I entirely agree with your comment that “Christianity, especially in America, is increasgingly becoming a faith defined by its political connotations and NOT the creeds of the faith.” This is a terrible situation and is one of many reasons why I am not a culture warrior.

    Nevertheless, the reason why abortion enters the debate is because, at the national level, one party keeps running candidates who oppose abortion and one party keeps running candidates who favor legalized abortion as well as promoting legalized abortion in other countries. Churches who go out of their way to ever avoid making anyone uncomfortable are clearly going to attract more people who favor the legal killing of children than those that believe that God’s word actually applies to us.

    Your comment “It seems to me, the legality of abortion is a horrid law to many unbelievers …” simply doesn’t match the facts on the ground. The overwhelming majority of Americans who want to make abortion illegal (as opposed to those who merely find it distasteful) do so because of their religious beliefs. The reason why political campaigns target pro-life advertising toward evangelicals is simply because evangelicals are much more likely to be pro-life than the general population. Around 80% of evangelicals want to make abortion illegal except in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.

    Your comment about the Bible having no legal standing in the U.S. strikes me as a bit odd. Other than the Constitution, which is primarily procedural law, none of the reasons why anyone votes for anything have any legal standing (and, of course, people can be in favor of amending the Constitution). That is, the reasons why unbelievers vote for issues have no more legal standing than the Bible does. People can vote for whatever they want for whatever reasons they want to. Furthermore, for me to pretend that my reading of the Bible doesn’t influence my views on homosexuality would be dishonest – even though it is quite possible to build arguments against homosexuality without appealing to the Bible. I would say the same thing about abortion. I am happy to have pro-life arguments in the public square that are based upon arguments that never mention the Bible. Nevertheless, my pro-life convictions definitely do flow out of my reading of Scripture and it would be dishonest of me to pretend otherwise.

    David

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  8. David & David, I’m never sure why all roads lead to abortion, but it sure would be refreshing to hear those who oppose abortion the way David Booth seems to want to see speak of being “anti-abortion” instead of the politically spun term for the age of positivity “pro-life,” and even more refreshing not to see things framed in terms of rights of individuals but rather obligations to neighbors.

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  9. Hi Zrim,

    I’m happy to speak of being anti-abortion but actually think pro-life is fine too. After all, I’m not trying to stop a procedure but to protect life. In the words of the Larger Catechism:

    Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
    A. 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; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

    So, as a Confessional Reformed Protestant, I believe that my responsibility in keeping the sixth commandment goes far beyond being opposed to abortion.

    David

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  10. David,

    Zrim’s point is that the term “pro-life” is something of an inaccurate euphemism. Your position, defined accurately, is to enact laws that would impose criminal punishment on certain persons associated with providing an abortion. Thus, your position is more accurately stated as being “pro-criminalization”.

    After all, I suspect that you would withhold the term “pro-life” from anyone who did not agree with your desires to impose criminal punishment. After all, the answer to Q135 doesn’t militate that the state enact criminal laws to punish every act that is inconsistent with the Sixth Commandment. Or maybe you indeed favor jail time for people who are not suber in their consumption of meat and drink, no?

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  11. Genesis 9: 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

    6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
    for God made man in his own image.

    mcmark asks: is the “covenant” given in the verses above “pro-life”? Is the punishment for taking life “criminalization” by a secular nation-state in which believer and non-believer cooperate on the basis of some “common” principle? Or is it the revealed God of the Bible who requires worship and demands the death of those who take life? Or both? Or neither? (Not to frame the questions!)

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  12. David B., but to add to the oddities, england does have an established church. And I don’t know for sure, but I bet they have more restrictions on abortion than we do. The U.S., with such a religious populous, has the most liberal laws in the world on abortion.

    I’m not blaming evangelicals for this. But I don’t think religiously based partisan politics have helped. In fact, going back to the perfectionist evangelicals of the 19th century and their insistence on a righteous nation, evangelicals abandoned a position that might have allowed local authorities (states) to regulate such matters. When national policies are moral issues, it is an either-or proposition. No compromise is allowed. That has been disastrous.

