More Cosmopolitan Than Thou

The piece is a little old now, but in the October 7, 2013 issue of The New Republic, Abbas Milani thinks out loud about what to make of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani:

The searing image of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the last Iranian president–all bombast and spite–makes the details in his successor’s archival folder jump from the page. There are Hassan Rouhani’s theological writings, which approvingly name-check Western thinkers from C. Wright Mills to Samuel Huntington. There is also the image of his graduation ceremony from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1999, where he received a doctorate in law. The video shows him in a doctoral gown, but without his clerical turban or robe–a surprising concession, by the standards of the mullahs, to the norms of his hosts. . . . The contrast between Ahmadinejad and Rouhani has filled the West with cautious optimism that the new leader might lead the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program to an amiable conclusion. Indeed, the first months of Rouhani’s presidency have flashed hopeful signs of pragmatism and moderation. Rouhani proposed a Cabinet that contained defenders of the pro-democracy Green Movement. On his watch, the universities have readmitted faculty and students unfairly expelled on political grounds. Access to social media has broadened. In fact, his foreign minister used his Twitter account to wish Jews of the world a happy new year, a leap in tolerance from Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust.

When reading this, I wondered what another journalist for the magazine might do with the new president of Princeton Seminary, Craig Barnes. After all, as some have it, Calvinism is responsible for contemporary notions of American greatness, neo-conservatism, and exceptionalism and, to connect the dots, Princeton represents one of the most important and well funded institutions connected to Calvinist theology. So if a journalist wanted to understand the future of American foreign policy, he might be tempted — given all the explanatory powers of Calvinism — to do a back story on Princeton’s new president.

But of course, no one thinks Princeton has anything to do with American government. No matter how much Calvinism might explain the Religious Right or U. S. foreign policy, Craig Barnes has about as much chance of access to the White House or the State Department as I do to the trustees of Princeton Seminary. Depending on your perspective, we can thank or blame the American separation of church and state for that. Without that separation, reporters might be looking at Craig Barnes’ graduation pictures to see if he was carrying a copy of Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances with him.

Even farther off the media’s radar (sorry Peter) is Peter Leithart. But the parallels with Rouhani are intriguing and go well beyond the beard. In his recent piece on the end of Protestantism, Leithart made a plea for broad, catholic, well-adjusted, and well read Protestantism. And yet, Leithart has associations with people like the Federal Visionaries who seem to wear beards as a point of pride, talk a lot about Christendom, have big families, and he even wrote a book that defended Constantine and his policies as Christianizing the Roman Empire (which for a Old Lifer has about as much Christian plausibility as attempts to turn George Washington into an orthodox Protestant). In other words, Leithart has a past with theonomy that may still be a present, but its a kinder, gentler theonomy and goes by an ambiguous name. And yet, like Rouhani, Leithart aspires to a broader world than simply the one originally forged by Greg Bahnsen and Gary North. After all, he writes for First Things and drops the names of all sorts of writers and intellectuals in his posts, from Jane Austen to Catherine Pickstock.

As Fred Sanders noted, Leithart’s post was hard to decipher and Sanders himself is not entirely clear about the closed-minded, sectarian Protestants that we need to leave behind:

It’s very clear what he deplores. He deplores the kind of small-minded Protestant whose heroes are Luther and Calvin, and who has no other heroes in the 1500 years prior to them. He deplores the kind of knee-jerk Protestant who is locked into permanent reaction against whatever Roman Catholics do or say, and who enjoys setting up Roman strawmen (Vatican I, Catholic Encyclopedia vintage, if possible) to knock down. He deplores the kind of unimaginative Protestant who mocks patristic Bible interpretation and thinks that if the grammatical-historical mode of interpreting was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us. He deplores the kind of amnesiac Protestant who leaps from “Bible Times” to the Reformation, thinking he has skipped over nothing but bad guys in doing so.

