Two Kingdoms and Confessional Protestantism Look Pretty Good NOW

Stephen Prothero explains why evangelicals look even less reliable than they always have to those in confessional communions who take church governance seriously:

For decades, pundits have viewed white evangelicals as perhaps the most powerful voting block in American politics—the base of the Republican Party. Cohesive, well organized, and politically active, they crafted their identity around a shared belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God and a shared commitment to supplant the moral relativism of the insurgent 1960s cultural revolution with “traditional values.” It’s a bloc that’s persisted for decades. Today, roughly a quarter of all Americans identify as evangelicals, and white evangelicals make up the majority of Republican voters in many Southern primaries. In 2012, four out of five of them preferred Romney over Obama.

White evangelicals helped to send Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the White House, so courting them early and often has become perhaps the great art of running for office as a Republican. For decades, Republican politicians have gone on pilgrimage, Bible in hand, to Bob Jones University and Liberty University to court the Jesus vote. Even nominal churchgoers like Reagan have done what no European politician would ever do: pledge their prayerful allegiance to Christ. Along the way, they have repeatedly promised to restore school prayer or stop gay marriage or overturn Roe v. Wade.

What they have delivered, however, is defeat after defeat in the culture wars. Cultural conservatives failed to pass constitutional amendments on school prayer or abortion. They lost on Bill Clinton’s impeachment. They lost on pop culture, where movies and television shows today make the sort of entertainment decried by the Moral Majority look like It’s a Wonderful Life. And same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.

Scarred by these battles, some evangelicals have withdrawn from politics, pursuing what blogger Rod Dreher has referred to as the “Benedict Option,” which focuses on fostering local Christian communities rather than taking yet another whack at the lost cause of Christianizing the nation. Others have continued to try to bend the arc of American history toward biblical values. And some of them are now denouncing Trump as a wolf in sheep’s clothing—even as the larger flock appears poised to make him the Republican nominee.

The most outspoken of the no-Trumpers is Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore has repeatedly whacked Trump—a man whose “attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord”—as a reprobate unfit for the presidency. “The gospel is more important than politics,” he warns his fellow Bible believers. You can stump for Trump or be an evangelical, he says. But you cannot do both.

But Moore’s effort to keep evangelicalism pure, in a world of increasingly polluted politics, is a lost cause. Paradoxically, that effort has actually alienated him from the modern evangelical movement itself. Moore essentially admits this: in a recent op-ed, he announced that until voting habits change, he won’t even to refer to himself as an evangelical anymore. He lamented how so many of his coreligionists “have been too willing to look the other way when the word ‘evangelical’ has been co-opted by heretics and lunatics . . . as long as they were on the right side of the culture war.”

Prothero is right to see the inconsistency in evangelicalism.

What he misses is the inconsistency of academics who study evangelicals. For at least thirty years students of American religion have told us that the Assemblies of God and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are — wait for it — evangelical. That’s like saying BMWs and Yugos are cars, as if the parts are interchangeable, as if they cost the same, as if the owners come from the same demographic, as if the same kinds of technology go into these automobiles.

In other words, not many of the smart people who study religion prepared Americans and even earthlings for what’s happening now. Some did.

100 thoughts on “Two Kingdoms and Confessional Protestantism Look Pretty Good NOW

  1. In the case of Russel Moore, the cat is both dead and not dead. Moore is positioning himself now to take his place as a “more responsible” pope of evangelicals later , once Ralph Reed and Franklin Graham and D A Carson are no longer “evangelical statesmen”. Who besides Greg Thornbury will Moore have to beat? Carl Truman is more likely to represent Romanists than “evangelicals without sacraments”.
    Fly it responsibly —Russell D. Moore is dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — “Every so often I hear of a pastor embroiled in controversy over his removing the American flag from the church sanctuary. The most memorable incident to me was the pastor who simply secreted the flag away in the middle of a Saturday night, as though the flock wouldn’t notice the next morning. But, by dawn’s early light, they saw the flag was not there.

    Russell Moore—I agree with the impulse behind such a pastor’s concern. The church, after all, isn’t an outpost of American society but instead a colony of the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Phil. 3:20). Christian worship isn’t a routine act of mere civil society, like a parent-teacher association meeting or a union gathering, but instead a gate between the covenant body and the larger gathering of the redeemed of all ages in heaven (Heb. 12:22-24). Your church is a “satellite campus” of the Mount Zion sanctuary, and the vast majority of worshipers at that sanctuary are not, and never were, American citizens. The flag can be a perilous thing in an American evangelical subculture so infected with civil religion….. This doesn’t mean that we should treat Old Glory like an Asherah pole. Patriotism is dangerous, yes, but..when rightly applied, patriotism is akin to what God commands us to do in showing honor to our father and mother.

    Russell Moore—When we honor our country, we are recognizing that we are not self-made or self-situated. We are here, placed by God in a particular plot of land because of the sacrifices of forefathers and foremothers we haven’t known.
    (mcmark—God placed us here because God foreknew that the daddies would kill enemies in sacrifice?)

