Meanwhile Presbyterians Are Separated by More than An Ocean

But they are unified in not practicing the spirituality of the church.

Rick Phillips started the kerfuffle by declaring socialism evil:

So, biblically speaking, why is socialism evil? Let me suggest three reasons:
1. Because socialism is a system based on stealing;
2. Because socialism is an anti-work system; and
3. Because socialism concentrates the power to do evil.

Even without nude scenes, that seemed to be a pretty easy call.

But David Robertson disagrees and — get this — thinks Reformation 21 is too political (has the Moderate of the Free Church missed a chance to weigh in on Scottish politics?). So he tries to correct Phillips and in so doing regards socialism as more loving than capitalism:

Firstly, in the socialist system the idea is meant to be common ownership, not a handful of people controlling or owning it all. (The fact that this does not often happen is a testimony to human sinfulness, not the inherent evil of the system).

Secondly, Capitalism is not primarily about individuals working hard to produce wealth. They work within systems. Sometimes those systems can be corrupt; bribery, greed, exploitation (refusing to pay the workers their due reward cf. James) and corruption are as endemic within the capitalist system, as they are within any socialist system.

Thirdly it is unfettered free market Capitalism, not Socialism, which is concentrating the power to do evil in the hands of a few. It is the big corporations, headed up by a very few wealthy individuals who are pushing the LGBT agenda in the US and elsewhere. It is they who are seeking to negotiate trade agreements that take them out of democratic control and leave them free to regulate their own affairs and control their massive wealth.

But this does not stop Mr Phillips hyperbole. In Socialism everyone is impoverished, everyone is in slavery and a culture of corruption is always produced. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the crass ignorance and grotesque cultural pride on display here. When I first went to the US I couldn’t believe what I saw with my own eyes in some American cities, in the richest country in the world. There was a level of third world poverty and degradation that should have been a shame to any civilised society – but no, some (rich) American evangelicals saw the evils of socialist Sweden, rather than the sick of St Louis.

Robertson even tries to get the upper hand by telling American Presbyterians not to identify so much with the United States:

In this theology, American Capitalism is the essence of America, which is in turn the essence of Christianity. To criticise Capitalism (or at least refusing to agree that Socialism is de facto evil) is apparently unchristian, unbiblical and unconfessional – which is presumably why the Alliance of CONFESSING Evangelicals allowed this post. I don’t confess that socialism is evil, and if the Free Church ever was daft enough to add another chapter to the Westminster Confession stating that it was, I guess I would be out of a job! The equation of the Gospel of Jesus with ANY of the kingdoms of this world has always been a disaster.

Again, this is rich coming from a pastor who regularly comments on Scotland’s political affairs.

Imagine if pastors had to stick to their competency — the word of God. They might recommend authors with a better grasp of politics and economics, people who don’t merely dabble or pontificate.

44 thoughts on “Meanwhile Presbyterians Are Separated by More than An Ocean

  1. “So he tries to correct Phillips”

    Seems he did more than attempt. He schooled Phillips’ mickey mouse level analysis.

    “and in so doing regards socialism as more loving than capitalism”

    “I am not here to defend socialism. I am not a socialist. And I am not a capitalist.”

    “Imagine if pastors had to stick to their competency — the word of God. They might recommend authors with a better grasp of politics and economics, people who don’t merely dabble or pontificate. ”

    “I am here to challenge ignorance and to plead with my American brothers and sisters to STOP identifying Christianity with your own politics/culture/economics. You are causing the rest of the church a great deal of harm… I think that this ACE blog indicates something that is deeply wrong within the US church, especially the evangelical world, but apparently also the Reformed world. It is far too wedded to the politics of the prevailing culture and as such has weakened the impact of the gospel, by allowing itself to be identified with one particular political, cultural and economic system.”

    “I am advocating that we as the church do not advocate any political socio-economic system, that we do not identify it with the church, and that we do not condemn those who don’t share our political views as evil… My reason for writing this is not because I want to advance or defend a particular political point of view.”


  2. RC Sproul Jr—The argument that Jesus said to pay our taxe, means that taxes can’t be theft is odd. I wonder if, because Jesus says we should give our shirt to someone who takes our coat that taking coats cannot be theft”.

    Why would I put myself through the ordeal of discipline, sacrifice, and sweat, much less risk-taking business ventures, if I can have a wonderful life without working for it?