This is all certainly deplorable. Where shall we find men of such denominational ressentiment? Mostly in “the local Baptist or Bible church,” but also among “conservative Presbyterians.” Leithart deplores a few other things, like preaching in a suit and tie instead of vestments, and a low sacramentology, but let’s stick for a moment to the historical outline of the portrait. Leithart calls us away from that kind of small-minded, knee-jerk, unimaginative, amnesiac man of ressentiment, and conjures instead something free and fully realized. He calls it Reformational Catholicism, and builds up its portrait in bright, not to say self-congratulatory, colors, in contrast to the dark tones he has just used.

On the one hand, Leithart responds, “exactly so.” But then he adds:

Sanders reads something into the essay that’s not there when he claims that it involves “a massive act of catastrophic silencing” that creates a “new dark ages” between the Reformation and the present. No. The essay is not about historical theology; I didn’t mention confessional Protestants among the heroes of the Reformational Catholic because heirs of the Reformation already take them as heroes. In any event, the main point was not historical at all. The article (schematically) describes two contemporary forms of Protestantism. Or, more precisely, it offers a sketch of one form or feature of contemporary Protestantism, and contrasts to that a Catholic Protestantism that presently exists only in pockets and is mainly an item of hope.

Reading Leithart’s original piece with Sanders’ reaction and Leithart’s own clarification in mind, it looks like the Reformational catholicism for which Leithart is calling is really himself. After all, it exists “only in pockets” and is mainly a “hope.” Nothing wrong with hope, or even hoping against hope, but doesn’t some kind of intellectual humility (not to mention the Christian variety) kick in if you wind up thinking that the rest of the Protestant world needs to be like you? Sure. I think this all the time. But I only say it to my wife, and now much less frequently after all the grief those initial volleys received. Do I mean to imply that Leithart is narcissistic in this piece? To an extent, since I haven’t seen a reason why this is not a plausible construction. And because neither he nor Sanders actually names any of these small-minded Protestants — yes, I do fear they mean (all about) me and other Old Lifers, OF COURSE!! — their pieces do read like attempts to portray themselves as a better brand of Protestant, the way that Rouhani is to Ahmadinejad.

What good any of this posturing is actually going to do for the rest of the Protestant world is another question since in Leithart’s case, he does not appear to be a churchman who is going to General Assembly and pleading at least with his little platoon of Protestants to get with the program.

The irony of all this Protestant cosmopolitanism is that at roughly the same time that Leithart drew attention to his catholicity, his former nemesis in the PCA, the now really Roman Catholic, Jason Stellman, also announced his own effort to show a side different from the one he maintains with Jason and the Callers:

I would like take a quick break from our discussion about paradigms Protestant and Catholic in order to draw everyone’s attention to a little side project that a few friends of mine and I are just now beginning. It’s basically a small community of artists, writers, and thinkers from varying backgrounds whose aim is simply to give expression to the identity we share as misfits and malcontents in this cruel and beautiful world of ours.

From the misfits own website comes Stellman’s admission:

Our desire, then, is simply to think out loud, to vent, to muse, and to use whatever gifts of artistic expression we have to describe the identity we share as misfits and malcontents in this cruel and beautiful world. Because we know we’re not alone, and that lots of others share that identity, too.

And from the misfits’ page of “turn-ons” stuff we like comes a cast of characters that is silent about Roman Catholicism and not exactly clear on how Noam Chomsky fits with high papalism (though with 2k all harmony is possible).

Could it be, then, that Leithart really doesn’t know those small-minded Protestants? Maybe they are far more complicated — like Stellman — than his remarkably predictable (if he were a mainline Protestant who thought himself evangelical) portrayal of inferior Protestants? I mean, (all about me) I am a Machen warrior child and I like Orhan Pamuk. Does that get me any cosmopolitan street cred?


49 thoughts on “More Cosmopolitan Than Thou

  1. I find the kind of reasoning present in Leithart’s original piece especially frustrating. He first sets up two false choices so as to present what appears to be a reasonable middle way.

    For example, you can either be a “Protestant,” which he defined as a Bible-and-me-knee-jerk-anti-catholic approach or you can be Roman Catholic. But then Leithart comes to our rescue offering us “Reformational-Catholicism,” which, as DGH pointed out, looks a lot like “Leithartism” (I’m tempted to call it a Leit-hart motif, but that would just be pretentious).

