Neither Jew Nor Greek

Christians want their Christian culture. Fundamentalists had theirs and I am forever scarred. From Billy Graham’s movie, “The Restless Ones” and Ralph Carmichael’s “musical,” “Tell it Like it Is,” to Pacific Garden Mission’s “Unschackled” and Uncle Charlie on “Children’s Bible Hour,” I saw and heard enough attempts at Christian culture to want simply regular radio, music, and movies.

But if you are addicted to the prospect of Christian culture, then Roman Catholicism may have what ails you (or it did once):

Once upon a time—before modernity, to be precise—God was alive and robust, and religion united “theory and practice, elite and populace, spirit and senses.” With its capacious embrace of the soul and the body, religion—clearly epitomized, for Eagleton, by Roman Catholicism—has repeatedly exhibited the capacity to “link the most exalted truths to the daily existence of countless men and women.” More attuned to our most fundamental needs and longings than the modern cultural apparatus, it has been “the most tenacious and universal form of popular culture.” With its theology, philosophy, liturgy, and morality, Roman Catholicism embodied a grand synthesis of the human condition that embraced both scholasticism and the Corpus Christi festivals, the Book of Kells and the peasant’s prayers, Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Bonhomme. Eagleton fondly evokes the sensuous felicity of Catholic religious life, how faith finds material expression in “the odour of incense, the colour of a chasuble, the crook of a knee.” (The redolence of Eagleton’s own Catholic past—recounted in his 2003 memoir, The Gatekeeper—is evident throughout this book.)

Indeed, if you are a fundamentalist, you may find neo-Calvinist cultural expressions a much higher octane form of Christian culture. But then if you run up against the limitations of w-w and the not-so-historic nature of Kuyperian transformationalism, you may need the extra helping of civilization that comes with Christendom.

Either way, you are likely missing the a-cultural character of Christianity. Old Testament Israel was an embodiment of cult and culture merged. Christianity did away with that. That’s why Paul had to go to such lengths to find a way to include Gentiles in the covenant community. Christians lived as a separate spiritual people for most of their first three centuries until Constantine gave them the keys to the Christian kingdom. Ever since, we Christians have had to endure Calvinist philosophers, fundamentalist crooners, and not-so-observant Roman Catholic painters.

The lesson is don’t immanentize the eschaton, a point on which Vossians and Voegelinians would appear to agree.

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124 thoughts on “Neither Jew Nor Greek

  1. I’m taking my class to see Nicholas Cage in the Left Behind re-make tomorrow night. Not sure that counts as Christian culture, though!

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  2. The justified elect pass over from being part of the old creation to being legally part of the new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation! The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

    Galatians 6:15 “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor un-circumcision, but new creation.”

    II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh”.

    “Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about a change of culture or morality (or substance or nature) but about an imputed legal reality.

    This is an either or—- the legal state into which we were born or the new legal state when God places us into Christ’s death The new is not continually created by a weekly cultural expression which both is and is not “feeding on Christ”. The new is new because of God’s justification of those who were born ungodly.

    Only for those now in Christ legally has the old has passed. For some of the elect, God has already declared the legal verdict. One day, at the resurrection at Christ’s second coming, there will be visible—dare I say—evidence of God’s just verdict.

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  3. Growing Pains was painfully cheesy but I’d watch reruns of that before I’d watch Left Behind. Perhaps Cage and a bigger budget will convince me. Kirk Cameron in a cacophony of Cagey crooked christian-isms.

    “The problem of an eidos in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton, however, is a theoretical fallacy.[8]” William F. Buckley

    Who talks like that?

    Where are Voegelin’s ubermensch?

    Let’s applaud the RCC for ”its capacious embrace of the soul and the body, religion—clearly epitomized, for Eagleton, by Roman Catholicism— (which) has repeatedly exhibited the capacity to “link the most exalted truths to the daily existence of countless men and women.”

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  4. DG, this is where I get my life theology.

    and
    “A Homerun Life” is the latest series at the local Nazarene church – sounds totally transforming

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  5. D.G.,
    You’re missing a side here. That side points to complicity when the Church is silent. Yes, the transformers are wrong for seeking varying degrees of Christian privilege in influencing culture. But 2kers need to see that the Church has an obligation to address societal (a.k.a., group or corporate ) sins as the Church. And the Church can do so without committing the sins of the transformers which you have pointed out.

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  6. The lesson is don’t immanentize the eschaton, a point on which Vossians and Voegelinians would appear to agree.

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    This entry was posted in Being Human

    And I’ll bet the Volm are all over it, as well.

    Sorry. But the show is kinda fun..

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  7. Well, I’m just back from watching the remake of Left Behind. 3 of us turned up – all teachers. In the most evangelical city in the UK, we 3 constituted the entire audience.

    I don’t say this lightly – I don’t think it’s as good as the original. I don’t think I heard the name “Jesus” once. But I did think of you all when the true believers were raptured out of an aeroplane bearing the logo “PCA.”

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  8. Curt, here you go. Go buy some feed for that one trick pony of yours. Here’s another to replace that one note on your piano (Johnny).

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  9. Cameron’s latest this past Xmas season has the dishonor of having received the worst IMDb rating ever.

    “Give it a few hours and I’m sure Cameron will complain about how he’s the victim of Christian Persecution. When he does, someone please remind him that God’s Not Dead has an average IMDb rating of 5 stars.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/12/04/kirk-camerons-saving-christmas-is-now-officially-the-worst-movie-in-imdbs-history/

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  10. Curt: But 2kers need to see that the Church has an obligation to address societal (a.k.a., group or corporate ) sins as the Church.

    I’m sorry, I’m still unable to find that in Scripture anywhere. The closest I can come is James 5, but that’s still to those within the church (cf 2.1-7).

