In Christ There is no White, but Lots of Multi-culture

Trigger warning for those who oppose Lutherans (does that include Princeton Seminary these days?), I’m about to quote from a Lutheran pastor who thinks confessional Protestant churches face straw-man objections about how blinkered and ineffective they are:

We are not better than you. However, we do have the same struggles as you do. Namely, we struggle with sin. We have the same inclinations toward pride, jealousy, selfish ambition and self-aggrandizement that you do. We like things a certain way. We like our carpets certain colors. We like people to dress certain ways because those ways make us feel comfortable. We can be hypocritical, judgmental and prejudiced without cause. We are all of these things because we are sinners. No, dear culture, we are not better than you. But that is why we are here every Sunday. We do not seek to be confirmed in those things that divide us. We seek to be forgiven for the times when we do not act like Christ. And we are. We are forgiven and renewed by Christ, and that makes all the difference. You do not want us to judge you by your checkered-past of sins? Why would you judge us by ours?

The church is for sinners of whom we are the worst. The church is the place where God has ordained the forgiveness of sins to take place. The church exists to proclaim the Gospel. It exists to proclaim that you are a sinner, but you are a forgiven sinner when repentant. Why would you exclude yourself from that because you are surrounded by other sinners? Are you differentiating sins and making one sin worse than another? Judging, by chance? Hmmm. Interesting. Please forgive the snark, but this is the point that is made time and time again by the historical Christian Church. We are sinners and we are saints! We are forgiven only by the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ is for us. The blood of Christ is for you. We beg you, come–for your sake, not ours.

The church is bigger than you. This is the part that you might not like to hear, but it is the truth. The church is not about you, your preferences or your tastes. The church is about Jesus. It is about the Son of God who came down to earth in humility as part of His creation. It is about this same God-man who dies willingly on the cross bearing the sins of the whole world–bearing your sins. It is about Jesus who left your sins in the tomb and rose victorious to reign for you. It is about the victorious Christ who will come again, who will create a new heaven and a new earth, who will restore these lowly bodies to be like His glorious body by the power that allows Him to subdue all things to Himself. This is the church in which uncounted saints have had their uncounted sins forgiven. Uncounted souls have been saved through the waters of Holy Baptism, taught through countless hours of instruction, bowed at numerous altars and received the infinite body and blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and strength for their lives in Him. This church is the voice of ages of martyrs who have not recanted the faith that we make to appear so malleable. This church has a language, an order, a life that is bigger than you. It is a life that includes 90-year-old Uncle Bud and 9-day-old Stryker. It is a life that is big enough to include you also. So if you want to be part of this church, show some initiative. Learn the language. Learn the story of the church that spans all time and space in the promises and words of Jesus.

Some in the PCA, though, may deem this understanding of the church as “white normativity.” Duke Kwon explains:

White Normativity is defining ministry to certain communities and contexts with qualifiers— “ethnic ministry,” “urban ministry,” “international ministry,” or “outreach ministry”—while calling ministry to the majority culture simply, “Ministry.”

It’s savoring the doctrine of justification in Galatians—which we should do, yes—while overlooking the original context in which the Apostle points to cross-cultural fellowship as one of the preeminent fruits—and proofs—of our justification. It’s embedded in an ecclesiology that habitually warns against the dangers of emotionalism in worship, yet ignores entirely the spiritual dangers of joylessness. When was the last time you heard a workshop or read an article that warned against intellectualism in worship?

White Normativity is moral silence on social issues that are ancillary to white communities, but core concerns of black and brown communities. It’s dismissing as “political” what is in fact personal and pastoral and practical theological for brothers and sisters of color. White Normativity is desiring diversity without discomfort. It tries to add diversity without subtracting control. It’s the preservation of dominant culture authority in the name of theological purity. It’s what makes so many young seminarians of color that I’ve spoken to nervous about entering the PCA, as they all-too-often feel forced into a false choice between ethnic identity and theological fidelity.

Because what keeps folks of color out of our churches, friends, is not public racial hostility. And the greatest hindrance to racial harmony in our denomination is not crass bigotry. It’s our shared, institutional blindness to the exclusivity of a white normativity that is protected by plausible deniability.

Mr. Kwon thinks the church should follow Multi-cultural Normativity instead:

Multicultural Normativity is when the Church is a resurrection Banquet Hall more than a Lecture Hall—and, occasionally if you dare, maybe even a Dance Hall. Multicultural Normativity rejects “racial reconciliation” as a pursuit of interpersonal harmony unless it also seeks interracial equity and mutuality. Because it’s about inclusion, not just “diversity.” It’s placing men and women of color in positions of influence and leadership. It’s inviting Irwyn Ince to serve as chair of the Overtures Committee one day again, not because we’re debating racial reconciliation but simply because he’s a Bad Man! Because diversity is about who’s on the team, but inclusion is about who gets to play.

So I wonder, does Mr. Kwon think only white Protestants need to feel discomfort, or does it go both ways — that the banquet hall has to make room for the lecture hall also? Is Mr. Kwon willing to make room for the Gospel Coalition and fans of Tim Keller? Or has PCA church planting been captive to white normativity?

Bill Smith has been asking these questions. So far, the answers are only coming from folks that might fall in the category of white normativity.

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158 thoughts on “In Christ There is no White, but Lots of Multi-culture

  1. I’m confused. Am I marginalized by the men’s ministry, faculty ministry, or youth and family ministry. Or is it the nursery, childrens, prison, singles, shut-in, mercy, singles, womens, or disaster relief ministry that marginalize me? I don’t know if we have a ministry ministry yet… If we did I guess I should be offended by the men’s ministry?

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  2. As a brown person, I feel triggered by the black person telling me I would never desire to follow the Regulative Principle and sing the Psalms.

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  3. I get that it’s Lutheran, and that you are not writing about the old faith of the Westminster Confession. But what I don’t understand is if avoiding a theology of glory means having a theology where the cross is intended for every sinner but fails most of them.

    if God did not intend anybody to die, why do we die? if God did not intend anybody not to see, why do some lose what God promised them in baptism?

    “It is about this same God-man who dies willingly on the cross bearing the sins of the whole world–bearing your sins. It is about Jesus who left your sins in the tomb and rose victorious to reign for you.”

    Is it a theology of glory to confuse preaching in church visible with God’s sovereignty in deciding who “YOU” is?

    Water and preaching are not the same kind of thing as God’s election. God’s effectual calling may or may not come with God using preaching and a visible church, but be sure of this– God’s election of grace already happened

    God is NOT now still electing which sinners to save.

    If some of the “Uncounted souls who have been saved through the waters of Holy Baptism” will later be lost and perish in the age to come, this means there never was any legal imputation of sins to Christ, and it also means that there is no glory in the cross. If some for whom Christ died will be lost , there must be some other reason (not the cross) for those who stay saved being saved.

    If a theology avoids triumphalism, does that make its message the gospel? TK–“I don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but It can’t be that God doesn’t love us. God loved us and hates suffering and therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint. If you grasp the cross, the cross can transform you.”

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/would-paul-have-circumcised-his-son/

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  4. Tim Keller—“First, the church would have to be political without being partisan. That is, it would have to equip all its members to be culturally engaged through vocation and civic involvement without identifying corporately with one political party. Second, it would have to be confessional yet ecumenical. That is, the church would have to be fully orthodox within its theological and ecclesiastical tradition yet not narrow and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches. Third, the church would not only have to preach the Word faithfully, but also be committed to beauty and sanctity, the arts, and human rights.”

    Duke Kwan—“I want to invite you to commit to stewarding whatever privilege you have—to employ your every social asset toward our growth in denominational diversity. it might be through… your tweeting gifts. You cannot get around the PCA without knowing people. So, share your relationships with minority leaders around you. Introduce them to everyone you know, especially those in positions of INFLUENCE….benefited from the relational generosity of Fred Harrell, Tim Keller, Dick Kaufmann, Terry Geiger, and others.

    Galatians 5: 2 Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not BENEFIT you AT ALL. 3 Again I testify to every MAN who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law

    I Corinthians 7 Was anyone called while uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised.

    Ministry to Gentiles is “normal” because Gentiles are not allowed to be circumcised, because if Gentiles do circumcision ( in order to progress in sanctification) this would force Gentiles to be being justified by the entire Mosaic law? (no cherry-picking allowed)

    Galatians 3: 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus

    But John the Baptist has a “special” ministry to Jews—even though Jews are already circumcised, it’s not too late for Jews to be circumcised AGAIN because now water has come in the place of circumcision.

    I Cor 7: 18 Was anyone already circumcised when he was called? HE should not undo his circumcision

    In normal ministry to Gentiles, it is necessary that Gentiles not become Jews.
    But in special ministry to Jews, Jews can do either–be normal or stay Jewish in practice.
    Jews are allowed to stay in “the covenant of grace” in which they were born

    Sarcasm alert.

    http://www.dr-fnlee.org/rebaptism-impossible-excerpt-acts-19-1-7/6/

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  5. Richard Nixon–“The Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”

    Billy Graham– “A lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”

    Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations TO TEAR OUT THE PAGE BETWEEN THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTAMENTS IN THEIR BIBLES. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But if we care about the distinction between law and gospel… we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel.”

    “Billy Graham irked some Southern fundamentalists by inviting Martin Luther King Jr. to give an opening prayer at the crusade. “A great social revolution is going on in the United States today,” Graham said as he introduced King. “Dr. King is one of its leaders, and we appreciate his taking time out of his busy schedule to come and share this service with us tonight.”

    Despite repeated requests by Billy Graham, Reinhold Niebuhr refused to meet with him. Graham simply complimented Niebuhr and explained away their differences. “I have read nearly everything Mr. Niebuhr has written.”..

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/one-last-gotham-visit-for-billy-graham.html

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  6. mcmark quotes Keller:

    the church would have to be fully orthodox within its theological and ecclesiastical tradition yet not narrow and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches.

    Genius or huh?

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  7. D.G.,
    Suppose Kwon doesn’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, does that make his point on White Normativity wrong?

    Personally, I would like to ask him what he thinks about whether there is an upper class or upper middle class normativity as well.

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  8. D.G.,
    How many people who are from minority races did you talk to first when you so easily dismiss white normativity? And can you point to anything practiced by the African-Methodist Episcopal Church that would say that they are guilty of Black normativity?

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  9. D.G.,
    Why do you keeping acting like Kellyanne Conway in diverting people from reality and the questions asked? Is it Mencken in you who says that here, we are all singing Kumbaya when in reality, one race is dominating some races?

    Are you denying that in America, generally speaking, the normal state of affairs for Whites is privilege while for, at least, some of the minority races here their normal state of affairs for them is marginalization?

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  10. Curt Day: “Can you point to anything practiced by the African-Methodist Episcopal Church that would say that they are guilty of Black normativity?” Yes, I can: having attended services there frequently, as well as services at an HBCU chapel, I’d say they’d have no problems whatsoever with the label.

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  11. “…Some of the minority races… their normal state of affairs for them is marginalization?” “Marginalization”? Meaning what, they aren’t treated like the majority? They feel alienated by the liturgy, the preaching, the music? Join the club. Christianity means everyone who gets in gets saved, not that your culture gets props or dibs.

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  12. D.G.,
    The Jews are privileged in Israel over Israel’s Arab citizens and over Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. And compared to Blacks, they do have a privileged status here depending on how White they appear.

    The Irish were not initially privileged in the US but eventually enjoyed White privilege over Blacks.

    The Chinese have never received a privileged status here. But do they have privileged statuses elsewhere? And why bring up the Chinese

    Having a privileged status often depends on location. And so back to my question that, like Kellyanne Conway, you seem to avoid answering–though I have to give you more credit for not answering questions than I give her because you have avoided answering questions before she made it popular:


    Are you denying that in America, generally speaking, the normal state of affairs for Whites is privilege while for, at least, some of the minority races here their normal state of affairs for them is marginalization?

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  13. D.G.,
    First, I couldn’t get your Thomas Chatterton Williams link to work.

    Are you rejecting that it exists or rejecting that is where you feel you fit in?

    As for whether it exists, what do you say to those who are from minority races who see White privilege from the outside? Do you think that White privilege never existed or does it no longer exist?

    And do you really reject group identity when you rant on Tim Keller and on evangelicals for not fitting in enough with your Presbyterianism and the confessions? After all, our religious ties also form groups. And you have been quite clear in saying that Keller and evangelicals do not belong to your group of Presbyterians.

    As for your Donald Trump is not Jerry Brown comment, what does that show?

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  14. D.G.,
    That people are not identical in their reactions does not negate general observations. In addition, the stigma that comes with being called a racist leaves us White people with a conflict of interests that makes it extremely difficult for us to determine whether we are racist to some degree. For the charge of racist treats the description as a discrete value, not a continuous one.

    And what about the group think that allow true presbyterians to look at themselves as having everything to teach evangelicals and nothing to learn from them?

    If we want to know privilege is and what racism is toward Blacks, our best resource is to talk to Black people to see what they observe.

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  15. Curt, group think of Presbyterians? Have you been watching the fortunes of the regulative principle of worship?

    Plus, if you have everything to teach me about Germany, social justice and racism, can’t I have somebody to teach?

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  16. D.G.,
    Yes, group think in Presbyterianism. But one doesn’t have to think of group think in all-or-nothing terms.

    Likewise, just because I acknowledge that Nazi Germany committed national sins by invading its neighbors and persecuting the Jews doesn’t mean that I have everything to teach you about Germany or Nazi Germany for that matter. Don’t know why you would think otherwise.

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  17. D.G.,
    Some people do, it depends on their perspectives. But when it comes to Nazi Gemany or Stalin’s Russia, we should be thinking in shades of black.

