What Makes the Religious Right Different from Political Islam?

I (all about me) will be in Chattanooga this week to speak at the University of Tennessee in the LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecturer Series. I will be drawing on recent reflections about Islam and Turkey to consider the assets and liabilities of Christian political engagement in the United States. Here is the description from the Philosophy and Religion Department, which is hosting the event:

D.G. Hart’s comparison of Political Islam to Christian activists in the United States is a provocative and even inflammatory juxtaposition. Aside from obvious and significant differences between political activism and the use of violence, conservative Muslims and evangelical Protestants do register significant objections to secular understandings of society and the state. They also seek to have secular governments recognize, if not implement, the morality taught in sacred texts. In sum, both groups are raising important questions about the secular politics and whether efforts to bracket religion actually end up imposing a secular version of morality on citizens. And yet, some political observers in the United States do not find the Religious Right to be as threatening as political Islam. On the other hand, other commentators see no difference because all politically motivated religious groups are at odds with the norms of liberal democracy. These considerations raise important questions about whether Christianity is more compatible than Islam with liberal democratic societies, and whether secular constructions of public life owe their existence the developments of Christianity in the West. D. G. Hart will explore these questions in the light of his recent book From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism (Eerdmans, 2011).

The event is scheduled for Thursday, September 27, 2012, Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm in the University Center’s Raccoon Mountain Room (269). The public is welcome. Rotten tomatoes are not.

62 thoughts on “What Makes the Religious Right Different from Political Islam?

  1. Congratulations on graduating from “provocative” to “inflammatory!” (Normally I’m reticent to use exclamation points but it’s hard to put a mere stop after “inflammatory.” Wait, I just did it..)

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  2. John Howard Yoder—The “public theologians” are like Paul’s Greeks. They are concerned not to look foolish to their neighbors by making any claims linked to the particularity of Jesus. They think they make it easy to talk their neighbor’s language, but they do so at the cost of having nothing to say that the neighbors do not already know. For the Nations, p50

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  3. And if Reformed folks believe what their confessional revisions say, they would have the same alarm about people who show up now with Calvin’s politics from then.

    “The church was—in principle—permanently debarred from enforcing laws. Calvin did envision ‘a division of labour between magistrates and clergy,’ but it was not one between secular and spiritual matters, between teaching and coercing, between moral instruction and legal enforcement. Instead, both agencies were to use the distinctive resources committed to them by God for the disciplining of the same body of inhabitants . . . to obedience to the same body of laws which covered both piety and righteousness. ” Harro Höpfl, John Calvin’s Christian Polity

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  4. John Howard Yoder, Body Politics— “Agents of a Christian community bear the responsibility to maintain an open process for the interpretation of scripture. The agents of memory, of direction, of linguistic self-consciousness, and of order and due process are the gifts a community needs to ‘go back in history’ and discover what is required if a church is to be faithful to Christ.”

    Of course the truth is that agents of the Enlightenment have taught and continue to teach churches certain lessons about religious liberty. The historical facts say that some religious critics had to assume an anti-church (or anti-this-or-that-church) stance in order to critique the Protestant dependence on the nation-state to accomplish church reforms. Where Zwingli asked for patience to see how much the city council would do, the less “gradual” reformers got no patience from Zwingli.

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  5. David Van Drunnen, Natural Law and the Two kingdoms, P431—“How can the Christian
    participate in the activities of the state that rest upon the threat of coercion…without slipping into a de facto confinement of their Christianity to certain narrow aspects of their lives?

    “In the Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, O’Donovan emphasizes that, in Christ’s resurrection, the earthly powers have been subdued and made subject to divine
    sovereignty. Though the powers are given a secular space and authority to exercise their judicial function, they ought now to serve the church’s mission. After Christ’s ascension, therefore the terms on which secular political authorities function are not the same as they were before. (The Ways of Judgment).”

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  6. “This may indeed be the first event of intellectual importance to take place in a Raccoon Mountain Room.”

    LOL

    That’s a good catch, Eric. Teach me to read slower next time..

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  7. Jack and MenM, what is so inflammatory about comparing two groups who don’t handle secularism well, who in fact think it is anti-religious? It’s just an observation.

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  8. There is that little matter of Jihad that separates our Christian brothers from Radical Islamists. No Christians are advocating killing their left-wing, secularist enemies to my knowledge.

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  9. DGH: “Jack and MenM, what is so inflammatory about comparing two groups who don’t handle secularism well, who in fact think it is anti-religious? It’s just an observation.”

