Paul Helm Shows 2k Isn’t Hard to Understand or Affirm

Dr. Helm is on a roll. First he defends 2k from charges of quietism and includes this poignant remark:

Those who advocate a Christian view of this or that fail to recognize the seriousness of what they are proposing. To have a Christian view of X is to be committed to proclaiming it as the word of God which Christians have an obligation to uphold and propagate.

In other words, redeeming culture or doing things Christianly may inspire, but the claims bite off more than the claimants can chew — namely, invoking Christianity brings norms that believers seldom apply to the variety of callings in which they find themselves.

Then, Dr. Helm observes how John Owen could have used a dose of 2k for the brief time he believed that England was the greatest nation on God’s green earth:

What happened to Owen’s theology can be explained in two phases. In the first phase his understanding of the accepted Reformed understanding of the secret will and revealed will distinction changed shape during the Commons sermons. As we saw earlier the distinction, as Owen understood this, is between what God decrees, reserved to himself, and what he requires, his revelation. Owen extended the revealed will, the promises, from ‘generals’ to include the particular contemporary and future events in the British Isles about which he preached to the House of Commons, going beyond what he had said were secrets to include the unfolding events of the Civil war and their significance, and in particular to the military operations in Ireland. He daringly attributed to what he said of these the character of God’s revealed purposes, long prophesied, in turn giving rise to Christian precepts.

It is likely that his relative youth, sudden promotion to Cromwell’s side, and the way of thinking exhibited in his sermons, had turned his mind. He believed he was in the cockpit of the unfolding of God’s plan for England, foretold by the prophets, and that he was their mouthpiece. The outcome was assured.

If it can happen to the orthodox Puritan, Owen, perhaps we can give Ted Cruz a pass.

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243 thoughts on “Paul Helm Shows 2k Isn’t Hard to Understand or Affirm

  1. I’ve said this before: if ‘theonomy’ or ‘transformation’ are true, and the way to go, Protestant seminaries are lax for not-having departments of (the equivalent of) canon-law. Got to get all those budding pastors spreading their preaching a little thinner, in order to get to all the new rules for building the post-mil society.

    After all, who knows better than this generation how the grandkids should be regulating? “Don’t change a thing!”

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  2. DGH and Bruce, along the lines of the first quoted material from Dr. Helm, I often ask my Kellerite acquaintances where they draw the line between transformationalism and theonomy. I have not gotten a coherent answer yet. Of course, most of them think the question is a rude personal attack.

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  3. Good point. Why acknowledge that opposition is because it’s the Lord’s way/law, when denying Him as source is less confrontational and offensive. Luke 22:57-62

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  4. Greg, you might pick up Hunter’s “To Change the World.” Sorry for the length here, but not only is Hunter worth it but if you can dish it out then you should be able to take it.

    If there is an exemplar whose life mission touches all of these themes and strategies—and who is celebrated as such—it is William Wilberforce (1757-1833). Wilberforce was a member of the British House of Commons and spent over forty years seeking to end slavery and “reform the manners” of his society. He was a devout Christian who believed that true personal change came through salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, and his ideals were fed by his deep faith. As an activist, he led a social movement committed to the moral reform of British society and against much opposition eventually prevailed in abolishing the legalized slave trade. Wilberforce was indeed, a great man and a model of what one courageous person willing to step into the fray can do.

    At the end of the day, the message is clear: even if not in the lofty realms of political life that he was called to, you too can be a Wilberforce. In your own sphere of influence, you too can be an Edwards, a Dwight, a Booth, a Lincoln, a Churchill, a Dorothy Day, a Martin Luther King, a Mandela, a Mother Teresa, a Vaclav Havel, a John Paul II, and so on. If you have the courage and hold to the right values and if you think Christianly with an adequate Christian worldview, you too can change the world.

    This account is almost entirely mistaken.

    Thus ends chapter two. Hunter then goes on to explain what one might hope would be quite obvious to the sane and sober mind. In a word, the real world works in a much more complicated way than certain wistful hearts might imagine. In another word, “Culture…is a knotty, difficult, complex, perhaps impossible puzzle.” If that is fundamentally understood it trends to cast a less-than-enthusiastic reception of ubiquitous calls to transform the world. In chapter four he suggests an alternative view of culture and cultural change in eleven propositions (which is actually the title of the chapter). He begins with one alternative assumption that “one cannot merely change worldviews or question one’s own very easily” and suggests that “Most of what really counts, in terms of what shapes and directs us, we are not aware of; it operates far below what most of us are capable of consciously grasping.” From there a handful of others follow, among which are: culture is a product of history (“It is better to think of culture as a thing, if you will, manufactured not by lone individuals but rather by institutions and the elites who lead them”); ideas only sometimes have consequences (“Weaver’s statement [that ideas have consequences] would be truer if it were reworded as: ‘Under specific conditions and circumstances ideas can have consequences’”); and cultures change from the top down, rarely is ever from the bottom up (“In other words, the work of world-making and world-changing are, by and large, the work of elites; gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life…In a very crude formulation, the process begins with theorists who generate ideas and knowledge; moves to researchers who explore, revise, expand, and validate ideas; moves on to teachers and educators who pass those ideas on to others, then passes on to popularizes who simplify ideas and practitioners who apply those ideas”).

    In keeping with the spirit of the others, Proposition Six is that culture is generated within networks. Here Hunter begins with what he cites as “the great man (or person) view of history.”

    It is a Hegelian idea of leadership and history, popularized by the nineteenth-century Scottish historian, Thomas Carlyle…For Carlyle, heroes shaped history through the vision of their leadership, the power of their intellect, the beauty and delight of their aesthetic, and animating it all a certain inspiration from above…[from Moses to Jesus to Buddha to Aristotle to Julius Caesar to Napoleon to Aquinas to Luther to Darwin to Freud to Monet and Degas] All form an aristocracy of knowledge, talent, ability, ambition, and virtue, and so endowed have stood like switchmen on the train tracks of history; it is their genius and the genius of other heroic individuals that have guided the evolution of civilization this way or that; for better or for worse.

    The only problem with this perspective is that it is mostly wrong. Against this great-man view of history and culture, I would argue (along with many others) that the key actor in history is not individual genius but rather the network and the new institutions that are created out of those networks. And the more “dense” the network—that is, the more active and interactive the network—the more influential it could be. This is where the stuff of culture and cultural change is produced…My point is simply that charisma and genius and their cultural consequences do not exist outside of networks of similarly oriented people and similarly aligned institutions.

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  5. Then for the simple: as opportunity arises do good to all people, do all for the glory of God ; ps. Some good to brothers is not denying that if we ever do know any ‘good’ it is from the Lord ; and another good is not ever pushing the message that discipleship is not costly.

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  6. Dr. Hart asks:Greg, why would that question follow? Couldn’t Wilberforce oppose the slave trade and not do it in Christ’s name?”
    Yes, he could, and that was the right answer Darryl. Could you or someone else give a concise treatment of how this differs from the passion to save unborn children (for example) in Christ’s name today?
    Another related question.
    Did Wilberforce fight his campaign as an individual ambassador of Christ, or as a representative of the church, or both? Is one possible without the other? Well, that’s 2 questions.
    One more.
    Does this exclude Wilberforce out of hand from holding a 2K view?

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  7. Forgive me. I completely misread you Darryl. I thought you were asking “Couldn’t Wilberforce oppose the slave trade and do it in Christ’s name?”

    My mistake. You may disregard my last comment entirely. No, he couldn’t do that. Not in a manner faithful to scripture.

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  8. Zrim, I am out of ways to convince you that I am anything other than a transformationalist/social justice warrior.

    Nevertheless, I will attempt to prod on. Was there a specific question you had? Unless otherwise specified, I always read everything somebody posts before addressing them, so yes, I read it.

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  9. Zrim, in fairness, some of the more thoughtful transformationalism I encounter would not disagree with this part of what Hunter says “My point is simply that charisma and genius and their cultural consequences do not exist outside of networks of similarly oriented people and similarly aligned institutions.”. But they are not satisfied with Hunter’s ” faithful presence” alternative. I for one can’t see a reasonable, fully scriptural, middle ground, and I think faithful presence is not quietism, but personally I am afraid I come across as minimalist or dystopian all too often. Outside the world of com boxes, this divide is a real issue.

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  10. Greg, the moralism you inject into the question of media and film is the sort of thing transformers do with wider culture, so the suspicion that you’ll eventually come out swinging is justified (“passion to saved the unborn” may be one clue).

    But the only point in quoting Hunter on WIlberforce is that he provides an interpretation that’s smarter than most takes among religionists eager to take credit for what has become popular in the wider cultural ethos (and even tie it in somehow to their pro-life project).

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  11. Dan, neither would mine. But how that squares with the project of transformationalism isn’t obvious. I think they’re simply agreeing with the intelligence. Hunter’s concept of faithful presence isn’t satisfactory to my 2k mind either. But I think his take on 2k is flawed. I think he confuses it with Anabaptism.

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  12. “then forming beekeepers’ associations is OK. If you can earn a living as a teacher, then joining the teachers union is OK, since the Bible does not (as far as I can see) forbid having friends. ”

    This is all well and good, but what happens when your supposedly neutral beekeeper society makes its members agree to affirm gay marriage in pledge or by statement, or the teacher’s unions supports curriculum in the public schools which explicitly states the Bible is myth?

    At first glance the Christian could just quit them, but then do the Christians who quit make a new beekeeper society in which traditional marriage is affirmed? By this very act you have to ask, where does this desire come from and if you want your beekeepers to affirm traditional marriage aren’t you trying to transform culture?

    A third option is that the Christians make a new beekeepers society which says nothing about marriage, but all you are doing then is waiting for the entryists to show up and rewrite the rules as you stand by in fear of transforming anything. Then you quit again, and make another beekeeper society…

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  13. I glad that I am free to partner with my liberal socialist hippie dippie non-believing neighbors to loudly oppose the onslaught of economic colonization by forces who do not participate or live in my local community or have my communities best interest in mind, (forces that are leveraging every political and regulatory opportunity as quietly as possible and spending millions on local marketing etc)…. I would be happy to stand up for truth and justice for my little fallen, broken, community that is passing, away even if it means yelling at my redeemed brother’s who have their fingers in their ears.

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  14. Let’s start with this Zrim. The eternal logos of God did not become flesh and dwell among men to bring social justice and transformation to a pre-apocalyptic church age. I see zero evidence for this in this scriptures. (like literally zero)

    We agree so far right?

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  15. Darryl,

    Couldn’t Wilberforce oppose the slave trade and not do it in Christ’s name?

    But what would Wilberforce say if someone asked him, “Why do you oppose the slave trade?” Would it be wrong to say, “Because I believe it goes against God?” I’m not sure that appealing to common humanity apart from reference to the Bible would have worked so well in his day. Part of the problem was that certain people were considered less than human.

    Just trying to figure out what the justification would be apart from a religious one.

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  16. “Just trying to figure out what the justification would be apart from a religious one.” It would be the same justification behind outlawing murder, kidnapping, assault, etc. Can’t people be opposed to murder because they think it’s good for civil society if people don’t kill each other? If all laws are moral, then I see the necessary appeal to scripture. But if all laws are pragmatic (which they are not currently, but possibly could be), then the appeal is neither necessary nor dishonest.

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  17. Robert, maybe not wrong but maybe not as necessary as you imply. Ever hear of Secularists for Life? The claim is that one need not be religious to conclude what many religionists do about human life, and to listen to them it sure hard to disagree. What they may lack is a particularly Calvinist sense of how pro-lifery might elevate the intrinsic worth of a certain class of human beings and foster a kind of undue natalism, but still.

    http://www.secularprolife.org/

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  18. Zrim says: “Greg, agreed.”
    Ok. Let me ask this then. From my own words that you’ve actually seen me say here and not from the words of others that you assume I must be in league with, where do you feel is our most basic area of disagreement?

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  19. Greg, still waiting for where anybody here ever denied the first article of the creed. You first.

    C-dubs, Kinkade on shrooms.

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  20. Greg, if you don’t know then how will we ever communicate? But I won’t do your homework for you. Back to the topic at hand?

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  21. Zrim, this site is maybe 5% of the time I spend online overall. Not to mention that some rather long and involved threads have and are taking place here. Can I be forgiven please for honestly not knowing exactly what creed or what point you’re referring to?

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  22. “I won’t do your homework for you.” I had a teacher try to pull that on me once, just once. It escalated quickly after that. I mean it really ramped up. Then there was the class before us who decided miss lady needed sugar in her gas tank. And it was not my fault that her baby was hairy like a monkey. I didn’t suggest she pass the picture around. “I won’t interpret your social setting for you.”

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  23. Zrim and Darryl,

    I follow you, but how effective are those things really, particularly in a 18th-19th century context. Did the British Constitution outlaw slavery? If so, why was it legal? A fairly secularized group of founding fathers also produced the Constitution, which allowed slavery. How much traction do exclusively secular arguments have regarding abortion, homosexuality, etc. Not much it seems. Perhaps distinctively Christian arguments don’t anymore either, but its easier to ground human dignity to a Creator-creature model than in a “we’re random evolved blobs of goo” model.

    I don’t know if I have the answers to the questions, but “how about not appealing to the Bible” seems as simplistic as “just keep quoting the Bible to them thar secular progressives.” If I’m a Christian advocating for the overthrow of slavery, I’m doing it because I believe it is consonant with my Christian principles and that slavery, at least as practiced in the American South, isn’t. Seems perhaps disingenuous to pretend that isn’t the case.

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  24. Robert, why can’t it be that simple if you believe it’s a fundamental misuse of the utility of the scriptures? And I think you’re still working the hypothetical, but, what is the Christian principle that’s so surely deduced or a good and necessary consequence of interpreting the scriptures that would lead me to necessarily oppose slavery in this age?

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  25. Robert, but giving up on the sufficiency of natural law and general revelation to do their work just seems weak. And that’s what seems to come through in the demand to ground things explicitly religiously. It’s not that it’s embarrassing or the only alternative to the evolved goo model. It’s that it’s actually (don’t hit me) irreligious to assume that natural law is insufficient to work in creatures made in the imago Dei.

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  26. Sean,

    1. Why can’t it be that simple? Because apart from a Creator there’s no final justification for believing any person has any more worth than I do. Perhaps you could argue from natural law, but I’m not sure how sufficient that is, especially when nobody believes natural law exists.

    Questioner: “Mr. Wilberforce, why are you opposing slavery.”
    Wilberforce: “Because of the Constitution.”
    Q: “But the Constitution allows slavery”
    W: “The Constitution should be changed”
    Q: “Why”
    W: “Because it’s wrong on this point.”
    Q: “Why?”

    Eventually you have to get some kind of transcendent justification that goes beyond your opinion. I’m not sure how you do that apart from religious commitment. Perhaps there is one.

    2. I didn’t say all forms of slavery are necessarily inconsistent with Christianity. I think I can make a good case based on laws against kidnapping in the Torah and some other legislation that the race-based chattel slavery practiced in this country is inconsistent with Christianity. I’m fairly certain that some type of slavery/indentured servitude one enters into based on an inability to pay a debt is consistent with Christianity, though not necessarily the best option.

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  27. Zrim,

    But if you really believe your religious commitment compels you to argue against slavery, for example, do you lie when somebody asks you why you’re opposing slavery and you answer, “My religious commitment plays no role in this, just my generic commitment to a god of some kind and what he says in nature.”

    Perhaps its a misuse of Scripture to argue based on religious convictions, but perhaps its a misuse of natural law to say it is sufficient for making political decisions or governing society. Seems to me that the only thing it is always sufficient for is to condemn us before God. There’s a restraining effect on evil as well, but when a culture denies that natural law exists, how then do you talk to it based on natural law?

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  28. Robert,

    1) can’t I argue for a creator without the appeal to scripture? I mean if you start arguing for rights based on the god of the quran(sp?). I’m gonna tell you it’s not MY book. What about the golden rule argument? Arguments for self-regard? Arguments for other’s regard in anticipation of your own potential current and future needs for the same considerations? I’m not sure I have to have a transcendent creator argument, but if I do, I might want to pass up the sectarianism of my book if I’m making a case, including for myself(even potentially), in a religiously pluralistic situation.

    2) Aren’t we now going to get ourselves tied up in Israelite social norms not intended for common state application? “I will be your God and you will be my people” Pretty exclusive charter and with a definitive NT termination-incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ or even the Gal. 3 timeline, destruction of the temple, etc. IOW, it’s a book meant for the cult. Sure there’s some overlap but now we’re in NL territory. Inside the cult, cultic norms. Outside the cult, NL. A distinction like we see in 1 cor. 5.

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  29. Robert, because the natural law is implanted on every person. They can deny it all they want but that doesn’t make it go away. Besides, if they deny natural law then how far can you really get in appealing to special revelation? Don’t believe there exists an intrinsic law in nature? Oh well, here’s a Bible, that should do it.

    But no need to lie about anything. I’m just saying it may take longer to get to a religious reason, if we’re trying to make a case from our shared natural law templates. Again, what do you think is really going to happen though once we get there? Unbeliever says why shouldn’t one human being own another, and I say because that’s not how God created us. What’s he going to say, Oh, well, I guess that settles it, thanks Mr. Religion, you win? Seriously, what do you think an appeal to God with an unbeliever is going to accomplish?

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  30. Zrim and Sean, can you clarify, which, or all, or none, of the following you are arguing:
    1. Are you making an argument that Scripture is not clear that slavery, as practiced in the U.S. in yesteryear, was immoral?
    2. Or, are you making a pragmatic argument that a Christian does not help the anti-slavery cause by invoking the Bible, because the Bible is not helpful/effective in changing anyone’s mind? That is, you’re saying it’s more effective to appeal to natural law as an argument?
    3. Or, are you making an argument that a Christian in the public square simply should NOT appeal to Scripture as a reason for his anti-slavery views? That is, the Christian should keep the source of his views, if derived from Scripture, private from the public.

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  31. Petros, I’m more on your ‘3’ but not actually because I’m here. But also, I’m kinda sorta making a case(haphazardly) that this is a misuse-confusion of kingdoms utilization of scripture. Then there’s the pragmatic angle of an actual engagement and how this would work out-the last part of Zrim’s response to Robert. It also doesn’t have to be slavery, it could be taxes. I’m gonna have the same concerns.

