Wire View (not W-w)

In addition to listening to NPR’s reports on the Confederate Flag controversy, we also listened to the Diane Rehm show for part of the drive across Ohio. Her guest on Monday was Evan Thomas, the author of the new biography of Richard M. Nixon. This was a great interview and sounds like a brilliant book. The reason is that Thomas doesn’t flinch from Nixon’s despicable side. But he also finds Nixon to be a fascinating and a remarkable political figure. In which case, Nixon’s wickedness doesn’t put Thomas off. In fact, it’s the mix of bad and good that makes Nixon such an intriguing character. In other words, Thomas is not too good for this world.

Of course, the mix of bad and good is also what makes The Wire arguably the best motion-picture production ever made. Every character is honorable and selfish, commendable and despicable. That mix is what is characteristic of human existence. And I would also argue that it even characterizes the lives of saints; I don’t say this as an excuse for Christians to do evil; I say it to prevent saints from pride. (And let me be clear that I don’t recommend The Wire to all people; if you have trouble with nudity and crudity — you may want to lay off Shakespeare, opera, and the Bible — stay away from The Wire.)

This is a way to raise questions about Matt Tuininga’s piece (where comments are closed) about the forgiveness offered to Dylann Roof by the families of his victims. I am not sure why anyone would feel compelled to comment on those tragic deaths. Unless one of us has insight into Roof’s character or the African Methodist Episcopal Church or black Protestantism, it seems to me that white Reformed Protestants should simply pass by and let others do the conversing. But Matt did not make that call:

These brave Christian men and women of Charleston are enacting Jesus’ life and death in the most breathtaking way. Pray for them. Learn from them. This is the Gospel in action. This is Christian ethics in its purest form.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

For one thing, I’m not sure that the gospel and ethics should be so closely identified. I believe the gospel is about what God does in Christ for sinners and ethics has something to do with the way the redeemed respond to God’s grace in their lives by following God’s law. So granting forgiveness to Roof is analogous to what God does in the gospel, but taking up the cross and losing our life is a form of what we do. Which is it? Forgiveness or ethics?

For another, I’m not sure that Matt can make a case that the self-denial taught by Christ should take the form of the forgiveness granted by the AME families. I can well imagine a Christian not granting forgiveness (especially if not requested) and arguing that the lex talionis still applies — an eye for an eye, a life for a life. That rule doesn’t give Christians permission to practice vigilante justice. But it does allow a believer to hope that the criminal justice system will convict and punish a murderer. That’s not vindictive if God himself is going to judge all people by their works on judgment day.

And so I wonder if Matt had a better sense of the conflicted nature of human existence — the Wire View — maybe he would have been less prone to tidy up this tragedy with such a happy ending. This is an event with repercussions yet to come and it seems to be very dangerous to take away from it reassurances about how good Christians are (not to mention no consideration of differences between Calvinists and Wesleyans about sanctification, though, perhaps, this is not the time to bring those up).

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75 thoughts on “Wire View (not W-w)

  1. @dgh

    For one thing, I’m not sure that the gospel and ethics should be so closely identified. I believe the gospel is about what God does in Christ for sinners and ethics has something to do with the way the redeemed respond to God’s grace in their lives by following God’s law. So granting forgiveness to Roof is analogous to what God does in the gospel, but taking up the cross and losing our life is a form of what we do. Which is it? Forgiveness or ethics?

    I’m not sure I follow here. I agree that the gospel is about what God does and ethics are related to how the redeemed respond to God’s grace by following God’s law (though I might be a bit more general about ethics and say that they are more about what humans do so that they can peacefully co-exist). What I don’t understand is why “granting forgiveness to Roof is analogous to what God does in the gospel, but taking up the cross and losing our life is a form of what we do.” Aren’t we commanded to forgive those who persecute us, love our enemies, respond to curses with blessing, etc… ? If so, isn’t forgiveness of someone who sought to terrorize you a Christian duty? I don’t understand why our duty to forgive our debtors doesn’t fall under “ethics”.

    All that being said, I don’t think the state’s response should be contingent on the willingness of the targets to forgive. While the parishioners may forgive, I don’t see why that should impact how the state of South Carolina responds to Roof.

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  2. Tuininga should know better than to use a phrase like “this is the gospel in action”. The gospel is a holy God forgiving sinful men, not sinful men forgiving sinful men.

    This is actually obedience to the Law of God in action since God commands us to forgive.

    He’s confusing justification and sanctification. Too much of that going on these days, even in Reformed circles.

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  3. Some of the white pietist reaction to Charleston comes off as patronizing, including the suggestion from one mid-level Calvinist celeb to just show up at the nearest black church prayer meeting. I couldn’t blame the nearest black church for being suspicious of me in general (given my appearance), suspicious of my motives (slumming?), or suspicious of my sincerity (It took this to get you here?). Respect for privacy and sensitivity may outweigh personal desires to express piety and solidarity. Ambulance chasing is just unseemly. It’s what Sharpton and Jackson do.