    I Corinthians 15—If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

    In some theology, Capitalism is the essence of America, and America is the essence of Christianity

    So Rick P is safe within the “spirituality of the church” when he promotes the vocational dignity of Christian snipers and clergy regulation of marriage, and denounces “socialists” the day before the South Carolina primary, but maybe we are not so safe if we talk about that? Robertson is talking politics but we are not talking politics when we talk about Robertson?


  3. Clergy as journalist.

    George Eliot—Let the clergyman be ardent and imaginative on the coming advent of Christ, but cold and cautious toward every other infringement of the status quo. Let him be hard and literal in his interpretation only when he wants to hurl texts at the heads of unbelievers and adversaries, but when the letter of the Scriptures presses too closely on his genteel Christianity of the nineteenth century, let him use his spiritualizing alembic and disperse it into impalpable ether.

    Let him set up as an interpreter of prophecy, and rival Moore’s Almanack in the prediction of political events, tickling the interest of hearers who are but moderately spiritual by showing how they may have their Christian graces nourished by learning….In this way the clergyman may gain a metropolitan pulpit; the avenues to his church will be as crowded as the passages to the opera; he has but to print his sermons and bind them in lilac and gold, and they will adorn the drawing-room table of all evangelical ladies.

    Pleasant to the clerical flesh under such circumstances is the arrival of Sunday! Somewhat at a disadvantage during the week, in the presence of working-day interests , on Sunday the preacher becomes the cynosure of a thousand eyes, and predominates at once over those with whom he dines.He has an immense advantage over all other public speakers. The platform orator is subject to the criticism of hisses and groans. Counsel for the plaintiff expects the retort of counsel for the defendant. The honorable gentleman on one side of the House is liable to have his facts and figures shown up by his honorable friend on the opposite side. Even the scientific or literary lecturer, if he is dull or incompetent, may see the best part of his audience quietly slip out one by one. But the preacher is completely master of the situation: no one may hiss, no one may depart.

    Like the writer of imaginary conversations, he may put what imbecilities he pleases into the mouths of his antagonists, and swell with triumph when he has refuted them. He may riot in gratuitous assertions, confident that no man will contradict him; he may invent illustrative experience; he may give an evangelical edition of history with the inconvenient facts omitted:–all this he may do with impunity, certain that those of his hearers who are not sympathizing are not listening.

    For the Press has no band of critics who go the round of the churches and chapels, and are on the watch for a slip or defect in the preacher, to make a “feature” in their article: the clergy are, practically, the most irresponsible of all talkers. Many of his published sermons are occupied with the criticism of public events; and the spiritual and practical exhortation, is tacked to them as a sort of fringe in a hurried sentence or two at the end.


  4. Robertson may have a point though about Ref21’s (ACE’s) political trajectory. The most recent 6 posts:

    -God’s Voting Guide? (and an aside on Bernie’s socialism)
    -Can God’s Love for Us (and Christ) Increase?
    -Socialism Is Evil
    -Trumpism, Radicalism, and the Dangers of the Movement Mentality
    -“Our God is a consuming fire” (part two)
    -What the Church Can Learn From Justice Scalia’s Life


  5. Some brilliant insights in the KDY piece – “People make a profit when they sell goods or services for more than it costs to produce or perform those goods and services.” The next Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell.

    “They might recommend authors with a better grasp of politics and economics, people who don’t merely dabble or pontificate. ” From Darryl’s lips to God’s ear.


  6. Can’t we just admit that there are systems of government & economics that are better for most of the country? Capitalism seems to be more fitting with the American ethos in that it has more dramatic upward and downward mobility than a country with a heavily managed economy. I.E. more risk, more reward, more extreme results for those who participate. I’m pretty fine with that.

    Now is there anything resembling a Biblical mandate for this risk-heavy economy? Errr… That’s where credulity begins to strain.

    So if we wanted to go with a more Scandinavian/centralized form of economy, I’d be willing to entertain that idea with my freedom as a Christian and sleep like a baby at night.


  7. I agree with the main thrust of this post: That Christian pastors ought to stick with their calling and stay within their competency — namely, ministering the Word of God.

    However, as a practical question I would ask, Is it not possible under some circumstances to rightly accuse the government of legalized theft via oppressive taxation? (I ask this in my capacity as a citizen of the common kingdom, not as a Christian or in my capacity as a minister of the Word.) If, say, the government were to decide to take 90% of your income in confiscatory taxation if your income happens to be at a certain level, would that not be unjust by any objective standard? And would it not be right in such circumstances to speak the truth by pointing out how unjust such a tax policy is (not necessarily directly from the pulpit, but in the public arena)?


