Politics of Inclusion

Matt Tuininga calls for the gospel politics of inclusion even while excluding some — ahem — from the Reformed camp. But let’s not go there.

Let’s go instead to an apparent confusion of categories that invariably happens when you make the gospel (Jesus Christ died for sinners, there’s not one square inch, man’s chief end is to glorify God — which is it?) the basis for society. (And if the gospel is the basis for society, where are non-Christians supposed to go? Theonomy with a smile and a hug is still a state that makes little room for non-Christians.)

A few excerpts:

Embracing the call to be conformed to the image of Christ means not that we parade around trumpeting the lordship of Christ, but that, like Christ, we take up the form of a servant, humbling ourselves if necessary even to the cross. Thus we fulfill the law not by enforcing its every jot and tittle at the point of the sword, excluding from the political community those who refuse to tow the cultural, moral or religious line, but by loving and serving those with whom God has placed us in community, paying particular attention to the needs of the poor and the weak, the marginalized and the oppressed.

So what does this say about immigration policy and undocumented aliens? Is the gospel thing to do, the inclusive policy, to include immigrants? Or might a recognition of national sovereignty, strains on certain communities, the good of the economy, cause politicians to take factors other than the gospel into account?

Another excerpt:

It is true that the Gospel does not immediately erase all distinctions of nation, gender, or economic status, but it is equally true that the unity of all things in Christ does call for the rejection of their unjust abuses. It is true that we must be realistic about what can be achieved through politics, but our realism should lead us to champion the weak rather than the strong who oppress them under the cover of law. It is true that we may not be silent about what God’s Word teaches, even when it comes to such controversial matters as human sexuality, but it is equally true that our judgment regarding how God’s will should take expression in politics is fallible, that we must learn to love, serve and work with fellow citizens who disagree with us, and that our public rhetoric is only Christian if it is infused with the grace of Christ. Finally, it is true that salvation only comes to those who place their faith in Christ, and about that we must always be clear, but it is equally true that as believers we are called to embody that salvation socially by bearing one another’s burdens, forgiving one another’s transgressions, and caring for one another’s needs.

Unjust abuses? Did Christ reject the cross, which was unjust? Did he tell Christians to turn the other cheek? Does that mean an end to capital punishment? But what about prisons? Don’t they receive persons we “exclude” from civil society?

Learn to work with fellow citizens with whom we disagree? Is bi-partisanship really a gospel imperative when practically every oped writer for the Times and the Post promotes crossing the aisle in Congress? Do we need to gussy up bi-partisanship with the gospel? Is that why Christ died?

Bearing one another’s burdens? So a Christian politician should have banks forgive all debts?

One more except from another piece on “gospel” politics:

. . . the gospel should affect social structures of nation, race, gender and class. It should call us to organize these structures, as much as possible given the constraints of the present evil age, in light of what the gospel teaches us about human dignity, about justice, and about love. That requires wrestling with the nature of each type of human relationship that involves some sort of inequality or hierarchy. . . .

There are several types of social relationships. Some of them, such as marriage and the relationship between parents and their children, are grounded in creation and ought to be protected and promoted by human beings. The key questions here revolve around how to preserve these relationships in ways that acknowledge the fundamental spiritual and moral equality between men and women, between adults and children. Obviously parents must be in authority over their children, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to treat their children like slaves or property. Men and women will typically perform different gender roles by virtue of their different embodied nature, but that doesn’t mean men should domineer over women.

There are other types of relationships that are not rooted in creation but that have emerged, at least in the form that we know them, due to the fall into sin. They are not evil, but their very form demonstrates that evil does exist in the world. Here I am thinking about the coercive state. Christians should support this sort of hierarchy because it is absolutely necessary for a modicum of order in this life, let alone for human flourishing. But questions remain. How do we set up political authority such that it is not tyrannically abused? How do we ensure that those who rule are held accountable to those who are ruled? How do we ensure that even where there is political inequality, all recognize a more fundamental level of moral and spiritual equality?

I’m not sure that Calvin or any of the Reformers were fans of equality. Again, a Reformed source like the Larger Catechism (but maybe the Dutch don’t consider the British Reformed) makes quite a lot of hierarchy and inequality in social stations:

Q. 127. What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

Q. 128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking, and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.

In fact, I wonder if Matt knows how much his logic about the future reality of the new heavens and new earth breaking in to present social arrangements was one of the most used theological rationales for ordaining women in the CRC. That’s not a scare tactic. It’s only an instance of where an egalitarian stance can lead, especially one that doesn’t recognize differences among church, society, and family (sphere sovereignty anyone).

