If Daniel Could Serve a Pagan King, Why Can’t Old School Presbyterians vote for Bill Clinton?

Kevin DeYoung offers some perspective for Alabama voters (though he never mentions Roy Moore):

9. Am I casting my vote for someone who will damage the reputation of Christ and may harm the cause of Christ in the world? While it is often good to vote for other Christians, we have to consider how someone conducts himself in public as a representative of Christian convictions, ethics, and character.

10. Am I willing to consider that thoughtful Christians may answer some of these questions differently than I would? I certainly have my opinions about how these questions might apply in specific instances, but more than a particular vote, I want to encourage Christians to think critically and strategically about their civic participation. There is more to consider than majorities for our side and defeat for theirs.

I am glad he follows point 9 with point 10 because Daniel, the prophet, would have had a hard time answering the ninth question. Not only could Daniel not vote, but he served a King who worshiped and served false gods. Sure, Daniel resisted the king in some ways, but he also excelled in pagan learning (and so distinguished himself for public service):

17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

If not obeying the first table of the law is a big deal — and we’re not simply talking about images of Christ — how could a faithful believer excel in pagan literature and wisdom (which by Neo-Calvinist standards had to be worse than public schools) and then also serve a king whose cult involved idolatry?

I get it, Daniel did eventually disobey, which is music to the socially righteous warriors ears (thanks to one of our Southern correspondents):

We might hide our motives or blanket them in a veil we call authority or expertise. We will always become like the things we worship. Daniel writes about three men who stood in bold ambivalence to the foolishness of a conqueror king, because he was not their true king. They knew who they worshipped, and the more they lived like Him the closer they came to His presence.

Resist!

But that perspective on Daniel entirely misses the prophet’s assimilation to a regime tainted throughout by blasphemy and idolatry. Again, if 1789 affected all of European society, imagine the intersectionality of Babylonian gods and society. What did Daniel do? He cooperated as much as possible.

Don’t resist!

Honor (even the pagan megalomaniac)!

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

In which case, the lesson is that as long as a Christian does not worship the senator, create statues of him for worship, pray to the senator, hand out the senator’s voting guide on Sunday, still honors his parents while working or voting for the senator, is not the senator’s hit-man, doesn’t lust after the senator’s wife, doesn’t embezzle for the senator, doesn’t lie to or for the senator, and doesn’t envy the senator, or his wife, or servants, or property, the a Christian can vote for the senator.

But if you want to be a pietist about it and consider primarily what a vote says (all) about you, then chances are you have the makings for being an Anabaptist.

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “If Daniel Could Serve a Pagan King, Why Can’t Old School Presbyterians vote for Bill Clinton?

  1. So if you lived in Nazi Germany, you refuse to resist but rather cooperate as much as possible.

    Yes Daniel could not vote, but there were other contextual differences between then and now. That the Babylonian exile is the only OT example fwhich some Christians use to determine how the Church is to behave now shows how those same Christians ignore the contextual differences between Daniel’s time and now. In some ways, the wandering of the Hebrews provides a better comparison for the Church than the exile. After all, the Church was not exiled as punishment for past and present sins. Rather the Church was sent into the world to carry out the Great Commission after its members were delivered from slavery to sin. And, unlike the Jews of Daniel’s time, the wandering Hebrews were never removed from the Promised Land as punishment which is more similar to the Church’s position in the world today.

    Statement #9 from DeYoung can easily stand without statement #10. Why? Because whatever we Christians say, do, support, resist, or refrain from supporting is associated with the Gospel. My feeling is that D.G.’s position supports an approach that Francis Schaeffer warned against: the making of the pursuit of personal peace and prosperity into a god. And when we do that, we cause great harm to the reputation of the Gospel. And history bears witness to this in the aftermath of the French, Russian, and Spanish Revolutions where pre-revolutionary times saw the respective branch of the Church in those times do what D.G. suggests: to not resist but to cooperate as much as possible. Part of why Lenin repeated what Marx said about religion was because of what he observed about the Church in Russia. And what was the aftermath for the Church after the Russian Revolution? IN fact, the Orthodox Church in Russia today is doing what D.G. suggests and we see the ties between the Church there and the government.

    Like

  2. Is it really true that a Christian cannot keep the distinction between law and gospel without at the same time being loyal to (at least) two kingdoms? It seems to me that the defense of the two kingdom worldview comes out as a post-apostolic invented law—some of us are more righteous than pietists.

    Since all pietists/ anabapists are exactly the same, let’s assume that all who stay loyal to two kingdoms are also people who care more about the two kingdom distinction than they do about the gospel not being law.

    Martin Niemoler was the son of a Lutheran pastor and a submarine commander in World War I. , Martin was ordained with the indelible mark required to hand out God’s grace. . Martin spoke positively of one of his kingdoms—“When this great nation was formed, God gave it Christianity for its soul, and from these Christian roots it has grown.” Martin joined the army with his two sons. Martin’s allegiance should have exclusively to Christ’s kingdom, but instead they volunteered to serve in the Nazi army

    During the situation ethic of Romans 13, Christians were not citizens of Rome, but now things have changed and we Christians now submit to ourselves. We are both Christians (from heaven) and also part of the occupying force around the world.