    We didn’t say it – the Philosophy and Religion Department did. As a description, “inflammatory juxtaposition” is half Hollywood, half egghead. If I could photoshop, I’d rig up a movie poster with your picture and those words. Anyone want to volunteer?

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  10. Darryl, nothing wrong at all. And I think there are valid comparisons and contrasts that can be make in light of 2K. My comment is merely an observation.

    Regarding the Crusades and the Inquisition, is it fair to equate those with jihad? We would argue that the Crusades and Inquisition were in violation of the teaching of Scripture and true Christianity thus not valid as acts of the Church. Whereas, from my understanding, Islam and the Koran teach jihad, when necessary, as a required means of spreading Islamic theocratic rule.

    To quote Andrew McCarthy, U.S. prosecutor in the first World Trade Tower bombing who’s researched and written extensively on this topic:

    the concept of “jihad” stemmed from classical Islamic doctrine, and that its original meaning involved armed combat against unbelievers in order to fulfill the divine injunction to spread Islam. Regardless of what the politicians were saying in Washington, no one tried to stop us, in our New York courtroom, from proving that the terrorists had been animated by a supremacist ideology that was firmly rooted in Islamic scripture.

    The classic Islamic purpose of jihad is either conversion of the infidel or his submission via dhimmitude.

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  11. Erik,

    You should hear the rhetoric coming out of some reconstructionist’s mouths when it comes to enforcing the first table. Pretty bloody.

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  12. Just the fact that much of the religious right wants to ‘coercively'(use of the state) impose their religious principles upon a mixed populace is contrary to 2k and the gospel ministry. That alone is enough to draw parallels to Islamists and their religious zealotry.

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  13. You don’t have to go back as far as the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. The Puritan civil magistrates were killing “witches” and Quakers up until 1692.

    I don’t know how much we can legitimately make the 2k case against theonomists and reconstructionists. They are a tiny minority of a tiny minority.

    If we are going to make a serious case we have to address what evangelicals are doing and we have to examine what their aims really are. I don’t think they want to return to the Constantinian paradigm (most probably don’t even know what that is). The question is, what do they want? Put some sharp questions to most of them and you’ll find out that they don’t exactly know themselves.

    My point is, we can educate others on this issue if we know who and what we are truly opposing.

    Steve Deace (a local radio host) is the guy I try to work on. stevedeace dot com is his website. Smart guy, claims to be Reformed, fairly new Christian, goes to a Baptist Church — fully on board with evangelical political activism.

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  14. Erik,

    Rather than reconstr. or theonomists, you can address the ‘coercive’ nature of ‘Christian America’ rhetoric, which they all buy into, and set that rhetoric over/against the non-coercive nature of the gospel ministry and thus the appropriateness of 2K to interacting in the public square. IOW, I’d push back against the ‘coercive’ tactic of legislating ‘christian’ principles and it’s inconsistency with the calling of the church as ministers of reconciliation.

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  15. Erik, the ones I read don’t really want pluralism. They cherry pick constitutional provisions to support “our” rights while they are seemingly oblivious to the provisions that protect “their” rights. There’s no apparent recognition of a form/structure that will benefit all citizens. In fact, the antithesis is such that it’s hard for them to even think about fellow-citizens who have common interests while maintaining religious difference. And rights are a zero sum game – “we” lose, “they” win, and vice versa. If you find anything different in Deace and his other Iowa buds point it out, because I can’t.

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  16. John Howard Yoder, “Exodus and Exile”, Cross Currents 23:3, 1974, p306—“The Joseph/Daniel/Mordecai model is the diaspora contribution to the pagan community and not theocratic takeover. The complement to the Exodus of the counter-community is a not a
    revolution by the righteous oppressed, but rather the witness of the resident minority.”

    Yoder, For the Nations, p69—“Jesus Christ further validated the already expressed Jewish reasons,for the already existing ethos of not being in charge and not considering any local state structure to be the primary movement of history.”

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  17. Jack,

    I haven’t read Stark. As for Jihad, I am struck by Saul’s failure as a king — not to mention the failure of the Israelites more generally, to purge the land of the pagans. The OT may not use words like infidel or jihad, but it is full of holy war.

    The real difference then is whether Christians, Jews, and Muslims have hermeneutical strategies for interpreting an older political theology in less aggressive ways.

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  18. MM – No, I think you have Steve, Cary Gordon, Bob VanderPlaats, et. al. spot on. My point is that those are the guys we need to address our arguments to, not the theonomists. We can defeat theonomists and its like a tree falling in the forest that no one hears.

    I had a long Facebook debate with Gordon once and it is hard to find any common ground with him since he is a Pentecostal. Deace at least claims some Reformed affinity.