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  13. David B., but let’s be honest. The point isn’t so much to “protect life” as it is to protect certain kinds of lives, but even more specifically the weak and defenseless, but even more specifically those that inhabit wombs. I’m on your side, but I just wish those of us who oppose legalized abortion would refrain from speaking as if we’re interested in “protecting life.” There are myriad ways life isn’t being protected in the wide world, but if we were to really be “pro-life” the concern would be far more reaching.

    And to bring it back to some relevance for the post, when American Christians talk about this issue, suggesting it’s central to the practice of the faith, what they’re doing without perhaps being aware is that they’re making Christianity captive to very partisan politics and particular social concerns. You say to David, “I entirely agree with your comment that ‘Christianity, especially in America, is increasgingly becoming a faith defined by its political connotations and NOT the creeds of the faith.’ This is a terrible situation and is one of many reasons why I am not a culture warrior.”
    Kudos, but if I’m right about pro-lifery being highly particularized then isn’t it a problem to align very narrow social and political concern with the faith?

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  14. Dr. Hart,

    I agree with you. Actually, I may be stronger than you on this issue. I believe that nationalism has been one of the great heresies of the 20th century. This is easy to see when one looks at National Socialism in Germany or the Soviet Union, but we should not miss the tremendous amount of dame done in the U.S. by the blending of Christianity and Americanism (interestingly – or sadly – this has been done by both conservatives and liberals). So, when organizations like the Christian Coalition argue for a $500 middle class tax cut – we should understand that things have run pretty badly off the rails.

    My point is simply that resolving the differences between the U.K. and the U.S. in favor of the U.K. on this issue (which every Christian theologian from the U.K. that I’ve ever heard has done) is simplistic.

    David

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  15. Hi Bob,

    Yes, I am arguing for the criminalization of killing innocent human beings. But claiming that calling this idea pro-life is a euphemism is really pretty odd. Other than marijuana use, I can’t off the top of my head think of any issue that is spoken of in terms of criminalization/decriminalization (and of course, the language of decriminalization was and is used by those who want to make it legal).

    BTW – The Larger catechism says: “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others …” Why isn’t voting one of those lawful endeavors?

    David

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  16. Hi Zrim,

    Rather than going round and round, I will just say that we disagree, offer a few clarifying comments, and stop here.

    Clarifying comments:

    1. I am in favor of the government protecting all sorts of lives. If gangs are roaming through certain parts of the country killing black men – I want that stopped and I want government to use the force entrusted to it to stop it.

    2. The reason why abortion is such a delineating issue is the shear scale of it. I would still be opposed to abortion if their were only 3 or 4 abortions taking place every year but the scale does matter. During WW II the British naturally expected their government to focus on winning the war against Nazi Germany and not to focus on environmental problems. This isn’t because environmental policy is unimportant, but our circumstances force us to choose priorities. Since Roe vs. Wade there have been more than 50,000,000 abortions in the U.S. To treat such a mass slaughter as though it were just another issue that “good people can disagree about” is immoral.

    3. Referring to the mass killing of children as a “very narrow social and political concern” actually concerns me a great deal. I hope that you will reconsider this expression. Although we don’t know each other, I really doubt you would say that about “decriminalizing” the murder of Mormons.

    Your brother,

    David

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  17. >>>>. . . it sure would be refreshing to hear those who oppose abortion the way David Booth seems to want to see speak of being “anti-abortion” instead of the politically spun term for the age of positivity “pro-life,” . . . <<<<

    Zrim:

    Carl Truman has spoken to this use of "spin" when he and some others led the charge to oust someone at WTS. It is political speak. I don't know of anyone who does not understand what is meant by the term "pro-life."

    BTW, what do you make of the term "pro-choice?"

