High Octane CCT (Calvinists and Catholics Together)

Peter Leithart has discovered David L. Schindler and it makes sense since both men don’t like liberal modernity and do like comprehensive explanations of all things. One could call that integralism (or w-wism). It is the meeting of every square inch Calvinism with papal claims to universality. All audacity all the time.

The object of CCT’s scorn is any claim of neutrality:

The liberal state claims to be a referee, but has to decide the limits of the playing field, and in practice has to determine what does and doesn’t count as an acceptable religious contribution to the public realm.

As a result, the liberal state institutionalizes and establishes its own theology. Even the decision to remain publicly neutral about an issue like transubstantiation reflects theological opinion, the theological (or anti-theological) opinion that the real presence is irrelevant to public life. Many Christians would beg to differ.

As is the case with many comprehensivalists, the rhetorical engine always runs in overdrive. Hundreds of court cases show that “liberal” courts that have no metaphysical grounding, from the Massachusetts Supreme Court that ruled against the merger of Andover Seminary and Harvard Divinity School on the grounds that one was Trinitarian and the other Unitarian, to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hosanna-Tabor in favor of an LCMS school’s definition of a minister, the “neutral” state can sometimes make rulings based on the writings of churches. To act like state officials are stupid because they try to be umpires to contested religious claims is not fair or accurate.

And to allege that the real presence of Christ is relevant to public life because — wink, wink — some beg to differ is to avoid a chance for instruction in comprehensive metaphysics. For shame.

That doesn’t stop Leithart:

The liberal state tilts the playing field in favor of certain kinds of churches; “sacramental” churches have to betray themselves when they enter the public arena and act as if they are no more than voluntary societies. Self-denial is the ticket price for playing on the field of public opinion.

This might seem like sour grapes: The ref is biased against us, and he should be biased in our favor. It might even be taken as good news to voluntarist churches, who might conclude, The ref is on our side. As has become evident in recent years, though, orthodox believers of all sorts are being and will continue to be pressured to conform to the dictates of liberal order. All churches, not only the sacramental ones, are being squeezed into shape. That is not an aberration. Liberalism has a totalizing impulse that erodes religious liberty.

The easiest way to demonstrate that point is this: By definition, liberal order cannot be accountable to any metaphysical or theological framework beyond itself. To do so, it would cease to be a liberal state. That means that the liberal order itself is the all-embracing framework for political and social life. All other conceptions of common good, all other metaphysical or theological positions, are “private,” and only liberalism is allowed to function as public theology. All other metaphysical or theological opinions will be judged by whether or not they conform to and promote, or inhibit, the aims of liberal order. Churches that adjust to the public theology of liberalism are tolerable. Churches that do not are penalized in various ways.

So if liberalism is totalizing, won’t Christianity be as well? Where will Mormons, Jews, and unbelievers go? And will Calvinists and Roman Catholics rule together? Or will they have to carve up North America the way Germany and Japan did in The Man in the High Castle? One of the troubles that comprehensivalists have is explaining details.

Another defender of Schindler says that we will have our cake (liberal arrangements) and eat it too (metaphysical foundation):

The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray famously argued that this arrangement constitutes America’s signal contribution to the world. The First Amendment of the Constitution, in offering not “articles of faith” but rather “articles of peace,” secured religious freedom for Christians (and for others) while also respecting the rightful integrity of the secular. The American liberal order of limited government and the separation of church and state provides neutral public space while also providing freedom in the form of basic rights that provide “immunity from coercion.” Christianity and liberalism, in this narrative, are not only compatible but utterly harmonious.

Now, the first thing to note is that Schindler believes that limited government, the separation of church and state, human rights, and religious freedom are legitimate achievements that ought to be preserved. But he simply does not believe (1) that liberalism, or any other conception of order, can successfully prescind from metaphysics (he quotes philosopher Etienne Gilson: “metaphysics always buries its undertakers”), or (2) that these achievements can be preserved if they are grounded in the unwitting metaphysics of liberalism rather than in the metaphysics of love. …

The question therefore becomes which truth best secures the ends of civil society, including the noble achievements that have been realized (at least in certain senses) in liberal modernity—religious freedom, human rights, separation of church and state, and so on. Based on his metaphysics of love, Schindler suggests that the first truth that government ought to appropriate is “the truth of freedom as an essential inner feature of love.”

