Unencumbered by W-w

Noah Millman is not merely on one roll, he’s on four. See below.

But his writing on contemporary events leads me again to ponder whether Christians are limited (dumber?) when it comes to non-spiritual subjects precisely because Scripture and church dogma establish limits that block creative and critical thought. (The 2k solution, by the way, is to say that Christians have great liberty where the Bible is silent.) I know Millman is a Jewish-American, but I suspect he is not bound the way Reformed Protestants are by divine revelation and faith-community officers.

And it is the sense of needing to run every piece of analysis or op-ed (“take every thought captive”) through the prism of w-w that winds up limiting the ability of Christians to interact thoughtfully in the wider world. If we/they simply looked at matters as regular human beings or as Americans or as bankers, would we be able to see the world the way Millman does? (My answer is, I hope so.)

But to their credit, Christians are attached to the Bible and to church teaching in ways that show great love for the truths of special revelation. That is something that is likely in short supply among those who only use their smarts to assess the world. T

So here is a quick summary of Millman’s recent w-w-free insights. On Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si:

To my reading, the encyclical starts with a fairy tale. Once upon a time, human beings lived in relative harmony with the environment, because we understood our place within creation. But with the advent of modernity, we have lost sight of that place, both in terms of our proper humility and in terms of our proper responsibility for good stewardship. And the devastating consequences for humanity and the non-human world are all around us. Modernity cannot really be repaired from within; it must be re-founded on a proper moral basis, such that the fruits of the earth are properly shared and exploitation of both the human and non-human world is no longer the basis of our world economy.

I call this a fairy tale because there’s no evidence offered that the pre-modern history is at all true. That is to say, there’s no evidence that medieval Europeans, or the cultures of Africa or the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, avoided exploiting their environment to the best of their ability. And this is to say nothing of the cultures of Asia, from China to India to the Fertile Crescent, which were much more systematic and effective at maximizing their exploitation of the local environment, and which consequently lived closer to the Malthusian edge.

Would that Roman Catholics were not so prone to root, root, root for the home team or for Protestants (like all about meEEEE) to be so suspicious.

On the Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage:

My (partial) defense of Kennedy’s opinion begins with the following thought experiment. Imagine that Loving had been decided the opposite way, upholding miscegenation statutes, and that, in response, an amendment to the Constitution had been passed with the following wording:

The family being the fundamental basis of society, the right to matrimony shall not be infringed.

The passage of this amendment would surely have overturned miscegenation statutes nationally – as it would have been intended to do. It would also have made it clear that prisoners, the mentally handicapped, the carriers of genetic diseases – that none of these can be denied access to matrimony. How, though, would it be applied today in the context of same-sex marriage? How should it be applied?

The answer hinges on the question of what marriage is. At the time of the passage of the amendment, it’s true, only a few would have argued that it encompassed same-sex unions. But in 2015 a great many people thought it did, and many states had come to express that view in their laws (whether prompted by the state-level judiciary or not). Once such a view is current, it becomes necessary for the Court to decide whether or not it is correct – because it is necessary to determine whether the definition of marriage restricting it to unions between men and women is, in fact, an infringement on a fundamental right. This is particularly the case when states have undertaken explicitly to define marriage as exclusively a male-female bond, and not merely done so implicitly.

That’s basically the situation the Court found itself in if it took the Loving precedent seriously. Loving clearly established the right to marry as fundamental, pre-political, and central to the Declaration of Independence’s concept of the “pursuit of happiness.” Note that there is nothing traditional about this idea. Traditionally, marriage was a matter better arranged by your parents than by you, and love was something you hoped would grow within and sustain happiness in marriage as opposed to marriage’s origin. Traditionally and cross-culturally, regulation or prohibition of exogamy has been more the rule than the exception. Loving certainly didn’t invent the idea of the love match, but it did raise it to the level of Constitutional principle.

Millman recognizes that it was the U.S. Supreme Court, not the General Assembly of the OPC, that decided this case, and that certain judicial precedents were in place. In other words, he didn’t have to worry about the Bible or about the Book of Church Order in trying to make sense of the Court’s logic. Can Christians do that? Should they?

On the Greek referendum and debt crisis:

The metropole (Brussels/Berlin) demands terms for renegotiation of Greece’s debt that leave Greece politically and economically utterly subservient to said metropole. The Greeks demand more favorable terms that allow their economy to grow again and have some measure of independence.