    Group think is relative and can be issue specific. It doesn’t mean that in everything, people in a given group will think the same. After all, we all belong to multiple groups and sometimes those multiple groups compete to control our thinking. But on certain issues, we see group think.

    When one’s own group enjoys a privileged position, it is easy for those in the group to lack awareness of how their group perceives and thinks about things. After all, those in a privileged position would like to think of the status quo as way things should be. But such thinking makes those in a privileged group become like a bull in a china shop.

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  18. D.G.,
    Name the group and then name the thinking. What we reply ‘sheesh’ to different. While it seems that you have shown great reluctance to call Nazi Germany’s invasion of its neighbors and persecution of the Jews immoral and sin because you deny the existence of corporate, and thus national sin, I’ve simply tried to show some things that are clearly observable to the outside world and how, when denial of the existence of these things is associated with Christianity, then the Gospel is dishonored.

    It is difficult for those who are privileged to see the unfair advantages they have because they have been taught to believe that their privileges are either entitlements or something that is equally achievable by all.

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  19. Curt, “I’ve simply tried to show some things that are clearly observable to the outside world and how, when denial of the existence of these things is associated with Christianity, then the Gospel is dishonored.”

    So far I haven’t seen much daylight between non-Christian moral preening and yours. Step up. Defend the Lord’s Day and condemn the corporate sins of the U.S.

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  20. D.G.,
    Surely, as a 2Ker, you realize that in working with unbelievers, sometimes there isn’t much daylight when it comes to working with them for a more just society. But what am I to defend the Lord’s Day from what? And why defend the Lord’s Day when what distinguishes Christians from the world is their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins? And why when we have no NT command or example of keeping the Lord’s Day as our confessions stipulate?

    Yes, I condemn the corporate sins of the U.S. But I do so as a sinner who relies on the work for Christ, not any of my own works, for my standing with God. It is because I know about my sinfulness that I reject both proletariat and bourgeoisie rule because all sin, not just those from a particular class. And I sometimes bring in the parable of the two men praying to make this point. What would be gained by bringing in the Lord’s Day here? That some are above others because they observe the Lord’s Day according to one group’s confessions is something to be gained by unbelievers?

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  21. Curt, bringing in the Lord’s Day shows you care about only parts of God’s law. Read Meredith Kline. The sabbath also sets Christians apart. Call it Sunday signalling.

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  22. D.G.,
    Nice try, but such only shows that some Christians interpret the Lord’s Day differently than others. Btw, why read Kline here? Is he an authority figure who will set people who disagree with you on this issue straight?

    Tell me, where in the NT are Christians told to observe the Lord’s Day as the confessions stipulate?

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  23. D.G.,
    That is right, which one interpretations are most consistent with the Scriptures for either issue. Tell me, from what the NT says about how we are to love others, what interpretations of social justice are most consistent with the NT concept of loving others? And that includes how we should love those who sin. Should we preach repentance to those who are visiting injustices on others?

    And, again, where in the NT are Christians told to observe the Lord’s Day as the confessions stipulate?

    See, we could assess the validity of these varying interpretations on a case by case basis. And, btw, I have no doubt that other Christians have better views on social justice than I do.

    Perhaps some conservatives find it difficult to argue with lefties because they have an overgeneralized negative disposition with them that prevents them from assessing arguments on a case by case basis.

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  24. Curt, wise up. You go to a court for justice, not love.

    This is why your notions of “justice” aren’t serious. You fudge categories.

    “where in the NT. . .”

    That’s the Unitarian hermeneutic. All left all the time.

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  25. D.G.,
    We go to civil court for justice, not love. But there is another court, a heavenly one, for which we go before to judge us for whether we love or not.

    Where in the NT is also the argument used by those who ask when did Jesus or Paul either show concern for or tell us to be concerned about social justice. And since we are in NT times, we know from that there is a transition and changes made from OT times to NT times. Acts 15:10 tells us this. And the question remains unscathed: Where in the NT are Christians told to observe the Lord’s Day as the confessions stipulate? It’s a very valid question and perhaps your trite way of answering it is also a reflection on your notions of justice?

    BTW, how many categories did I fudge and how many categories must one fudge before their views are counted as being not serious?

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  26. Curt, it’s one day in seven and after the resurrection the Lord’s Day is Sunday. It’s a long argument. You don’t have to buy it. But most of the church did (even Popes) up until recently. So why do you ignore that New Testament appropriation of the Decalogue? Maybe cause it’s inconvenient.

    The same way that it might be a tad uncomfortable telling your fellow BLM protesters that they have a heavenly court in which they can find love and affirmation.

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  27. D.G.,
    The problem is that it is an argument that is not supported by either what was explicitly written by the apostles or what can be shown by example. Thus, it isn’t I who is ignoring the NT appropriation of the Decalogue. Basically, the reformed definition and pursuit of the Lord’s Day was arrived at deductively, but it is taught with the same zeal that circumcision was practiced in the OT.

    That raises the question of when some Christians teach that keeping the Lord’s Day is a second mark of distinction for Christians alongside with believing in Christ, whether they are in danger of joining the circumcision party whom Paul opposed.

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  28. Curt, who raised the Lord’s Day to the level of the gospel? The question, which you’ve failed to answer, is why you don’t use the fourth commandment in pursuit of social justice.

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  29. D.G.,
    You did when you wrote:


    The sabbath also sets Christians apart.

    And while you briefly reference church history for support of your view of the Sabbath, we have the following Scriptures:
    Romans 14:5-6
    Colossians 2:16-19

    Note how you are pitting deductively arrived at conclusion which is backed by even the Popes vs the Scriptures. I understand how people can not agree on the exegesis, but one thing is clear. Those passages from Paul prohibits us from being dogmatic about how the Lord’s day is to be observed.

    In addition, social justice pertains to the 2nd table. It is a venture that Christian and nonchristians can work together on–which seems to coincide with 2KT. So when one considers how what Paul says prohibits us from being dogmatic on how to observe the Lord’s Day and that social justice refers to the 2nd table of the law, the answer to your question should be obvious. BTW, you should note that to incorporate the 1st table of the law into social justice is an approach taken by some transformationalists at the Gospel Coalition.

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  30. D.G.,
    As you have noted before, we are no longer in OT times. In addition, since we Christians are dispersed among the nations, 2KT has provided some legitimate guides in terms of interacting with society. For doesn’t 2KT believe that the Church in terms of its individual members can work with society to improve it and even work for justice. Our difference is in whether the Church as a institution can do that.

    So isn’t it true that as individual Christians work with unbelievers in trying to help society, that we don’t insist on them employing the 1st table of the law? At least, that is what I thought 2KT correctly taught.

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  31. D.G.,
    So helping society can’t be a pursuit of justice. Those who tried to reduce racism weren’t pursuing justice? And what about the self-congratulatory words of those who refrain from helping society because they are only concerned with preaching the Gospel?

    Like it or not, as Christians, we associate the Gospel with all that we do and with some of what we refrain from doing. If we refrain from doing good while claiming to belong to Christ, we associate the Gospel with that abstinence. When we Christians sin, we associate the Gospel with it. And when we take political stands, even for those who promote conservative libertarianism, we associate the Gospel with it.

    And while you look down on Keller and on those from the left, remember the parable of the two men praying.

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  32. Curt, helping society is picking up the trash. That’s not justice.

    Reducing racism? Mind programming? How about simply removing policies that discriminate on matters of basic goods and services?

    I believe the point of that parable is the one thought he was superior to the other. Why do you think disagreement means superiority when you are the guy always insisting on how moral and progressive you are?

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  33. D.G.
    Being just or pursuing justice is not helping society? And removing policies that discriminate is not reducing racism? And how should politicians know which policies to reduce unless people, like Christians, and groups, like the Church, tell them to? And doesn’t doing that both helps society and qualifies as pursuing justice?

    Finally, I never thought disagreement implies being superior. However, how we disagree with others either confirms or puts to rest perceptions that some feel they are superior to others. When we act as if we have everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, we are implicitly claiming that we are superior to others. But if we merely disagree on some issues, there are other subjects on which we can learn from others.

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  34. Curt, are you kidding? If the American founders had asked the churches about disestablishment, you think they’d have said — “yes, we need the First Amendment”? Massachusetts didn’t disestablish the church until 1833.

    Like I said. Real world.

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  35. D.G.,
    Today, the real world requires that we act in the interests of others as well as ourselves to survive. Somehow, some people think that reality only presses in from the past, not the future. From a Christian perspective, the real world of what God demands requires that we act in the interest of others as well as ourselves. to curb sin.

    Having the Church speak prophetically is independent of disestablishment.

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  36. D.G.,
    You seem unable to separate the 1st table of the law from social justice, and that is ironic considering the fact that you are 2Ker.

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  37. Curt, it is called heuristic. I am bringing up the first table on your grounds to make a point that you are selective (just like with tribalism).

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  38. D.G.,
    Again, what does the 1st table have to do with Social Justice? Claiming you are using a heuristic is no answer until you can answer the question I am asking. In addition, I ask that because while you claim I am being selective, again, 2KT would ask the same question. After all, neither of us are theonomists. And agree with some of the 2KT criticism of transformationalists.

    And if I am being selective in terms of tribalism, then why did I fault the Left, the political ideological group with which I most identify, with being guilty of tribalism?

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  39. Curt,

    I believe the point is that if the Bible demands that it seeks social justice, then how much more does it demand that we worship God and serve Him alone?

    And if a nation is culpable for not *compelling* its citizens to act socially justly, then how much more is it culpable for not compelling right worship?

    And if an individual shares in corporate guilt for failing to resist forces of social injustice, then how much more are those guilty who fail to resist forces of false worship?

    So it would seem that there are only two options:

    (1) The theonomic, in which the state is obligated to uphold Biblical norms — all of them — and individuals are held accountable by God for the actions of their nation-states, OR

    (2) The 2k, in which the state is obligated to uphold natural law, and individuals are held to account for their particular acts of sin.

    It seems that you want (1) for some things, (2) fir others.

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  40. D.G.
    Yes they do go together. But Social Justice of all justice. Social Justice consists of justice that occurs or is violated in society and by groups. And it seems that we have a system of justice as defined by our laws both in our nation and where we live. And yet those laws do not include the first table. So perhaps you are assuming that I am leaving out God’s law in understanding justice. That is unless you want to take some type of transformationalist position. For right now, you are sounding like some of what I read on the Gospel Coalition website.

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  41. D.G.,
    You missed the point, didn’t you. And you do so by mixing the topics being discussed.. On what hand, I talk about social justice and oh the other hand, you talk about justice in general. And if I don’t include the 1st table of the law in promoting social justice, you claim that I am not using the Scriptures at all in defining justice.

    Logically speaking, you are saying that because you can find an instance where I am not relying on God’s law in terms of social justice, that there are no instances where i am relying on God’s law. But if I oppose murder and theft and murder and theft are opposed by God’s law, then my opposition to murder and theft are counterexamples to your claim. In other words, I am relying on God’s law. In addition, turnabout is fair play. If by denying corporate sin you don’t include prohibitions against murder and theft in your concept of social justice, how is it that your concept of justice relies on God’s Word regardless of your view of the Sabbath?

    By interchanging the concepts of justice and social justice, you confuse the spheres involved. Social justice is just a part of justice as a whole, it doesn’t provide the whole picture–that is unless you do what liberals do and reduce the Gospel to that of the Social Gospel, and I don’t do that. Justice as a whole is concerned with our relationships with God and with people. Social justice is simply concerned with a part of our relationship with people. Just because I don’t believe that the 1st table of that law has no bearing on Social Justice, doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that it has any bearing on justice as a whole.

    So by mixing terms and misusing logic, you are making accusations that simply distract from the subject at hand.

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  42. Jeff,
    So your objection is that I am both a selective theonomist and a selective 2ker?

    Why do you think that my objections to corporate sins such as murder and theft imply that I am taking a theonomic position? And how is it that you have determined that the state is there to enforce natural law? I ask the latter question because what is perceived as natural law is not universal at all. Take the sexuality issue. It is clear to some that by God’s design, creation, and law homosexuality is unnatural. It is clear to others by observing nature that homosexuality is natural. Whose natural law should the state use? And if it uses the correct version, do you want the state to criminalize homosexuality?

    See, you assume that your view of the state’s responsibilities are correct. And you seem to have a negative view about corporate sin. But the problem I have with those who object to the notion of corporate sin is this: that when an individual commits murder is theft, it is immoral and sin and must be dealt with; but the same cannot be said when groups, especially groups like the state or society, do the same. How does that inconsistency not bother you?

    Our differences center on the fact that we are not following the same models of thought for what is theonomic and what is the role of the state. Opposing corporate sin does not imply theonomy for me. Theonomy has a much broader definition than opposing corporate murder and theft. And I don’t believe that the state is there to enforce everything in natural law. I don’t think that concept is a NT one.

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  43. Curt, good, you acknowledge that you are selective in appealing to God’s law. Your view of social justice then is arbitrary. I can live with that.

    And I never said social justice has to rely on God’s word. I’m not arbitrary. I can live with that.

    And for what it’s worth, I’ve never accepted YOUR definition of “corporate sin.” One of those ideas that you arbitrarily import to give extra pizazz to your calls for social justice.

    Beware feeling self-righteous, oh, detector of Pharisaism.

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  44. “But the problem I have with those who object to the notion of corporate sin is this: that when an individual commits murder is theft, it is immoral and sin and must be dealt with; but the same cannot be said when groups, especially groups like the state or society, do the same. How does that inconsistency not bother you?”