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  18. David B., I understand your point about scale, but I suppose I’m still more inclined to restrained language since unrestrained language tends to foster unbecoming speech (and behavior). I’ll think about “very narrow and political concern” if you consider referring to a certain class of human beings as “innocent” as opposed to “weak and defenseless.” That innocent language concerns me as a Calvinist.

    But back to scale, I still don’t see how scale justifies aligning the faith with a particular political issue. But try a thought experiment. Should large scale American involvement in foreign lands be resolved in favor of those American Christians whose dispositions about it mirror the British evangies about abortion or those non-American Christians who think it’s mostly a bad thing? The alternative is to say neither because scale isn’t the fulcrum but relevance is.

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  19. Paul, I don’t either. And my point is that what is meant by “pro-life” is “opposed to abortion.” So why not speak in terms of opposition instead of affirmation when trying to convey something about opposition?

    Re “pro-choice,” I tend to think the whole American discussion is framed in terms of rights. Lifers are all about the right to life and choicers are all about the right to privacy. And they both ask the rest of us to choose between the two, which always seems unsatisfying. Framing in terms of obligations to neighbors would be better. That would seem to result in disfavor for choicers, but somebody’s got to lose.

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  20. DB cites statistics stating that, “….since Roe vs. Wade there have been more than 50,000,000 abortions in the U.S. To treat such a mass slaughter as though it were just another issue that “good people can disagree about” is immoral…”

    If this figure is accurate I’d be curious to know how the demographics of it break down. I suppose we’ll never find out since the “planned parenthood” (there’s yet another euphemism for you) clinics have them they probably won’t release in the name of personal privacy.

    Also, MM says, “…putting this all together, the Catholics don’t support a Catholic who won’t separate his church from the state, but the Politico-Evangelicals do…”

    Is this an accurate conclusion or is it just that the liberal Papists in this country are wary of anyone in any way, shape, or form aligning themselves with Rome in such a polarizing way that it could lead to the loss of their “personal choice freedoms” (e.g., birth control and maybe even abortions – I assume that many of these left wingers of Roman church in this country see nothing wrong with the imposition on employers to pay for abortifaciants (sp?))

    Finally, “…polls show, [Santorum] has lost the Catholic vote in every primary contest so far, some by wide margins…” Again, are demographics available that show which states rejected him. I assume mainly in the NE, but not sure.

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  21. Evangelicalism’s theological corruption is leading it back to Rome or the social gospel of the mainline churches.

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  22. >>>>I’m not blaming evangelicals for this. But I don’t think religiously based partisan politics have helped.<<<<

    DGH:

    What kind of efforts in America or anywhere else in the history of the world has helped make for a more decent and civil society?

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  23. >>>The challenge is often knowing who are the genuine Christians and who are the mere cultural ones. It is not so much the case in Philadelphia but in many parts of the South, church is still the place to go to be seen and to set up business deals after the service.<<<

    Isn't WTS still in Philadelphia? Then how would Carl Truman know what goes on in the south? I guess the mainline north is more pious than the evangelical south, huh? This is a ridiculous statement.

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  24. David,

    I share Zrim’s concerns about the alleged innocence of an early-term aborted fetus. To the extent that an early-term fetus has spiritual life (and I do not concede that it does), it is entirely improper to suggest that it is innocent, i.e., free from original sin.

    I’d guess that you believe that spiritual life begins when the egg is fertilized. If so, do you also favor criminalizing the use of oral contraceptives. After all, standard oral contraceptives often act only after fertilization. Therefore, if you do the math, every sexually active woman taking oral contraceptives is probably committing about 1-2 “abortions” a year. This far exceeds the number of abortions performed by MVA, EVA, or D&C. Yet I suspect that you don’t typically disparage users of oral contraceptives as murderers. And what about miscarriages? If you believe that spiritual life starts at the point of fertilization, do you demand that the police should be investigating every miscarriage to see if there is probable cause for a manslaughter charge? I’m guessing that you don’t.