The Greeks have suffered far more from austerity than the American colonists did under British taxation. And the British metropole had at least as much reason to accuse us of ingratitude: its taxes were imposed to pay for a war waged on the colonists’ behalf, and the British were rather as disinclined as the German bankers are to have the relationship with the crown treated by the colonists as a blank check.

And, as with the American colonies, the remedy is either independence or genuine representation at the metropole. Either the EU needs to remedy its democratic deficit, creating political organs as powerful and responsive to the people as the ECB is to the imperatives of finance, or it needs to shrink from an empire to a club of like-minded states with already synchronized economies.

Of course, most evangelical and Reformed Protestants don’t care Eastern Orthodox Greece (talk about the limiting effects of w-w), but Millman reminds Americans (and perhaps the Scots) about the value of independence. Was it merely coincidence that the Greeks voted no only a day after the Fourth of July? I don’t think so!

Finally, Millman raises more good questions about the so-called Benedict Option:

Dreher’s surprise, honestly, feels to me just an index of alienation. Same-sex marriage is accepted as normal by a substantial majority of Americans now. How could it possibly be outrageous to learn that a sitting Supreme Court Justice is comfortable performing same-sex weddings in a jurisdiction where such weddings are legal? Wouldn’t it be more surprising if none of the sitting Justices held the same opinion as 60% of Americans?

But that’s not really the point I want to make. Dreher’s instinct, clearly, was that Ginsburg’s action was “outrageous.” That is to say: it provoked him to outrage. Now, I have to seriously ask this: is this feeling, of outrage, likely to be salved, or exacerbated by the pursuit of the Benedict Option?

The culture is going to go on, after all, doing whatever it does, and people all over the country will continue to produce Dreherbait, some of it far more obviously outrageous than Ruth Bader Ginsburg performing a legal wedding ceremony. (The article on quasi-Saudi-sounding practices of Manhattan’s upper financial echelons is a good recent example – and whadaya know, it turns out pricey Manhattan divorce lawyers say they’ve never heard of such a thing as a “wife bonus.”) But isn’t the collection of such stories, well, isn’t it kind of obsessing over precisely the parts of our culture that the whole point of the Benedict Option is to turn away from, in favor of a focus on one’s own community, and its spiritual development?

So I have to ask: is one of the strictures of the Benedict Option going to be to stop pursuing outrage porn? And if it isn’t – why isn’t it?

“Outrage porn.” Brilliant.

Make me smart like this guy.

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41 thoughts on “Unencumbered by W-w

  1. “But isn’t the collection of such stories, well, isn’t it kind of obsessing over precisely the parts of our culture that the whole point of the Benedict Option is to turn away from, in favor of a focus on one’s own community, and its spiritual development?”

    yes, it’s a catch 22

    Merold Wesphall’s believing that beliefs never correspond with reality…does not correspond with reality.

    The anti-foundationalist case against foundationalism…is merely one more case of metaphysics.

    The two kingdom case against the “anabaptist” refusal/retreat from the common kingdom is merely another “worldview”, even if it’s a “worldview against worldviews”

    Too many of those who want to withdraw (only for a while, until they get more power) still speak of only the one culture, the one society.

    But sectarians in diaspora already know more than one culture, more than one society, more than one history, and that the visibility of a congregation does not depend on “making the majority go the right direction”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2014/03/neo-anabaptists-or-historical-anti.html

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  2. “he didn’t have to worry about the Bible or about the Book of Church Order in trying to make sense of the Court’s logic. Can Christians do that? Should they?”

    “the sense of needing to run every piece of analysis through the prism of w-w that winds up limiting the ability of Christians to interact thoughtfully in the wider world.”

    mark—but then we would not have easy closure, nor already know what the answer was before criticizing the question. And also, if we cannot translate our confessional sectarian stuff into something the “wider world” understands, then we won’t be able to change the world. Unless we (for the time being) let the world change us and how we talk, we won’t be able to “take back” the world…

    http://www3.nd.edu/~theo/jhy/writings/method/patience.htm

    John Howard Yoder, “Walk and Word: The Alternatives to Methodologism,” in Stanley Hauerwas, Nancey Murphy, and Mark Nation, eds., Theological without Foundations: Religious Practice and the Future of Theological Truth (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press,1994), 81.