  8. These analyses strike me as a bit simplistic. Most wealth in our economy resides in intangible property. In our current economy, altering the regulations on trading options may have more of an effect on “property” redistribution than taxes.


  9. Is Pope Francis influencing Scotland?

    Sanders, who spoke to the network back in September during the pope’s visit to the U.S., also says Francis is having a “profound impact” on people all over the world.

    “I think what the pope has done, in a very bold way … is raise the issue of the worship of money, the idolatry of money, and to say maybe that’s not what human life should be about,” says the Democrat. “That is a very, very radical critique of the hyper-capitalist system, world system, that we’re living in today.”

    “I think that the pope is playing an historical role coming at exactly the right moment in human history, where his voice is having a profound impact, not only on our country, but all over the world,” he states.


  10. Geoff,

    Looks like our comments were deleted, did you happen to read my last one? I could try to duplicate it.


  11. The new format looks good. Except on the iPhone, where it goes crazy. Isn’t there Biblical teaching on web interfaces?!


  12. It would be good if Robertson would at least get the U.S. economic system right. “Unfettered free marked capitalism”? Where does he find that over on this side of the pond? In a libertarian’s dream?

    That being said, it’s awfully hard to make an unambiguous case that the Bible teaches any specific economic system present in the modern world.


  13. Geoff, how do those kinds of hypotheticals help? It’s not happening, so why entertain it? Not saying this is you, but whenever I hear that kind of question I can’t help but wonder if it just serves to feed the anti-government sentiments out there.

    It’s like asking “What if the government paid for everyone’s college 100%?” Fosters fantasies that will never happen. The mirror problem of your question.


  14. D.G.,
    If you want to cite him for inconsistency, then that is one thing. But perhaps you should try to argue against his observations on Capitalism and Socialism? IN addition, I would suggest that Phillips’ reference to socialism assumes a definition that does not exist in real life. We might also want to consider whether our tax codes and subsidies to major financial i9nstitutions and corporations are where the real theft is going on in America.

    Besides that, I find the reaction to Robertsons’ comments here to fit in with how former colleagues from other nations would say about what Americans know about Capitalism and Socialism.


  15. There are other Dutch Reformed who separate themselves from the politics of Kuyper. Though they don’t think that taxes to fund wars are “class warfare”, they do think that taxes to give to the poor are “theft”.

    Kuyper, The Problem of Poverty, p 33—“And whenever the magistrate came forward as a servant of God to protect the weak, the more powerful class of society soon knew how to exercise such an overpowering influence that the government, which should have protected the weak, became an instrument against them. This was not because the stronger class was more evil at heart than the weaker, for no sooner did a man from the lower class rise to the top than he in his turn took part just as harshly – yes, even more harshly – in the wicked oppression of those who were members of his own former class”

    Kuyper, p 40 –“The church’s second influence was through an organized ministry of charity, which in the name of the Lord – the single owner of all goods – demands that good be shared so that no man or woman in the circle of believers is allowed to suffer want or go without necessary apparel”

    Kuyper, p 67 —“Property belongs only to God; all of our property is on loan from him; our management only stewardship….An absolute community of goods is excluded in Scripture. However, Scripture excludes just as completely every illusion of a right to dispose of one’s property absolutely, as if one were God, without considering the needs of others”

    Kuyper, p 72—“The government should help labor obtain justice. Labor must also be allowed to organize itself independently in order to defend its rights….As for the other state aid – namely, the distribution of money – it is certain that such intervention is not excluded in Israel’s law giving, but there it is held to a minimum.”


  16. Kuyper, The problem of Poverty, p 42—-“Constantine’s conversion became, for the church, the signal to wed itself to the power of the world. From then on, as a consequence, the world came into the church. Instead of disciples who went without purse or food, richly endowed princes of the church housed themselves in magnificent palaces”


  17. Pastor Robertson’s problem may be that he writes faster than he reads:

    Just as God has ordained the body, the family and the church, so he has ordained the State and he has commanded us to pay our taxes to support that State. This is the teaching of the Bible.

    It is also the teaching of the historic Reformed faith, which is why it is astounding that even Reformed historians like DG Hart, who seems to have a profound dislike of me (Although he seems to have a profound dislike for most people so I don’t take it personally!) and Reformed theologians like RC Sproul Junior, seem to be quite happy to overturn both Scripture and history in defence of their political views.