    No one thinks that if a group cooperates to commit murder that the participants are not guilty of murder. That isn’t corporate sin. There is such a thing as corporate sin, but I don’t see that it makes sense to apply it to nations on this side of the cross. The most famous example of corporate sin of course is the sin we are guilty of on account of what Adam did as our representative. We are guilty not because of anything we did, but because of our identity. There are those who advocate imputing guilt to races, genders, religions, and nationalities on account of their identity. Indeed this is part of identity politics… white cis men possess privilege on account of oppressive behavior of other people who share their identity. Therefore, they should be made to pay restitution for the crimes of other people. Now there may be prudent reasons to benefit historically oppressed classes, but it makes no sense to slip in the idea of sin to justify it. The arguments from the “prophetic left” are particularly weak here. They appropriate the minor prophets to buttress their political/ethical priors and ignore the inconvenient OT bits (mostly the problems with sex and idolatry). I still haven’t seen a convincing case for appropriating the bits about the poor, etc… while dismissing the bits about infidels and impure. I suspect it is because there is no answer, and it explains why the Christian Left never gets anywhere…ultimately the movement morphs into reconstructionist kookery or simply political leftism where Christianity is a distant memory.

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  45. b, sd, Curt can’t seem to acknowledge that the state’s legitimate use of force is different from a ban on persons acting as vigilantes. His objection to “corporate theft” sounds like the Tea Party’s moaning about taxes. Curt needs to acknowledge that what is oh so certain to him is a matter of interpretation.

    But then we’ll always have Nazi Germany.

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  46. @dgh agreed. I think the stickier case is the culpability of citizens when the state behaves poorly. Do the people of Baltimore who voted for the mayor share in th guilt for Freddie Gray’s death. I say no. Do the tax payers foot the bill for any damages awarded from the city? Perhaps, but I don’t see that OT-esque condemnation of the sin of Baltimore accomplishes much beyond muddying the gospel. Perhaps we should have a separation of morality and state?

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  47. Post : The church is not about you, your preferences or your tastes. The church is about Jesus.

    weeelll, since it’s all about Jesus, and Jesus has a body, and we are His body, it is also about us together with ‘perferences and tastes’ as the head commands, right?

    we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.(Romans 12:5)

    and to the question: Has Christ been divided? (1 Cor 1:13). The answer: no, not possible.. so…
    that there may be no division in the body, members may have the same care for one another. (1 Cor 12:25)

    and that we all agree and that there be no divisions among us, but that we be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.1 Cor 1:10

    and holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. (Col 2:19)

    to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,…..

    to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:12-13)

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  48. D.G.,
    I recognize the state’s legitimate use of force. I also recognize that now all force exercised by the state has been legitimate. After all, there is a difference between the state’s right to use force and whether a particular use of force by the state was morally right Since you are tired of hearing about Nazi Germany, we can simply our own past such as the police violence exercised against Civil Rights activists or the violence we exercised in Vietnam where our own government killed around 2 to 3 million people.

    Of course, if the state has the right to use force, was Nazi Germany’s use of force right? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  49. sdb,
    Corporate sin is simply sin committed by a group whether that is Frat House at Penn State or society through the state. Note that with the former, not all face the same charges. But all who were charged are guilty of the death of person trying to become a member. Some just played a different role in the death than others.

    BTW, our identity with Adam has caused use to commit acts for which we are guilty.

    And when people say arguments are weak or are not convincing, sometimes they are saying more about themselves than the argument itself.

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  50. Corporate sin is simply sin committed by a group whether that is Frat House at Penn State or society through the state. Note that with the former, not all face the same charges. But all who were charged are guilty of the death of person trying to become a member. Some just played a different role in the death than others.

    That understanding of corporate sin renders the classification meaningless. If by corporate sin, you mean sins committed by individuals, who are individually guilty but how happened to have cooperated with outers in committing their sin, then all you have is individual sin with a rhetorical flourish. Each person is individually culpable for what each individual did. This is not corporate sin as understood in the examples of scripture, and the examples abound… Our guilt under Adam, the animals and children in Sodom, the children and pets of Korah, the people who didn’t know their left hand from their right hand in Ninevah. These are examples of corporate sin because the people faced guilt on the basis of their national (familial) identity.

    BTW, our identity with Adam has caused use to commit acts for which we are guilty.

    We were guilty prior to doing anything (we are born in sin). Whether or not our identity with Adam has caused us to compound our guilt is irrelevant to the question of corporate guilt.

    And when people say arguments are weak or are not convincing, sometimes they are saying more about themselves than the argument itself.

    Sometimes people are. I’m politely saying that you are wrong. You misunderstand the distinction between corporate and cooperate.

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  51. D.G.,
    Why would I need a TV show when I can make comments on this blog?

    Quite often but with fallibility, yes. Can’t you? Don’t you read the Scriptures?

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  52. Curt Day says: Quite often but with fallibility, yes. Can’t you? Don’t you read the Scriptures?
    sdb says: The bible tells us that Vietnam was an illegitimate use of force?

    Oh. Believers make decisions about circumstances based on something other than ‘the Bible’ –ie. there is wisdom that is true wisdom that is not just from above but also from below, and sometimes we’re just on our own with human wisdom, cause Jesus’s plan is that He wants us depending on our very own natural selves sometimes?

    Colossians 2: Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
    James 1: 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

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  53. Ali, why were we given minds and consciences if we weren’t supposed to actually use them? And how can they be used if also not trusted? I’m sure it feels pious, but by your spiritualized logic God actually ends up being a divine tormenter, affixing his creatures with features they’re not supposed to use or trust.

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  54. Zrim – as Curt Day says: Don’t you read the Scriptures?

    come to think of it,what you say could be a win-win. Jesus wouldn’t be unnecessarily bogged down and bothered with pesky questions He’s too busy for and man could pride-fully glorify himself about his own developed opinions/ judgements, independent from any guidance and help needed at all from His Creator, and so it could then be all about mmmeee. win-win. 🙂
    Anyway, you’re right, it’s just plain icky, humiliating, and demeaning to be so dependent, totally reliant, on the Lord.

    Jesus: John 15: 5b apart from Me you can do nothing.
    Paul: Galatians 2:20a I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
    Ephesians 6:18a With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit

    I’m never quite sure what you mean when you use ‘spititualized’ and ‘super-spiritual’, but you seem to use it derogatorily when the bible is quoted, which seems unfortunate, because I doubt the Lord takes too kindly to that- it being His word and all. And He is Spirit.

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  55. Ali, “come to think of it”? Leaning on your own understanding now?

    Exactly Zrim. What I said after ‘come to think of it’ could only be fleshly thinking because 1) we know Jesus is never bogged down, too busy, finds anything too pesky or insignificant for Him, nor is He ever disinterested in the smallest circumstance desiring us to come to Him with everything and 2) we also know that while the world finds ‘dependence’ weak and despicable, Jesus sees our dependence upon Him as anything but (from: the Bible)

    Zrim says Ali, “come to think of it”? Leaning on your own understanding now?
    Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

    sometimes I think you, sdb, r2kers don’t quite buy into the ‘in all your ways’ which is unfortunate, because I doubt the Lord takes too kindly to that- it being His word and all.

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  56. @Ali your understanding of the authority and scope of scripture is not consistent with what God’s word teaches.

    Rather than lob accusations (what was that name for accuser again?), perhaps you can offer concrete examples to clarify my error. What does the Bible say about whether the US was justified in her involvement in Vietnam. If that is too involved for a blog comment, perhaps you can address a more modest question. I don’t think the Bible has anything to say about what time Sunday service should be (8:30, 9:00, 9:45, 10:30, 11:00?). Now the wcf tells us such things should be ordered by the liģht of nature. Evidently you know better, so perhaps you can show me how scripture tells us when services should be.

    Perhaps your instruction will show me the flaw in the wcf’s summary of the teaching of Scripture that it teaches us what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.

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  57. Sincere question sdb, where can I find the faith’s formal definition of ‘light of nature’ with associated biblical reference?

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  58. I would look at the wcf (1.6), Belgic Confession (2,7) and Canon of Dort (3.4.3) for the confessional,fleshing out of general revelation. This is informed from passages such as Luke 6:32-34, Esther, Ruth, Christ’s participation in traditions without OT warrant, Romans 1&14, Cain’s development of music and metalworking, and the assumption in scripture that extra biblical knowledge exists (the references in proverbs and gospel parables to nature are helpful examples – e.g., learn this spiritual lesson from our shared knowledge of how the world works). I don’t think it is controversial to say true knowledge of right action, creation, and art (I.e., technology) can be had without reference to special revelation (I wouldn’t assume this is identical to an Aristotelian NLT).

    Of course nature doesn’t tell us the gospel, how to worship God correctly, or how to please him. Scripture is necessary, sufficient, and comprehensive on these most important matters. I don’t see that the bible tells us what time to hold a worship service, how to wisely use antibiotics, or what the proper tradeofffs are in weighing the prudence of helping south Vietnam oppose Marxist north Vietnam.

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  59. Ali, we do “buy into it.” Some of us just wonder why you get to say things like “I think” and “I doubt,” phrases that indicate you understand at least a modicum of intermediary knowledge and life, but when we do it’s a tossing out of eternal knowledge and life. Sure sounds like how those who think themselves more heavenly minded would speak, thus the hyper-spiritual stuff that seems to perplex you. You don’t make temporal-eternal distinctions and the temporal gets swallowed up by the eternal, but then you slip up and speak as if you do.

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  60. Hi Curt,

    Thanks for the response, and sorry for the delay. Cagles are migrating.

    You ask, So your objection is that I am both a selective theonomist and a selective 2ker?

    Close. My objection is that you accept the two premises of theonomy when it comes to social justice:

    (1) That Scripture should norm society, and
    (2) That the actions of society entail moral guilt upon individual citizens.

    But when it comes to faith and worship, you reject those same two premises. Scripture’s demand that we worship the Lord and serve him only is not, in your view, binding on all citizens; and the failure of the US government to demand such does not, in your view, make you corporately guilty of idolatry.

    So you think like a theonomist when the topic is race, class, or economics, but you think 2kishly when the topic is faith or worship.

    Liked by 1 person

  61. Jeff,
    Does being concerned and involved in social justice imply that one is working from a theonomist premise? Or could people work for social justice independently from theonomy even if there is some agreement because that agreement could be coincidental?

    Who says that the Scripture is not my norm when it comes to faith and worship? And who says that the government’s failure to demand the 1st table of God’s law is a failure?

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  62. @ DGH: Canada is way too cold for my taste.

    As it turns out, only about 5 min from current location. The Caglets aren’t little anymore.

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  63. @ Curt:

    Does being concerned and involved in social justice imply that one is working from a theonomist premise?

    Well, would you agree with the two premises above: (1) That society should be normed by Scripture, and (2) that the actions of society entail moral guilt upon its citizens?

    If so, then that’s what I’m referring to; if not, then help me recalibrate my understanding of your position.

    Curt: Who says that the Scripture is not my norm when it comes to faith and worship?

    That wasn’t what I said. I have no reason to doubt that you seek to worship in Spirit and truth, as an individual.

    I said rather that Scripture’s demand that we worship the Lord and serve him only is not, in your view, binding on all citizens; and the failure of the US government to demand such does not, in your view, make you corporately guilty of idolatry.

    Do you disagree? Do you think that the US government should, in fact, make true worship an obligation for all of its citizens?

    Curt: And who says that the government’s failure to demand the 1st table of God’s law is a failure?

    And we arrive at the crux of the matter. If the government’s failure to demand the 1st table is not a failure, as you seem to believe, then why is the government’s failure to fulfill the 2nd table a failure? Why is there any such thing at all as corporate guilt with respect to governments?

    To make this clear, let’s establish a form of reasoning. We can call it the societally normative form.

    (1) Scripture demands X (where X can be right worship, treating one’s neighbor as oneself, etc)
    (2) If society fails to do X, society has sinned.
    (3) If society sins, all members are guilty of that sin

    It appears that you use the societally normative form as a valid syllogism when X is “treating one’s neighbor as oneself”, but reject the societally normative form as invalid when X is “worshiping God in Spirit and truth.”

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  64. Jeff,
    To what degree should society be ruled through the state by the Scriptures? What are the purposes of society and the state in the first place? Is the purpose of society, through the state to act as a supplemental disciplinary arm of the Church? If so, then D.G.’s ‘roger’ to your statement is puzzeling seeing how anti-transformationalist he claims to be. Or is society’s purpose to be a container of both believers and unbelievers? And because it is such a container, it must make allowances for both? And if it is such a container, then the state, along with the Church, is there to preach God’s Word. But what happens then if the state and the Church don’t see eye-to-eye on what God’s Word means? Again, D.G.’s support for your statement for your comment seems puzzeling.

    So the question here is this: If it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society, and society uses the state to determine what is acceptable behavior, then how is either the state or society responsible for all sin in society? And if it is true that it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society, is it wrong for the state to use some of the Scriptures as a guide for determining what should be allowed in society? And if the answer to the previous question is ‘no,’ then how should the state decide which Scriptures to use so that it respects the rights and interests of unbelievers?

    BTW, your logic presupposes an all-or-nothing use of the Scriptures in determining what should be allowable behavior in society. And thus, you still have not responded to my last comment where I wrote that one could agree on individual points with theonomists by coincidence. And if that is the kind of agreement I have with theonomists, then your syllogism is in vain for it ignores the case I am making.

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  65. Curt, my roger was to Jeff’s answer about migrating. Keep up.

    So Jeff is all or nothing about Scripture. You are about some or some of Scripture. Exactly how do you justify appealing to Scripture but not using all of it? Maybe it’s because you’re a Marxist in search of a proof text.