    John Howard Yoder, “‘Patience’ as Method in Moral Reasoning: Is an Ethic of Discipleship ‘Absolute’?” in Stanley Hauerwas, Harry J. Huebner, Chris K. Huebner, and Mark Thiessen Nation, eds., The Wisdom of the Cross: Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder

    John Howard Yoder, “On Not Being Ashamed of the Gospel: Particularity, Pluralism, and Validation,” Faith and Philosophy 93.3 (July 1992), 290.

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  3. DG Hart: Make me smart like this guy.

    Ohoy boy. Good luck finding those smarts you’re looking for/coveting – those greater,’more creative’ ,more critical thinkingly’ than Jesus’s D.G. Hart

    God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind like the sand that is on the seashore. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart;and something greater than Solomon is here; Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 1 Kings 4:29; 10:24; Col 2:3

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  4. DGH,
    I’m sure you’ve gotten very similar questions before, so just direct me to the book/blog/article if you wish.

    As a 2Ker and a historian, how do you feel about historians who deny the historical Jesus? Are they bad historians? Do you approach it like certain finer points of inerrancy (we do not have all the evidence yet, but we know the Bible is true – apparent contradiction)?

    It seems to me that at some point, presuppositions (is that a good euphemism for w-w) are unavoidably invoked. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

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  5. Mr. Hart,

    You seem to have this idea that so-called worldview Christians stop and consciously filter every thought or concept through their so-called worldview. Maybe it’s just how they naturally, or more accurately, supernaturally, think, after being regenerated. Maybe’s it’s you who is artificially filtering every thought through a secular sieve. Or maybe you’re just doing it naturally? Born again Christians aren’t “natural human beings”: they’re born again, regenerated human beings. The natural man is dead in sin; the spiritual man is born again and now wills that which is good. Also, why is it better for people to think through issues as “bankers” or “Americans” rather than as, you know, Christians?

    On the encyclical: there is probably a point to the idea that in the past our practices weren’t so detrimental to the environment. Obviously man has always tried to exploit his environment, but just as war today is far more efficient and destructive with bombs and tanks than it was with swords and arrows; modern farming and manufacturing practices and a whole host of other activities will be more detrimental than the wool mill. Not that modernisation or technological advancement is wrong, but is it wrong that the way we do things today has an exponentially greater impact than the way things were done a couple of hundred years ago? And that nature takes longer to respond and heal to the damage caused today than it did a couple of hundred years ago?

    On so-called same-sex marriage: his logic makes sense, in the sense that it’s logical and one can follow his argument. But so what? I mean, what even is his conclusion? If it’s that the decision of the supreme court had historical precedent, then fine, whatevs. It’s still a wrong decision, in a moral sense. The laws against miscegenation were artificial barriers to marriage: they were laws which violated the natural order of marriage, between one man and one woman. So-called same-sex marriage is different because it’s a violation of what marriage fundamentally is. But whether the Constitution guaranteed a right to mixed marriages is another matter. It occurs to me that a Constitution which originally defined a black person as less human than a white person probably didn’t intend to guarantee the right to mixed marriages. Maybe a constitutional amendment was, technically, necessary. I don’t know.

    Also, Kennedy contradicted himself. In a recent, previous judgment he was all for the states defining the parameters of marriage; now he’s not. Again, there’s a logic to that: Kennedy changes his position as it suits him to make himself look better and because he’s a wishy-washy pinko (again, when it suits him). Just because there’s a logic to it don’t make it right.

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  6. Walton, not to be evasive, but I don’t know many historians or people who deny the historical Jesus. Either it doesn’t come up, or a Jesus figure is just part of the intellectual furniture. Sort of like Confucius.

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  7. Alexander, “You seem to have this idea that so-called worldview Christians stop and consciously filter every thought or concept through their so-called worldview.”

    This is what w-w encourages. I’ve long objected that such self-consciousness is not only impossible but silly to recommend. Take it up with the w-wers.

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  8. Okay. Same question but concerning historical Adam. I guess I’m trying to ask “What is the 2k response when your vocation butts heads with your Christianity in a way other than your job requiring you to do something sinful?”

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  9. DGH: (The 2k solution, by the way, is to say that Christians have great liberty where the Bible is silent.)

    But in worship we tend only to accept what is explicitly allowed in Scripture and our adversaries are more likely to state that anything goes if it isn’t explicitly forbidden?

    And agreed, telling people to keep their gave fully on their navel and their head up another bodily part all day long is not being observed by those who have time enough to order everyone else to do it.