    I guess my point is this: If you favor criminalizing abortion based on the argument that spiritual life starts at fertilization, then you are bound to advocate for other policies that go hand-in-hand with that. Over the years, though, I’ve noticed that few abortion opponents are interested in criminalizing the use of oral contraceptives or in requiring police investigations of miscarriages. Why is that? If the state is required, as the pro-criminalization crowd insists, to protect human life from the point of fertilization, why isn’t the pharmacist at CVS far more of a mass murderer than the abortion doctor?

    I’d submit that the reluctance to picket CVS reveals a bit of hypocrisy in the way the pro-criminalization crowd addresses abortion. It suggests that those who say that life starts at fertilization really don’t believe it…at least not all the time. This, of course, suggests that the cries of “Murder! Murder!” are really little more than a rhetorical strategy, i.e., a trump card that you can use to dismiss those who disagree with you. After all, why should anyone waste time debating someone who turns a blind eye to murder? See, e.g., Baylyblog.

    I’ve never really understood why people feel that the church needs to run into the public square and toss its pearls before swine. And when that language is excessively hyperbolic, it tends to smack of desperation and resentment. And no one listens to a desperate man…at least not for long.

    I’m not suggesting that abortion is a good thing. On the other hand, I cringe whenever people, like you and the Baylys, use abortion as a type of trump card. (“2K people must be wrong because their views lead them to accept the inevitability of murdering babies. What awful people!”)

    Concerning abortion, I share Dr. Woolley’s hesitation to have the church-qua-church speak out on the issue of abortion. The Bible gives no clear indication as to when spiritual life begins, and therefore gives no clear indication of when prohibitions against murder are necessarily implicated. My conscience convicts me that early-term abortion is sinful, at least because we should exercise prudence, even in destroying a potential life. But I’m honest enough to admit that Scripture doesn’t compel my view. Therefore, I’m not willing to bind another’s conscience on something that is not clearly and unequivocally militated by Scripture.

    Concerning voting, I will not vote for a candidate who would enact laws whose principal justification stems from religious concerns as instead of a rational analysis of the natural order. Otherwise, we risk giving the state jurisdiction over matters that belong exclusively in church courts. For example, I am convicted that it would be a sin for me to vote for a soft-core theocrat like Rick Santorum.

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  25. I wonder if the same critiques offered here are ever put to Mormons (maybe if I read Mormon blogs I would see this same perspective)? Is there any question who Utah’s electoral votes will go to? Does anyone ever raise the question about Mormons disassociating their religious convictions to their politics? Does anyone raise the issue that Romney was a leader in their church structure (I am not 100% sure, but I believe his position was equivalent to presiding over a Presbytery) and how that might affect his leadership? Maybe Democrats will do this. Or did his governship prove that his faith has no impact on his leadership? If so, is that a good thing? Or does Romney have a better handle on how to live out his faith in the public square than Evangelicals and Roman Catholics? All the critique is put forward to Evangelicals and the criticisms tend to flow toward Santorum or Gingrich and how they present themselves. The burden for engaging in “proper” politics falls upon Evangelicals (and sometimes Roman Catholics) while it is never extended to Mormons. Are they off limits? Or are the just written off because of their history and heretical theology? Or because they are not Christians these arguments do not apply to them? I would like to hear some discussion of these issues.

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  26. >>>>After all, standard oral contraceptives often act only after fertilization.<<<<

    Bob:

    I don't think that is accurate. The aim of the pill (COCP) is to control ovulation. It is a contraceptive. What you are describing is a contragestive such as the morning after pill (RU-486).

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  27. >>>>My conscience convicts me that early-term abortion is sinful, at least because we should exercise prudence, even in destroying a potential life. But I’m honest enough to admit that Scripture doesn’t compel my view.<<<<

    Bob:

    What precisely do you need to see from Scripture to compel your view?

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  28. Paul,

    I suspect that you are well aware of the reasons why someone would argue that Scripture does not compel binding others’ conscience on such issues. Your feigned ignorance on such matters seems to be consistent with the dishonest way that you interact with folks who comment here.

