Political Theology without Christ

Oliver O’Donovan on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the “end” of Christendom:

. . . it ended up promoting a concept of the state’s role from which Christology was excluded, that of a state freed from all responsibility to reocognise God’s self-disclosure in history. (The Desire of the Nations, 244).

If Double-O is correct, why does Paul write about politics without referring to Christ or God’s self-disclosure?

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

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127 thoughts on “Political Theology without Christ

  1. But if we can’t resist, go our own way, and call “not right” whenever we want to we, being at the mercy of the state, would just have to trust God to protect us. Oh…maybe that’s the idea after all.

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  2. Religion was left to the individual states. The “Godless Constitution” argument buries the truth under BS.

    As for Romans 13,

    For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

    was used to defend the Divine Right of Kings, which nobody I know of defends with a straight face. Present company excepted.

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  3. Tom,

    Since you’re not a Christian you can’t wrap your mind around the notion of living as aliens & strangers in a foreign land (this present age which is passing away).

    Paul could.

    When you can grasp that, you realize that who your leaders are matters less than having a godly response to whoever your leaders are.

    But this life is all you think you’ve got, thus your outrage toward these notions.

    Must suck.

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  4. According to Tom, I shouldn’t listen to the White Album because some kooks took it the wrong way and thought it was telling them to murder people.

    Does Tom expect us to believe he lives according to the nonsense he spews on here?

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  5. But if my submission to authority is contingent on not being required by the state to sin (say by confessing Caesar as Lord instead of Christ) then I’m not really suitting to the authority of the state but instead to my own conscience and thus everyone is a law unto himself (solo and all that unless my submission is absolute)…or so B&TC’s tell me. Too bad Paul didn’t have Bryan available to fix the errors in his letter to the Romans…

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  6. Bryan would have been happy to read through Paul’s Epistles, point out any logical fallacies, Straw Men, instances of handwaving, ad hominems, etc. Could have improved Paul a lot. Certainly he could have counseled him to keep that unfortunate incident with Peter out of Galatians.

    Lord help us…

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  7. “If Double-O is correct, why does Paul write about politics without referring to Christ or God’s self-disclosure?”

    Because Double-Oh No thinks all Christians are Theonomists or maybe closet Theonomists.

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  8. But if my submission to what the confession says is contingent on my agreeing that the Bible supports everything the Confession says then I’m not really submitting to the authority of the confession but instead to my own conscience and thus everyone is a priest who interprets the Bible for himself…..

    and Oliver O’Donovan does not want that—instead of talking about the new covenant and Christ’s new commandment which goes with it, O’Donovan wants us to keep focused on Israel and the Ten Commandments

    “We now have little continuity with Christendom; it is not our tradition any more; its assumptions are alien to us. Its claim on us is simply that of witness. It attests, as a matter of history, the actual impact of the Christian faith on European politics, and it expounds this impact in its developed political reflections. Those who ruled in Christendom and those who thought and argued about government believed that the Gospel was true. They intended their institutions to reflect Christ’s coming reign.” Oliver O’Donovan. The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, p 194

    double O–“The distinction of spiritual and secular was converted by Luther into an inner—outer distinction, between the realm of the mind , on the one hand, and the realm of social relations, on the other. We find ourselves confronted for the first time with that characteristic figure of the modern West, who stands at a quizzical distance from the roles assigned him in society. .. Some of Luther’s most memorable pages evoke the tension which the Christian ruler feels between the pomp and severity of the outward role and the inner abasement of the true self before Christ .”, p 209

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  9. mcmark, and what if Christendom only became Christendom thanks to Christian Europe’s battle with Islam? Why doesn’t Double-O give the Muslims credit? (I’m teaching a course on Christendom and Islam and Bernard Lewis has me thinking.)

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  10. What Double-O calls the end of Christendom, Marx called abolishing religion. For to Marx, the abolishing of religion was not found in its elimination and replacing it with the state; that was Bruno Bauer’s belief. Rather, Marx said that when the state can free itself from the demands of religious groups, then religion is abolished; that is religion no longer has a controlling presence in the state. Marx was not concerned about the existence of religion, he was only concerned about its span of control.

    And though formally, what Double-O and Marx said about America and the abolishment of religion was correct, it was terribly wrong informally. Christianity enjoyed a position of immense privilege in society. Thus, the Christian’s challenge within any state is twofold: to share society with nonChristians as equals and to speak prophetically when the state sins. While 2kers have a good grasp on the first challenge, they struggle with recognizing the need to meet the second one.

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  11. They flash an image of Marx during the opening sequence of The Americans, so I have seen his visage every night for the last 10 days or so.

    Curt, haven’t studied much Marx since this maybe 4 or 5 years ago now.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Curt, it’s no struggle at all. Have you considered the possibility that those who presume “to speak prophetically when the state sins” are prone to also be the ones who will want cultural clout? Have you been listening to the culture warriors “speaking truth to power”? In case you missed it, a big part of the sub-text is “the loss of Christendom means the loss of ascendancy for us.” It’s at least as much about lamenting the loss of privilege as it is about fostering civil righteousness, likely more. How do you miss this so badly?

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  13. “Would not most who try to emulate him wind up in a psych ward?”

    Even worse, CW. I tried to emulate him in my early Christian years and was convinced I was going to hell.

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  14. Michael, can I just say you fit in wonderfully at olts?

    Great TV show and podcast recommendations, and all around excellent comments here. Not that I know anything worth sharing re: tv and podcasts.

    Sorry, I just needed to get that off my chest.

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  15. Those whom I know at John’s church haven’t exactly provided much evidence that he has had anything to do with the reality of the church life for the last 8 or so years, besides preaching.

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  16. Zrim,
    The Scriptures are clear in saying that there are some who are preaching truth who do so with wrong motives. So that some who speak truth to power should not surprise. But also realize that speaking truth to power does not imply seeking a privileged place in society. And to distinguish those who are seeking a privileged place in society and those who are, you look at everything an individual is saying and doing.

    Realize that not speaking truth to power is to make one complicit with the sins of those in power. So while the neoCalvinist struggle with seeking privilege in society, 2kers struggle with being complicit. In either case, those from neither group are qualified to pray the prayer of the pharisee from the parable of the 2 men praying.

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  17. Curt – sure, pit Jesus against Paul. That tactic puts in you great theological company. If we were intended to stop at the Gospels (or maybe go as far in Acts as “they had all things in common”) we’d all just be walking around in Birkenstocks occupying this or that, pronouncing piously, carrying signs –you now, Being Curt Day. But for some reason the Holy Spirit decided that the epistles (90% by nasty Paul) should be written and they set the norm for the church. Your private Zinnian views are not my concern, but your program for the church is. And Paul’s ethics are no less demanding than X’s. Jesus tells us to pay taxes, Paul tells us to submit to our rulers who do stupid or evil things with our taxes. Please show us, O thou prophet, where Jesus or Paul “spoke prophetically against state sins.” Maybe they, being wiser than you or me, thought it best not to buy us any more trouble than was necessary.

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  18. CW,
    My question does not pit Jesus vs Paul. Rather, my question is asking if your question regarding whether Paul spoke prophetically to the state when it sinned reduces following Jesus to imitating Paul.
    So rather than answer question, you decided to call it a tactic.

    BTW, in addition, to possibly reducing following Jesus to imitating Paul, your question implies that the historical context in our time is not significantly different from that Paul’s time.