    Setting up a false dichotomy and then offering a via media between the extremes is an annoying rhetorical device that seems to be present among such Cosmopolitan types (read TKNY).

    The purpose of this rhetorical device is to make the favored position seem reasonable and mild-mannered by calling everyone else crazy. If you are the one being called crazy, however, it doesn’t seem so cosmopolitan.


  2. Leithart’s piece is total nonsense.

    What I’m calling “Protestantism” does the same with Roman Catholicism. Protestantism is a negative theology; a Protestant is a not-Catholic. Whatever Catholics say or do, the Protestant does and says as close to the opposite as he can.

    Mainline churches are nearly bereft of “Protestants.” If you want to spot one these days, your best bet is to visit the local Baptist or Bible church, though you can find plenty of Protestants among conservative Presbyterians too.

    Catholicism rarely comes up in Baptist and Bible church circles. It doesn’t have to because the bible is addressed contemporaneously. A Baptist minister is much more likely to critique a Lutheran or Presbyterian position than a Catholic or Liberal Christian one more likely to critique the Catholic or Liberal Christian than a Mormon one…. Catholicism rarely comes up and when it does it is treated mostly as just another Christian denomination. Baptists because their theological claims are not based on any history after the apostolic age do not have to struggle against Catholicism.

    A Protestant exaggerates his distance from Roman Catholicism on every point of theology and practice, and is skeptical of Roman Catholics who say that they believe in salvation by grace.

    Baptists most certainly are not skeptical of Catholics that hold that position. They believe that the gospel naturally draws people towards it and the gospel exists, though in corrupted form within Catholicism.

    Some Protestants don’t view Roman Catholics as Christians, and won’t acknowledge the Roman Catholic Church as a true church.

    Baptists have a theology called the local church. They quite explicitly are not in the business of classifying which churches are or are not close enough to be “true churches”. They certainly would assert that a Catholic church has a defective gospel and practices paedobaptism both of which are major flaws and thus make the local Catholic church a poor choices for a Christian to make his local church home.

    A Protestant’s heroes are Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their heirs. If he acknowledges any ancestry before the Reformation, they are proto-Protestants like Hus and Wycliffe. A Reformational Catholic gratefully receives the history of the entire Church as his history,

    Baloney on both fronts. Baptists in so far as they even think about history which is rarely acknowledge the entire ancestry of the Christian church even going further than the Catholics do embracing the Ebionites, the Monatists, the Donatists, the Cathari… Most baptists have mixed or feelings about Calvin and the heirs of Luther. They certainly wouldn’t classify them as heroes.

    The whole essay is a fiction of Leithart’s mind.


  3. Stellman has gone hipster now? How can one be a ‘misfit’ or ‘malcontent’ when ones artistic preferences are the same as the vast majority of 20 and 30 year olds? Next he’s going to say he prefers walkable cities, overpriced barber shops, and fixed gear bikes…. Stellman you malcontented rebel, you!!!!


  4. Ironically, Leithart is more sectarian than catholic. All this pretense re: receiving the history of the catholic church as one’s own when so many of his theological views are idiosyncratic nonsense. He is not Roman, not Orthodox, not Lutheran, not Presbyterian. “Leithartism” is a great label.


  5. CDH, not to lend any defense to Leithart, but as one who cut his religious teeth among them, I wonder how many Fundamentalist Bible Churches you’ve been in. BCFs certainly look askance at the mainliners and confessionalists alike, but there is special venom for Roman Catholicism. The irony, of course, is in their similarities (e.g. altar calls are low church masses).

    That said, it might be that Leithart’s mistake is to categorize the likes of BCFs as Protestant. They descend mostly from the Radical Reformation. But to the extent that most (including the CtCers) seem to think the Reformation only goes in one direction anymore, the tendency is to lump whoever is not Catholic into the Prot bin.