    It’s hard to even get Evangelicals to debate, though. They either avoid you because they are intimidated or they ignore you because they think that they are where it’s at. After all, it’s them that the TV people want to interview as the representatives of the religious right.

    No one knows what to make of Reformed 2K folks.

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  19. Erik and Sean, and to add to Sean’s point, I wonder what a Christian political activist says when he confronts a secularist who thinks that an appeal to biblical morality is as objectionable as one to Sharia law. He may respond that Christianity is true and Islam isn’t. But for some Americans, neither is true, and we seem to have constitutional provisions for those people.

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  20. Right, Darryl. The OT is full of holy war. Yet is holy war part of Christian doctrine? Do we not have a context for understanding the OT examples of removing the pagan from the Land? Islamic doctrine, in fact, requires jihad as a prescribed duty to further Islamic rule. Again, as to theological doctrine on this issue, The teaching of Christianity and Islam are poles apart, the Crusades and Inquisition notwithstanding.

    The Theonomist or crusader stands in opposition to Christian doctrine through misinterpretation of Scripture and church history. Whereas it is the moderate Muslim, wanting to live and let live (may his tribe increase), who is out of step with Islamic history, theology and the Koran. Therein is the problem.

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  21. I am not saying there’s not an argument to be made, Jack, but it sounds like “special pleading” when we attempt to say that “holy war” is inherent to the practice of Islam but only a mistaken historical circumstance for Christians. Of course it all depends on how you define “holy war’, and if more of us were to agree that God fights the war alone (without us as His agents) , we could give our attention to God’s city on the hill (visible gospel churches) and not worry so much about what agents of idolatry might or might do to the idolatrous American Babylon.

    If we now agree not to defend Augustine for killing Donatists who “re-baptise”, then we shall have to disagree (with Leithart) that Constantine really subverted the empire for God’s glory.

    But unless Christians want to “retreat from cultural engagement”, they are going to have to learn to can kill for a more secularized culture. And then this killing itself will become a mark of civility and civilization! There will have been no transition from the sacred to the secular, but rather a redefinition of what’s sacred. The city for which we kill can’t be the church, so we tend to make the nation for which we kill our church.

    Jack, haven’t you learned from the theo-cons that being anti-holy-war is a cover for liberalism, or even worse, for pacifism? Augustine was not a pacifist. Therefore Christians do not need to be pacifists. When Christians stop retreating from culture, then wars about the culture become Christian wars.

    “Church history is not an empty parenthesis.” (Defending Constantine, p325) We need to work with that which has come about with the passing of time, and if we now revise the political theology of the Magisterial Reformers, we will end up with not being able to kill for anything. And if there’s nothing worth killing for, then there’s no civilization left.

    The solution is simple, according to Leithart. First, we need to sacrifice (kill) the Muslims. Second, we need to move the patriotic rituals out of the realm of the secular and back into the church (which will support the empire). Then and only then will we see the ‘end of exile”.

    If you are patient enough, you can make a nation Christian in the same way that you make an infant a Christian. You baptize it. First you say to your nation that it is a Christian nation, and then you can talk to your nation like you do to Christians. Leithart, page 333: “The Creator made man to participate in and prosecute His wars.”

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  22. Darryl and Jack,

    I assume y’all saw this;

    http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1372&var3=main

    He(Horton) doesn’t think Islam has a hermenuetical ‘out’, other than to deny their faith;

    “In sharp contrast, when Islamists regard all non-Muslims as apostates from their natural birth who must be converted or eradicated, make no distinction between mosque and state, and insist that every aspect of cultural, legal, dietary, economic, political, and social life conform to sharia law, they are faithful interpreters of their religious texts. They do not need any allegorizing hermeneutic. No scripture-twisting or self-justifying misinterpretations are required for this fusion of cult and culture. What we call “radical Islamism” is simply a consistent and straightforward application of Mohammed’s teachings and example, interpreted in the ordinary and natural sense of the texts.”

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  23. Coincidently, Michael Horton interviews professor and author Jeffrey Burton Russell on his book, Exposing Myths about Christianity: A Guide to Answering 145 Viral Lies and Legends on a recent White Horse Inn. Towards the end of the interview, they address the Crusades in order to separate myth from fact:

    http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/09/09/whi-1118-myths-about-christianity/

    Mark, a lot of bad stuff has happened in the name of Christianity which, nonetheless, is not the teaching of Scripture. Citing what God told Israel to do at a specific time and place is not warrant for it to be done whenever by whomever. Islam, both in the Koran and its authoritative teachings, specifically requires jihad, that is armed struggle, as the duty of all Muslims in order to spread its dominion. That is the difference. As I intimated to Darryl, there are valid comparisons between the two regarding using the sword of the civil kingdom and lessons to be learned from that. But even the violent examples you cite, though wrong, were more of a defensive operation of the Church against heresy in order to keep the church pure than an offensive move to conquer kingdoms or convert pagans.

