Love of Country

I was glad to see Matt Holst challenge modestly Rick Phillips’ patriotic post about the need for Christians to love the United States. One of the best ways to register a 2k perspective is to ask whether Christianity has a special relationship with any particular nation, or whether Christians themselves have an obligation, no matter their citizenship, to the United States. Christians in the U.S. would not like instructions to love Mexico on the fifth day of May and would likely snicker at similar exhortations about a duty to love Canada on July 1. Why American Protestants don’t recognize the problem that Christian patriotism poses for Christians who are not citizens but reside LEGALLY in the U.S. is a riddle I am still trying to solve. But Charles Hodge’s argument in the context of the Civil War that the church supporting the Federal Government was akin to singing the Star Spangled Banner at the observance of the Lord’s Supper captures the 2k dynamic nicely. So does a Dutchman asking why a congregation has a U.S. flag at the front of its church.

Holst’s objection started with an acknowledgment that he is a “furr-ner,” an outsider:

It is always an interesting time of year for a foreigner to be in America. Every Fourth of July, I jest with our church members that the Sunday morning sermon closest to the Fourth will be on Romans 13 – submission to the civil magistrate. People laugh…usually. The obvious historical reasons aside, it is even more interesting for someone from Britain to be in the States on this date because Britain is a peculiarly unpatriotic place – nothing like America in that sense. I don’t recall ever seeing Union flags displayed on people’s houses, except in peculiar circumstances such as a royal birth or sporting achievement. The view of the armed forces in the UK has been nothing like that in America; it is much more low-key and much less admired, to be quite honest. To be clear, I am not saying that such is a good thing.

Moreover, Britain is itself a nation divided into four countries and four separate identities. When asked where I am from, my answer is Wales, not the UK. Speaking to most people over here, I inevitably have to explain where Wales is located. As an aside, I was once talking to a seminary student, who commented “You’re not from around here are you?”. I replied “No I’m from Wales”. To which he replied, in all seriousness, “Ah, a good Scotsman!” The conversation ended pretty quickly after that. My point is that the UK has multiple identities, with very few Welshmen being willing to accept the moniker “Scottish” and absolutely no Welshman willing to accept the label “English”. In spite of a rich and varied history, and maybe because of it, the UK does not have the same level or expressions of patriotism regularly evidenced on this side of the Atlantic.

In other words, Christianity transcends nations and so calling for Christian love of country only begins to make sense if you create space between country and faith, with patriotism being one form of affection, membership in the church another.

But Holst bring up some other matters that deserve comment, especially his contrast between the UK and the U.S. In fact, he touches on a subject that I am not sure Brits necessarily understand any better than Yanks, that is, the nature of British identity. Sports journalists needed to wrestle with this recently when Andrew Murray won at Wimbledon. Is Murray a Scot? A Brit? An Englishman? Some conjectured that whenever Murray lost he was a Scot, but when he won he was English. Indeed, among the three kingdoms that comprise the “United” Kingdom, national identity is anything but fixed, at least as J.C.D. Clark explains:

‘British” as a term in general usage has therefore had at least two senses. One was a spontaneous or encouraged Unionist identity allegedly felt equally by Scots, Irish, Welsh and English. This may indeed have been problematic. But another usage was more prevalent: as employed by the four groups, usually when abroad, ‘British’ was an official, political euphemism for one’s sectional identity, whether English, Welsh, Irish, or Scots: it was to a considerable degree synonymous with, and not a substitute for, sectional national identities. If so, it matters less that ‘British’ in the sense of the whig defenders of 1707 had shallow foundations: ‘Britishness’ in its prevalent sense rested in large part on the ancient and massive foundations of Englishness, and the equally ancient if differently formulated identities of England’s neighbours.

. . . . Britain was not invented; it developed. It was not devised by a small number of cultural entrepreneurs, acting like advertising executives to package and market a new product; it grew, the often unintended result of actions by men and women in many walks of life, often, too the result of conflicts and cross-purposes.