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  32. Petros ASKS
    All of which makes results rather than obedience the goal. Look at what you wrote. All of it assumes that the pursuit of certain outcomes are a predetermined given and all that’s left is to figure out how best to reach them. That is pure humanistic pragmatism sir. Though I’m pretty sure it’s not what you intend.

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  33. Greg, yikes. Yes, please, would you look at what I wrote. I was merely asking questions of Zrim and Sean to better understand what they were arguing for (or against), in attempt to sharpen my own understanding of 2K.

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  34. Zrim,

    Robert, because the natural law is implanted on every person. They can deny it all they want but that doesn’t make it go away. Besides, if they deny natural law then how far can you really get in appealing to special revelation? Don’t believe there exists an intrinsic law in nature? Oh well, here’s a Bible, that should do it.

    Not far, of course. But I concede that. But I’m also not advocating for a theocracy necessarily. I just don’t know if natural law is sufficient to govern a state. It’s worked more or less in the West because the assumed natural law has been basically a shared commitment to watered down Christianity. Where else has government based on natural law actually worked? And since no one except maybe Clarence Thomas argues based on natural law anymore, what then?

    But no need to lie about anything. I’m just saying it may take longer to get to a religious reason, if we’re trying to make a case from our shared natural law templates.

    Okay. That is reasonable and basically would advocate it myself.

    Again, what do you think is really going to happen though once we get there? Unbeliever says why shouldn’t one human being own another, and I say because that’s not how God created us. What’s he going to say, Oh, well, I guess that settles it, thanks Mr. Religion, you win? Seriously, what do you think an appeal to God with an unbeliever is going to accomplish?

    Nothing apart from the Holy Spirit. In civil society, though, how does it hold together apart from a common worldview. I know you don’t like the word, but if nobody can agree on what natural law is and what it contains, how sufficient is it going to be?

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  35. Sean,

    Aren’t we now going to get ourselves tied up in Israelite social norms not intended for common state application? “I will be your God and you will be my people” Pretty exclusive charter and with a definitive NT termination-incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ or even the Gal. 3 timeline, destruction of the temple, etc. IOW, it’s a book meant for the cult. Sure there’s some overlap but now we’re in NL territory. Inside the cult, cultic norms. Outside the cult, NL. A distinction like we see in 1 cor. 5.

    Except that Paul didn’t seem to think that being a slaveowner was necessarily incompatible with being a Christian. Which is why I said it depends on the type of slavery.

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  36. Petros, 2-ish. Appealing to the Bible in the public square is fine, but how it’s going to persuade anyone not even convinced that there is an intrinsic natural law isn’t obvious. If someone denies that natural law teaches that men only go with women, is pulling out the Bible to make the point going to work? Stick with what everybody knows by nature.

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  37. I just don’t know if natural law is sufficient to govern a state.

    Robert, if it’s sufficient to condemn eternally (Romans 1), why not sufficient to govern provisionally?

    It’s worked more or less in the West because the assumed natural law has been basically a shared commitment to watered down Christianity.

    So how do you explain the success of Pilate’s Rome which was devoid of any form of Christianity? What does “worked” mean anyway? Plenty of ancient societies did right well and still do without any kind of Christianity. Look at Babylon and Egypt. But my guess is “worked” betrays some degree of 21stC bias. Hey, I love America as much as the next guy, but more because it”s mine than it “works.”

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  38. Zrim says: “Robert, if it’s sufficient to condemn eternally (Romans 1), why not sufficient to govern provisionally?”
    Romans 1 is natural revelation. Not natural law. There is an immense difference.

    There’s that pragmatism again. It doesn’t make any difference what “works”. What’s commanded is what matters.

    One of my all time heroes of the faith, the prophet Jeremiah, is my inspiration. I am no Jeremiah,(I wonder how many times I’ll have to repeat that after this?) but he is an awesome model of the faithful man of God. He preached 40 years to a whoring backslidden Israel and nobody listened. We find him in the book of Lamentations, weeping as he watches his beloved Jerusalem burn under the judgement of a covenant keeping God.

    He measured his success by his obedience. Not results. The results driven ministry is a modern Americanism. Born in the boardroom, not in the kingdom of God.

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  39. Zrim,

    Robert, if it’s sufficient to condemn eternally (Romans 1), why not sufficient to govern provisionally?

    Because I don’t know where Scripture says it is sufficient to govern provisionally.

    So how do you explain the success of Pilate’s Rome which was devoid of any form of Christianity? What does “worked” mean anyway? Plenty of ancient societies did right well and still do without any kind of Christianity. Look at Babylon and Egypt. But my guess is “worked” betrays some degree of 21stC bias.

    None of those societies were known for seeking “liberty and justice for all.” Of course the West hasn’t been perfect, but the interesting thing is that in America’s best days, she’s reformed herself from within. Look at the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. Led by people who professedly adopted a biblical worldview (there’s that bad word again). The abolitionist movement certainly didn’t advance by appealing to the existing Constitution; they had to change it to free the slaves and even to get the slaves recognized as people.

    I know it cuts both ways—lots of people with a professed biblical worldview have done bad things politically and elsewhere. I get that the Bible isn’t sufficient to govern a state in the new covenant era. It wasn’t intended for that anyway. But you have the same problems with natural law; some people who profess it do it “well.” Some don’t.

    As for a society that “works,” how about we just do the basics of Romans 13 and a state that punishes evildoers. Ask the peasants in those ancient societies how well the state protected them from evil emperors and others who exploit the system to oppress others.

    Hey, I love America as much as the next guy, but more because it”s mine than it “works.”

    We all have a nationalistic bias for our homeland I suppose.

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  40. Petros, are you saying that slavery as practiced by ancients was good, but not the kind practiced by the South? So polygamy by Soloman was fine, but Joseph Smith not so much. You’re drawing a line depending on where you stand.

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  41. Robert, do you really think the abolitionists were distinguishing among acceptable and unacceptable forms of slavery? In a nation committed to autonomous rational selves, we’re going to make room for the way the Israelites practiced slavery?

    Do you hear yourself?

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  42. jetstar, so now it’s a beekeeper corporation?

    So if unbelievers will eventually take over all organizations, then the solution is what? Theonomy?

    Step up.

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  43. Darryl,

    Robert, aren’t you assuming the Bible is opposed to slavery? Then what do you do with “I am a slave of Christ”?

    No, which is why I said above that the some forms of slavery are compatible with biblical teaching.

    Robert, do you really think the abolitionists were distinguishing among acceptable and unacceptable forms of slavery?

    Probably not. But they weren’t dealing with indentured servitude or slavery to pay off a debt, so why would they. Maybe if that is all U.S. slavery was and if slaves who entered slavery to pay off debt could buy their freedom, there would not have been an abolition movement. I don’t know. Slavery in the U.S. was based on kidnapping, breaking up families, and racism. Those are the main reasons why it was wrong.

    In a nation committed to autonomous rational selves, we’re going to make room for the way the Israelites practiced slavery?

    Do you hear yourself?

    We can distinguish between what is biblically acceptable and what is the wisest course of action. I don’t think indentured servitude is necessarily a good option, and I believe that slavery in the OT was largely a divine accommodation. Free all the slaves and you have economic chaos and people starve.

    All I’m saying is that there is a biblical case to be made to oppose the kind of race-based chattel slavery in the American South, and that was based on a discussion I was having with Sean. I think there’s a biblical case for indentured servitude, but not a biblical mandate for it.

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  44. Robert, sorry but your sounding a bit Baptist. Where’s the Bible say to natural law is sufficient to govern natural life/command we baptize our kids? But you don’t agree with the basic 2k principle that where the Bible is the rule for ecclesiastical life, general revelation rules general life?

    You’re also sounding a little pat about how to measure society by using a line from a pledge created by 20thc America for children to recite before school starts, “liberty and justice for all.” And if you think abolition and Civil Rights owes to Christians even more pat. Societal changes are much more complex than what Christians like to tell themselves in order to believe that the celebrated phenomenon in our shared society is our credit and everything bad owes to the non-Christians.

    Romans 13 isn’t a prescription for civil rulers, it’s a prescription for believers.

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  45. “In other words, redeeming culture or doing things Christianly may inspire, but the claims bite off more than the claimants can chew — namely, invoking Christianity brings norms that believers seldom apply to the variety of callings in which they find themselves.”

    The point that the notion of “redeeming culture” involves biting off more than the claimants can chew can be seen in contemporary Christian music (CCM). While CCM’s original goals included using Christian music to bear witness to Christ and to provide a Christian alternative to godless rock music, in my opinion much of CCM is dominated by second-rate musicians producing inferior music dominated by shallow, man-centered lyrics which are almost always thoroughly Arminian-revivalist-decisionalist in orientation.

    Instead of “redeeming” the world of rock music, CCM as a whole offers low quality musicianship that merely imitate’s the world’s music. It has been a trojan horse bringing the shallow, man-centered world of rock music into the church’s liturgy, and in the process it has seriously blurred the lines between cult and culture.

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  46. Robert, that’s a pretty big jump from Paul not necessarily saying a type of slavery was incompatible to affirming a form among options. That seems to be a bit tortured(no pun).

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  47. Thanks, guys. Just trying to learn here. The votes have been counted so far in on my survey.

    DGH votes for #1, that the Bible is not clear, per se, that slavery as practiced in the U.S. was not immoral.

    Zrim votes for #2-ish, taking the pragmatic approach that says appealing to natural law is a more efficacious way of influencing people in the public square than an appeal to Scripture would be.

    Sean votes for #3, adopting the view that Christians should keep their understanding of the Bible private to themselves, and not mention Scripture as a basis for their views in the public square, lest someone confuse the spiritual kingdom with the earthly.

    Any of you are welcome to further clarify, or re-state your views in your own words.

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  48. Hart, only three question marks? (1) Am I disappointed? (2) I suppose I must be, right? (3)

    Yes, they will eventually take over all organizations which are not explicitly committed to small “t” truth which of course is based in large “T” Truth. No man, or organization of any type can serve two masters.

    Straight to theonomy? (4) It isn’t binary and it’s not either goose-stepping Christians with armbands and crosses, or the Amish.

    I’ve seen you throw out “theonomy” and “immanentize the eschaton” at leisure when someone doesn’t agree with your specific 2K view. This is something like screeching “police state” whenever someone points out an increase in criminal activity or calls for a few more patrol cars in an area.

    I await your question marks.

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  49. Zrim,

    Robert, sorry but your sounding a bit Baptist. Where’s the Bible say to natural law is sufficient to govern natural life/command we baptize our kids? But you don’t agree with the basic 2k principle that where the Bible is the rule for ecclesiastical life, general revelation rules general life?

    God forbid that I should ever sound Baptist. Where is it by good and necessary consequence that natural law is sufficient to govern “natural life.”

    My basic position is that God has given a command for His creation, all creatures are responsible to obey it. All creatures are commanded to believe the gospel. That doesn’t mean the state preaches the gospel or enacts church discipline.

    But if God has given commands for all creation, where do we find them? That’s the question. And the simple answer I can give is that they are found both in Scripture and in natural law/natural revelation. It’s not completely self-evident from natural law that it’s wrong to slaughter millions of people in Stalinist Russia, particularly when the same people use “natural law” to define certain persons as not true persons. The Eugenics movement was pretty well convinced by the natural order that blacks weren’t really persons.

    The problem is that natural law is so vague. Yeah, I can enumerate certain parameters of it, but I do that by reading the Bible. And so do you. So what you are actually calling for is for society to be governed by natural law according to what the Bible says natural law is.

    You’re also sounding a little pat about how to measure society by using a line from a pledge created by 20thc America for children to recite before school starts, “liberty and justice for all.”

    Not my intent. But surely the line reflects the understanding that the Constitution, once you add the proper amendments, promises justice and liberty insofar as they are defined by the society for all. Hello 150 years of U.S. jurisprudence.

    But in any case, I can again point to Scripture even in the New Testament and by good and necessary consequence deduce that God just might be a little happier with a republic in some ways than with a Stalinist regime that murders people left and right. Not to say that America is perfect or has done perfectly, so don’t read it that way.

    And if you think abolition and Civil Rights owes to Christians even more pat. Societal changes are much more complex than what Christians like to tell themselves in order to believe that the celebrated phenomenon in our shared society is our credit and everything bad owes to the non-Christians.

    Not my intent either. But you also cannot deny that these movements were led in many cases by Christians who were animated by Christian/biblical concerns and who appealed to Scripture for their cases, which case was often effective because the populace had some kind of general respect for the Bible. Whether such could be done today effectively may be a different matter. But again, it’s one thing to say that the church can speak to a political issue but it may not be wise to do so and another to say the church is forbidden by God from ever having a political opinion.

    Romans 13 isn’t a prescription for civil rulers, it’s a prescription for believers.

    Sorry, you can’t separate those things absolutely. The passage tells us to honor our rulers because they are God’s instrument to punish evildoers. What is its counsel for when the state is the evildoer? And yes I know all states do evil, but let’s just focus on the flagrant evils since that’s what God what judged Israel and ancient empires for—you know, the murder of infants, genocide, etc.

    The gloss on Romans 13 around here sometimes sounds like: If the state is committing horrific evil, the church should shut up about it. I’m not sure the text is saying that. Romans 13 isn’t all that the Bible has to say about government and it presupposes a government that was mostly tolerant of Christians. What would Paul have written if Romans was written during Nero’s persecution? I don’t know, but I do know that there’s lots else that Scripture has to say about the responsibilities of leaders of even the pagan nations (re: non-covenant communities) and how the covenant community is to behave under such circumstances.

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  50. Darryl, Zrim, Sean,

    All that being said. I believe that 2K is an important corrective to much of what the church has wrong politically. My problem is that I see you guys making applications that seem no less simplistic than the theonomists. But I value the conversation. These are very complex matters and none of us should be making them simpler than they are.

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  51. Geoff has just inadvertently steered us directly into another glaring example of everything that’s wrong with the church in America today. Especially among those best equipped to know better.

    Geoff, your entire view of music is based upon YOU. What you like and what you want. Show me one example in the bible of music for music’s sake please. Music in the scriptures among the people of God is always for the explicit worship of YHWH and the direct edification of the saints. The book of the Psalms is most obvious, with the tetragrammaton occurring 704 times. The Jews sang to the Lord after their miraculous traversing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15) and the song of Moses (Deut. 32) are other examples. Of course the book of the Revelation follows this pattern too.

    Paul directly affirms this in Ephesians 5:19, telling that church to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with their heart to the Lord; (Colossians 3:16 too)

    Nowhere do we find the saints making music for the world, OR “redeeming” the world’s music for the sake it. That is pure fantasy, pulled out of thin air by people like Francis Scheaffer attempting to put God onboard with their world loving agenda.

    Music is yet another example of the idolatrous exaltation of the great and mighty gods of art, entertainment and culture within the church. Men like Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart will pay with their eternal souls for their refusal to use their gifts to the glory of the God who gave them. Their magnificent musicianship will not be celebrated at the judgment like you are celebrating it now.

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  52. And #4 Petros: 4. If you were to ‘invoke Christianity’ you would ‘bring norms that believers seldom apply to their callings’…. And so out would go ”Christian liberty’; you know, that freedom to do what you want, as situations warrant and also to be incognito- Jesus having died so one could be very comfortable and fit in with the world wherever one finds oneself

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  53. But if God has given commands for all creation, where do we find them? That’s the question. And the simple answer I can give is that they are found both in Scripture and in natural law/natural revelation. It’s not completely self-evident from natural law that it’s wrong to slaughter millions of people in Stalinist Russia, particularly when the same people use “natural law” to define certain persons as not true persons. The Eugenics movement was pretty well convinced by the natural order that blacks weren’t really persons.

    Robert, but have you ever heard of getting something wrong? Just because someone doesn’t understand physics doesn’t mean that it’s physics’ fault. It’s a problem that lies within the reader. So to use natural law as a justification for violating it doesn’t really prove much, other than Paul right when he says that sinners suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It is in fact self-evident from natural law that it’s wrong to slaughter innocents—the Code of Hammurabi reveals this without any help from the Jews and the Law of Moses.

    The problem is that natural law is so vague. Yeah, I can enumerate certain parameters of it, but I do that by reading the Bible. And so do you. So what you are actually calling for is for society to be governed by natural law according to what the Bible says natural law is.

    Natural law is too vague? So the problem is within that book God wrote and not so much within the (sinful) reader? If the fool is said to look at creation and conclude there is no God, I worry this kind of sentiment borders on foolishness. The Bible need not come to natural revelation’s rescue on natural life. This is too low a view of the book God wrote. Like the Belgic says: “We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse.”

    But Romans was written during Nero, so it doesn’t “presuppose a government that was mostly tolerant of Christians” because Nero was hardly a tolerator of Christians. Paul wasn’t writing to civil powers but to believers under them who were being persecuted and to exhort them to not respond in a worldly way. If you’re saying they weren’t being persecuted then what was the point of writing what he did? “Obey those who tolerate you and treat you well and rule rightly, etc.” is about as useless as “love those who love you.” Tell me something I DON’T know. No civil power tolerated Christians until Constantine, well after the canon closed. So the point remains.

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  54. JetStar: “Straight to theonomy? (4) It isn’t binary and it’s not either goose-stepping Christians with armbands and crosses, or the Amish. “
    I’ve been trying to tell him that for a long time, but he doesn’t wanna hear it. The word “balance” is usually a pious sounding synonym for compromise, but sometimes you actually need some. This is one of those times. These guys can’t get it through their heads that there is an alternative to both their neo-gnostic 2K extremism and these hippified millennials with their tie dyed Jesus out trying to transform the world. (Or theonomy)

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  55. Petros, that’s not quite how I’d categorize my view. There’s lots of overlap, but I want to focus on the particularity of scripture as redemptive history and it’s use for cultic norming. This is privileged status. We seem to often start off on the wrong foot, even as reformed, with trying to force it to answer questions and opportunities with which it doesn’t particularly concern itself. What if it wasn’t intended to speak to everything? What if it was even more selective, in that, it didn’t have application to you(you had no right to it’s exhortations or promises) outside of covenant membership?