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  10. @Walton
    “What is the 2k response when your vocation butts heads with your Christianity in a way other than your job requiring you to do something sinful?”

    I’m not sure I understand your question here. If your vocation requires you to do something that is not sinful, how would it butt heads with your Christianity?

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  11. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/08/business/economy/germanys-debt-history-echoed-in-greece.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=2

    Jesus Christ has nothing to say about politics, Jesus Christ is the redeemer not the creator or lawgiver

    —–Both authors acknowledge the challenge of difference (or pluralism). They discredit evangelical schemes to redeem the culture as a “late-modern form of Constantinianism” (Hunter) and closely akin to “the Enlightenment project of social transformation” (Hart). They sharply criticize “what would Jesus do?” politics. And they strenuously exhort the church to decouple the public from the political, thereby restoring the importance of vocation. American Christians, they aver, are like the Israelite exiles in Babylon. Our call is not to turn Babylon into another Jerusalem

    “God rules the church (the spiritual kingdom) as redeemer in Jesus Christ and rules the state and all other social institutions (the civil kingdom) as creator and sustainer.

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  12. Born again Christians aren’t “natural human beings”: they’re born again, regenerated human beings. The natural man is dead in sin; the spiritual man is born again and now wills that which is good.

    Alexander, believers are both at once. That’s the point. There is tension, but you speak as if there isn’t any. How can a born again human being speak as if he is more supernatural than natural, as if he has virtually no tension?

    …why is it better for people to think through issues as “bankers” or “Americans” rather than as, you know, Christians?

    Who said this? It’s called the hyphenated life precisely because we are to think through things as both Americans and believers at once. Worldview however seems to want us to forget altogether that we’re American (or Iraqi or South Korean).

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  13. Your master said, and I quote: “If we/they simply looked at matters as regular human beings or as Americans or as bankers, would we be able to see the world the way Millman does? (My answer is, I hope so.)”

    So Mr. Hart said it!

    The tension is between what the believer wants to do, the new man, and what the old man wants to do. The believer wants to walk in the Spirit, but the old man within him is telling him to walk in the flesh. You speak as if the tension is one between two relative (morally) forces: “I’ll consider this issue as a believer, and now I’ll consider it as a secular person.” But the two “views”, or wills, are not morally relative. So when the believer considers marriage from a Christian perspective he sees that marriage is between one man and one woman: that’s what Scripture says. If he looks at it from a “secular” perspective he’s denying what Scripture says. If he comes to the same conclusion, then why not just make it about following one’s faith rather than trying to be “secular” and if he reaches a different conclusion, he’s made a mistake.

    Being a [i]Christian[/i] means not being a citizen of this world or of a particular country in a real, absolute sense. Our national identity must always submit to our spiritual identity. It is God, King, Country, not King, Country, God. If our nation sins we must oppose it and stand apart from it in that sin.

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  14. Walton –
    Same question but concerning historical Adam. I guess I’m trying to ask “What is the 2k response when your vocation butts heads with your Christianity […]”

    You might want to start with asking him whether he believes in a historical Adam.

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  15. German theologians led by Adolph von Harless (1806 to 1879 taught that there were “orders of creation”, so that Chrsitians, like all other human beings, must abide by unchanging ways of life ordered by God before and independent of the revelation of Christ

    https://uwaterloo.ca/grebel/publications/conrad-grebel-review/issues/fall-2002/dietrich-bonhoeffers-political-theology

    Huerwas—-“At a conference sponsored by the Church Federation Office in 1932, Bonhoeffer vigorously attacked the idea of the “orders of creation” introduced by traditional Lutherans. Creation simply cannot be self-validating because Christians have no knowledge of creation separate from redemption. “The creation is a picture of the power and faithfulness of God, demonstrated to us in God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. We worship the creator, revealed to us as redeemer.”

    “Bonhoeffer soon returned to the issue of the “orders of creation” in a
    address to the Youth Peace Conference in Czechoslovakia in July 1932. Again he attacks those who believe that we must accept certain orders as given in creation. Such a view entails the presumption that because the nations have been created differently each one is obliged to preserve and develop its own characteristics. He notes this understanding of the nation is particularly dangerous because “just about everything can be defended by it.” Not only is the fallenness of such order ignored, but those that use the orders of creation to justify their commitment to Germany fail to see that “the so-called orders of creation are not revelations of the divine commandment, they are concealed and invisible. Thus the concept of orders of creation must be rejected as a basis for the knowledge of the commandment of God.”