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  66. D.G.,
    I know it was. You think that I don’t know you by now?

    Your question ignores the context of my statements, doesn’t it? Let me ask you, do you believe that the state should enforce all of the Scriptural commands?

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  67. Jeff: I’m moving 5m away
    dgh “roger”
    curt, ” D.G.’s ‘roger’ to your statement is puzzeling seeing how anti-transformationalist he claims to be. ”
    dgh: I was rogering his move
    Curt, ” know it was. You think that I don’t know you by now?”

    This has all the makings of a “Who’s on first” routine.

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  68. @curt you wrote,

    ” So the question here is this: If it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society, and society uses the state to determine what is acceptable behavior”
    I think we disagree here. It is not the role of the state to determine acceptable behavior. It is the role of the he state to decide what unacceptable behavior to penalize using its power.

    “then how is either the state or society responsible for all sin in society?”
    Neither is responsible for sin.

    “And if it is true that it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society, is it wrong for the state to use some of the Scriptures as a guide for determining what should be allowed in society?”
    Yes. Presumably there is some other guide that determines which parts of scripture should be used as a norm else the selection would be haphazard. This is the sticking point I’ve asked you about before. You have said previously that we are collectively guilty of homophobia. Yet the bible prescribes death for sodomy. The NT denounces it as well. Presumably you don’t think same sex attracted people should be penalized by the state. But if not, why aren’t we collectively guilty of their sin? What is the principal that distinguishes this issue from the treatment of the poor? Why is a libertarian stance on issues related to sex ok, but libertarian positions on race and poverty not?

    “And if the answer to the previous question is ‘no,’ then how should the state decide which Scriptures to use so that it respects the rights and interests of unbelievers?”
    Well I find Rawls compelling on the topic of public reason: a secular state should not favor a religion ormake arguments grounded in.particular religious frameworks.

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  69. Zrim says: Ali, we do “buy into it.” Some of us just wonder why you get to say things like “I think” and “I doubt,” phrases that indicate you understand at least a modicum of intermediary knowledge and life, but when we do it’s a tossing out of eternal knowledge and life. Sure sounds like how those who think themselves more heavenly minded would speak, thus the hyper-spiritual stuff that seems to perplex you. You don’t make temporal-eternal distinctions and the temporal gets swallowed up by the eternal, but then you slip up and speak as if you do.

    Huh zrim?
    a modicum of intermediary knowledge and life? think themselves more heavenly minded?, the hyper-spiritual stuff that seems to perplex you?

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  70. D.G.,
    Let me get this straight. You fault me for not including all of the commandments when pursuing Social Justice while, if I am right about you, you believe that the state should not enforce any of the commandments unless they can be included in what promotes order in society. Do I know you well enough?

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  71. sdb,
    If it is not the rule of the state to determine what is acceptable behavior, then what about the laws against murder and theft?

    See, your argument relies on an all-or-nothing approach to using Scriptures as a guide for what laws should be there. If we can’t use all of them, then we can’t use any of them, says your argument. But this is what I have noting as the failure in the argument of you and others. Note what I previously wrote to Jeff:


    BTW, your logic presupposes an all-or-nothing use of the Scriptures in determining what should be allowable behavior in society. And thus, you still have not responded to my last comment where I wrote that one could agree on individual points with theonomists by coincidence. And if that is the kind of agreement I have with theonomists, then your syllogism is in vain for it ignores the case I am making.

    I noted the same kind of logic used by D.G. earlier. Another way of describing all-or-nothing thinking is to call it black-white thinking. And what is curious here is that such thinking is associated with authoritarianism. That doesn’t mean that when all-or-nothing or black-white thinking is required by an issue that it implies authoritarianism. But such thinking is an indicator especially when accompanied by aggressive reactions to challenges made to the traditions or teachings by the leaders of a group.

    Now you can call that reference to authoritarianism some kind of liberal-psychological mumbo-jumbo. The problem is that the traits mentioned in authoritarianism come from observation more than they come from ideology.

    And so you go on and respond to a charge about the collective guilt for homophobia by saying that the Scriptures condemn sodomy. But you forget something. While the OT pronounces a specific sentence on homosexual practices in the covenant nation of Israel, Paul, in Romans, associates it with unbelief and the penalty comes on judgment day. Why? Because we have no covenant nation in the NT. And Paul expresses a lack of concern for how sexual immorality is practiced in society (I Cor 5:12-13). However, if you follow what Paul says in Romans 1 by reading Romans chapters 2 & 3, you find that he ends up grouping unbelievers with their sins together with the religious with their sins into one group of those who are under sin (Romans 3:9). And along with Romans 3:27, this prohibits us from looking down on those involved in homosexuality. You will note that when Paul lists the sins of those who don’t believe in God, they contain a mix of sins that require the state to prohibit and those that don’t.

    In addition, is homophobia that of saying homosexuality is a sin? Or is homophobia result in unwarranted actions against homosexuals such as attempts to marginalize them in society because of their sexual orientation? What is it in saying homosexuality is sin that prohibits us from treating homosexuals as equals in society? Again, we are approaching an all-or-nothing approach to thinking about a topic.

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  72. Curt, in case you haven’t noticed, without margins the center becomes awfully crowded. Anyhoo, how would homosexuals and Christians occupy the same place when it comes to your favorite measure of social justice — the second table of the law?

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  73. sdb,
    If it is not the rule of the state to determine what is acceptable behavior, then what about the laws against murder and theft?

    The state didn’t decide that murder and theft are unacceptable. The unacceptability of murder and theft pre-exists the state. The state decides which murders to punish. Our state has decided not to punish the murder of unborn children. That doesn’t make abortion acceptable.

    See, your argument relies on an all-or-nothing approach to using Scriptures as a guide for what laws should be there. If we can’t use all of them, then we can’t use any of them, says your argument. But this is what I have noting as the failure in the argument of you and others.

    I don’t really have an approach per se. I understand how one could be all or nothing. What I don’t understand is the basis you use for determining which parts of scripture should guide the state and which ones shouldn’t. So when you write,

    they contain a mix of sins that require the state to prohibit and those that don’t.

    How do I know which require the state to prohibit and which don’t? That’s been my question for you all along.

    In addition, is homophobia that of saying homosexuality is a sin?

    In the west, the answer is clearly yes.

    Or is homophobia result in unwarranted actions against homosexuals such as attempts to marginalize them in society because of their sexual orientation?

    But your premise is begging the question. How does one determine whether the attempt to marginalize sinful behavior is warranted or not?

    What is it in saying homosexuality is sin that prohibits us from treating homosexuals as equals in society? Again, we are approaching an all-or-nothing approach to thinking about a topic.

    I guess the answer is that the OT calls for execution. That seems to be a pretty clear call for marginalization. But, I can make sense of Paul’s command not to judge those outside the church and an understanding of redemptive history that says that we aren’t a theocracy any more. The church does not bear the sword, its authority stops at the fencing of the table. But why wouldn’t that apply to views about minimum wage too? I’m not arguing that there isn’t a way to make a distinction. I’m asking (again) what is your basis for the distinction you make. How do you decide which commands in scripture Christians have a responsibility to advocate for through political channels and which commands they should not advocate for through political channels?

    I don’t doubt that there are shades of grey. But recognizing that doesn’t get us very far. The question is how we go from that recognition understanding how to make our way in the city of man. I remain unconvinced that the scripture gives us guidance on what the scope of the state should be. This implies quite a bit of liberty for believers to think through their politics – Robert and I have gone round and round on this, and I think you have to go pretty far before you have political questions that have a “biblically” correct answer. In other words, one can be a socialist, communist, prolife, prochoice, libertarian, fascist, segregationist, anarchist, anarcho-capitalist, main stream republican, democrat, green, monarchist, social democrat, progressive, reactionary, Randian, &c…. and not sin. That isn’t to say that all of these political options are equally wise. Indeed, some are quite clearly terrible political ideas. Not sure how that makes me authoritarian (not there’s anything wrong with that).

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  74. Curt: And thus, you still have not responded to my last comment where I wrote that one could agree on individual points with theonomists by coincidence.

    Actually, I was exactly responding to that comment.

    There appears to be a misunderstanding here. In laying out the syllogism

    (1) Scripture demands X (where X can be right worship, treating one’s neighbor as oneself, etc)
    (2) If society fails to do X, society has sinned.
    (3) If society sins, all members are guilty of that sin

    I was not putting forward my own position, but reflecting back to you what appears to be your position in certain areas, but not for others. In that way, I was responding to your comment that you “agree with theonomists on individual points” by observing that, yes, you agree with individual theonomists on individual points — by being inconsistent.

    And inconsistency “will out”, as Shakespeare would put it.

    If there is no principled stopping point that explains why you agree with the theonomist here but disagree there, then your position would appear to be a simple matter of personal preference. And if so, then your labeling of such-and-such as “sin” amounts to accusing others of violating your personal preferences.

    Let us assume that you do not wish to do that!

    And so in the spirit of that assumption, I am asking you to clarify. Why is it that you agree with the theonomist on the second table, but disagree on the first?

    What is the principle — Biblically grounded, we hope — that explains which Scripture should be used to norm society, and why?

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  75. Jeff,
    Yes, you are missing what I am saying therefore you are not reflecting back my statements And that is most evident by your form of argument. So please note what I wrote before:


    So the question here is this: If it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society, and society uses the state to determine what is acceptable behavior, then how is either the state or society responsible for all sin in society? And if it is true that it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society, is it wrong for the state to use some of the Scriptures as a guide for determining what should be allowed in society? And if the answer to the previous question is ‘no,’ then how should the state decide which Scriptures to use so that it respects the rights and interests of unbelievers?

    If it isn’t the state’s job to use all of the Scriptures as a norm for judging behavior in society and society uses the state to determine what is acceptable behavior, then your second statement–If society fails to do X, society has sinned.— is false. Now you might say that the implication is true because of the definition of implication but such does not support the conclusion you draw.

    But let’s suppose your argument is true. Then just those who resisted the Nazis in Germany or those who resisted segregation in the South during Jim Crow were not responsible for the sins of their society because of their resistance, then those who preach God’s Word to society are not guilty of society’s failure to get people to follow God’s Word.

    Your whole argument rests on an all-nothing-approach to society being responsible for following all of God’s Word. Your argument seems to be that if society is responsible for following some of the Commandments, then it is responsible for following all of the Commandments. But if society is not responsible for following of the commandments, then it is responsible for following none of them. In that argument you have the theonomist vs the 2kers without recognizing the possibility that both parties could be wrong. This is why I wrote that chance agreement with theonomists, such as the responsibility of society to follow some of the Commandments, destroys your argument.

    So again, if society is a container of both believers and unbelievers, how is it that the state and society is responsible for enforcing all of the Scriptures?

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  76. D.G.,
    Being in a crowded center isn’t the issue. The issue is whether the all-or-nothing approach to the second table of the Commandments. Even the most extreme theonomist would struggle on how to adequately enforce the prohibition against coveting. And Paul seems apathetic to society enforcing the prohibition against adultery. But only in an all-or-nothing approach would such statements imply that none of the 2nd table of the Law be applicable to society.

    But we should note that with the all-or-nothing approach to applying God’s Law to Society, both theonomists and 2kers are two sides of the same coin.

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  77. sdb,
    Other behaviors besides murder and theft have been deemed unacceptable before the state but such does not imply that the state must continue the prohibition. So yes, society does look to the state to determine which behaviors are acceptable or not. And considering the significant changes in context in redemptive history, the state does get to determine which behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable regardless of what ones have been counted as unacceptable for the existence of the state.

    As for the basis of what I have said, it really is based on the Scriptures, the NT in particular. For in the NT passages about Church discipline, society is adequately defined so that which parts of the Scriptures should be applied to society. And if we can’t decide on which parts of the Scriptures are applicable, then you are left with that all-or-nothing approach that you said you didn’t follow. And then egalitarian acceptability of all those isms you listed is true. But such would equate libertarianism with Stalin’s socialism–which is not my socialism–with Nazism with segregation with anarchism. None of them would be counted as being basically immoral even though those isms would command their Christian followers to kill the Christian followers of other isms. And that doesn’t count the Nazi invasions of its neighbors or the Holocaust as being amoral. But, again, such a position rests on an all-or-nothing approach to applying God’s Word to society.

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  78. D.G.,
    If social justice is one part of justice, then based on my views of social justice, who said that I am refusing to part with God’s law for prosecuting justice? And why do you persist in speaking about social justice as if it was identical to justice?

    BTW, did the Apostles refuse part of God’s law in prosecuting justice?

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  79. D.G.,
    I might also add whether your crusade against Tim Keller and your elevation of 2KT and confessional churches above other churches parts with what Paul said in I Corinthians 3?

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  80. D.G.,
    One more question, how much of God’s law should the state enforce compliance with by its citizens? I ask that because one of the jobs of the state is to pursue justice.

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  81. Other behaviors besides murder and theft have been deemed unacceptable before the state but such does not imply that the state must continue the prohibition.

    Right. The fact that something is wrong (unacceptable) does not mean the state oughta pass a law. Nor does the fact that the state doesn’t pass a law mean that the unacceptable behavior becomes acceptable. And just to cover all of our bases… just because the state says there is a law against a particular action, that action is not thereby unacceptable. In other words – the state does not determine right and wrong. They determine what behavior to reward, punish, and ignore.

    So yes, society does look to the state to determine which behaviors are acceptable or not.

    This doesn’t follow from the previous sentence. But I think you misunderstand what I mean by “before the state”. I don’t mean before a particular country came into existence. I mean that their moral status exists logically prior to the state. Even if there were no state – right and wrong would exist.