    While the Roman empire was an occupation force, non-Roman citizens had the liberty (if not duty—like Daniel) to collaborate with the invading empire…

    Does making a distinction between gospel and law mean that clergy hand out grace in church but work behind the scenes with the state to make sure that justice gets done to those who disagree with the two kingdom worldview?

    Before Martin Niemoler joined the army, he read pastor Martin Luther–“When Christians went to war, they struck right and left and killed, and there was no difference between Christians and the heathen. But they did nothing contrary to Matthew 5;38-39 because they did it not as Christians. but as obedient subjects, under obligation to a secular authority.”

    http://ollc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Secular-Authority-To-What-Extent-It-Should-Be-Obeyed.pdf.

    Like

  3. Alec Ryrie–In the classic Lutheran and Calvinist states of the 16th and 17th centuries, the church has its own quite limited sphere. It gets to look after doctrine, preaching and maybe some aspects of its own self-government. But the state is sometimes an overweening protector. It has responsibility for looking after the church in all sorts of ways, and that responsibility can involve leaning on it quite heavily. It can look like a protection racket.

    Ryrie–These churches badly need some sort of political support. They go to the state and the state happily takes this on and gains a whole series of privileges, and a lot of property, as part of the deal. Calvin determined not be seen as a threat to political status quo

    Ryrie–The apolitical tradition in Protestantism is not only a cowardly or dishonest response to particular circumstances, but has a long-standing and, in its own terms, honorable theological rationale stretching back to Luther and, indeed, beyond. The claim that it is a fig leaf for collaboration with tyranny is at best a very partial truth. Apolitical Protestants tend genuinely to think that worldly politics is not very important, a view that is unfashionable but by no means ridiculous. As such, they have a set of modest but largely nonnegotiable demands to make of the kingdom of this world—chiefly, and momentously, to be left alone.

    Ryrie–this way of thinking may be of some real political importance to our own times. For many, the claim that politics is an inherently corrupt and rotten business with little power to effect positive change in ordinary people’s lives sounds less like a theological claim than a self-evident truth—as indeed has long been the case across much of the world. Changing our politicians seems trivial, and changing our political culture impossible. This malign set of conditions threatens to produce a politics of scapegoating… Yet apolitical Protestantism may also offer a more constructive way forward. This would lie not only through its recognition that a large part of human misery and flourishing does in fact lie beyond the power of any government, and therefore that there are better responses to the ills of our age than impotent rage at a ruling class.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/spiked-review/article/on-the-radical-reformation/20459#.WivuBkqnGM9

    Like

  4. Judges 1: 19 The Spirit of the Lord took control of Samson, and Samsom went down to Ashkelon and killed 30 of their men. Samson stripped them and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle.

    Perhaps Samson could be our example, as long he keeps a distinction between the two kingdoms? Question by inference—does who’s in your family have anything to do with who’s in your church? Is the family also in both kingdoms?

    I mean, the Ten Commandments are for both kingdoms. God only has one gospel, and therefore God’s law also never changes. Is there something immoral about the covenant God gave by means of Moses? Are only some of the parts of Exodus 20-24 that we select the administration of “the covenant of grace”?

    Exodus 21: 20 “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod, and the slave dies under his abuse, the owner must be punished. 21 However, if the slave can stand up after a day or two, the owner should not be punished because he is his owner’s property.

    Exodus 21: 2 “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for six years; then in the seventh he is to leave as a free man without paying anything. 3 If he arrives alone, he is to leave alone; if he arrives with a wife, his wife is to leave with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children belong to her master, and the man must leave alone

    Like

  5. mcMark, “Does making a distinction between gospel and law mean that clergy hand out grace in church but work behind the scenes with the state to make sure that justice gets done to those who disagree with the two kingdom worldview?”

    Only if you are Lutheran 2k. Reformed 2k – you give the law good and hard in both k’s.

    Like

  6. Curt,

    “Whatever we Christians say, do, support, resist, or refrain from supporting is associated with the Gospel.”

    Perhaps, but is that done rightly. Is my support of Pepsi over Coca-Cola rightly associated with the gospel by onlookers?

    Like

  7. Robert,
    Let’s take something more important first. When Christians voted for Trump, they associated his candidacy with the Gospel. The same can be said for those Christians who voted for Hillary or any other candidate. For what those actions are saying is that voting for such people is compatible with believing the Gospel.

    Now back to your examples, certainly when Christians drink coke or pepsi, they associate drinking those drinks with the Gospel. But the question becomes this: How significant is that association?

    Like

  8. D.G.,
    Are you issuing the alert because Pietism has everything to learn from you and nothing to teach you?

    The issue isn’t whether you should sound some ‘pietism alert.’ The issue is whether the statement in question is true. The pietism alert you sounded seems to be a distraction from the issue. Just as Robert’s example is a distraction. For with drinks like coke and pepsi or food like cheerios, association with the Gospel are made when Christians consume such products, the question becomes this: How significant are those particular associations? They are not as significant as when Christians take illegal drugs.