    In his Ethics Bonhoeffer seems to have abandoned the language of “orders of preservation” and instead uses the language of “mandates– labor, marriage, government, and the church. It is clear what Bonhoeffer is against, but it is not yet clear what he is for.

    Bonhoeffer is against the distinction between “person” and “office” he attributes to the Reformation. He notes this distinction is crucial for justifying the Reformation position on war and on the public use of legal means to repel evil. “But this distinction between private person and bearer of an office as normative for my behavior is foreign to Jesus,” Bonhoeffer argues. “He does not say a word about it. He addresses his disciples as people who have left everything behind to follow him. ‘Private’ and ‘official’ spheres are all completely subject to Jesus’ command. The word of Jesus claimed them undividedly.”

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  16. sdb, you understood the question. An example is when you are a historian or some other kind of scientist and you study in your field and conclude that there was no historical Adam. Here, your vocation is butting heads with Christianity, but not requiring you to sin.

    And if you think denying the historical Adam is a sin, then the conclusions of your research are requiring you to sin and you have a Christian duty to reject those conclusions (maybe not the research though). This seems very non-scientific and non-2k and could easily be viewed as dishonest by the academy.

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  17. D.G. –

    Could you define “w-w”? I’m not sure what it means.

    I don’t think this guy is a very logical or straightforward writer. Lots of unstated assumptions and sliding from one assertion to another. He is assuming his audience believes all kinds of silly things (which they probably do) and has no knowledge of history. Yet he doesn’t attempt to educate (assuming he has the knowledge, which it isn’t clear to me he does), but instead to manipulate.

    To my mind, people like this are best avoided. I have no interest in operating on their terms.

    Fundamentally, I think he is an enemy of Christian order (at best he might tolerate it).

    Once upon a time, human beings lived in relative harmony with the environment, because we understood our place within creation. […but] there’s no evidence that medieval Europeans, or the cultures of Africa or the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, avoided exploiting their environment to the best of their ability.

    Nearly all of Europe was deforested in prehistoric and BC times.

    But I don’t think the encyclical condemns men ‘exploiting their environment to the best of their ability’, it simply states we need to be conscious of its long-term well-being as well.

    Traditional farming cultures understand/understood the importance of caring for the land long-term and passing it down to future generations. Proof is in the long duration of time of relative local stability with regard to farming practice. I think this qualifies as being a steward of creation and refutes his point.

    Modernity cannot really be repaired from within; it must be re-founded on a proper moral basis – this is metaphoric but I think true. He paraphrases but does not respond to this point (at least in what you’ve chosen to quote, DG).

    Loving clearly established the right to marry as fundamental, pre-political, and central to the Declaration of Independence’s concept of the “pursuit of happiness.” Note that there is nothing traditional about this idea.

    This is extremely muddled.

    Yes, the “right to marry” is “fundamental” and “pre-political.” But what does the Declaration of Independence have to do with understanding what marriage is?

    “Traditional marriage” can mean at least two different things – Christian marriage and marriage as it has existed over long periods of time in societies.

    Christian marriage is the only philosophically coherent definition which allows for the both the ultimate and social ends of individuals and families. It is not summed up in the Declaration of Independence. It attained a traditional place in our society, but only as a result of the Church’s war against the medieval nobility (c.f. Medieval Marriage by Georges Duby); i.e., the nobles lost and the Church won.

    This did not occur in other cultures, because they were not Christian. They have real marriages, but not ones which fully respect the ends of marriage. Christianity really added something here. This cannot be overemphasized. Anyone in a marriage or interested in it ought to immediately read Casti Conubii (and not the totally inadequate Wikipedia summary).

    Regarding a majority being in favor of ssm, and there being some level of precedent in court decisions – so what?

    The metropole (Brussels/Berlin) demands terms for renegotiation of Greece’s debt that leave Greece politically and economically utterly subservient to said metropole
    Greece is first and foremost a sovereign nation filled with Christians (as you point out DG) and immersed in Christian history in a way few other countries/regions are (Italy, the Levant).

    It is quite beautiful, the food is great, and outside of Athens, the people are, in my experience, generous and patient. Just be sure to learn the phrase ‘ena boukali krasi, para kalo’ – a bottle of wine, please. I’ve never seen such sunsets elsewhere (and due to light-refracting air pollution, they are quite rich in NJ).