    And considering the significant changes in context in redemptive history, the state does get to determine which behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable regardless of what ones have been counted as unacceptable for the existence of the state.

    Well this is what you have asserted, but you still haven’t explained why the state gets to determine what is and what is not acceptable or what the basis is for doing so which leads us to…

    As for the basis of what I have said, it really is based on the Scriptures, the NT in particular.

    Terrific! So how does your reading of the NT tell us which moral truths should be enforced by the state.

    For in the NT passages about Church discipline, society is adequately defined so that which parts of the Scriptures should be applied to society.

    Where does the NT define society and tell us which parts of scripture should be applied to society. Paul tells us not to judge (shun) sexually immoral unbelievers. He doesn’t tell us what the law should be in regards to sexual behavior. James tells believers not to show bias toward the rich in church, he doesn’t tell us what the law should be regarding taxation and wealth redistribution. But I freely admit that I could be missing something. What I’m looking for, is an explanation from you on how you determine that biblical sexual ethics should not guide public policy but biblical teaching against bias towards the poor should guide public policy.

    And if we can’t decide on which parts of the Scriptures are applicable, then you are left with that all-or-nothing approach that you said you didn’t follow.

    I think I said that I don’t doubt that shades of grey exist, but I’m not ideologically committed to that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that what the scripture reveals is irrelevant to questions about political order that we face on a day to day basis.

    And then egalitarian acceptability of all those isms you listed is true. But such would equate libertarianism with Stalin’s socialism–which is not my socialism–with Nazism with segregation with anarchism.

    Not at all. The bible doesn’t tell us whether Lamarkian evolution or Darwinian evolution is correct. One can be a good Christian and adhere to a Lamarkian model of evolution. One can be a good Christian and adhere to Darwin’s understanding. That doesn’t mean that they are equal or that one wouldn’t be wrong to adopt a Lamarkian model. The fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us whether the state should be ordered following libertarian principles or marxist principles means that one isn’t sinning by being one or there. That doesn’t make them equal.

    None of them would be counted as being basically immoral even though those isms would command their Christian followers to kill the Christian followers of other isms. And that doesn’t count the Nazi invasions of its neighbors or the Holocaust as being amoral. But, again, such a position rests on an all-or-nothing approach to applying God’s Word to society.

    That’s right. Being a fascist is not sinful. It’s stupid. But not sinful. If one goes and kills unjustly in the name of your ideology – whether it is marxism or fascism that’s sinful. Again, I’m not clear how one concludes from scripture that we are required enforce a biblical morality using state sanctioned violence and if so, how we decide which moral strictures to enforce and which ones we shouldn’t. I’m not arguing with you here. I’m trying to understand how you arrive at the judgment you make.

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  82. @ Curt:

    I’m not “making an argument”, but asking a question: What Biblical principle are you using to determine which Scripture should norm society?

    That question is clearly on your mind, since you have several times now posed it yourself. And you even seem to have an answer, since you say

    Curt: For in the NT passages about Church discipline, society is adequately defined so that which parts of the Scriptures should be applied to society.

    So please share: what principle are you using?

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  83. Curt, own up to the idea that you don’t think God is part of social justice, except when it’s convenient for your self-righteousness. But if God is to receive his due (the first four commandments), you look away.

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  84. D.G.,
    So the State should not be concerned with justice?

    And I have already addressed your false accusation. Why am I concerned about murder and theft when addressing Social Justice? It is because of the prohibitions against them in God’s Word. And yet you claim that God’s Word has no place in my view of Social justice because I don’t promote the Westminster view of the Lord’s Day unless it serves my self righteousness.

    But I have answered similar accusations from you before. And the reason why I had to do that is because you sometimes divert attention from the issues by accusing people you disagree with.

    For example you think I should include keeping the Lord’s Day as a part of Social justice even though you claim to believe that the State should not enforce God’s law, it should maintain order. But how does your statement measure up to Romans 13 where Paul talks about punishing the wrongdoer and exercising God’s judgment on people?

    In addition, you had previously admitted that there is neither NT teaching nor NT example of keeping the Lord’s day as prescribed by the Westminster Standards. Rather, you referred me to Meredith Kline’s writings. However, Paul’s references to the Sabbath, both in Romans 14 and Colossians 2 comes the closest to any NT teaching on the subject and speaks against your case here. And yet you adamantly insist otherwise so you can accuse me of being self-righteous.

    And since Social Justice has nothing to do with the 1st Table of the law while kinds of justice does, your accusations are baseless.

    Your constant attacks on other believers is not consistent with the Scriptures. You know that. So why play the accusatory game?

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  85. Jeff,
    You were making an argument. The following is an argument:


    (1) Scripture demands X (where X can be right worship, treating one’s neighbor as oneself, etc)
    (2) If society fails to do X, society has sinned.
    (3) If society sins, all members are guilty of that sin

    First, as I wrote before, since we share society with unbelievers, society must make room for both. And thus, it is not the state’s job to enforce all of God’s Word on society. So if society fails at what the state does not require, then who is responsible for when society fails? I ask this because we are dealing just with social justice, not all of justice. The answer to that question could be the Church if the Church does not preach God’s Word to society.

    In addition, the passages in Matthew and I Cor 5 tell us something of the relationship between society and the Church. IN the latter passage, Paul explicitly says that his concern over sexual immorality pertains to the Church only, not society. And yet, in Romans 13, those in authority are to bear the sword on wrongdoers. Given that we share society with unbelievers along with Paul’s example in I Cor 5, it is obvious that it is not the state’s job to enforce all of God’s law on society. It is the Church’s job to preach God’s Word to Society. But it isn’t the state’s job to enforce all of God’s Word on society. And so what commands deal with protecting those who do right from receiving unjust harm?

    So what should the state enforce? If the state is authorized to protect those who do what is right from wrongdoers, then isn’t the state responsible for protecting those who would murder or steal? And when reading the OT prophets, again weren’t the prophets concerned with how the vulnerable were treated by all others. In fact, isn’t that a NT concern too?

    Finally, if you are looking for exact formula and set of principles, you are missing the most key ingredient. Doesn’t love for neighbor, whether the neighbor is near or far, tell us what we should be concerned about in social justice? Does love allow the state to unjustly kill people or to steal from people? If love is not a factor in how you define Social justice, then you have missed much of what the New Testament has to say. And furthermore, unbelievers who act in behalf of others out of love causes the Gospel to lose credibility. That is because when we take the name of Christ, whatever we do or don’t do, both good and bad, is associated with the Gospel in the eyes of unbelievers.

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  86. Curt, prohibitions against murder and lying are in the ten commandments. So are prohibitions against violating the Lord’s Day. Explain your selective use of God’s law. Why do you get to decide? Are you God?

    You play the accusation game more. Every time someone disagrees with you on social justice, they are sinners.

    You play the accusation game cluelessly.

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  87. Curt, it occurs to me that we are talking past each other. Let me rephrase.

    You seem to believe that some of Scripture should norm society.

    My question is, “Which parts, and how do I know?”

    Your response, so far, is to deny that we can know: if you are looking for exact formula and set of principles, you are missing the most key ingredient.

    But this raises the question, “How do you even know what social or group sin is?”

    This matters because accusations of sin are serious, and should be proved as such by Scripture.

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  88. D.G.,
    What happened to the eternal sign of the covenant with Abraham? And what happened to the dietary laws?

    And why not address what Paul says in Romans 14 and Colossians 2 about the Lord’s Day especially when what the confessions prescribe for the Lord’s Day was never taught by the Apostles nor was it described as being practiced by the churches that the Apostles established? See, your insistence on the Lord’s Day observance is not supported in the NT. And if it was so important, why did Paul not make the distinction between the Lord’s Day observance when he said what he said in Romans 14 and Colossians 2?

    And again, social justice is not concerned with the 1st table of the law. Why? Social justice has to do with how states and societies treat people. Other parts of justice do concern themselves with the 1st table of the law. So your insistence seems groundless and they only serve as a distraction from the subjects at hand. But how distract is to accuse. And that is wrong.

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  89. Jeff,
    If all of Scripture is used as a basis for how to be a member of good standing in society, then you have theonomy.

    I already described the guides used for determining what scriptures should be used as standards for society. And from that you can determine what social and group sin is in terms of society. But even if you lack the exact formula for determining which scriptures should be used, isn’t it obvious that the prohibitions against murder and theft must be used? Doesn’t love tell us that murder and theft must be prohibited? However, 2 Timothy 3:1-3 warns us about those who lack love because they are lovers of money, pleasure, and self. Do you really want an exact formula so you don’t have to rely on love of others to determine what should apply? After all, wasn’t being loveless when interpreting and apply God’s Word something that Jesus challenged the Pharisees on?

    One more point, our discussion about group sin is about those sins that the state should be held accountable to as well as what the state should hold society accountable to. So this group sin does not provide an exhaustive list of sins in society nor in the individual.

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  90. ‘ Doesn’t love tell us that murder and theft must be prohibited? However, 2 Timothy 3:1-3 warns us about those who lack love because they are lovers of money, pleasure, and self. Do you really want an exact formula so you don’t have to rely on love of others to determine what should apply?’

    This is like the gnome’s plan for becoming a millionaire…step 1 collect a million dollars.

    You reference 1 cor 5 as a NT basis for not appealing to the Bible for laws about sexual ethics. I presume you have in mind,

    ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one.”

    So I take it swindling, greed, and idolatry are out too? We shouldn’t appeal to scripture to condemn greedy corporations and banks that cheat the poor? That would of course be to miss Paul’s point here.

    I don’t see how your love standard helps us distinguish which biblical prescriptions should be enforced. Wouldn’t one be better off not Engaging in sodomy or idolatry? Why shouldn’t our love for society lead us to outlaw same sex marriage, socially stigmatize homosexuality, ban the catholic mass, and halt the construction of mosques? I’m sure that isn’t what you have in mind. So I’m left with the question I started with. How do you decide which laws we should advocate based on scripture as an act of love for our neighbor?

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  91. sdb,
    What do you want to apply to society? IN the passages about Church discipline, it is obvious that that being abandoned to society alone is the ultimate Church discipline. And that Paul had no qualms about the sexual practices there indicates what standards should not be applied. But Romans 13 states that the government authorities are there to protect those who do what is right from those who do what is wrong. So are you saying that there is nothing wrong that can be done in society? And if within society, nothing can be done that is wrong, then there isn’t anything wrong with what is practiced by the state against other societies? This is what your position has never explained. That actions that are sins when practiced by the individual are not sins when practiced by groups like the state. This allows the state to treat anyone, including its own, in any way it chooses with moral impunity because it can’t be wrong when the state does it.

    But I suppose that when you have a Biblical formula, you can leave love out the window in recognizing what is right and wrong. And that leads you right to the passage you just cited from 2 Timothy. The idea that the state can do what it wants to any group of people with moral impunity is a loveless notion. And the lack of love when interpreting and applying the Scriptures was one of those Pharisaical traits that caused the Pharisees to substitute their traditions for God’s Word. In the passage referring to corban, this is exactly what was going on. Love for self and greed was the basis for those Pharisees to refuse to give to their parents what was owed out of love.

    And not only is that a problem with your interpretation, all that the OT prophets warned against are minimized by attributing those warnings to the OT only. What did the OT prophets warn against? To the covenant nation of Israel, they warned against idolatry and social injustice. But now that God’s people are no longer a nation, doesn’t the condemnation of other nations by the OT prophets still apply to us who live in nations that are not under the covenant? After all, weren’t those nations warned by the prophets against practicing social injustice? And aren’t the recipients of any form of social injustice made in the image of God and thus any injustice practiced against them is an affront to God?

    That you need some precise formula to know that murder and theft by the state is immoral and must be opposed shows the lack of love mentioned in 2 Timothy 3. For if there is no wrong that the state can do, then the state can murder and steal from other nations in order to give to its own people the material rewards that come with that murder and theft. And all can be justified in the name of seeking prosperity for one’s own nation. And if all can be morally justified that way, then what do you do with specific examples such as with what the Nazis did to people. Is your only condemnation of them that what they did was not wise? Or did they practice what was immoral as well? When our nation allowed for slavery and Jim Crow,, was that merely unwise or was it immoral? My guess is that because this blog is not read by a general audience, you might respond to those questions by saying that the only condemnation on the Nazis and our nation’s treatment of Blacks was that what was done was unwise. I think you know better than to say that before a general audience.

    On the other hand, it was love, not precise Biblical formulas, that guided the actions of the Good Samaritan when he helped the man who was beaten and robbed.

    It seems here that outside ideologies have warped the understanding of the Scriptures by some. Here, the only neighbors to which love thy neighbor is applied is the group of people one wants to be associated with, which is Conservative Libertarianism. And here we are to seek the prosperity of one’s own city and/or nation because of our exiled state regardless of how that prosperity comes our way is right out of Ayn Rand. Those who lack love will never understand the problems with your positions on what is socially just. And Christians who lack love dishonor the Gospel especially when nonChristians show the kind of love Christians alone should be showing. But you have an out for all of this. you have your traditions, like the Westminster Standards, and your precise Biblical formulas to justify your positions.

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  92. Curt, this is where you bite off more than you can chew:

    What did the OT prophets warn against? To the covenant nation of Israel, they warned against idolatry and social injustice. But now that God’s people are no longer a nation, doesn’t the condemnation of other nations by the OT prophets still apply to us who live in nations that are not under the covenant? After all, weren’t those nations warned by the prophets against practicing social injustice?

    Where did the OT prophets run around condemning other nations? Jonah? And how did that turn out?