    Russell Moore—We have a RESPONSIBILITY to our neighbors of all faiths for the generations to come. Patriotism can become idolatrous, sure. So can family affection. But the gospel doesn’t evaporate family love. It just re-narrates it, and situates it in a right context, in which we seek first the kingdom of God. The same is true for the flag. Removing a flag doesn’t remove the tendency to idolatry or triumphalism; it just leaves such things unaddressed and untroubled. If a congregation already has a flag in the sanctuary, the first step might be for the pastor to use it as an object lesson in a right-ordered patriotism. …. There will come a day when Old Glory yields to an older glory, when the new republic succumbs to a new creation. Until then, let’s reorder all our affections, including our flag-waving. But let’s do so maintaining the paradoxical tension of “resident aliens.” There is no need to play “Rapture the Flag.”

    mcmark—and prostitution is also only for this age, and only for the one kingdom, but forgetting redemption for now, let us honor the Creator with some “well-ordered prostitution”. The capitalism of Rubio and Cruz will bring us penultimate bliss, power and prosperity….

    Kingdom mission and Christian hospitality are not instrumental. They are not undertaken in order to strengthen and make families happy. Families at the Crossroads, Rodney Clapp


  2. Mark, E-pope-in-waiting — I like it. Moore is uniquely positioned. He is popular with the baptists-with-shoes-Macs-and-libraries (Deverites-Southern Seminary) crowd, the TGC crowd (he’s on the Council-Imperial Senate), and the broader conservative SBC crowd.


  3. How do you stay American evanjellyfish for more than a couple years? How do you make it past Sunday School and worship bands? If you’re not going to leave, you’re at least snickering to yourself and napping through it, right?


  4. Unless Russel Moore becomes Lutheran like his colleage Mark Seifrid did. The two kingdom view of many Baptists (and some Reformed) is not that much different from Lutherans. But ironically, most of the two kingdom Reformed folks would not be comfortable Lutherans because they would have to say “the law” instead of “the covenant of works.

    “Russel Moore shies away from the very objective view of baptism espoused by Luther, for example, in the Small Catechism : “It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” Still, Moore approaches this position, and I think that he understood how Lutheran he sounded so that he spent several minutes trying (unsuccessfully I think) to show why his view of baptism does not entail infant baptism. His communion sermon has similarly Lutheran sounding notes:

    In communion Jesus is speaking to YOU , “My body was broken. When you swallow this juice, Jesus is speaking to YOU, my blood was shed for YOU, my veins were opened for YOU There is no condemnation for YOU.. . . . There are some in this room who are filled with guilt and filled with accusation. You know Christ, but Satan is speaking to you, “You’re guilty.” Hear the Word of Christ, when he says this is my body given for YOU. My blood, it is poured out for YOU
    Again, these words, though not contradicting, contrast with the “Baptist Faith and Message” on Communion: “The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate his second coming.” While the “Baptist Faith and Message” describe Communion solely as a symbolic work of the believer, Moore describes it as a work of God by which he communicates the gospel. These straightforward, unqualified comments are strikingly similar to Luther’s plain words in the Small Catechism : “ What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ himself . . . . What is the benefit of such eating and drinking? That is shown us in these words: given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

    “While Moore’s sermon can be understood within a Calvinist view , absent are any of Calvin’s almost endless qualifications on the words, “This is my body . . . . This is my blood.” Russell Moore, like Luther, simply utters those words and does not qualify them. Furthermore, unlike in his baptism sermon, Moore does not try to distance himself from Lutheran views of the Sacrament. …These Lutheran influences have so affected students that I am aware of several former SBTS students that have become Lutherans, some even Lutheran pastors . And, these conversions point to a reason why there is not a Lutheran Baptist movement: sacramental theology. Both first generation and second generation Lutherans have clearly drawn a line in the sand when it comes to the sacraments, effectively saying, “You cannot be a Lutheran unless you believe and practice thus regarding the sacraments.” If one takes on the label “Lutheran,” it is only natural to thus affiliate with churches that also bear that name. In other words, Lutheran Baptists are more likely to convert than to set up movements within Baptist circles.”


  5. If you don’t ever do any antithesis to universal objective infinite sufficient atonement, then you can say “confessional protestants” as a code word for a certain kind of Reformed and a certain kind of Lutheran, and not pay much attention to how uncomfortable it would be for Reformed confessionalists to say “the gospel” instead of “the covenant of grace”. Not that the Reformed want to deny that God might use the water as a means to take away original sin, but the Reformed for the sake of the argument from Abrahamic circumcision prefer to say that even a “republished Mosaic covenant of works” is also an administration in “the covenant of grace” .

    I wonder if retired evangelical popes have it as well off as Romanist popes. But are Billy Graham and Sproul retired yet?


  6. I revisited this article today as the Gospel Co-Allies found another thing to gospel-co-(r)ally around:

    Mr. Ellis and Mr. Mirtolooi cited popular culture (movies like “The Revenant,” “Inside Out”) and real-life examples (the way a parent sacrifices free time to raise a child) in order to make palpable the concept of suffering leading to the remission of sin. Very deliberately, they did not lean heavily on Scripture.

    “The difference with the Café is what you’re using as your authorities,” Mr. Ellis said later. “Typically, in a Christian class, the Bible is your authenticity. To this group, the Bible is just another book. You can use it, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. You rely on those your listeners would find credible — scientists, philosophers, authors — and you show how Christianity makes sense.”