    I’m just trying to keep apples and oranges clearly seen as two separate fruits.

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  24. Thanks, Jack, for the Horton references. I am particularly grateful for the interview with Jeffrey Russell, since I want to read his new book soon. I have read many of his previous books with profit I just finished Gamble’s new City on a Hill book, and it was very good–way more narrowly focused than I could ever be, but exposes well the myth of Reagan.

    Jack: specifically requires jihad, that is armed struggle, as the duty of all Muslims in order to spread its dominion. That is the difference.

    marK: The difference according to me and you. But Leithart diagrees. He thinks that humans were created in the image of God to kill. Are we going to say that he is a heretic?

    jack: As I intimated to Darryl, there are valid comparisons between the two regarding using the sword of the civil kingdom and lessons to be learned from that. But even the violent examples you cite, though wrong, were more of a defensive operation of the Church against heresy in order to keep the church pure than an offensive move to conquer kingdoms or convert pagans.

    mark: my guess is that you are thinking more about Luther and Calvin than you are about Augustine and Constantine. But even then you are reading back into your meta-narrative certain “liberal” ideas that are simply not there in the Magisterial Reformation. One, there is no “the church”. There are at least two churches, and yet the reformers can never rest with that, because on the one hand, they want to keep their inheritance (baptism, ordination) from the “false church”, and on the other hand, they want to say that there is only one church so that the false church is no church.

    Two, the difference between offense and defense deconstructs rather quickly when you study the popular movement (from below) against icons and the conservative (elite reformers aligned with aggressive magistrates) response to those iconoclasts. (see Eirie’s wonderful book). Three, either we can say that there was no missionary impulse with the magisterial reformers, or we have to attend to the reality of Protestant colonialism.

    Jack: I’m just trying to keep apples and oranges clearly seen as two separate fruits.

    mark: And I am not trying to get Magisterial Reformers to confess their sins again, though I wouldn’t mind them seeing the inherent difference between baptizing every infant (on threat of state execution) and only baptizing infants from their own families. I don’t think folks who live in glass houses should be throwing stones at other killers. Even if we deny that we have killed (like they do) for Christendom, we Americans have certainly done a lot of killing.

    What good does it do to say their killing is apples and our killing is oranges? What good does it do to say their killing was for their god and our killing was only for our secular nation? Have we not made our secular nation our god? Whatever you would kill for becomes an idol.

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  25. mark: But Leithart disagrees…
    me: I don’t see what this has to do with my words you quoted. Leithart is not authoritative Scripture nor the authoritative confession of Christian faith. He is one man.

    I had your example of the Donatists in mind…

    Your comments, re: defensive vs. offensive, don’t negate what I wrote. I wonder if you are reading more into my comments than is there.

    Mark, I can’t follow all you’re bringing into this discussion. You seem to want to conflate all kinds of issues that you have with this or that into your response to me.

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  26. Jack, I will be glad to help you follow the issues and how they connect. But I am not bringing them to the table. They are all pretty much there on the surface of that essay you referenced by Horton.

    I do want us to remember that we are talking about killing when we are talking about politics and the Magisterial Reformers. I do want us to think about the idea that all the members of “the one church” were also considered members of the “one state”. In the New England beginning, outside the church there was no membership in the state. The distance between that “old medieval Calvinist’ notion and us means that we are all in some sense “new Calvinists” now.

    The issue Horton emphasizes in his essay on Islam is the nature of the old covenant. In particular, do we think some have “misunderstood” the Mosaic covenant, or do we think that the Mosaic covenant is abrogated?