    And what about the coming of Christ and the doing away with the national covenant (sorry Reformed Presbyterians)? You simply look at history as one straight line. If you can do it in the OT then you can do it now.

    And please don’t forget that the OT prophets condemned idolatry.

    They also condemned sexual license — something that your buddies on the left would gag on while they feel oh so prophetic.

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  93. D.G.,
    Amos is one such prophet and Isaiah is another. And Moses also spoke against Egypt. In fact, each nation God used to judge Israel and Judah was judged by God.

    And if you read all of my last comment, you will see that I didn’t forget that the OT prophets spoke against Idolatry.

    The point being this, and this is especially pointed out by Amos, a nation didn’t have to have a covenant with God to be prophesied against and judged. And the replacement of the OT covenant with the NT doesn’t mean that murder and theft are no longer sins when committed by nations. Any notion that says that states are free to murder and steal from people from other nations with moral impunity is not born out of any concern for the vulnerable, which is a chief concern of God according to the Scriptures, or any interest in justice. And yet, God is described in the Scriptures as caring for the poor and doing justice. And when murder and theft is defended because it increases a nation’s prosperity, we are talking about the love of the world that John condemns in his first epistle.

    Yes, the scriptures condemn sexual license and contrary to your expectations, there are people on the left who condemn that. Certainly there are not enough on the left who speak against it, but there are a few who do. But sex, outside of rape, is not a sin that is forced on others unlike murder and theft. And the Church, through preaching, can speak against it by telling people to repent. But outside of that, Paul shows no concern with forcing any kind of sexual morality on society.

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  94. Curt, if you want to go into all those OT weeds, then why don’t you include the first four commandments in YOUR view of social justice?

    You really are stuck. You want to take from the OT to climb on to your high horse but then don’t want all of the OT if it means losing your lefty bona fides.

    Choose ye this day, brah.

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  95. Curt
    “So are you saying that there is nothing wrong that can be done in society?”
    No. I am asking what the principle is that you follow to determine which parts of scripture should be used as a guide to craft law. You said love. What I don’t understand is how that helps us because all of God’s law is grounded in love.

    “And if within society, nothing can be done that is wrong, then there isn’t anything wrong with what is practiced by the state against other societies? This is what your position has never explained.”
    Firstly, I’m not really laying out or defending a position. I am trying to understand yours. Secondly, I’ve nevered argued that nothing can be done wrong within society. People sin all the time. Sometimes they conspire in their sin. The soul who sins shall die. But I don’t bear the guilt for fellow citizen’s sins. The state is not my moral representative the way Adam was, so guilt is not collective. States can do wrong if by that you take the state to be rhetorical shorthand for the people within it. But if you mean that the citizens of a state bear the collective guilt of what those who came before them did, then you are asking for the sort of situation we see in the Balkans where groups harbor resentments over injustices that happened 100’s of years ago. I am not suggesting that these atrocities were somehow OK. Rather I was making the case earlier in a different thread that the language of sin and repentance does not make since in the context of state actions. It is a category mistake. But this is a different conversation. I’m trying to understand what basis guides your decision about which parts of scripture should be used to craft law in a secular republic.

    “But I suppose when you have a Biblical formula…”
    I’m not asking for a biblical formula – that’s your accusaiton (you make a lot of accusations). There is a big difference from expecting a Bible verse that says this is how it is done or asking for a flow chart that makes the decision for you. I’m asking for a principal that guides your hermeneutic. Why is this so hard? I presume that you are not a cafeteria Christian picking and choosing the useful bits that align with your preconceived ideals for how society should be ordered. What I am asking you is how you avoid this. What principal guides how we apply scripture to the secular state.

    “The idea that the state can do what it wants to any group of people with moral impunity is a loveless notion.”
    As is leveling false accusations rather than trying to understand where your conversation partner is coming from.

    “And the lack of love when interpreting and applying the Scriptures was one of those Pharisaical traits that caused the Pharisees to substitute their traditions for God’s Word. In the passage referring to corban, this is exactly what was going on. Love for self and greed was the basis for those Pharisees to refuse to give to their parents what was owed out of love.”
    Yep. That doesn’t tell me why I should appeal to scripture in advocating for a particular law in a secular republic.

    “And not only is that a problem with your interpretation, all that the OT prophets warned against are minimized by attributing those warnings to the OT only. What did the OT prophets warn against? To the covenant nation of Israel, they warned against idolatry and social injustice. But now that God’s people are no longer a nation, doesn’t the condemnation of other nations by the OT prophets still apply to us who live in nations that are not under the covenant? After all, weren’t those nations warned by the prophets against practicing social injustice? And aren’t the recipients of any form of social injustice made in the image of God and thus any injustice practiced against them is an affront to God?”
    You dropped idolatry about halfway through – a much larger theme in the prophets. My question is why we shouldn’t insist on laws motivated by love banning idolatrous behavior, but we should insist on laws banning swindling on the basis of love. What’s the guiding principal?

    “That you need some precise formula to know that murder and theft by the state is immoral and must be opposed shows the lack of love mentioned in 2 Timothy 3. For if there is no wrong that the state can do, then the state can murder and steal from other nations in order to give to its own people the material rewards that come with that murder and theft.”
    No. I’m pretty sure that we don’t have to appeal to the scriptures to convince anyone that murder and theft are wrong. Every religious and ethical system I’m aware of gets these right. Further, I’ve never said that the state can do no wrong – I have pushed back on the idea that it make sense to apply personal categories like sin and redemption to abstract entities. That doesn’t mean that a state cannot do wrong. But then, one doesn’t need moral language to recognize that wrong was done.

    “And all can be justified in the name of seeking prosperity for one’s own nation. And if all can be morally justified that way, then what do you do with specific examples such as with what the Nazis did to people. Is your only condemnation of them that what they did was not wise? Or did they practice what was immoral as well? When our nation allowed for slavery and Jim Crow,, was that merely unwise or was it immoral? My guess is that because this blog is not read by a general audience, you might respond to those questions by saying that the only condemnation on the Nazis and our nation’s treatment of Blacks was that what was done was unwise. I think you know better than to say that before a general audience.”
    As I said before, what individual Nazi’s did was sinful. It doesn’t make sense to say that Germany sinned other than as rhetorical shorthand. This isn’t controversial as most people recognize that we don’t need to punish the citizens of Germany for what their leaders did. Ratzinger wasn’t guilty because he was part of a the Nazi youth. If sin were collective and their leader was their moral representative, then he would be. Same with those who burned crosses and lynched innocent men, etc… They are guilty for the wrongs they did. America is not guilty (me and you) as we weren’t around. I don’t think that is controversial to say.

    “On the other hand, it was love, not precise Biblical formulas, that guided the actions of the Good Samaritan when he helped the man who was beaten and robbed.”
    Yep. But he didn’t insist that the innkeeper pay or be complicit in that man’s harm. He didn’t advocate for the state to do anything. I’m not asking for a flowchart to tell me when to follow the scriptures or not. We should always! But that isn’t the question. Just so we’re clear…the question is what is the principal that should guide us in deciding which parts of scripture should form the basis of laws in a secular republic.

    It seems here that outside ideologies have warped the understanding of the Scriptures by some. Here, the only neighbors to which love thy neighbor is applied is the group of people one wants to be associated with, which is Conservative Libertarianism.”
    I don’t doubt that ideology can (and usually does) warp our understanding of Scripture. That’s why I’m so insistent in understanding your approach. Could it be that your affinity for socialism is warping your understanding of scripture? As far as your construal of conservative libertarianism, your description does not sound like what libertarians I know should describe. My understanding is that they would say that it is the job of individuals to love one’s neighbor – getting the state to do something on your behalf is not generosity.

    “And here we are to seek the prosperity of one’s own city and/or nation because of our exiled state regardless of how that prosperity comes our way is right out of Ayn Rand.”
    Could be. I’m not familiar with her work outside of hearing about her reputation. My own political philosophy is more informed by Rawls. I find his case for reliance on Public Reason in the political sphere to be quite compelling. But I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t understand why you bring Rand into the conversation. Do you think Rawls has affitinity with Rand? My understanding is that they are more or less antithetical. What do you think of Rawls’s Public Reason?

    “Those who lack love will never understand the problems with your positions on what is socially just.”
    I haven’t taken a position on what is socially just. I am simply trying to understand yours. Why do you feel so free to level such accusations?

    “And Christians who lack love dishonor the Gospel especially when nonChristians show the kind of love Christians alone should be showing.”
    Well I’m not so sure we see nonChristians showing the kind of love Christians should be showing. Theologically, we would say that’s not possible. Sociologically, we see that religious observance (which in the US where the studies have been done) correlate strongly with philanthropic giving, blood donation, volunteerism, etc… Voting for a $15 minimum wage is not a sign of love. It is a sign of economic ignorance and tribalism.

    “But you have an out for all of this. you have your traditions, like the Westminster Standards, and your precise Biblical formulas to justify your positions.”
    Again with the accusations. Why? Do you think it helps move the conversation forward? I’m simply trying to understand what principal you follow that distinguishes your position from those who appear to pick and choose those elements of the Bible that may be convenient to rhetorically useful. I don’t see why this has to be so hard or result in the condemnation and accusations you choose to level. One might say it is all rather unloving.

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  96. sdb,
    I have already laid out the principles I’ve used. And your statement ‘I am asking what the principle is that you follow to determine which parts of scripture should be used as a guide to craft law.‘is the problem. You are looking for a precise, mathematical approach by which you determine what should be used from scriptures despite your denials. Basically, you are reducing the scriptures and love to formulas and variables. All you need now is a calculator. That is why you can’t understand my position. That is why you continue to ask what principles I am using. And considering that Jesus told us to treat others the way we would have them treat us, what more do you want?

    When Jesus encountered your approach, he brought in the love factor. When the one man seeking to justify himself asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, Jesus told him to love God and love his neighbor. After the man continued trying to excuse himself, Jesus gave him the parable of the Good Samaritan. And what guided the precise actions of the Good Samaritan? It wasn’t precise commandments, it was love. What defined that love? Wasn’t it defined by what the needs of the man who was robbed? That means caring for others can tell us how to help others without the listing of the specifics.

    And when Jesus challenged the pharisees on their use of Corban, what was he really challenging them on? Wasn’t it their lack of love and so they wormed their way around the Scriptures so they could keep for themselves what they wanted in the first place?

    Why do you need precisely defined principles to know what love is? Certainly the Scriptures provide some principles, but they are not always specific and today’s situations often fall outside the situations that the Scriptures addressed.

    Finally, regarding the state, why is it that you do not recognize that murder and theft when committed by the state is a corporate sin. That when the state does not employ sanctions to prohibit murder, theft, and racism by individuals, that you do not recognize that as sin? Certainly Romans 13 tells us that the governing authorities are responsible for protecting the innocent from the wrongdoer. And the OT is full of teachings telling us to care for the vulnerable and they have rights to what is necessary to keep them alive. That neither the state nor the individual can, with Cain, rhetorically ask the question: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Amos spoke against nations that didn’t have covenental relationships with God regarding how those nations abused people. So the state caring for the vulnerable does not belong to the OT only.

    You want specifics for defining love and responsibilities, both ours and the state’s, despite your denials. That prevents you from seeing the scriptural principles I use and others that are there as being adequate to determine how we should treat others and how the state and society should treat others.

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  97. D.G.,
    Again, since social justice covers only one area of justice and that area is concerned with society and the state and that occurs during NT times when the Church is dispersed throughout the world, why is the 1st table relevant to social justice? If it is as you seem to suggest, then why don’t you ask the state to include the table of the law when making laws? For a different a different issue, you seem to be practicing the same approach, in part, to the Scriptures that I am.

    As for the rest of your note, are you sure you are not the one who is climbing on their high horse. For you are making a rather subjective and personal judgment that indicates personal animosity rather than sincere interest in discussing the subject.

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  98. Good morning Curt,

    So if I’m understanding correctly, the principle that you use to distinguish which Scripture must be enforced by society is the principle of love. Those Scriptures that lay out our obligation to love are those which society must enforce.

    Is that correct?

    The trajectory of our conversation seems to be headed into “you’re a legalist!” “No, you’re a legalist!” I hope we agree that this would not be profitable or God-honoring.

    In the spirit of avoiding that outcome, I would like to offer some corrections to some misunderstandings you seem to have about my position. I invite you to do likewise.

    (1) Asking for a principle is not an attempt to reduce love to a formula.

    You’ve repeated this misunderstanding many times, and it is profoundly mistaken, in the “black is white” variety of mistaken.

    One purpose of asking for a principle is to bring clarity, both to you and to me, as to the nature of your thought and argument. I am asking for clear communication so that we can have more light, less heat.

    The second purpose is to be able to examine clearly, in the spirit of the Bereans, whether “these things are so.” This is not idle Phariseeism, but rather an attempt to do my job as an elder.

    Now comes Curt Day, alleging sin on the part of people in my congregation for their complicity in the societal sins of the United States of America. Assuming this is not an idle whim, it is incumbent upon me to understand whether this is an accurate charge; if so, then I need to call my congregation to repent.

    A large portion of the charge rests on the question of what action contrary to the Word of God has been committed.

    That in turn rests on the question of what portions of the Word of God must be enforced by governments.

    It would unloving to either (a) accept your charge without careful consideration, or (b) reject your charge without careful consideration. I hope to do neither.

    (2) Attempting to think carefully is not Pharisaical

    Latent in many of your posts is the idea that asking for precision or careful thought is self-justifying or Pharisaical. It is not. Careful handling of Scripture is commanded in Scripture (2 Tim 2.15). Further, it is a way of loving people by attempting to distinguish between the true and the truthy.