But when the gospel becomes the modifier, out goes all the differentiation that makes modern society run (and makes it secular). Matt asks, “How do we set up political authority such that it is not tyrannically abused?” Studying the framers of the U.S. Constitution might be a better place to start than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Still not sure what gospel Matt is proclaiming in his social gospel mode.

Postscript: apologies for the image to those with weaker consciences, but sometimes it’s good to be remembered of what happens to women in combat — their dresses fall off.


39 thoughts on “Politics of Inclusion

  1. “How do we set up political authority such that it is not tyrannically abused? How do we ensure that those who rule are held accountable to those who are ruled? How do we ensure that even where there is political inequality, all recognize a more fundamental level of moral and spiritual equality?”

    The answer to these questions is, “We don’t, other people do. They already have set up political authority. We have larger fish to fry such as being the church.” How can “all” recognize a more fundamental level of moral and spiritual equality? Are we to judge those outside the church?

    And “ensure”? I guess I am just alot less successful than other Reformed Christians. I almost ran out of gas today on the way home from my office. I struggle “ensuring” that I arrive at my non-eschatologicalized destination on time. Or at all.


  2. But if you’re right Matt’s classes on Christian ethics wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.


  3. This seems to be the weakness in Gospel centered politics. It sounds great, but eventually, legislation is going to be passed that’s going to exclude a body of people. Now people are being excluded in the name of a political platform AND Jesus, and Jesus does a lot excluding as it is without our help.


    Whatever man, I’m waiting for TKNY to endorse Hillary Clinton.


  4. every inclusion is an exclusion
    to include infants is to exclude those who won’t include the infants

    the “not yet” applies only to a mixed visible congregation of professing Christian families

    because we can’t wait for the wrath to join with the non-Christians in the elimination of certain Muslim heirs who threaten “us”, so at this point there is no “not yet”.

    a theology of the cross means that “we” can’t go by the cross when it comes to protecting ourselves, but the not yet does mean we do this without bringing Christ’s name into it

    Gaffin’s gray—“All of us then, are involved in a continuing struggle—against our deeply rooted eschatological impatience to tear away that veil and our undue haste to be out of the wilderness and see the realization of what, just because of that haste and impatience, will inevitably prove to be dreams and aspirations that are ill-conceived and all too “fleshly.” “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Postmillennialism,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (ed. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 224

    rejoice with those who rejoice in how evil is overcome in a practical way

    putting away the sword is only for regular times of worship

    killing for the constitution cannot be idolatry, because sin against “natural law” is only a matter of prudence and never about what we worship


  5. Those who live by the sword die by the sword.

    There is a certain “equality” (even symmetry) about that

    But then again, those who don’t have a sword also die by the sword.

    “#1 Stop appealing to the 2nd Amendment as if it were the lost ending to the Gospel of Mark.
    Something that makes zero sense is how people who love God could EVER make the Constitution the center of their argument….When it comes to the 2nd Amendment, do we really have to elevate it as though it were holy writ? This is a law made by a pagan nation – let’s treat it as such..”


    If the death penalty was good enough for the Romans, then the equity of the Mosaic law that we select out for “our” use must be good enough for this present age. I mean, even when the wrong guy gets killed, the gospel shows that God makes it all good, and therefore no self-righteous blame should be attached to the Assyrians (since God used what they did).

    The apostle Peter was not all that inclusive at Pentecost. Acts 2:23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him


  6. The famous image shows just how much of a booby trap feminism is……………appropo Dr. Hart


  7. “It true…but; it is true….but; it is true…but”

    This is the kind of mushy, hedge-my-bets, qualify-everything-I-say writing I usually expect from TGC.


  8. With all of these social effects of the gospel, I am left wondering why the West isn’t a veritable paradise, having at least some testimony to the gospel for 2k years. What gives – isn’t the gospel the “power of God”, he sure has a strange way of weilding that power.


  9. Tuininga sounds like every other Huffington Post article on my Yahoo news feed. Sorry, but the gospel is not imitating Huff Po articles while dabbing a little “Jesus” and “Creation” in there for good measure.


  10. Bossy, bold prediction here: MT will become a TGC fixture, as will most of the guys who are writing and pontificating on race and religion. But the question arises — how many Tim Kellerish sycophants and mini-me’s are too many?


  11. ” wrestling with the nature of each type of human relationship that involves some sort of inequality or hierarchy. . . .”