    It seems to me that when we make it answer questions for which it wasn’t given, we lose it’s effect/answers for which it was given to address. ‘you search the scriptures for you think that in doing so you have eternal life, but it’s those that speak of me’. IOW, you can be all about the bible and lose the plot. In fact, I’d say that it happens more often than not.

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  56. Sean, I could agree with just about everything you said with the qualification of the separation of categories being the morally charged and the morally indifferent. The bible speaks to every area and circumstance of life wherein a command of God can be either violated or upheld and leaves the rest to us.

    God doesn’t care what kind of car we drive, but He does care what we don’t spend beyond our means and that we don’t intentionally run anybody over with it.

    The bible speaks to a whole lot more than you’d like to believe and a whole lot less thanTim Keller would like to believe.

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  57. Robert, how could there be a biblical case against a practice unknown to the biblical writers? Technically speaking, the Bible does not condemn pornography. It does condemn lust. Therefore we conclude that the Bible condemns pornography.

    But when it comes to owning human beings labor, being racist or ethnocentric, or breaking up families (think of Ruth), it’s hard to find the OT precedent against such practices.

    So if we oppose the South’s slavery, as I do, we do need a rationale more generically human or enlightened than biblical. And I’m okay with that. But people like Frederick Douglass said that if the Bible didn’t condemn slavery, then get rid of the Bible.

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  58. Sean: lose the plot
    Amen. Harlotry and prostitution destroyed (Rev 19). Only pure and simple devotion to the Lord remaining (2 Cor 11:2-3)

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  59. God doesn’t care what kind of car we drive…

    What?! God is NEUTRAL on something that falls within a sphere of life?! You Gnostic extreme God hating heretic!!!!!!!!!!!

    How’s that medicine taste, Greg?

    But how about this: God does care what kind of car we drive but just doesn’t choose to reveal it. Every hair on our head but secret will stuff.

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  60. Robert, please explain why 2k is simplistic (at times). Please instruct.

    Is it simplistic to say that life is fallen and we live with all sorts of compromises all the time unless we try to play the second person of the Trinity at the last day when we separate the goats from the sheep. I don’t see how living with sinners and unbelievers is simplistic.

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  61. Petros, in fact, the Bible is clear that the Israelites had slaves, Jesus never condemned slavery (though surrounded by it) and Paul told Onesimus (a slave) to go back to his master.

    This doesn’t mean that I favor slavery. I affirm the second amendment but don’t want to carry a gun or have one in the house.

    I am simply eager for opponents of slavery to be clear about the wickedness of what they oppose. To distinguish good forms of slavery (as in the Bible) from bad forms (Southern) is so laughable as to cause me — well — to laugh. As if opponents of slavery would be good with owning a slave for 49 years and then letting them go.

    I also want the opponents of slavery to grapple with Paul calling himself positively a slave of Christ. If Christ owns and is Lord of every square inch, that slavery doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. So the point is that benign despotism is good? Tell that to the Tea Party.

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  62. Zrim says: “What?! God is NEUTRAL on something that falls within a sphere of life?! You Gnostic extreme God hating heretic!!!!!!!!!!!
    How’s that medicine taste, Greg?

    Even some of your homies are gonna face palm this one Zrim. Probably even Darryl.

    Zrim says: “But how about this: God does care what kind of car we drive but just doesn’t choose to reveal it. Every hair on our head but secret will stuff.
    Zrim, how is it possible that you do not see the arbitrary and haphazard way you stir distinct areas of thought into one another?

    No more fundamental difference exists than that between God’s secret providence and His revealed will.

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  63. Hart, I don’t have to have all of the solutions to point out the problems.

    But I do love your rhetoric here of muddying the water that I have a Christian society in mind and it’s probably not any different than a theonomy . It’s a clever tactic to make it appear that your interlocutors support the nebulous, undefined, evil theonomy and make them have to defend something they’ve never said.

    It’s not the first time you’ve pulled this stunt and I fell for it one time so I do understand why you keep going back to it.

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  64. Greg are you the official arbiter of what you think I believe and what Keller believes? I’ve been looking for someone to figure that out.

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  65. Greg, maybe because I’m blind? But if there is such a difference why would you say God doesn’t care about something that falls within the span of my ordinary life? Because you were speaking loosely. So why do we get pummeled for using language fluidly but it’s fine for you? That was actually the point. Why can’t you see that? More medicine.

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  66. “I don’t have to have all of the solutions” != “But you don’t stand for anything”.

    This sort of thing is why I come here.

    Nice slight of hand again, but no dice. I’m not playing your game, which is someone offers a specific and then you go to the question mark bin and throw a dozen in a shotgun pattern to muddy everything. While people dance your jig in some sort of dialectic you dance around them in rhetoric question marks.

    Even back then you immediately tried to equate “a nice town, good laws and neighbors” to the New Jerusalem with me having to renounce it in all of its works and all of its ways. Like I said, clever, you got me good.

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  67. zrim says: “Greg, maybe because I’m blind? But if there is such a difference why would you say God doesn’t care about something that falls within the span of my ordinary life? Because you were speaking loosely. So why do we get pummeled for using language fluidly but it’s fine for you? That was actually the point. Why can’t you see that? More medicine.”
    No offense Zrim, but you don’t make a good doctor. You are attempting to treat me for an infirmity, the symptoms of which I have not exhibited.

    If it’s ok with you, can we try this again?
    “Ok. Let me ask this then. From my own words that you’ve actually seen me say here and not from the words of others that you assume I must be in league with, where do you feel is our most basic area of disagreement?

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  68. Zrim,

    It is in fact self-evident from natural law that it’s wrong to slaughter innocents—the Code of Hammurabi reveals this without any help from the Jews and the Law of Moses.

    But is it self-evident as to who the identity of the innocents are? Ancient Romans didn’t think it was wrong to leave babies out in the woods to die. This is the issue. Sure natural law says its wrong to unjustly take an innocent life, but where does natural law identify the innocent person.

    Natural law is too vague? So the problem is within that book God wrote and not so much within the (sinful) reader?

    It’s not a problem for the book if God did not intend it to be the sole guide for “natural life,” whatever that means.

    If the fool is said to look at creation and conclude there is no God, I worry this kind of sentiment borders on foolishness. The Bible need not come to natural revelation’s rescue on natural life. This is too low a view of the book God wrote. Like the Belgic says: “We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse.”

    All you are showing is that natural law is sufficient to condemn people. I’ve yet to see where natural law is proffered as sufficient for natural life, whatever that means.

    But Romans was written during Nero, so it doesn’t “presuppose a government that was mostly tolerant of Christians” because Nero was hardly a tolerator of Christians.

    Romans was written before Nero started persecuting Christians. Persecution is mid 60s or so. Romans is written late 50s.

    No civil power tolerated Christians until Constantine, well after the canon closed. So the point remains.

    I’m using tolerated in the sense of ignored. Up until the end of the first century, Christians were mostly ignored by the authorities. They thought they were Jews, who practiced a legal religion. Even in cases where persecution did happen, it was very limited in scope. Christians weren’t really on the radar until Nero blamed them for burning Rome down, AFTER Paul wrote Romans.

    Paul wasn’t writing to civil powers but to believers under them who were being persecuted and to exhort them to not respond in a worldly way. If you’re saying they weren’t being persecuted then what was the point of writing what he did? “Obey those who tolerate you and treat you well and rule rightly, etc.” is about as useless as “love those who love you.” Tell me something I DON’T know.

    Yes Paul was writing to believers. But Paul says “Rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad.” Paul would not have said that if the Roman Church was being persecuted for worshipping Christ, because if anything is good conduct, that is it. I also can’t recall any commentator who said the church at Rome was being persecuted when Paul wrote Romans. Perhaps I’m wrong on that, and I welcome correction from anyone who knows better than I.

    So what’s the point of the injunctions to obey? Well for one, even if Rome wasn’t persecuting Christians, one could not exactly be sure they weren’t doing other unsavory things. So should Christians pay taxes? It’s a bit like asking whether Christians should buy meat sacrificed to idols. You are going to have Christians concerned about whether they are sinning if their tax dollars are used for unsavory things.

    You also have Christians talking about their first allegiance to King Jesus. If I’m a Christian I want to know if having Jesus as my king means I can break the laws of earthly kings.

    There may be other reasons, but those are two I think of right off the bat.

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  69. Darryl,

    Robert, please explain why 2k is simplistic (at times). Please instruct.

    How about the whole, “Because of 2K, a preacher is wrong to call wicked a position in the Democrat party platform that calls for no objections to abortion at all, and we should all pay for it.” I paraphrase. But that’s the sense I get here sometimes.

    Is it simplistic to say that life is fallen and we live with all sorts of compromises all the time unless we try to play the second person of the Trinity at the last day when we separate the goats from the sheep. I don’t see how living with sinners and unbelievers is simplistic.

    And you are exactly right about this, which is why I appreciate a lot of what you have to say on the subject.

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  70. Thanks. Fair points made by DGH, Zrim, and Sean, that are worth wrestling with. Robert’s perspective is solid, though.

    It seems somewhat clear to me, though, that, one can infer that the weight of Scripture would be contra-slavery, not merely one of “allowing” it. The Israelites own bondage in Egypt is referred to as “cruel”, and God self-identifies as the one who brought them up out of bondage. If, as Sean reminds us, the idea is not to lose the plot of the Bible, it seems that it’d be hard to tell the world that God only wants to save someone’s spirit from its sinful bondage, but that God doesn’t give a rip about them being in literal physical bondage.

    DGH, re: “I also want the opponents of slavery to grapple with Paul calling himself positively a slave of Christ.” Can you clarify what Christ-as-slaveowner-of-Paul has to do with men being slaveowners of other men?

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  71. Petros, who said God doesn’t give a rip about folks literal physical bondage? He hasn’t promised that this life doesn’t suck. And if I’m going the route of the weight of scripture(I don’t know why I’d go this route, but I’ll play along) I’d say that God is for slavery in certain situations(at least implicitly-he gives directions for how and why) but, now, I’ve just taken the acovenantal, ashistorical approach I have learned to despise, because it’s the wrong way to read scripture. The bible isn’t all that interested in fleshing out the details(outside of theocratic Israel) of how we should carry on in the civil realm, except for obedience and prayers for peace and civic leaders. As has been noted, Rom 13 is directed at us-covenant folk.

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  72. But is it self-evident as to who the identity of the innocents are? Ancient Romans didn’t think it was wrong to leave babies out in the woods to die. This is the issue. Sure natural law says its wrong to unjustly take an innocent life, but where does natural law identify the innocent person.

    Robert, just because this was a phenomena in pagan Roman history it doesn’t mean pagans didn’t know it was wrong. Again, Secularists for Life. In 100 years from now, if someone points to American jurisprudence on abortion, is it fair to say that American pagans had no conception of who the innocents were? If our pagans know who the so-called innocents are, how can you say ancient Rome’s didn’t? In which case, it’s not that hard for pagans to figure out the who’s. Your protest here seems trifling.

    All you are showing is that natural law is sufficient to condemn people. I’ve yet to see where natural law is proffered as sufficient for natural life, whatever that means.

    Well, I’ve yet to see how the Bible is needed to buttress natural life. There are plenty of instances in human history of perfect pagans able to govern society just as well more or less as any society with Christian influences. But what you miss is that eternity is higher stakes than temporality, and if natural law is sufficient to condemn eternally then how can it not be said to sufficiently govern provisional life where the stakes are lower? Why does it seem like your protest is a function of making more of temporal life than is warranted? What are you worried about? What’s to lose by letting general revelation govern general life?

    Yes Paul was writing to believers. But Paul says “Rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad.” Paul would not have said that if the Roman Church was being persecuted for worshiping Christ, because if anything is good conduct, that is it… So what’s the point of the injunctions to obey? Well for one, even if Rome wasn’t persecuting Christians, one could not exactly be sure they weren’t doing other unsavory things. So should Christians pay taxes?

    If worshiping Christ is the height of good works (true) and if rulers are no terror to those who do the highest good, then what to make of those rulers that persecute for worshiping Christ, which happens? My point is that it’s hard to imagine that Paul was saying as long as you worship Christ you can count on not being persecuted. More likely is that they were in fact experiencing some form of persecution and were tempted to retaliate or disobey. You bring up taxes. When they were amazed in Mark 12 for paying Caesar his due, it’s not because they’re being told to pay their bills on time (who gasps at what they already know?) but because they expected a teaching that promoted insurrection against the occupying pagans. Instead, the teaching is submit and render. The point is that in both instances the plain interpretation is that the hearers are being told to do something they don’t already expect in the context of oppression—pay and render in Mark 12, submit and obey in Romans 13.

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  73. How about the whole, “Because of 2K, a preacher is wrong to call wicked a position in the Democrat party platform that calls for no objections to abortion at all, and we should all pay for it.” I paraphrase. But that’s the sense I get here sometimes.

    Robert, what 2k tries to do is distinguish between the moral and political, which means it’s one thing to teach what Christian Jane may do with that unwanted lump in her belly (moral, no liberty), quite another to tell her how she may or may not vote (political, liberty).

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  74. Robert, thanks. I think both pro-life and pro-choice positions are simplistic. All the more reason for pastors who know nothing about policy or law to stay away and preach the word.

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  75. Petros, well, if man is created in the image of God, perhaps you could argue that human slavery is an image of bondage to Christ (just as capital punishment is an image of judgment day). In other words, how can slavery be inherently wicked if it describes in some sense a believer’s relationship to Christ?

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  76. Sean, re: “who said God doesn’t give a rip about folks literal physical bondage?”. That would be you. Not that you used those literal words, of course, but as you say, after all, “The bible isn’t all that interested in fleshing out the details”, and apparently, the institution of slavery in society is a detail. For that matter, for the covenant-folk, DGH would add that “Paul told Onesimus (a slave) to go back to his master”. So, maybe slavery is ok within the church, too, even if DGH or others may not prefer it.

    Part of the anachronistic aspect of this discussion, it seems, is that at least in the U.S., it was within the political power/ability of Christian citizens to bring anti-slavery pressure to bear on the magistrate, whereas that was not the case in Paul’s day. This reality doesn’t have to be a rallying cry that the church should always be politically active and utterly abandon its rightful heavenly concerns. It only means, perhaps, that on clear moral issues involving the dignity of life (slavery, abortion), that it behooves Christians to exercise their influencing ability on the magistrate, and not merely “submit and obey”.

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  77. Petros, who’s being anachronistic? I would guess we all like our view this side of history. Still doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate use of scripture or an inaccurate assessment of God’s providence this side of the fall. I thought I recall Jesus uttering that ‘this life is difficult’. And the psalmists and wisdom writers have done quite a bit of bemoaning this life. But, what’s clear on moral issues hasn’t always been so clear, how do you know you got it right? I think I remember reading no one less than Carl Henry thought the abortion issue was a difficult one and complex. He may have even mentioned refraining from dogmaticism about it(not sure about that last part). I have to say, with a baby on the way, I’m pretty possessive of who has what say over what my wife and I can or can’t do as regards our child. I struggle bending the knee to God(sin) nevermind political activists or politicians(very ‘merican of me)

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  78. Sean, re: “who’s being anachronistic?” That would be you, again. In this thread and elsewhere, a fair bit of weight is placed on Romans 13 and how Jesus/Paul were not exemplars of political activism, and all that happened ~2100 yrs ago.

    That “life is difficult” is certainly true. I’m not sure that “difficult” fully captures the human indignity of slavery in the U.S., however. While 2k thinking has its merits, it falls flat in its insistence that if Christians happen to have the wherewithal to influence a magistrate to ban slavery, that it’s incumbent upon Christians to sit tight and do nothing, and merely submit and obey the status quo, lest, egads, Christians get accused of confusing the spiritual with the earthly kingdom. If that doesn’t reflect your (or others) views, my apologies. But, you can at least be aware that every time this subject comes up, you guys get lots of blowback, because you leave that impression.

    Having said that, I do appreciate the ways that DGH and OL cause me to THINK.

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  79. Petros, 2k doesn’t argue that Christians can’t be politically active. However, It does remind the church to keep to it’s own area of expertise(amongst other things). I won’t be hanging around for any preacher or session or presbytery telling me how to vote or how activist to be or what to be activist about(liberty). And, yes, it is egads. If we’re gonna err(if we want to talk this way about it), better to nail the spiritual and maybe miss a few on the temporal side than the other way around. IOW, do your job(not you, but rhetorically) and don’t worry about who I pulled the lever for and why. Preach the word and administer the sacraments and it’s enough to do that well, it’s in short supply. Btw, you’re anachronistic.

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  80. It only means, perhaps, that on clear moral issues involving the dignity of life (slavery, abortion), that it behooves Christians to exercise their influencing ability on the magistrate, and not merely “submit and obey”.

    Petros, the world is chock full of things with clear moral issues involved. You realize that if you apply this reasoning consistently that the projects will never end for Christians? Not just that but how would this affect the face of Christianity, i.e. it’s apparently all about pressing the powers that be on this moral issue and that one, not the reconciliation of God to sinners? Or is it that the church is only supposed to be consumed with a couple of their fav-o-rite issues?

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  81. While 2k thinking has its merits, it falls flat in its insistence that if Christians happen to have the wherewithal to influence a magistrate to ban slavery, that it’s incumbent upon Christians to sit tight and do nothing, and merely submit and obey the status quo, lest, egads, Christians get accused of confusing the spiritual with the earthly kingdom.

    @Petros I don’t think this is a fair rendering of the 2K position – at least as I understand it. I would say that Christians are free to sit tight or agitate. In fact, on political questions, it is almost always possible to find that a Christian could be on either side of the issue without sinning.

    Take abortion – one believer may conclude that the killing of unborn babies is something the state should use its power to do something about and work to pass a law that would require the state to treat an unborn baby the exact same way as a born one – so that a pregnant woman contacting to have an abortion would be treated the same way as a disgruntled spouse ordering a hit on their significant other. Another believer, may think that this is politically impractical and that the most effective way to save lives is to simply threaten the medical licenses of doctors who perform abortions. Yet another believer concludes that outlawing abortions would be as effective as outlawing marijuana and that all such a ban would do would be to move abortion to the blackmarket making it harder to reach out to women tempted to terminate their pregnancy. So perhaps they favor things like required sonograms and waiting periods, but balk at laws banning abortion. And finally another believer see that there is no consensus about the personhood of a fetus and thinks that the state should keep its nose out of this issue entirely as we believers have not warrant for imposing our views of morality on nonbelievers (looking at what Paul says to believers about not judging the sexually immoral outside of the church). Now one might argue with the prudence of any of these five positions, but it is hard for me to see how any of these views of the state’s action could be seen to be forbidden by scripture. So while a church should condemn abortion in the course of exegetical preaching of the scriptures that touch on this issue and a church member should face discipline for encouraging, having, or providing an abortion, I don’t see what authority the scriptures give to the church to condemn a believer for holding any of the five political views above.