But contrary to Holst (and I am not criticizing as much as I am working out some of my own fascination with religious affiliations and national identities), a sense of Britishness did emerge, according to Clark, very much with the aid of Protestantism:

The ancient identity of the Ecclesia Anglicana meant that the Reformation did not at once create a unitary national identity. As a religious message of universal validity, Protestantism initially implied a reaction against the national subdivision of the universal church; only subsequently were some sections of ‘Protestantism’ identified with national churches and so with national identities. One strand of the Reformation stressed a pan-European solidarity between believers in the Reformed traditions, a shared sense of a supra-national destiny. Since the English had ‘a long-standing reputation for xenophobia’ even by 1500, it did not help that Protestant theology was originally associated with German reformers; not until the reign of Mary I (I553-8) were reformers ‘given the opportunity to sail for the first time under Protestant colours.’ Anti-popery, too, could be an international phenomenon, and not until Elizabeth’s reign did an assumption become prevalent that England had a special, or even the leading, role in that drama.125 The church in England only adopted the label ‘Protestant’ for itself in the first decade of the seventeenth century, and then in order to distinguish itself from both Rome and Geneva: Anglican Protestantism did not become pan-European. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the Reformation went much further: confessional differences have been basic to the emerging ‘three kingdoms’ explanation of the dynamics of state formation in the British Isles,” and when Wales acquired a distinct confessional identity from Protestant Dissent in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, that principality took its place as a fourth component in the model.

So it is not the case that Americans are the exceptions who link their faith to their patriotism. They learned it from the Brits, or English, or Scots, or Welsh, or Irish. For a popular rendition of English conflation of faith and patriotism, see the third season of Downton Abbey where Lord Grantham cannot tolerate the idea that his granddaughter, who is the child of an Irish Roman Catholic — chauffeur no less, will be baptized a Roman Catholic. The English national identity was very much bound up with the Protestantism of the Church of England.

But if that little hiccup of British civil religion is so obvious to American viewers of Downton Abbey, why aren’t similar conflations of faith and nationalism obvious to Christians in the U.S.? One reason may be the very notion of love of country. Holst makes the useful point that such love is not commanded in Scripture:

. . . when I read that a Christian is to love his country, I’m left a little bit confused. What exactly am I to love? Presidents? Congressmen? Hills, valleys streams, lakes (I have no difficulty loving them)? The people? The armed forces? Government? I wonder if Rick’s advice, which I regularly find beneficial and prudent, has, on this matter, slipped into an amorphous Americanity – a more subtle form of “God and Country” which is so prevalent in certain areas of the church. Such is the kind of Christianity which has the American flag on one side of the pulpit and the Christian flag (wherever that came from?) on the other. America, like every other Western nation has had a remarkable yet chequered history – morally, economically and militarily. What are we to love, and what kind of love are we to show?

Holst may be confused because most modern citizens of nation-states are confused. A colleague tells me that the proper way to love the United States is to think of it as a people and a place. Loving the American people can be a challenge since it would mean having to love Alex Rodgriguez along with Phil Hendrie. But loving a place may be easier if we took a greater delight in the locales where we live. Certainly, though, if we identify the United States with its government (and a chief part of that government’s expenditure — the military and all those damned wars), we will have a different kind of love than the older variety of love of country.

I myself do not think it is wrong to love country as long as it is a love qualified by higher and holier affections (no, not those kind). I love my wife, for instance. The Bible tells me I have to. But I also love our surviving cat. The Bible doesn’t tell me to do that. Nor does it prohibit such love, which is one of those key points bound up with Christian liberty and two-kingdom theology. We are free to love a country (I think) and we are free not to love a country. We are not free to identify a country with the kingdom of Christ.

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63 thoughts on “Love of Country

  1. Isn’t loving the American empire “from a theistic but not Christian” perspective already some kind of idolatry? And does “liberty” mean that we could also “bite the hand that feeds us” and deny that the soldiers who killed other people gave us something or did something “for us”? Or is there a ‘duty” to at least be neutral (quiet) about our dissent?

    Psalm 24: 1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?

    John Howard Yoder: “the point is not that all truth is in Jesus or in the Bible. It is that the truth that is in Jesus is the truth that matters the most, which must therefore regulate our recognition of other kinds of truth rather than being set in parallel or subordinated thereto.”

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  2. Great post! As a mur’can who lived for two years in the UK and Britain and England (and has visited Scotland and Wales and (southern) Ireland), I enjoyed this.

    We are free to love a country (I think) and we are free not to love a country.