    I think churchmen should not stick their noses in politics. Pastor Robinson sticks his.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. But it’s not politics if you defend the American status quo against the European model? It’s not “politics” if you want to REturn to what was inherited but now seems to be lost? Like the old school Presbyterian slave owners, Karl Marx and John Wesley made an idol of their work. “1. God calls believers to work—even to boring work. 2. Such work can be done in the Lord’s name and with a good attitude. 3. Such work advances God’s glory. 4. Such work is a holy sacrifice. 5. God himself will accept it as an offering. 6. Christians should follow the leadership of their bosses, even unworthy ones. 7. Christ enables believers to bear the hardships of the workplace. 8. Jesus himself assigns the particular task to each laborer. 9. Successful performance of work brings glory to God the Father and to Jesus, God the Son. 10. Daily labor is a means God uses to sanctify believers. 11. Jesus accompanies them in their work. 12. Any work is noble. 13. God evaluates work, and even judges the motives with which it is done. 14. Work is part of Jesus’ easy yoke. 15. Work hastens the coming of the Lord. 16. Work comes to us not as a curse, but as part of God’s bounteous grace. 17. Work is a delight that brings Christians joy. 18. Work bring believers closer to heaven. 19. Work allows people to experience heaven on earth.”


  19. T S Eliot—“Capitalism creates people detached from tradition, alienated from religion, and susceptible to mass suggestion: in other words a mob. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined.”

    “Was our society assembled round anything more permanent than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and industries? Do we have any beliefs more essential than a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends?”

    “The organisation of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources. A good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly.”


  20. I wish Pastor Robinson was as passionate and vocal about the creeds and confessions as he is about politics. Much of his web influence into which he must put a lot of time is not about Reformed matters but social and moral issues. He seems to want to be an influential presence, but regularly spoils his arguments with invective words like some of those directed towards Rick Phillips: “crass ignorance and grotesque cultural pride”.

    Scotland’s greatest need is not political renewal as it continues to slide, along with the rest of Britain and Europe into ever greater debt because of it’s grand desire to care (or is it control?) for people in every area of life. Pastors should be expending every effort into building the church as trying to interface with media types and politicians like Pastor Robinson does is like trying to kindle life into a dead horse. To compound David’s situation, he gives every impression of being a very progressive churchman who would perhaps fit comfortably into the PCA’s progressive wing alongside Pastor Keller and John Piper. Such thinking here in the UK is a recipe for disaster; the evangelical progressives like the Anglicans and such like have taken us away even more from Biblical church practice into more pragmatic and seemingly successful ways like those seen in the North West Partnership and it’s American supporters like Kevin DeYoung.


  21. UK Paul, Would that Robertson would follow his hero’s, Tim Keller, quietism in politics. Could you imagine TKNY taking Robertson’s tone with NYC’s mayor or city council? Not if he wants favorable write ups in New York Magazine.


  22. What’s at work here with Phillips and Company is a misunderstanding of the Covenants and then some. I understand what Robertson is saying. I used to be extremely staunch (and confused…and tired and worn-out) about ‘saving America’. Luther and 2K, along with rightly understanding that we are under the Abrahamic Covenant in Christ, and are being conformed to his image through the third use of the Law by His Spirit, but not under contract to keep the Law (Mosaic) in order to have Eternal Life.

    Revivalists, like Phillips, are proponents of keeping the Sinai Covenant to bring about church revitalization and revival in the land. The contrast with Revivalism would be Reformation in the Church in continuum, because it is needful for the church to consistently persevere in this way.

    The latter is square with the Reformed view and orthodoxy.


  23. Let me reply to the comment by Mark M that I am being hypocritical in my advocacy of the spirituality of the church. In fact, I have all along agreed that Christians and churches may speak to cultural issues as they intersect with biblical teaching. (Hence, I believe that Thornwell was wrong to use spirituality as an excuse to be silent about race-based chattel slavery.) Moreover, the spirituality of the church pertains to the courts and the pulpit of the church, not to a guy who is a minister writing on a blog. I would have thought that my Old Life brothers would have picked up this distinction right off. Don’t you guys read Daryl Hart? So you may not agree with me, but that does not make me inconsistent. As a New Side / Old School guy I obviously am somewhat at odds with the ethos of this site, but that doesn’t make my attitude perverse by definition. Anyway, thanks for not accusing me of a ninth commandment violation!