    The same could be said for political views about state recognition of ssm, legality of pornography, drug legalization, slavery, womens’ suffrage, tobacco/alcohol laws, tax law, divorce law, antidiscrimination policy, prostitution, etc… I can imagine believers being on all number of sides of all of these political issues without falling into sin. If that is the case, it would be dishonest for the church to say that the Christian position on marijuana is that it should be included on the list of Schedule I substances. If there is no Christian position on how marijuana should be scheduled, then the church should not speak on it as church. That is not to say that individual believers are not free to campaign one way or the other.

    We see this in other areas of life – it is OK for a soldier to kill other people while acting as a soldier. It is not OK for that same person to hop on board a flight to Iraq and do the same thing in his private capacity.

    To be sure there are those (anabaptists) who think that Christians should stay out of politics entirely, but I don’t see that 2K advocates for that.

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  82. sdb says: “And finally another believer see that there is no consensus about the personhood of a fetus “
    You’re talking about there being no non-Christian consensus right?

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  83. b, sd, ding.

    In other words, most critics of 2k cut to the chase. Either the nation legalizes or bans abortion.

    2k lives in the real world and understands that rulers have to work through committees, run for re-election, and even in a federal system figure out who’s going to enforce law or policy.

    Politics is never black and white. But Christians prone to antithetical thinking believe it has to be if Christ is Lord.

    Sheesh.

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  84. SDB,

    I think the abortion issue is the most cut and dried of all of these. Scripture says that the state’s job is to protect innocent life. Romans 13, Genesis 9, etc. So I fail to see how any Christian could think it politically acceptable for the state to say abortion on demand is okay. Abortion is either murder in some circumstances or it is not. If it is, how could any believer think that some murders are okay and some are not.

    I think you are confusing pragmatic attempts to limit or stop abortion given the current state of the laws with whether or not the permission of abortion on demand in itself is acceptable under either a biblical framework, a natural law framework, or both. We have to first settle whether biblical law or natural law affirms abortion on demand before we look at what the Christian/church responsibility vis a vis the state is.

    Really that is the first question for every issue, and under the 2K position I would think we would at least need to settle whether natural law supports or condemns a particular act.

    I also question whether natural law is able to figure out whether something that violates natural law should be a civil crime, at least in some areas. I think you could make a pretty solid case that natural law says prostitution is wrong or at least inadvisable, but natural law can’t tell you whether or not that means prostitution should be illegal as a civil matter.

    These things are big reasons why I question the viability of 2K, at least the form as I think I understand it here, is really a sufficient option to govern society.

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  85. sdb, how about deciding that you don’t like the state in your bedroom or in your reproductive opportunities and you figure you and your spouse and your doctor are better determiners of what’s appropriate, the state’s involvement is an overreach. Seems a reasonable, defensible and moral position. It also could be used for when the totalitarians show up and tell you to hand over your mentally, physically, emotionally disabled children or even female(China) children for ‘treatment’.

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  86. Sdb, re: “Christians are free to sit tight or agitate”. That is a sentiment I happen to agree with, and I also agree with most of your other sentiments as regards to how some “simple” issues (eg, abortion) can get thorny in their practical implementation.

    One would hope, though, that the sanctity/dignity of human life is a sufficiently perspicuous Biblical (or, for Zrim anyway, ‘natural law’) Truth that the church can stand publicly, and firmly, united on it, notwithstanding the thornier details of public policy. Most of the OL warnings to culture transformationalists are apt. Having said that, the distinct impression is left that it is a) NOT okay for Christians to influence the magistrate, b) that the passive submit/obey approach is nobler, and c) that because there are thorny details at times, issues like abortion and slavery are casually tossed into an adiaphora bucket somewhere. If true, I think those are all very misguided.

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  87. So I fail to see how any Christian could think it politically acceptable for the state to say abortion on demand is okay.

    Robert, so what are you suggesting, that a Christian whose political view affirms RvW is sinning? But if you are keeping this simply a matter of politics and not personal morality, then what sdb is saying is make your political case against it and live with it should you lose. But I know you make much of Pelosi and how she should be held religiously responsible for her political views. But my view of 2k would say to fight your political views with political means, but stop short of using spiritual weapons to fight political battles. Unless you are willing to be told by the other side that YOUR political views are religiously irresponsible?

    I think you could make a pretty solid case that natural law says prostitution is wrong or at least inadvisable, but natural law can’t tell you whether or not that means prostitution should be illegal as a civil matter.

    If NL can tell you it’s morally wrong then what makes you think it can’t tell you anything about legality (note: it might tell you that while it’s morally wrong, it’s not politically expedient to outlaw it)? And if it can’t, then what do you propose, the Bible? That’s the only other book to reach for. Welcome to theonomy.

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  88. Zrim,

    Robert, what 2k tries to do is distinguish between the moral and political, which means it’s one thing to teach what Christian Jane may do with that unwanted lump in her belly (moral, no liberty), quite another to tell her how she may or may not vote (political, liberty).

    Fair enough, and I agree. But it’s one thing to say the church should not tell people how to vote and another to say the church can’t say, “Here is a wicked position: The idea in the Democratic platform that abortion on demand is a God-given Constitutional right and we should all pay for it.” Now to be fair, if the church is going to single out positions of parties that are wicked, it needs to do it for the Republicans as well. So, the Religious Right that is happy to say nothing about Republican sin as long as it pays lip service to being against abortion needs to go away.

    Maybe I’m reading the 2K view presented here incorrectly, but often I go away as if you all are saying “The church may never comment on whether or not a specific civil law is wicked.” That’s not the same thing as saying “The church may not tell people who to pull the level for.”

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  89. Sean, re: “how about deciding that you don’t like the state in your bedroom or in your reproductive opportunities and you figure you and your spouse and your doctor are better determiners of what’s appropriate”. Nice libertarian political viewpoint there. Too bad this is a theological, not a political, blog.

    Now, assume your neighbors decide that abortion is their preferred birth control method, and that they annually visit their abortion doctor (legally) in the way others visit their doctor for an annual checkup. Assume you have the ability to influence the magistrate to make abortion illegal. Do you feel no Biblical, or civil, responsibility to protect the life of the unborn?

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  90. Robert, I can’t figure out why the answer to a more civil society is more invasive state involvement, from whichever moral angle you want to come at it. Why can’t a moral, NL, political activism be: “I’ve observed the lack of nuance and precision involved in local, state, and federal legislation, to say nothing of enforcement and I’ve decided I’d rather them stay as far away from my liberty as possible. Why is the ‘christian’ civil action, “I want the state to enforce my morality” whenever and wherever possible. Have you watched the state do this? I have. It doesn’t inspire confidence, and on the enforcement end, neither side enjoys it much and if they do, that’s largely a sign they aren’t suitable(temperamentally) for the job.

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  91. Petros, I don’t like the trade off of giving the government that kind of power. What ever happened to persuasion and influence through voluntary associations?

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  92. Sean, re: “invasive state involvement”? Why the pejorative term “invasive”? Protecting the life of the innocent unborn is considered “invasive”? If it is, then, please, let’s all pray for the state to be MORE invasive.

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  93. Robert, wait, so equal opportunity politicizing of the pulpit? Two wrongs don’t make a right. But if the pulpit speaks to PEOPLE and not LAWS then why would commenting on the wickedness or righteousness of any law makes any sense? But how is your take any different from Curt’s who wants whole nations indicted for their laws and history?

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  94. Sean, consider that good theology on protecting innocent life might take precedence over libertarian ideology.

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  95. Petros, the state in my wife’s uterus is invasive. I’m not sure what could be more invasive. She and I are much more morally reliable actors in that scenario. I don’t need their oversight and if that means defending my neighbor’s right to the same liberty, sign me up.

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  96. Sean, you’re ok with cults where parents offer child sacrifices, with no repercussion from the magistrate. If so, why? If not, why not?

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  97. Zrim,

    Robert, so what are you suggesting, that a Christian whose political view affirms RvW is sinning?

    I am suggesting that a Christian who believes that the state is doing its God-ordained job by permitting abortion on demand is sinning.

    But if you are keeping this simply a matter of politics and not personal morality, then what sdb is saying is make your political case against it and live with it should you lose.

    What do you mean “live with it?” If you mean “live with the pragmatic reality that abortion is presently legal and do all you can to reduce the number of abortions,” then fine. If that means “Resign yourself to the fact that abortion on demand is the law of the land and do nothing to change the wicked law or hold the state responsible to refrain from actively endorsing the murder of innocents and thereby violate its own God-given responsibilities,” then no.

    But I know you make much of Pelosi and how she should be held religiously responsible for her political views.

    That’s because Rome traditionally says she should be more than anything else.

    But my view of 2k would say to fight your political views with political means, but stop short of using spiritual weapons to fight political battles.

    But how is natural law not a spiritual weapon if it is a law given by God?

    Unless you are willing to be told by the other side that YOUR political views are religiously irresponsible?

    I am willing to be told that and am willing to change if someone can make a convincing case.

    If NL can tell you it’s morally wrong then what makes you think it can’t tell you anything about legality (note: it might tell you that while it’s morally wrong, it’s not politically expedient to outlaw it)?

    That is a good question, and is something I’ll have to wrestle with. I’ve never thought about that, at least explicitly. My initial response would be to ask you about murder. Can natural law tell you it is morally wrong to murder others though its not politically expedient to outlaw murder (or theft, or pick your sin)? Why or why not.

    And if it can’t, then what do you propose, the Bible? That’s the only other book to reach for. Welcome to theonomy.

    But we all have to be theonomic to some degree. All of us believe we are accountable to God’s law, and it would seem you think the state is accountable to natural law. Hello, theonomy. Maybe a weak version of it, but its still theonomy. Sometimes it comes across here that anyone who has questions about theonomy must be a Greg Bahnsen or Rushdoony type theonomist. That’s not helpful, just as its not helpful for strict theonomists to insinuate that 2Kers don’t care at all about the civil realm.

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  98. Petros, of course I’m OK with child sacrifices. Obv. That’s for reasonable hypothetical. These are always helpful. Btw, the state has done a lot more killing in the name of state sanctioned religion-Emperor’s cult, than my neighbor.

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  99. Sean (and Zrim, for that matter),

    Robert, I can’t figure out why the answer to a more civil society is more invasive state involvement, from whichever moral angle you want to come at it. Why can’t a moral, NL, political activism be: “I’ve observed the lack of nuance and precision involved in local, state, and federal legislation, to say nothing of enforcement and I’ve decided I’d rather them stay as far away from my liberty as possible. Why is the ‘christian’ civil action, “I want the state to enforce my morality” whenever and wherever possible. Have you watched the state do this? I have. It doesn’t inspire confidence, and on the enforcement end, neither side enjoys it much and if they do, that’s largely a sign they aren’t suitable(temperamentally) for the job.

    Actually, as a general rule I agree with this. Full disclosure, I’m a registered Republican so that I can have influence in the primaries, but I lean very libertarian on most matters. Ron and Rand have my vote.

    However, I’m more libertarian mainly because I want the state to do its job. And as I look at both natural law and biblical law, I see that the state has one main responsibility: protect innocent life and punish those who would take it. Goodbye abortion on demand.

    I don’t want the state necessarily to enforce “my morality.” I want it to protect innocent life. But the fact is that the state is going to enforce someone’s morality. Is it wrong to hope that the state would at the very least enforce biblical morality or at least not be hostile to it?

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  100. Sean, you may be surprised to learn that such cults do exist. It’s not a hypothetical. But, thanks for answering it. And here I thought the Reformed understood the depravity of man……

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  101. @Robert

    I think the abortion issue is the most cut and dried of all of these. Scripture says that the state’s job is to protect innocent life. Romans 13, Genesis 9, etc. So I fail to see how any Christian could think it politically acceptable for the state to say abortion on demand is okay. Abortion is either murder in some circumstances or it is not. If it is, how could any believer think that some murders are okay and some are not.

    A Christian should never say that abortion (or murder or any sin for that matter) is OK. That’s not the same thing as determining what the law should be…this is a prudential question. Maybe a believer thinks that the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions is to implement universal single payer health care, universal day care from birth to K5, and establish a minimum income all the while leaving the state out of regulating abortion. Another believer might think that socialized medicine and minimum income will harm incentives for work and that the potential for blackmarket abortion does not outweigh the gain that comes with treating the unborn as full persons in the view of the law. To take the view that one position is the Christian one is to implicate political opponents as resisting Christ. I do not believe the church has the authority to prescribe a particular political stance.

    I think you are confusing pragmatic attempts to limit or stop abortion given the current state of the laws with whether or not the permission of abortion on demand in itself is acceptable under either a biblical framework, a natural law framework, or both. We have to first settle whether biblical law or natural law affirms abortion on demand before we look at what the Christian/church responsibility vis a vis the state is.

    The bible doesn’t affirm a lot of things that the state has no business in stopping. Given that infanticide was accepted in Rome, it is curious that you would point to Romans 13 for support of a view outlawing abortion.

    Really that is the first question for every issue, and under the 2K position I would think we would at least need to settle whether natural law supports or condemns a particular act.

    I don’t believe in natural law. Custom and prudence are sufficient without importing any Aristotelian nonsense or other inflationary metaphysics.

    I also question whether natural law is able to figure out whether something that violates natural law should be a civil crime, at least in some areas. I think you could make a pretty solid case that natural law says prostitution is wrong or at least inadvisable, but natural law can’t tell you whether or not that means prostitution should be illegal as a civil matter.

    Right. This ties into the whole is/ought distinction that Hume pointed out so eloquently.

    These things are big reasons why I question the viability of 2K, at least the form as I think I understand it here, is really a sufficient option to govern society.

    2K is not at all viable a way to govern society any more than the theory of evolution is a viable way to explain the origin of life on earth or game theory is a viable way to determine whether I should plant Bermuda or Fescue on my lawn. 2K is a stance on the role of the church in society on this side of glory. One can be a socialist, communist, democrat, republican, libertarian, NLT, fascist, green, or whatever and be 2K. All 2K says is that the bible does not prescribe a particular political stance thus the church should not add to scriptures and advocate for one. If the state were to pass a law that required us to declare that “Obama is Lord and Pelosi is his prophet”, then a pastor preaching on the 10commandments would not be remiss to point out that declaring that is sinful and churches would have the sort of extenuating circumstance described in the WCF that would lead the church to appeal to the magistrate to not require us to engage in such sinful activity. The fact that the state allows her citizens to engage in sinful activity is a different issue altogether. As a citizen I may want to work to pass a law and may even be motivated by my faith to do so, but unless there is clear scriptural warrant, I am remiss to do so in the name of Christ or his Church.

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  102. Robert, I’m not doing all I can to reduce abortions. Am I sinning?

    So you’re with Rome that a political actor is to be held religiously responsible for his or her political views? Then Rome may be inconsistent, and you have a point against our Catholic friends around here, but I’m challenging you on the premise that the political and the religious can be so easily collapsed.

    Natural law is not a spiritual weapon simply because its author is God. That’s to collapse the spheres the way the brotherhood of all mankind types do (because God is everyone’s Creator).

    That God’s law as revealed in natural law should be observed by the state is hardly theonomic. Theonomy wants God’s law as revealed in the Bible to be enforced. Maybe you prefer something more theocratic than theonomic (there is a difference, e.g. Calvin). But I’m with Kuyper that should Calvin’s theocratic views be inherently Reformed, then I’ll disavow the claim to be Reformed.

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  103. Petros, you stick with your neighbor’s cult activity and I’ll ride the Chinese killing off baby girls and the state executing heretics and the Nazi’s (see I can use it too) coming for your disabled, ethnically unsuitable child to ‘treat’ them. I’m pretty sure I understand the greater threat. This side of glory there is no perfect justice and the greatest error is trying to bring it before Jesus returns.

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  104. Zrim, re: “I’m not doing all I can to reduce abortions. Am I sinning?” Dunno. Are you doing all you can to reach lost tribes in Indonesia? What does your question have to do with whether abortion is sufficiently immoral (by dint of natural law, or Biblically) to motivate (some) Christians to influence the magistrate to provide protections for innocent life?

    Put another way, suppose a mythical person named Sean (a leader in his P&R church) lives in a state that has some restrictions on abortion (eg, only in the first trimester, or only after an ultrasound is shown, or whatever), and he thinks the restrictions are too invasive. So, he starts a libertarian movement to influence the magistrate to remove those restrictions, thus allowing unlimited abortion on demand up to the date of delivery. According to your 2K perspective, what would you think of his actions? I assume you’d say it’s all adiaphora?

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  105. Petros, it has to do with responding to this from Robert:

    What do you mean “live with it [abortion]?” If you mean “live with the pragmatic reality that abortion is presently legal and do all you can to reduce the number of abortions,” then fine. If that means “Resign yourself to the fact that abortion on demand is the law of the land and do nothing to change the wicked law or hold the state responsible to refrain from actively endorsing the murder of innocents and thereby violate its own God-given responsibilities,” then no.

    So I take it it’s not fine to not be doing all I can to reduce to the number of abortions. So my question was to wonder “not fine, I think it’s good to do so but whatever if you don’t” or “not fine, it clearly reveals a sinfulness in you”?

    On your Sean example, yep, adiaphora. What’s he doing that’s clearly sinful? Now, if he starts trying to get leash laws actually enforced by my local police department, then he’s clearly off the reservation–I think we can all agree with that.

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  106. Robert, I’m not doing all I can to reduce abortions. Am I sinning?

    I don’t even know what it means that you are not doing all you can to reduce abortions. All of us have different callings and priorities shaped by those callings. I have to make sure my family is fed before I do most anything else. That limits the choices I can make and what I can do. If you endorse abortion on demand as a positive good, then I would say you are sinning.