    Finally, it isn’t just that Peter and Paul, Mary did not comment, commanded us to submit to our rulers, noting that this command did not stop the OT prophets from challenging their leaders back then, we need to look at why they commanded us to submit. One of the reasons is that those in authority have been place there by God. But another is that we do not dishonor God by our actions. So another question becomes, that is after you answer my original question, does submission to our leaders always honor God especially when they create and enforce unjust laws and sometimes do so in the name of the Gospel? Here, I would direct you to the writings of Martin Luther King Jr when he attempted to synthesize what is required by the command to submit and the existence of injustice.

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  19. Curt, but even with wrong motives those preaching the truth distinguish between personal and social sin and preach only a personal gospel, not a social one (new sola for a new age: sola persona). And I know the guilt trip drill: To not join in the march against insert-favorite-cause-here is to trample insert-favorite-victim-here. Tenant and Bayly alert. But as long as we’re trafficking in false dichotomies, how do you account for the fact that different social gospels cancel each other out?

    PS Peter, Paul, and MARY? I think you’re getting your NT writers mixed up with your social cause folk singers.

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  20. Sorry for all the subtlety. NO – following X is not just imitating Paul. It is also not contrary to Paul.

    OT prophets — Earth to Curt, theocracy.

    Cultural context — the last resort of scoundrels.

    MLK — I prefer to read Xian theologians.

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  21. Curt, you and Dr. King honor God one way. Paul says we honor God another. Whom do we follow?

    I mean, if Ishmael in Moby Dick can use honoring God to worship an idol (Queequeg’s), how do you know you’re not being similarly Jesuitical?

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  22. CW,
    So only in a theocracy are people called to pursue social justice? Then why did the OT prophets also preach to the surrounding nations? And, if what is being challenged by social justice is at least the reduction in the number of murders and thefts committed by groups and societies, why does social justice only belong to the OT while prohibiting individuals from committing murder and theft belong to both testaments?

    BTW, your cultural context quip doesn’t show an honest logical engagement with the subject.

    Finally, you can’t learn from King? How about from Keller?

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  23. Zrim,
    Again, the social justice part of the Social Gospel promotes the prohibitions against murder and theft by groups. Are you saying that because those prohibitions are promoted by the Social Gospel, that one is not obliged to follow those prohibitions and thus one is not held accountable by God when they participate in groups that commit murder and theft?

    And, btw, how many different versions of the Gospel for individual believers existed in NT times? If it was more than one, did the different Gospel negate each other?

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  24. Curt, isn’t there a difference between being an associate and an accessory? But the way you talk, just sharing someone’s skin color means I’m guilty of whatever he’s done–do I also get credit for his good deeds? That never comes through. You sound like the Baylys who question our shared faith because I refrain from protesting abortion clinics and draw straight lines from that to violating the sixth. Perhaps a good scare tactic against those who don’t know any better but neither of you fool those who do.

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  25. D.G.,
    Perhaps you should read what he said before jumping to conclusions. He was very cognizant of Romans 13 when he came to his approach. He didn’t want to compromise what Paul said there while at the same time he want to create ways of confronting unjust laws. He referenced Augustine and others when coming to his approach. And he stated that one should peaceably submit to the legal consequences of confronting unjust laws as a way of honoring the law. Finally, he sought to win over opponents and so he opposed both external or physical violence along with internal violence, the latter he called violence of the spirit. So he taught that we should dishonor anyone but that we should seek law to control the behaviors of those who would abuse others.

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  26. Zrim,
    Then you heard with anticipation. Because there are many injustices to protest from economic exploitation to environmental destruction to war to racism. And yet, it seems that you are tuned in to the protests against racism.

    Silence is what brings guilt, not skin color. Silence is complicity and the preachers in the Bible were warned not to be silent in the face of sin. Eli was punished for that. The OT prophets would be held accountable if they were silent about sin. Paul made sure he preached or acted against specific sins.

    To me, the issue isn’t whether you are engaged in a specific tactic, but are you conscious of and acting on that awareness that is the issue. With 2kers, my point is that the Church must find some middle ground that avoids both silence and seeking a privileged position in society. There are times where the Church must speak to social sins as the Church. At the same time, it must share society as equals with unbelievers and so how it speaks to those sins has limits guidelines.

    We do have collective guilt. But using Keller’s example of the different ways Germans responded to the sins of Nazi Germany, it was being German that made one sin, it was inaction and silence that made one guilty. Those who resisted didn’t share in the sins of their fellow Germans who didn’t. While those who didn’t resist were accountable on variable levels depending on what they knew and how they participated.

    My fear for my fellow Christians who choose not to speak out or act on social sins at all is this: Are they trying to be righteously selfish? That is are they avoiding all of the taboos we should avoid but still living for themselves. Such sometimes includes what Francis Schaeffer warned against and that is making an idol of personal peace and prosperity.

    Also, the difference between an associate and an accessory is more recognized in human laws. But remember that God judges us with a more exacting standard than what our peers can judge us with.

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  27. Curt, please spare us the concern. Do you consider how self-righteous you sound? “My fear for my fellow Christians who choose not to speak out or act on social sins. . .”

    What are you saying or doing? Blog?

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  28. D.G.,
    And when I started posting comments here, you didn’t sound self-righteous when you expressed concern that I sounded too much some liberal theologians? In addition, the self-righteousness targeted by Jesus in his parable consisted of those who would put others down and would elevate themselves.

    So instead of dealing with the content of my concerns, you would rather talk about me? Why not talk about the issue of whether Christians who choose not to speak out about social sins are in danger of living in a Righteously Selfish way? You could comment on whether that is true or false and why.

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  29. D.G.,
    If you read King, then you know he invoked Paul and Augustine in this issue. He constantly invoked Jesus. That Paul did not invoke the OT prophets concerning this issue implies what? And is everything that we want to know regarding how to relate to the government in Romans 13 or are there other Scriptures that contribute to that concept too?

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  30. Curt, so what you’re saying is that obeying the law isn’t sufficient. In addition to that, I have to make sure society is obeying the law. And when it isn’t, I at least have to wag my finger at naughty society. And if I don’t, then I am as guilty of lawlessness as they are. Hello, religious right, the left arrived early and has been waiting for you in the non-smoking section.

    As an American social gospeler (from left to right), you love playing that Nazi card and talking about resistance. But do you guys ever consider that 2k would easily find itself up against it with tyrants and regimes? Tyrants and regimes crave religious endorsement, and 2k is nothing if not resistant to lending heavenly sanction to political causes. They also aren’t wild about obeying God rather than men, something 2k maintains for believers who are pressed to do anything in their own bodies or with their own hands by men. And so it wouldn’t take long for Adolf to crack 2k skulls, since taking a pass on any of it isn’t an option. And it’s actually the social gospeler whose more susceptible to bowing the knee to tyrannical Caesars since he’s got something for that Caesar to work with, namely an assumption that society needs to be righteous and an injection of religion is key to motivate the masses.

    I’m not really one for keeping pious scores, but as long as you want to play that Nazi card you should realize that 2k always has a straight flush.

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  31. Curt, not just Romans 13. There’s also 1 Peter 2:13-25

    Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

    Subject to unjust rulers? But I triple dog dare you to find any NT writer who endorses disobedience.

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  32. Socinianism denies that God can be both just and justify the ungodly. Socinians say that, if God demands justice in order to forgive, it’s not really forgiveness. Socinians say that if God really forgives, there is no need for law satisfaction or Christ’s death

    Martin Luther King—If Christ by his life and death paid the full penalty of sin, there is no valid reason for repentance or moral obedience as a condition of forgiveness. The debt is paid; the penalty exacted, and there is, consequently, nothing to forgive.

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2015/01/is-martin-luther-king-in-heaven.html

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  33. D.G.,
    This is standard. Make personal remarks rather than discuss the issue. The issue is whether ignoring the Social Gospel, including social justice issues, lends itself to living in a righteously selfish way. If you don’t like my words, then consider Schaeffer’s warning about dwelling too much on personal peace and prosperity. Certainly those issues are far more important than myself.