    As for my alleged incompetency on this subject, I would point out that I have an undergrad degree in economics from Univ. of Michigan and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. Anyway, as Daryl notes, what I wrote wasn’t too involved. My main purpose was to counter the nonesensical statements being made by evangelicals in support of Bernie and socialism. So what I said didn’t require more competence than I think I have, even if one disagrees. And if I should in the future write a post extolling the tactical brilliance of von Manstein’s Kharkov Counteroffensive, before you declare me incompetent please note that I served as a tank officer for over ten years and used to teach at West Point. The fact that one is a pastor does not render all his prior education and experiences null and void.


  24. Quietism is not apoliticial. It’s a defense of the arrangements which have come about with the passing of time. When Luther advised the killing of the peasants, Luther did not do so in the courts of ‘the church” (in those courts he said, i can do no other, because this is my body cannot mean only a sign). When Luther advised the killing of the Jews, Luther did not do so in the pulpit of the church. I mean, people knew who Luther was and all, but having different roles means being able to live a hybrid schizophrenic existence. On Sunday we know what “the minister” (the guy who hands out grace, which grace can be refused) said on the day before the Republican primary, but today “the minister” is not talking about the political nature of the future works we need for our salvation. And so the spirituality of the church is saved.

    I am wondering if pulling rank from West Point qualifies a person to talk to a person like Mark Jones, who has a PHD.

    Having snipers ready to kill Muslims or Christians involves some socialist redistribution of money. I mean you can do the wars off budget, but at some point somebody need to tax the poor in order to pay economically disadvantaged soldiers to go out there and try to kill people (with love and to the glory of God).

    Being a New Side / Old School guy is not that much different from being a two kingdom guy. In any case, you get to have two masters, and on the church side it’s “apolitical”, but what’s to keep anybody from being “new school’ on the side which ignores Jesus and attempts to translate what we want done politically into something which suits both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?

    I am not quite sure that sprinkling some holy water on Republican rhetoric actually changed any result in South Carolina. Did it give another person permission to care and not to care? The poor you always have with you.


  25. What in the word are you talking about? In what sense did I “sprinkle holy water on Republican rhetoric” in the SC race. Can you point out a single article in which I inserted myself into the presidential primary in my state? Can you identify a single instance of me endorsing a candidate or even speaking publicly about the election? In what sense did I “give another person permission not to care?” Does reality or reason have any place amidst on this website, or do you all just revel in the opportunity to commit character assassination?


  26. Moreover, the spirituality of the church pertains to the courts and the pulpit of the church, not to a guy who is a minister writing on a blog. I would have thought that my Old Life brothers would have picked up this distinction right off.

    Doesn’t office follow an ordained man wherever he goes? Or does a red light go off when he leaves the pulpit (the same one that tells us the pope is no longer speaking ex cathedra)? 2kers are accused of doing too much compartmentalizing, but this sort of criticism suggests a tidiness a little too convenient. But it could be that one of the sacrifices an ordained man makes (and one who is particularly political even more so) is having to hold his political views a little closer to his chest than the rest of us, certainly in but also out of the pulpit.


  27. published the day before the Republican primary: Rick Phillips—“Socialism promises to give a blessed life for free. Today, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders promises to give free education, free health care, and free vacation time, etc. (Of course, since government does not create wealth, these things are only free as the money to give them is taken from others.) As I listen to Senator Sanders, I wonder what incentive there would be to work hard. Why would I put myself through the ordeal of discipline, sacrifice, and sweat, much less risk-taking business endeavors, if I can have a wonderful life without working for it? ” – See more at:

    Taxation of all to redistribute to West Point is not socialism. Progressive taxation of the one percent rich is socialism.

    I wonder what motive there would be for Christians to be moral and do good works, if the only incentive was gratitude. If all Christians were already saints, what would be the point of purgatory in this life? if works were not needed for sanctification and final salvation, being thankful would not alone be reason enough to undergo our present probation of discipline, sacrifice and sweat. Sure, you can get into the covenant without working, but grace is what teaches you that if you don’t work enough you won’t stay in….


  28. Zrim,
    Can you name the political candidate that I have endorsed? The legislation I have supported in public? Or do you think that pastors should be barred from any cultural commentary that uses the Bible? I will happily disagree with you if that is the case. According to your view, would almost everything on be banned because it was written by elders?