    I think I’ve linked this before, but Calvin, discussing Rahab’s ‘treason’ in defecting to Israel, seems to consider love of country a Natural Law…

    We know that the love of our country, which is as it were our common mother, has been implanted in us by nature. … It is not wonderful, then, that when the Lord condescended to transfer a foreign female to his people, and to engraft her into the body of the Church, he separated her from a profane and accursed nation. Therefore, although she had been bound to her countrymen up to that very day, yet when she was adopted into the body of the Church, her new condition was a kind of manumission from the common law by which citizens are bound toward each other. In short, in order to pass by faith to a new people, she behooved to renounce her countrymen. And as in this she only acquiesced in the judgment of God, there was no criminality in abandoning them.

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  3. James 2: 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

    David S: The older tradition in Scotland, represented by Rutherford for example, insisted that an uncontradicted profession (made in baptism as an infant) was sufficient on its own, without any additional mature statement of personal faith in order for covenant memebers to obtain baptism for their children. The newer tradition, articulated by revival friendly Thomas Boston however, advocated a credible profession of personal faith in Christ as savior on the part of (at least one) parents in order for baptism to be given.

    dgh: is not a big factor here the existence of a state church and implicit membership by virtue of birth within the state? I admit that in such circumstances the desire for a real or genuine affirmation of the faith looks more necessary than in a voluntary context. But the odd thing for American Presbyterians is that they embraced revivals even though no state churches existed where they were most populous — PA, NJ, MD, and DE.

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  4. DGH asks: “One of the best ways to register a 2k perspective is to ask whether Christianity has a special relationship with any particular nation, or whether Christians themselves have an obligation, no matter their citizenship, to the United States.”

    Me: That’s a ridiculous question. Have you ever read the Bible? In days past God winked at sin, but now commands all men, (Psssst, that includes nations) to repent and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. Logic says that includes nations, since last time I checked nations are made up of the very men that are commanded to repent.

    So God has a special relationship with all nations, since he has a special relationship with all men. (All) in the sense of all types of men. Since all men are commanded to repent, it stands to reason that all nations are as well. You need to wake up and smell the coffee, and re-read Matt 28:16

    The church is supposed to be disciplining every nation if the triune name of God. To disciple a nation is to transform it into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Get with the program Darryl, and quit mocking people who take the great commission seriously.

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  5. Thanks Chortles, the days of God winking at sin are over, now all men (which obviously includes nations) have been commanded to repent and confess that Jesus is Lord. Men make up nations therefore, let’s pray that all nations would hallow the true name of God.

    The more men obey God’s commandment, by repenting and confessing his Lordship, the more he’s going to have a special and intimate relationship with every nation. Let’s pray: “Consecrate all the nations of Lord, to give you your proper deference.

    Isn’t that a good prayer?

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  6. John Bolt: That Hoeksema’s denial of the doctrine of common grace might have led him to deny the legitimacy of a civil regime that was not explicitly Christian is suggested by an interesting public episode in the early years of his ministry. After three years, Hoeksema asked that a recently placed American flag be removed from the church sanctuary during worship.The date was February 10, 1918. Three days later, the of February 13, 1918 carried an front page article that claimed the following: ” H. Hoeksema, pastor of the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church, believes that the American flag has no place in a church and that the national anthem should not be sung there” .

    The president of Hope College, G.J. Diekema. President Diekema was quoted in the Sentinel:
    “If at this crisis we spend our time in theological hair-splitting instead of patriotic devotion we are near to treason. After a beautiful eulogy on the Stars and Stripes, Mr. Diekema said, “If the flag stands for all that is pure and noble and good, it is worth of being unfurled in any building on the face of the earth. The very portals of heaven would welcome such an emblem.”

    Similarly, the pastor of Hope Reformed Church, Rev. P.P. Cheff, insisted that “it is not only not wrong to display the flag in church and to sing the national anthems there, but in times of national stress like these it is a positive duty.”