    As for King and Gov. Wallace, I didn’t where he said that directly. But we could ask if he practiced honor all in authority, including Wallace by what he taught and did himself. Below are a couple of links you can read and judge for yourself.

    http://bigfatgenius.com/2220%20Fall%202010/King%20-%20Love%20Law%20and%20Civil%20Disobedience.html

    http://library.sau.edu/CommUniv/experiment.pdf

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  34. Curt Day
    Posted January 30, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink
    D.G.,
    This is standard. Make personal remarks rather than discuss the issue.

    Darryl is like Marshawn, he doesn’t answer.

    This is standard, Curt.

    Wink.

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  35. Curt, it is personal because you have determined what the truth is and so it’s either the Social gospel or righteous selfishness (I wonder what Mark Jones thinks of that). I reject that dichotomy. I reject the Social Gospel.

    So where does that leave us. I think you’re a liberal and you think I’m selfish. Way to lay out the issues.

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  36. Zrim,
    Aren’t you still missing something from the New Testament? Both in Acts 4:19 and 5:29 shows Peter’s resistance to the religious authorities who had the power to imprison them. And yet, what is Peter’s response? And why is resistance there only limited to preaching Jesus’ name? Wouldn’t it be biblical to resist the authorities by preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word so that if the state is murdering or stealing, shouldn’t we preach the commandments that prohibit murdering and stealing?

    And why do I continue to bring up what happened in Nazi Germany? It is simply because you refuse my questions. And then consider what you just wrote:


    But do you guys ever consider that 2k would easily find itself up against it with tyrants and regimes? Tyrants and regimes crave religious endorsement, and 2k is nothing if not resistant to lending heavenly sanction to political causes.

    But how would 2kers resist if the Church is not to preach against corporate sin as the Church? And, btw, your speculation about who would better resist against a regime like the Nazis, consider that the Roman Church signed a Konkordat stating that the Church would not interfere with what the state was doing. That is that the Roman Church would be silent. In that case, it wasn’t religious Zealots who would be used by Nazi Germany, it was those who remained silent who were used. Now if 2kers don’t believe that the Church should speak out against the State about its sins, how is it that 2kers would not be doing what the Roman Church did?

    BTW, it is quite easy from here and now to assert what one would do in circumstances like those that occurred in Nazi Germany. Anyone could pretend like they would be the hero. So the question is, what are we doing now to protest the sins committed by our governments and society? Are we resisting? Are we speaking out against current corporate sins? And if not, how could we claim that we would against more serious sins when not only is there no privilege to speak out, but speaking out brings a heavy penalty?

    Finally, what is my point in bringing up the need to speak against corporate sin? The point is that this is how we, to whatever degree, submit to the Biblical command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. For here, not only are we showing support for the victims of corporate sin, we are calling on those practicing that sin to repent. So is trying to show that kind of love, regardless of how inadequate is the degree of love being shown, required by God’s Word or prohibited by God’s Word?

    None of us know what we would do under circumstances similar to what existed in Nazi Germany. But we do have today’s situation where our speech is protected. And so the question becomes: Are we using today’s opportunities and privileges of free speech to speak out against state and societal sins?

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  37. Andrew,
    I appreciate your notes and support. And when finding fault with others, we must always think of Scriptures like the parable of the two men praying or the prodigal son. We always must identify with those who, because of their own sin, cannot afford to look down on others.

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  38. Curt, those are only questions that need to be answered by those who presume the legitimacy of the social gospel. I do not share that assumption, so your question comes off like asking when I stopped beating my wife.

    You ask: “Wouldn’t it be biblical to resist the authorities by preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word so that if the state is murdering or stealing, shouldn’t we preach the commandments that prohibit murdering and stealing?” Well, it might be biblical if you could find any instance in the NT of that. But all that’s there is refusing to shut up about the gospel when Caesar says to. I guess Peter and Paul didn’t get the modern memo.

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  39. Andrew
    Posted January 27, 2015 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
    Tom, I can’t make sense of what you are saying.

    First make sense of what Darryl’s saying. Don’t even try making sense of his henchman “Erik Charter.”

    Erik Charter
    Posted January 27, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    Since you’re not a Christian you can’t wrap your mind around the notion of living as aliens & strangers in a foreign land (this present age which is passing away).

    Couldn’t even find Darryl’s ass with both hands, let alone my damned ass.

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  40. Curt Day
    Posted January 30, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
    Andrew,
    I appreciate your notes and support. And when finding fault with others, we must always think of Scriptures like the parable of the two men praying or the prodigal son. We always must identify with those who, because of their own sin, cannot afford to look down on others.

    Darryl takes it as some badge of honor when criticized by both left {Mr. Day} and right {moi}, as though that vindicates his political theology of lukewarm water.

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  41. Tom, Curt and I are warrior children.

    It’s a shame no church on God’s green earth has the benefit of your antics at fellowship meals. I bet you would bring a mean stew for the potluck. Alas..

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  42. D.G.,
    By saying it is personal, what you have shown is that it is ok to attack someone without proving one’s point. If you logically engaged with the subject and showed how what I was say was wrong, then one could debate whether you still have the “Christian” right to attack. But I see no such engagement on your part.

    And, btw, what specifically have I said is right and wrong? And how is saying something is right or wrong different from what anyone else does when they post their opinion?

    Finally, I am a theological conservative. I hold to the fundamentals of the faith. If you note the historical definitions of Christian Fundamentalism and religious liberalism, one can’t belong to both groups. Politically, I am not a liberal, I am a Leftist. The difference being that while liberals offer a capitalism with fringe benefits, Leftists oppose Capitalism. BTW, Martin Luther King Jr. objected to Capitalism late in his life. And, while you take the assessment that those who don’t accept some form of the Social Gospel personally, I was simply saying that the theological position that would reject all forms of the Social Gospel is one that leads people into a Righteously Selfish way of thinking. However, everyone of us battles selfishness.

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  43. Curt, please spare me the hurt feelings. We’ve been around the block with your social gospel for a long time. Many here keep asking for biblical support. The best you can do is appeal to the OT prophets. When someone says you are theonomic — as in using Israel as the model for politics after Christ — you say you’re not a theonomist. So can we stop playing this game, yet? It’s old. Tag, you’re it.

    My point is that you give yourself way too much credit on being theologically conservative. In case you missed it, conservative Protestants all rejected your notion of corporate sin. If you want to re-write history and find yourself as THE “third way,” have at it. But neither the theological right nor the political left recognizes you.

    Maybe you’ve made yourself personal, in which case, when others engage you it’s all about YOU. (that doesn’t fly at OL.)

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  44. The Christian Example for Modernizing Islam

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/kevin-madigan-the-christian-example-for-modernizing-islam-1422578153

    Catholics and Protestants once killed in the name of God, but eventually liberal ideas took hold

    By Kevin Madigan
    Jan. 29, 2015 7:35 p.m. ET

    Violent. Illiberal. Intolerant. Anti-Semitic. After the tragic, murderous events in Paris earlier this month, these adjectives have been applied not only to murderous jihadists but to Islam itself. Yet these words could just as easily apply to medieval Christianity and to much of Christianity in the 20th century.

    Medieval Christians notoriously persecuted, incarcerated and burned religious dissenters. Less well-known is that Protestant Reformers in early modern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, despite their differences with the old Western church, agreed that religion was not a matter of private judgment but of deep communal concern and unitary. Reformers believed that religious orthodoxy must be safeguarded, and almost all agreed that dissidents deserved severe punishment and even death. Calvin ’s Geneva was a theocracy; one theologian who doubted the Trinity was burned to death—with Calvin’s approval.

    Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, popes habitually fulminated against modernity. One reason that popes like Pius XI (1922-39) supported the fascist dictator Mussolini —he once stated that Il Duce had been sent by “Providence” to rescue Italy—was that they shared antipathy for parliamentary democracy and for freedom of the press and association. Generally speaking, sacred and secular leaders in Catholic parts of Europe loathed modernity and all it represented: liberal democracy, emancipation, tolerance, separation of church and state and freedom of thought.

    Only in the early 1960s did the Roman Catholic Church reject this medieval worldview. Only then did it begin to tolerate other world religions, representative democracy and the disenfranchisement of religion. It was only recently that it started to be reluctant to use political agencies to achieve religious objectives—even to accept the idea that the modern citizen is free to be nonreligious.

    As Pope Francis recently remarked, reflecting this relatively new attitude of tolerance and pluralism, “Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation.” It has been said, and not without reason, that the church changed more from 1960-2000 than in the previous millennium. Yet even today, outside Western Europe and the U.S., predominantly Christian states—Russia and Uganda, for instance—have notoriously repressive laws.

    All of this is to say that traditionalist Islamic states and Muslims have not, historically speaking, had a monopoly on authoritarianism, violence against apostates, the wholesale rejection of religious pluralism, and the manipulation of religion to realize political agendas. But in the same sad set of facts lies some good news: The startling changes experienced by Western churches over the past several centuries suggest that similar changes might occur within the world of Islam.

    As Christianity has taken many twists and turns in its history, so has Islam, and so might it again, only this time moving toward the more open posture of most contemporary Western Christians. The Christian experience should caution us against assuming there is something intrinsic to Islam that mandates that Islamic societies be anti-modern. In fact, in the 16th through 20th centuries, liberal ideas were imported into Muslim societies with remarkable success, and harmonized with Islam, especially in the Ottoman Empire. Less happily, at critical moments in Islamic history, reactionary interpretations—or misinterpretations—of the Quran and Shariah triumphed over others.

    Fortunately, some Muslims have begun to reinterpret ancient traditions in light of modernity and begun their own, albeit often-quiet reformations, distressed by the authoritarian elements smuggled into their tradition. They are intent on synthesizing—as have so many branches of Judaism and Christianity—features of their religious traditions with democratic ideas. Such reformations have been institutionalized successfully in several countries with significant Muslim populations, such as Turkey and Tunisia.

    We can only hope that, with the quickening pace of historical change in modernity, Islam can adjust more rapidly than Christendom, so that a broad-minded form of the religion will prevail. Muslims will have to recognize what the West, through many centuries of hard experience and reflection, has learned: that religious texts arose in a particular context and must be reinterpreted in the new context of modernity; that pluralism within one’s own tradition and the tolerance of other faiths must be appreciated anew; and, finally, that the coercive imposition of faith will generate only nominal or hypocritical, not authentic, conversions.

    This will require patience on the part of the West, and more. Above all, the West must not panic and extend its battle with radical Islam—most of whose victims have been Muslims—to the world-wide population of Muslims. The Christian world passed through its era of repression and theocracy; there is no reason to presuppose that the Islamic world cannot do likewise.

    Mr. Madigan, a professor of history at Harvard Divinity School, is the author, most recently, of “Medieval Christianity: A New History” (Yale University Press, 2015).

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  45. Sir Steven Runciman, from the Kingdom of Acre:

    The triumphs of the Crusade were the triumphs of faith. But faith without wisdom is a dangerous thing. By the inexorable laws of history the whole world pays for the crimes and follies of each of its citizens. In the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident, out of which our civilization has grown, the Crusades were a tragic and destructive episode. The historian as he gazes across the centuries at their gallant story, must find his admiration overcast by sorrow at the witness that it bears to the limitation of human nature. There was so much courage and so little honor, so much devotion and so little understanding. High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness; and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against the Holy Ghost.”

    That quote is in the preface of Henry Treece’s small book on the Crusades. He goes on to try to give information on the number of people who went East:

    But even if we had an accurate military census, it would help us very little to picture the true numbers of those who sailed or marched eastwards; great lords often took their wives and families, and each lady was attended by her numerous serving-women, cooks…Each lord had his personal retinue..On a smaller scale the knights and even the foot soldiers did much the same; while the unattended ones and young bachelors chose from among vast companies of camp-followers, who trailed after an army on the march like a swarm of locusts. Priests, children, old men, tradesmen and beggars increased until a crusading army with its tents, and campfires burning, must have had something of the appearance of a vast and shambling shanty town.

    De Tocqueville points out in DIA that that seeking of greater comfort is at the heart of the growth of civilization. I think he’s right. Greed is a part of it, true, but it’s not the whole of it. Communists are greedy. Leftists are greedy. They’re just not builders, they’re more like leeches siphoning toxins from what has been built. They can be necessary but they need to be temporary and that’s what they can never understand or agree to because power is impossible to relinquish. The right’s problem, in Orwell’s words, is that it “denies irreversible facts.” And that’s why there’s always that refusal on the part of the electorate to play true believer for each.

    Georges Sorel wrote in Reflections On Violence that the war between the working class and the bourgeoise must be perpetual. But his working class archetype could never be arrived at without practicing (while probably denouncing) the bourgeoise values: continence, thrift, endurance, faith and the exiling of deviancy. Not punishment, just exile. The way a church disciplines an erring member. You can return but not without the right doctrine. No group can escape the need for exiling the deviant. And I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    I think that spokes people for Christianity will never again hold the Scepter and I think that’s good.

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  46. D.G.,
    It seems to me that this idea of collective guilt and sin is very distressing for you. Why else would you use it as a litmus test for determining what is conservative. While Machen used belief in the supernatural God of the Bible, in Jesus as depicted in the Scriptures, and in the Scriptures as being the infallible Word Of God in their original autographs as the criteria to determine whether one is a liberal, you use this belief in collective guilt and sin to determine what is liberal regardless of one’s belief in the criteria Machen used. That seems to be a departure from the past.

    In addition, consider the logic you employed. I am not a conservative because all conservative Protestants have rejected the concept of collective guilt and sin. First, can you prove that all conservative Protestants have rejected the concept of collective guilt and sin. Consider that Tim Keller talks about corporate guilt. Is he not a conservative because he talks about collective guilt? Or consider the following quote from a commentary regarding Achan’s sin:


    But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness.

    or the following quote from Daniel 9:16


    O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

    While the quote from the commentary shows how the sin of one person can be the responsibility of others, Daniel is stating that it was not just the current sins of the people for which they were being punished, it was also for the sins of their fathers. So what we have in the Scriptures here are the concepts that the sins of one person can make the group guilty and that sins of others can make other people guilty.

    See, there is no attempt to rewrite history on my part. I can’t think of a single conservative Protestant theologian from the past who makes rejection of collective guilt and sin a sine qua non for being a conservative Protestant. You are doing that, not anyone else whom I know of. But even if you could find some who would join you here, remember that outside of the Scriptures, we have fallible people writing fallible words in an attempt to understand the Scriptures, It is no sin to disagree with Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Machen, you, me, and alike. We are all fallible people. Provided that we do what we can to rightly understand God’s Word correctly, then there seems to be no grounds for declaring that I am not a conservative protestant simply because I believe that the Scriptures talk about collective guilt and sin.