Maybe.

But what metaphysical construction did Paul need to say this?

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

I get it. Paul appealed to God (not to the inner dynamics of the Trinity, though). But his application applies as much to liberal states like the U.S.A. as it does to Nero’s Rome.

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31 thoughts on “High Octane CCT (Calvinists and Catholics Together)

  1. I can’t help but wonder if maybe Paul was speaking to a specific church in a specific place at a specific time. Maybe the Roman Church needed to obey authorities for a reason not given to us. I find it hard to believe that Paul would condone obeying a government that commands its people to slaughter their unborn children, such as China with their one child policy (which I believe has recently been revised).

    The Bible is also full of instances where people resist authorities – David hiding from Saul, Jesus and the Pharisees (maybe that’s stretching a bit). It is also full of instances where people obey authorities – Joseph in Egypt, Daniel and Esther in Babylon/Persia, Jesus and Pilate…

    Regardless, Paul said what he said. And it is convicting.

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  2. Bryan, if Paul’s words were only for a specific church in a specific time and place and buttressed with special reasons not revealed, wouldn’t that imply that his words are more or less irrelevant to us? That’s a red flag. And there is such a thing as eisegesis–is it possible to be reading back into the text modern sensibilities about obeying governments that do things one finds objectionable? But Paul’s magistrate was also persecuting believers and yet the command is to obey. Makes getting hung up on certain matters of American jurisprudence as possible justification to disobey look…unbecoming.

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  3. Zrim,

    Was Paul’s magistrate persecuting believers when he wrote Romans, though? I’m not so sure. During 2 Timothy, yes, but while Romans was being written?

    That’s not to say that he didn’t advocate obeying a beastly state, just making an observation.

    Seems the safest reading of the Pauline principle is to obey except when the state forbids you to do something God commands or commands what God forbids. Because I’m pretty sure that if the state commanded you to worship Caesar, Paul would be like, “No.”

    But as for Bryan’s point, it also seems that allowance is made for the degree to which one participates in evil. So you wouldn’t obey the Chinese government if they tried to force you personally to perform an abortion but that doesn’t mean the state is not owed your obedience.

    It gets more complicated when we consider the fact that you can in fact sue the state under our system if they command you to do something you believe is unconstitutional. Is that fact of suing obeying the state? Seems like qualification is in order regardless of one is a 2Ker or more a transformationalist.

    But then what is the church’s position supposed to be under a 2K system if the state forbids Christian worship? The church doesn’t take a position on whether or not it is right for the state to do that? Individual Christians could say it’s wrong, but the church would be like “I don’t know.” ?????

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  4. Robert, right, obey God rather than men. But notice the command is always obedience (man when he isn’t compelling a disobedience of God, God always) and never disobedience. I know, sounds quibbling, but it sure does seem like there is some unwarranted pride taken in the alleged virtues of disobedience.

    As to suing, is it using carnal weapons to fight spiritual battles? Some might scoff at the very question, but is that to take more seriously the doctrine of rights over the doctrines of Scripture?

    As to the state forbidding worship, the point isn’t to figure out what the church tells the state in such instances. It’s to tell Christians what’s what. For example, contrary to popular ideas Romans 13 isn’t a prescription to the state about “punishing evil and rewarding good” (such that if it doesn’t do so then believers are free to disobey). That’s a description of the state’s character. The text is actually a prescription to believers to obey. And if a state forbids the worship of God, it’s the duty of believers to obey God rather than men and worship God. It’s not to get up in the state’s grill about it.