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  4. Dr. Hart, suggested edit: “And so if wonder if Matt had a better sense…” should be “And so I wonder if Matt had a better sense…”

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  5. BTW, a side-bar question: I haven’t listened to NPR since they fired Bob Edwards early in the last decade (I understand that he may have resurfaced on XM radio or something) so I’ve lost track of the personnel over there. Is this Diane Rehm the one who talks at a -2wpm rate when she asks interview questions?

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  6. sdb, I’m with Darryl here but you do raise a fair question. I wonder if the skepticism is in how these displays often come off as opportunistic. Maybe what Tuiniga is lauding would go over better if public claims of forgiveness went all the way and the claimants would petition the judge for leniency, even release? It’s what the Mennonite parents did when the gunman mowed down their kids’ classroom. But if the Protestant claimants still have a real sense of law and aren’t willing to go that far, maybe their displays of forgiveness should be more private. Otherwise, their displays seem as off-putting as those who would cheer the criminal’s punishment.

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  7. @Zrim
    I do agree there’s a lot of rank opportunism flowing around. Hearing folks talk about forgiving this gunman who are wholly unconnected from the event (other than seeing the news) is particularly unseemly.

    For those who are connected to the tragedy and are grieving, it seems to me that they should be given quite a bit of latitude. However, I don’t see any conflict with forgiving the perp (privately or publicly) and letting the justice system take its course. This murder was about sending a message to the black community – an attempt to strike fear into the lives of black americans – if you aren’t save in church, where are you safe? So while the family and friends of the victims may find it in their heart to forgive, they may not want to stand in the way of the state standing in judgment and sending a message to society that we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.

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  8. EC – OK, I did some Web research about Rehm and found out that she does have some sort of neurological disorder that causes her halted manner of speaking. Fine. I’m sorry that she has that disability. However, is it wise for a broadcasting company who intends to present the “best and brightest” of independent national/world news be so politically correct as to place someone with an affliction of that sort in a position of news reporting/interviewing? Surely there are better places for her, where she can still feel fulfilled in her “mission.” If nothing else, it must add 25%-30% more air time to each interview than what would be the case with normally speaking individuals.

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  9. sdb: So while the family and friends of the victims may find it in their heart to forgive

    not the time to argue, like you say, except to remind that anyone saying they ‘find it in their heart ‘ to forgive and think they can actually do it apart from Christ is not giving Him His due glory and honor, which the occasion could be used for.
    Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing John 15:4-5

    George:is it wise for a broadcasting company who intends to present the “best and brightest” to place someone with an affliction of that sort in a position of news reporting/interviewing?

    wow.

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  10. Yep, “wow.” NPR has been famous as left-wing, present-the-underog’s view since its inception. So?

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  11. George,

    If ABC put Dick Clark on the air on New Year’s Eve after his stroke there is certainly a place for Diane Rehm on NPR. Hopefully we have some patience for people with sound minds even though their physical limitations don’t make them as polished as we would like.

    Roger Ebert’s biopic “Life Itself” comes to mind.

    We had a beloved Professor of Greek at Northwestern who taught for probably 40 years who was in a wheelchair. Sometimes just seeing people overcome their disabilities is as inspiring as the things they are actually hired to do.

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  12. b, sd, isn’t it possible to forgive and still seek justice in our hyphenated selves. The Christian in me may forgive. The citizen in me, following God’s word, seeks justice. Otherwise, the command to forgive without a 2k basis, turns us into Anabaptists.

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  13. Y’all: Sure, Stephen Hawking certainly comes to mind. But I think you’re missing the point. If you think that various disabilities are an automatic ticket for anyone having them to assume ANY position of former fame and importance then Mohamed Ali should still be boxing. If folks with maladies are entitled to do anything and everything, then we’ve come full circle where we acknowledge that the current government is doing just fine. Don’t bad mouth them.

    But don’t take my word for it, do an Internet look-up using “Diane Rehm” as a search key and you’ll find plenty of disgruntled listeners who are wondering what the heck is going on with NPR.

    Interloper from the Golden State, chime in.

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  14. As far as forgiveness goes, I have no doubt that the Charleston African American churches and their members will press hard to keep the death penalty off the table. But I think that is about all the forgiveness to be expected for Mr.Roof.

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  15. George,

    Ebert never did go back on TV full-time and I wouldn’t want a trial lawyer who stuttered (I saw an attorney with very poor public speaking skills give a presentation today), so I do understand what you are saying.

    Balancing compassion and the demands of the marketplace are often difficult.

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  16. @dgh

    isn’t it possible to forgive and still seek justice in our hyphenated selves. The Christian in me may forgive. The citizen in me, following God’s word, seeks justice.

    I agree. No argument from me on this point. My question is about this:

    So granting forgiveness to Roof is analogous to what God does in the gospel, but taking up the cross and losing our life is a form of what we do. Which is it? Forgiveness or ethics?