    1 Cor 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

    The sort of environment they’re going for actually sounds kinda cool though. But a philosopher’s club run by the church? Not so cool. How is this any different from church sports and daycare services? When in New York…


  7. 1. DH, you write about 2 Kingdom theology like it is obvious and everyone understands it. A summary simplification would be nice for the non PhDs. since this PhD remains still confused but the constant references to it here…
    2. Joni Ericskon Tada endorsed Rubio. Yes. Foam parties and all. Is that what Moore thinks we should be doing? He is in the same corps as the Republican ‘elitists,’ speaking from a paid position of lobbyist power. The feigned ‘objectivity’ galls slightly, considering he is yet one more paid opinonista” “It is OK as long as you vote THIS way, fellow Americans…” Gee, OK, thanks Russell for telling me what is a Christian was to vote. More and more I am for complete separation of Church and politics. As for abortion, does any sane person think we will win a legislative victory? And does ay Chrsitian male wonder at the lack of female voices on this score?


  8. Depending on the context, I see nothing wrong with classifying Assemblies of God and OPC underthe same evangelical name. That depends on the context.

    What those in the GOP, including religious leaders, are missing when they criticize Trump is that they only end up singing to the choir if they don’t acknowledge the failings of the Republican Party establishment. The Trump vote is an anti-establishment protest vote.

    As for what has been classified as evangelical politics before, it has failed because of the sets of values it targets for its political battles and culture wars. First, there is no reason to engage in culture wars when we can preach the Gospel. In addition, the pronounced absence of evangelicalism in the antiwar and civil rights movements along with having misplaced priorities has made that kind of evangelical politics irrelevant, if not despicable, to most people.

    The question is how does the 2K silence on important issue even make the Church relevant to society? Does it even care to be relevant or does it think that it can better carry out the Great Commission by being insular? With Conservatve Protestantism’s defense of American Capitalism and its suppport of American militarism and wars through its embrace of patriotism, how is the Conservative Protestant Church acting any different from how the Roman Church acted prior to the French and Spanish Revolutions and how the Orthodox Church acted prior to the Russian Revolution?


  9. Curt: Does it even care to be relevant or does it think that it can better carry out the Great Commission by being insular?

    False alternative. The church transcends society – “not of this world” – while her citizens live with a foot in this world and a foot in that.


  10. Curt,

    The church remains relevant by preaching the gospel, not by baptizing “social justice” (which has an ever-changing definition) or capitalism (which also has an ever-changing definition) as Christian. To the extent that “evangelicals” have identified true Christianity as the modern Republican party, they have failed. But the answer isn’t advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms in the name of Christian love.


  11. Robert says: Curt,The church remains relevant by preaching the gospel

    ..…and making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us; and that we may be perfected in unity so that the world may know that our Father God sent Jesus, and loved us, even as He has loved Jesus. ( Matt 28:19-20; John 17:23)


  12. Joe M., don’t mean to write above readers’ heads. 2k is a recurring theme here. Here‘s one post but if you click to tags and lings on either two-kingdoms or spirituality of the church you might know what I mean.


  13. Who made Mike Horton the lobbyist or pope of evangelicals to tell them what to do? Horton is a Confessionalist and NOT a “card-carrying evangelical”, so why should Horton get to define what another group should do? That would be like confessionalists getting their ideas on natural law from Roman Catholics? oh wait…Unlike Peale, confessionalists like Horton don’t resist the wisdom of Rome, or the theology of popes on “the covenant”. ..


  14. mcmark, “confessionalists like Horton don’t resist the wisdom of Rome, or the theology of popes on “the covenant””

    What do you mean?


  15. I just now read the CT piece that McMark linked to and don’t know whether to life or cry. I will pass an outdoor sporting goods store this morning and am tempted to go in and buy some hip waders. Horton and similar bed wetters are going to cause a flood. The chattering classes have no idea what to do with a presidential campaign run as a reality TV show. If you think they are overwrought now, just wait.


  16. Jeff,
    Actually, it is a real alternative. Because regardless of how we are ‘not of this world,’ there are things we share with those in the world. Otherwise, we would be living in monasteries. When Paul preached to the Greeks, he started with something that was relevant to them and then went to the Gospel.

    In addition, if we want to preach the Gospel, we need to talk about repentance from all kinds of sins including the societal and systemic sins.


  17. Robert,
    Depends on what you include in preaching the Gospel. IF ewe are silent about societal sins and problems, not only do we give implicit approval of such sins, we teach the world that they are only to be concerned with themselves as individuals. There is no love of neighbor if we do do not address societal sins and problems.


  18. Curt,

    Depends on what you include in preaching the Gospel. IF ewe are silent about societal sins and problems, not only do we give implicit approval of such sins, we teach the world that they are only to be concerned with themselves as individuals. There is no love of neighbor if we do do not address societal sins and problems.

    More or less I agree with you. But there’s a difference between preaching God’s warnings to oppressors and preaching that the answer is socialism. There’s a difference between preaching God’s teaching on human sexuality, calling people to repentance, and proclaiming that we need to treat people as the image of God; and calling for and preaching that the state needs to create “safe spaces” and gender-neutral bathrooms. My fear is that you are making the exact same errors as the religious right, just with a different political lens.