    Does Paul give diatribes to Caesar? Does he instruct pastors to do so? Is that part of his job description?

    It all comes down to jurisdiction, hence job description. If the church’s job is to “address social justice” — as in, to say to a secular America, “Thus saith the Lord! Stop racism now!” — then Scripture should give some indication that this function is included in the job description of the church. I can’t see that it does.

    What *is* indicated is that prejudice is wrong. So we can preach that from our pulpits and the flock should be bound by that teaching.

    What *is not* indicated is that the church needs to act as America’s spiritual advisor on prejudice. We have no business trying to improve the holiness of America, which is not God’s nation.

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  11. D.G.,
    Disagreeing with you is not a complaint with Jesus. I am willing to bet that the rapture will come before you want to engage in a serious conversation.

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  12. Jeff,
    The OT prophets didn’t do that for you? Neither did James in chapter 5?

    Or did you realize that we have a different historical context now than what existed in apostolic times?

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  13. curt, the state in the Old Testament was expected to conform to revealed truth. Jesus did not expect Pilate to do the same. Why do you believe more in Moses than Jesus?

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  14. Curt: Jeff,

    The OT prophets didn’t do that for you? Neither did James in chapter 5?

    Or did you realize that we have a different historical context now than what existed in apostolic times?

    Exactly. Context, context, context. The audience of the prophets, with specific exceptions, is the people of God. The audience of James is the universal, visible church of God (“To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”).

    So to take statements directed to the church and to direct them at a different audience — civil society — requires a lot of justification that has not yet been supplied.

    By way of analogy, you would agree that it would be folly to preach Eph 4 – 5 to non-believers, because the things assumed therein, such as the indwelling of the Spirit, and the ability to put off the old self and put on the new, are simply not true for them.

    So what troubles me is the decontextualization of James 5 and the OT prophets. They weren’t addressed to civil society.

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  15. Jeff,
    So if you eliminate the minority of times where the prophets address other nations, your point is that they exclusively addressed the people of God. In addition, did you forget the context differences between the OT and the NT. In the OT, God’s people are, for the most part, identified with a nation in a specific locale. In the NT, God’s people are spread throughout the world and are identified by union with Christ.

    In addition, in the OT, God’s people, for the most part, grew as the nation’s population grew. In the NT, God’s people grew in population as people repented believed. And what did they repent from? Didn’t they repent from sin? And if that is true, then shouldn’t the concerns of the Social Gospel contain some of the sins people repent of? And isn’t this especially since, with democracy, people are more accountable for the gov’t they elect and participate in? And finally, what does it say about the Church when the Church refuses to preach against a certain set of sins while unbelievers do? And add to that that while not preaching against a certain set of sins, it benefits from its relationship with those who have wealth and power. Does the French Revolution mean anything to you?

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  16. D.G.,
    Not the answer I would expect from a 2ker who recognizes the differences that exist between being a righteous member of society and being in good standing with the Church. Since those two sets of righteousness are a part of life, they are addressed in some in the Scriptures. In addition, see my response to Jeff.

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  17. Is there a difference between a command and “expecting” a person (or persons) to obey a command?

    Is any living human creature exempt from the obligations of the new covenant? Are those at present outside the new covenant obligated by the commands of the new covenant?

    Horton: “To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they did not belong? If faith is the only way into membership , then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to exercise faith and persevere in faith to the end? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator. The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ.”

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/13/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton/

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  18. CD: In the OT, God’s people are, for the most part, identified with a nation in a specific locale. In the NT, God’s people are spread throughout the world and are identified by union with Christ.

    Agreed.

    CD: In addition, in the OT, God’s people, for the most part, grew as the nation’s population grew. In the NT, God’s people grew in population as people repented believed.

    Close enough. In the NT, God’s people grow both through godly families and also through evangelism.

    CD: And what did they repent from? Didn’t they repent from sin? And if that is true, then shouldn’t the concerns of the Social Gospel contain some of the sins people repent of? And isn’t this especially since, with democracy, people are more accountable for the gov’t they elect and participate in?

    The Social Gospel is not concerned with repentance and faith per se. It is concerned with actualizing Christian ethics in the structures and laws of society.

    So we have a kind of splinching going on here. The genuine concern of the Reformed faith is to bring people to repentance and faith. The concern of the Social Gospel is to bring people to take action in society for the betterment of society. These two sets of goals do not dovetail.

    CD: And finally, what does it say about the Church when the Church refuses to preach against a certain set of sins while unbelievers do?

    The Church should never refuse to preach against any sin. I would never take that stance.

    It is the case, however, that unbelievers will *add to* God’s Word to bind men’s consciences to things that are not sin.

    And in those cases, the Church should refuse to follow social fashion. Do you agree?

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  19. Jeff,
    You wrote:

    The Social Gospel is not concerned with repentance and faith per se. It is concerned with actualizing Christian ethics in the structures and laws of society.

    So we have a kind of splinching going on here. The genuine concern of the Reformed faith is to bring people to repentance and faith. The concern of the Social Gospel is to bring people to take action in society for the betterment of society. These two sets of goals do not dovetail.

    So when the Social Gospel calls on those practicing injustice to stop, that is not calling for repentance? It may not be the perfect calling for repentance, but any call for changing from what is sinful is at least a partial call to repentance. Also, please realize that the “Social Gospel” is not monolith. Rather it contains a set of concerns and how those concerns are acted on depends on the theology of the actor.