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  5. Dr. Hart – That’s exactly what I’m confused about. Let’s scratch my comment on the specific time and place thing. And my logic (if we can call it that) is that Nero was commanding his soldiers to kill the Christians, or imprison them, or send them to the Colosseum, or whatever. So, I don’t think Paul is telling the Roman Christians to kill each other just because Nero is killing Christians. Maybe Paul was telling the Roman Christian to submit to the persecution that was coming rather than actively engage in some sinful act.

    I guess I don’t exactly understand the difference between subjection and outright obedience. Along the lines of what Robert said, it doesn’t seem that Paul is saying that we should actively participate in something sinful even if it is commanded by the governing authorities.

    Is Paul only talking about paying taxes/revenue and giving honor and respect? If he is, then this is pretty straightforward. I’m hung up on the idea of obeying government even when they are breaking God’s law and commanding that we break it too. Do we obey them then?

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  6. Bryan, could you submit to a government that says execute people with wrong religious beliefs? One question is whether that order is directed to you directly or given to executioners of the state. But if the state banned Christianity, would you submit whether you are an executioner or not? The apostles both submitted to that government (they went to their deaths) and they told fellow believers to submit — except in one case. If government told them they must not proclaim the gospel, the apostles disobeyed.

    The problem (I think) that most Christians have with today’s government is that they read the lack of support for the true religion or morality as hostility to the true religion. The way Leithart and Schindler draw things up, it’s either or. Either for God or against. That’s not what Paul did. Rome was against God. Paul said submit to Rome.

    Why? Because it was a legitimate government. In fact, deeming a government to be illegitimate is a really tough call. Not even David, the Lord’s anointed, could make that call about Saul.

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  7. But it’s a bit more complicated than just submit, and that’s all I’m saying.

    Paul says pay your taxes. But he’s speaking in the 50s to a Roman government that views Christians more as a nuisance than is outrightly hostile to him. Does this command still apply if Nero levies a 5 denarius tax on every citizen for the purpose of funding the killing of Christians? Do you as a Christian pay that tax? Do you pay all of your tax bill except for that specific part of it?

    What does our submission look like when we are not in a political system that has an emperor?

    I’m certainly not advocating full-on rebellion, but criticizing non-2Kers in certain ways isn’t really that helpful. No transformationalist I know is advocating rebellion against the government. They are simply asking the question what does submission look like? It’s not an easy question to answer for anyone.

    It’s complicated. You have Daniel and Joseph who were believers in high positions in pagan, even evil governments. So evidently it is possible to work even for such states. But you also have Daniel explicitly and defiantly refusing to submit when the state oversteps its bounds. The question is what do we do when the state oversteps its bounds and how do we know when it has happened?

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  8. Robert, that’s not very complicated. Whether you pay the tax for killing Christians or not, you’re toast. Govt. gonna kill you for policy’s sake or for not paying taxes. So don’t pay. Rots of luck.

    The complicated question is paying taxes for policies of which you disapprove. I don’t see how you find support in Scripture (other than in OT Israel where govt. must enforce God’s law) for not submitting to a govt. of which you disapprove. That’s not a way to honor the ruler.

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  9. @Robert
    I’m not so sure the timing is quite so sure, but what is clear is that the apostolic delivery of God’s word continued after persecution was certainly in place. While one should be leery of arguments from silence, I don’t see that one should dismiss them out of hand. After Paul wrote Romans, we don’t see any clarification about what to do given reality of persecution. But we do see a lot about enduring persecution, persisting, blessedness of the persecuted, etc…

    The bottom line is that God did not see fit to reveal in his word what the duties of the nation state are or what our responsibility is as citizens to direct/influence the state. This suggests that we are to turn to “the light of nature” (as the wcf phrases it). I reject the category of natural law, ideology, or other metaphysical baggage. Prudence, custom, and tradition are sufficient guides. When they aren’t, ideology (baptized or not) won’t help. Humans are far less rational than we like to think….rather we use reason to justify post facto (to varying degrees of success as we see in the other thread).