    Horton: Many Jews in Jesus’ day expected a replay of the old covenant: exodus from exile followed by conquest through holy war. To the very last, they imagined that the Messiah would drive out the Romans and reestablish a theocracy… Ironically, Christ’s bodily absence on earth was filled by a newly converted Caesar. Concerning his patron Constantine, the church father Eusebius explained, “Our divinely favored emperor, receiving, as it were, a transcript of the divine sovereignty, directs, in imitation of God himself, the administration of this world’s affairs.” With divine mandate, therefore, the emperor “subdues and chastens the open adversaries of the truth in accordance with the usages of war.” The medieval imagination was fed by an allegorization of Europe as Israel of old.”

    mark: Those who confuse circumcision with new covenant water baptism are likely to read their own historical situation as a replay of the Mosaic covenant. As Richard Gamble describes Winthrop and the puritans, they were “aristocratic, monarchical, and anti-democratic” (p124). They thought that “the special covenant that carried them to the new world–a covenant of works and not of grace–obligated them to perform their mission to the letter or to incur God’s wrath.” (p46)

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  27. When Horton writes about the West that “the religious diversity makes any alternative to liberal democracy implausible”, does this mean that the West should not tolerate alternatives to liberal democracy? Should this policy of non-toleration for the non-tolerant be restricted to the West or does it apply to the whole world?

    If we say that we will use our nuclear bombs to prevent you from having nuclear bombs, is our intolerance in the interest of tolerance? If democracy is not inherently tolerant (and I agree with Horton that it is not), shouldn’t we give up the rhetoric about our tolerance and confess up to a “realpolitic” which says that we right now have the power to make sure we stay as we are, even if we can’t make you right now as “tolerant” as we are?

    Yes, I am pointing to the smug self-righteousness of the American enterprise. We may not be perfect, but look at our big bad enemy. If we have to become a big bad enemy to them, well, that’s just what we are going to have to do.

    It’s one thing with Winthrop to claim that God has a special covenant of works with us. It’s quite another thing (with Reagan) to claim that we have mostly measured up to the task (with other less special nations being at fault).

    Horton asks for patience and reminds us of the Holy Spirit. I agree.

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  28. Marky Mark, it’s a fair point that Islam doesn’t necessarily reduce to jihad or theocracy. But careful on impugning padeobaptism by associating it with national baptism. 2k PBs know that God’s program is personal and not geo-political, proven by the fact that you can’t baptize a country the way you can an infant.

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  29. The U of Tennessee: “In sum, both groups are raising important questions about the secular politics and whether efforts to bracket religion actually end up imposing a secular version of morality on citizens.”

    Zrim:”But careful on impugning padeobaptism by associating it with national baptism. 2k PBs know that God’s program is personal and not geo-political, proven by the fact that you can’t baptize a country the way you can an infant.”

    mark: For sure, I appreciate the way that “new 2k Calvinists” like Mike Horton are not like those old medieval Calvinists. You know something that Calvin and Luther did not when it comes to baptism.

    Even though “you all” know that not all paedobaptism is alike, I think you sometimes need to be reminded of that. And though you know that not all Reformed folks are 2k, you all (by which I guess mean nobody in particular) sometimes sound as if the 2k version of being Reformed is the only w-view possible. But I think you (with Mike Horton) know that you are still a minority even in the Reformed community.

    So, Zrim, for sure, 2 k folks know the city on the hill as church and not state, and that many represented by state are not in church. But sometimes 2k folks forget that church is more than one church. At least they don’t kill people for not being christened anymore.

    And they don’t anymore kill Roman Catholics in thirty year wars . But even 2 k folks still face the temptation to approve of intolerant geo-political pre-emptive wars against the intolerant others.

    John Kennedy: “We do not imitate, because we are the model.” (135, Gamble, City on a Hill)

    Ronald Reagan quoting Tom Paine: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again”

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  30. I am not sure how many of these soundbites jack will want to follow, but here are a couple
    more connect the dots to instruct Americans on what to do with less than moderate Islam.

    Jonathan Edwards on the new covenant of works he thought God had made with America: “If we think to escape divine judgments as much as other people, with living no better than other people, we are much mistaken. We are a city set on a hill and the honor of God doth greatly depend
    on our behavior.” 19:654

    “We have been greatly distinguished by God as a covenant people. God has distinguished us by making known his covenant to us” sermon #423 on II Chronicles 23:16

    “The official seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony pictures an Indianin a loincloth, and with words coming out of his mouth: ‘come over and help us.’ ” Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates, p25

    Winthrop: “God hath consumed the natives with a great plague in those parts, so as there be few inhabitants left.”

    When he heard of the epidemic caused by European germs (1616-19), King James thanked “Almighty God in his great goodness and bounty toward us for this wonderful plague among the savages.”

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  31. Warning—nobody’s going to get too many points for debating me on this either. To even talk to me is to give me more legitimacy that I “have coming”.