  19. The only way to be both Reformed and “evangelical” is to stop saying that “Arminians are not evangelicals”. Mike Horton has done that. And, if you don’t ever do any antithesis to universal objective infinite sufficient atonement, then you can even start saying “Confessional Protestant” instead of “Reformed” ,

    When you are trashing baptist “experimentalists”, you can say “the covenant of grace”, but when you are with Lutherans, you can say “the gospel”. When you are explaining the obvious to baptists, the Mosaic covenant’ is also an “administration in the covenant of grace”, but when you are interacting with the latest successor to John Murray, the Mosaic covenant becomes the antithesis of the Abrahamic covenant. As long as you never agree that the promises to Abraham are any different from the promises of the new covenant, the argument from circumcision will allow you to to be catholic enough to accept pope water as baptism.

    Peale — “Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake.”

    Horton—Faced with Trump, not only is one of the two kingdoms threatened, but so also is my power to define “evangelical”.


  20. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, p 43 : “We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.”


  21. Maybe Palm Sunday calls for the usual conclusion that this has nothing to do with politics, and therefore it does not matter what kind of politics “evangelicals” might have….

    We say that the Psalm Sunday crowd got it wrong because they were wanting freedom in this world and in one of the kingdom (this secular age one) and then we who either love the status quo or think nothing will change will remind everybody that Jesus was “offering spiritual freedom” and a kingdom right after we die and a death which is not really death. And instead of getting hung up on Passover and resurrection, we can appeal to our creation in the image of God as the common standard for ethics and our inherent immortality— all humans are eternal and one of us shall ever die, so “we are important”

    That way we can say the kingdom of Chrsit is in our hearts. Instead of obeying the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth, we can say that the Sermon on the Mount is about our attitudes and still go out and buy our guns. All we need to do is be careful not to buy those guns as a church but as individuals.

    Hauerwas—-“If Jesus is all about getting us to love one another, then why did everyone reject him? They did so, I think, because when Jesus was told by the devil that he would be given the power to turn stones to bread, he refused; when Jesus was offered authority over all the kingdoms of this world, he refused; when he was offered the possibility he would not die, he refused. Jesus refused these goods because God’s kingdom cannot be forced into existence using the means of the devil.”


  22. Robert,
    The validity of your answer depends on whether there is a repentance on the public square to preach as well as a repentance before God. Some people prefer capitalism as a political-economic structure and others prefer socialism. And even there, we have a great deal of ambiguity becaseu there are several forms of each. For the public square, I believe socialism provides the most promising structure for limiting concentrations of power. Now obviously I am not talking about the “socialism” associated with the Soviet Union. And I am not saying that socialism guarantees anything. But as a structure, it offers the most potential at limiting the accumulation of power. And as I believe that Socialism offers the biggest promise at accumulating power, I believe Capitalism structurally leads people to desire and accumulate wealth and power.

    But regardless of the system chosen, the abuses of both must always be confronted in the public square as well as by the it pertains to how we obey God


  23. Curt, “if we want to preach the Gospel, we need to talk about repentance from all kinds of sins including the societal and systemic sins.”

    There you go again, leaving us with no hope. Preaching the gospel is your platform to beat up people for corporate sin. And yet you have not corporate gospel to preach.

    Talk about bait and switch.


  24. Curt, so all wars are sin (even when waged against slave owners and racial supremacists)? Pacifism is hardly relevant for social justice.


    And Capitalism is now sin. How do you live with yourself? Why I bet you sinned purchased your computer. Or does the Party give them to all members?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Curt: Because regardless of how we are ‘not of this world,’ there are things we share with those in the world.

    For all of your concern with structural sin, you seem to be unable to distinguish structures such as the Church from the members who make it up.

    The things we share with the world, we share as individuals, as fellow humans.

    The Church as a structure is the kingdom of Christ, and He was very definite about his kingdom being “not of this world.” If you wish to decry that as “irrelevant”, so be it. Rather to let Christ than Curt or Jeff set the agenda for the church.


  26. As soon as someone is handed the billyclub to enforce socialism’s utopian vision… BINGO! There’s your accumulated power. No thanks. The body-count speaks for itself. Every. Single. Time.
    There’s this constant whining from the Rose-Red tinted glasses crowd, that the ONLY reason collectivism seems so much worse than personal liberty is because their saintly faction was not handed the benevolent baton. The best you can say for them is that their delusional conviction in the power of the Whole to overcome the effects of Original Sin can be gently confronted by both theology and history.
    Trapped in his left-right paradigm, Daisy can only point to the corporate fascism (another collectivism) on the right and blubber, “Buh-buh-buh-but they’re evil TOO!” In other words, since we’re stuck with the triumph of socialism (since at least 1932), finally give the American Communist Party a try. Go all in; it’s bound to work out for the best this time, ‘cuz, you know, American Christian Exceptionalism.


  27. Jeff,
    Like the phrase “love the world,” we need to be specific in what it means not to be “of the world.” I know with loving the world, John 3:16 says that God loved the world. But such was not the same kind of loving the world as we are warned against in I John 2.

    So what do you specifically mean by “not being of the world.” Does that mean that we have no concern for earthly problems or societal sins?

    I think you exemplified the 2k approach in what you wrote about what we share with others in the world. Christians as individuals can share things with others. But the Church is above all of that. Really? The Church should not denounce group sins such as when nations afflict others or when societies prosper by exploiting others while at the same time the Church should sternly warn all about sexual sin? See, if you want to remain relevant to the world, and I don’t mean relevant by imitating the world, you need to be able to apply God’s Word to both how we are to repent from individual sins and how to refreain from group sins. After all, both the OT and NT talk about nations being punished for group sins.