    Finally, while you refer to what I believe as the Social Gospel, you are not being all that accurate. I believe that what we call the Social Gospel is part of preaching the Gospel. If part of preaching the Gospel includes telling people to repent of their sins, and not resisting the sins of one’s group is itself sin, then telling people to repent from passive or active cooperation with their groups’ sins is part of preaching the Gospel. And that the two errors we can make regarding the Social Gospel is to either amputate the Social Gospel from the preaching of the Gospel or to reduce the preaching of the Gospel to that of the Social Gospel. Realize that it is the liberal position to reduce the Gospel to that of the being the Social Gospel. And they make that reduction because of their rejection of the supernatural. So the liberal position does not include incorporating the Social Gospel with the preaching the Gospel.

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  47. Andrew,
    We agree on certain things, but I neither look at myself as a warrior nor do I want to post on both blogs or on every article he posts on this blog. If he wants to respond, that is fine. If he doesn’t that is fine. I already noticed one mistake I made in my last response to him.

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  48. D.G.,
    I have a type in my last response to you, it is in the last sentence. It should say something to the effect that the liberal position does not include the social gospel with the preaching of the Gospel because the social gospel is the preaching of the Gospel to liberals. I only consider the social Gospel as a part of preaching the Gospel because the social gospel exposes more of our sins.

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  49. Curt, “I believe that what we call the Social Gospel is part of preaching the Gospel.”

    No kidding.

    The reason conservatives are defined in opposition to the Social Gospel — I feel badly having to explain this to a guy who goes by flaimingfundamentalist — is because liberal and modernist Protestants were proponents of the Social Gospel and fundies and confessional Protestants opposed the SG.

    Curt, I’m do back on planet earth.

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  50. D.G.,
    We know that liberals have much to learn from conservatives regarding the Gospel. But is it possible that Conservative have something to learn from liberals regarding the Social Gospel without Conservatives compromising what they about the Gospel. For it seems that if the only reason we reject the Social Gospel is because or our spiritual ancestors opposed and our adversaries’ ancestors accepted it, then we are not rejecting the Social Gospel because of the Scriptures, we are rejecting because of–drum roll for your favorite word–TRIBALISM. Remember conservative Protestants from the past were not infallible. And we should always remember the quote from Martin Luther King Jr. I put in a fill in the blank for the word ‘Western’


    The _______ arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

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  51. D.G.,
    I am going to retype a part of my last message because I didn’t edit it and it may not be clear

    We know that liberals have much to learn from conservatives regarding the Gospel. But is it possible that Conservative have something to learn from liberals regarding the Social Gospel without Conservatives compromising what they about the Gospel? For it seems that if the only reasons why we reject the Social Gospel is because our spiritual ancestors opposed it and our adversaries’ ancestors accepted it, then we are not rejecting the Social Gospel because of the Scriptures, we are rejecting because of–drum roll for your favorite word–TRIBALISM.

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  52. Curt, great, so if I reject the Social Gospel I’m tribal. You’re a fun one.

    And is it possible for you to learn from history and understand that some ideas are incompatible?

    Or is it possible that you are a tribe of one?

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  53. Curt, how long have you been around here? The social gospel isn’t rejected simply because “conservatives did.” Conservatives in the 20th C. came to embrace the social gospel, just applied along other lines. Think Moral Majority, D. James Kennedy, the BBs, the Religious Right. The 2k critique holds as much for these as it does for the early 20th C. Protestant liberals. They are two sides of the same skewed coin. It’s about principles, not sides.

    If you haven’t learned that by reading a blog like this (or the published works of the host) then you’ve been reading and never understanding. And that like a boss.

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  54. Zrim,
    Which version of the Social Gospel are you talking about? If it is the version that replaces the Gospel because it is following the theological liberal practice of reducing everything to what is physical, I can understand. But if you are saying that the Church should not speak out against corporate sin or that it should not encourage people to help those in need or that it itself should not reach out to people in need, then you have problems.

    In addition, why must the social gospel for conservatives only thought of in terms of the moral majority, D. James Kennedy, and the Religious Right? Not sure who the BBs are. And why equate them with Protestant Liberals who denied the Supernatural.

    Finally, what principles are you adhering to that prohibit the Church from preaching against corporate sin or from reaching out to those in need? What principles are you adhering to that are so complete that you have nothing to learn from those who do things different from you?

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  55. D.G.,
    If you want to misrepresent what I said, go ahead. And if you want to ignore the Martin Luther King quote, you can do that too. What I said about tribalism applies to all who believe that they can only learn from those inside their group. That applies to liberals who are in the Social Gospel who believe that they can’t learn from conservatives as well as conservatives who believe that they can’t learn from liberals.

    And from what you wrote, you said that because all conservatives rejected the social gospel, which isn’t exactly true, we should. Tell me, what about the Social Gospel should we reject?

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  56. Any part of the social gospel which isn’t the full counsel of God should be rejected. And will be, because it’s partial and so false.

    Any part of the social gospel (why the Gospel needs a modifier is a question for the FBI or any other group with a top notch forensics staff) that bringsThe Cross down upon a group is the modern reversal of the tax collector and the publican and should be rejected. And will be, because it’s false.

    Any part of the social gospel that entails making all guilty of something no social gospeler attempts to prove, and who refuses to name Names so that he has to face the 9th Commandment should be rejected. And will be, because men have the right to face their accuser.

    Any part of the social gospel that leaves one in need with no knowledge of who their benefactor is so that he can either hate that man or be grateful to him, should be rejected. And will be, because what is required of the man of material well-being is also required of the needy, that is to know what is godly and what is not.

    Off topic, if you haven’t seen the interview of the gentleman who nabbed Eichmann, you should check it out. The sense of justice this man was able to feel towards Eichmann makes you remember that God chose to become a Jewish man. And watching Eichmann on trial is oddly not surreal because I’m thinking, given circumstances, would I do the same thing? It could only be the Grace of great courage that would ensure I wouldn’t.

    Oh, and I never meant that faith in God is bourgeoise value. I meant faith in one’s self-discipline is, so I should have used the word confidence. I also know that exile is punishment, when I differentiated between the two I had physical punishment in mind.

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  57. Curt, the version that doesn’t distinguish between personal and social sin (you keep saying “corporate” but I take that to mean “social”) but collapses them both together thereby committing a social and political error on par with confusing justification and sanctification. And the actual gospel doesn’t preclude encouraging believers to watch out for their neighbor, i.e. third use, (indicative)/imperative. That answers your question about what the principles are.

    The social gospel for conservatives doesn’t only have to be thought of in terms of the moral majority, et al. Who else do you have in mind? But from where I sit, it’s “anybody who doesn’t agree with Curt’s left-leaning social gospel.” (The BBs are the Baylys. Get up to speed on the abbreviations, it’s only confirming the fact that you aren’t listening.)

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  58. MLD,
    But shouldn’t any part of any theology that doesn’t agree with the Word of God be rejected whether it is the Social Gospel, 2K, NeoCalvinism, or whatever? And really, we call it the Social Gospel because that is the label some people have given it. So the fact there is the word “Social” in the name does not mean that the Gospel is being modified in concept.

    The real issue is whether we are called to repent and then charged to call others to repent from the sins which their groups are committing? And in New Testament times, this repenting is labeled coming out from those who are sinning which amounts to not doing what they are doing. In the Old Testament, God’s people consisted of kingdom and for that Kingdom, coming out meant have a land of their own and not repeating the sins of the people whose land they took.

    BTW, not only does the OT show that we are guilty for group sins, it is implied by the commentary quote I provided before. That quote said:


    But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness.

    The commentary was discussing how Achan’s sin was also called Israel’s. And the reverse of that occurs by practicing the same concept: by remaining silent in the presence of sin. Does it matter what any Social Gospel advocate tries to prove? What matters is what the Scriptures tell us. And what is a mystery is how anyone can reason that a group is not sinning when it commits an act that is considered to be a sin sin for an individual to do. That is a mystery and has no biblical support.