    Every human relationship involves inequality and hierarchy. Lot of wrestling ahead.


  12. Wow, CW, you’re right – with the proper buzzwords and blandness, this is just TGC orthodoxy. But he didn’t need to study so hard to do that.


  13. DGH, Yup. I would only add that “his logic about the future reality of the new heavens and new earth breaking in to present social arrangements” is has many an ugly secular face beyond the CRC. Lot of bodies piled up since the 1790s. Realized eschatology does not play nice.


  14. Add to the classroom the polis–after all, citizens really are the magistrates (right, Tom?). Who is Obama to rule?


  15. Mud, thanks for pointing out that it’s wow-worthy when I (so very occasionally) say something right or profound. I resemble that, really. And I didn’t need to study hard either to size up yet another player in the Gospel-Industrial Complex.


  16. CW, yep. He becomes the token 2K guy at TGC. Kind of like KDY is/was the token confessional Dutch Reformed guy (until he joined the PCA, I suppose). They represent the approved, smiling faces of 2K and confessionalism (unlike us nasty 2K and confessionalists).


  17. And on Machen Day it’s worth remembering that JGM loathed the obliteration of distinctives. He treasured real diversity and seemed to look ahead and see what was coming.


  18. Let’s see – we can’t really talk about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, ecclesiology, church discipline, catechism, charismatic gifts, or confessions. And not everyone is on board with all 5 points, either. And some of us are a little squishy on the women thing. Hmm. What about cupcakes? We all like cupcakes!


  19. D.G.,
    Does it matter whether Calvin and the Reformers were fans of equality? Should we reinstall monarchies based on divine right? In fact, why not reconstitute all of the empires that existed back then? Or, is it possible that the view of equality by Calvin and the Reformers shows how culture can affect one’s theological views?

    BTW, it isn’t whom am I to grade when you are the professor. It is treating everyone as equal by grading them by the same standards that is the issue.


  20. Curt, so if you don’t like hierarchy, don’t like Calvin. It’s a free country.

    But why you then also go to school when it’s such a bourgeois institution that rests on all those hierarchies — intelligence, prestigious publication, exclusive universities, grades, and seniority of teachers?

    You’re losing your edge, brah.


  21. D.G.,
    It’s like the song from the Byrds, ‘For every season, …’

    There are times for hierarchy and times for equality. And how we decide when to apply each will partially affect how we can witness to others. If we employ hierarchy all of the time, a more modern audience will less likely listen to you than if you employ hierarchy wisely and equality wisely. I guess it depends on who we want to evangelize. Do we want our churches to be politically homogenous?

    Finally, school doesn’t have to be bourgeois. After all, the bourgeoisie have no monopoly on intelligence, hard work, wisdom, knowledge and such.


  22. Will Matt be voting for Hilary too (assuming she didn’t break the law)?

    As a pro-life Democrat, I am encouraged by the possibility that Hillary could be our next president. Abortions will not be ended through legislation. We must find ways to keep women who want to give birth from being driven by economic forces into curtailing their pregnancies.

    I know Hillary Clinton to be a committed Christian. As a teenager, Hillary’s religious beliefs were heavily impacted by hearing a sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr. The youth pastor of her Methodist church mentored her through her teenage years into being the kind of holistic Christian who faithfully engages in the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer. As a Senator, Hillary was one of the most faithful attendees of the Senate’s weekly prayer meetings.

    Given all that I have stated, I am more than willing to do all I can to help Hillary Clinton get elected. Should she ask me to organize an Evangelicals for Hillary committee, I would be more than willing to do so. I believe in her. And you should too.


  23. Making the church “indispensable for civil order” means bringing new born citizens into the church.
    Anything else would be “sectarian” and “schismatic” and lead to ‘secularization”. If you exclude people from the church, you can’t control them and you can’t “minster to the whole society”

    And since supposedly we no longer live in a Constantinian society, now you can’t even control people in the church by threatening to exclude them, because they can simply move over to another denomination in order to be handed “sacramental grace”. See what has happened since the good old days when only one man was Christ’s vicar, and the antinomian idea of “the priesthood of every believer” had not yet subverted the significance of clergy/elder prophet-kings….




  24. Whilst everywhere in Scripture special pains are taken to guard against the error that the blessings of salvation, according to the covenant of grace, have any respect to natural descent, and to declare that the true elect are born not of blood nor the will of man, yet, on the other hand, special prominence is given to the principle that, as concerning the outworking in time of the scheme of redemption, the children of those who are themselves parties to the covenant have a birthright to the privileges or the penalties of the covenant.