    So you’re with Rome that a political actor is to be held religiously responsible for his or her political views?

    Yes. If a Senator who is a communing member of a PCA or OPC church actively works to maintain the legality of abortion on demand and to expand access to it, I would hope that they would be disciplined. Do you?

    Then Rome may be inconsistent, and you have a point against our Catholic friends around here, but I’m challenging you on the premise that the political and the religious can be so easily collapsed.

    And I appreciate the challenge, but I’m challenging you on the premise that the political and the religious can be so easily separated.

    Natural law is not a spiritual weapon simply because its author is God. That’s to collapse the spheres the way the brotherhood of all mankind types do (because God is everyone’s Creator).

    That God’s law as revealed in natural law should be observed by the state is hardly theonomic. Theonomy wants God’s law as revealed in the Bible to be enforced. Maybe you prefer something more theocratic than theonomic (there is a difference, e.g. Calvin). But I’m with Kuyper that should Calvin’s theocratic views be inherently Reformed, then I’ll disavow the claim to be Reformed.

    Not collapsing the spheres. Recognizing that God has given the state one job and the church another. But both are accountable to His law, and natural law is no more or less His law than Leviticus.

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  107. It’s because some 2k-ers understand about the depravity of man that they tend to view with suspicion aggregate earthly power. For every concession to the State enforcement powers (always in the name of purity and godliness), people who believe in LAW as the answer feed the Beast that will turn on them in due time.

    The betterment of society (one kingdom) isn’t a matter of more laws, or even less; but of an increase in the true religion (the other kingdom). It isn’t the nature of the Beast to shrink; but it may wither to docility if it loses some of its teeth (laws). But trespass only increases the LAW, and the LAW more trespass; and that’s the only tune the state-organ plays.

    There’s all the 1K people proclaiming themselves religious Grace-people in the church, at the same time they proclaim themselves religious Law-people everyplace else. They can’t wait to be In Charge, so they can Lay Down the LAW. “The State’s not the problem; it’s who’s got the Whip!”

    2k people are really the only ones who are able see the state in this age as an artifact of this fallen world. It really is a “necessary evil.” 1k-ers think the state is redeemable. A 1k-er would never agree with the Deist Jefferson that the nature of government required chains–either upon it, or upon the populace.

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  108. GTT: “Geoff, your entire view of music is based upon YOU. What you like and what you want. Show me one example in the bible of music for music’s sake please. Music in the scriptures among the people of God is always for the explicit worship of YHWH and the direct edification of the saints.”

    GW: Brother Greg, the reason we don’t find examples in the Bible of music for music’s sake is because the Bible is a Divinely-revealed covenantal document addressing God’s covenant people specifically, not a common grace document filled with generic, moralistic “life principles” that address matters of common cultural engagement. The musical examples you give from the Psalms & worship context simply shows one example of how God in His Divine accommodation to man’s frailty chose to use a cultural product of man’s God-given creativity — in this case music — and put it to use for holy purposes in the realm of worship. Music existed as a common cultural activity of mankind long before God revealed the command for musical instrumentation in the context of the tabernacle and temple worship of God’s old covenant people (as He had in the days of King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel). (See Genesis 4:21.)

    If we were to use your logic and apply it to other realms of common cultural life, I would have to ask you: Show me one example in the Bible of sculpting for sculpting’s sake? Or painting for painting’s sake? Or plumbing for plumbing’s sake? Or parenting for parenting’s sake? Or garbage collecting for garbage collecting’s sake? (Unless you would assert that music is somehow in a special category of “holy” activity distinct from these other common grace activities.)

    Will musicians like Lee, Lifeson and Peart of Rush fame face God’s judgment for not performing their music to the glory of God (unless, of course, they repent)? Yes, of course. So will unbelieving members of the Cleveland Orchestra who perform pieces from Bach, Mozart and Brahms with great musical skill. And, for that matter, so will the unbelieving dentist who does skillful dental work that benefits many, but not to the glory of God. Same could be said for unbelieving plumbers, doctors, lawyers, construction workers, and garbage collectors who do not pursue their vocations to the glory of God. But the fact that they may not pursue their vocations to the glory of God does not thereby mean that we cannot benefit from and enjoy their vocational skills and expertise.

    God’s Word says we can enjoy the gifts of this present life, so long as we do so with thankfulness, moderation and to the glory of God. To assert otherwise is to fall into doctrines of demons (First Timothy 4:1-5). In matters of indifference/adiaphora, such as music, we are called to exercise godly wisdom, not to become Reformed Amish.

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  109. SDB,

    A Christian should never say that abortion (or murder or any sin for that matter) is OK. That’s not the same thing as determining what the law should be…this is a prudential question. Maybe a believer thinks that the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions is to implement universal single payer health care, universal day care from birth to K5, and establish a minimum income all the while leaving the state out of regulating abortion. Another believer might think that socialized medicine and minimum income will harm incentives for work and that the potential for blackmarket abortion does not outweigh the gain that comes with treating the unborn as full persons in the view of the law. To take the view that one position is the Christian one is to implicate political opponents as resisting Christ. I do not believe the church has the authority to prescribe a particular political stance.

    What if a believer thinks the most prudential way to reduce the number of serial killings is to make murder legal so as to not create an unfair stigma against serial killers that might move them not to confess their urges to psychologist and get help. So, the law should make all killing legal so that those with the urge to kill multiple people will feel free to confess their urges and get help from psychologists and even the wider society.

    I’m not denying that there are prudential judgments. I’m just trying to get a good argument for why, if abortion on demand is murder, the state can have a justification from natural law or biblical law to legalize it. All I’m getting is “The pragmatic reality is that abortion is currently legal, what’s the best way under that framework to reduce the number of abortions.” I mean, if abortion on demand wasn’t legal, would you be happy with Christians advocating for the state to make it legal?

    I don’t know if you were the one who brought it up, but someone here said a justification for wanting not to overturn RvW might be that you don’t want to drive abortion to the black market. So its better for legally justified murder than murder that you have to commit by sneaking around?

    The bible doesn’t affirm a lot of things that the state has no business in stopping. Given that infanticide was accepted in Rome, it is curious that you would point to Romans 13 for support of a view outlawing abortion.

    But the issue with abortion, of course, is that the Bible not only fails to affirm abortion but also explicitly outlaws murder. As far as Romans 13, do you think Paul would have agreed that Rome was doing its job by legalizing infanticide? Romans 13 said the state is to punish evildoers. Murder is evil. If murder is evil, then the state has the responsibility to punish murderers. The state can fail to uphold its responsibility. What do we do in that case? The implication in Romans 13 is that Christians have a duty to pay their taxes even when the state doesn’t uphold its responsibility perfectly. But does that mean there is never any circumstance in which a Christian would be justified in not paying taxes? I don’t know, seems pretty obvious to me that if the government started levying a specific tax that had a one to one correlation to provide abortion for anyone who wants it or a tax to fund persecution of Christians, the application of Rom. 13 might be a little different.

    All 2K says is that the bible does not prescribe a particular political stance thus the church should not add to scriptures and advocate for one.

    Then why all the talk of natural law around here as being the guide to what the state should do?

    As a citizen I may want to work to pass a law and may even be motivated by my faith to do so, but unless there is clear scriptural warrant, I am remiss to do so in the name of Christ or his Church.

    So is your position that Christ is perfectly fine if a state decides that murder should be legal?

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  110. Zrim, re, you ask: “What’s he (mythical Sean who lobbies for zero restrictions on abortion) doing that’s clearly sinful?” Answer: mythical Sean is, de facto, aiding/abetting murder of innocents. Now, mythical Sean will argue “I’m just trying to limit the invasive powers of the magistrate because that’s a slippery slope and the next thing you know is that the magistrate is going to use those powers to murder disabled and ethnically unsuitable children, and that’s so much worse than restricting abortion.“ Do you agree with that line of moral reasoning?

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  111. GTT: “Paul directly affirms this in Ephesians 5:19, telling that church to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with their heart to the Lord; (Colossians 3:16 too)”

    GW: Paul is addressing the church specifically in Eph. 5:19. He is not making a statement about music in general that can be applied broadly to music outside of the church. To draw out a principle from a church-specific passage like this to the effect that music must only be used in the context of worship is a misuse of Scripture and an example of eisegesis, not valid exegesis. (By the way, no musical instruments are mentioned by Paul in this passage, only musical lyrics that fit the category of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”.)

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  112. Robert and Petros, you both seems to ask the same question in different ways:

    If a Senator who is a communing member of a PCA or OPC church actively works to maintain the legality of abortion on demand and to expand access to it, I would hope that they would be disciplined. Do you?

    …mythical Sean is, de facto, aiding/abetting murder of innocents…Do you agree with that line of moral reasoning?

    Let me be clear. I am both morally and politically opposed to elective abortion. In fact, I reject even rape and incest reasoning. That said, to answer your question, I would refuse to use spiritual weapons to oppose my political opponents, which means I would oppose the discipline of a communing member of my Reformed church who is either a private citizen or a civil legislator with choice views.

    I’m with Robert Bork, who said:

    “I oppose abortion. But an amazing number of people thought that I would outlaw abortion. They didn’t understand that not only did I have no desire to do that, but I had no power to do it. If you overrule Roe v. Wade, abortion does not become illegal. State legislatures take on the subject. The abortion issue has produced divisions and bitterness in our politics that countries don’t have where abortion is decided by legislatures. And both sides go home, after a compromise, and attempt to try again next year. And as a result, it’s not nearly the explosive issue as it is here where the court has grabbed it and taken it away from the voters.”

    His point has to do with local powers, but I think he touches on what I think fuels your suggestions, namely that there is so much loaded up in the question of abortion (i.e. “explosive issues”) that you guys actually think that someone with certain political views is personally impious. Sorry, I think you’ve been had by the pro-life group think and rhetoric. If it’s any comfort, you’re in the majority of even our conservative Calvinist circles. I think that’s unfortunate though.

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  113. GTT: “Geoff, your entire view of music is based upon YOU. What you like and what you want.”

    GW: Well, actually I’m not the only one who has this opinion of CCM. Your statement above is only valid if we accept the view of musical and aesthetic relativism. Which I don’t (I’m a musical objectivist). I have had some (quite limited) musical training in my past, and know numerous people (including members of my larger family) who are skillful and trained musicians, and all would recognize that there is such a thing as good music & good musicianship, just as there is such a thing as bad music & bad musicianship.

    For example, my musicianship as a brand-new string bass player during my brief involvement in my high school orchestra back in the day could have been likened (at least initially) to finger nails being run down a chalk board (squeek-squeek, squack-squack, better cover your ears!). It was objectively poor (or at least untrained) musicianship. And it was (objectively-speaking) in obvious sharp contrast to the quality of musicianship one will find among the string bassists of professional musical groups like the Cleveland Orchestra.

    If you retort in Van Tillian style that such is only my “autonomous” opinion, I would simply reply to such a misuse of Van Til by saying that, no, it is based on the God-given human capacity to develop musical sensibilities, and thus is in no sense “autonomous” or ultimately based on mere personal preference. The musical palate can be trained to distinguish between good music and lousy music, between music of higher quality and music of lesser quality, because we live in a world where there is not only ethical good and evil, but aesthetic good and evil as well. (I’d recommend you read T. David Gordon’s book “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal” for some thought-provoking considerations related to this topic.)

    If I had to choose, I’d rather have a pipe organ playing for my funeral service than a kazoo choir.

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  114. Petros, I don’t know about your mythical Sean but this Sean is going to argue that the parents are the more rightful and appropriate evaluators of the moral ground of whether to abort their child, along with the doctor, than the state. Somehow this argument works from vaccinations to homeschooling but not in utero?. Are folks going to sinfully abuse that liberty? You bet. But I’ll run that risk over continuing to grant more and more state control over my wife’s uterus. I trust me, with my wife and child before I do the state. It’s really that simple. Feel free to vent and imagine more occultic hypotheticals

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  115. Zrim,

    You guys actually think that someone with certain political views is personally impious.

    No, a person can be very pious and still be wrong. Abortion is a loaded issue in many ways; I’m just trying to get the reasoning as to how what is being said on abortion can’t be applied to murder. Of course, I’m assuming that abortion on demand is equivalent to the murder of an adult in at least most circumstances that we know of.

    I’m trying to understand the Christian justification for:

    1. Murder is wrong and the state should outlaw it.
    2. Abortion is wrong but the state should not outlaw it in most cases.

    Or, if there isn’t a biblical or Christian justification, what is the civil or natural law justification?

    And in a broader case, if the state were make it legal to kill every third child when they reach age 20, the church should say nothing?

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  116. sean, but here’s the thing about invasive govt. We like that invasion when it licenses physician who have the competency to care for your wife’s womb. We don’t want witch doctors.

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  117. Robert, then ask someone who holds to those two propositions. i don’t. I said I’m politically opposed to elective abortion. I’m talking about holding someone with those views morally accountable for simply being (what is arguably) inconsistent.

    And you’ve now lost me. You want a choice pol in a P&R church disciplined for his/her politics. But you say a person with choice politics is still “very pious”? So you want to discipline a pious person? Or is it that you want to use the church to take a shot at an ideology you don’t like and make someone an example?

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  118. Darryl, right, I like it when it works well. But, it has limitations that don’t enable it the flexibility to adjust to each situation. I like the flexibility. I don’t want the doctor to roll back on me and say, “I know it’s ectopic, but the law prohibits us from terminating the pregnancy. So, we’ll do what we can but this is the risk you run trying to have a baby. You may lose your wife and the child. I know medical technology and advancement have surpassed the relevance of the law, but, sorry, better luck with the next wife.”

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  119. What if a believer thinks the most prudential way to reduce the number of serial killings is to make murder legal so as to not create an unfair stigma against serial killers that might move them not to confess their urges to psychologist and get help. So, the law should make all killing legal so that those with the urge to kill multiple people will feel free to confess their urges and get help from psychologists and even the wider society.

    I seem to recall a quip by Scalia to the effect that not every stupid law is unconstitutional. It isn’t the court’s job to protect the citizens from stupid laws. Regarding your hypothetical, just because a Christian has a stupid idea doesn’t mean that the believer is sinning or that the church should issue a statement about the wisdom of incarcerating serial killers. Just because the bible doesn’t tell me to eat my vegetables or tells me that I am at liberty to eat donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner doesn’t mean that doing so is a good idea. But the fact that eating donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is really stupid doesn’t mean that the church needs to issue dietary guidelines – that doesn’t stop me from telling my kids no when they ask for a donut.

    I’m not denying that there are prudential judgments. I’m just trying to get a good argument for why, if abortion on demand is murder, the state can have a justification from natural law or biblical law to legalize it. All I’m getting is “The pragmatic reality is that abortion is currently legal, what’s the best way under that framework to reduce the number of abortions.” I mean, if abortion on demand wasn’t legal, would you be happy with Christians advocating for the state to make it legal?

    Nope, but that doesn’t mean they are acting sinfully.

    I don’t know if you were the one who brought it up, but someone here said a justification for wanting not to overturn RvW might be that you don’t want to drive abortion to the black market. So its better for legally justified murder than murder that you have to commit by sneaking around?

    That was one example of a position that a believer could be justified in holding. One might think that by keeping things out of the blackmarket it is easier to apply more persuasion toward mothers and save more lives. You seem to think that homicide is homicde and that what works for keeping serial murderers in check is the same as what would work or apply to pregnant mothers. I don’t think that’s justified. While my 2k position doesn’t hinge on it, I think abortion should be treated differently from other forms of homicide. First, society’s interest is not well served as the victim is not a member of society. Secondly, the thirst for vengeance doesn’t need to be ameliorated the way it would for the murder of a born person – by the state intervening, it circumvents personal quests for justice (at least ideally). Thirdly, following the analogy of the violinist, most would agree that a woman who became pregnant by rape should not be required to carry her rapist’s offspring to term (in short, the idea is that suppose you were knocked out and kidnapped and woke up in a hospital connected to a world famous violinist. The violinist has a rare disease and his only chance of survival is to undergo a blood transfusion that will take 9mos. In the interim, the violinist must stay connected to you or he will die. You can move around – while you mobility will be compromised by the IV connecting you to the famous violinist, you are free to otherwise go about your business. Would you be morally justified in tearing out the IV and telling the doctors to buzz off? Most would answer in the affirmative. If you can’t be compelled to do that, how can a woman be compelled to carry her rapist’s baby to term?). However, if we allow that the state should make an exception for rape and incest, how would one ever confirm that? Consider the issue of adjudicating sexual assaults on campus. Such an exception, which virtually everyone sees as necessary, would make any ban on abortion unworkable I think. It also gets at why abortion is different from other forms of homicide – no one knows the victim.

    The bible doesn’t affirm a lot of things that the state has no business in stopping. Given that infanticide was accepted in Rome, it is curious that you would point to Romans 13 for support of a view outlawing abortion.

    But the issue with abortion, of course, is that the Bible not only fails to affirm abortion but also explicitly outlaws murder. As far as Romans 13, do you think Paul would have agreed that Rome was doing its job by legalizing infanticide?

    I think this is the nail in the coffin for critics of 2k. We agree that infanticide is evil. We also agree that Rome did not allow it. Yet Paul had absolutely nothing to say to the churches he wrote about challenging such an unjust law. It was almost as if he (the church?) had more important things to worry about.

    Romans 13 said the state is to punish evildoers. Murder is evil. If murder is evil, then the state has the responsibility to punish murderers. The state can fail to uphold its responsibility. What do we do in that case?

    Hatred, gossip, idolatry, breaking the sabbath, impure thoughts… are evil. Indeed, hatred toward another human is a form of murder. Does the state have the responsibility to punish these things? I don’t think so. Further, read in context, Romans 13 is descriptive not prescriptive.

    The implication in Romans 13 is that Christians have a duty to pay their taxes even when the state doesn’t uphold its responsibility perfectly. But does that mean there is never any circumstance in which a Christian would be justified in not paying taxes? I don’t know, seems pretty obvious to me that if the government started levying a specific tax that had a one to one correlation to provide abortion for anyone who wants it or a tax to fund persecution of Christians, the application of Rom. 13 might be a little different.