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  29. Bob- is the qualification “spiritual” necessary? I don’t think the commandment is concerned with specifically “spiritual” life but rather life. And I agree: any contraceptive which acts primarily, or secondarily, as an abortifacient should be illegal. In my humble opinion. I certainly don’t believe the church should discipline those members who disagree. I do agree with you that there should be more consistency. I would focus on abortion for pragmatic reasons: easier argument to win than banning all abortifacients. If only works-viewers understood that their practice could be morally defended by 2k instead of, by their pragmatism, making themselves hypocrites.

    Ach well; Joseph’s bones.

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  30. Bob,

    I do beg your pardon, sir. My ignorance is genuine. And I am very much interested in learning how Scripture “does not” bind someone’s conscience on the issue of abortion.

    Maybe that discussion has taken place somewhere else and you or somebody still reading this topic could kindly direct me?

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  31. @David Booth – I am unsure why my comment about the Bible having no legal authority in the U.S. was odd, Mr Booth. I simply meant, when comes to our laws, they were not ordered and directed by the total moral commandents of the Biblical testimony. They were based on general equity ideas about morality and an enlightment version of Natural Law. With Zrim, I agree, this does tend to be an issue that drifts toward abortion every time, rather than ideas centered around talking states rights issues and seeking a citizen approach to politics rather than a Bible thumping one – which in my view is not only unBiblical, but made it almost impossible to have an undiluted expression o classical liberalism by candidates in politics, especially nationally, where we most need it. With D.G. Hart I radically agree that strident moral issues – especially in the name of Christianity – at the national level has been a disaster! It has not helped creating the “Christian society” evangelicals seek, nor has it decreased government the way so called conservatives seek. Its easy to see why: Santorum like politics reek of early 20th century moralistic progressives like William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson, than limited government models argued for by Thomas Sowell or Walter E Williams … Throw in Milton Friedman in there too. The only good I see Santorum doing is being a giant light bulb in this race to show how unreasonable evangelicals – how thoughtless – they have come in both matters of Church and state. But such is the age we find our moments in – and have been called too – but I am bewildered enough as it is.

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  32. @ Zrim – Clearly we agree on most issues. And I do agree our thinking is about obligations to neighbors rather than rights of individuals. My post was directed at David B from a Constitutional perspective, which first and formost lays out the rights of individual. Protecting these rights by dismantling the encroachment of federal power, allows for free citizens such as ourselves to live out our beliefs of “Love Thy Neighbor” … Certainly as confessional Christians we would have minor and major disagreements with the Founders – many of them – vision and philsophy of the individual being the most important aspect in terms of liberty. However, it is the Constitution’s unique protection of the individual, which allow free citizens to live out that different perspective,and hold an “obligations to neighbor” perspective.

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  33. David, fair points. My concern generally is how those who would otherwise conceive themselves as conservative Calvinists seem to speak in ways that suggest an unchecked influence of the pro-life movement (e.g. rights and innocence) as opposed to confessional orthodoxy (e.g. obligations and sinfulness). I think those categories are fundamentally different and I worry about what using movement language means for confessional adherents. One worry in particular is the idolizing of life itself.

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  34. Does the “right to life” end at birth? Most churches in the usa are so co-opted by patriotism that the
    nation-state no longer needs to worry much about reaching accomodation with churches. The once every four year trip to the voting booth is only a sacramental gesture toward “freedom”. The participation of soft sacralists like Santorum in this ritual is not about an undue influence of either gospel or law on the body politic. It’s about baptizing the deadly violence (Zionist and otherwise) which defines a pagan idolatry which masquerades as exceptional and compatible with Christianity. It’s not “secular”. It’s religious. American patriotism is false religion.