    The author seems to think of Greece primarily with regard to its economic activities (or lack thereof) and relationship with the EU. This says much about his entire deficient worldview.

    So I have to ask: is one of the strictures of the Benedict Option going to be to stop pursuing outrage porn? And if it isn’t – why isn’t it?
    I can’t speak for Dreher or “the Benedict Option”, but the whole point of withdrawing from the world is to produce glory for God, and a part of this is the production of ‘fruit’ which can be relayed to our fellow man – the examples of John the Baptist, Jesus, Benedict, Cluny, numerous others testify to this.

    In this light, being aware of and commenting upon events of the world is entirely appropriate. Sure, it shouldn’t build in us a habit of outrage – but Noah Milliman is introducing this unnecessarily.

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  18. The law-gospel antithesis is NOT about God having “two wills”, one which wants to save the non-elect and one which does not. We don’t need two different laws, or two different kingdoms. We need law and gospel.

    The law-gospel antithesis is about the difference between God’s commands and God’s promises. Legalists turn the promises into the commands, and antinomians lower or eliminate the commands and penalties and threats.

    But there are many who would rather be “unencumbered” by the Sermon on the Mount, but they do not deny it as ‘first use of the law” (to create the despair that drives us to the gospel) but they make every effort to teach us how it does not apply to Christians “just as humans” or in any case in which we would be required to love the enemies of our families.

    deconstruct the structure between ‘two laws”

    define “natural”—-not “arbitrary”? Not given by a personal Sovereign? Is “natural” evolving?

    define “arbitrary—not “natural”? Positive and for a church, but creatures can “lice and prosper” without it?

    define “natural”—-universal and objective? For all times and in all places?

    a way to say “sin” without saying “idolatry”? Ethics without religion revealed in a book?

    it’s theism without the Trinity and without Christ?

    if the Noahic covenant is not redemptive, how is it an “administration” of “the covenant of grace”?

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/1990/12/004-god-in-public-life-rehabilitating-the-orders-of-creation

    Luther–“You will always be in a station.”

    Luther–“God does not have to have Christians as magistrates; it is not necessary, therefore, that the ruler be a saint; he does not need to be a Christian in order to rule, it is sufficient that he possess reason.”

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  19. Alexander, the point wasn’t to dispense completely with the part of the hyphen that is Christian (as you seem to think). It was simply to consider provisional life from a provisional perspective. How is this controversial? But worldviewry wants political matters deciphered from a spiritual perspective. The upshot is almost always irrelevancy. While judges ruminate over how to sort out the question of legal marriage, worldviewers keep saying, “God says one man and one woman.” Yeah, so? Thanks for the brilliant insight but it doesn’t go very far in helping to sort out complicated provisional questions.

    “Being a [i]Christian[/i] means not being a citizen of this world or of a particular country in a real, absolute sense. Our national identity must always submit to our spiritual identity,” said the guy who gets worked up over Scotland’s provisional matters. This is what 2kers say when worldviewers turn blue in the face when the world doesn’t take its cues from the church or her ethics, to worldview boos and hisses and accusations of apathy, etc. The point is to put temporal matters into eternal perspective even as temporal matters must be sorted out by temporal (not eternal) principles. Again, why so hard?

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  20. Walton, doesn’t it maybe not butt head but require a difference set of considerations all the time? Do I treat students the way I’m supposed to behave toward other believers? Do I grade my fellow church members? How about finding the truth about the 1864 elections? Do I go to the Bible, the source of truth? How about when I vote? Do I vote for someone who is going to turn America’s other cheek when the nation is attacked?

    Christianity is at odds with what we do most of the time.

    Or you go to a hyphenated identity where we have a variety of callings that require us to submit to the God-ordained authorities within those spheres.

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  21. Kevin, I disagree. Millman is smart. Nothing you’ve said makes me think otherwise. You may not like his opinions or conclusions, but they strike me as remarkably fair minded. That American Conservative publishes them and pays Millman to write is another reason to say that AmCon may be one of the most intriguing publications around. The editors even let writers beat up on each other. Imagine if Roman Catholicism operated that way.

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  22. @Walton

    sdb, you understood the question.

    No. I didn’t or I wouldn’t have asked.