    And Reformed Prots aren’t skeptical of Roman Catholics who say that they believe in salvation by grace. They do. What they don’t affirm is that it is by grace alone, and so we aren’t skeptical that they reject it because we know they do and they admit as much. So there is no skepticism involved, only opposition to each other.


  6. Leithart’s piece is schizophrenic twaddle.
    The guy’s a reformed prot who studied at Cambridge and he’s not familiar with his predecessor there, William Perkins, who just happened to write A Reformed Catholike? The subtitle of which reads: “a Declaration Showing How Near We may Come to the Present Church of Rome in Sundry Points of Religion and Wherein We Must Forever Depart From Them?

    If he’s not incompetent, then he’s a liar and trading on the ignorance of his audience.
    Nothing new, he’s been doing it for at least ten years regarding reformed worship (see his Silence to Song) and for who knows how long on JBFA, but it is getting a bit old.


  7. The many today who feel the ache and burden and growing frustration from a heavy, heavy vintage and growing wrath and observations without and within might try growing the economy with some retail therapy.


  8. D.G. – The piece is a little old now, but in the October 7, 2013 issue of The New Republic

    Erik – Try getting your reading material from the local community paper recycling dump & the public library magazine exchange. Last night I was perusing a 1991 issue of “Art & Antiques” and today I was clipping some articles from a January 2012 issue of the New York Times. I’m aiming for the best possible education costing no money whatsoever without going digital.


  9. If Jason wanted to be a misfit and malcontent he should have departed the PCA for the OPC, not Rome. Duh.

    Any Christian who declares himself a malcontent is being a poseur. It’s like Martha Stewart announcing that she’s developing a grunge line or Pat Boone telling us he’s in a metal mood. Real malcontents sin boldly. Christians should not.


  10. I haven’t seen all of them, but I’m pretty sure all of those movies suck. If you’re going to have a picture from “Pulp Fiction”, put it on the list, as it clearly does not suck. If these guys can come up with 10 more movies on their list I can confirm whether or not they are for real or not.


  11. Jason’s critiques of capitalism would be more compelling if he had ever worked for a capitalist enterprise. Calvary Chapel and a PCA church don’t count. I didn’t hear if he got the burger flipping gig after he quit the ministry or not.


  12. On their new site:

    “In a word, it’s more concerned with description than prescription.”

    Don’t you just love those people in your office who are all about “identifying problems”. Those folks are a blast.


  13. @Zrim

    Fundamentalist Baptists had a large influence on the culture of my churches growing up. So I wasn’t fundamentalists but there was cross over. The venom towards the RCC was mostly the generation before, and I’m mid 40s. It really has gone out of fashion. There still was residues so for example many believed the Catholic church had sold itself to the devil in 311 CE which was something not true of the liberal churches. Or people might apply imagery from Revelation or Daniel to the RCC. But it was scattered not focused. The very same people might quote a pre-Reformation / post-apostolic church father as a Christian.

    As for descending from the radical reformation, absolutely. We certainly identified with the anabaptists much more than either Luther or Calvin. There was no denial at all about the perversions of Christianity of the Magisterial Reformers from forced conversion to witch burning to paedobaptism. Leithart explicitly identified the Baptists as his target Protestants which is why I wrote my response. That being said, I consider Baptists and Pentecostals to be Protestants.

    Finally I do believe that Catholics believe in sola gratia. They sacraments are for them instruments of grace. Trent affirmed sola gratia for Catholics works of righteousness are sustained through grace. I think most Baptists are willing to take Catholics on their word that they believe something they explicitly affirm.


  14. Leithart studied with John Milbank, who knows nothing about the Reformation, except that he doesn’t like it. “Radical Orthodoxy” is “know-nothing” idealist when it comes to historical fact.

    Leithart likes to ask Yoder and Hauerwas—but what would you do if you were in the early church and Constantine offered to have your back? Would you have a martyr complex and turn down that down? Wouldn’t you welcome Constantine as a new convert, even if he refuses to be baptized yet, and even if you can’t demand repentance from being the cruel magistrate? Would it really bother you if the unbaptized guy now now wants to have “some influence” on church councils etc?