    It isn’t so much that I disagree, but that I don’t think I understand what you are saying here. Why isn’t forgiving our debtor an ethical act?

    Otherwise, the command to forgive without a 2k basis, turns us into Anabaptists.

    I thought that anabaptists were 2k. I guess I’m hopeless.

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  17. Obama’s Nobel Prize speech—“people who don’t agree with me about what to do about evil don’t seem to realize (as I do) that there really is evil in the world”

    Or maybe they disagree about if Jesus can save sinners and be a lawgiver at the same time.

    I Peter 2: 20 But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God.
    21 For you were called to this,
    because Christ also suffered for you,
    leaving you an example,
    so that you should follow in His steps.
    22 He did not commit sin,
    and no deceit was found in His mouth;
    23 when He was reviled,
    He did not revile in return;
    when He was suffering,
    He did not threaten
    but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.
    24 He Himself bore our sins
    in His body on the tree,
    so that, HAVING DIED to sins,
    we would live for righteousness…

    Hauerwas—Jesus’s refusal to play the devil’s game does not mean that the kingdom he proclaims is not political. Jesus refuses to use the violence of the world to achieve “peace.” But that does not mean he is any less political or that he is not about the securing of peace. His arrest is often thought to represent the apolitical character of Jesus because he commands Peter to put away the sword Peter had used to cut off the ear of the priest’s slave. Jesus rebukes Peter, but the cup from which Jesus must drink is no less political because Jesus is being nonviolent.

    Hauerwas—The character of Jesus’s politics is manifest in his response to the high priest who questions Jesus about his teachings in John 18.19-24. That he is questioned by the high priest may suggest that his mission was “religious” rather than political, but such an account cannot be sustained for no other reason than Jesus’s answer: “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

    Hauerwas—They tell me that you are the King of Jews. Is that true?” Pilate’s question is meant to see if Jesus is “political.” Jesus responds by asking if Pilate came up with such a view on his own or did others tell him such was the case. “I am not a Jew, am I?” replies Pilate.. “If my kingdom were FROM this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. ” This is a response used often to deny that Jesus was political. But Pilate rightly saw that Jesus’ denial that his kingship was not of this world is not the denial that Jesus is king. Jesus denied that his kingdom was just another form of Rome.

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  18. As long as we know we don’t want to end up “anabaptist”, it’s very simple—“The Christian in me may forgive. The citizen in me seeks justice.”

    Even though God does not forgive without justice (Christ’s atoning death for the elect), And many God does not forgive, and God’s just wrath already abides on them.

    But who are we to forgive without justice? And if it’s not the Christian in us who wants God’s wrath, what is it in us which is not already called with a heavenly calling, that would justify our refusing our vocation as citizens of heaven? Or we only talk about that when we are criticizing Kuyperians?

    Philippians 3— many live as enemies of the cross of Christ…. they are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    David Gordon testifying for Lee Irons–When OT passages such as Psalm 1 or Jeremiah 31 refer to “the Law” or “the law of God,” they do not mean some smaller part of the Mosaic law such as the Decalogue, but to the Mosaic legislation in its entirety.
    -When NT passages such as Matthew 5:17ff. refer to “the Law” they also refer to the entirety of the Mosaic legislation, not merely to the Decalogue.
    .
    -When Paul refers to keeping “the commandments of God,” he does not mean the Mosaic legislation, because in some such texts, he expressly repudiates the Mosaic requirement of circumcision.
    -Paul’s insertion of “in the Lord” into the fifth commandment is significant, and is significant in precisely the way Mr. Irons suggests that it is.
    -The author of Hebrews deems it inconceivable that the Sinai covenant could be obsolete without the words of the covenant also being obsolete; to the contrary, the reasoning of the letter to the Hebrews is summarized in 7:11: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.”

    -The role of Christ as Lord and King over his church is such that, fundamental allegiance belongs to him, and therefore any Mosaic laws that oblige Christians do so only insofar as they have been endorsed and interpreted by Christ; the believer has no obligation to obey the laws of another covenant (to which he does not belong, Rom. 7), unless and only insofar as the Sovereign of the New Covenant says. http://upper-register.com/irons_trial/tdavid_gordon_testimony.pdf

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  19. NPR=Natl. Socialist Radio
    Charleston? It’s a false flag op.
    If it was the tip of that giant iceberg of white raycism, how come black on white “hate” crimes – suppressed by the natl. media – proportionately and numerically out number the white on black “hate” crimes?