    You mean by toppling a regime that provided protection for Christians in favor of one that led to their annihilation in Iraq? I still think we should pay our taxes.

    All 2K says is that the bible does not prescribe a particular political stance thus the church should not add to scriptures and advocate for one.

    Then why all the talk of natural law around here as being the guide to what the state should do?

    Yeah, natural law is nonsense. It isn’t a guide for anything. As I said before, custom and prudence do just fine.

    As a citizen I may want to work to pass a law and may even be motivated by my faith to do so, but unless there is clear scriptural warrant, I am remiss to do so in the name of Christ or his Church.

    So is your position that Christ is perfectly fine if a state decides that murder should be legal?

    I don’t think Christ is fine with murder and there can be bad motives for working to legalize murder. He will judge the heart. We can’t do that.

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  120. Zrim, ok. Thanks for clarifying. Fwiw, I’m not sure what it means to be “had” by pro-life rhetoric. And, I’m not so interested, per se, in P&R church discipline criteria. But, I am curious, though…can you explain what the basis of your being “morally and politically opposed to elective abortion” is? Are you only convinced of your views from your secularists-for-life group, or are you at all morally informed on the matter by the Bible? If the latter, would you offer that reason to a secular inquirer? If not, why not?

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  121. Zrim,

    And you’ve now lost me. You want a choice pol in a P&R church disciplined for his/her politics. But you say a person with choice politics is still “very pious”? So you want to discipline a pious person? Or is it that you want to use the church to take a shot at an ideology you don’t like and make someone an example?

    It’s one thing to be a private citizen who is inconsistent. It’s another to be a politician who writes laws. The king is going to be judged more harshly than the peasant.

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  122. Petros, I’ve more or less had my views from before possessing faith (a young adult convert). I don’t do much navel gazing to say exactly which source has informed me more and I don’t see that it matters much, and if a secular inquirer asked I’d have no trouble making references to to the second greatest and fifth commandments (Psalm 139 has nothing to do with, ahem).

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  123. Robert, in your latest, are you suggesting the church should have a distinct set of disciplinary opportunities for it’s member who is a legislator? Furthermore, are you suggesting the church is a better adjudicator of legislative capability and culpability than the voter, or the courts in this situation? Really?

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  124. SDB,

    I think this is the nail in the coffin for critics of 2k. We agree that infanticide is evil. We also agree that Rome did not allow it. Yet Paul had absolutely nothing to say to the churches he wrote about challenging such an unjust law. It was almost as if he (the church?) had more important things to worry about.

    Or maybe Paul never imagined the church ever being large enough to think a challenge would do anything of note? Or maybe Paul assumed the church should know that it should fight infanticide based on the OT? Or maybe Paul intended us to look to more than just his letters for our position on jurisprudence and interaction with the civil magistrate? Or maybe Paul was finite and could not say everything in a limited amount of space? Or maybe Paul held to a good and necessary consequence view of interpretation and knew the church would figure it out? Or maybe he thought it was self evident that preaching the gospel and working for justice shouldn’t be sharply divided and trusted the church to work that all out?

    You mean by toppling a regime that provided protection for Christians in favor of one that led to their annihilation in Iraq? I still think we should pay our taxes.

    While I think the invasion of Iraq was stupid, I still don’t see where the U.S. government levied a specific tax to fund the persecution of Christians in Iraq. At best you can say they drew from a pooled body of income to enact a policy that no one really understood the ramifications of. That’s a little different from “Pay your $5 and that $5 goes directly to the murder of Christians.”

    Hatred, gossip, idolatry, breaking the sabbath, impure thoughts… are evil. Indeed, hatred toward another human is a form of murder. Does the state have the responsibility to punish these things?

    Under the new covenant, no. Even under the old covenant, however, it wasn’t as if Israel stoned every Sabbath breaker. Judges applied the law to specific cases. And in any case, God prescribed capital punishment prior to Israel and for all mankind for the shedding of blood, not hatred.

    I don’t think so. Further, read in context, Romans 13 is descriptive not prescriptive.

    Sure, but Paul’s position is that if the state is God’s instrument to punish evildoers that says nothing about why God established the state?

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  125. Robert, except that a legislator has virtually no power over the current jurisdiction either way. “I’m pro-life!’ So what, that won’t change a damn thing. “I’m pro-choice!” So what, that won’t preserve a damn thing. It’s all identity politics.

    Besides, casting a vote isn’t forbidden by God. Killing or aiding in a killing in one’s own person is a different matter altogether.

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  126. Sean,

    Robert, in your latest, are you suggesting the church should have a distinct set of disciplinary opportunities for it’s member who is a legislator?

    Not necessarily. I would suggest that perhaps the church should discipline anyone who actively promotes abortion on demand and a host of other grave evils. Grave sins. So for specifics, Bob who votes for Bernie because he likes his position on free college tuition but is indifferent on abortion, probably not. Jim who volunteers at Planned Parenthood and actively steers women away from adoption into abortion, probably. Let the session decide.

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around why it would seem so odd or wrong for a PCA or OPC church, if Nancy Pelosi were a communing member, to discipline her because of her active promotion of abortion on demand. We’re not even talking at this point of her voting present when any abortion related votes come up. We’re talking about advocating for taxpayer funded murder, fighting against even the most commonsense of restrictions such as parental notification, etc.

    Furthermore, are you suggesting the church is a better adjudicator of legislative capability and culpability than the voter, or the courts in this situation? Really?

    What I am suggesting is that abortion is murder and that it is sin to endorse and promote murder. See the above example. There are places where things get fuzzy—do you discipline the legislator who voted for a piece of legislation about organized crime that would save lives even though it included a renewal of funds for Planned Parenthood? Different issue. I’d be in favor of making it a law that each bill should only be about one thing and can’t have any riders so that legislators aren’t forced to make such decisions.

    I just don’t understand how it isn’t common sense that you don’t discipline somebody who uses the full weight of their office to promote murder, unless one doesn’t believe that abortion on demand is murder or that the Bible isn’t clear that abortion on demand is murder. If any of the 2Kers here think that, I would better understand them. Otherwise, the position seems tantamount to saying that the church shouldn’t discipline Ken Lay if he is a member and because he stole millions of dollars. What?

    I know abortion is a hot-button issue, but it’s hard to be appreciative of 2K when we can’t even agree that the church should hold a position that murder is wrong when what is supposed to be one of the planks of 2K—natural law—says murder is wrong.

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  127. Besides, casting a vote isn’t forbidden by God.

    Agreed.

    Killing or aiding in a killing in one’s own person is a different matter altogether.

    What about voting to supply funds to an organization when you are absolutely certain that those specific funds will be used to kill somebody? That’s okay? And if it is, does that mean I can take five dollars from you and give it to Joe who I know for certain will take it and poison his wife?

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  128. Robert, most sessions in the PCA couldn’t figure out if FV pastors should be disciplined, in fact they decided they shouldn’t. They aren’t even competent in theology but you want them to adjudicate legislation? I just think that’s insane. I’m looking at a church that is incompetent at what they’re trained in, but somehow they’ve got the law and politics down, no problem, commonsense. Planned parenthood supporter, here come the charges. I don’t think this thought out well.

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  129. Robert, who gets to decide what a “grave sin” is? Some might say invading nations is, like Curt. I bet he can’t get his head around why others aren’t so convinced. Your being nonplussed at how anybody couldn’t see Pelosi guilty of grave sin only reveals how effective the pro-life political correctness really is among conservatives.

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  130. Zrim,

    Robert, who gets to decide what a “grave sin” is?

    Scripture

    Some might say invading nations is, like Curt. I bet he can’t get his head around why others aren’t so convinced. Your being nonplussed at how anybody couldn’t see Pelosi guilty of grave sin only reveals how effective the pro-life political correctness really is among conservatives.

    Or your inability to say “It is sin for a professing Christian to use their legal authority to fund abortion on demand and remove all restrictions on abortion, even the basic ‘let’s require parental consent because we require it for tylenol'” reveals how you need to base your thinking less on disgust with the excesses of Falwell and co.?

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  131. This eeee-guy finds this curious. Reformed 2K’ers give all kinds of apologetics on why abortion/slavery are such complicated issues, so that Christians are free to disagree with each other about whether laws restricting abortion are morally good or invasively bad. But lo and behold, they think paedo-baptism is such a clear, straightforward issue that merits firm lines of ecclesial demarcation from credo’s. Curious, ‘tis all.

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  132. Petros, it’s one of the planks of 2k, stick to your area of competence. Christians are supposed to be competent at their faith(disciples), officers(teachers and ruling elders) even more so.

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  133. “Or maybe Paul never imagined the church ever being large enough to think a challenge would do anything of note?”
    So we are only morally compelled to act if we think we would accomplish anything of note. Thus we aren’t compelled to work to outlaw abortion?

    “Or maybe Paul assumed the church should know that it should fight infanticide based on the OT?”
    And none of the gentiles didn’t get the message. I don’t think so…

    “Or maybe Paul intended us to look to more than just his letters for our position on jurisprudence and interaction with the civil magistrate? Or maybe Paul was finite and could not say everything in a limited amount of space?”
    The NT is pretty long and repeats a lot of stuff. It wouldn’t be too hard to say something about the Christian’s role in politics. Yet the scripture is silent on this…

    “Or maybe Paul held to a good and necessary consequence view of interpretation and knew the church would figure it out? Or maybe he thought it was self evident that preaching the gospel and working for justice shouldn’t be sharply divided and trusted the church to work that all out?”
    Hmm…. I’m not so sure that we see much evidence of “working for justice”. I do see him noting that it isn’t our place to judge unbelievers.

    While I think the invasion of Iraq was stupid, I still don’t see where the U.S. government levied a specific tax to fund the persecution of Christians in Iraq. At best you can say they drew from a pooled body of income to enact a policy that no one really understood the ramifications of. That’s a little different from “Pay your $5 and that $5 goes directly to the murder of Christians.”

    But see, in the real world of politics these kind of caveats always apply.

    Hatred, gossip, idolatry, breaking the sabbath, impure thoughts… are evil. Indeed, hatred toward another human is a form of murder. Does the state have the responsibility to punish these things?

    Under the new covenant, no. Even under the old covenant, however, it wasn’t as if Israel stoned every Sabbath breaker. Judges applied the law to specific cases. And in any case, God prescribed capital punishment prior to Israel and for all mankind for the shedding of blood, not hatred.

    So we have to be for the death penalty?

    “I don’t think so. Further, read in context, Romans 13 is descriptive not prescriptive.”
    Sure, but Paul’s position is that if the state is God’s instrument to punish evildoers that says nothing about why God established the state?

    I don’t dispute that God established the state to punish evildoers. That doesn’t mean that we are compelled to a rigid political system. Consider the reason that Walmart has a loss prevention unit. Their job is to stop theft. Of course, they don’t think any theft is “OK”, but they also understand that there are tradeoffs. At some point, theft prevention efforts start costing you more than you save in offsetting thefts. To eliminate 100% of shoplifters they could require that every customer submit to a strip-search upon leaving the premises. That would certainly cut down on theft. Of course, no one would shop there and they would go out of business. The other extreme is to leave donation buckets around for people to pay on the honor system – they wouldn’t last too long that way either. So they implement a policy somewhere between these two extremes that maximizes sales and minimizes thefts. Governments have to act the same way. Politics is about drawing lines, but the bible doesn’t tell us where those lines should be drawn. There are some laws that I could imagine that believers would have to resist and churches might even have the duty to oppose (e.g., you are forbidden to share your faith with your children, you cannot worship God, etc…), and the WCF allows for those kind of extreme extenuating circumstances. But I don’t see any evidence in scripture that we have an obligation to compel the state pursue social justice. That doesn’t mean that individuals can’t do so, just not in the name of the church.

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  134. @Petros

    I’m pretty sure that all us reformed 2K’ers agree that our churches shouldn’t be advocating for the state to outlaw rebaptism (or penalizing believers who deprive their children from the blessing of baptism). I think we also all agree that abortion is sinful…just that believers are free to disagree about the role of the state in regulating it. Of course, slavery is OK, what would we do without graduate students? My grass doesn’t mow itself!

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  135. Darryl, yes. But only because I’m planning on using my child to do chores. Heed! Pants! Now! Look at that thing, it’s like an orange on a toothpick it is. Oh, I’ve done it now, he’s gonna cry ‘imself to sleep on his huge pilla.

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  136. Robert, but as you know Scripture needs an interpreter. Don’t be so biblicist.

    And I wonder what you think the “excesses of Falwell & Co.” are when you and they seem to essentially agree that religious weapons may and ought to be used in political battles. For my part, I’m content to oppose choice morality and politics with, well, morality and politics.

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  137. Petros, wonder no more. Liberty where God is silent, no liberty where he speaks. It’s a simple principle, but from over here it looks like you all have it reversed.

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  138. Zrim,

    Excesses of Falwell and co:

    Thinking America is the kingdom of God
    Thinking passing the right laws will return us to the Christian golden age
    Thinking that God is a Republican

    There’s more, but that’s a good start.

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  139. I appreciate your appeal to WCF , Jeff, but unless there is a continual reminder you appeal there because the Spirit testifies that it summaries His truth, you will continue to have reliance on man and man’s works and no one thinking and acting ‘in the flesh’ can please God- we totally rely and depend on Him, His word, and His Spirit for we put no confidence in the flesh, including about true ‘liberty’

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  140. Guys,

    Excuse me for being simplistic but since we’re talking about the state and getting into specifics, then:

    1. Either the Bible and natural law tell us what the role of the state is or they do not, right?
    2. So, if one or both of them do, what do they say the role of the state is?
    3. If one or both don’t say what the role of the state is, then how is that determined? By the majority?

    And since we’ve been talking about abortion more specifically:

    1. Either natural law tells us abortion is murder or it does not.
    2. Assuming that natural law says abortion is murder, it should be outlawed in most cases and evaluated according to the same way we evaluate first-degree, second-degree, manslaughter, etc.
    3. Assuming that natural law doesn’t say abortion is murder, then what’s anybody’s reason to care if it’s legal or not?

    And then for pragmatics and specifics:

    Some of you have said that there **could possibly** be good pragmatic reasons for keeping abortion legal in most cases. Let’s say it could be proven that the best way to reducing abortions is to keep Roe v. Wade intact.

    If that’s the case, what if it could be proven that the best way to reduce rape, serial killing, outright theft, spousal and child abuse, and a host of other things would be to decriminalize or legalize any of those. Would you then advocate doing that?

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  141. SDB,

    I don’t dispute that God established the state to punish evildoers. That doesn’t mean that we are compelled to a rigid political system. Consider the reason that Walmart has a loss prevention unit. Their job is to stop theft. Of course, they don’t think any theft is “OK”, but they also understand that there are tradeoffs. At some point, theft prevention efforts start costing you more than you save in offsetting thefts. To eliminate 100% of shoplifters they could require that every customer submit to a strip-search upon leaving the premises. That would certainly cut down on theft. Of course, no one would shop there and they would go out of business. The other extreme is to leave donation buckets around for people to pay on the honor system – they wouldn’t last too long that way either. So they implement a policy somewhere between these two extremes that maximizes sales and minimizes thefts.

    But the problem with the analogy is that Walmart isn’t the government and it isn’t working to to legalize and decriminalize shoplifting. All it is doing is deciding what it should be doing with shoplifters given the existing law and its costs.

    Governments have to act the same way. Politics is about drawing lines, but the bible doesn’t tell us where those lines should be drawn. There are some laws that I could imagine that believers would have to resist and churches might even have the duty to oppose (e.g., you are forbidden to share your faith with your children, you cannot worship God, etc…), and the WCF allows for those kind of extreme extenuating circumstances. But I don’t see any evidence in scripture that we have an obligation to compel the state pursue social justice. That doesn’t mean that individuals can’t do so, just not in the name of the church.

    Who is talking about compelling? Not me. The church doesn’t have the sword. All it can do is preach. What I am hearing from the 2K side here is that the church should never preach to the state. Perhaps the church should be careful what it preaches, but from the OT prophets to Paul you have examples of the church preaching to the state, even non-Christian states.

    Besides, the Bible does tell us where certain lines are drawn. Thou shalt not kill is a pretty straightforward line, and most Reformed people have seen at least the second table of the law as a republication in some sense of the law of God written on everyone’s heart. In the case of Walmart, Walmart is drawing lines as to the cost v. benefit of pursuing thieves with the most concentrated efforts, but the line of thou shalt not steal is still drawn and nobody is trying to change it.

    Maybe I’m reading you wrong, but I don’t see where the 2K arguments from you, Sean, and Zrim don’t amount to “The state has no responsibility from God to outlaw murder, rape, theft, abuse, and a host of other things.” What in the world is the state’s job, then?

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  142. Ali says: “…unless there is a continual reminder you appeal there because the Spirit testifies that it summarizes His truth…”
    The Westminster Standards absolutely do this. 10,000 majestic and magnificent sermons one one place. They are not scripture, not infallible and not inspired in the directly God breathed manner that the bible is, but those boys REALLY got it right. I would encourage you, if you never have, to read the CONFESSION first. I’d definitely start with the original pre-Americanized version. Not the the OPC revisions are bad, but getting the original mindset is quite useful first. The whole thing can be read in one hour and 11 minutes at normal reading speed 🙂

    I’d go with the Larger Catechism after that. If you’ve already read them then forget everything I’ve just said.

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  143. Robert, the state should outlaw murder. I just happen to think that, in the case of abortion, it’s not the same situation or likely actors that I would find committing violent crimes. If you think it is that plain and obvious and there aren’t other mitigating factors and considerations that don’t make this a complex opportunity, and that it should be distilled down to murder or no, from a legislative opportunity nevermind a moral one, then I think you have an immature perspective. I understand complexity doesn’t give itself to making definitive pronouncements and black and white preaching applications, but, some things aren’t simple. It’s certainly not a moral failure of those who see or appreciate the complexity of the situation. And again, to load up on the church, a church that struggles to maintain it’s own level of competency, the task of adjudicating the competency of individual legislators in their respective tasks, almost seems like a diversion. We can’t sort our own problems, but, hey, we’ve got yours(state) handled. I happen to think the problem is complex enough and individual enough and there are enough mitigating circumstances(health of the wife, rape, incest, opportunities for future offspring, medical complications) that the state should tread very cautiously about how it involves itself in the process, including leaving final decisions up to those with the most vested interests and competencies. Why this is scandalous I have no idea. And as has been pointed out more than once now from the opposing perspective, the abuse of a principle-liberty doesn’t make the principle-liberty invalid.