    Finally, part of what is godly is to help those in need. And those with material blessing will be judged on how much they helped others by how much they were given.

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  59. Zrim,
    You will have to explain some dynamics here. How is collapsing social and personal sin on par with collapsing justification with sanctification? After all, both are social and personal sins are sins. The personal sins are repented of by changing one’s individual’s behaviors and/or attitudes. The social sins are repented of by coming out from the group or working in the group to change its behavior.

    But there is another issue, that is preaching the gospel. We preach the gospel to those who are involved in both sins. we don’t show preference. And social justice is being practiced when we tell people to repent of the sins their groups participate in. And what constitutes a group sin is when the group falls short of God’s standards especially in terms of how the vulnerable are treated, others are exploited or robbed, or whether some are killed. There is nothing different here than when we preach repentance from individual sins. Go ahead and preach repentance from individual sins and there will be times when the response will be sin is what you say it to be.

    Finally, you can beat up on groups like the moral majority all you want. And personally, I disagreed with much of what they had to say. However, the real issue for groups like that is did they have anything to contribute. For if we write them off, we are saying that they had nothing to contribute. And the same goes for those liberals who advocate their version of the Social Gospel. So it isn’t about what a Leftist like me calls sin, it is what God calls sin. In that case, it isn’t wise to write of everything any group says.

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  60. Curt, you asked why I think conservatives reject the social Gospel. I appealed to a historical era when Protestants divided along conservative and liberal lines and the Social Gospel was a big part of exposing how modernists had lost the gospel. You want to reinvent history? It’s a free country.

    “What about the Social Gospel should we reject?”

    What have you got?

    So far, Curt, you don’t seem to have a sense of what gospel means. You talk of corporate sin (and talk and talk and talk) but when asked about corporate redemption you shut down. So if the gospel is that Christ died for my sins so that I no longer face God’s wrath and curse, what is the social gospel in relation to your corporate sin?

    You also don’t seem to have a biblical basis for corporate sin except for appeals to the OT and then you won’t accept a difference between Israel and us — can you say, Jesus? Sure you can.

    I get it. Injustice exists and it sure would be nice if it would go away. But applying redemptive categories to a hope for justice is no different from George Bush using the Bible to make sense of the Columbia space shuttle‘s extinction.

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  61. Curt,

    The needy will be judged too. Not as a corporate group but man by man.

    Your voice is an important voice but I think you need to remember the full counsel of God. Without it, you lead people who are in the greatest need of sound counsel, astray.

    The Gospel, if you’re going to tell someone what it is, can extend to the corporate only in this way: ‘you leave the world a better place by leaving it a better man.’ Because one on one, means you have to look Lazarus in the eye. It always puzzled me that the rich man in Hell asked that Lazarus be sent to quench his thirst. He must have known him, thought of him as an acquaintance and then I thought to myself, ah, he looked right through him. He never really saw Lazarus as fully a person as he was. He thought of him as a pet of some kind. But I can’t despise the rich man because his suffering is without end and yet he doesn’t seem to lose his humanity, IMO.

    None of this has anything to do with the enactment of prudential policy that is designed with the whole Counsel of God in mind for an entire people or nation.

    Ravi Zacharias, when offering a recommendation on voting, said that what we should be looking for is the person most likely to cultivate the moral soil that would allow Christians to freely worship, to freely present the Gospel. It’s possible that a normal libertarian would be the best bet. By normal I mean someone not ruled by his antipathies. A nation as large as ours should avoid unwieldy legislation and a prudential decentralization would likely be very much to our benefit.

    Last but certainly not least,Jesus healed those that needed healing.

    But he indulged the whore’s repentance rather than sell the Nard she was using to anoint his feet so that the proceeds could go to the poor. You can argue that it was his way of bringing the fulfillment of Judas’ betrayal into the right time line but I don’t think that’s sound.

    Jesus cannot be God and Man of disorder. And the incapacity of anyone to attach His approval to any status quo is a good indication to me that much of Scripture is meant to reprove me, first and always.

    Your voice is necessary it just needs to be the voice of a more fully educated man, IMO.

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  62. Curt, you disagreed because they had a different social gospel (and neither of you understood that it’s sufficient to disagree politically without having to claim heaven for your side where it is silent). You think something is to be learned from them because you share the basic principle that sin isn’t just personal but also societal.

    Collapsing social and personal sin is on par with collapsing justification and sanctification because in both cases you end up with works-righteousness. In your scheme, God is angry with a nation (a person) because of insert-favorite-social-and-political-sin-here and the only way to appease him is insert-your-favorite-social-and-political-solution-here. The atoning work of Christ is perhaps somewhere in the scheme to a lesser or greater degree but doesn’t figure in coherently or completely. The main actors are God and a nation (a person) where a certain set of rules, usually a mix of biblical and idiosyncratic, has been violated and it’s up to the nation (person) to do what it (he) can to get right with God. Etc.

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  63. Curt Day
    Posted January 31, 2015 at 9:08 pm | Permalink
    Andrew,
    We agree on certain things, but I neither look at myself as a warrior

    Fair enough. I embrace the label given by those outside our church who seek to malign the spiritual children of JGM.

    Peace, bro.

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  64. Andrew
    Posted January 31, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink
    Tom, Curt and I are warrior children.

    I find the comments more interesting than the posts, that’s a fact.

    It’s a shame no church on God’s green earth has the benefit of your antics at fellowship meals. I bet you would bring a mean stew for the potluck. Alas..

    Aw, shucks. I bring a mean stew to every potluck. Like this one.

    But I say nothing about my religion here at Darryl’s House of Fun because anything a person says can and will be used against them.

    This is a theological abattoir, not a revival tent. 😉 The stank is enough to make a man a theological vegetarian. Or even worse, How Darryl G. Hart Made Me a Catholic!

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/

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  65. But I say nothing about my religion here at Darryl’s House of Fun because anything a person says can and will be used against them.

    Chicken.

    The stank is enough to make a man a theological vegetarian.

    Hello, I must be going.

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  66. Tom, great. One guy raised PCA didn’t like Calvin, so he became Catholic. I’m shaking in my boots.

    85 mil+ (counting presby and continental refs) of us remaining actually like J.C.

    Adios.

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  67. Andrew
    Posted February 1, 2015 at 11:23 pm | Permalink
    >>>>>But I say nothing about my religion here at Darryl’s House of Fun because anything a person says can and will be used against them.

    —Chicken.

    Wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove.

    >>>>>>The stank is enough to make a man a theological vegetarian.

    Hello, I must be going.

    Sorry, I left first, Captain Spaulding. Beat you to it. And the stank here is still overwhelming.

    85 mil+ (counting presby and continental refs)

    Not really. Mr. Machen fled the existing Presbyterian Church and fired up his own [OPC] version of it. 30,000+, tops. Don’t even try the math game.

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  68. Tom, we were the first to break off the national body. Many came to see JGM’s vision (ECO, PCA, EPC, etc).

    Come after the OPC all you like. We are small, no one cares. Not even us.

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  69. Zrim,
    You acknowledge that there are different versions of the social gospel. Now the question is, what can we learn from each version? Those who reject the social gospel in its entirety, say that they have nothing to learn from anyone engaged in any kind of social gospel.

    Also, God is angry with both individuals and nations. And He is that way because of our sin whether our sins are personal sins or group sins. Again, why is it a sin for a person to commit murder but not a sin for a group to do the same? The atoning work of Christ is offered to those who hear the Gospel regardless of what groups we are in. For those who believe, then they are called to change their personal lives as well as how they relate to their groups.

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  70. I’m more just saying Machen sure saw a problem, before many others did. They eventually saw it too, just in different forms.