    So why is the Social Gospel and the Reformed Faith disjoint? Could it be the fault of those from the Reformed Faith who only want to call people to repent from personal sins but not from involvement in corporate sin–sins of society or the systems one belongs to. And we should note from Romans 2, that we sinful religious people have a thing or two to learn from unbelievers who act on a God-given conscience. It isn’t whether the words we hear come from unbelievers, it is whether the words we hear coincide with God’s Word. And here, I would note underestimate what we can learn because of the common grace working in unbelievers.

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  20. curt, you come across like you alone have figured out social justice and the gospel (but really you need to take a number). And your thinking that you hit a nerve only confirms the impression. Glad you have a strategy for making it through 2015.

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  21. D.G.,
    Perhaps your perception of how I come across has some personal and theological factors. And it is your glib remarks and your efforts to focus the attention on me with some imagined claim that tells me that perhaps a never has been hit

    The real crux to our disagreements is the idea of corporate sin. The reason why that is the crux because if there is such a thing as corporate sin, then 2k theology must go through a significant revision. And realize that there are points about 2k theology that I appreciate over Neo-Calvinism. But also realize that Neo-Calvinism’s strategy for changing makes Neo-Calvinists and 2kers similar, though definitely not identical, in their actions.

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  22. Curt, the other crux of disagreement is the notion of covenant membership. If you’re right then whole social and political bodies (civil governments, communities, and institutions) can or should indeed repent and become baptized and communicant members of the church. But if that’s only true of persons and families then the great revision is yours to reassess how you understand things like sin, grace, repentance, and membership.

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  23. I don’t think Atherstone has any appreciation for how much you enjoy “the stigma of separation that haunts the followers of Machen”

    Why should Banner of Truth be concerned about the “theology” of Calvinism? L Jones had a theology which claimed that God was being more gracious to those with bad theology, and Ian Murray is quick to defend Wesley as a necessary answer to those he calls “antinomians”.

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  24. Hi Curt,

    So when the Social Gospel calls on those practicing injustice to stop, that is not calling for repentance? It may not be the perfect calling for repentance, but any call for changing from what is sinful is at least a partial call to repentance. Also, please realize that the “Social Gospel” is not monolith. Rather it contains a set of concerns and how those concerns are acted on depends on the theology of the actor.

    In reverse order: I would agree that the Social Gospel is not a monolith. So if you have particular concrete examples of folk who “do it right”, perhaps you could bring those forward. My own encounters with Social Gospelites lead me to conclude that bringing people to repentance and faith is either not on the table or else is far in the background.

    I would not agree that calling on people to stop injustice is necessarily a call to repentance. Here we might distinguish:

    (1) If the call is to turn from sin and to look in faith to Christ, then we have a genuine call of repentance. And this is indistinguishable from “the Gospel.” So in this case, the “Social Gospel” is simply coextensive with the gospel, and the distinction between the two disappears.

    (2) If the call is to turn from sin, then we simply have a call for reform and not repentance. This is antithetical to the Gospel, inasmuch as it asks people to reform outside of faith.

    Another way to look at it is in terms of goal. If the goal is faith in Christ then we have the Gospel. If the goal is moral reform, then we have something else entirely.

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  25. Jeff,
    But what is doing it right by your standards? Isn’t any call to justice from God whether it is to move people to “repent” or “reform”? And shouldn’t we celebrate and practice of the Social Gospel which somewhat meritorious knowing that, even with Christians, none of our works are perfect? And is it preaching the Gospel when we tell people to repent from personal sins while remaining silent about their participation in corporate or societal sins?

    Below is a link to one of my blogpost on the Social Gospel.

    http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2013/05/is-social-gospel-biblical-enough-for.html

    We should realize that the sins preached against by the Social Gospel are murder and theft. Would we not preach against those sins on an individual level when preaching the Gospel?

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  26. Zrim,

    What you seem to be saying is that corporate sin can only exist if corporate covenants exist. Logically speaking, you are saying if corporate sins exist, then corporate covenants exist. But where do we get such an implication from the Bible? Because isn’t one of the real issues here whether groups can sin? And if they can, do we share some degree of accountability for the sins of the groups we belong to?

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  27. Curt, “Logically speaking, you are saying if corporate sins exist, then corporate covenants exist. But where do we get such an implication from the Bible?”

    Have you heard of Sinai?

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  28. Curt, the question isn’t whether groups can sin–Paul’s letters and Jesus’ words to whole churches (in Revelation) seems to make clear that collective bodies can sin.

    The question is whether sin is of a personal or socio-political nature. The answer over here is personal, both in the singular and collective sense. Your answer is both personal and socio-political. But where in the NT is there any hint of the latter, i.e. where do you see any instance of God addressing the socio-political sins of civil society? Never. It’s only the personal sins of the church and her members.

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  29. D.G.,
    Logically speaking, you have taken one example and made a general rule. Such does not prove the implication. Did not God hold the nations which he used to punish Israel accountable for invading Israel? In other words, didn’t those nations sin?

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  30. Zrim,
    What you need to do is to show the relevance of your last question. For in it lies the implication that because it wasn’t addressed in the NT, it doesn’t exist. But history has changed since then in two key areas:

    1. Not only has the Gospel spread throughout the world, it has a track record in Western Civilization. And what we have to see in the NT is that, much of the time, the ultimate concern is the honor of the Gospel.

    2. With democracy, we have a more participatory government and thus we have a greater accountability for what our government has done.

    The Biblical literalist assumes that there is no historical difference between the times of the Apostles and now. But such an assumption needs to be examined to see if it is true. And the differences between the times listed above challenges those assumptions.

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  31. Curt, you are the one making the general rule, whether you own up to your theocratic premise or not. I am willing to concede that in the Mosaic covenant corporate sin existed. I don’t believe that covenant is in play any more. But you do, otherwise how do you get corporate sin for all nations?