    Al Gore on the crimes of Don Rumsfield: “At Abu Ghraib Ameen Saeed a Sheik was commanded to denounce Islam. After his leg was broken one of his torturers started hitting it while ordering him to curse Islam and then ‘thank Jesus that you are alive’. ”

    Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag, Cambridge, 1999, p9—Americans have rarely sacrificed the lives of others for some sectarian faith. Americans have killed for their country. Though denominations are permitted to exist in the United States, they are not permitted to kill, because their beliefs are not officially true. What is really true in any society is what is worth killing for, and what citizens may be compelled to sacrifice their lives for.”

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  32. mark: I am not sure how many of these soundbites jack will want to follow, but here are a couple
    more connect the dots to instruct Americans on what to do with less than moderate Islam.

    What I am addressing has nothing to do with American policy visa-vis terrorism. I think it might be you that’s confusing the 2 kingdoms here… or maybe two different topics.

    By the way, as long as you’re quoting, did Gore have mic or bug at Abu Ghraib to record that little tidbit?

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  33. Jack Miller: By the way, as long as you’re quoting, did Gore have mic or bug at Abu Ghraib to record that little tidbit?

    RS: A message was carried to him on a melting glacier. No need to have facts when we can make up stories that will help own narrative more.

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  34. Sean and Jack,

    The problem with Mike’s article is that it misses a very complicated history (of which I am only gradually becoming aware) in which the Ottomans created an Islamic civilization that became the West’s nemesis and that set into motion the clash of Occidental versus Oriental civilizations. Yet, the Ottomans were not the Muslim Brotherhood. And Islam has all sorts of versions that accommodate political pragmatism in better and worse ways. This means that it very hard to talk about Islam as one entity (the same goes for Christianity, right). It also means that much of political Islam is motivated by anti-West sentiments as much as reading the Qur’an.

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  35. mark: Those who confuse circumcision with new covenant water baptism are likely to read their own historical situation as a replay of the Mosaic covenant. As Richard Gamble describes Winthrop and the puritans, they were “aristocratic, monarchical, and anti-democratic” (p124). They thought that “the special covenant that carried them to the new world–a covenant of works and not of grace–obligated them to perform their mission to the letter or to incur God’s wrath.” (p46)

    John Y: That, to me, is a very scary quote. I can picture those who are enamored with their own “covenant faithfulness” or “internal righteousness” and progress in sanctification having no problems eliminating or severely punishing those who don’t measure up, ie., the sinners (I am glad I am not like them).

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  36. John Y: I can picture those who are enamored with their own “covenant faithfulness” having no problems eliminating or severely punishing those who don’t measure up, ie., the sinners (I am glad I am not like them).

    mark: The more basic problem is the folks in New England supposing that they are in some “covenantal” contract with God in the first place. In context, people like Winthrop and Edwards were not saying that their hearers “measured up”, but were warning them they needed to. Or else lose out, and be put out.

    To be fair to 2k folks, Mike Horton knows that having eternal life is not at all about us living better than other people. The problem, from my perspective, is that in the “other realm” of the everyday, in the profane space we have in common with those with false religion, it is conceded that there are built-in providential positive sanctions for being better.

    Theonomists aren’t talking about justification and eternal life in this “common” realm either. They insist on their version of the Mosaic legislation, whereas as 2k folks are more enamored with the “natural law” traditions of the West. Some even suggest that we in the west are better off for having our ideals, whether we live up to them or not. Yes, perhaps the west did torture some folks, but if they did, they knew it was wrong. But those not in the west still don’t know what’s even right or wrong. They even seem to think that torturing people who invade the middle east is a mark of being civilized.

    Wouldn’t the world be a much simpler place if there were only one kind of Islam? And also if there were only one church, and one “the West”?

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  37. No, we can’t be sure from the pictures that the soldiers from the West were Christians witnessing for Jesus to those they tortured. Jesus might not have had anything to do with it. And of course that’s the way it should be when it comes to “common grace”. Soldiers should leave Jesus out of it as much as they can.

    Soldiers from the West might indeed lie. But at least they know what a lie is.

    And we only want to talk about Jesus, and not about the history of what’s been done in the name of Jesus. Except for the good stuff which saved England from being French or Marxist.

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  38. Darryl,

    O.K. but is it possible to divorce Islam from ‘constantinianism’. Again, Christianity has the New Testament, a new covenant. Does Islam have any such transition point from the Qur’an by which to head in a pluralistic or ‘spiritualized’ way as it regards religious obedience. I understand that from the point of political pragmaticism they’ve been able to be more ‘secular’ at different times, but how does that comport with their religious commitments.