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  144. Jeff, if the exposition of the sixth commandment can be used to silence a political opponent because the law of God is somehow construed to mean he who has a certain political view is also he who is guilty of breaking that law in his person, seems to me it can be done with any of the commandments. Where does it end? Maybe you’re good with that, but as I’ve said I can’t get around the problem of using spiritual weapons to fight political battles (the mirror error of using carnal weapons to fight spiritual battles).

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  145. Robert,

    Perhaps the church should be careful what it preaches, but from the OT prophets to Paul you have examples of the church preaching to the state, even non-Christian states.

    This is spot on. I’m trying to think of how DGH and sean would have responded to John the Baptist calling out Herod Antipas’s sexual liaisons. I’m legitimately curious, how do things like that compute in a 2k system?

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  146. Brandon, off the top of my head, I’d stipulate that John the Baptist is still in the line of OT prophets, we’re still dealing with being in the ‘land’, occupied land, but the OT system is still churning(overlap). Herod is engaged in the practice of Judaism(he’s keeping feast days) so, he’s subject to cultic norms and he’s being reproved not for his governance but his marriage to his brother’s wife. Paul engages in this same form of discipline in Corinth. So, I’m not sure of the relevance of his governing role. I don’t see a ‘preaching to the state’, in this instance.

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  147. @ Ali: Let me offer a different perspective on my appeal to the WLC.

    Certainly, it would be possible to be using the WLC as a man-made set of rules, similar to the Pharisees use of various Rabbinical traditions.

    However, that is not my approach, and I don’t think that’s prevalent amongst the commentators here. The point of citing the WLC is two-fold.

    (1) It is a short-hand for citing the various proof-texts. In this case, Ps 82.4 and Prov 24.11 – 12 are in view.

    Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
    And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
    If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
    Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
    And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
    And will He not render to man according to his work?

    It is expected of any Presbyterian elder that he ought, perhaps with concordance in hand, to be able to provide a Biblical defense of the teachings of the Westminster Standards. That is, they are not stand-alone teachings or refinements of Biblical teachings (as the Rabbinical traditions were), but intended to be summaries of what Scripture requires.

    (2) It provides the collected wisdom of the Church speaking with authority.

    That authority is not infallible, and Zrim is free to possibly dissent from WLC 135. However, the collected wisdom of the church guards against a lone ranger Jeff Cagle trying to settle an argument with an idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture (see: Prayer of Jabez).

    In other words, by citing WLC 135, I am pointing out that it is not a theological novelty to believe that Scripture requires us to take steps to preserve the lives of others.

    So to be fully clear: The Scripture is at all times the sole rule of faith and practice. Individual interpretations of Scripture are subject to error; the Church’s interpretation of Scripture, less so — yet still fallible. Further, the church has authority to make determinations concerning faith and worship, which determinations, if consonant with Scripture, are to be received with submission.

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  148. Zrim: Jeff, if the exposition of the sixth commandment can be used to silence a political opponent because the law of God is somehow construed to mean he who has a certain political view is also he who is guilty of breaking that law in his person, seems to me it can be done with any of the commandments. Where does it end?

    Hm. I do see that we are required to preserve the lives of others; to respect the property of others; to stand for truth. I don’t see that we are required to keep others from idolatry or disrespect of superiors or adultery or covetousness or blasphemy.

    So I think it ends where our Scriptural responsibilities end. We have Ps 82.4: Rescue the weak and needy;
    Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
    That does seem to be a positive command.

    Zrim: Maybe you’re good with that, but as I’ve said I can’t get around the problem of using spiritual weapons to fight political battles (the mirror error of using carnal weapons to fight spiritual battles).

    Concern duly noted and appreciated. Still and all, perhaps the problem is partly that politics has claimed dominion over things that belong to God?

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  149. Thank you Jeff. I agree. Yet too I believe if Sean for example knew and meditated more directly on Scripture he would be less equivocal about abortion for example. Having God’s word hidden in His heart, he would know more, God’s own heart for the unborn; that the unborn are life He created ; that He alone is in charge of life and death, etc. and he would know the Spirit’s grief about man’s perversion in this matter.

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  150. Jeff, it seems too wooden to me to say that somehow we are not entreated by the first four commandments to protect the name and character of God in the same way we are entreated by the sixth to preserve the lives of others. I’d imagine when you’re in the company of others who blatantly blaspheme you’re compelled to speak up. Ought we not favor laws that do so and oppose those that end up encouraging others to blaspheme without consequence? And if we don’t, are we not guilty of that same blasphemy? But the principle we actually affirm is that true religion ought not come at the point of the sword.

    The principle in the case of the sixth is that to favor laws that may well result in the murder of others is not the same as being guilty of that same murder because of the difference between political views and personal behaviors. In which case, as I’ve said, there is a difference between what Christian Jane does with her unwanted pregnancy (no liberty) and what she does in the voting both (liberty). Robert agreed, which I took to mean that the latter isn’t grounds for any sort of discipline. If so, I don’t know how he at once agrees and maintains that it is a sin to have choice politics.

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  151. Zrim: Jeff, it seems too wooden to me to say that somehow we are not entreated by the first four commandments to protect the name and character of God in the same way we are entreated by the sixth to preserve the lives of others. I’d imagine when you’re in the company of others who blatantly blaspheme you’re compelled to speak up. Ought we not favor laws that do so and oppose those that end up encouraging others to blaspheme without consequence? And if we don’t, are we not guilty of that same blasphemy?

    Plausible theory, but there isn’t Scripture to back it per se — except for instances that we agree reflect Israel under the Law, such as the calf episode at Sinai.

    Whereas defending the lives of others is affirmed even as a matter of wisdom.

    Zrim: But the principle we actually affirm is that true religion ought not come at the point of the sword.

    And that’s your answer, right?

    Zrim: The principle in the case of the sixth is that to favor laws that may well result in the murder of others is not the same as being guilty of that same murder because of the difference between political views and personal behaviors.

    I’ll grant you this: It is possible to be against abortion, yet observe as a matter of statistical fact that states with more restrictive laws have higher abortion rates. On that ground, you could argue that enacting a law is not actually defending lives.

    So yes, there is some small daylight between the moral imperative to preserve the lives of others, and the political position that abortion should be outlawed. But it is small, and concerns ways-and-means rather than a question of whether we may safely ignore murders in the back yard.

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  152. @Robert

    “But I don’t see any evidence in scripture that we have an obligation to compel the state pursue social justice. That doesn’t mean that individuals can’t do so, just not in the name of the church.”

    Who is talking about compelling? Not me. The church doesn’t have the sword. All it can do is preach.

    By voting, agitating, etc… we are compelling the state to act in a certain way. Does the church have the authority to discipline members for taking political stances not explicitly set out in scripture? In other words, if you don’t do your part to ensure that the state acts a certain way are you sinning? 2K says no. Various forms of 1K say that we have a mandate to transform society according to biblical principles and to fail to do so is it shirk our duty as believers. For example, are laws guaranteeing free speech (including the right to blasphemy) inherently problematic for believers?

    What I am hearing from the 2K side here is that the church should never preach to the state. Perhaps the church should be careful what it preaches, but from the OT prophets to Paul you have examples of the church preaching to the state, even non-Christian states.

    I’m not sure what examples you have in mind of Paul “preaching to the state”. If you are talking about Paul bearing witness to various state actors, that is very different than Paul demanding that they adopt particular political stances. I’m not seeing anything about infanticide in the application part of any of the epistles (or anything about any state action). Perhaps that was a prudential decision on Paul’s part (as you’ve suggested). I agree! But the fact that the decision about whether or how to get involved in politics is a prudential one is already to travel pretty far down the 2K road.

    Besides, the Bible does tell us where certain lines are drawn. Thou shalt not kill is a pretty straightforward line, and most Reformed people have seen at least the second table of the law as a republication in some sense of the law of God written on everyone’s heart.

    Yes, so it isn’t a uniquely Christian stance to oppose murder. But that isn’t the question on any referendum that I’ve seen. What I see is that lots of people disagree about what constitutes murder, certain forms of murder are much harder for the state to adjudicate than others, and this informs how the state should act to restrain evil (note that the goal is not to eliminate evil). Perhaps a better example to ponder is that of sexual assault – we see now that agreeing on what constitutes sexual assault is strongly contested, and the various rules surrounding “affirmative consent”, due process, and presumption of innocence are getting a lot of people to ask the sorts of fundamental questions about the law that we generally don’t think much about.

    Regarding murder, we then have the question about how to go about assessing guilt and we find that in a lot of kinds of murder, it is very, very difficult to legally distinguish murder from legal death. The question quickly gets very technical and this is where a lot of well meaning Christians (particularly when they get into state houses) really mess things up by passing unworkable laws with good intentions…we all make mistakes – even when we mean well. But when the church steps outside of her area of expertise of declaring the gospel and administering the sacraments she runs the very real risk of undermining her credibility.

    In the case of Walmart, Walmart is drawing lines as to the cost v. benefit of pursuing thieves with the most concentrated efforts, but the line of thou shalt not steal is still drawn and nobody is trying to change it.

    The question though isn’t whether murder is ever lawful – it is always (by definition) unlawful. The question is under what circumstances Christians are obligated to push a particular political option – should the state treat vehicular homicide as murder or manslaughter? These are the kind of questions actually on the table about which Christians can disagree. Questions about law are fundamentally pragmatic questions about the extent to which the state is capable of restraining evil.

    Maybe I’m reading you wrong, but I don’t see where the 2K arguments from you, Sean, and Zrim don’t amount to “The state has no responsibility from God to outlaw murder, rape, theft, abuse, and a host of other things.” What in the world is the state’s job, then?

    God created the state to restrain evil. How it goes about doing that, the trade-offs involved in doing so, etc… are not prescribed in scripture. Common law, tradition, and prudence are pretty good guides for deciding what the state should do. I for one do want to see the state use its police power to restrain murder, rape, theft, abuse and a host of other things. But that is way too general – does the Bible’s injunction to be hospitable and entertain strangers mean that we need to allow unchecked immigration? Does the fact that we are to care for the fatherless and the widow mean that we have a duty to implement a sort of Social Democratic welfare safety net? Does the fact that the bible teaches us to give workers their due mean that I have to be on board with labor unions?

    The fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us what the best course of action for states may be (and thus give the church no authority to require that believers adopt a particular political stance) does not entail relativism about the role of the state. Just as the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us whether one should adopt frequentist or Bayesian statistics (and thus the church should not require one approach or the other), does not entail that there isn’t a right answer here. I may know that reducing the nation wide speed limit to 55mph would save a lot of lives (there is in fact quite strong evidence along these lines). But while we should care about saving lives, it isn’t clear to me that the scriptures require us to take a particular stance on this political issue.

    Whether and how we should petition the government to address various issues is a matter of conscience. I suspect that on the overwhelming number of issues we actually face, Christians can be on different sides without sinning (including abortion, ssm, etc…). That doesn’t mean that every side is equally prudent, but it does suggest that the Church should refrain from adding to scripture.

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  153. I’ll grant you this: It is possible to be against abortion, yet observe as a matter of statistical fact that states with more restrictive laws have higher abortion rates. On that ground, you could argue that enacting a law is not actually defending lives.

    Jeff, first (and as a minor point), nobody is actually “for abortion.” I think in order to earn the right to oppose legalized elective abortion, one should understand that its proponents don’t “favor abortion” but the preservation of personal privacy. It’s laudable enough but ultimately too costly when pitted against that other western virtue of the preservation of human life. And to the extent that this whole debate is actually about two highly prized western virtues—the pursuit of life and liberty—this is why the pro-life and pro-choice camps are simplistic and unsatisfactory, because they demand the rest of us decide between one or the other and in the course of doing so lionize one and demonize the other. Thinking people have a hard time with that.

    Second (and more to your point), I’m not as interested in this pragmatic reasoning as I am in seeing how someone who has choice views is actually guilty of breaking the sixth commandment per WLC 135. It seems to me that if one cannot be guilty of idolatry because he favors legislation that protects it which stems from an opposition to enforcing true religion with carnal weapons, one also cannot be guilty of murder because he favors legislation that seeks to preserve personal privacy which may or may not result in the taking of lives.

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  154. sdb says: “I suspect that on the overwhelming number of issues we actually face, Christians can be on different sides without sinning (including abortion, ssm, etc…).”
    You are speaking politically here and not theologically right? Meaning that there is no Christians position that believes either abortion of ssm(for instance) are not sinful, but if and how they want the state to address them may differ among credible believers? I think that’s what you’re saying, but want to be sure.

    This is a very thought provoking conversation you guys are having btw. (You too Zrim)

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  155. @Gtt That’s right. I’m assuming that we are talking about issues where we agree in the sinfulness of the activity and that the church would be negligent if she did not discipline members who engaged in them (or advocated on their behalf). We all agree that it is sinful to neglect the fatherless and the widow, but that doesn’t mean you have to vote for candidates that favor the expansion of the welfare state.

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  156. And just to be clear (I’m probably repeating myself), the fact that the church lacks the authority to discipline a believer for taking the dumb side on some issue does not mean that all sides are equally wise.

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  157. being the 11th, thinking from Prov 11 we can least agree on this principle (since its the Lord’s) : 10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.

    where righteousness is, the blessing of God is

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  158. Dr. Hart asks: “Greg, so Christians have to agree that mothers who obtain abortions should be imprisoned?”
    There is no such thing as a Christian construal of prenatal infanticide. A person who believes that the killing of an unborn child is a woman’s right, evinces no credible claim upon Christ. Communing with such a wicked person (once taught and corrected) is a clear violation of 1st Corinthians 5.

    A person who believes that forgoing the prosecution of the mother because it serves the greater good of ultimately preventing a higher number of abortions, while wrongheaded, is not in that same class.

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  159. sdb says: “@Gtt That’s right. I’m assuming that we are talking about issues where we agree in the sinfulness of the activity and that the church would be negligent if she did not discipline members who engaged in them (or advocated on their behalf). “
    Agreed.

    sdb says: “We all agree that it is sinful to neglect the fatherless and the widow, but that doesn’t mean you have to vote for candidates that favor the expansion of the welfare state.”
    I’ll just agree with this for now rather than possibly cause a sidetrack.

    sdb says: “And just to be clear (I’m probably repeating myself), the fact that the church lacks the authority to discipline a believer for taking the dumb side on some issue does not mean that all sides are equally wise.”
    To repeat myself as well, the categories are always defined by sinful or no. “Dumb” is not necessarily the same as sinful. Taking the sinful side of an issue automatically places that person under the actionable authority of a faithful church. Taking the dumb side, if not also sinful, does not.

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  160. A person who believes that the killing of an unborn child is a woman’s right, evinces no credible claim upon Christ.

    Greg, how about the person who approves of pre-emptive war, which doesn’t pass the just war test? Should those who voted for the shocking and awesome pre-emptive invasion of Iraq be questioned on their profession of faith? Careful, you could end up protecting that evil socialist Bernie Sanders.

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  161. I believe everything I believe because I believe it is what God says in His word Zrim. Whoever else happens to agree or not, is not my concern. If Sanders (or anybody else) and I agree on something, fine.

    Preemptive war is not analogous to the murder of of an unborn infant whom, the vast majority of the time was brought into existence by the willful volition of both parents.

    This is a complete and total sidetrack, but just about everybody supported the move into Iraq at the time AND waterboarding to obtain information from prisoners. Including most of the Democrats. For a Christian, the propriety and sinfulness of this is at least debatable. Not so with abortion.

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  162. Greg, it’s a not a side track–the discussion above over music is. But it’s remarkable how you allow for debate over pre-emptive war but not abortion. Both involve the unprovoked taking of human life. But I guess since everything you believe is straight outta the Bible, who am I to wonder?

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  163. Greg,

    A person who believes that forgoing the prosecution of the mother because it serves the greater good of ultimately preventing a higher number of abortions, while wrongheaded, is not in that same class.

    And this is the point, I think, at least with the specifics of abortion.

    Abortion is either murder or it isn’t. If it is, then it should be illegal. We can talk about how to classify it as a species of wrongful killing—manslaughter, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, etc and what penalties if any there should be. But its simply unfathomable to me for someone to be content with abortion on demand as the law of the land. How one might work against that and oppose it may differ from person to person depending on his or her calling, but to say the Christian position isn’t to be so concerned about it just strikes me as odd. I’m not sure that’s what anyone is advocating, but it can sure come across that way.

    I’m honestly having difficulty with any kind of blasé attitude toward unlawful killing, be it unjust war, abortion, or anything else.

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  164. Robert, here’s but one of many opportunities, do you consider it murder or unlawful killing for a woman to terminate an ectopic pregnancy, to complicate matters these are often emergency situations? My understanding of ectopic pregnancies is that they aren’t uncommon and a likely opportunity if you spend enough time trying to get pregnant. So, it’s a likely opportunity in your congregation. Are you going to bring charges or contemplate bringing charges against a woman who terminates an ectopic pregnancy?

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  165. Robert, so is your difficulty with some of us who do oppose elective abortion and pre-emptive war but don’t show sufficient outrage and allow for reasonable people to disagree? Like I tell my wife, just because I don’t care the way you do (about X) doesn’t mean I don’t care at all.

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  166. Robert, but if it helps, I had to stop reading a cover story over the weekend having to do with the violence and atrocities happening in Africa against women and children. It was too much to absorb. Still, I bet there’s a better way of dealing with it than my inner outrage would dictate. Does that make me a weakling?

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  167. Zrim says: “Greg, it’s a not a side track–the discussion above over music is.”
    A thing I am attempting not to repeat.

    Zrim says: ” But it’s remarkable how you allow for debate over per-emptive war but not abortion. Both involve the unprovoked taking of human life. “
    If prosecuted justly, a pre-emptive strike serves the purpose of preventing an enemy attack upon people over whom the powers that be have been given charge. How this in any way compares to voluntarily killing of one’s own child to avoid the fruit of the God given blessing of sex, involves perhaps the most spectacular specimen of “nuance” I may have ever seen.