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  32. Curt, you’re stuck in the OT. But Reformed hermeneutics says the NT interprets the OT. So you can refer to the OT prophets all you want to make the social gospel case, but the NT says they were all about Christ who atoned for the personal sins of his people. Yes, the social gospel has a track record in the west, but it’s to render the church nothing more than a do-gooder society. Nobody needs Christianity for that.

    “Biblical literalist”? I thought you were the self-proclaimed Fundie here?

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  33. D.G.,
    The issue isn’t who has made the general rule, both have. The issue is the basis of the general rules. You have made a general on all based on a single example. And by the conjunction of the example and your rule, you have stated that only those groups that can enter into a covenant relationship with God can commit corporate or group sin. But the OT provides a number of counterexamples to that reasoning. Egypt, which exploited the Hebrews and brutally used them as slaves committed corporate sin. That is, Egypt as a nation sinned. The nations God used to punish Israel sinned as nations and thus committed corporate sin. The peoples who resided in the promised land committed corporate and group sin and the only way to escape their sin was to help Israel. And what about Herod and his soldiers who killed all of those babies in an effort to kill Jesus? Corporate sin is merely the sin committed by groups whether those groups are small such as a group of peers or large such as a nation.

    And the sins we are talking about in terms of social justice, as I have written before, revolve around murder and theft. So when one nation invades another in order to get for itself what it can, you have sin because you have theft. Just ask yourself this question: Did Nazi Germany sin as it invaded its neighbors? You simply get corporate sin by seeing if the group you are examining has broken commandments such as the prohibitions against murder and theft.

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  34. Zrim,
    Please reread my last note to you. It had nothing to do with the Old Testament. So please address the points I made in my last note to you. And please read carefully, for I wrote that it was the Gospel that has a track record, not the social gospel.

    But let’s take your statements for face value. What in the NT contradicts the OT prophets when they talk about Social Justice?

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  35. Curt,

    I have always appreciated your demeanor as you present your position here. My question is, since Daniel worked for the Babylonian government, who was busy invading, killing, promoting idolatry, etc., how would Daniel have fared under your preaching or theology?

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  36. Curt, apologies for the mis-read. But I am reading you in context (more Reformed hermeneutics) and your repeated points about the OT prophets in service of the social gospel. And the point isn’t that the NT contradicts the OT. It interprets the OT and contradicts you, i.e. the OT is about Christ coming to save his people (sin is personal), not about setting social and political ills right (sin isn’t socio-political).

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  37. Curt, if you’re not careful, I’m going to commit a corporate sin against you. We got it already. You believe in corporate sin. No one else does.

    Rinse and repeat.

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  38. Zrim,
    I understand, I’ve done my share of misreads.

    But have to disagree about sin. Sin is any transgression against God’s Word whether it is done by an individual or a group.

    BTW, you haven’t shown where the NT contradicts me. In other words, you haven’t shown where the NT says that my position is wrong. What you have shown is some differences that could easily be due to differences in historical contexts. That is why I wrote that you need to show the relevancy of your point that the NT writers didn’t address the sins committed by groups.

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  39. D.G.,
    You are rinsing and repeating. When a a question or challenge is brought up, you neglect to address it. BTW, Tim Keller talks about corporate guilt, which implies corporate sin. So I guess I am not the only one bring up this issue.

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  40. Todd,
    Good question. Daniel fared well since his concern was limited by command to the people of God. We might want to examine Amos as he challenged the nations around him regarding their sin.

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  41. Curt,

    My question is, why isn’t Daniel guilty of participating in corporate sin in working for the Babylonian government?

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  42. Curt, that’s because the onus isn’t on me to show why social gospel should be embraced, it’s on you to show why it should. IOW, the NT writers simply do not speak like you–they tell people and households to repent and be baptized, not civil societies and governments–so why should we listen to you?

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  43. D.G.,
    Can you show me the relevance of your question? Why does the existence of corporate guilt rest on corporate redemption? Citing one OT example among the many examples of corporate guilt and sin in the OT doesn’t establish the connection.

    And it isn’t enough to list a name and warn of your b-s detector. In fact, it isn’t anything. Keller goes to the Scriptures to show that not all sin is individual sin. He mentions Achan in Joshua 7 and Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 as examples along with being connected to Adam’s sin in Romans 5. What you might be doing is projecting Western individualism onto the Scriptures when you insist that all sin is just individual sin.

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  44. Zrim,
    No, you made the assertion that if there is corporate sin, then there must be corporate redemption. That was, in paraphrased form, you assertion. The burden of proof rests on the person making the assertion.

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  45. Curt, come on already. Do you mean to say there isn’t corporate redemption for corporate sin? If there isn’t redemption then how can there be judgment? And if no judgment, then who cares?

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  46. D.G.,
    The reason for confronting people about sin is so they stop sinning. For those who believe, the battle against sin is part of their redemption. For those who don’t the battle against sin has earthly benefits. Both are true regardless of whether sin is individual or corporate. So why the jumping to conclusion regarding myself personally?

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  47. But, Curt, you don’t seem willing to assume there is corporate redemption. So societies should stop corporate sinning for what reason if redemption (and judgment) isn’t in play as a category?

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  48. Zrim,
    Remember when you wrote:

    Curt, the other crux of disagreement is the notion of covenant membership. If you’re right then whole social and political bodies (civil governments, communities, and institutions) can or should indeed repent and become baptized and communicant members of the church. But if that’s only true of persons and families then the great revision is yours to reassess how you understand things like sin, grace, repentance, and membership.

    In that statement you were saying that corporate sin exists only if corporate covenants exist. Logically speaking, that is the same as saying if corporate sin exists, then corporate covenants exist. That is your assertion and you have the obligation to prove that biblically.

