How Others Hear Us

So if Christians, Roman Catholic and Protestant, want a Christian society or commonwealth or polity, what does that mean for non-Christians? That seems to me the question that most critics of 2k fail to answer. It is also a question to which 2k supplies an answer that 2k critics reject.

But consider this contribution to the Commentary magazine forum of the First Things symposium on “The End of Democracy”:

Years ago (how many, I do not remember) I was on a panel with the late Russell Kirk, the doyen of the paleoconservatives, and sitting behind him when, at the podium, he outlined his plan for a Christian commonwealth. Rather rudely, I must admit, I interrupted him by asking, in a voice audible throughout the room, “What are you going to do with us Jews?” The question obviously took him aback, first because he knew I was not Jewish, but most of all, I suspect, because it had never occurred to him to ask it, or to have to answer it. After a short pause, he mumbled something to the effect that, of course, he did not mean to exclude Jews or anyone else.

Having raised the question, I felt obliged to point out that the Constitution provides a better answer: by separating church and state, I said, the Founders intended to provide (in the words of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer) a haven “for all sorts and conditions of men,” and the foundation of this haven—safe for the Jews and safe for the rest of us—was not Christianity, and certainly not the church of that prayerbook, but liberty of conscience, a liberal principle whose provenance was John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration.

Sure, a secular society has limitations. But so do Christian societies.

So why can’t we all get along and be thankful for the United States of America?

12 thoughts on “How Others Hear Us

  1. Right. that IS the question that advocates of a Christian commonwealth fail to answer. But 2kers also fail. They fail to answer the question of how or by what standard we decide that some acts are duties and some are offenses. The framers of the Constitution were not in fact neutral, but were shaped by judeochristian presuppositions. Freedom of religion did not mean freedom of a Muslim to eradicate kaffirs or freedom of a Roman patrician to expose girl babies. In the era of Peter Singer, these have become live problems.


  2. Dan, “They fail to answer the question of how or by what standard we decide that some acts are duties and some are offenses.”

    Who’s this “we” white man?

    2k distinguished Christians from non-Christians. Different standards in public and in the church. Why would you expect non-Christians to act like Christians? If you’re going to use the same standards dot dot dot.


  3. How Others Hear Us
    Why would you expect non-Christians to act like Christians? If you’re going to use the same standards dot dot dot.

    …very, very good point! …

    Love may not be the same as nice (depending what is being said by that); unequivocally, though love is never mean.

    -the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Gal 5:22-24
    -Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Gal 5:16
    -I (Jesus) am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing John 15:5
    -Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:16


  4. So then we use our standards, they use theirs, & the one with the most votes/money, etc. controls the polity? Thereafter we have to do it their way or they have to do it our way? I’m not sure whether this is what you mean, but, if it’s not, please explain further.


  5. Dan, actually, THEY don’t like killing or stealing or lying either. Something to work with. But if you want to ground everything in federal headship, you’re in for a long haul until Jesus returns


  6. I am not grounding anything in anything. I don’t have a solution. But many in our society think killing not only preborn babies, but toddlers is just fine. They think it’s OK to compel doctors or nurses to help do it. And this is only the tip of the icebereg. We have a society with very little consensus about what is right and what is not, what is good and what is evil. The consensus we do have is mostly a leftover from the culture we used to have. I don’t think the 2K folks ave an answer because the Peter Singers belong here & are part of the “us” that is our society. But you folks don’t seem to me to have an answer either.


  7. Dan, 2kers are only giving the answer that Jesus and the apostles gave. Submit to the powers that be, live quiet and peaceful lives, live lives characterized by holiness and repentance.

    Sorry that’s not a political program. But it is the word of God. You have a problem with that?

    If you want to talk political programs, 2kers are willing and ready. Make sure those programs aren’t biblical because that would abuse the Bible.


  8. Submitting to the powers that be in a representative republic, such as ours, arguably includes political behavior that was not an option in the Roman Empire. There is no clear and simple biblical guidance for this. Jesus never said, “When you vote, …” We are left to analogize & take risks. It should be obvious that no political position can claim to be “the” biblical one. Churches are not and should not be political parties. But when Christians consider political issues, they are presumably guided by standards not generally shared by others. So one side or the other ends up imposing its view. And we don’t seem to have any way to soften the resulting antagonisms. Witness the abortion issue.


  9. Dan, if Christians are guided by standards not generally shared by others then how can they expect to be able to participate, let alone transform (as if) anything? If we go by very peculiar standards then why wouldn’t that lead to withdrawal and secret society?


  10. Darryl,

    Dan, when Christians consider politics, what happened to “put no trust in princes”?

    How is it putting trust in princes to encourage the state to follow Natural Law/Natural Revelation? Isn’t that how Christ governs one of the two kingdoms?


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