    Zrim says: ” But I guess since everything you believe is straight outta the Bible, who am I to wonder?”
    Excellent! It was a long, winding and laborious road, but you finally got here 😀

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  168. Robert says: “I’m honestly having difficulty with any kind of blasé attitude toward unlawful killing, be it unjust war, abortion, or anything else.”
    If you are including me in this assertion Robert, I assure you it is not the case.

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  169. Greg, I’m ordained to protect my family. If I fear you and what I think you might do to my family and drive over to kill you to make sure that doesn’t happen, I’m justified? But nice loaded comparison designed to prop up your chutzpah. You talk about abortion the way you do film.

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  170. Srim says: “Greg, I’m ordained to protect my family. If I fear you and what I think you might do to my family and drive over to kill you to make sure that doesn’t happen, I’m justified?”
    First of all, there’s a huge difference between private self protection in Jesus name, and Geo-political warfare to protect the populous of a nation. Both of these depend upon principles to determine whether they are justified or not.

    Zrim says: “But nice loaded comparison designed to prop up your chutzpah.”
    It’s a proper and legitimate comparison. Or non-comparison actually.

    Zrim says: “You talk about abortion the way you do film.”
    I stand on the same authority for both, yes.

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  171. Greg,

    Not including you. I don’t honestly think anyone here is blasé about abortion in particular. I think there are a lot of people here who are mad that Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, and James Dobson signed on with the Republican party uncritically and want to make sure they don’t get lumped in with that bunch.

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  172. Sean,

    Robert, here’s but one of many opportunities, do you consider it murder or unlawful killing for a woman to terminate an ectopic pregnancy, to complicate matters these are often emergency situations? My understanding of ectopic pregnancies is that they aren’t uncommon and a likely opportunity if you spend enough time trying to get pregnant. So, it’s a likely opportunity in your congregation. Are you going to bring charges or contemplate bringing charges against a woman who terminates an ectopic pregnancy?

    I said earlier in the thread, maybe not in so many words, that if the mother’s life is in danger, the unborn child at that point becomes the aggressor and she is the innocent part that must be preserved. Since my understanding of ectopic pregnancies is that they invariably put the mother’s life at legitimate risk, then the answer to your questions is no.

    People have to make the best decisions they have in specific cases with the information they have, but that’s not really what I’m getting at here. What I’m getting at is why any Christian who believes abortion on demand is murder is telling me that the church shouldn’t have a position on whether or not murder of the unborn is legal. If you and others don’t believe abortion on demand is murder, it would make sense. But from all that I’m seeing, nobody is for it.

    Seems pretty straightforward to me that the church would be against legalizing murder, theft, or any number of any crimes.

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  173. What I’m getting at is why any Christian who believes abortion on demand is murder is telling me that the church shouldn’t have a position on whether or not murder of the unborn is legal.

    Robert, because “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.”

    How do you get from this that the church should have and even voice a political opinion on a particular matter?

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  174. Greg, the point is that Christians don’t agree about the application of do not commit murder. If Christianity doesn’t resolve those differences about political questions, it’s not the elixir you say it it.

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  175. Robert, thanks for the clarification. But I don’t think it’s always been clear when you’re going from ethical determinations to political proposals to institutional responsibilities. So, yes, I’m for not legalizing murder. That was easy. So, I guess we’re still left with trying to determine when abortion is murder. Not so easy. And when does the church have the right to solicit the gov. on it’s legislative determinations. Almost never, except in cases extraordinary. So, somewhere beyond the charter of the God given tasks of the church.

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  176. Here’s the problem with your ASSERTION again Zrim. The same minds that wrote ch. XXXI also wrote ch. XXIII wherein they specify that the magistrate is duty bound to enforce sound theology and church order. The fact that we both agree that this is not universally desirable in all eras and circumstances, does not negate the point that that’s what THEY said and it does remain the magistrate’s duty. From whence do you figure the magistrate was to learn the mind of the Lord on these matters if not the church?

    I tentatively contend, though this area has admittedly not been as thoroughly explored by me as others, that the category lines are again drawn at that which is morally charged and that which is indifferent with respect to the commandments of God. Similarly to liberty of individual conscience. That which is truly indifferent is left to the magistrate without inter-meddling. When presented with that which potentially upholds or violates a clear command of the Lord, the church’s duty is to preach the word to the magistrate as well as individuals, where and when this is possible.

    I hasten to add that this is not transformation by another name. It IS faithful presence when matched with a credible testimony in the society. The goal is not to make sin more comfortable for the pagans through general well being. It is to faithfully proclaim AND portray the character of our God as our God improves our own character in Christ.

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  177. Dr. Hart says: “Greg, the point is that Christians don’t agree about the application of do not commit murder. If Christianity doesn’t resolve those differences about political questions, it’s not the elixir you say it is.”
    Before I answer an assumption and possibly waste a lot of our time, please elaborate on what you mean buy this if you would Darryl.

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  178. Greg, the American revisions of Chapter 23 completely undo any notion that the magistrate is duty bound to enforce sound theology and church order. That has not been done to Chapter 31–churches are still enjoined not to meddle, even when it comes to anybody’s fav-O-rite political issue. What are you saying, you want Obama to keep watch over sound doctrine?

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  179. @ Puddleglum: Selective outrage is phony outrage.

    Goodness no. How would one even exist in this world by striving to be equally outraged over every issue?!

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  180. Greg, Christians agree that murder is sin. Christians may not agree about what qualifies as murder (leftist Christians think soldiers are murderers). Christians may not agree about whether the federal or state government should determine laws governing murder. Christians may not agree about punishment for murder. Christians may even disagree about trial by juries.

    When you wade into politics, my man, you’re entering a room full of pain — meaning, lots more to consider than morality.

    Duh!

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  181. How painful the room is is not the standard Darryl. Whether and in what manner God wants us in it is the standard. I say a biblical and historical definition of “faithful presence” is the answer. Yes, a book could be written on that.

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  182. Zrim completely misses my proactive point and says anyway: “Greg, the American revisions of Chapter 23 completely undo any notion that the magistrate is duty bound to enforce sound theology and church order. That has not been done to Chapter 31–churches are still enjoined not to meddle, even when it comes to anybody’s fav-O-rite political issue.
    The point is Zrim, that the divines did not see the mandate of XXIII as contradicting the boundaries of XXXI. Because there is no contradiction. EVERY man’s duty is obedience to and the upholding of the revealed mind and law of almighty God in all that they think, say and do. Including their role as magistrate.

    Zrim then incredibly asks me what I have denied a dozen times since I began visiting this blog: “What are you saying, you want Obama to keep watch over sound doctrine?”
    I’ll try again. Having demonstrated not even a common grace interest in maintaining basic good and punishing basic evil in fulfilling the universal functions of the magistrate under God, the magistrate has then forfeited any divine right to a voice in the church he may have had. The church is still however to render obedience to the corrupt magistrate in all that does not require sin in so doing.

    Having said all that, as it is with men generally, God requires of the magistrate that which he will never even attempt to do unless made a new creature in Christ. Magisterial bodies, being made up of several or many men, will pretty much always include both regenerate and unregenerate individuals or unregenerate individuals only. The Christian magistrate in fulfilling the commands to do all from faith in and to the Glory of his Lord and master, must carry this duty into all areas of life, including his vocation, in this case as civil magistrate.

    In short, while the mandate of XXIII is certainly legitimate, we’ll likely never see it in this age. Therefore we can both preach it’s truth while doing what we can in a lawful fashion to influence the pagan magistrate to at least the general and superficial maintenance of right and wrong seen in Paul’s Rome, while recognizing that true and lasting justice will only come to this world with our Lord at His return.

    The truly disgusting and stupid declarations by RC’s like Mario Cuomo (for example) about being privately pro life , but publicly pro choice are an abomination in the sight of the God of the bible.

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  183. “Selective” (as in selective outrage) is here a synonym for “partial,” as in: the opposite of impartial.

    If white-on-black violence makes you want to riot, but black-on-white or black-on-black violence = “meh… it’s a systemic issue” — that’s selective outrage. (Lookin’ at you, Daisy).

    This sort of “phoniness” is all over politics today. DJT promises to continue the waterboarding and indiscriminate bombing of the last two POTUS administrations, and the Establishment Party (R&D) gets the vapours. Please.

    Abortion-stance as a policy beacon creates a moral rallying point (about which nothing at all is to happen, as a matter of policy); so that Christians supposedly know who to vote for. Because these thousands of image bearers born in the USA, well, God loves them and has a wonderful plan for each of their lives; whereas the towel-heads (don’t lie, they’re ALL mohammedans you know) have no significance–so what’s a few hundred thousand killed and maimed?

    If the fundamental issue is misidentified, then “picking battles” can’t help but be in fact just what it appears to be: selective outrage, especially when it is whipped up. Ring-a-ling, this call’s for you.

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  184. The point is Zrim, that the divines did not see the mandate of XXIII as contradicting the boundaries of XXXI. Because there is no contradiction. EVERY man’s duty is obedience to and the upholding of the revealed mind and law of almighty God in all that they think, say and do. Including their role as magistrate.

    Greg, so Christian magistrates must seek to embody in civil legislation true religion, meaning they must punish idolatry with the sword, meaning they must seek to curb religious expression for Mormons, Muslims, and Catholics. In other words, Christian theocracy.

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  185. Where do we find the punishment of heresy and or idolatry with the sword in a Christian theocracy in the New Testament Zrim? I see the delivery to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that their Spirit may be saved, and shunning, even for those who know the word already.

    Our mission is to hopefully save them. Not kill them.

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  186. Greg, so what does every man upholding obedience to and the upholding of the revealed mind and law of almighty God in all that they think, say and do. Including their role as magistrate look like? What we see in the NT is a spiritual discipline in the church for idolatry among members by those entrusted with the keys of the kingdom. You want those entrusted with the sword to uphold the the law of God (your words). What’s that look like if not physical punishment for disobedience?

    The magistrate doesn’t exist to save; it exists to punish evil and vindicate the innocent. If you don’t want the magistrate to kill for disobedience then amend your words.

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  187. It means, in the context of our form of government, honorably legislating or ruling so as to least inhibit the mission of the church. Which is to be an instrument in the hands of the Spirit toward Jesus saving His people from their sins.

    If this is not possible in the government of the country one might be living in, then there is no non-sinful way to serve as a magistrate in that country or jurisdiction. How can a Christian be complicit in the hindering of the gospel? Especially for money?

    “You want those entrusted with the sword to uphold the the law of God (your words).”
    Which law would you rather see upheld? Of course, as I said, this duty will not likely ever be faithfully fulfilled in this pre-apocalyptic age. Not by unbelievers for sure. What I would like to see the magistrate do, is not the same as expecting I will ever actually see it.

    How to legislate or rule in a particular instance would have to be taken on a case by case basis with every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Or magisterial thoughts don’t count? Would you prefer that President Terrible NOT operate with every thought captive to Christ, but freelance according to his own conscience and propensities?

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  188. Greg, first you tell me that the Westminster Divines are the standard. They were part of a political order that punished heresy by fines, prison, or the sword.

    Now you go all NT and claim what 2kers do that the early church was not involved in politics.

    Huh?

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  189. Greg, what Darryl says. Are you taking cues from the original WCF or the American revision? You seem to have a foot in both, but that’s not the point of a revision.

    But as you say, “this area has admittedly not been as thoroughly explored by me as others,” so…

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  190. Zrim,

    Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.

    How do you get from this that the church should have and even voice a political opinion on a particular matter?

    Couple of things,

    First, you really think the church can say “Murder is wrong for us here at First Orthodox Presbyterian, but its a matter indifferent for Steve Smith who never attends church and never has been baptized”? It’s a matter indifferent for the state?

    8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Tim. 1:8–11)

    What is the lawful use of the law for unbelievers except to restrain sin? And that’s merely a conscience thing? The prophets didn’t seem to think so, at least in their oracles to the nations.

    Second, “civil affairs which concern the commonwealth” has to be interpreted. How did the divines define this? Certainly not in ways analogous to modern American separation of church and state jurisprudence. That doesn’t mean that the divines were right, but it seems a bit of a jump to go from that chapter to the particular view of 2K you are espousing.

    Third, how has this chapter been interpreted in America? The majority has not read it in the way that you guys here are reading and applying it. That doesn’t make the majority right, but it should not give one pause?

    And there’s more but I’ll stop there for now. Let me close with a question. Are you actually saying that the best a church can do is say: “Murder is a sin for church members, but we, the church, can’t really say it is a sin for people who aren’t church members (they aren’t under our ecclesiastical jurisdiction), and we, the church, have no opinion on whether the state should act to curb or outlaw murder.” Because it seems to me that if you are going to be consistent, that would have to be what you affirm.

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  191. Robert, I’m only saying that the church has no vested interest to be weighing in on worldly matters. How is that so controversial? There is myriad of issues the church doesn’t weigh in on that, based on your reasoning over abortion, really probably should. Alas, silence. Speaking of consistency, where’s yours? Why is abortion so special and extraordinary that you think the church should be instructing the civil powers? Hot button, sure, but extraordinary? Hardly. And if hot button, all the more reason to shut up lest we fall captive to some form of political or soclal gospelizing.

    Murder is murder for everyone, inside and outside the church and whether inside or outside should be subject to the same civil punishment. I don’t find my view in your characterization at all.

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  192. Ali, so get lead around by the nose by the hot button issues of the day? I’ll see your sheesh and raise you a heavens to Murgatroyd. “The world sets the church’s agenda.” Who said that?

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  193. Robert, now you’ve gone back to carpeting the whole discussion with “murder is wrong, isn’t it?”. Somehow you keep distilling what is a very nuanced discussion between institutional roles, absolute ethical conclusions and political possibilities to, “you’re either for murder or against it”. That’s not a fair assessment of the conversation nor do I find an accurate depiction of a 2k position or an alleged dilemma created by a 2k distinction, in those summations.

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  194. Zrim: I’ll see your sheesh and raise you a heavens to Murgatroyd.

    funny. haven’t heard that in a while. have a great day.

    Origin :’Heavens to Murgatroyd’ is American in origin and dates from the mid 20th century. The expression was popularized by the cartoon character Snagglepuss – a regular on the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s, and is a variant of the earlier ‘heavens to Betsy’. Despite etymologists’ best efforts there isn’t any record of the phrase that predates the cartoon series and it seems quite likely that it was coined by the show’s writers.

    As with Betsy, we have no idea who Murgatroyd was. The various spellings of the name – as Murgatroid, Mergatroyd or Mergatroid tend to suggest that it wasn’t a reference to an actual person but just a fanciful expression made up because it sounded wacky.

    No fewer than ten of the characters in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Ruddigore, 1887, are baronets surnamed “Murgatroyd”, eight of whom (or is that which?) are ghosts.

    Where then did the librettist Sir William Gilbert get the name? It seems that Murgatroyd has a long history as a family name in the English aristocracy. In his genealogy The Murgatroyds of Murgatroyd, Bill Murgatroyd states that, in 1371, a constable was appointed for the district of Warley in Yorkshire. He adopted the name of Johanus de Morgateroyde – literally John of Moor Gate Royde or ‘the district leading to the moor’.

    Whether the Murgatroyd name took a trip from Yorkshire to Jellystone Park we can’t be certain. Unless there’s a Betsy Murgatroyd hiding in the archives, that’s as close as we are likely to get to a derivation.

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  195. De. Hart says: “Greg, first you tell me that the Westminster Divines are the standard. They were part of a political order that punished heresy by fines, prison, or the sword.

    Now you go all NT and claim what 2kers do that the early church was not involved in politics.

    Huh?”
    What’s this really about for you Darryl?
    ================================================
    Zrim says: “Greg, what Darryl says. Are you taking cues from the original WCF or the American revision? You seem to have a foot in both, but that’s not the point of a revision.”
    I do see merit in both. I’ll also say that this whole conversation, mostly the parts I wasn’t involved in, have made me think more deeply than ever before about the church and the individual Christian’s interaction with the political arena of the United States. Lots to pray, study and think about.

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  196. Greg, that’s fine, but you actually have to decide which is superior and more in line with holy writ, which shouldn’t be too hard for a guy with such powers of discernment who “believes everything he believes because he believes it is what God says in His word.” You can do it, Greg, the 2k version of WCF or Constantinian?

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  197. Dr. Hart says: “Greg, it’s about figuring out what the Lord requires.”
    I have nearly insurmountable suspicions here Darryl, but will at least formally take you at your word for now. Yes. Everything is about figuring out what the Lord requires, and surrendering to it once known.
    ==========================================
    Zriim says: “Greg, that’s fine, but you actually have to decide [what] is in line with holy writ,…”
    (Revision mine obviously)
    As I said to Daryl above. Yes, this is true.

    Zriim says: “which shouldn’t be too hard for a guy with such powers of discernment who “believes everything he believes because he believes it is what God says in His word.”
    Au contraire my friend. “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all.” Though many are. I’ve made no claims that anything comes easy to me. You’re putting words in my mouth again.

    Zriim says: “You can do it, Greg, the 2k version of WCF or Constantinian?”
    No Greg can’t do it, but the Holy Spirit can. See here’s the problem. Political systems and ideologies are not explicitly taught in the New Testament That’s true and I’ve said so myself for decades. I have almost as many conservative Republican opponents as I do liberal Democrat opponents. (you have no idea) There’s plenty of idolatry all around.

    Applying biblical principle to a secular magistrate that must govern a mixed populous is more complex than maybe any other area of life. The divines spoke form within and to the only political context they knew, and in the absence of magesterial precedent from the scriptures, left us the1646 version of the confession. Of course I would never want any government that has ever existed on this continent to function as they set forth in ch. XXIII. Probably not even if it were full of Jays and Witherspoons.

    At bottom, all political ideologies are incapable of governing a divided people. I say again. A divided nation is both ungovernable and incapable of freedom. There is no biblical promise or prescription for overcoming this. This is still Adam’s world, and will be until the last Adam returns to change that for good.

    I vote and preach according to who and what will least hinder the mission of the church, which is to preach the gospel and make disciples. Not bring a Christ-less secular utopia on earth. (as if that were even possible). However, faithful presence and sane social participation CAN enhance the church’s abiility to fulfill her mission. This can be a delicate balance though.

    This election may be the first one I cannot vote in.

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