    So based on that quote from my blog article, you wrote that I sprinkled holy water on the Republical rhetoric, thus seeking to influence the SC primary? (Actually, none of the Republicans in that primary endorsed socialism and the Democratic primary hasn’t happened yet.) And this is grounds to say that I “give another person permission not to care?” I get that you disagree with me. But isn’t that pretty heated and nasty rhetoric? I will go away now, since apparently the purveyors of this website are not interested in civil dialogue but prefer adolescent mocking.


  29. Rick, the point isn’t to “bar or ban” anybody from anything. It’s simply to say that those ordained to speak publicly on behalf of God should only speak where he has spoken and be silent where he has been silent. Is that really so controversial?

    But if you really want to make a biblical case for one form of political governance over another, isn’t it obvious that it’s neither capitalism nor socialism but monarchy? I’m being half-facetious for a reason. The categories in the Bible are monarchical and for some makes it rather obvious that monarchies are God’s favored form of political governance. I hear you chuckling because it sounds so silly. Now you know how 2kers feel when they hear you make the case for capitalism (and against socialism).


  30. Brexit allows Pastor Robinson to find his inner 2k:

    As a democrat – I hope that we leave the EU. Democracy is not perfect, but it is the best system of government we have. An ever-decreasing British democracy combined with an ever-increasing Euro-technocracy, will be a disaster for freedom. Because I want democratic Europe and not corporate Europe, I will be voting out. In my view any socialist, liberal, conservative, nationalist, green democrat should vote to leave. Only those who believe in a corporate European state, run by and for the big corporations, and are prepared to hand our NHS over to those corporations, should vote to remain.

    As a Scot – I want my country to be governed by those who live here, and by those who can be voted out of power. So I will vote leave.

    As a European – I want a Europe of peace, prosperity, trade, diversity. I believe that the EU by seeking to create a Euro Super State will ultimately destroy what is good about Europe. I don’t want to belong to a world power, or a giant trading bloc. I want to belong to a Europe where diversity and difference are celebrated.

    As a Christian – I don’t know what God wants. To him the nations are as a drop in the bucket. I pray for kings, politicians, bureaucrats and all in authority, that we may live peaceable and godly lives. I pray for a renewal of Christian Europe, whatever the outward system of government – and I will work with the biggest, most radical and most diverse organization within Europe (the church) to achieve that. Without righteousness Europe will never prosper and never know peace. Lord, have mercy.


  31. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

    “Put not your trust in princes” nor the kingdoms/economic systems they promote…

    Why is this so difficult? Jesus only endorsed one kingdom and it doesn’t exist on this earth except for the outposts of his visible churches, which (full circle) are not of this world. Aside from that, pick your poison…


  32. Amen, jack. Romans 12: 9 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; INSTEAD MAKE ROOM FOR HIS wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay,says the Lord.
    If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
    If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    For in so doing
    you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


  33. “For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.”
    ***MarkMc: this seems rather perverse in light of everything else you’ve typed in the response above. This is exactly the sort of resentment that makes Brother Friedrich N. cringe. You cite the text without commentary, but maybe a little clarification for those of us who are dull? The coals are not vindictive on the part of charity, I hope, but on the part of the reception of said true charity? The person who receives said charity cannot abide by it? Please tell me this is your gloss?


  34. Proverbs 25: 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat,
    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
    22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.

    What need for a gloss? God by nature shows His wrath. We are not God. Nor are we agents of God’s wrath. God uses as part of His wrath those (including Satan, exousia) who reject God’s command to leave the wrath to God. God punishes those who sin with sinners. Sinners sin against sinners.

    James 1: 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

    Psalm 76: 10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise you

    Romans 1: 18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. 24 Therefore God HANDED THEM OVER in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen….

    28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God HANDED THEM OVER to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. 29 They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. 32 Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.


  35. John Piper—-“There is no evidence that I am aware of that would suggest burning coals heaped on the head is a symbol of blessing or repentance (which is the way most people take it). I have heard people talk about a custom in Bible times of going to your neighbor when your fire goes out and borrowing glowing coals and carrying them in a basket on your head back to start your fire. I can find no evidence of such a practice in Bible times at all. It seems to me that someone probably made that up to solve this problem. Nor is there any use of the phrase to refer to remorse or repentance. On the contrary, every use of terms like “coals of fire” in the Old Testament and outside the Old Testament is a symbol of divine anger or punishment or evil passion. The only reason that so many interpreters give it the meaning of repentance or remorse is because they believe it fits the context better. Verse 14 is clear. Yes, our aim in loving our enemy is to bless him not curse him. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

    Romans 2: 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.


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