    I recognize that your arguments are probably very clear in your own mind. When I ask you to be more explicit and precise, I’m asking you to bear with my inability to see the clarity of those arguments. And when you respond with clear, direct, and forthright answers, it helps me to trust that your intent contains no subterfuge. By contrast, when you respond to a request for a clear principle with an accusation of Pharisaism, it raises a red flag in my mind.

    (3) I am not utterly opposed to the notion of group sin

    In my Presbytery, several sessions have at various times confessed the corporate sin of the session in some matter. My own session has done so once, with me participating.

    The corporate sin of the session in question related to a particular official action taken (in some cases, not taken) by the session. The appropriate remedy was confession, apology, and reversal of the action.

    All of this is well-defined (as in (1), (2)). My pushback against your argument as I understand it does not come from a denial that there is corporate sin, but rather from a very different understanding of what corporate sin is and how it functions.

    So those are my corrections. If you have corrections, points that seem to be not understood by me, feel free to offer them up. I will listen.

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  99. Curt Day says: What defined that love? Wasn’t it defined by what the needs of the man who was robbed? That means caring for others can tell us how to help others without the listing of the specifics. Why do you need precisely defined principles to know what love is? Certainly the Scriptures provide some principles, but they are not always specific and today’s situations often fall outside the situations that the Scriptures addressed.

    Jeff Cagle says it is a way of loving people by attempting to distinguish between the true and the truthy.

    Man’s greatest need, truth and truthy, other post: guilt and conscience, etc…

    John 114 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 17bgrace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

    Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    1 John 28 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.

    My Bible notes on Romans 2:15That instinctive sense of right and wrong that produces guilt when violated. In addition to an innate awareness of God’s law, men have a warning system that activates when they choose to ignore or disobey that law. Paul urges believers not to violate their own consciences or cause others to because repeatedly ignoring the conscience’s warning desensitizes it and eventually silences it.
    On Romans 2:14: Without knowing the written law of God, people in pagan society generally value and attempt to practice its most basic tenets. This is normal for cultures instinctively to value justice, honesty, compassion, and goodness toward others, reflecting the divine law written in the heart. Their practice of some good deeds and their aversion to some evil ones demonstrate an innate knowledge of God’s law-
    a knowledge that will actually witness against them on the day of judgement.

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  100. I have already laid out the principles I’ve used. And your statement ‘I am asking what the principle is that you follow to determine which parts of scripture should be used as a guide to craft law.‘is the problem. You are looking for a precise, mathematical approach by which you determine what should be used from scriptures despite your denials.

    No. I’m not looking for a precise formula. I’m looking for the exegetical principle that tells me which parts of the scripture should be used as the basis of law in the a secular republic. So far I’ve gotten “love”. Well OK, but insofar as God’s law reflects his character and God is love, shouldn’t all of his law (scripture) form the basis of our laws? Why should idolatry be ignored by the state and care for the poor given priority? Isn’t their eternal soul much more important than their present status? Who says the theonomists aren’t motivated by love? I’ll assume they are. Love doesn’t tell me which parts of the scripture should be appealed to and which parts shouldn’t.

    That is why you continue to ask what principles I am using.

    No it isn’t, and your rather subjective and personal judgment inmates personal animosity rather than sincere interest in discussing the subject. The reason I continue to ask is that I want to understand how your view differs from “cafeteria christianity”. How do I know that it is more than mood affiliation or confirmation bias based in your pre-commitment to certain political ideals rather than political ideals being formed by a principled reading of scripture. Getting a handle on your principles for handling scripture and a few examples of how you handle the boundary cases would go a long way in helping me understand where you are coming from. This is why I keep hammering on this question.

    That means caring for others can tell us how to help others without the listing of the specifics.

    I don’t think that is true at all. “Caring” for others can be quite harmful – having worked with a homeless shelter for many years and a wife who is a social worker, I have had a front row seat to how “love” for people can be incredibly destructive. But that really isn’t the point here. The question is how to apply the teaching of scripture in the political arena of a secular republic. The good samaritan tells us what is personally required – the parable doesn’t tell us what we should force others to do by means of the state.

    Why do you need precisely defined principles to know what love is? Certainly the Scriptures provide some principles, but they are not always specific and today’s situations often fall outside the situations that the Scriptures addressed.

    Good question. I’m not looking for precisely defined principles. I’m looking for any principle that tells me how to apply the scriptures in the political arena. Out of love I teach my children the scriptures, instruct them in the catechism, baptize them, and take them to church on the Lord’s Day. Would it be appropriate out of love to work politically to require that the scriptures be taught in public school, that every child memorize the WSC, that baptism be required for all citizens, and that false churches (and houses of worship of false religions) be closed? I should think not. But the principle here isn’t love – it is respect for freedom of conscience (though I don’t see that being a biblical principle, but something that we get by the light of nature). Furthermore, if the scripture is silent on some topic, then church should be silent as well. The scriptures teach what we are to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of Man. It does not teach what the proper scope of government is or what rights one should have in relation to the government as far as I can tell. I will happily stand corrected if you can show me how I am incorrect.

    Finally, regarding the state, why is it that you do not recognize that murder and theft when committed by the state is a corporate sin.

    Because not every member of the state is culpable. Only those who cooperate are guilty and only guilty proportional to their participation. In other words, they are individually guilty of what each did. Corporate sin is when those who are identified with the group are guilty on the basis of the action of their representatives irregardless of their personal behavior. In Adam’s sin, you were made guilty on the basis of what he did. Before you had the ability to make a choice for good or ill, you were guilty of his sin because he was your federal head. Similarly, Israel under the old covenant was dealt with similarly – they were elect and bound by a covenant their forefathers entered into. The family was dealt with similarly – thus Korah’s children and animals were punished on account of his sin (the goats didn’t have any say in the matter for good or ill). This is corporate. When Germans stole and murdered jews and neighboring counties, the people who committed those atrocities (including those who planned and turned a blind eye when they could have acted) sinned. Saying that “Germany” sinned is rhetorical shorthand for the Germans who sinned. Ratzinger, who was part of the Hitler youth, as a teenager was not guilty of genocide. If there is corporate sin, then he would have been by virtue of being a German. This does not excuse anyone for their sinful behavior, nor does it prevent other states from constraining Germany to keep something like this happening again. Applying the concept of sin (especially corporate sin) cheapens the doctrine of incorporation we see woven through the scriptures and confuses categories related to the gospel. In return, it creates moralistic language that does little to improve the affairs of nations. I don’t understand why you continue to insist on applying this category to nations.

    “That when the state does not employ sanctions to prohibit murder, theft, and racism by individuals, that you do not recognize that as sin? Certainly Romans 13 tells us that the governing authorities are responsible for protecting the innocent from the wrongdoer. And the OT is full of teachings telling us to care for the vulnerable and they have rights to what is necessary to keep them alive. That neither the state nor the individual can, with Cain, rhetorically ask the question: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Amos spoke against nations that didn’t have covenental relationships with God regarding how those nations abused people. So the state caring for the vulnerable does not belong to the OT only.”
    A few things here. I don’t see that Romans 13 is providing a prescription for what the state should do. Rather, Paul is observing what the state does (you are confusing the indicative and the imperative here) as a justification for what he calls Christians to do in Nero’s Rome. Secondly,even if the state is supposed to prohibit murder, theft, and racism (I think you’ll have a hard time justifying that third one from scripture), it does not follow that the citizens of a country are corporately guilty if their state fails to do so. Thirdly, you are convolving positive and negative rights. As Peter pointed out, he didn’t have food to share, but he had the gospel. The church was called to care for its own throughout the NT – we don’t see much in the way of caring for those outside the church. Paul was insistent that those who did not deserve to be fed shouldn’t be. I’m not convinced that should guide public policy even if it should guide the mercy ministry of the diaconate. Amos was calling down condemnation on the nation with whom Israel had had interaction and responsibilities given to them through various covenants established through the patriarchs (e.g., Edom =Esau, etc..). Secondly, Amos also spoke out against idolatry – so why shouldn’t that be included in appeals to state action?

    “You want specifics for defining love and responsibilities, both ours and the state’s, despite your denials. That prevents you from seeing the scriptural principles I use and others that are there as being adequate to determine how we should treat others and how the state and society should treat others.”
    Again with the assumptions and accusations. That isn’t helpful. I’m not asking for how we should treat others. I have a pretty good handle on that, and I suspect that there is little there where we would disagree. We should, insofar as it depends on us live at peace with everyone around us. We should be prepared to share the gospel with everyone. We should give generously and practice hospitality. We should refrain from gossip, honor our leaders, do our duty for the state (pay our taxes and serve on juries) without grumbling. I suspect that you, like me, fail to live up to these prescriptions and are thankful for a savior who keeps them for us on our behalf and stands ready to forgive us as we confess our sins. But none of that tells me why I must appeal to the scriptures for advocating for secular law in the public sphere. Do we really need the bible to know that murder is wrong and that it is a bad idea for the state not to restrain murder? I don’t think so. Utterly secular nations like France and Japan seem to get that much right.

    I’m not asking what the state should or shouldn’t do as a matter of political philosophy. What I’m asking is how you determine what aspects of scripture should be applied to the state and which aspects are reserved solely for the church. Of course, everyone, everywhere should keep all aspects of God’s law. But is special revelation really intended to guide politics? I’m skeptical but open to being convinced. So far you’ve appealed to a parable and said “love”. That doesn’t tell me what portions of scripture shouldn’t guide state actions.

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  101. Curt, since idolatry and blasphemy were parts of social justice in the OT and for most of Christian history until 1800, who’s the one being selective on his high horse?

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  102. D.G.,
    Actually, idolatry and blasphemy were justice issues in the OT, but they were not social justice issues. IN addition, we don’t live in a covenant nation. But that doesn’t excuse one from the whole law. Just because worshiping other gods is not a state issue for non covenantal nations doesn’t mean that murder and theft are allowed. You are simply confirming what I have said before about the opposition to social justice’s reliance on the law here. I said that people take an all-or-nothing approach to social justice’s use of the law. You seem to be saying that if those working for social justice must either rely on the whole law or they cannot rely on any of it. This is especially true when you talk about social justice as if it must provide an exhaustive approach to all of justice rather than recognize that social justice is just one area of justice.

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  103. sdb,
    I have already provided the principles you’ve asked for. But there is one other problem to note. If you are taking a strict regulative principle approach to using exegesis to define social justice issues, and by strict I mean you are looking for specific examples or commands in the NT that tell us exactly what to do, you will be waiting for Godot. Why? Because the historical context between then and now has changed significantly. While the Apostles were teaching the Church how to spread the Gospel to a world was ruled by an emperor and where the Gospel was being introduced for the first time, we don’t live in that kind of world. Thus, subjects like democracy and how that changes how we relate to government or how to uphold the honor of the Gospel where the Gospel has already been preached take on different implementations today than they did during the times of the Apostles. In fact, being dispersed to different nations in order to preach the Gospel rather than waiting for the revival of the covenant nation of Israel was a change that the Apostles had to go through. And thus, they had to use the Scriptures in ways that enabled them to adjust to new circumstances in order to start carrying out the Great Commission.

    Those with a strict regulative approach when interpreting the Scriptures will restrict our use of the Scriptures to just imitating those who were sent in exile in Babylon. However, there are redemptive historical differences between then and the times of the Apostles, let alone now, that change how we live in exile from how the Jews lived in exile.

    As for your comments on corporate sin, sorry, they don’t wash when the Church is silent in the presence of such sin. Corporate sin is restricted to government authorities and those who carry out their orders. It applies to those who either chose to do nothing about that sin or chose to not know about that sin when they easily could have. For if the prophets were told that if they did not preach God’s Word to the people, then they would share the guilt that those people had for committing their sins, how is it that the Church is any different. Again, why did Eisenhower order his troops to make the German people who lived in villages near Nazi death camps tour those camps?

    The idea of corporate sin starts in the OT and is not restricted to Adam.

    Now other than that, I have given you everything you have asked for regarding principles. And the parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’s rebuke of the Pharisees’ use of Corban illustrates and answers the frustrations you have with my answers.

    Finally, how is it that Martin Luther King Jr. could appeal to God’s Word when working for Social Justice while those who opposed Obergefell could not? The answer to that question is the answer to your question about why we should or can appeal to the Scriptures regarding social justice.

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  104. @Curt
    You have responded again that, “I have already provided the principles you’ve asked for.” Obviously I didn’t get it. Why not be patient and loving with a numbskull like myself and lay these principles out clearly? My way too long comment above may have buried Jeff’s such more thoughtful and pithy comment – I hope you didn’t miss it. I think he has better articulated what I am trying to get at. I’d be very interested in your response.

    I will say that I believe that God’s word is living and active and thus can never become dated based on cultural circumstance. The omnipotent and omniscient author of scripture knew exactly what our cultural circumstance would be and thus provided everything necessary for us to identify our sin, properly confess our sin, and thus be redeemed.