    Moving right along. (This guy says there are generally two constants in these kinds of things, drugs and fatherless homes.)
    While Roof made some cogent remarks in his manifesto, what little I saw of it re. race/Trayvon Martin etc., one, that is still no excuse for what he did.
    Cold blooded murder calls for the death penalty.
    (Omar Thornton deserved it also, but he killed himself after killing eight (white) people at the beer distributorship he used to work at. The perpetrators of the Knoxville Horror? They’ll get paroled in 20 at the outside.)
    Two, the media at one time used to suppress such manifestos and crimes in order to head off copy cats or in this case in our national climate, a get even backlash from you know who, the black lies matter/let’s burn Ferguson/Baltimore to the ground crowd emceed by Al “The Snitch” Sharpton (fronting for the man ultimately).

    As in the Establishment and the titular head. The prez, GW Obama didn’t sit for 20 years for nuthin’ under a guy who is a fan of the founder of Black Liberation theology. The same which holds that African chattel slavery is the original – and un atoned – sin of America and all the black man needs to do to succeed is get rid of the white man.
    IOW you can’t expect much when these kinds of horrible things happen.
    So we don’t.
    And therefore we are never disappointed.

    More racism = more gun control = more Big Brother.
    What’s not to like for NPR?
    It’s going according to plan, comrade. No worries here.

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  20. DGH,

    A few quick points.

    First, this is the gospel in action in the sense that these believers are bearing in their bodies, as the Apostle Paul did, the death of the Lord Jesus, and they are using it as an opportunity to speak the gospel. In that sense they are exhibiting the gospel narrative (of the death and resurrection of Jesus) in their lives. You can’t reduce that to lawkeeping.

    Second, the gospel (good news of salvation) is not just about justification; it is also about sanctification.

    Third, there is a distinction between personal forgiveness and political or judicial forgiveness. “God may forgive you but the state of Mississippi is a little more hard-nosed!”

    Fourth, one need not be AME or black in order to have a sense of solidarity with black Christians. But I may have spent more time in black churches and among black brothers and sisters than you realize.

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  21. Matt,

    Whose sin did these poor people’s deaths atone for and how was the Father’s wrath appeased by them?

    I thought that was the gospel message?

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  22. Saying that Jesus is both lawgiver and our example does not confuse law with gospel. We need to understand that, with a new covenant, comes a new law. It’s not only David Gordon and Lee Irons who understand that “natural law” and “Mosaic law” are not the same as “the law of Christ. Matt T also understands that.

    Matt T—“Most Europeans had become Christians only as whole tribes converted in obedience to their lords and kings, and the process of education and discipleship had been remarkably slow. The late medieval era therefore gave rise to wave after wave of reformers who called for instruction, social discipline, and the establishment of order. Under such circumstances it made a whole lot of sense increasingly to turn to the Old Testament as a guide.”

    “Unlike the New Testament, which was written to congregations of individuals and families who had voluntarily embraced their calling to be separate from the broader society, the Old Testament was written to a nation of millions, steeped in idolatry and pagan practices, kept in the faith in large part by political authorities. Unlike the New Testament, which could assume a thoughtful devotion in response to grace on the part of Christ’s voluntary disciples, the Old Testament used rewards and punishments to curb idolatry and promote righteousness. Unlike the New Testament, which emphasized teaching and growth in maturity, the Old Testament featured the prominence of ceremony, pageantry, and symbolic instruction at the hands of a select priesthood.”

    “In these ways and so many others the medieval church found its situation to be far more analogous to that of ancient Israel than to that of the early church. It was probably inevitable, under these circumstances, that the Old Testament would increasingly become the paradigm for the life of the medieval church. Reformers increasingly demanded decisive action on the part of those with power, looking to Israelite kings as examples. They called for the authorities to extend their coercive power over institutions and realms of life not previously subject to temporal authority.”

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/why-didnt-the-church-emphasize-the-ten-commandments-until-the-late-medieval-era/

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  23. Where do you find mention of the concept of “the gospel in action” in Scripture?

    Is the gospel a message that is declared or an action that is performed by Christians?

    Would it be appropriate if I wore a tee shirt that exhorted people to “be the gospel”?

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  24. Mark,

    But what if we do a poor example of following Jesus’ example?

    Was Jesus’ key act in the gospel forgiving people (what these family members have done) or dying on the cross to satisfy the Father’s wrath against sin (what no one in this scenario was done).

    I see these people setting a good example in offering forgiveness, nothing more.

    If my wife commits adultery and I forgive her, have I “done the gospel”?

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  25. Erik, on many occasions, I have clearly affirmed the distinction between the law and the gospel. I do not believe in our “believing in the law” or “doing the gospel”. But the antithesis between law and gospel does not mean that Jesus Christ does not give us the law of Christ. The law of Christ is not the gospel, but nobody is exempt from the law of Christ, even as nobody is exempt from the obligation to obey the gospel.

    The “obedience of faith”, in my opinion, is faith in the gospel, not the obedience which results from faith in the gospel. But this not mean that we have no reason to “live by the truth” and “act in line with the gospel”.