  28. D.G.,
    Why do you employ such all-or-nothing logic when it isn’t called for? I was talking the use of patriotism to support militarism and American wars in general. And the Americans wars I have in mind are those about which former Marine Corps Major General Smedley talked about or the 50+ interventions we have been involved in since WW II. Note how an appeal to patriotism is used to persuade people to support the wars rather than question them. In addition, I would add that there are those who use the valor of our troops as moral shield to defend foreign policies that call for war. So if you want to talk wars, let’s start from there and analyze each intervention and war on a case by case basis. Do you want to talk about the Civil War? Fine, let’s discuss that. But then let’s discuss the Vietnam War or the Persian Gulf Wars or participating in coups that overthrew governments too.

    In addition, I commented on American Capitalism. Why? It is structurally an exploitive system and it is the exploitation built into the system that makes it wrong. All one has to do to see this is watch the Hunger Games movie series and note the relationship between the Capitol and the districts to see the relationship that many Americans have in relation to all of the stakeholders of American Capitalism. Of course, you can close eyes to the exploitive relationships if you want as long as you realize that history teaches us that no empire lasts for ever and that the districts eventually find the ability to rise up and overthrow the Capitol. Don’t believe how that movie portrays the relationship between many Americans and the rest of the stakeholders of our Capitalism? All one has to do is note the escapism and banality embraced by the citizens of the Capitol as they closed their eyes to the exploitation of those in the districts.

    BTW, what bait and switch and what no hope? See, you want to deny corporate by saying that salvation is only individual. Not only does neither Testament agrees with you, you must insist that whether actions like murder and theft are sins depending on whether they are done by individuals or groups. If my nation kills and steals by invading another nation, that is not a sin according to what I understand from your logic. But if I invade my neighbor’s home and do the same, it is a sin.


  29. Curt, you’re the one calling war and capitalism sin. And I’m the all-or-nothing person?

    Still waiting for your message when you preach the corporate gospel.


  30. D.G.,
    First, I didn’t refer to all wars. Rather the comment I made implied more current wars. IN addition, I didn’t refer to all wars and Capitalism, I referred specifically to American Capitalism and American militarism and war–again, the context refers to current wars. Though if you want, we could discuss past wars on a case by case basis. IN addition, when I further specified which wars I was referring to, you continued on the same path not acknowledging anything that was said.

    Finally, again, the lack of corporate gospel does not imply the lack of corporate sin. I have discussed this several times but it seems that here you wish not to be serious and respond to what was said in the past. Tell me, how is it a sin if I invade someone’s house to take their stuff and possibly their life but it is not a sin for one nation to invade another nation to kill its people and take their stuff?


  31. Curt, you were the one to get through the door by invoking “preaching the gospel” and then use that status but calling for repentance from “corporate sin.” If you can’t find a “corporate gospel,” that’s on you. And if you’re content to offer people and nations no hope for sins that have no redemptive solution, that’s not loving. Maybe if you really cared, you’d come up with a “corporate gospel.”

    Here’s your problem with nations invading other nations: heard of Israel and the Canaanites?


  32. Zrim,
    Again, if I invade my neighbor’s home to steal and kill him in the process, that is classified as a sin only because I can be baptized and be a communicant member of a church while a nation does the same to a neighboring nation but it isn’t sin because the nation can’t be baptized and be a communicant member of the Church.

    Such thinking leads us to the following conclusion. If what signifies sin is baptism and Church membership, then if God did not send Christ at all, nothing according to your logic could be counted as sin. Such a definition of sin doesn’t revolve around God as much as it revolves around what is offered to you.


  33. Curt, God would still judge though.

    But I’m not saying it isn’t a problem what the invading nation does. I’m saying calling it sin is a misnomer. You want to bring down divine judgment on a thing that only seems to be in the category of wisdom. You don’t like that because it opens the possibility of thing you really really don’t like still getting some air instead of smothered out. But the only biblical prescription for sin is repentance, baptism, communion. How a geo-political nation does that is inconceivable.


  34. Zrim,
    If there is no sin, why can there be judgment? But even more than that, how is it that it is not a sin when groups do what is sin for individuals to do?


  35. Curt, God commanded the Israelites to take the holy land, right? So some nations taking away stuff is okay. Or are you going to appeal to the OT only for the widows and orphans bit?


  36. D.G.,
    And that is Israel and the OT. My question was did Germany sin when it invade nations like Poland, not did Israel when it took possession of the Promised Land.


  37. Curt, so now you invoked the ad hitlerum argument because your desperate assertions about national sins is up against it:

    you must insist that whether actions like murder and theft are sins depending on whether they are done by individuals or groups. If my nation kills and steals by invading another nation, that is not a sin according to what I understand from your logic. But if I invade my neighbor’s home and do the same, it is a sin.

    That’s not Germany. That’s a blanket assertion about “nations.”

    I bring up Israel which had commands from God to invade nations and “steal.” Those commands come from the same parts of the Bible you go to for your theonomic notion of “corporate sin.”

    And now you bring up Germany.

    Good for you.


  38. D.G.,
    I asked a simple question that relates to the existence of corporate, and in this case national, sin. Did Nazi Germany sin when it invaded its neighbors? I am simply taking an inductive apporach to see if it is sin when one nation invades another. There are three possible answers:

    1. It is always a sin when one nation invades another.
    2. It is never a sin when one nation invades another
    3. It is sometimes a sin when one nation invades another.