    With your latest example, you’ve implied that the only group that sins is one’s family because you wrote that the covenant membership is applied to individuals and families only. However, only those individual family members who believe or who, because of mental ability, cannot believe are saved. Thus, the family as a group is not always saved.

    So with your latest statement:

    Curt, come on already. Do you mean to say there isn’t corporate redemption for corporate sin? If there isn’t redemption then how can there be judgment? And if no judgment, then who cares?

    you are saying either that repenting of sin doesn’t matter if there is no judgment involved or corporate sin exists only if there is redemption and redemption exists only if there is judgment. And yet, both in the OT and NT, judgment exists for the nations (see Revelation for the NT).

    But how can repenting of sin not matter when no judgment is involved to the person who is the victim of the sin?

    You think you have covered your position by saying that for corporate sin to exist, corporate redemption must also exist. The problem is that such a concept is not in the Bible. Your reference to families does not carry the same application here in terms of redemption. And it is obvious that when groups, including societies and governments, kill and steal from others, they sin. But, for whatever reason, you don’t want to preach repentance to those who sin in groups outside of families.

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  49. Curt, if the concept of corporate (better, social) redemption doesn’t exist in the Bible then why should Protestants care? And that’s why the onus is on you–you’re promoting a category that (you even admit) doesn’t exist in the Bible. Are you listening to yourself?

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  50. Zrim,
    You haven’t shown that corporate redemption is necessary for corporate sin to exist. Again, you asserted that, the person who asserts has the burden of proof. That corporate sin exists in the Bible is beyond doubt. The prophets preached repentance to other nations than Israel. That those in the land the Israelites were to inherit had corporate sin and the escape from that sin was either for the group in general to repent, as Nineveh did, or to come out from the group and be saved, as Rehab did. The rejection of Christ by the Jews was both corporate and individual sin–he came unto his own (John 1) and the Jewish people calling for Christ’s crucifixion not only sinned as a group but called for the responsibility for the crucifixion to be put on themselves and their children.

    Again, you haven’t shown that corporate redemption is necessary for corporate sin to exist. What yo have done is assert and claim that I have the burden of proof to disprove it. In the meantime, some basic questions must be answered. Did Nazi Germany sin when they invaded other countries and committed genocide. According to your logic, if there is no corporate redemption for any nation, there is no corporate sin and therefore Nazi Germany didn’t sin. The same goes with any group we belong to. If we are with a group of friends and that group bullies someone, did that group sin? Or is only sin when bullying, murder, and theft are done by individuals?

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  51. curt, so you think sin is something that believers and unbelievers battle alike? And what pray tell are the earthly benefits of battling sin? Inheriting the holy land?

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  52. Curt, you’re stalling things on a technicality because you know the end game is making civil society and institutions church members and that is impossible. Still, if social sin doesn’t need social redemption (and judgment) to exist to justify its legitimacy then there is no motivation to do anything about social sin. Yet you keep speaking as if there is. Well, what is it? Is Nazi Germany supposed to be motivated by gratitude that Jesus lived and died for her sins? Is that how we should speak? Or do you know it’s obvious how silly that is? Yet you can’t get over just how gosh darn awful the Third Reich was so you invoke sin language to really nail it. But at best one can only speak loosely or figuratively about “the sins of Nazi Germany,” because until it can repent, be baptized and become a communicant member of the church it cannot be said to have sinned biblically.

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  53. Zrim,
    What technicality am I stalling on? Is it the one where the person making the assertion bears the burden of proof. Are you saying I am stalling because I don’t see the scriptural justification for saying that if there is no corporate redemption, there is no corporate sin.

    And yet, we see corporate sin in both testaments and around us.

    And what is your comeback? If there is no redemption, there is no motivation to change. Yet, those who come out from their groups by resisting what they do, if they do so because they have believed in Jesus isn’t there redemption? Furthermore, if the only reason you are willing to repent of group sin that hurts others is for redemption, then haven’t you failed to love your neighbor as yourself?

    And in that, you have hit the main motivation for the stand you take. It is one of doing for oneself and ignoring others. That is the redeemed Christian to you.

    Finally, did you read what you wrote about Nazi Germany? Again, you assert that unless it can be repented of and baptized for, it is not a sin biblically speaking. And then you say that I can’t get over how awful the Nazi Germany was. That plays well with others who deny corporate sin. But I doubt if you would say that in public.

    And, btw, remember the examples I gave. Nazi Germany could have repented as a group and be spared at least some of the judgment they received just as Nineveh was spared its judgment. Or those Christians in Nazi Germany could have come out by resisting what the nation they belonged to did.

    So while you refusing to explicitly say that Nazi Germany sinned by invading its neighbors, the real issue is whether you are willing to point out the sins of the groups you are in. Here, everybody is guilty. Nobody points out the sins of every group they are in and nobody who points out the sins does it perfectly. But the issue is whether you are willing to see the need and try to for the sake of others. For from what you say, the Christian should only be motivated by what they will get, not by what they can do for others. That makes the Christian pretty self-centered.

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  54. D.G.,
    You don’t think that nonChristians battle sin for the reasons given for why nonbelievers do what is right as described in Romans 2:14-15?

    Plus, there seems to be a similar theme in Zrim’s writing as in yours. Unless one is motivated by a future heaven, there is no reason why I should do a particular task or repent of a sin. Is such a reasoning Biblical? Is such a reasoning one that directs us to love God and neighbor or does such a reasoning leave unchanged our love of self?

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  55. curt, you’re going to invoke the Bible now!? If you use the word sin, a biblical word, then you need to locate in the context of redemption or salvation from sin. You only seem to want to talk about sin as morality. Yeah, that’s biblical.