    Romans 1–as it is written: The righteous will live by faith

    John 3: 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

    Galatians 2: 12 For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. 13 Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-christian-life-is-about-following-christ-not-the-law-12-clarifying-propositions/

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  26. Erik and mark, in our camp we have to accept that we are on the same page with each other and don’t have the time or space or energy to have to rehash every jot and tittle of our Law/Gospel and Justification/Sanctification distinctives that we have hopefully had tested at our local churches for membership and office considerations.

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  27. Assuming that many of you have seen Scott Clark’s excellent blog essay on gospel faith not being a virtue, I would affirm the antithesis between law and gospel with this quotation from Matt Perman.

    Matt Perman—”Faith can be referred to as obedience in the sense that when we believe in Christ we are doing what God tells us to. Thus is why the Scriptures sometimes speak of “obeying the gospel.” But “doing what God tells us to do” is not the definition of obedience to the law. Moral obedience does not simply mean “doing what God says” but doing what is virtuous. Faith in the gospel is not love for our neighbor.

    Romans 9:11-12 …for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything GOOD OR BAD, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘the older will serve the younger.’”

    Perman–“Anything good or bad” explains the term “works.” Consequently, “works” are “anything we do, whether good or bad.” Works are not simply acts one does without faith or to put God in one’s debt. Rather, “works” is a term used to refer to human behavior in general. This behavior can then be classified as either obedience or disobedience.

    Perman–Since faith in Christ is not a “work of the law,” it must follow that faith in Christ as Savior is not a requirement of the law but of the gospel. This means that faith in Christ is not a morally virtuous thing (like telling the truth, etc), for virtue is that which accords with God’s law. Gospel faith is not commanded by the law, and so faith is not a virtue.”

    http://www.oocities.org/mattperman/romans45.html

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  28. Mark, we KNOW this….

    and yes, there are going to be ticky-tack points to be scored in an internet debate on a few fringe disagreements….

    i’d like a better form of agreement to offset the damage done here with infantile thousands of posts with Catholics who couldn’t care less about our beliefs over the last month or so…

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  29. b,sd, I see your point. My only point is that doing what the law requires is not a matter of forgiveness. Is forgiving our neighbors an imperative? Yes, I guess. But I don’t see it in the Decalogue.

    Plus, if you want to forgive, don’t you need someone to pay the penalty for breaking the law? That would be God’s example.

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  30. Matt, how are these believers “bearing in their bodies” the death of the Lord? Do you need to be shot for that to happen? Do you need a relative to have been murdered? Or are all Christians bearing the death of the Lord? I think the latter.

    And so I continue to think that you have tried to make a point about Christianity on the basis of these victims and their survivors that is not something those of us not in the congregation or in their families should make.

    As for justification and sanctification, will my sanctification save me on judgment day?

    BTW, why didn’t you open comments?

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  31. Yes, agree AB (now that its been pointed out by multiple people).

    I don’t think, in context, that is the connection Dr. Hart was going for. He can, of course, answer for himself. I was agreeing with his points regarding Tuininga’s thoughts on the matter (what the major thrust of his post deals with).

    I can certainly see how one would take offense at such a parallel. It wouldn’t be the first bonehead, unguarded post or comment on the internet by a Christian that should be revised.

    Back to the code salt mines for me.

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  32. Darryl, I do agree that we all (as Christians) bear in our bodies the death of the Lord Jesus. But we do so in different ways. Some share in his sufferings, or experience the cost of taking up their cross and being his followers, in more direct ways than others. For this reason the disciples gloried that they were able to suffer for the sake of Christ; not that others couldn’t also, but that they were doing this in unique ways.

    On your second point, I don’t follow your logic. The victims’ families, the members of this church, have made it eminently clear that they want this to be their message. Check out this link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/charleston-families-hope-words-endure-past-shooting.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    On the third, point, I don’t think your sanctification will save you; I think your sanctification is part of the process of your being saved. You are being saved from your own sinful nature and sins on a daily basis. That is what sanctification is. Reformed theology has never reduced salvation to justification.

    On comments, that is the default setting on my blog at this point. Too many comment threads simply are not profitable or edifying. I may reopen them at some point, but that’s where I am right now.

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  33. I think a Christian family member could forgive Root AND still desire for him to receive the death penalty for his crime. It’s 2K in action. Hopefully he repents & believes and is in heaven after he dies, but there are just temporal consequences for his evil acts. This is why we give thanks for civil magistrates bearing the sword and pray for them to wield it justly. A wise governor can pardon convicted killers but rarely does.

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  34. Reformed theology regards being saved as “a process”?

    If so, what differentiates that notion from Roman Catholic theology?

    When am I sanctified enough that the process can be considered complete?

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  35. EC: I think a Christian family member could forgive Root AND still desire for him to receive the death penalty for his crime. It’s 2K in action

    it would come down to the definition of forgiving. One can accept evil happening to them and not let it turn them into a bitter or destroyed person (after a fair time of mourning and sadness.) It doesn’t mean I’d argue for the person to be let out of jail scot free and come live with me and let him ride my mini-bike without asking or drink my last beer in the fridge.