    And Hauerwas says, Christendom does not sound so bad now, because liberalism is not working, and we need the church to have some clout in this world. But some of us Yoderians ask, well, what if Constantine has been there before Jesus went to the cross? What if Constantine had said to Jesus, say that I am a Christian, say that I am legitimate, say that “natural law” is enough to say that I can do good, bow the knee, and then you can avoid the cross.

    It’s the old impolite question you are not supposed to ask dispensationalists—what if the Jews had taken Jesus up on his “offer”, then how would the cross have happened? And the dispensationalists who affirm the sovereignty of God will answer you that was not going to happen anymore than Adam was going to avoid sin and keep eating from the tree of life. But the different form of the same question is—what if Christians turned down Satan’s temptations the way Jesus did? Or since Jesus turned down those temptations and justified us, does that mean that we don’t have to turn the temptations down but can take Constantine on board and even aspire to be a “kinder gentler” Constantine ourselves?

    Or has the victory of Jesus so exposed and disarmed the powers already now that there’s no possibility of Satan giving us a Constantine? But what if the new Constantine operates under the banner of religious freedom and pluralism, so that Christians can keep killing but not do it in a way that looks Reconstructionist (or Calvinist) anymore, since the Christians are not killing as Christians anymore but simply as “men being men”?

    Or, to go back again before the cross, is it true that Satan really had the power to offer what he tempts us with, not of course that Satan is not real, but that the offer was always a fake, and so the no that Jesus said really didn’t matter, the gospel is not about that, that was just one thing that happened so that Jesus would end up dead, and now that Jesus accomplished that, we can kill if need be , if not in self-defense (which sounds a little selfish), we can now kill in order to keep alive the right people and make history go in the direction we know it should, which direction is not “secularist”…

    The pacifist rant goes on. But here’s what I want you to imagine.

    Imagine that the Magisterial Reformers (the radicals don’t count, they being worse than Rome) became martyrs instead of leaning on the magistrates to get the best gradual compromise they could get? (not weekly sacrament, not complete authority on fencing table etc)

    Those who imagine don’t live in the real world? Nobody back then could imagine such a thing? (those radicals who could and did don’t count) What good does being a martyr do anybody? Jesus was not a martyr, and even if He was, no need after that for following His example in that way, especially if we have the right attitude, the correct motives, when we welcome Constantine aboard, or when we as private Christians (not as the church during secular time) do our little bit to overcome evil with evil, because —when you get sophisticated and cosmopolitan enough– the evil which overcomes evil is not evil….


  15. McMark,

    Or has the victory of Jesus so exposed and disarmed the powers already now that there’s no possibility of Satan giving us a Constantine? But what if the new Constantine operates under the banner of religious freedom and pluralism, so that Christians can keep killing but not do it in a way that looks Reconstructionist (or Calvinist) anymore, since the Christians are not killing as Christians anymore but simply as “men being men”?

    So well put. I think that the uncomfortable question that 2kers pose in these discussions goes something like this –

    2ker: So, with the pervasive realities of human depravity in mind, how do you ________________ (neo-Cal, Reconstructionist, Evangelical culture warrior) account for what happens when your side wins and you get everything you had hoped for in terms of political power and cultural influence? Do you think that the destruction brought on by sin and the devil will just disappear?

    Culture Warrior: So you propose we do nothing?

    2ker: Well… yes, and no. Yes, like Jesus refused Satan’s offer to wield power amongst the kingdoms of men, so we as the church shouldn’t seek to govern the affairs of the world. And no, we can do much good by living faithfully in a fallen world by seeking to honor God in all he calls us to, in this way we can be a light to our unbelieving neighbors.

    Culture Warrior: That sounds a lot like cowardice to me, you just don’t seem to get it.

    2ker: No, I suppose I don’t. Now should we clock back in – you cut the onions and tomatoes and I’ll handle grill duty.