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  56. Curt, a social gospeler that is holier than thou–what a surprise. Yes, it’s utter self-centered greed that drives the defining of sin as personal over social. But now you surmise that Germany could have circumvented judgment the way Nineveh did? Don’t look now, but you’re sounding a lot like Pat Robertson who declared 9/11 a form of judgment for America allowing gay pride parades (invoking OT specters as proof texts). The problem with you social gospelers is not only do you think you can discern the secret will of God in matters providential–and more surprise, it looks a lot like your particular morality–you have an odd notion of divine judgment between the cross and the second coming. It was displayed in the former and will only be seen again one last time in the latter. Whatever happens between now and then isn’t divine judgment.

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  57. Wow, Curt has an interesting website:

    Site Page
    1. patheos
    2. thegospelcoalition
    3. aei
    4. johnpavlovitz
    5. layman(dot)org

    His posts on the divestment matter before the mainline denom are kinda interesting.

    Sorry, back to the topic, what was is again? Xtian movies? Peace.

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  58. I understand the 3 uses of the Law, thanks to WSCAL, White Horse Inn, my former pastor, D.G. Hart/Old Life Friends, and a number of others, but it was not until I was around 46 that I really understood these things, and I’m 55 now, so it does take time for the conscience (a badly informed one) to ‘get it’. I spent more than enough time in Semi-Pelagian-Arminian Land and was crushed by more than enough tablets of stone (the Law and man-made laws) that when the Gospel really was taught to me and I understood it, along with the 3 uses, especially the 3rd use, I still desired to be conformed to Christ’s image but I could never go back to being under that miserable existence anymore. Only Christ can help me to conform to His Image, with the Law as my friend-guide now. Good News indeed.

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  59. Zrim,
    Now that you are making accusation after accusation, realize that the purpose of doing so is to distract from the discussion. And in so doing, you think you are defending an orthodox view but you do so in a sinful way. Being eager to make accusations is not from the fruit of the Spirit. And when we don’t bear the fruit of the Spirit when discussing issues, we need to step back and examine ourselves. That applies to both of us.

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  60. D.G.,
    I’ve always relied on the Bible in these discussions. I can’t discuss morality without relying on the Scriptures. The difference is that I believe that the Bible uses morals in multiple ways including the context of redemption and salvation. I believe that because there are areas of life, that is our current exile among the Babylonians, where we need to discuss morality. And since every area of life is addressed by God’s Word, then I see no problem with talking about morality while not always including redemption and salvation. But I also look to include it where I can.

    Whenever we have sin, whether that sin is corporate or personal, we include issues of morality and the need for redemption. Sometimes it is just an audience-dependent matter of timing that determines when to bring in redemption.

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  61. Curt, the purpose is not to distract. It’s to press you to own up to the implications of social gospel. They aren’t comfortable, so you side step with and stall by demanding it be proven that social sin must also co-exist with social judgment and redemption, then suggest that even wanting to know what the incentives and sanctions are for addressing social sin is a function of pure self-centeredness.

    Have you considered that you might do better by simply championing certain social or political outlooks without having to baptize them and go social and political gospel? Plenty of people do it and they get a better hearing for their sanity and hesitation to obnoxiously claim heaven for their side.

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  62. JRC: if you have particular concrete examples of folk who “do it right”, perhaps you could bring those forward.

    Curt: But what is doing it right by your standards?

    I was asking rather for you to provide examples of those who do it right by your standards not mine. That way, I will not be mischaracterizing your position.

    Curt: Isn’t any call to justice from God whether it is to move people to “repent” or “reform”?

    I’m not sure I understand this. I see people all the time call for justice without their calls being from God. “That’s not fair!” is a cliché.

    So are you saying that anytime anyone calls for justice, that is from God? Surely not.

    Curt: And is it preaching the Gospel when we tell people to repent from personal sins while remaining silent about their participation in corporate or societal sins?

    This might explain one of our differences. I would put preaching for repentance in the category of “preaching the law” rather than preaching the Gospel per se.

    So then we would have to ask what use of the Law you are intending with the Social Gospel.

    Curt: And shouldn’t we celebrate and practice of the Social Gospel which somewhat meritorious knowing that, even with Christians, none of our works are perfect?

    No, I would say not. Just as there are valid uses of the Law, there are also very pernicious uses of the Law. One of those pernicious uses is to lay upon people burdens that they cannot bear.

    Civil law is all about edict and threat of punishment. Demanding of non-Christians that they conform to the Law of God by edict and under threat of punishment is simply cruel. We can preach expectation for Christians within the church to conform to God’s law because they are under grace, and their works are viewed through the lens of the righteousness of Christ.

    Curt to Zrim and/or DGH: BTW, you haven’t shown where the NT contradicts me. In other words, you haven’t shown where the NT says that my position is wrong.

    This and several other comments indicate some confusion about burden of proof. If one is positively teaching a doctrine (such as the Social Gospel), then the burden of proof lies on the teacher to show that the doctrine is good and necessary inference from Scripture.

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  63. We need some clarity in terms. What is “corporate sin” supposed to mean? If I live in the United States, am I guilty for all of the actions of the United States?

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  64. jrc, you reminded me of

    Indeed nothing makes a man more unpop-
    ular in the controversies of the present day than an
    insistence upon definition of terms. Anything, it
    seems, may be forgiven more readily than that. Men
    discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as
    God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption,
    faith; but are greatly incensed when they are asked to
    tell in simple language what they mean by these terms.
    They do not like to have the flow of their eloquence
    checked by so vulgar a thing as a definition. And so
    they will probably be incensed by the question which
    forms the title of these lectures; in the midst of elo-
    quent celebrations of faith usually faith contrasted
    with knowledge it seems disconcerting to be asked
    what faith is.

    since someone on another thread today was wishing me well on my reading comprehension of JGM today (how thoughtful of him).

    carry on!