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  36. Kent,

    Agreed – no bitterness allowed.

    Memory from high school. A black friend got in a bad fight with a white kid from a neighboring small town. Lots of people watched the fight, it was really lopsided, and my friend got beat up bad.

    Not that long after that, the small town white kid was killed in a car crash. I remember my friend and his friends rejoicing. That seemed to somehow make the whole sad scenario worse, not better, to me.

    At that point there was no reconciliation, no forgiveness, and the possibility for either was gone forever.

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  37. Erik – I think a Christian family member could forgive Root AND still desire for him to receive the death penalty for his crime. It’s 2K in action. Hopefully he repents & believes and is in heaven after he dies, but there are just temporal consequences for his evil acts. This is why we give thanks for civil magistrates bearing the sword and pray for them to wield it justly. A wise governor can pardon convicted killers but rarely does.

    #ding

    Though the question of whether the Christian is obligated to forgive the unrepentant murderer still looms. And of just what would that forgiveness consist? A lack of bitterness? An acquiescence to accept the judgement of the magistrate as the final word on temporal justice in the matter and not seek personal retribution? Those seem reasonable but are they required?

    Perhaps there is a positive obligation on the Christian to support the civil magistrate as he seeks temporal justice. After all a murderer is a concern for society and not just the family and friends of the victim. And to the extent that the murderer avoids punishment we undermine the peace and order the magistrate exists to facilitate and for which we are to pray. 1 Tim 2:2 This seems appropriate to me contra the Anabaptists.

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  38. Matt, what the families are doing is laudable. Is it Christian? Lot’s of people go on after a crime has hurt them or their families and don’t riot. Are they Christian. Plus, is forgiveness the only alternative to a “hate-filled” response? Is the conviction of Roof hate filled? Are the police behaving brutally in Charleston, or do now people see the value of a criminal justice system?

    All of that is enough to suggest to me someone overreaches by claiming this for the pro-Christ column.

    Salvation may be a process but justification is not. And on judgment day only Christ’s righteousness will suffice. That’s why justification was the material principle of the Reformation — not sanctification.

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  39. I find Calvin’s two kinds of forgiveness helpful.

    “I reply, there are two ways in which offenses are forgiven. If a man shall do me an injury, and I, laying aside the desire of revenge, do not cease to love him, but even repay kindness in place of injury, though I entertain an unfavorable opinion of him, as he deserves, still I am said to forgive him. For when God commands us to wish well to our enemies, He does not therefore demand that we approve in them what He condemns, but only desires that our minds shall be purified from all hatred. In this kind of pardon, so far are we from having any right to wait till he who has offended shall return of his own accord to be reconciled to us, that we ought to love those who deliberately provoke us, who spurn reconciliation, and add to the load of former offenses. A second kind of forgiving is, when we receive a brother into favor, so as to think favorably respecting him, and to be convinced that the remembrance of his offense is blotted out in the sight of God. And this is what I have formerly remarked, that in this passage [Matthew 18:21] Christ does not speak only of injuries which have been done to us, but of every kind of offenses; for he desires that, by our compassion, we shall raise up those who have fallen. This doctrine is very necessary, because naturally almost all of us are peevish beyond measure; and Satan, under the pretense of severity, drives us to cruel rigor, so that wretched men, to whom pardon is refused, are swallowed up by grief and despair.”

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  40. Erik Charter quotes Matthew Tuininga as saying:
    “Reformed theology regards being saved as “a process”?

    and then responds with
    If so, what differentiates that notion from Roman Catholic theology?

    When am I sanctified enough that the process can be considered complete?

    Darryl will also tell you that “conversion” is a lifelong process. Ask em. I know because I heard him say it on youtube. I don’t disagree.
    One can never be more justified than the moment God declares him so.
    This external reality is accompanied by regeneration. Which is the internal reality of new life in Christ.
    Sanctification is the inevitable lifelong though usually uneven progress of this internal reality working itself outward in word thought and deed.
    Conversion would be this whole process that begins at justification and ends at the resurrection. (in a nutshell)
    That one was free. My remedial reformed theology classes are a thousand bucks from now on.

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  41. Matt, Greg, whoever,

    So when we use the term “the gospel” and the term “conversion” are we talking about identical things?

    Is my conversion the gospel?

    My point is that I don’t think people are precise enough about what the gospel is and too often use it to describe things that make them feel warm and fuzzy.

    For example, “I was hungry and Bob brought me a sandwich. Bob was really living out the gospel to me.”

    Not really.

    Take, for example “The Gospel Coalition”. What do articles on Christian baking or how I can be fulfilled in my work have to do with Christ’s death on the cross to appease the wrath of a holy God against sinful men?

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  42. We sinners should forgive some who have sinned against us even though God has not and will not forgive them Our forgiveness is not our having keys that control God’s forgiveness. We can forgive those for whom Christ had not died. God will not forgive those for whom Christ did not die.