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  10. SDB,
    Not saying we should dismiss them out of hand; just saying it really isn’t that simple as “submit and pay your taxes.” We also have the book of Revelation with two witnesses prophesying against the Beast, which I’m not sure certain versions of 2K can accommodate.

    I actually agree that prudence, custom, and tradition are good guides. I’m not sure they are sufficient. And this looks pretty much like a prescription to me:

    he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

    Reading that merely as descriptive seems naive. Is he a servant of God when he kills those who do righteousness? Seems unlikely except in the broadest will of decree sense.

    I like you guys and learn a lot from you, but one of the things that concerns me is what seems to be a big overreaction to problems of the right and evangelical involvement in politics. It’s one thing to say the lines are a lot fuzzier and less clear than Dobson, Falwell, et all would have us believe. It’s quite another to say “Man, we have no clue what we’re supposed to do vis a vis politics from the Bible.”

    But yes on humans being far less rational than we think!

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  11. Darryl,

    The complicated question is paying taxes for policies of which you disapprove. I don’t see how you find support in Scripture (other than in OT Israel where govt. must enforce God’s law) for not submitting to a govt. of which you disapprove. That’s not a way to honor the ruler.

    That is the complicated question. It’s easy for me to conceive of paying taxes in a system like ours when it all goes into a big pot and gets doled off for some good things and some bad. But do you submit when the government charges you 5 dollars each year and will specifically designate that money to funding mandated abortions or some other form of killing? What do you do then?

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  12. Robert, does your tax bill really have itemizations? Please give an actual case.

    If your tax bill does itemize, don’t pay. Funny thing is that our system (“neutral” though it is), allows for conscientious objectors. Way better than Nero. So why do Christians complain about liberalism so much?

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  13. Robert, but nobody is really saying “we have no clue what we’re supposed to do vis a vis politics from the Bible.” That’s a straw man. What’s being said is that the Bible is silent on certain matters which make them indifferent, so think twice before binding another’s conscience to your pious opinion. It’s actually a preservation of older Reformed virtues on Christian liberty. Sorry if that doesn’t provide a road map to collective navigation on modern concerns, but among other advantages some see that as a good way to avoid political correctness (or what the old timers called group think). You seem to have abortion on the brain, almost as if it’s a litmus test for 2k. You’re not alone. Can you conceive of varied answers to your question, or does allowing for varied answers reveal the weaknesses of 2k? If the latter, I wonder how beholden you are to certain forms of Christian political correctness.

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  14. “Any religion that does not tell you what to do with your pots and pans is not that plausible”

    But that’s the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace, not the Abrahamic covenant…..

    Acts 7: 2 “Brothers and fathers,” Stephen said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia and said to him: Get out of your country and away from your relatives,
    …. 4 “Then Abraham came out of the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had Abraham move to this land you now live in. 5 God didn’t give him an inheritance in it, not even a (square inch), but God promised to give it to Abraham as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. 6 God spoke in this way (Genesis 15 covenant):
    Abraham’s descendants would be strangers
    in a foreign country,
    and they would oppress them 400 years.
    7 I will judge the nation
    that they will serve as slaves, God said.
    After this, Abraham’s descendants will come out
    and worship Me in this place.
    8 Then God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision….

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/10/poor-must-change-new-colonialism-of-economic-order-says-pope-francis

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  15. So ….you are denying that the liberal experiment is intolerant of churches that will not translate their message into “synagogue sermons?

    “Churches that adjust to the public theology of liberalism are tolerable. ….You are free to believe as you wish… But for purposes of public order, the state must remain neutral on these questions. Thus, when you enter the public square, you must make publicly reasonable rather than sectarian arguments. That is how we secure peace. ”

    http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2013/07/belief-and-the-public-square.html

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  16. Not saying we should dismiss them out of hand; just saying it really isn’t that simple as “submit and pay your taxes.” We also have the book of Revelation with two witnesses prophesying against the Beast, which I’m not sure certain versions of 2K can accommodate.