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  39. I’ve read this guy off and on for years now. He would argue that traditional Islam is distinct from Islamism, and the better trajectory for Muslims. Yet this traditional approach is more in line with how protestant liberalism treats the scriptures and the fundamentalists are literalists, though the Qur’an for the Islamist is little more than a tool by which to foment the base as they seek to modernize the Muslim countries and create a global counterpoint and adversary to the west. Anyway, I’ve found him right more often than wrong.

    http://www.danielpipes.org/366/islam-and-islamism-faith-and-ideology

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  40. Sean, I don’t presume to know. What I do sense is that Islam has a lot of variety, from spiritual to theonomic forms, and that the experience of the Ottoman Empire at least for the Middle East and Turkey is key. And man oh man is that history complicated, especially when it comes to the Turks’ perceptions of the West and vice versa.

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  41. Darryl,

    As it regards the West, from what little I understand, it’s a matter of procuring the success of the west as developments ‘stolen’ from them(Turks) and they are simply in need of reclaiming what was originally theirs. IOW, the west is successful because they took our ideas and so our ‘westernizing’ is really just taking back our inheritance. The Islamists on the otherhand simply lie about harkening back while actually trying to rapidly modernize their nations.(Iran-Nuclear ambitions etc.)

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  42. Darryl,

    Good thoughts. Let’s continue with your Saul thoughts.

    “not to mention the failure of the Israelites more generally, to purge the land of the pagans.”
    Good lord, they (we) can’t keep their own children in line and can’t stop sleeping with their neighbors. Holy War??!! We’re getting ahead of ourselves, I imagine. David can’t purge the land of pagans (or maybe he can), but he sure as hell can take out a faithful soldier (Uriah) when nookie is on the line. When it comes to holy war, crushing the unbelievers, etc., and being personally holy (somewhere there in Leviticus), well, think globally, act locally, I guess (“For obeying is better than sacrifice”). Baby steps, Darryl, baby steps.

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  43. Darryl, of course Mike’s article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive history. Yet he does makes some points about Islam that can be missed in the comparison – contrast department with Christianity. In the West we, more or less, see religion as something separate from government. Of course, it wasn’t always seen that way. But that was due to a misreading of the Christian religion, rather than consistent with it. And granted, various Christian advocacy groups today look to use and influence government to create or maintain a so-called Christian society. That’s grown over the last 30 years mainly due to a growing secularization. But that very growing secularization is evidence of the basic 2K understanding in the West or it would never have been allowed.

    When the West looks at Islam it uses that western-religion lens. But Islam teaches that the spiritual is the temporal. Theologically, the Islamic religion knows no religion that is not the embodiment of the state with all its power and functions. They are one. Of course, it has been practiced in different ways, some moderate, some not. But that basic template directs the faithful in a direction that explicitly owns the sword to establish and enforce Islam. I was about to say “civil” sword. But that would be incorrect. There is no civil, it is all religion… it’s all Islam.

    This distinction is really my only point. And it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been, and aren’t, more moderate strains of Islam here and there. But those strains are viewed by theological Muslims in a similar way that the OPC would view the World Council of Churches, i.e. a “Rodney King” aberration from the true religion. I hope the Rodney Kings of Islam can catch some old-time revivalism and grow. But it doesn’t help the moderates if the west misconstrues Islam.

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  44. Jack, I hear you. My main point is that I’m not sure I’d use “theological Muslim” the way you do. I don’t know which version of Islam is the theological one. I do think it is distinct from political Islam, though.

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  45. I agree that when Christians attempt to act as God’s agents in holy war, it has confused the spiritual and the temporal. Richard Gamble’s book shows how Americans (most of whom profess to be Christians) have confused the American nation with a church.

    It is inconsistent with the new covenant law of Christ for citizens of the kingdom of heaven to kill for the sake of another kingdom. Those being killed might not even know they are being killed for “secular” (not “holy”) reasons.

    We don’t drown you for your views on baptism but rather for your political sedition in sharing those views publicly and acting on them. I agree that the traditional praxis is not inherent in being Christian.

    We don’t kill your for being Muslim. We kill you before you can kill us, because you would kill us simply because we are Christians. There is no other reason you could possibly have for killing us except that we are not Muslims.

    More than one point I have in there. Take the one you like.

    Psalm 58:6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
    tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
    7 Let them vanish like water that runs away;
    when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
    8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
    like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
    9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
    whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
    10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
    he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
    11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
    surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

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  46. Darryl, I think that would a fruitful line of research to pursue, i.e. to what degree are the theological (orthodox?) and the political on the same page? If we mean the political to be the state and its mandated spread throughout the world, I think there may be a closer correlation with that and orthodox Islam than most westerners believe.