    When we forgive the sins of sinners against us, that does not cause their sins to be imputed to Christ. God does some things human sinners cannot do, and that human sinners should not try to do. God can and does command human sinners to do what God Himself will not do. God’s nature is revealed not only in what God commands. This is NOT “voluntarism” but taking us back to the truth that God by nature CANNOT forgive sins except by Christ’s death.

    Some liberals (both libertarians and those who endorse the nation-state) think that any notion of God being judgmental in the future only leads to violence now. But historically that is not how the “peace-churches” have understood it. Instead of reading current events (providence) as divinely right (or wrong) some citizens of heaven quote Romans 12:19-“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

    In Luke 13:4-5, the Lord Jesus responded to those attempting to interpret current events: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” That threat from Jesus is not an endorsement of human violence, nor is it an excuse for Hitler or Obama to kill those who kill.

    James 1:19 “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”

    Psalm 76: 10—“Even human wrath shall praise you, for you are to be feared. Who can stand before you when your anger is roused?”

    God judging justly is one reason we are not to kill.

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  43. Erik asks: “So when we use the term “the gospel” and the term “conversion” are we talking about identical things?”
    I’m not the last word on everything, but I’ll give it to ya as I see it. I also think you pretty much know this. (I hope so) As everybody knows, the word itself comes from the Greek euangelion, or “good news”. It can mean one of the four historical narrative books of the New Testament wherein is recorded the earthly life of Christ. (The Gospel of John)

    It can be used as nearly synonymous with the Christian religion as whole. (Gospel music)

    It can also be used as an adjective to connote a thing as being related to or defined by Christianity. (the gospel principles of self defense are…)

    Conversion is the blessed final result of the gospel being made effectual to a lost soul in Adam.

    “Is my conversion the gospel?”
    See above please.

    “My point is that I don’t think people are precise enough about what the gospel is and too often use it to describe things that make them feel warm and fuzzy.”
    Most American pew dwellers (and many alleged shepherds) couldn’t define the most basic Christian doctrines or terms. Not because they’re stupid, but because they don’t care. Ask somebody what “atonement” is or something and see what happens.

    For example, “I was hungry and Bob brought me a sandwich. Bob was really living out the gospel to me.”
    Etymologically speaking, this is not technically correct, but it has become the vernacular and if Bob buys the sandwich out of love for someone in need, in Jesus name, that’s’ not a bad usage in my opinion. Bob is displaying the work of Christ in His heart in obedience to the commands of the Lord. The good news of forgiveness in Christ has been good for Bob and he wants to share it with somebody else in deed and in truth. It’s not illegitimate to call that “living the gospel”.

    Take, for example “The Gospel Coalition”. What do articles on Christian baking or how I can be fulfilled in my work have to do with Christ’s death on the cross to appease the wrath of a holy God against sinful men?
    “whatever is not from faith is sin” The last phrase of Romans 14. One of the most oft and grotesquely mangled passages of scripture in all the bible today.

    I don’t care what anybody tries to tell me. That is the major premise in a magnificent divine syllogism. It is the sum of the entire preceding discussion on “liberty”. (ohhhh what I wouldn’t give for a debate here on that one. Horrific ungodly abuse on this site) The apostle is saying, “of course” all of the preceding is true because “WHATEVER is not from faith is sin” .

    There is no such thing as a Christian _________________ , where a thing is truly indifferent. That is, without moral content in itself. Like baking. This does not mean however that the act of baking, or any act for that matter, is ultimately neutral at the epistemological level. And yes, here we are back there again.

    A Christian does whatever they do, including baking, motivated by the glory of God by faith. Pagans do whatever they for themselves. The resulting cookies are the same, indeed the pagans cookies may be better, but the heart that produced them is not the same. And if it is, somebody needs to get saved.

    That does not mean that I agree with TGC on their idiotic, unbiblical attempts to “Christianize” morally neutral activities and objects. This is also not the same where moral content is involved. Good grief. Lost track of the time. BBL. Didn’t even get to proof read this thoroughly.

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  44. There is no such thing as a Christian _________________ , where a thing is truly indifferent. That is, without moral content in itself. Like baking. This does not mean however that the act of baking, or any act for that matter, is ultimately neutral at the epistemological level. And yes, here we are back there again.

    A Christian does whatever they do, including baking, motivated by the glory of God by faith. Pagans do whatever they for themselves. The resulting cookies are the same, indeed the pagans cookies may be better, but the heart that produced them is not the same. And if it is, somebody needs to get saved.

    I’ve never understood this false dilemma this here “theological society” crucifies the neo-Cals [and itself!] upon. “Christian” encompasses/embraces not just the Bible, but the natural law as well. As a great American founder wrote

    “The law of nature and the law of revelation are both Divine: they flow, though in different channels, from the same adorable source. It is indeed preposterous to separate them from each other.”–James Wilson, Of the Law of Nature, 1804

    As for baking, curiously enough the natural law dictates that you can’t just slop the ingredients together. Without proper care and feeding, your souffle will not rise.