  16. Wow, no-one responds to my aspirations to Shakesperian brilliance… I am hurt, mostly in my ego-parts.


  17. Jed, you’ll get more of a reaction if you can put a scandal in there someplace. Even Shakespeare knew that. .


  18. Jed the Threadkiller,

    I thought your comment was right-on, ding, ding, triple ding. To add a bit of Shakesperian drama you might have added the addendum, why on earth did the Reformers resort to killing the Anabaptist “heretics” who were basically just trying to resist aggressively, and very courageously I might add, any form of Christian sacralism and neo-Constantinianism?” That is why they left the camp of the Reformers and became the Stepchildren of the Reformation. How is that for stirring up scandal and controversy, Eminem? Perhaps some more Calvinist ignore tactic?


  19. MM,

    You’re absolutely right, I tried to pitch a steak without selling the sizzle.


    Chalk it up to the Anabaptists having to learn the hard way that you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. But, I think you are misreading history here – the Reformed guys were always right… except where I happen to disagree with them.

    On a more serious note, it is very interesting to see how the early Protestants grappled with their emerging 2k views (both Lutheran and Reformed), and the Constantinian frameworks in which they operated. Given the nature of the present debates, it sure doesn’t seem that these issues have been resolved – but on the whole it seems that 2k thinking found a stronger footing amongst the Lutherans than it did amongst the Reformed.


  20. Jed,

    Good points about the Reformed, Jed. However, the Lutherans could never shake their beliefs about the Sacraments, i.e.. baptismal regeneration, consubstantiation (the consubstantiation word raises their peacockian feathers, Holy Spirit and all). You might get a lot out of reading Verduin’s, THE REFORMERS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN. I don’t agree with a lot he said in his chapter on the Catharer but his book is well worth reading. He still is thinking regenerationally instead of legal imputation (if you catch my drift). Your plate is probably full with raising a family, etc., but the book is worth the time it takes to read.


  21. Eminem,

    So what’s up with the reformed aversion with scandal? The Scriptures are full of scandal, i.e. the scandal of the cross and all the scandals in the Scriptures from Genesis 3 on. Paul thrived on scandal- everywhere he went and preached scandal followed.


  22. John, I thought of giving you a ding ding on something you said about Lutheranism on the other thread but I think it’s disorderly to have too many commenters with ding-authority. And that’s the problem with scandals – admittedly “your” scandal is infinitely more entertaining than “my” scandal, but they both tend to be sooo disorderly that I just can’t condone them.

    But maybe you can write a book about the topic – “Scandals So that Grace May Abound.” Sounds scriptural, at least in the broadest sense of scriptural, meaning I’m pretty sure all six of those words are in the Bible.


  23. Eminem,

    Disorderly is part of the human condition, you can try to do something about it in your local churches but much more difficult to deal with in the public square. And 2kers really do not want to return to a neo-Constantinianism or Chrisitan sacralism again. The biggest mistake the major Reformers made was not listening more closely to what some of the Anabaptist’s were saying about not allying with the magistrates. Luther and Calvin turned paranoid about anarchy and losing order in society. They also gained a lot of material favors by allying with the magistrates. I have found that most Reformed and Lutherans just try to disregard and ignore that part of the Reformation without talking about it much. The Reformers ended up trying to replace the Catholic churches sacralism with a Reformed version of sacralism (neo-Constantinianism) It took a new country to flee to too separate church and state the way the New Testament churches modeled it in the Roman Empire. Paul is never seen asking the magistrates of Rome whether he could preach and start churches in their realm like the Reformers started demanding of the Anabaptists. And they started killing them off when they disobeyed. This went on for about a hundred years after the Reformation started too.

    Good thing that grace does still abound because Christians still sin post-baptism or post-imputation of righteousness. Although I would never advocate a carefree attitude towards sin- Christ had to justly meet the demands of the law in order to put His elect under grace instead of law. I grieve that I still sin but now have an advocate and intercessor with the Father. Thank God for that!!


  24. Correction- I grieve that I still sin unless I am trying to drink a Lutheran under the table. Or, the truth of the matter is that we still like sinning even when we are convinced of the work that Christ did for His elect. This should not be but is the reality that is still part of our lives no matter how hard we try to hide it from ourselves and others.