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  47. Some of the most “orthodox on the gospel” folks I know are also the same folks who read Chronicles (if my people) as if it were talking about a covenant of works with America. And some of the folks who agree with me that Muslims don’t care if they are being killed for Christian reasons or secular ones, well, these folks have no clue about what the gospel is.

    That is not only a disappointment to me, but a puzzle. People who have the same gospel have different politics, and people who have the same politics have different gospels. And I ask myself, how can they know so much about the grace of God and think the way they do about their enemies? And they ask themselves about me, how can he be so “conservative” when it comes to gospel doctrine, and still not see the right of America to do whatever it takes to protect Israel from the Muslims?

    I could say there are different kinds of “conservative”. Neo-cons who want their version of ” economic liberalism” are not the same as Luther and Calvin when it comes to politics. But what I usually say is this–you can believe the gospel without wanting to “conserve” that which has come about with the passing of time..

    Psalm 109 Be not silent, O God of my praise!
    2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
    speaking against me with lying tongues.
    3 They encircle me with words of hate,
    and attack me without cause.
    4 In return for my love they accuse me,
    but I give myself to prayer.
    5 So they reward me evil for good,
    and hatred for my love.
    6 Appoint a wicked man against him;
    let an accuser stand at his right hand.
    7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
    let his prayer be counted as sin!
    8 May his days be few;
    may another take his office!
    9 May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow!
    10 May his children wander about and beg,
    seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
    11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
    12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
    nor any to pity his fatherless children!
    13 May his posterity be cut off;
    may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
    14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord,
    and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
    15 Let them be before the Lord continually,
    that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
    16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
    but pursued the poor and needy
    and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
    17 He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
    He did not delight in blessing; may blessing be far from him!
    18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
    may curses soak into his body like water,
    like oil into his bones!

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  48. mark: That is not only a disappointment to me, but a puzzle. People who have the same gospel have different politics, and people who have the same politics have different gospels. And I ask myself, how can they know so much about the grace of God and think the way they do about their enemies? And they ask themselves about me, how can he be so “conservative” when it comes to gospel doctrine, and still not see the right of America to do whatever it takes to protect Israel from the Muslims?

    me: Maybe because what it means to be a Christian is simply to be a sinner who believes in Christ for salvation and nothing more. Sinners have all kinds of sins and wrong beliefs regarding life in this world. Some fit your political, economic, and social worldview. Some don’t. Some have consistent approaches to those categories. Most probably don’t. That would tell me that their worldviews aren’t necessarily anchored in their common faith. And if they think their worldview logically flows from the gospel faith once delivered, then maybe those sinners are coming to conclusions about Christ’s work beyond what is intended, i.e. their salvation.

    The apostle Paul summed it up well: It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:15-17)

    cheers…

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  49. Amen, Jack, to the need for patience with each other. I don’t think it’s a bad “individualism” to agree that those who believe the same gospel have liberty on other matters of conscience.

    Romans 14: 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.
    5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.

    Romans 12: 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function,
    16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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  50. I woke up this morning with this thought. Somewhere in the world today a Muslim is reading Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, and using it as a model for his own book—Muslims and Liberals Who Don’t Kill Christians. One of the reasons I like Machen so much is the way that he simply ignored and dismissed the Constantinian past (both Reformd and Catholic). Machen was so libertarian in his politics (non-Constantinian) that he should be viewed as himself a “liberal” by Reformed folks on the theonomy end of the spectrum. Theonomists only look foolish when they try to claim Machen as one of them.

    But to get back to Jack’s point. This imaginary Muslim using Machen’s book as a model will assume Constantinianism as inherent in not being liberal. Machen does not assume that Constantinianism is inherent in Christianity.

    Of course Jack probably still likes the way he said this better! And somewhere in the world a Muslim is reading Van Til and becoming way more epistemologically self-conscious. And that Muslim is writing a little essay with the title–Why I Believe in the God who Wants all Christians Dead.

    Anabaptists are not social gospel liberals. Or to say it in reverse, social gospel liberals (Jim Wallis, Richard Hays) are not anabaptists. Anabaptists are not doing church as a model for how non-Christians are supposed to do the world.

    Those who think that the usa is an exceptional “covenant of works” with God (and this is a larger group of people than only the theonomists) tend to be somewhat double-minded on who “the people” are in the “if my people” thing. On the one hand, they seem to say, if we Christians get our act together, then that will trickledown in blessing to our beloved nation-state. On the other hand, they also seem to be saying, if our nation-state gets its act together (by voting for the right person), then God will reward us again for being better than the rest. In either case, these folks are worried about what’s going to happen to those in the same territory. Anabaptists are not.

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