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  65. Jeff, I tried to distinguish between corporate and social sin earlier (i.e. while sin can be corporate and singular, it can only be personal in nature as opposed to social or political. So the church and her members can sin but not a civil society or government). I think by corporate Curt means social.

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  66. @Jeff C.
    So then we would have to ask what use of the Law you are intending with the Social Gospel.

    Indeed… That really gets to the heart of the matter in that it seems Law is being used (whether through legislation or personal works) as a means of furthering or fulfilling the “social gospel.” Talk about a confusion of categories and, even more, creating categories not in Scripture (unless you go back to the nation of Israel under the Law as a typological covenant of works).

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  67. Jeff,
    The burden of proof always lies on the person making the assertion. Those who say that corporate sin cannot exist if corporate redemption doesn’t exist bear the burden of proof for showing that implication. As for whether I showed any proof for corporate sin, I simply referred to the sins of countries surround Israel as evidence as well as the sins of the people who called for Jesus’ crucifixion.

    Note that I also cited historical and hypothetical examples which no one refuted. Finally, Zrim answered the question about whether Nazi Germany sinned by invading countries. He said, if memory serves, that they did not commit Biblical sins. To me, such is an unusual statement considering that the Scriptures define what sin is. My hypothetical example was what if you are in a group that bullies a person and though you don’t bully, you don’t say anything either. Did your group sin when it bullied a person and if so, did you sin by remaining silent?

    The crux of this matter challenges the 2K position of whether the Church can speak as the Church to social problems. For if there is corporate sin, then the 2 position needs to be modified. This where the rub is.

    For your other concerns, when you wrote:

    Civil law is all about edict and threat of punishment. Demanding of non-Christians that they conform to the Law of God by edict and under threat of punishment is simply cruel. We can preach expectation for Christians within the church to conform to God’s law because they are under grace, and their works are viewed through the lens of the righteousness of Christ.

    First, Civil law, according to Romans 13 is more than just about the threat of punishment, it is about the protection of the innocent as well. In addition, how is demanding that people conform to the Law of God by “edict and under threat of punishment” either cruel or has anything to do with social justice? We should distinguish what kind of compliance we can expect ourselves and other to adhere to the Law of God is less than what God can expect. While we should expect others not to steal and murder in actions only, God expects us to be perfect in fulfilling these commandments in both body and spirit so that we wish our neighbor success and love rather than hate him/her. So how is demanding that people refrain from stealing from and murdering others cruel?

    You ask:

    I’m not sure I understand this. I see people all the time call for justice without their calls being from God. “That’s not fair!” is a cliché.

    How is it that if God is a God of justice, that any call to be truly just does not come from God? If God could speak to the Israelites through a donkey and to the religious people of Paul’s day through the Gentiles (see romans 2:14-16), how is it that He cannot call us to be more just through anyone whether they are Christian or not?

    When you write:

    I would put preaching for repentance in the category of “preaching the law” rather than preaching the Gospel per se.

    Realize that the Gospel cannot be understood without the Law. Therefore, preaching the law is part of preaching the Gospel. And even when we don’t preach about salvation, preaching the law as in the commandments prohibiting murder and theft has value for both the person who externally heeds those commandments and for the would be victims. And please remember how Jesus introduced His ministry. What was it that He preached from Isaiah?

    And when you ask:

    I was asking rather for you to provide examples of those who do it right by your standards not mine. That way, I will not be mischaracterizing your position.

    No one will ever do it totally right. Here the emphasis is on the content. How biblical is the content is the key.

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  68. Curt, right, but the distinction which escapes you is between the personal (singular or corporate) and the political. You’re conflating the two and out pops social gospel.

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  69. Zrim,
    Again, the two dangers Christians face concerning the Social Gospel are: 1) to amputate the Social Gospel from the Gospel; and 2) to reduce the Gospel to the Social Gospel. You write to me as if I do the latter and I do not.

    Second, yes, we are responsible for political sins in a democratic nation. This especially true when we have the right to vote against, speak out against, and perform other actions resistance against unrighteous policies. To illustrate the privileges we have over people from other nations whose governments act unrighteously, realize that in totalitarian Nazi Germany, there was resistance as shown by those who hid Jews and others sought by the Nazis and by groups like the White Rose. If there can be resistance to governmental unrighteousness in totalitarian nations, how much more can there be resistance here where we enjoy more freedoms?

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  70. Curt, I write to you as neither but as one who adds social gospel to gospel, much the way some might add works to faith. You do to the gospel what Rome does to justification.

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  71. Zrim,
    If you have to add the Social Gospel to the Gospel, then you have already amputated it in the first place. And those who do so might want to consider if they are practicing a selective antinomianism. After all, if a Christian said that they were bound by what the law says about practicing sex within the confines of a heterosexual marriage because they were saved by grace, wouldn’t that be antinomian?

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  72. Curt, antinomianism? That’s the Roman response to sola fide. More parallelism. But you lost me–what part of law keeping in your marital analogy is antinomian?

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  73. Curt, what in thee hades are you talking about? Antinomianism and license are synonymous. The Reformed response to both is obedience. Have you heard of the third use of the law?

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  74. Zrim,
    You know what I am talking about. The rationalization for license is antinomianism. The Reformed response to license is call out the rationalization for what it was.; The Reformed response was to label it and identify it first.

    But if obedience is your thing here, why do you say that way of loving your neighbor is adding to the Gospel?