  25. jed: I have found that most Reformed and Lutherans just try to disregard and ignore that part of the Reformation without talking about it much.

    mark: i guess this is better than the alternative, which is to identify even Particular Baptists with Munster. As in, all you need to know about “anabaptists” is that they are like the ones who did polygamy and the violent takeover. Nothing is said about the violence done to conserve the magistrates willing to collaborate with the Reformers. I suppose we hear more about Munster than about the swiss brethren (Grebel and Manz) because they never were able to write or lead churches because Zwingli killed those who would not take up the sword. So in the short from of the history, the sacralism of Luther and Calvin are ignored, and anabaptism is identified with sacralism, even though anabaptism since Munster has been about having two different groups in one society, with one group submitting nonviolently to taxation for Reformed and Lutheran churches and the military adventures of the magistrates on the side of those with the “right conscience”.


  26. Mark,

    That was me not Jed who said that. There is a lot of misunderstandings in the history between the major reformers and the anabaptists. And it seems that many interpret the history between the two groups in a variety of ways. It is just as complicated and varied as the present day debates between the neo-Cals and 2kers. Except now they are not killing each other. Although the killing was one sided back then because most of the anabaptists were non-violent, or, not in positions of authority like the Reformers were.


  27. Eminem,

    Another addition to my comment regarding our still remaining sin. One wise man gave me this counsel one time during my life:

    “I would prefer a bolder approach (not quite akin to Luther’s injunction to Melanchthon’s timidity) ‘The desire for that sin is indeed in you. God would prefer you to take it to him in desperate prayer but if you choose, then sin. You will not lose your salvation nor will you even lose God’s tender sacrificial love for you. So maybe remember that as you sin, and also be prepared that, since you are too valuable to him for this sin to remain in you (or in me), he will bring you to your senses. Let us pray that that is not too painful for you’.

    That is another partial answer to your snark (at least I think it was snark but am not sure- it is sometimes hard to tell on the internet since you cannot see facial expressions and other body language): “But maybe you can write a book about the topic – “Scandals So that Grace May Abound.” Sounds scriptural, at least in the broadest sense of scriptural, meaning I’m pretty sure all six of those words are in the Bible.”


  28. JY, it seems like you’ve used some variant of that argument in the past. Dude, seriously, how is that sinning boldly thing workin’ for ya?


  29. MM,

    What we have here is a failure to communicate. I am more worried about the unnoticed self-righteous, and in positions of power to get away with the more serious sins, than the obvious sins that most in churches get disciplined and punished for. But to answer your question, sinning boldly usually does not work for too long without some kind of consequences taking place. I just wish the positions of authority sins would get their due too. They seem to be able to get away with it longer- like killing anabaptists for over a hundred years and brothers taking money out of family businesses under the guise of “I’m more moral than you”, so I can do what I want with you and the business.


  30. Oh, OK, I see your angle, John.

    Well, there’s a lot there, right? Notice how the pet peeves of culture warriors are the ones that hetero males can’t commit? Then, yes, things like business ethics, financial ethics, and being an idiot-husband are more likely to be overlooked than sins on a short list of taboos.


  31. Leithart – To a Protestant, a sacrament is an aid to memory

    Erik – Belgic Confession Article 33: Of the Sacraments.

    We believe, that our gracious God, on account of our weakness and infirmities hath ordained the sacraments for us, thereby to seal unto us his promises, and to be pledges of the good will and grace of God toward us, and also to nourish and strengthen our faith; which he hath joined to the Word of the gospel, the better to present to our senses, both that which he signifies to us by his Word, and that which he works inwardly in our hearts, thereby assuring and confirming in us the salvation which he imparts to us. For they are visible signs and seals of an inward and invisible thing, by means whereof God worketh in us by the power of the Holy Ghost. Therefore the signs are not in vain or insignificant, so as to deceive us. For Jesus Christ is the true object presented by them, without whom they would be of no moment. Moreover, we are satisfied with the number of sacraments which Christ our Lord hath instituted, which are two only, namely, the sacrament of baptism, and the holy supper of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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