    The national crisis of course was World War I and “feelings of national patriotism were running explosively high all over the country” In fact Gertrude Hoeksema recounts a story of her father-in-law refusing “to preach under the American flag in the Christian Reformed Church of Pella” (Iowa). She also notes here that “the resident minister in the nearby town of Peoria had also refused to have the flag in his church for the same reasons that Pastor Hoeksema had refused. His church building burned to the ground”

    Theonomy and the Temptation of Calvinist Politics

    http://www.prca.org/articles/bolt.html

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  7. The issue is; how should a nation sanctified to Christ apply his word in all areas of life, in a proper new testament context. The final word has yet to be spoken. Bahnsen knew he was just starting the conversation. Let’s keep it going.

    Let’s press on!

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  8. Rushdoony recognizes certain “judicial continuities” between the Christian political tradition and the American Constitution. North categorically disagrees:

    “It did not. It represented a fundamental break from Christianity.” In North’s view the ratification of the Constitution represented the creation of a different covenant to replace the Christian covenant of colonial times. The new Constitution was declaration of independence from God. Whereas the Declaration of Independence had been a “halfway national covenant” with the deistic God of Newton joined in covenantal partnership with the biblical God, the Constitutional Convention “declared the corporate People as the sole and exclusive suzerain god of the nation” and created “an apostate national covenant.”

    Bolt: This has important practical consequences in North’s judgment. Whereas “Rushdoony still believes that a restoration of Consititutional order is the best strategy for Christian Reconstruction in the United States,”. North continues to insist on a Christian theocracy modeled on Old Testament case law.

    mark: If God has a “special covenant” with “all kinds of” nations, then how special can it be? Are these “covenants” laws which determine if these nations will continue to exist?

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  9. Doug, how exactly does a nation fight spiritual war? Should the Pentagon (and all defense departments) be buying more breastplates of righteousness and belts of truth? Where do they send the order?

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  10. DGH wonders: “Doug, how exactly does a nation fight spiritual war?”

    Me: With spiritual men, you dunce! (Maybe that excludes you?) Every local church should lay the ground work every Lord’s day in spiritual warfare (praise and worship) at every level. personal, family church city state nation and world. We don’t just pray for ourselves and our families, and our daily needs, we pray that all the nations would hallow the true name of God, in every realm. We are called warriors Darryl! We are exhorted to fight the good fight of faith. What does that mean to you? Because you never act like your in a war. You only seem to care about putting in a round of golf and petting your cat, or whatever. You don’t even want to admit you have a world view! What gives with you?

    Darryl, God is the savior of the whole world, which includes all the nations. The true knowledge of God is to cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. That is absolutely permeated! Read the kingdom parables and get with the program. His kingdom starts out small, tiny even. But then it takes over, and establishes dominion. As we die to ourselves daily, and grow in him which is our sanctification. It’s a slow progressive victory, that can’t be seen unless you have eyes of faith.

    Ask God for new eye glasses, the kind that see faith

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  11. Whoa, Doug.

    When did this blog author mention golfing?

    I should know about that.

    From a fellow bay area OPCer,

    Greetings.

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  12. Again, Doug seems to highlight the ridiculousness of the theonomic thesis.

    “All men” is supposed to extend to post-Westphalia nation-states, which would not even come into existence for another 1500 years? Absurd. By this logic, the gospels and epistles should be chock full calls for the Roman Empire to repent, i.e., in its official political status. But no such calls exist! So, how is it that the Roman Empire does not need to repent as a political entity, but post-Westphalia nation-states do? Nonsense.

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  13. Oh, Hi AB, Erik mentioned he could set up DGH with a nice round of golf at some country club last year, if DGH would come out and visit him, as I recall. Of course we all know Erik has a huge man crush on Darryl, but that’s beside the point. And Darryl was salivating over the golf offer, like a dog watching you eat a T-bone steak.

    Or maybe I got it all wrong. But that’s how I remember it.

    p.s. Not that there is anything wrong with golf!

    Go Lefty!

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  14. Last I checked, he was +1, but agreed, the British Open winner is an apt post in this thread.

    I make the rounds, around OPC churches here in the bay area. Maybe our paths will cross. Take care.

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  15. PS the other tab of my browser is DG’s latest, in Kindle format. It’s a good book, and I appreciate this blog. Sorry it’s not your cup of tea.

    Anyway, thanks for the clarification. I’ll be thinking of you and lefty as I play the back 9 before work tomorrow.

    Until next time.

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  16. Bobby, you’re humiliating yourself!

