If We Can Yawn about Blasphemous Cartoons . . .

what about public schools?

Paris has some Kuyperians thinking:

The tradition in which I am currently immersed–the Kuyperian tradition–tends to use the term secular like a curse word. The argument usually begins and ends by showing that there is no such thing – there is no neutrality or objectivity. Everything has a direction, a telos, and some form of religious grounding. It might be the worship of the true God, or it might be the worship of some idol–the point is every part of creation is caught up in a religious direction or grounding. I get it. This, however, is much more an argument against “secularism” and not secularity. Secularity, I believe, is the freeing of the world to be the world. That trees in fact are just as mysterious being trees as they are being the conduit of spirits or even God’s grace to us. Maybe God is happy letting trees be trees? In fact, as Charles Taylor argues in his work The Secular Age, secularity of this type can be traced back to the reform movement of the 16th century. That’s us… those who stand in the line of Luther and Calvin.

So what does this have to do with what happened in France? Maybe reclaiming a healthy sense of secularity can be a tiny step toward preventing people from killing others over cartoons that, to be honest, are disgusting and offensive. (A colleague showed me a cartoon of the Trinity drawn by Charlie Hebdow… yikes!) But what if we all–Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc–recognized that these cartoons have no power, they do not strike at the heart of what we believe, and they are not all that funny. What if we learned to respond to issues like this with a collective “yawn” because the only power these images have is the power we give them? Yes we need to be politically and culturally engaged, Christians should be part of the debate about important issues. But at the end of the day, Charlie Hebdow, Obamacare, or the Green Bay Packers, should not be a reason to hate our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.

And yet, if everything comes down to antithesis, then isn’t enmity everywhere?

25 thoughts on “If We Can Yawn about Blasphemous Cartoons . . .

  1. From some good book…

    (11) Reentry by assault. The writer-artist makes sure that he is in the world and that he is real by taking on the world, usually by political action and, more often than not, revolutionary. Even if one is imprisoned by the state — especially if one is imprisoned — one can be certain of being human. Ghosts can’t be imprisoned. This stratagem is more available to European writers, who are taken more seriously than American writers. The secret envy of American writers: Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Despite their most violent attacks on the state and the establishment, nobody pays much attention to American writers, least of all the state. To have taken on the state and defeated it, like Solzhenitsyn, is beyond the wildest dreams of the American writer. Because the state doesn’t care. This indifference leads to ever more frantic attempts to attract attention, like an ignored child, even to the point of depicting President Johnson and Lady Bird plotting the assassination of Kennedy in Barbara Garson’s MacBird! or President Nixon having sex with Ethel Rosenberg and being buggered by Uncle Sam in Times Square in Robert Coover’s The Public Burning.

    Still, no one pays attention.

    A paradigm of this generally failed reentry option: a lonely “radical” American writer standing outside the White House gate, screaming obscenities about this fascist state, dictatorship, exploitation of minorities, suppression of freedom of speech, and so on and on — all the while being ignored by President, police, and passersby.

    There are worse things than the Gulag.”


  2. Maybe God is happy letting trees be trees? In fact, as Charles Taylor argues in his work The Secular Age, secularity of this type can be traced back to the reform movement of the 16th century. That’s us… those who stand in the line of Luther and Calvin.

    Maybe God is happy letting trees be trees, yo.


  3. Maybe someday we can find a way to persuade Muslims that conversion to their faith cannot come by merely asserting Allah is God and Muhammad is his one true prophet. Their definition of faith = submission. When others fail to submit, they must be destroyed. There can be no other response. They have no concept of apologetics or reasoned faith. Hence they won’t enter into persuasion in the public square. They don’t try to persuade others that Charlie Hebdo is wrong or offensive.

    I used to think it was because they have no good case to make for the Koran or Muhammad, but it does not stop the Mormons trying to get me to believe their Book or prophet.

    The American version of the Muslim faith is Mormonism, fortunately they abandoned Joseph Smith’s practice of conquest or separation and have tried to persuade us with persistent niceness and slick marketing (who decided the angel was named Moroni, call marketing!). Just as lost, but they make safer neighbors, although they are more successful at getting converts.


  4. Interesting distinction here between secularism and secularity. Antithesis may well be everywhere, but a “Christian” view of the State in Kuyper’s view embraces pluralism, which seems very close to “secularity” as described and even to the 2K common/secular. I don’t understand why you make Kuyperians out to be 2k’s enemy in a theory of State.

    Kuyperianism is not theocracy. It’s not theonomy, in the Reconstructionist sense, but it is theonomy in the Creational (Natural) Law sense, applied in a creational/common grace way, acknowledging the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of disparate worldviews/religions in a principled pluralism.


  5. Terry, if you like pluralism, then you gotta love the Netherlands. I’m not sure that many Kuyperians here except for your old colleagues at Calvin College want that kind of pluralism.

    But you have to admit that the rhetoric of “every square inch” and w-w is hardly conducive to pluralism.


  6. Terry, but if Kuyperians talk about the state and governance the way they do the mind and learning (and they do) then it’s hard to see how plurality is a virtue for the public square. Is plurality pursued in the halls of Christian academia? Not to my knowledge. In fact, that’s the point, to cultivate a narrow worldview and discourage pluralism–a commendable but just mis-placed impulse. When the architects and champions of Christian academia turn to public governance are you seriously saying we’d get the American republic?


  7. DGH: But you have to admit that the rhetoric of “every square inch” and w-w is hardly conducive to pluralism.

    But rhetoric and flipping the ‘angry zealous baptist’ switch is all the fun.

    Met up with one of those people recently in his dying days from cancer, sadly a shell of himself and not able to flip the switch, thus doubting his faith.