    When Israel took the Promised Land, it was by the command of God and thus it was not a sin. But Israel’s taking of the Proimistd Land does not speak for all invasions.

    So the question is this: Did Nazi Germany sin when it invaded its neighbors?


  39. Curt, is that a serious question? If someone answers, no, they are Nazi. If they answer yes, they are obvious.

    Your point with corporate sin is that capitalist nations steal from other nations and so they sin. Is your point also that they are as sinful as Hitler’s Germany?


  40. D.G.,
    You seem to be jumping the gun in interpreting what I am saying. All I am asking is this: Did Nazi Germany sin when it invaded its neighbors? That is all I am asking.

    As for your anticipation of my answers:

    1. If there is more than one reason why someone would say that Nazi Germany did not sin when it invaded its neighbors, then, logically speaking, no conclusions could be drawn from a ‘yes’ answer.

    2. My point with corporate sin is not to focus on Capitalism. Rather, I believe the reason why nations invade other nations is the same as why some individuals rob and/or kill other individuals: lust for wealth, lust for power. And that lust is due to being materialistic. When materialism reigns, Capitalism and Socialism are two sides of the same coin.


  41. Curt, maybe if you picked something other than NAZI GERMANY it wouldn’t feel so much like a loaded line of questioning. All that 21st century American fear and loathing tends to steer the conversation in very definite directions.


  42. D.G.,
    Materialism is one of Marx’s significant faults; but the materialism of Captialism is just as wrong.

    I look at Socialism’s advantage over Capitalism in the connections that exist in greater self-rule as expressed in democratizing the work place and in a greater number of workers becoming elected officials. I differ from Marx in that I don’t believe in a proletariat dictatorship. I believe in owners and workers having equal influence and power at both work and in government.


  43. Grim,
    You have to pick a regime that is demonstrably wrong. If I I picked America with its ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, we would be having debates as to whether the removal of the Inidans was right.

    Saying that one government is wrong for invading a nation doesn’t imply all are wrong. The issue is whether a nation can sin. To prove that is so, you only need one example.


  44. Not so fast, Curt. It’s God who sets up earthly authorities, including ones you think are “demonstrably wrong.” Are you blaming God for the NAZI’S(!!!!!!!!!)?


  45. Zrim,
    Actually, you are the one making the point of blaming God fo the Nazis. After all, it’s not like Nazi Germany is the first nation to sin and God has used such nations for His purposes. My point has always been that nations can sin. What follows that is that Church must be able to speak prophetically to that sin.


  46. Curt, fine, how about the American invasion of Eye-rock? Some of us opposed it but knew enough not to call it national sin. Because it’s not, it’s just stupid. I can live with stupid. Why can’t you?


  47. Zrim,
    There were two kinds of oppositions to the invasion of Iraq. Some thought that it was foolish in terms of its practicalities and outcomes vs use of resources. Others, and this came more from the Left than from the Right, stated that the invasion of Iraq was immoral. And because there is such a debate about that, I could not use it as an example of national sin.

    But there is no debate about the immorality of the Nazi invasion of its neighbors. So did Nazi Germany sin when it invaded its neighboring nations? Again, we are looking to see if there is an example of a national sin.


  48. D.G.,
    Remember that you are the one who has failed to answer the question of whether Nazi Germany sinned when it invaded its neighbors. And that might be because answering the question poses a dilemma for your theology.


  49. Curt, weak. If you’re right about national sin then you have to grapple with the invasion of Iraq and not avoid it because “there is so much debate around it.” There’s a lot involved in the Nazi example as well, despite your waving it off as obviously immoral. I’m saying both aren’t national (i.e. geo-political) sin because there is no such thing. If you really want “to see if there is an example of a national sin” then engage the Iraq question, otherwise my point about you using examples packed with American fear and loathing that has had time to simmer in the collective national psyche for generations in order to rig the question (and answer) stands.


  50. Zrim,
    Not weak at all. For to prove that there is national sin, one only needs to cite one example. And when using invasions as an example, one doesn’t need to show that all invasions is a sin, just some. And in the world of mathematics, the definition of the word some means at least 1. This makes the invasions of Iraq by the US and Germany’s neighbors by Nazi Germany independent of each other in showing national sin. That is basic logic.

    In the meantime, you consistently stayed with your apriori approach to declaring that there is no national sin. Why? Because Reformed Christians tend to define too much of the world deductively rather than using a mix of deduction and induction. And in your world, Germany did not sin when it invaded its neighbors because there is, according to you, no national sin. And thus what Germany did could be judged as being foolish or wise, but it could not be judged in terms of being right or wrong.


  51. Curt,

    The ones who sinned in Germany were the ones who sinned. Sin is willful and personal, not national (see Rev. 22:12). Your theology would hold every single member of the Chinese communist government guilty of forced abortions, even those who only clean the streets and have nothing to do with approving or implementing that policy, which would include many believers. And it would also hold Daniel guilty before God of the Babylonian atrocities since he was an important member of the administration. If a son is not even guilty of his own father’s sins, nor a father his son’s (Ezek. 18:20), how is it that a member or citizen of a particular government is necessarily guilty for the sins of some of its leaders?