    Ask a church historian, IDK. I’m just a dude in a small church (aka land of chocolate (http://www.hulu.com/watch/33844)).

    I’ve been in the OPC my entire adult life of 14 years, and am even in a church plant only 10 months old, which is going strong. I know I’m sheltered and blessed beyond most people’s wildest imaginations. Sorry, y’all.

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  71. Curt, not true. I think we have plenty to learn from MLK, et al. socially and politically, but not theologically.

    And it is a sin for a group to commit murder–each one in a roving band of thugs who tie a kid down to a fence and beat him to death are guilty to relative degrees. But a society sharing that guilt makes no sense, except perhaps rhetorically, but not actually (where it counts). Again, it’s not the category of “corporate sin” I’m parting with you on, but that of “social sin.” And the problem that remains for you is how a society can repent and become a baptized and communicant member of a local church.

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  72. My confidence isn’t i n Machen and how the mainline continues to fracture and crumble as Machen’s first splitting procedure was a type and shadow of things to come. My confidence is in Christ. But being in the OPC, and now raising my children, has had me ask many of the questions, say Kenny boy raises. I’m with you, CW the Unificator, that OL is a pretty special little oasis. I opened a Stella last night in honor of that amazing combox. Off to work..

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  73. Curt, this is incoherent and shows you don’t have a clue about the gospel (even if you seem to be on Viagra about justice).

    God is not angry with me (I believe). Paul says I no longer face condemnation.

    God placed me in the U.S.A.

    Curt tells me that the U.S. is guilty of corporate sin (I agree that the U.S. is guilty of injustice).

    Curt tells me that God is angry with me as an American.

    I listen to Paul. He says what I want to hear.

    Paul is inspired.

    Curt is inspired by Black history month.

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  74. D.G.,
    You’re not being clear here.

    1. True or false, God is angry with individuals.

    2. True or false, God is angry with nations

    3. True or false, the atoning work of Christ is offered to those who hear the Gospel regardless of what group they are in.

    4. True or false, those who believe are charged to change their personal lives as well as how they live in groups.

    Now the question is, which of those statement are incoherent or wrong?

    Statement #1: Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6

    Statement #2: Revelation 11:18; 19:15, also consider Matthew 24:7ff. Also consider the OT where God was angry at Israel and punished them though not everyone in Israel had bowed to idols including his prophets and consider how God was angry at the nations He used to judge Israel

    Statement #3: Romans 11:11-15

    Statement #4: Romans 12:1-2

    Is the problem here the logic you employing and inferences you are drawing?

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  75. Zrim,
    You mean there is nothing King said theologically, especially in the area of practical theology, which you could not benefit from learning?

    Take a gang that beats or even murders someone. And suppose that only a couple members of the gang did the violence. Did the other members of the gang who stood by sin against God? If not, again, consider the part of the commentary I quoted:


    But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness.

    But how about when society sins? Are you saying that we never have a role when society practices discrimination or embrace an exploitive economic system or its nation conducts an illegal war? Did you read King and what he said about being silent in the midst of societal sin?

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  76. Curt, by “nothing to learn theologically” I mean MLK wasn’t orthodox (including whatever form of social gospel he may have affirmed).

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2015/01/is-martin-luther-king-in-heaven.html

    And, yes, those who are personally involved in a crime share guilt relative to their involvement. But personal involvement in a crime and societal matters are simply not the same. It’s a long distance from saying the guilt of the white cop who gunned down the unarmed black kid is also society’s guilt. It’s useful rhetoric to stir up the already convinced, but if you can’t lock up society any more than society can repent and join a church then one must seriously question your claims. The problem for a social gospeler like you is that you’re taking figurative language about “the sin of society” way too literally.

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  77. Curt,

    God isn’t angry with me. That’s what it means for “no condemnation.” You tell me otherwise, you’re itching for a fight and you may be guilty of the unpardonable sin (suffer the children).

    God may be angry with my country. But how do you know? Is God going to judge the USA on judgment day? Or is he going to judge Americans as persons?

    This is the hard case in your flawed logic. How do you tell Americans that trust Christ that God is angry with them because of “social sin”? I get it, you’re a prophet. But Jesus is the last prophet. You’re out of luck.

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  78. D.G.,
    I said that God is angry with individuals. You took that to mean that God is angry with all individuals including those who believe. That is your first logical mistake.

    How do we know if God is angry with a country? That is a very good question because we don’t have special revelation letting us know which countries He is angry with. But we can go by the actions of our country to see if He is angry. We simply compare it with the nations God was angry with in the past. And we can also look at the NT passages where it says God is angry at nations to form our conclusion. What we won’t know, unlike OT times, is what judgment is coming and when. We can use logic to determine the likely consequences to our actions or use hindsight after a calamity has hit. But we won’t know the future.

    Finally, we know enough to know from God’s Word what social sins we have an our responsibilities. We know that God’s anger toward His children is primarily for the sake of discipline as a parent would discipline a child. We know that God is a just God and so when our nation practices injustice, we, God’s children, are called to try to call our nation’s injustices to our nation’s attention to help rectify what is wrong. Thus, your final two sentences miss the mark.

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  79. But we can go by the actions of our country to see if He is angry. We simply compare it with the nations God was angry with in the past. And we can also look at the NT passages where it says God is angry at nations to form our conclusion. What we won’t know, unlike OT times, is what judgment is coming and when. We can use logic to determine the likely consequences to our actions or use hindsight after a calamity has hit.

    Curt, that’s textbook social gospeler reasoning. Pat Robertson used it to draw straight lines from gay pride parades to terrorist attacks. You’re in such good company. But the Belgic reasons very differently (Article 13, in part):

    “We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence
    we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what God shows us in the Word, without going beyond those limits.”

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  80. D.G.,
    Can you think of any Old Testament examples where God was angry at the nation but not at those who were faithful? In addition, you are going to insist on using logic to contradict the scripture verses I mentioned that described God’s anger at nations?

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  81. Curt, I asked you a question. Is God angry at me as an American?

    Sure, I can think of OT examples. But you haven’t shown yet that you can move from Israel to America, unless you are a theonomist.

    We keep going down the same trail.

    I’m bored.

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  82. D.G.,
    I was answering with a question. And it is rather a simple answer regardless of theonomy.

    But if you want to apply stuff from the Old Testament to America without thenomy, then look at the nature of complaints which the prophets have about Israel regarding social justice. The complaints are not specific as to whether specific laws have been violated, they are general in terms of whether the poor have been neglected or oppressed and whether corruption has jaded the whole country. One doesn’t have to be a theonomist to have general responsibility and concern for the poor. Neglect of the poor and vulnerable are condemned by Jesus in some of His parables. To suggest that care and concern for the poor are our duties only when theonomy is in effect is to miss the summation of the second table of the law.

    In addition, the prophets spoke to other nations about their injustices. Are you suggesting that their concern for the other nations was based on theonomy?

    You’re the one who is insisting that theonomy always comes with the prophets. And you are doing that with the same mindset of a dispensationalist. You deny that what the prophets said back then could apply to us despite the fact that Jesus opens his ministry by quoting Isaiah.

    You’ve assumed that theonomy is implied by the prophets warnings even when their audiences were not under theonomy. And you do without concern for the summation of the second table of the law. And you’re bored?

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  83. D.G.,
    Again, isn’t the answer in the Scriptures when God was angry with the nation of Israel for its sins despite the presence of His prophets and those who remained faithful to him? Why does theonomy make a difference in the answer?

    Another point. Have you noticed that your objections are based far more on your 2K theology than the Scriptures?

    Finally, have you considered that your theology draws inferences that do not exist in what I am saying? And I have already addressed your last question.