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  75. Curt, so what is liberty in your scheme? Does it even exist? Or does it exist but is confined to “things that don’t bug Curt”? That’s the usual way of the social gospeler, who is to social and political questions what the teetotaler is to personal health and holiness. Once his particular sensibilities are irritated he plays the antinomian card against those who would protect the political or personal inclinations of even those with whom the protector is at odds.

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  76. Zrim,
    Liberty means to me what it meant to Paul. It is that liberty doesn’t free from loving my neighbor using the Good Samaritan parable’s definition of neighbor. Also noting that liberty isn’t the freedom to live selfishly ambitious lives as described in Romans 2.

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  77. Curt, contrary to popular opinion and social gospelers, the GS parable isn’t about loving your neighbor–nobody needs a parable to tell them what they already know. It’s about justification–something that needs a parable to tell some what they don’t know (and hide it from others who think “help someone who clearly needs help” is profound).

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  78. Zrim,
    So, according to you, there is nothing we can learn about loving one’s neighbor from the Good Samaritan parable? And, btw, didn’t the person Jesus was talking to need to hear what it meant to love one’ neighbor? And if we don’t need to hear about what we already know and people knew that they were to love their neighbor, Paul didn’t have to write about what it meant to love others in I Cor 13? But that was not a parable. So apparently, though people don’t need a parable to learn about what they know, they do need direct teaching to do the same? BTW, people back then didn’t know about helping those in need as was told in the parable of the sheep and goats? But a lot of helping people who are not in one’s group is in that parable and shares many of the concerns that the Good Samaritan parable has. And what about the other parables, people didn’t know about the subjects addressed in them?

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  79. Zrim,

    Curt, contrary to popular opinion and social gospelers, the GS parable isn’t about loving your neighbor–nobody needs a parable to tell them what they already know. It’s about justification–something that needs a parable to tell some what they don’t know (and hide it from others who think “help someone who clearly needs help” is profound).

    Please don’t tell me you’re taking this flying exegetical leap into no man’s land. I’m not agreeing with Curt’s idiosyncracies, but the GS is most definitely about loving your neighbor. First century Jews didn’t already know they needed to view all human beings as their neighbors, at least not the Jews Jesus was criticizing.

    Depending on the context “help someone who clearly needs help” is profound. Just ask the untouchables in India how obvious it is to Indian culture that the highest castes should help them. Just ask hardcore racists in the pre-Civil Rights era if it is obvious that they should help those who obviously need help when those who obviously need help are of a different skin color.

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  80. Zrim,
    That is the problem. You are using an authoritarian appeal. The parable says much about what it means to love one’s neighbor as much as identifying who that neighbor is. So you are with ____ & ____. You have explained nothing there.

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  81. Curt,

    An appeal to authority is not presented as a valid logical argument (“Horton says, so it must be true”) but as a sound inductive argument (“Horton is an acknowledged expert; Horton says; this increases the likelihood that it is true”)

    So dismissing Zrim as “appealing to authority” is to misunderstand the nature of his argument.

    That said, I don’t agree that the GS is *entirely* about Christ. I think Jesus is preaching the Law here, which is why he tells the Pharisee to go and do likewise (Luke 10.37). The context of the discussion is “what must I do to be saved?”, and the response is, “keep the Law perfectly.”

    With that in mind, Zrim generally has the better argument here. Even if we might not agree that the GS represents Christ in the parable, still and all, we have to admit that Jesus is teaching the Pharisee that he cannot be justified by his good works. The “go and do likewise” is rhetorical.

    And that’s the main point. The Social Gospel wrests the GS out of its context of teaching inability, and turns it into a parable about how we ought to transform society.

    What’s needed here are the three uses of the Law. Ultimately, the GS parable exposits the Law, so that it first teaches our inability, and only subsequently, for those who are justified, does it teach how we may love God and neighbor.

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  82. Jeff,
    You are correct, appealing to authority is not a valid argument. So when Zrim simply appeals to his source(s) supplying no addition facts or logic to back it up, then, by your criteria, he has not presented a valid argument at all. In addition, prior to his appeal to authority, he simply asserts that the Good Samaritan parable does not teach us anything about what it means to love one’s neighbor. Again, he provides no argument to back that statement because he simply appealed to an authority.

    Now unless I am overlooking statements made, I am not sure how you have proved the quality of Zrim’s argument. You are simply doing what he did, you are making assertions without building a valid argument.

    As for your comments about the Social Gospel, whose Social Gospel are you talking about? Is the Social Gospel a monolith? Or can certain versions of it rightly fit into our current understanding of the Gospel? See, without a precise definition of the Social Gospel, your statement is not testable.

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  83. curt, “unless I am overlooking statements made, I am not sure how you have proved the quality of Zrim’s argument. You are simply doing what he did, you are making assertions without building a valid argument.”

    Don’t go all Bryan with the Cap on us.

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  84. Curt, you misunderstood Jeff’s point, which was appealing to an authoritative source wasn’t intended as an argument. It was intended as an appeal to an explanation with which I side. It’s simply to tell you where I’m coming from. More quibbling over technicalities from you serving to distract. But I’m still waiting to hear how civil societies and governments can repent and become members of the church.

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  85. Curt,

    I’m not sure, but your comment seems to reveal some confusion about what “valid” means.

    To overgeneralize, math proceeds on the basis of valid deductive arguments: if the premises are true, the conclusions are guaranteed true.

    Science uses a combination of deductive and inductive arguments. The latter are not valid at all, but can be sound: given the data we have, the conclusion is very likely.

    For example, it is *not valid* to argue that “because gravity has always pulled downwards in the past, it will continue to do so in the future.”

    That is an invalid deductive argument, but a sound inductive argument (given the totality of our data on gravity).

    Many formal fallacies (argument from authority, argument from consensus) are logically invalid but can be sound inductively.

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