    You’ll have to unpack that for me. I’m not sure what the beast and prophets in Revelation has to do with 2k.

    I actually agree that prudence, custom, and tradition are good guides. I’m not sure they are sufficient.

    Fair enough. I guess this is where we would have to discuss particulars. I agree that there can be issues where these are insufficient, but I think those are really exceptional cases. I think it is also true, that in certain circumstances, there are no perfect answers.

    And this looks pretty much like a prescription to me:
    he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
    Reading that merely as descriptive seems naive. Is he a servant of God when he kills those who do righteousness? Seems unlikely except in the broadest will of decree sense.

    I think Assyria and Babylon are the two paradigmatic examples here.

    I like you guys and learn a lot from you, but one of the things that concerns me is what seems to be a big overreaction to problems of the right and evangelical involvement in politics. It’s one thing to say the lines are a lot fuzzier and less clear than Dobson, Falwell, et all would have us believe. It’s quite another to say “Man, we have no clue what we’re supposed to do vis a vis politics from the Bible.”

    My criticism of Dobson et al. (and parachurch organizations generally) is that they feign to speak for Christianity without ecclesial oversight. They bring disrepute onto the church and create stumbling blocks over indifferent matters. The bible doesn’t tell us whether government should own the means of production, how progressive taxes should be, etc… yet we have a history of conservative protestants drawing boundaries over socialism, folks like Neuhaus, Falwell, etc… muddying the gospel in documents like the manhattan declaration (EOs, RCs, Lutherans, and presybys all agree on the gospel?) and creating co-beligerant groups with Mormons, Jews, and RCs in the name of a “Christian” politics? Then on the left, we have the Sojourner types, Sider, etc… calling down fire and brimstone on those who disagree over minimum wage law, etc… This is the context against which these 2k arguments have to be read – not what we would do in Anne Frank’s shoes, or hypothetical cases where the state forbids Sunday worship or something along those lines.

    On the other hand, I don’t think it is fair to say that 2k entails that we have no clue about politics from the Bible – the 10commandments, etc… do place constraints on our behavior that guide what we do and that is going to have an effect on our political engagement (we can’t lie, we can’t steal, etc…). But these are principles that don’t tell us much about the actual political questions before us.

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  17. Robert,

    I think there is some confusion on 2k and government, maybe on your part, but maybe on a lack of clarity on our part. Rom 13 calls us to submit to government. Submission and obedience are not the same thing, though at times their definitions overlap. You see the difference in passages like Eph 5:21, where submitting certainly does not mean obey.

    Submission is to show honor and deference, it does not mean obeying everything an authority may order you to do, if what they tell you to do is against your conscience before God to do. So the opposite of submission is not disobedience, but rebellion, disrespect, etc.

    In this sense even the martyrs were submissive when they continued preaching against the order of the government. They were submissive by submitting to the punishment decreed, opposed to taking up weapons against their authorities, or fomenting rebellion among the Christians against their authorities. By allowing themselves peacefully to be taken to the arena or the stake, they submitted themselves for Christ’s sake to their human authorities, even as they refused to stop preaching or writing about the Christian faith as God called them to do.

    In this sense we can submit to civil authority whether their laws are good and just or not, or whatever the moral character of our authorities, just as Rom 13 (and I Peter 2) teaches. But each Christian must follow his conscience when it is time to say no, but do so peacefully and respectfully.

    This means that one can be submissive and at the same time peacefully and lawfully protest a law, in whatever form that may take. This also means that Christians can be obedient to government authorities but not submissive to them. Think of a wife who does what her husband asks but mocks him to her friends and shows him no respect. She is obeying but not submitting. So today, many Christians obey to stay out of jail, but by publicly disrespecting and mocking God-given authority they do not agree with or like, as well as fomenting public unrest against certain authorities, (the President, the boss at work, etc.), they are not being submissive as Scripture commands.

    There are always gray areas in these things but maybe that will help this discussion along.