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  84. D.G.,
    I have answered the question before. For whatever reason you simply deny it’s an answer. I answered your question with a question. You said that using the OT prophets does not apply because that would involve theonomy. You may not like the answer but I answered your question when I referenced the OT prophets who were with Israel when they punished. Furthermore, there is no reason why referring to the OT prophets should be disqualified by the practice of theonomy. For the OT prophets preached to neighboring nations as well. In fact, we could include God’s anger at Sodom and Gomorrah as another example. God’s anger at Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t lead Him to punish Lot and his family. And yet, God was angry at those two cities.

    I wrote to Zrim and said:


    We do have collective guilt. But using Keller’s example of the different ways Germans responded to the sins of Nazi Germany, it was being German that made one sin, it was inaction and silence that made one guilty. Those who resisted didn’t share in the sins of their fellow Germans who didn’t. While those who didn’t resist were accountable on variable levels depending on what they knew and how they participated.

    BTW, I left out a word in the above quote. I should have written that ‘it wasn’t being German that made one sin.’ I left out the negative.

    Now the question is how are you responding to America’s sins? Because using the answer to Zrim, ‘it was inaction and silence that made one guilty.’ So no, if you were active and not silent, God’s anger toward America would not be directed at you.

    But what if you were inactive and silent? Wouldn’t God’s anger at you be the same as His anger at any of your other sins? I assume that you do sin now and then. And because you believe, that anger does not come in the form of wrath, but in the form of discipline.

    I’ve already answered your question for whatever reason, you deny that. But again, the idea of corporate sin is distressing for you. That is why you play games here. You seem to prefer to logically deduce corporate sin and God’s anger at nations out of existence. And yet, Revelation 11:18 and 19:15 speak about God’s anger at nations. Revelation 18:3 speaks about the corporate sins of nations.

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  85. Curt, answering a question with a question. Clever. I tried that you said and said and said I didn’t answer question.

    So God is angry with me for America’s sins. So you’re with Mark Jones. God punishes his children for their sins.

    And how do I repent of America’s sins? Do I go on-line and beat up other people over their sins? What does that change? If I repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness, America’s still sinning, I still live here, I’m still guilty, God’s still angry.

    None of this is biblical unless again you are theonomic and think that God now treats America like OT Israel.

    Why can’t I be like Lot. Lot was surrounded by sin and not doing much about it — sort of like Jesus and Paul when it came to corporate sins — and God saved him (and Lot wasn’t all that penitent).

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  86. D.G.,
    Not only did you not answer questions, you didn’t address them. And answering your question with a question seemed appropriate since, IMO, you were the best one to answer the question. I just supplied additional information from my perspective for you to use if you so choose.

    And when you write:


    So God is angry with me for America’s sins.

    you didn’t really read my answer. I could write the answer again but I am not sure if that would change your response.

    The same goes when you ask:


    And how do I repent of America’s sins?

    So I guess that instead of waiting for you to answer a question, I now have to wait for you to read my answers. In addition, I see no need to go theonomic with my viewpoint. And so far, your claim that I should is unsubstantiated. And it also seems that your assertion that borrowing from the OT prophets includes practicing or promoting theonomy is so far unsubstantiated.

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  87. Curt, “so far unsubstantiated”? From the one who hurls unsubstantiated claims about theology and history?

    If you don’t want to tell me, tell us all, how do we repent of America’s sins? By recommending books my Noam Chomsky? How can I be holy like you (or Mark Jones), Curt?

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  88. D.G.,
    First, be specific, what unsubstantiated claims about theology and history have I made?

    Second, how many times do I have repeat the answer? Resisting in some way is the way to come out from those who sin. Whether that resisting involves helping the oppressed as some did when they hid Jews from the Nazis. Or one could speak out against the group that oppresses. The White Rose did that in Nazi Germany and so did those who protested against the immoral Vietnam War and those who protested for Civil Rights. It simply means not being shy about telling the truth to those who are sinning. Remember the commentary I quoted as it talked about Achan:


    But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness.

    And again, I’ve cited scriptures that talk about corporate sin as conducted by nations and God’s wrath directed at nations. But your response is to try to use logic to show that the Scriptures can’t possibly mean what they say.

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  89. Curt, you are telling me that Jesus loves me and Jesus is angry with me. Which is it? Is Jesus angry with you because of your complicity in America’s corporate sins?

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  90. D.G.,
    Before setting traps, I would recommend that you get the right trap for the game you are hunting. Your question ignores all of the responses I have provided for you. Thus you are setting a trap for something or someone other than myself and what I have written. In addition, you seem intent on using logic to ignore what is clearly written in the Scriptures.

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  91. Curt, it’s a simple question. Is God angry at you and me? Is he angry and you and me for America’s sins? How have you found forgiveness for America’s sins? How can I?

    Help me.

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  92. Curt – In addition, you seem intent on using logic to ignore what is clearly written in the Scriptures.

    Erik – Logic and what is clearly written in the Scriptures are mutually exclusive?

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  93. D.G.,
    And I have already answered this multiple times and you refuse to acknowledge the answer.

    But there is a larger problem. If I am reading you right, God cannot be angry at the nations because of their sin because there is no corporate guilt or sin. And, according to you, there is no corporate guilt or sin because

    1. Such would bring God’s wrath on believers
    2. There is no longer a theonomy.

    One of the problems here, as I have written before, is that you’ve used logic to contradict what is written in the Scriptures. For example:

    1. Revelation 18:3 says


    For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.
    The kings of the earth committed adulteries with her,
    and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

    Now does that verse nations don’t sin?

    2. Revelation 19:15 says


    Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations

    Does that sound like God can’t be or isn’t angry at nations? You can also read Revelation 11:18.

    And every time I bring up the examples of the Old Testament prophets you respond saying that they are no longer relevant because there is no more theonomy. But doesn’t your answer imply that because there is no theonomy, there are no more standards for nations to adhere to? If so, then why did Paul state that the purpose of government is to punish those who do wrong? How can governments punish those who are doing wrong if there are no standards to determine what is wrong? And why did 2k theologians, like R. Scott Clark state that the government should use natural law to prohibit same-sex marriage if there are no standards? And if there are standards for individuals, why aren’t there standards for nations?

    But if there are standards for nations to follow, then why is it wrong to use the Old Testament prophets as examples simply because their standards are different from what we are using today?

    And how is it that anyone can say that Nazi Germany did not sin? How is it that anyone can say that America did not sin by its treatment of America’s indigenous people, Blacks during slavery, Jim Crow, and now, and its own poor? Of course there are other examples.

    But what about the status of Christians who are in the nations at which God is angry? To answer your last question again, isn’t that similar enough to the status of the prophets and other faithful Israelites in the Old Testament who were living in Israel when God was judging it? And if we are resisting the sins committed by our nation, how is it that we are sharing its guilt? Isn’t resisting the sins committed by our nation following part of what Paul commanded us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds rather than conforming to this world? And isn’t warning our nation about its sin a way of following what was written in Calvin’s commentary regarding Achan’s sin and Israel’s guilt:


    But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness.

    And what if we don’t resist or resist enough against our nation’s sins? Are we recipients of God’s anger just as our nation would be? Isn’t the kind of anger we would receive from God if we didn’t resist enough the same kind of anger we would receive if God deemed it necessary to discipline us as his children as talked about in Hebrews– Hebrews if memory serves?

    See, you want to judge what I say by asking me to give a yes/no answer. But if God is the only one who knows our hearts, how can I give such an answer. Only God can. But what I can say is what the Scriptures say. That there is corporate guilt and sin. That part of our job is to resist that by calling people to repent from cooperation or complicity with corporate sin. And we are to practice what we preach.

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