    An example is when you are a historian or some other kind of scientist and you study in your field and conclude that there was no historical Adam. Here, your vocation is butting heads with Christianity, but not requiring you to sin.

    If it is not sinful to do so and your scholarship leads you to reject the historicity of Adam, why would there be a problem for 2k or any other flavor of Christian? Do you mean, “what do you do when your scholarship leads you to conclusions that you would rather not confront?”. If so, I don’t see what 2k has to do with that… Lot’s of non-Christians run into the same problem. Einstein added the cosmological constant to get around an expanding universe. Hoyle and the Burbidges spent a lot of energy trying to refute big bang cosmology because they didn’t like the idea of a Universe with a beginning. Ron Bailey, the libertarian science columnist for Reason, grudgingly came to support the scientific consensus on climate change that was at odds with his libertarian political ideals. Lots of people run into this issue.

    And if you think denying the historical Adam is a sin, then the conclusions of your research are requiring you to sin and you have a Christian duty to reject those conclusions (maybe not the research though). This seems very non-scientific and non-2k and could easily be viewed as dishonest by the academy.

    Well this changes things a bit. If it is sinful to reject the historicity of Adam and your investigations undermine that belief, then you have two options I suppose. Reject the conclusion of your investigation and willfully believe against the evidence (some would say maintain cognitive dissonance), or reject your belief. Since it can’t be sinful to disbelieve something that isn’t true, if you concluded some hypothesis is false, it wouldn’t be sinful to reject it.

    I still don’t see what this has to do with 2k which boils down to the principle that the church should be silent where the scriptures are silent. And I still don’t understand what you mean by “What is the 2k response when your vocation butts heads with your Christianity in a way other than your job requiring you to do something sinful?” You still haven’t provided an example of a vocation butting heads with Christianity in a way that isn’t sinful. Here’s one stab at it:

    Let’s say you are a petroleum engineer and your job requires you to relocate to Saudi Arabia for a year. You know that there are no reformed churches there. It may not be sinful to live in place with no reformed churches, but perhaps it is important for you to raise your kids in a reformed community. Refusing to go may mean giving up your livelihood. So in a sense your job has come in conflict with your faith even though your job doesn’t require you to do anything that is necessarily sinful. Is this what you had in mind?

    I think 2k would say that the church can’t bind your conscience on your decision and tell you which decision is sinful. You can ask for prayer and council from your pastor, ruling elders, and/or fellow congregants as you weigh the alternatives all the while keeping your 2k membership card.

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  23. dgh,
    Wasn’t Millman part of the AmericanScene group blog with Alan Jacobs, Ross Douthat, PEG, Reihan Salam, and others? I seem to recall that posting there dried up, but 5 or 6 years ago, there were a lot of great writers posting a lot of great stuff. I guess they’ve moved on to bigger and better things. I think the The AmericanConservative is the most interesting collection of writers on the internet. Their readership is even more eclectic than the writers which I take to be a positive sign.

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  24. Maybe another way to think about this rather than a comprehensive “worldview” could be to identify unstated assumptions. We all have them; what are yours?

    That was certainly on view in the gay marriage debate, in which it was assumed by both parties that marriage was a certain thing that was either being withheld OR not withheld from gays.

    If unstated assumptions are the same as worldview, then we aren’t going to escape having them just by “being 2k.”

    If on the other hand Christians in America overburden themselves intellectually by trying to make the Bible serve both Christian thought AND civil religious thought, then 2k could be helpful.

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  25. DG –

    I haven’t even clicked the link, so I was reacting to just what was quoted. Also I don’t know the publication. But it seems to me he is aware of the philosophical problems embedded in the American mind, and rather than trying to lead people out of them, tweaks them to enable the positions he supports.

    Clever, perhaps, smart, maybe, but wise?

    Imagine if Roman Catholicism operated that way.
    Coming this Fall to Philadelphia, should be quite a fight indeed.

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  26. Kevin, world-view

    Around here this is lingo for those who have theologies that sometimes invoke one or some of (in somewhat dissing paraphrase):

    1) Our actions are going to force in the Kingdom of God shortly and our works will be part of the new world to come, in fact it seems that they feel entitled to demand which ones are going to be so honoured.

    2) Those who believe and loudly argue that all the Old Testament Laws should apply in 2015 and be enforced by the Obama Admin including the immediate death penalty for failing to fully obey the first four commandments (by our count…) They clearly are tinged by this view but they deny it when exposed or try to get into a 10,000 word argument about how they aren’t 100% understood (indeed… Sir….)