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  18. Zrim,

    What’s being said is that the Bible is silent on certain matters which make them indifferent, so think twice before binding another’s conscience to your pious opinion.

    I agree wholeheartedly. Your problem with a transformationalist impulse is what, then?

    I don’t know any transformationalist who says bind anyone’s conscience on an indifferent matter. The difference, it seems, between you and at least certain transformationalists, is that you think the Bible is silent on more matters than they do.

    You seem to have abortion on the brain, almost as if it’s a litmus test for 2k. You’re not alone. Can you conceive of varied answers to your question, or does allowing for varied answers reveal the weaknesses of 2k? If the latter, I wonder how beholden you are to certain forms of Christian political correctness.

    We’d have to get more specific.

    Can there be varied answers as to whether abortion on demand should be legal? I’d have to say no. And if others say there could be, then all I would ask is that there be some more consistency. Tell me that killing anybody whatever their age should be legal.

    Can there be varied answers on what to do within the political system given that abortion is legal pertaining to the best ways to limit it. I’d have to say yes.

    Should a Christian base his or her vote entirely on the abortion question? Probably not. Politics is more complex than that.

    Should a Christian ever get excited about any political leader or party even if he or she votes for it. Probably not. Tends to blur critical thinking and can lead to idolatry.

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  19. Zrim,

    Re: Abortion

    Here’s the thing. With abortion, if one believes it is murder, then the opinion that the church should have no position on the state and abortion just seems strange. Its tantamount to saying that the church should have no political opinion as to whether murder should be legal or not. Are you really saying that? Cause that’s what it sounds like.

    If all you’re saying is that getting petitions signed during Sunday morning worship regarding abortion may not be the wisest move, then sure that’s something to debate and discuss. If all that you’re saying is that it’s not justified to make one’s mark of orthodoxy how they vote, then sure. And on and on.

    But it doesn’t just have to be abortion.

    Should the church have an opinion as to whether the state permits it to worship according to its own standards? I read you and the others as saying the church should have no opinion on this matter.

    I could multiply other examples.

    I get that the religious right has far too often pronounced on matters that the Bible really is silent about. Best form of economics anyone? But there are also plenty of instances where it seems that there is enough in natural revelation/natural law to give a clear path forward for the state. IE, that murder should be illegal. What I read you all as saying is that even in these cases, the church should have no opinion.

    It’s like the state asking the church, “Should murder be illegal?” And the church saying, “It’s not our place to answer your question on this matter.” Perhaps you’re right if that is what you are saying, but it just sounds really, really odd.

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  20. Robert, nobody says “let’s bind consciences on matters indifferent,” because it’s obviously wrong. But as you say, things are more complicated than that. As one with conservative moral and political views on abortion, I have in fact been told by anti-2kers that to allow someone another, less conservative view on this particular set of politics is to neglect the teaching of WCF on the sixth commandment. That is arguably to bind the conscience of another on a matter indifferent. Even so, I’m quite prepared to let another have political convictions which are different from mine (and I’d assume yours). What she does in the booth is one thing, what she does in her own body quite another. As you say, complications. I’m not very sure at all that’s the collective disposition of our conservative communions. In fact, I think the collective disposition is to erase those complications in order to get in line with a moralistic movement. That’s not a good commentary on the state of modern Calvinist churches if you ask me.

    But to the extent that it’s the one sin that specially angers God himself throughout the OT, let’s up the ante. Should persons be politically free to commit idolatry? Yes, Mormons, Roman Catholics, and Muslims should be politically free to practice their idolatries. Is that to approve of idolatry? No. As you say, complications. Somehow we get that, but when it comes to abortion everyone forgets their Protestantism.

    It’s like the state asking the church, “Should murder be illegal?” And the church saying, “It’s not our place to answer your question on this matter.” Perhaps you’re right if that is what you are saying, but it just sounds really, really odd.

    Well, tell that to WCF:

    “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.”