    Stuart Robinson, The Church of God (Willow Grove, Pa.: The Committee on Christian Education in the OPC, 2009), 44.

    Mark Jones—“I do not believe we can say that the infants of unbelievers will definitely go to hell. However, I do not believe, based on the above, that we can say they will definitely go to heaven. Personally, I am agnostic on that specific question. Nonetheless, we can speak more definitively to this issue when it comes to the children of believers. The Canons of Dort address the topic better, and certainly more pastorally, than the Westminster Confession of Faith, in my view:
    1st Head of Doctrine, Article 17. Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children, whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.
    Mark Jones—The basis for having this hope is not merely the goodness of God, but the goodness of God as revealed in his covenantal promises towards his people. The children of believers are holy, and thus their identity is not, as far as we are to judge, “in Adam”. They have been set apart, with a new identity . The issue before us concerns the judgment of charity, not our ability to infallibly know the decree. God’s Word seems to give us some grounds to make these judgments, which, as a pastor, I am glad to offer to bereaved parents in my congregation who have lost an infant.
    The WCF (10.3) says, “elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit…” – a view that could still allow for all infants, without exception, to receive salvation, but also allows that not all infants will necessarily be saved. Certainly the Westminster divines, based on the public directory for worship, which calls the children of believers “Christians”, would have likely been in agreement with the Canons of Dort on this issue. Pastors have grounds for giving real comfort to Christians who have to deal with the tragedy of losing a child, especially infants . I cannot offer that same comfort to an unbeliever.

    Though excluded from the table until they learn the catechism, the new born Christians are not (unlike their one unbelieving parent, for example) excluded from “going to heaven ” (especially if they die in infancy).


  25. http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2015/06/24/afraid-of-doubt-john-pipers-son-says-he-fears-for-your-faith/

    Jonathan Merritt interviews John Piper’s son. If believing the promise of the gospel is not enough, without also some delight and sweetness, and if it’s not faith or works, not faith and works, but working faith as real faith, then the result will be doubt about if your faith is working.

    To include something he calls “mystery” (or is contradiction?, he excludes us knowing what the Bible teaches about election (and non-election) “The gap between what my mouth said and my heart clung to was great and that gap was my unbelief Did I REALLY believe all this stuff I said? Was it REALLY worth believing? “


  26. McMark,

    This is par for the course when you have Jonathan Edwards as a controlling theological influence. Long, slow (and sometimes not so slow) drift from the Solas to works righteousness. If the validity of our faith rests on affections rather than the objective work of Christ, we’re bound to mix justification with sanctification. Some convert to Rome, some headline TGC, both are off the reservation.


  27. Jed P—When you have Jonathan Edwards as a controlling theological influence, Long, slow (and sometimes not so slow) drift from the Solas to works righteousness. If the validity of our faith rests on affections rather than the objective work of Christ, we’re bound to mix justification with sanctification. Some convert to Rome….

    mcmark—Amen, Romanists can be included in the mystery but “faith is not works” folks will be excluded as “Lutheran antinomians”.

    Dan Fuller (the Unity of the Bible) quotes Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity that faith gives to salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”

    This same Jonathan Edwards quotation shows up in southern baptist Tom Schreiner’s new little book Run to Win the Prize (p 20, 70, 92).

    OPC elder Richard Gaffin, p 102, By Faith Not by Sight,–“Thie expression obedience of faith is best taken as intentionally multivalent…In other words, faith itself is an obedience, as well as other acts of obedience that stem from faith.”

    Edwards in his book on justification asks “whether any other act of faith besides the first act has any concern in our justification, or how far perseverance in faith, or the continued and renewed acts of faith, have influence in this affair?” When Edwards answers that no other acts are required, Edwards means that works after justification should not be considered separate from the initial act of faith. Edwards thought of perseverance as a part of the original act of saving faith, “the qualification on which the congruity of an interest in the righteousness of Christ depends, or wherein such a fitness consists.”


  28. Did you say inequality and hierarchy?

    Edwards, 2:902—-Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels larger than others

    Mark Jones, Antinomianism, p75—“Turretin argues that all in glory will be equally happy. However, Jonathan Edwards disagrees. In his sermon on “The Portion of the Righteous”, he argues not only for degrees of glory, but also for different degrees of happiness. Moreover, he claims that the degrees of happiness will be in ‘some proportion to the saints’ eminency in holiness and good works.while on earth”



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