  52. Curt, Germany violated international law and treaties. Germany isn’t a person that sins. You’re the one who doesn’t deny the difference between the national and the personal.


  53. Curt, you only need to do theology by resorting to historical examples? What happened to the sufficiency of Scripture? Which brings us back to that oh so difficult matter of God commanding Israel to invade and steal from other nations. But — wait for it — the prophets of the nation that invaded and stole are the ones you listen to about today’s national sins.

    I’m not sure the mainline’s modernists were this balled up.


  54. D.G.,
    Like others, you use apriori reasoning, and yours is from 2KT, to conclude that nations cannot sin. The question of whether Germany sinned is simply an inductive, rather than a theological dedeuctive, way of approaching the question. Did Germany merely break treaties when it invaded other countries? When Germany broke international law by invading other countries, did it merely break an implicit agreement made between countries? Or can we speak of Germany’s invasions of other countries in the same way that we would speak of a person who would rob or kill others by conducting a home invasion? How we speak of such an action when practiced by an individual is that it was immoral and that it was sin. However, by reducing Germany’s actions to the breaking of international law and treaties, the only way we could describe Germany’s invasion of other nations is that it broke agreements. We could never call Germany’s actions immoral or sin. We could never say that Germany, or any other nation for that matter, has moral obligations to other nations. In fact, if we applied your principle that nations do not sin, we could also say that nations have no moral obligations to individuals, even those who are its citizens. And yet, like the laws that govern our own nation, international laws often deal with questions of morality and thus questions of sin–that is unless one wants to say that someone or a group can be immoral but not sinful.

    And what ia the grounds you use to determining whether and act of theft and murder is deemed to be a mere breaking of agreements or deemed to be immoral and sinful. Well, the distinction you make is not found in the action itself but in whether the party conducting the action can repent and be baptized for the action. What would follow such a premise is that unless God sent His Son to die for our sins, God could never judge us to be sinners. Thus, for God to be able to judge us as sinners, He was required to provide redemption.

    There is redemption for those individuals who participate in national sins–that is something I’ve said before and that comes from both Testaments. And there is repentance from national sins for whole nations should a nation change its course of action. But to determine whether a certain set of actions could be called sin or not by the number of those who commit the act is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. However, it is deduced by some who adhere to 2KT. So the question about whether Germany sinned when it invaded its neighbors is simply a inductive way of determining whether there is national sin. And if there is national sin, then there is corporate sin. And to deny that using apriori reasoning because of adherence to a favorite theology is telling people both in and out of your choir will simply result in a loss of credibility outside your choir. Why? Because murder and theft is immoral and thus sin regardless of the number of people committing those actions. That is a general rule. And to try to use special circumstances, such as Israel’s taking of Canaan, seems to violate the principle of not basing rules on the exception. And we could counter that with another Biblical example. Would Abraham’s taking of Isaac up to the mountain and raising his hand to sacrifice him imply that any father imitating Abraham is not committing child abuse.

    One fo the biggest problems we Reformed Christians have is that we spend too much time deducting reality from what we know from the Scriptures. Our grasp of the Scriptures is not good enough to exclude us from ever using induction to interpret reality. So our interpretation of reality should come from a mix of using induction and deduction. That is it should unless we fail to recognize the limits of our pet theologies.


  55. Curt, my apriori reasoning is that you haven’t shown that corporate sin is a biblical category. When you appeal to the OT, you then are on grounds where invading and stealing from other nations is part of God’s revealed will and you don’t want to go there. So you go to the prophets. And then Germany.

    Face it, Curt, you act like the Social Gospel never happened, or that you cam somehow be the bridge between Machen and Rauschenbusch. Whatever gets you through the Gulag.


  56. Todd,
    Sin describes our natione as well as our actions. The sins of some are described as being out of ignorance in the Scriptures. Sin isn’t just willful and personal. Sin can consist of acts that fall short of God’s standard.

    So let me ask you this. How can actions when practiced by individuals be called sins but when practiced by groups are not sins? For example how can theft and murder when practiced by an individual be a sin but when practiced by a group, such as a nation but the group could be smaller than a nation, not be a sin? D.G., answered with Israel’s taking of Canaan? However, not all invasions are commanded by God like Israel’s command to take the Promised Land. If you want to say that an act cannot be sin unless it is personal and done by an individual, then you are begging the question unless you provide more information.


  57. Curt, when a group murders the members of that group are tried. That’s what happened with the NAZI’S(!!!!), speaking of wanting historical examples. So when you ask how can murder when practiced by an individual be a sin but not when practiced by a group, the question for you is how can members of a group that murder be tried as individuals and not a group when it’s a corporate crime? Either jurisprudence the world over is wrong because it doesn’t understand what you do or you are because you don’t understand. Call me a (ahem) group-thinker, but I’m going with the latter.


  58. Zrim,
    That is not always what happens. That only happens when that nation loses the war. But realize what occur en route to Germany losing the war. When Allied troops came across the German camps, Eisenhower ordered the troops to make the townspeople tour the camps so that they could that they had a partial responsibility for what went on there. IN addition, it wasn’t just individual Naziis who paid the prcie for invading other nations, it was the nation of Germany.

    See, you can’t deduce your way out of this. The nation Germany sinned when it invaded other nations. Those individuals who had more say in those invasions paid a higher price than those who didn’t But the whole nation was guilty, the whole nation paid through the raveges of war, and the leaders were put on trial. But the whole nation was guilty.