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  35. Just a few things to consider in the debate. 1. Locke’s letter on toleration found here: http://www.constitution.org/jl/tolerati.htm and John Millbank’s article in First Things here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/02/004-the-ethics-of-self-sacrifice-20

    It would seem Christianity is incompatible with the Deistic 2K notions of Franklin, Locke etc in light of Millbank’s argument that self sacrifice defines ethics for the believer. Many catholics as well fully embrace some version of the 2K approach (a la Kennedy’s speech) which is probably inconsistent with catholic doctrine, but politically acceptable under a Lockian understanding of Governement and the Jacobian social contract theory. Dabney harshly opposes such a theory in his Practical Philosophy…”Second, the theory is atheistic and unchristian. Such were Hobbes and the Jacobins. It is true that Lock tried to hold it in a Christian sense, but it is none the less distinctly atheistic in that it wholly discards God, man’s relation to Him, His right to determine our condition of moral existence…So, in the insane pride of its perfectionism, it overlooks the fact, that man’s will is ever disordered and unrighteous; and hence cannot be the just role of his action…” The allusion to Franklin’s “insane perfectionism” is spot on when it comes to the 2Kers view. Locke writes himself, “Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the mutual toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion, I must needs answer you freely that I esteem that toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church.” Is that the chief characteristic which Christ exemplifies? A Deist like Franklin would probably say yes, but thankfully men like Dabney and Millbank see the sham in such a baseless ethical position.

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  36. Paul,

    I believe I have previously directed you to Dr. Woolley’s minority report, which addresses the issue rather squarely. In my opinion, Dr. Woolley’s analysis far exceeds the majority report, which was written by the ignominious Mr. Frame.

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  37. Alexander,

    Are you sure that your pragmatism isn’t at least partly guided by the fact that most folks in our society would overwhelmingly oppose laws that criminalized the use of certain oral contraceptives and required miscarrying women to undergo criminal investigations? But if you believe that legally protectable human life starts at the point of fertilization (and that early-term abortion should therefore be criminalized), you must of necessity favor such things.

    Also, I use the term “spiritual” life to refer to the point after which terminating a pregnancy would necessarily be murder in the eyes of God. You argue that that occurs upon fertilization, so the term doesn’t really have any utility to you. But such a position is not required by Scripture. See, e.g., Dr. Woolley’s report. I hesitate to say more, as my training is principally in the law and not in theology.

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  38. Woolley concludes by stating that if God has not prohibited an action, the church may not do so. Do you take that to mean that I should not do so, either?

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  39. Brendan, toleration in society is not the same as toleration in the church. Separating church and state allows for that difference. Without it, you get the Church of Scotland and the Church of England, state churches that need to reflect the diversity of their nations.

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  40. Bob-

    I favour the banning of any contraceptive which acts as an abortofacient and would happily vote to outlaw them. However, because I don’t see this issue as essential to the preaching of the Gospel and the gathering in of the elect, but rather as a political issue (which, of course, touches upon belief) I don’t see a problem with being pragmatic. Politics requires some degree of pragmatism (in the application of principle) and here we are dealing with the secular realm, not the churchly realm. Whilst I would prefer that abortion in all its forms was illegal, I realise that is not going to happen. So I would rather ban as much abortion as possible, than undermine attempts to ban as much as possible by arguing for all forms of abortion to be banned.

    My point about “spiritual” is that the command against murder is not restricted to the murder of “spiritual” life: I do not see that qualification in the prohibition. Whether or not the commandment includes or makes an exception for abortion, its understanding of life does not depend on that life being “spiritual”. Spiritual life is regenerated life. Therefore, following your logic, the murder of any unregenerate man would be ok, because it would not break the prohibition.

    Perhaps by spiritual life you mean something closer to awareness or consciousness. I don’t think we have warrant to use the term spiritual in speaking of life, i.e. individual persons, in any way other than that they have been regenerated, raised from (spiritual) death unto (spiritual) life.

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  41. “the Catholics don’t support a Catholic who won’t separate his church from the state”…

    Puts chills up my spine…

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