    God commanded all men, that includes Cesar, to repent and bend the knee to Christ the Lord. Yes, even the government you dolt! Since the government is made of men last I checked. All men meant that Cesar needed to bend his knee to Christ Jesus, that’s why Paul was beheaded.

    Pssssst, that doesn’t exclude ANYONE! Gasp! Even the Magistrate? Yes! Even the Magistrate!

    The caps were for you Chortles, cheers!!!!!!!!

    p.s. Oh, Chortles, so were the exclamation points, I just couldn’t help myself!!!!

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  17. Paul says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2

    Doug says, “[W]e pray that all the nations would hallow the true name of God, in every realm.”

    One of these things is not like the other!

    This demonstrates why theonomy has only about 12 adherents left…and only 7 who don’t live in their mothers’ basements.

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  18. Bobby, your putting yourself in deeper do do.

    Are you saying that Jesus contradicted Paul?

    Please tell me it ain’t so!

    Both are true! God wages his war by circumcising hearts that wind up shedding no more blood, than the precious blood his son shed at Calvary.

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  19. Doug,

    For a man of the law, you seem to be awfully quick to hurl personal insults at people. Apparently you only care about the law insofar as it deals with social issues.

    And, apparently you missed my point. Nowhere do any of the New testament writers call for the Roman Empire to repent as a political entity, i.e., distinct from the individuals who exercise authority within the political entity. If “all men” were meant to include political entities, then the New Testament should be full of calls for Rome to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The complete absence of such calls suggests that your argument must fail.

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  20. Bobby, please forgive my sarcastic tongue. You are a good brother in the grand scheme of things, even though we often disagree.

    If all men repent then Rome needed to as well. It goes without saying! Of course if all men repent and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, Cesar can’t be! So yes! Rome would have to repent from it’s idolatrous polity.

    God didn’t’ need to belabor the obvious……

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  21. Doug,

    Regarding “God’s wink at sin” in days gone past, you may need to wrestle with Calvin:

    For, as the Lord, in testifying his good will towards believers by means of present blessings, then exhibited spiritual felicity under types and emblems, so, on the other hand, by temporal punishments he gave proofs of his judgment against the reprobate. Hence, by earthly objects, the favour of the Lord was displayed, as well as his punishment inflicted. The unskilful, not considering this analogy and correspondence (if I may so speak) between rewards and punishments, wonder that there is so much variance in God, that those who, in old time, were suddenly visited for their faults with severe and dreadful punishments, he now punishes much more rarely and less severely, as if he had laid aside his former anger, and, for this reason, they can scarcely help imagining, like the Manichees, that the God of the Old Testament was different from that of the New

    Institutes 2.11.3

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  22. Good to see you brother Jed!

    Please don’t get the wrong idea, I was just repeating the Bible word for word bro. I certainly wasn’t trying to give a teaching on the meaning of Acts 17:30

    . Of course God judged and punished sin in days gone bye. Just look at Sodom and Gomorrah! Just look at Egypt!

    But in some very real sense God did wink at sin as well…………Both are true!

    Meditate and imbibe on the word, bro.

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  23. Doug,

    I’m almost honored you’d confuse me with Jed, except Jed would have had a humorous quip (he likens me to an old man at times), and, well Jed’s my “bro” so I can’t let him have the upper hand. But seriously do you read your bible with same glasses you read comments? Confusing names like you do doctrines?

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  24. Ouch! Okay Nate, you got me cold!

    I’m groveling like a lizard without legs, which means I’m a snake! Ooops! Take it back!

    Please forgive me younger brother. BTW, did your rug burns subside from your back, since big bro (that being Jed) pinned you without mercy a few months back? I lettered in wrestling too! Back in my younger days, I just may have taken care of him for you; I was an animal!!! Or so I thunk. On second thought, maybe not.

    Even though I got your first name wrong, (to my eternal shame) what’s wrong with my quoting Holy Scripture word for word? Or are you disputing Act 17:30?

    Or are you saying that Calvin would have disputed Paul?