    Again, you can’t call the same act a sin simply because individuals, rather than nations, committed them.


  59. “But the whole nation was guilty.”
    No it wasn’t.

    “Again, you can’t call the same act a sin simply because individuals, rather than nations, committed them.”
    Yes you can.


  60. Curt,

    Thanks for responding. The point is that all sin is individual, whether done in a group or not. Even the approving of others’ sins is still an individual’s sin. On Judgment Day nations and corporations do not stand before God, individuals do. Again Rev. 22:12 “…bringing recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” Group sin assumes individual responsibility for the actions of others by virtue of simply belonging to that group. That would make Daniel guilty of Babylonian sins, and puts a burden on individuals beyond what Scripture does, for some a terrible burden that can do great damage.


  61. Curt, “the whole nation paid [for its sin] through the ravages of war”? So the injuries of war that followed the invasion were the divine judgment on their sin? Don’t look now but that’s the same un-Christian reasoning Falwell (or was it Robertson) used in connecting terrorism to gay pride parades. Apparently for you two, not only was sin not paid in full at the cross, but the balance is meted out on things that you two just really super don’t like. Boo, hiss, gong.


  62. Zrim,
    and Germany’s invasion of its neighbors is on parr with gay pride parades, right?

    Again, the problem you have is that you hold to an arpiori position toward national sin. And that apriori position is based on the fact that if there is national sin, then the Church, both in terms of its individual members and as an institution, would have to speak prophetically to the nation about its sin. So instead, you want to reduce sin to individual sin.

    But people with God-given consciences, people with such consciences are mentioned in Romans 2, can recognize the folly of yours and DG’s position with this question of whether Nazi Germany sinned as a nation when it invaded its neighbors. Everyone knows that what Nazi Germany did was immoral and thus sin. So the only place you can actually defend your position is on a blog like this where the audience is more select and supportive of your position. For to say that Nazi Germany did not sin and did not do something immoral when it invaded its neighbors would rightfully merit jeers and scorn from a more general audience. And that would dishonor the Gospel because unnecessary shame would be brought to the Gospel..

    What we have is this, during pre-revolutionary times, and we might be on the verge of a political revolution now, the Church of a given nation has more often than not sided with wealth and powert. In many of those cases, the Church was active in its support of wealth in power. Right before the French and Spanish Revolutions, the Chuch, in this case the Roman Church, actively supported wealth and power. In Russia, the Church was the Orthodox Church and it did the same. And in each case, the Church of that locale was thoroughly discredited and caused people to look down on the Gospel because of the Church’s support of wealth and power.

    Here in America, the conservative Protestant or Evangelical Church is the predominant Church. And here, the Church uses culture wars as a red herring so that it can actively and passively support wealth and power. Those who are active in their support tend to be some variety of transformationalists.. Those who are passive in their support tend to be 2ers. In either case, the failure of the Church in America to speak out against wealth and power will bring shame to the Gospel as more and more people realize that the status quo needs to be changed. And regardless of whether we get to change the status quo, the association of the Church’s support of or silent complicity with wealth and power provides many stumbling blocks to those who need to hear the Gospel. So this isn’t some mere academic or argumentative exercise.


  63. Todd,
    Not all sin is individual sin in either Testament. Nations are describ3d as having sinned in Revelation as they are in the Old Testament. Actions that are sinful for individuals to do are also sinful for groups to do. And thus we need to speak against both if we are to share the Gospel.


  64. D.G.,
    I have alsready shown from previous discussions that both testaements talk about national sin. I have also shown the existence of national sin by pointing out the sins of individuals and noted that, with an occasional exception, the fact that the actions are still sinful when gruops perform them. And the example I’ve brought shows how easily recognizeable the concept of national sin is even to the unbeliever. And if you don’t believe me, tell us whether Nazi German sinned and did something immoral when it invaded its neighbors.

    Your apriori position, as I wrote to Zrim, is based on the fact tha to admit national sin would mean that you would have to change your 2KT to allow the Church to speak as an institution would have to preach to the nation and not just work for the flourishing of the nation in which it is located. You can read the rest of my last comment to Zrim because it applies to you as well.


  65. Curt: change your 2KT to allow the Church to speak as an institution would have to preach to the nation and not just work for the flourishing of the nation in which it is located.

    You are confused. 2K does not encourage the church to work for the flourishing of the nation in which it is located.


  66. Again, the problem you have is that you hold to an arpiori position toward national sin.

    So i have the wrong paradigm? So just change my paradigm, buy an actual conscience and I’ll be aligned with…you? But per Paul, I already have a conscience and it’s not inclined to respond to moral bullying.

    And now we’re all about propping up the status quo of wealth and power? You realize 2k doesn’t prop up any regime and would actually lead to a cracked skull in your preferred example?


  67. Curt, I have an objective denial of national sin. I don’t know what Zrim’s problem is. Yours apparently is an apriori affirmation of national sin.

    Aren’t presuppositions fun?


  68. Curt, and I’ve already shown and you’ve admitted that there is no national gospel/salvation. And so everyone is still lost. Persons might repent, but those persons who still belong to a nation guilty of national sins are still in their trespasses and sins.

    So you are only a nattering nabob of negativism. You have no hope for sinners.

    Have a nice pretty good Friday.


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