    All things on earth are subject to the natural law, so whether you’re discussing baking or plumbing [or making babies, which is a bit of both 😉 ], the natural law may not be explicitly “Christian,” but all things Christian are in accord with the natural law.

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  45. Erik: Reformed theology regards being saved as “a process”?

    Salvation – deliverance, from the penalty, power, and presence of sin

    Romans 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

    Philippians 2:12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

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  46. Darryl,

    What business does the funny bone have telling the ass that he too is not a part of the body?

    If only Tom would join a church he could be the butthole.

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  47. thanks cw. I take that as a compliment. It’s all I got.

    and can’t spell ‘lunatic’ without cw – meaning you must have some amount of intermittent insanity to have endure years here (I presume it’s years) at OL

    love, a.

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  48. Erik – If only Tom would join a church
    you have to ‘join a church’ to be a body member?

    Erik – he could be the butthole.

    hey and speaking of, still waiting for an apology Erik… ( Erik: “a. stands for….”.)

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  49. Matt t asks— Did the change in racial attitudes take place because Presbyterians suddenly started preaching faithfully, or was it the result of the cultural, economic, political, and legal shifts brought about by the civil rights movement? To put an ironic twist on the question, does the racial repentance of the PCA, the SBC, and other southern churches testify to an escape from cultural captivity, or to its ongoing power? After all, these acts of repentance simply followed the broader political repentance of the culture in which they took place.

    Matt t–Southern evangelicalism has never been as individualistic as scholars sometimes claim. Traditional arguments in defense of slavery and segregation generally made use of communitarian arguments, while it was their abolitionist critics who appealed to the individualistic ethic of liberty Indeed, southern evangelicals often implied that because sin takes social form – even to the extent of becoming embedded in whole races of people – major institutional and cultural systems are necessary to maintain social order.

    Matt t— led them to a greater reliance on the Old Testament as the best source of biblical insight regarding social and political life. Lucas points out that the spirituality of the church doctrine did not lead southern churches to avoid speaking toward political matters; it simply made them selective in the issues that they addressed. I would make the point more specific by suggesting that the doctrine led them to prioritize the Old Testament over the New Testament as a source for political insight. The Old Testament rendered plausible the theological defense of a thoroughly communitarian and segregated vision of political life.

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/presbyterians-and-the-political-theology-of-race-part-1-cultural-captivity/

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  50. Greg,

    Way more Christians need to be familiar with the structure and content of the Heidelberg.

    Works are done out of gratitude and fall under the law (duties we owe to others) and not the gospel.

    Plus, no one giving me a sandwich is saving me from the wrath of God by offering themselves as a blameless sacrifice to appease said wrath.

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  51. Greg,

    Way more Christians need to be familiar with the structure and content of the Heidelberg.

    Works are done out of gratitude and fall under the law (duties we owe to others) and not the gospel.

    Plus, no one giving me a sandwich is saving me from the wrath of God by offering themselves as a blameless sacrifice to appease said wrath.
    When you have my thousand bucks ready, I’ll give you my next class.

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  52. Matt T— He is not simply saying the gospel doesn’t have a lot to say about particular social policies. He is saying that the gospel is not social. He is saying the New Testament doesn’t have much to say about social concerns. So we need to know how Clark is defining his terms. He writes, “By social I mean broader cultural and civil concerns that are not ecclesiastical.”

    Scott and Darryl are both friends to me, and I am grateful for all they have done for me over the years. But their thinking … is hardly likely to persuade anyone tempted to embrace the Social Gospel, given that it merely presents an individualistic and virtually neo-Platonized gospel as the alternative. An excellent corrective to this tendency is Michael Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology.

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/the-gospel-is-social-and-we-need-to-get-it-right/

    from a mennonite friend—“Some of the same Christians who want to confess that Jesus is Lord, when they are brought face to face with Jesus’ non-violence personally displayed in his life and manner of death, and they affirm that yes he was but that his ethics are not our standard, I find them wishy-washy. They want Jesus’ theology but they do not want his ethics, especially his insistence that a true disciple is non-retaliatory and non-violent. No. Here they play all kinds of mind games, figuring out ways to cop out They claim a distinction of authority between person and office: Jesus for the personal/private spiritual life, government laws for the public life, that Jesus reigns in our interior life and in our church but that since we are in the world we must find our own way regarding right and wrong. Oh, they offer plenty of justifications for self-defense and protection of the innocent or they create totally unrealistic hypothetical scenarios. However, the reality is that many Christian leaders who claim Jesus as Lord are bullshitting everyone when they also find ways to neuter Jesus’ social teaching….”

    Mennonites are not supposed to talk that way. Not supposed to talk about politics? Or when they talk about the politics “religious liberty”, make it clear that they do so an individual blogger but not as an elder of a congregation?

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