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  25. Liam Gallanger: “These United States became the power house of missionary endeavor in the 19th and 20th centuries. Whether the rest of Christendom likes it or not they would be in enormous difficulties were it not for American largesse! Of course for my ancestors in Scotland and Ireland the great bugbear was the giant appendage to the south of Scotland. The people on that peninsula had a particular allergy to a thoroughgoing Reformed Church and launched various efforts to destroy it including evicting Presbyterian and Puritan pastors from their churches. What delicious irony it was then, when London newspapers dubbed the colonial revolt in North America ‘the presbyterian rebellion!”

    mark: Perhaps this is an answer as to why “all nations” means “all types of nations”. Some nations are more special than others, especially when you happen to be preaching in one. Some folks just don’t like being “foreigners”. When they have a job in a baptist church, they keep their paedo sentiments to themselves. And maybe they don’t promote PRESBYTERIAN REBELLION except in a nation where the deists have succeeded in their revolution.

    There does seem to be some tension between the grand idea of “Christendom” and saying that one of the nations is more special than the other. But that never bothered the Magisterial Reformers so much. God back to your country and do what we did here in Geneva better and differently.

    What could be more “creditable” a profession than saying “I have been baptized”? That alone should be enough. What more should be asked? Why bother to say “I do not believe in unconditional election, but I have been baptized”? Why go on to say, “I will not have my infants watered, but I myself as an infant was baptized”? Better to take the baptists with their warts than to consign them to baptist congregations which are by definition less faithful to the doctrine of unconditional election that we are

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  26. So, Doug, once a geo-political nation repents and turns to Christ in faith, how does church membership work? Our consistory room probably wouldn’t be able to contain, say, China for the interview and I doubt it could fit into our sanctuary to attend the means of grace. And how do you baptize a geo-political nation?

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  27. How? I am not sure congregationalists could manage it. But the trinitarian water baptisms of Rome has already shown us the way.

    In The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico, Father Brou, “Conversion, took place, so to speak, in three stages: acceptance in principle of the more important dogmas, briefly explained baptism, and catechism.”

    Pagans were accepted easily for baptism, as long as they had learned Pater Noster, the credo, the commandments. They also needed to have formed a good enough idea of the nature of the sacraments such as confession and marriage.

    Some conversion techniques were relatively benign and others were absolutely barbaric. Father Luis Caldera pitched dogs and cats into ovens that he lit on fire in order to inspire a horror of hell in the Indians. “The cries of pain of the unlucky animals naturally filled the Indians with great fear.” An example of a gentle method was a priest who prayed in public places because he believed that “Indians sometimes mimic what they see”. There was such a strong current of fear during the conversion period, that many Indians did not dare admit they were not Christians. They felt forced to take Christian names.

    http://dancingelectron.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/the-spiritual-conquest-of-the-aztecs/

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  28. Zrim wonders: “So, Doug, once a geo-political nation repents and turns to Christ in faith, how does church membership work?

    Me: Like it does now.

    Zrim asks: And how do you baptize a geo-political nation?

    Me: One at at time.

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  29. McMark, you seem to forget that everyone was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. And the Rock was Christ.

    But God was not pleased with most of them, and they were overthrown in the wilderness.

    McMark, these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.

    Re-read 1 Corinthians 10 and take it to heart.

    BTW, I believe in unconditional election.

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  30. McMark, listen to Paul’s warning to a new covenant church in 1 Cor. 10:6

    “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written; The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.”

    “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,”

    Me, Paul is clearly implying that its possible for us to fall into the same sin Israel did. And if God would destroy some of them for these sins, he will do the same thing to us.

    Couple that with Jesus warnings to the 7 churches, where our Lord threatens 5 out of the 7 churches in Asia Minor. For the same sins that Israel committed. Do these warnings contradict unconditional election or the perseverance of the Saints? I think not.

    Just food for thought.

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  31. Doug, I see. And what historical precedent do we have of putting geo-political nations on church membership rolls? But even here in transformed Little Geneva I’ve never heard of elders making a house visit to the city Grand Rapids (it may be time to think about discipline for the neighborhood of Division and Wealthy).

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  32. Doug,

    Your reasoning seems to be based on the premise that any non-theocratic political order is inherently idolatrous. Again, if that’s the case, the New Testament world was replete with idolatrous political orders. Yet not once do any of the New Testament writers rail against the kind of “idolatry” to which you refer.