    3) Those who argue that everything a believer does is separated and holy and above the standards of the unregenerate. Thus a Christian plumber is a step above in morals and abilities over the others.

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  27. sdb, that sounds right. Would that churches allowed members to sort out their political views (without any wink-wink-nudge-nudge) the way they do their vocations.

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  28. Ok, thanks. But why two Ws and the dash?

    And it isn’t ever used around here neutrally or positively – e.g., the “2k weltanschaaung” -? Mark uses it that way above, I notice.

    Just an eccentricity?

    Millman seems to me here to operate from or within a very Internationalist-Liberal-Capitalist worldview (i.e., his assumptions derive from it) even as he reshapes it (or attempts to).

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  29. Jeff, but how does this relate to Loving and the precedents that were legitimately before the Court? If you’re (not you personally) are so worked up about definitions of marriage and you forget that lots of legislation and litigation is going on in court proceedings, unstated assumptions aren’t going to count for much.

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  30. @ DGH: In spades, I would say.

    Kennedy in Obergefeller asserts that the individual may decide what marriage means for him/her/xe-self:

    A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause. … Like choices concerning contraception, family relationships, procreation, and childrearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make.

    Unstated assumptions, indeed! Now, we can’t even use the word “marriage” without muttering “whatever that might happen to mean to you.”

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  31. Have we had any high-profile cases yet of business partners marrying each other in order to facilitate asset transfer?

    Capitalism (in a strict sense, not just meaning a market economy) is a worldview whose adopters would not at all shrink from such a thing.

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  32. D. G. Hart
    Alexander, “You seem to have this idea that so-called worldview Christians stop and consciously filter every thought or concept through their so-called worldview.”

    This is what w-w encourages. I’ve long objected that such self-consciousness is not only impossible but silly to recommend. Take it up with the w-wers.
    It’s not recommended, it’s commanded. Which thoughts do you figure God doesn’t really mean for you to take captive into obedience to Christ?

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  33. “Have we had any high-profile cases yet of business partners marrying each other in order to facilitate asset transfer?

    Capitalism (in a strict sense, not just meaning a market economy) is a worldview whose adopters would not at all shrink from such a thing.”

    These are the silly kind of non-sequiturs that undermine purported “worldview” thinking.

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  34. sdb-
    I’m not sure what you mean by purported “worldview” thinking, how what I said undermines it, or what your attitude towards it is.

    The first question was just a request for information made to a well-read community. I thought others might have found it of interest as well. Are you saying it is so unlikely as to not warrant being asked?

    In the second I assert that “Capitalism” (properly understood) constitutes a worldview, which I have a decent (non-Marxist, if that’s your concern) case for. I can drop that and just say that there are likely cases in which economic gain could accrue to those who get their ssm papers, and that those motivated by economic gain ahead of other important principles could consider a legal ssm.

    If the response is “so what, let them” – which I had forgotten is likely here – then I can see why the questions are not of interest.

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  35. @Kevin Good questions/comments. I guess I say “purported w-w thinking” because I’ve never met anyone who actually did that…I’ve heard stories about Dewey, but usually when people live scrupulously by principles like he is claimed to have done, we start thinking about having them committed.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that when we start with first principles and then set about deriving what right action should be, we inevitably find it unworkable and start piling up exceptions. So while all the talk about comparative w-ws is may be exhilarating in sophomore apologetics class, it is of no analytic value in the real world. We contain multitudes.

    In the end this means that I would find it very surprising if there were data that showed self-identified capitalists were more likely than social democrats, socialists, distributists, anarchists, or communists to use a marriage of convenience to facilitate asset transfer. So whether capitalism constitutes a w-w (which I question) is irrelevant to whether it actually motivates behavior in the bedroom.

    I can drop that and just say that there are likely cases in which economic gain could accrue to those who get their ssm papers, and that those motivated by economic gain ahead of other important principles could consider a legal ssm.

    I imagine that could be the case. We’ve all heard the stories of marriages to help get green cards (there have been more than a few romantic comedies built around this premise…or so I hear). But is it really all that common? I don’t see it really. But then wasn’t there an Adam Sandler movie a few years ago built around the premise you suggest? Whatever the case, I don’t see w-w driving this…more like simple greed which spans all w-ws.

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