    So in what scenario do you really imagine the state is going to actually approach the church and ask a plainly stupid question? And if even if it did, what’s it mean to be serious about not intermeddling with civil affairs? Don’t tell me it’s an extraordinary case in which the state asks the church a question easily answered by natural law. My own take on the extraordinary clause is that the church has ground to petition the state if it’s compelling her to violate her own conscience. Otherwise, yes, I’m saying it really is not the church’s place to intermeddle in ordinary affairs even if asked to do so (and questions involving reproduction are indeed ordinary). You may still find that odd, but I wonder where you have confessional ground to claim the church may in fact intermeddle in civil affairs.

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  21. @Robert
    The Longer Catechism tells us that “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.”

    So I think we all agree that elective abortion is covered here. It is clearly the taking away of life unjustly. But this commandment also forbids the immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreation. It also forbids “provoking words”. So does that mean that it is sinful for Christians to oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s law to restrict drink sizes? What about efforts to ban all you can eat buffet’s? Perhaps more seriously is the question about speech restrictions – many on the left want to see “hate speech” restricted, though there is a long consensus that the 1st amendment does not include a hate speech exception. Is it sinful for believers to be “personally opposed” to hate speech, but believe that the government should not restrict such language? This isn’t hypothetical, it is central to a pretty hot button political issue right now on college campuses.

    Now if you agree that it is OK for a Christian to personally refrain from gluttonous activities but oppose what she sees as paternalistic policies like banning big gulps, all you can eat buffets, and other public health interventions (even when such policies are likely to save lives by reducing incidences of diabetes), and it is OK for a Christian to personally oppose hate speech, but think that the government shouldn’t pass laws banning the kinds of costumes colleges kids can wear on Halloween, then why is it obviously wrong for a Christian to personally oppose abortion, but think that it is a bad idea for the state to ban the practice? Or to flip it around – why don’t we have the obligation to work to pass laws banning all the things the WLC tell us are entailed by the second table of the law?

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  22. Robert, “The difference, it seems, between you and at least certain transformationalists, is that you think the Bible is silent on more matters than they do.”

    Two things here.

    1) An implication that I find in biblical teaching is not the Bible’s teaching. I don’t think transformationalists (inspirationalists that they are) make that distinction. So they bind conscience implicitly.

    2) Policy and law are a long way from biblical teachings or implications I find in Scripture. I don’t think transformationalists (inspirationalists that they are) make that distinction. They’d lose urgency.

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  23. Robert, Abortion. You prove my last comment’s point. Is it first-degree murder? Is the mother as guilty as the physician? Do I only support a party based on its policies on abortion?

    2k ask a lot of questions that transformers don’t want to answer for fear of losing momentum or outrage.

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  24. See?

    It seems to me (based on my limited knowledge of the sources) that this idea that Calvinism is a sort of totalizing worldview is a new development in the 19th century (Had anyone written theology as an “Encyclopedia” before Kuyper?). I wonder if we should appeal to the influence of Hegel (or at least the sort of philosophy whose best representative is Hegel) to account for it?

    Hegel conceives of philosophy as a totalizing system which unifies all thought in complete logical consistency. Philosophy swallows up the other disciplines in a way which strikes me as quite distinct from conceptions of philosophy as foundational which came before. And so there is a “Hegelian” view of everything, which is probably why Hegel wrote on every conceivable topic. Of course, these tendencies pre-existed Hegel. The writing of encyclopedias is as old as the Enlightenment, and Kant invented the term “worldview” (Weltanschauung). But it seems to me that Hegel really brings these elements into the foreground.

    It also seems like Christian worldview thinking, in its demand for ideological purity, bears comparison with other totalizing ideological descendants of Hegelianism like Marxism and some varieties of feminism. So there is a Christian view of everything in the same way that there is a Marxist view of everything and a feminist view of everything. Those within the ranks who disagree with the details of one’s system are not just wrong, but are labelled as ideologically impure; their failure to work out the details correctly must be because they are under the sway of a foreign principle, because they are not really consistently committed to Christianity/Marxism/feminism.

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