    Surely if the Bible imposed upon political entities an affirmative duty to repent of the political entity’s sins, i.e., apart from the sins of individuals within the political order, the New Testament writers would have been more clear than they were.

    Again, it seems that you’ve arrived at your conclusion in advance of studying Scripture, and have merely looked to Scripture to search for tangential references that may support your averment.

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  33. Doug, since you have appealed to “baptism” into Moses, let me ask you some questions:

    How many kinds of baptism are there in the Bible (or the Confessions)?

    Is “baptism into Moses” a “new covenant baptism?

    is “baptism into Moses” a “the covenant of grace baptism”?

    is “baptism into Moses” the law or the gospel?

    Is Spirit baptism “into” (with) the Holy Spirit or “by” the Holy Spirit?

    Is Spirit baptism the same as water baptism?

    Are there two kinds of water baptism?

    Or are there two different ways to relate to one water baptism?

    Finally, which of these Reformers is correct about “sign and seal”?

    Daniel Hyde, Welcome to a Reformed Church (RT, 2010, p 137)–“As signs, they are visible means that point us to the reality that WE ARE WASHED from sin….As seals, they are means that the Holy Spirit uses to confirm our faith.”

    Hyde: signs about us

    Scott Clark (“Baptism and the Benefits of Christ”, Confessional Presbyterian 2, 2006. p 8 )– “Fundamentally, baptism is to strengthen our faith, not replace it. It is a seal to those who believe, that what baptism promises is actually TRUE OF THEM.”

    Clark: seals about us

    Bahnsen: The signs of the covenant, whether circumcision or baptism, declare the objective truth that justification comes only by faith in God’s promise. Circumcision and baptism are NOT an individual’s personal, subjective testimony to having saving faith for himself. So,those who are in the visible church but not elect are nevertheless within the covenant of grace but under its curse.
    Bahsen: objective sign, therefore not about us or anybody in particular.

    Once you have answered those questions, Doug, then you can tell me which one you would like to enforce on the Aztec nation….

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  34. The non-elect are not in “jeopardy”. The non-elect are already condemned. This is not to deny that the non-elect can profess to believe the gospel and in that way be part of a visible congregation. Indeed, in a theocratic state, all the non-elect will be required to be in certain visible congregations.

    Notice, Doug, I do not say in a “theonomic” state. Even in the Constantinian churches of the Magisterial Reformation (in which the first table of the Ten Commandments was supposedly enforced, but without appeal to the Mosaic “civil” laws), those who went to the wrong congregations with the wrong kind of “baptism” were “cut off” from society by the death penalty. There were severe consequences for not professing allegiance to the state-approved congregations by means of “christening”.

    And this “threat” of cursing of course was consistent with (in analogy to) the covenant of circumcision given to Abraham in Genesis 17 some 400 years before the giving of the Ten Commandments. So Doug, when I Cor 10 says “they ate the same spiritual food”, is that a reference to manna in the wilderness or is that about Passover?

    Are you telling me that neither the civil laws or Passover has been abolished yet?

    When I Corinthians 10 tells us that “they drank from the rock and the rock was Christ”, does this mean that Christ is temporarily in the non-elect, or does it mean that the non-elect are temporarily in Christ?

    If either of these explanations is correct, does that mean these non-elect have it worse off than the non-elect were never ever in Christ even temporarily?

    If so, what was “the promise” to these non-elect who were temporarily in?

    Was water the visible means that pointed these non-elect to the reality that they were washed from sin?

    Two final questions, Doug—Does God now show His wrath even against the justified elect because of their association with the none-elect in a visible congregation?

    Is there now some condemnation for those who are in Christ because of a common “baptism” with those who were “temporarily” or “externally” in Christ?

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  35. McMark says: “Indeed, in a theocratic state, all the non-elect will be required to be in certain visible congregations.”

    Me: Nonsense! God’s law never compelled an unbeliever to believe. That is a matter of conscience. In fact in Israel the strangers and sojourners (unbelievers) were to be treated with kindness. So where you get these rules about a theocratic state are somewhat dubious.

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  36. Bobby’s counterpoint: “Surely if the Bible imposed upon political entities an affirmative duty to repent of the political entity’s sins, i.e., apart from the sins of individuals within the political order, the New Testament writers would have been more clear than they were.”