    Regarding corporate sin, you keep dancing around the distinction between rhetorical convenience in referring collectively to individual sinners and those who are guilty by virtue of their association with their representative (incorporation). If I refer to the economic prospects of retailers, I may refer to “retail”, but what I mean is the behavior of individual stores. Some may do well while some may not do so well. If many do the same things and it is not so profitable, then one may say that the retail industry is declining. But we wouldn’t say these retailers are incorporated. Shareholders in a company are a different matter. When I say that IBM is losing money, I mean that all the shareholders regardless of how they voted at the shareholders meeting are all losing money because of the action of their representatives. I agree that the idea of corporate sin starts with Adam and does not end with him. I’ve provided several examples where every man, woman, child, and animal were killed because of the actions of their representatives. Theirs was corporate sin – sin was imputed to them on the basis of the action of their representative. This does not apply to the modern nation states as the New Covenant is no longer with a nation, but with a Church drawn from all nations. My beef isn’t with corporate sin per se. It’s not that there is no such thing as corporate sin, but rather corporate sin does not apply to modern nation states. This is a stance I associate with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (the idea that Katrina was caused by abortion and tolerance of homosexuality and so forth), and I’m not sure how to distinguish your view from theirs other than that you are using the idea of corporation rhetorically rather than literally. Not sure why Eisenhower’s savvy political maneuverings have any bearing on this discussion.

    MLK Jr. could appeal to God’s Word because his opponents said they submitted to God’s Word. That was largely a debate among Bible believers. Many opponents of Obergefell did appeal to God’s Word. The problem they had was that their opponents did not recognize the authority of God’s word. They demanded a secular case for opposing SSM. I don’t see how that answers my question about when or how we should appeal to scripture for political support. I’m curious, what problems do you have with Rawls’s “Public Reason”?

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  105. Curt,
    Maybe to put it a different way, how do your social justice ideals differ from someone who rejects the bible as authoritative? How does bible based social justice look different from secular social justice? If they look the same, then must one really appeal to the Bible to get to social justice? Isn’t this just a common activity? If they look different, how does one overcome the objections to the mixture of church and state?

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  106. Curt, not social justice issues? When idolatry sends you into exile and you lose your land and king, that seems pretty social.

    How do you read the Bible? Appropriation?

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  107. D.G.,
    NO, it is just a justice issue. Again, social justice issues deal with how groups of people treat treat others. Just because the consequences for other justice issues involved social consequences, that doesn’t mean that the reasons for punishment were social justice issues.

    As for your questions, I see that you still like to be condescending. Funny how pride and making personal remarks against fellow Christians fails to show on your radar and yet you like to complain that I am selective.

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  108. sdb,
    Did those who rejected the Bible as authoritative also reject King’s message on Civil Rights though he used the Bible for the basis for his hope and many of the ethics he promoted? BTW, I disagreed with how he used the Scriptures for the basis of his hope in how man would change, but he did use the Scriptures there.

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  109. D.G.,
    Forgot to mention but I’ve read a perspective on social justice that is similar to yours. I read on the Gospel Coalition website. You’re not transitioning are you?

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  110. @Curt
    “Did those who rejected the Bible as authoritative also reject King’s message on Civil Rights though he used the Bible for the basis for his hope and many of the ethics he promoted?”

    Surely the answer isn’t simply a yes or no – after all we’ve agreed to dispense with such all or nothing thinking as unduly authoritative. I do seem to recall that Malcolm X rejected King’s message grounded in scripture. Others (e.g., Sullivan) have noted that King’s appeal to the Christianity was illustrative rather than dispositive where his case for civil rights could be put in purely secular terms and thus consistent with public reason. There was no secular basis for restricting ssm (the argument was fundamentally religious or so the argument goes), thus appeals to scripture were illegitimate.

    But what I find particularly interesting is that you interpret scripture one way while King interpreted scripture inconsistently with your interpretation (an interpretation you don’t approve of evidently), yet you both end up at the same place on civil rights. I find that remarkable. P -> C and ~P -> C. If that is the case, then I don’t see how one’s source material actually is serving as an authority. One might conclude that P is irrelevant to C. That is of course what leads me to my question, “How does bible based social justice look different from secular social justice?”.

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  111. Curt, if that is what you mean by social justice — what groups do to groups — you sound like you’re back in high school student council. In case you haven’t noticed, a group is a complete fabrication by you (or some other critic of the system). Very few Americans belong to anything that is a group. They may belong to institutions. Laws may be unfair. Groups? All rhetoric, no substance.

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  112. D.G.,
    How stringent you are in making sure people follow the standards while how cavalier you are in how you talk to people who disagree. It is odd because Paul emphasized that love is greater than faith and hope. It is odd because of what Paul says about the divisions in the Church. And it is odd because of what Paul attributed to the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. So when you talk about me being selective, perhaps you should consider what I have listed on what Paul has said.

    BTW, since I read a while ago, cannot find the specific article. But I do remember the statement. In any case, such a statement conflates justice in general with social justice. And while you are dismissive of social justice and what I said about groups, realize that what governments, from local to national, rule over groups. If a gang attacks a person, it was a group activity. And though not every member of the gang that was present in the attack might have landed a blow, the whole group that was there was guilty. With nations, the complicity grows larger because when a nation mistreats another nation, those who actually order or implement that abuses are not the only ones contributing to the abuse.

    What I find odd about the 2kt use of the Babylonian exile is that if their model was all that Christians followed, there would be no room for carrying out the Great Commission. And it categorizes all actions by nations against groups in their country or against other nations as being amoral. So again, we have to ask what about the Nazi invasions and their persecution of the Jews? Was what the Nazis did amoral rather than immoral? And would there be any difference in your answer here on a blog from what you would say in a pubic debate in front of a mixed crowd?

    See, while you want to see if my political views have compromised how I have read the Scriptures, I will remind you that one of your heroes, H.L. Mencken, believed in the superiority of German culture and stating some disturbing beliefs about other groups of people. Is it Mencken’s style that makes you feel at ease with insulting people? If so, where does what Paul said about the fruit of the Spirit rank in determining how you speak to those who disagree?

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  113. sdb,
    You are avoiding answering the gist of the question. BTW, Malcolm X’s criticisms of King had nothing to do with King’s use of the Scriptures. This is illustrated as Malcolm revised his views on many things after his pilgrimage to Mecca.

    So while you note that I will not always agree with King, please answer the gist of the question.

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  114. @Curt
    Is this the question you mean? “Did those who rejected the Bible as authoritative also reject King’s message on Civil Rights though he used the Bible for the basis for his hope and many of the ethics he promoted?”

    I thought I did. There were those who rejected the Bible as authoritative who also rejected King’s message on Civil Rights though he used the Bible for the basis of his ope and many of the ethics he promoted. I gave one example – Malcolm X. He rejected the Bible as authoritative and also rejected King’s message on Civil Rights. There were several other examples of those who rejected King’s ideals of equality and non-violence. Did you mean to ask whether there were those who rejected King’s ideals because he appealed to scripture for their support? The answer here is yes as well – there are supremacist movements who reject and despise Christianity. Did you mean to ask whether there were those who supported the civil rights movement and King’s ideals despite of (rather than because of) the religious overtones King’s speeches and writings? The answer here is yes as well. I provided an example above. Are you asking whether everyone who rejected the authority of scripture also rejected King’s ideals? The answer to that question is no. Did I get the gist of your question correct?

    The curious thing again is that purportedly King’s ideals were supported by scripture. However, those who rejected scripture also held the same ideals. Doesn’t that imply that scripture is not necessary for supporting the Civil Rights Movement? I’d be interested on your thoughts here.

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  115. Curt, sure, bring up Mencken’s Germanophilism. Doesn’t mean your definition of group is true or persuasive. But I see how it gives you real lift to mount your high horse.

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  116. D.G.,
    Sure I could have brought up Mencken’s racism and anti-Semitism instead of his Germanophilism, but what I was really focusing on in Mencken is his style of writing when writing against others. For it seems that your attacks on those who disagree, whether it is me who comments on this blog or Tim Keller, seems more inspired by secular influences than the Scriptures. And I wonder if, after reading your attacks, Keller would have more in common with you than me if he was to respond to you by telling you to get off your high horse rather than to address the issues being brought up.

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  117. sdb,
    So I see that you failed to acknowledge those who reject the Scriptures as being authoritative but who embraced what King wrote and said. So you are still missing the gist of the question.

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  118. JRC: So if I’m understanding correctly, the principle that you use to distinguish which Scripture must be enforced by society is the principle of love. Those Scriptures that lay out our obligation to love are those which society must enforce.

    Is that correct?

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  119. @Curt
    “I see that you failed to acknowledge those who reject the Scriptures as being authoritative but who embraced what King wrote and said.”
    Huh? I wrote, “Did you mean to ask whether there were those who supported the civil rights movement and King’s ideals despite of (rather than because of) the religious overtones King’s speeches and writings? The answer here is yes as well.”

    Didn’t I note that there were those who supported King’s ideals and rejected his religion? What am I missing here? Originally you asked, “Did those who rejected the Bible as authoritative also reject King’s message on Civil Rights though he used the Bible for the basis for his hope and many of the ethics he promoted?” I stand by my original answer. Some did and others didn’t. So what? If one could reject his religious views and accept his conclusion, doesn’t that indicate that the religious views are not necessary for arriving at that conclusion? Why isn’t public reason sufficient? I’m surprised you aren’t interested in engaging there.

    I have to say that I’m left with the impression that your appeal to scripture is opportunistic. If there are bits that align with your political ideals, you are happy to use them to get folks on board with your politics. Why is my impression wrong?

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  120. sdb,
    The real issue is why King could appeal to the Scriptures and no be seen as infringing on the religious rights of people?

    To reduce the atrocities he protested to that of what is reasonable removes the moral sphere from practices like racism. To remove the moral sphere is to reduce if not eliminate the urgency to change especially for Christians. For removing that moral sphere says being racist and opposing racism is a matter of personal freedom. It says that people’s rights and what we owe them are not affected by racism. It is like saying what the Nazis did to the Jews was not immoral. Are those the things you want to say? And is it merely opportunistic to say that Scriptures speak against racism? And would you say all of that in front of the general public and not just on a blogsite mostly read by religiously conservative Christians?

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  121. “The real issue is why King could appeal to the Scriptures and not be seen as infringing on the religious rights of people?”
    Let’s not be all or nothing. Why did some not see him as infringing on religious rights? Well, there are a lot of answers to that I suppose. But a lot of people are critical of his religious language (Ta-Nesisi Coates is another prominent example).

    “To reduce the atrocities he protested to that of what is reasonable removes the moral sphere from practices like racism.”
    Who would do such a thing? But surely you can see how one might view lynchings and other discriminatory behavior as immoral, and at the same time see the question of legislation as amoral.

    “To remove the moral sphere is to reduce if not eliminate the urgency to change especially for Christians.”
    This is what I thought your stance was. We should appeal to scripture when it is likely to motivate Christians to get on board with one’s political stance. Politics comes first, and scripture is one of many resources from which one might draw to achieve one’s desired ends. Of course, this undermines the authority of scripture as it isn’t acting as a guide. One’s moral intuition and political stance is prior.

    “For removing that moral sphere says being racist and opposing racism is a matter of personal freedom.”
    No. Removing the moral sphere is to say that outlawing racism and not outlawing racism is a matter of personal freedom. Racism is immoral. So is viewing pornography, getting drunk, thinking unkind thoughts towards the idiot driving slow in the left lane, and neglecting to keep the sabbath holy. It isn’t clear to me that opposing laws addressing these sins entails that one thinks they aren’t moral issues or that they are merely matters of personal freedom.

    “It is like saying what the Nazis did to the Jews was not immoral.”
    No. It is like saying that one’s political approach to Nazi Germany is amoral. I’ve asserted many times that what the Nazi’s did to the Jews is wrong.

    “And is it merely opportunistic to say that Scriptures speak against racism?”
    It is opportunistic to draw on scripture to oppose racism and ignore scripture on other matters.

    “And would you say all of that in front of the general public and not just on a blogsite mostly read by religiously conservative Christians?”
    Rawls is hardly a fringe character. Have you read him on the matter of Public Reason? Most people would not find the stance that the selective appeal to the Bible for political action is opportunistic and unnecessary for healthy politics and corrosive to religion is fringe. But that’s a sociological question.

    My original question is how you determine which aspects of scripture to appeal to in the public sphere and which you don’t. Thanks for the conversation. You’ve answered my question there. It has been an illuminating discussion.

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  122. sdb,
    Regarding King, the issue is simple. What he advocated did not give an advantage or preference to any religious group. This is why he could appeal to the Christian faith. He was working for all, not just his own religious tribe.

    Tell me, what legislation that promotes racism is amoral. Be historical when you refer to a specific piece of legislation that is amoral.

    As for personal freedom, that is absolute. One can’t force someone to not have racist views. But one can protect people from the target race(s) of the person who has such views from actions. Businesses that discriminate, such as during Jim Crow, break the social contract of businesses in a capitalist economy. Allowing businesses to discriminate not only marginalizes those from the target race, it impedes their ability survive, let alone thrive. It also becomes a gateway action to further discrimination and reinforces the racist attitudes. Furthermore, it denies the equality that is stated in our Declaration of Independence as well as the implication that comes with all people being created in the image of God. It breaks the Biblical injunction against showing preference (James 2) and denies what is explicitly stated in Galatians 3:28. Personal freedom does not give license to people harming others.

    And you actually believe the following:


    It is like saying that one’s political approach to Nazi Germany is amoral. I’ve asserted many times that what the Nazi’s did to the Jews is wrong.

    Don’t you see the contradiction in the statement above?

    To say that the Scriptures speak against racism is not opportunistic. Of course claiming that it is admits that the Scriptures do speak against racism. Challenging slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy certainly was not opportunistic in the South up until the end of Jim Crow. It caused people to get beaten and killed. As for whether the scriptures are ignored on other matters, what other matters. The first table isn’t the concern of social justice because it isn’t the concern of the state. But it is the concern of all Christians just like social justice should be. Just because I don’t include the first table when speaking about social justice doesn’t mean that I don’t talk about the first table at all since I talk about other subjects than social justice. Plus, opportunistic would not be the correct word to use.

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