    Better to rely on a sovereign God for my perfect justification and struggle of a sanctification and able to rest with this during those days when i can’t flip the switch.


  8. You guys don’t get it. “Every square inch” in statecraft may mean principled pluralism. It doesn’t have to mean a theocratic state. You all admit that Christ rules the civil realm via his natural law. Also, pluralism in academia means worldview rooted theorizing for each worldview. Everyone does their own. Sometimes there might be agreement, as in statecraft. Statecraft is different from academia in that there is an obligation by the state to protect (grant freedom of expression to) the disparate worldviews. Thus, the state supports schools from all worldview represented by its citizens. Zrim, what goes for the state doesn’t necessarily go for the school. Why can’t there be different principles at work for different social structures? You certainly don’t have this problem when thinking about the church.


  9. Terry, it’s not that from a Kuyperian point of view statecraft and academia don’t have their distinctions, as in to learn and to govern are different things. It’s that they’re both facets of the creational order where every square inch is his(!), and so following the principles why would a Christian state look any different from a Christian school, i.e. perhaps various outlooks dwell within the borders but clearly a pre-dominant ethic that says that’s “not the way it should be” and wants to privilege only one of them?

    But the principles of redemption are different from those of creation, as in how to govern and arrange civil society is relative and open but how to save humanity isn’t.


  10. Terry, come on. If we avoid the secular state schools because of antithetical w-w, don’t we also avoid the secular state? We don’t like their schools but we like their government?


  11. I continue to be mystified by some of the language used around here. Not a criticism, but an honest admission. I know about Kuyper’s antithesis (I prefer Van Til’s refinement), but what is:


    If someone would be so good as to graciously indulge my apparent ignorance, I would greatly appreciate it.


  12. Darryl, that’s the Kuyperian view, as I understand it. There’s a distinctly Christian voice, but in the State, it’s one voice of many–and that God’s will for the State is that there be many voices. It doesn’t have to be God’s will for the school. Why do we have to be so simplistic about this? Different spheres may have different norms.


  13. Terry, but neo-Calvinism is about inspiration. Every square inch is inspiring. Principle pluralism is complicated. The latter is part of the neo-Cal play book. But the likes of Dr. K, your average evangelical, and Doug Wilson never get to that part of the book. That’s why they can use every square inch to fear monger 2kers as either girly men or sinners.


  14. No informed Calvinist is going to deny “every square inch” in principle as it is simply the acknowledgment that God is “the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth.” WCF II:II

    How, indeed IF, that translates into Christian practice at the level of the magistrate is what’s in question. The 1646 version of WCF XXIII:III can be interpreted as a theonomic mandate, while the severely Americanized version of the OPC leans in a distinctly Kuyperian direction.

    The bible commands no specific form of government. It also neither commands nor discourages that believers seek pubic office. It does however enforce principles of holiness and godliness upon the church and hence individuals within her that will unavoidably govern their conduct if public office is their call in life. Because those principles are universal. (Colossians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Romans 14:23) They do not cease at the halls of government as papist imposters like Mario Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi attempt/ed to maintain.

    The truth as I cannot help but see it is this. Is it the Christian magistrate’s (YES, there has to be such a thing) duty to enforce the New Testament moral law upon civil society where possible? Yes. Is it the magistrate’s responsibility to enforce order and orthodoxy upon the church as per the 1646 version of the confession? God forbid! Is it the church’s mission and mandate to infiltrate, manipulate and or coerce pagans and a pagan society into conducting themselves in a Christian manner? Or to use such tactics for evangelism? There is no biblical precept or precedent for this whatsoever.

    Christ came to save His people from their sins. Not to transform the world this side of the resurrection. However, where enough of His people have been saved from their sins in the same place at the same time so as to afford them civil authority by the consent of the governed and cultural influence because of ascending godly sensibilities, it cannot but be the case that the righteousness of the body of Christ hold significant sway in the public sphere.

    In other words the church’s mandate and mission is evangelism and discipleship. Where faithful and fruitful that mission will positively affect that society. The great commission of Matthew 28 is not commanding us to turn nations into disciples. Nations cannot be baptized. It is commanding us to make disciples of individuals from all nations, Jews and Gentiles, as is the constant theme of the New Testament from Pentecost on and is actually a fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. IF God saves a society it will be one individual at a time.

    Here I’m tempted to go off on a tangent of how it’s not just misguided “evangelicals” (whatever that is anymore), who are misapprehending their assignments as servants and ambassadors of Christ in the earth, but “new perspective” heretics like N.T. Wright are also poisoning the church with this false focus of justice and helping the poor rather than it being the natural consequence of the redeemed being… well… redeemed. Yes, those things are very important, but they are the outgrowth of a faithful church fulfilling her mission to save the lost and not the mission itself.

    Today’s so called “transformationalists” are accomplishing the exact opposite of what they hope because God will not empower a mission that he has not commanded. A Christian musician managing to sell records to the secular world has nothing to do with the great commission. There can unfortunately be no concord between Biola and Westminster. Obviously I see Westminster as the biblical model, but where the enemy has been thus far unsuccessful in neutralizing her theologically, he has been quite successful on the moral front. He has both with Biola, but that’s another whole story and I’ve gotten way off further than I planned already.

    As usual these are huge sprawling topics


  15. Any toad can lift up onto its hind legs and belch out all kinds of pieties and little laws that it wants in a perfect world.

    Others see it as a total waste of time to bicker about things that will never be and can get increasingly disgusted when this is imposed on the gratitude portion of our faith.


  16. Darryl, that’s one of the nicest things you’ve ever said about neo-Calvinists. I prefer not to let those who only partially embrace or even wrongly embrace the term own the term. That’s why I still call myself a “creationist.”


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