    Me: How can, “Jesus is Lord” be any more clear? Do you see what an insult that was to Romans? Paul was saying that not only is Cesar NOT Lord, but Jesus was. And that they were all commanded to repent, yes even Cesar, and bend there collective knee to Christ the King.

    The Romans didn’t so much care if Christians said they had yet another god, the Romans were okay with gods. But Paul was going to the root of the matter, saying that the Romans were wrong to put Cesar above the true and living God!

    Once you realize the biggie, there political system being in high defiance to God, was a no-brainier. That is why Paul was executed……

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  37. I will attempt to run the gauntlet of McMark questions.

    How many kinds of baptism are there in the Bible (or the Confessions)?

    Me: One baptism.

    Is “baptism into Moses” a “new covenant baptism?

    Me: Yes.

    is “baptism into Moses” a “the covenant of grace baptism”?

    Me: Yes

    is “baptism into Moses” the law or the gospel?

    Me: That sounds like a false choice to me. Baptism, is a holy sacrament, just like new testament baptism. One must apprehend all the promises of God by faith, even their baptism. The new testament does say “they” (Israel) heard the gospel just like we did.

    Is Spirit baptism “into” (with) the Holy Spirit or “by” the Holy Spirit?

    Me: Huh?

    Is Spirit baptism the same as water baptism?

    Me: The Bible says there is ONE baptism.

    Are there two kinds of water baptism?

    Me: Exasperated, there is ONE baptism.

    Or are there two different ways to relate to one water baptism?

    Me. Re-read the Bible, there is ONE baptism!!!

    Finally, which of these Reformers is correct about “sign and seal”?

    Me: I’ll go with Bahnsen which is consistent with the WCF as I understand it.

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  38. Doug,

    You’re starting to make me wonder whether theonomy isn’t some kind of a cult into which you’ve been brainwashed. You guys take one generic statement, e.g., “Jesus is Lord,” and then interpret it to require things that are entirely inconsistent with other passages of Scripture. For example, Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2 (quoted above) would make little sense if what you’re saying is true.

    A few months ago you whined incessantly about Gordon’s criticism of theonomists as lacking wisdom and as having cut themselves off from the primary source from which God intends that we obtain wisdom (thus making them not merely unwise, but never-to-be-wise). Yet you come here daily and prove that Gordon was entirely correct in his assessment.

    Theonomy would likely have been nothing more than a niche movement had its rise not coincided in time with the emergence of the so-called Culture Wars.

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  39. Bobby, I’m fine with 1 Tim 2:1 and see no contradiction with theonomy. Remember I’m a nice theonomist 🙂 Even though I’ve fired out a few insults, now and again, all in good humor, I hope. Most of the time I’m trying to be funny.

    It’s my love for neighbor that compels me to ask, what does justice require? I merely want to see justice in all nations. And I realize we’re collectively not there yet. But I’m praying that our nation would be sanctified to Christ so we would desire God’s standards for punishing crime. So theonomy is really a theoretical question that has yet to be fully figured out in a proper new covenant context.

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  40. Doug, you said that DGH prefers petting his cat to engaging in spiritual warfare. But surely if you hold the the “every square inch” outlook, then why pit cat petting against spiritual war? Surely a Kuyperian or Theonomist could participate in redemptive cat-petting?

    For instance, if he stroked the cat in a Christ-like manner, then surely he’s sticking it to the powers of darkness who, no doubt, would prefer that Darryl tossed the moggy in the micorwave? And what if he taught the feline friend the Reformed faith as he clapped (CATechism? theomoggy?)?

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  41. DGH asks: “One of the best ways to register a 2k perspective is to ask whether Christianity has a special relationship with any particular nation, or whether Christians themselves have an obligation, no matter their citizenship, to the United States.”

    Is the correct answer to that question:

    1) an eye roll

    2) a snort of derision

    3) laughter

    4) all of the above?

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  42. CW:

    Yes, that would be a suitable response.

    Depends on the immediate environment, how serious/demented the opposition is, and how far the nearest egress happens to be.

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  43. DGH: I am eternally grateful that I have lived in a satellite nation of the US and not its competing superpowers.

    There is prayer for strength to get through each day, none of it wasted on wishing I were strutting around in covenanted Scotland or Puritan New England.

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