    Like

  9. DGH – excellent post.

    Curt – yes, a Christian should cooperate with the Nazi government as much as possible, which would be not very much at all in practical terms. There’s a big difference between regimes that do bad things – Roman Empire, Babylonians, British, Americans, etc – and regimes whose very existence is predicated on doing bad things, such as Nazi Germany. The Romans were imperialistic and murderous when it suited their purposes, but they did not believe in genocide or mass extermination in principle, which was also true of the Babylonians. The core belief of Nazism is racial superiority of Aryans and elimination of other races from society/world in order to form a pure, racially homogeneous state. Thus their very existence was based on evil intent. Most regimes – including the Babylonians of Daniel’s day – do wicked things because they are made up of wicked people, but very few regimes in history have existed for the sole purpose of doing evil like the Nazis.

    Like

  10. Good article. Along these lines….while the ‘conservative pietist culture warrior’ impulse is to believe a main focus in the walk of a Christian should be refusing the baking a cake for two homosexuals, I am not sure that is a mandated Biblical prescription. I would have baked the cake, invited them for coffee and had a conversation. After all it is not like I am a Christian minister and they asked me to perform the wedding ceremony. What next, they can’t ride on the same bus with me, they can’t eat in the same restaurant , etc.

    Best I Biblically understand it today (and I have a lot to learn) the social gospel left and the social gospel right get it so wrong it seems to me. Lord open my eyes where I need to see.

    Like

  11. Curt,

    Let’s take something more important first. When Christians voted for Trump, they associated his candidacy with the Gospel. The same can be said for those Christians who voted for Hillary or any other candidate. For what those actions are saying is that voting for such people is compatible with believing the Gospel.

    By the mere act of voting? I’m not sure about that. If they came out and said there was a gospel mandate to vote or either, maybe, and there were certainly people who did that. But I know a lot of people who voted for Trump not because they felt it was the gospel thing to do but because they want the federal government to leave them alone and they felt they had a shot at that with Trump whereas with Clinton they would be guaranteeing persecution. We can debate whether that opinion was rational or not, but I’m not sure how voting for someone who is more likely to let you live your life in peace is incompatible with the gospel.

    Now back to your examples, certainly when Christians drink coke or pepsi, they associate drinking those drinks with the Gospel. But the question becomes this: How significant is that association?

    Not very significant. And for the Christian who quietly voted for either candidate, I don’t think the association is significant either. It’s more signficant the more authority you have and more vocal you are about it.

    Like

  12. I think the most profound thing is that God works His Will in spite of who is elected to office, or rules a kingdom. True, people will groan under a bad king, or a bad representative, but the Lord is sovereign over all. I like the reference to Daniel above; that should be our attitude and carriage today before our authorities.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. D.G.,
    Again, when we call ourselves Christians, everything we do becomes associated with the Gospel. So what if some of those things are insignificant, other things are.

    Like

  14. Robert,
    Yes, by the mere act of voting if their act of voting is known. By saying everything we do becomes associated with the Gospel, there is the assumption of an audience who witnesses what we do or do not do. The vote for Trump, just like the vote for Clinton, would be associated with the Gospel. What is also associated with the Gospel is why one voted for Trump or Clinton if that reason is made known.

    Like

  15. Curt,

    But the issue is how much we should care about the associations that people watching us make. If my church exommunicates an impenitent adulterer, the adulterer and much of the watching world are going to think us cruel. But they aren’t in a position to make an accurate judgment in that.

    A person who associates my vote as a representation of the gospel is not qualified to make the assessment that I believe the gospel mandates corporate tax breaks (if I voted for Trump) or should redistribute income (Clinton or Sanders), and he is certainly not qualified to discern that the gospel mandates such irrespective of my beliefs.

    There’s also the problem that in every election, there is no candidate who is perfectly representative of the gospel. Every vote, including abstaining from voting, could therefore be regarded as harmful to the cause of Christ.

    Like

  16. D.G.,
    Which sinner has covered their own bases?

    The basic truth is that whatever we Christians do, people will associate with the Gospel. Some won’t want to hear the Gospel because of some of what we do or don’t do, while others will be disillusioned by some of what we do or don’t do. Do you really think that all of the public scorn Christianity is getting is from what the Gospel teaches?

    Like

  17. “The basic truth is that whatever we Christians do, people will associate with the Gospel.”
    You keep asserting this, but you haven’t offered any evidence for it. When people associate actions incidental to a group, we usually understand that to be bigotry (e.g., Muslims and terrorism).

    “Do you really think that all of the public scorn Christianity is getting is from what the Gospel teaches?”
    Nope. Some of what some Christians do, some people associate with Christianity. When Phelps’s group protests a military funeral, some people think poorly of Christianity (others realize that he is a fringe character who is not representative of mainstream Christianity). When I have a Coke instead of a Pepsi, no one associates that with Christianity. Most of what I do (even though I am a Christian and my friends and colleagues know I am a Christian) has any bearing on what they think about Christianity. When I order a salad instead of a burger when we go to lunch, none of them are thinking – he did that because he is a Christians or Christians must have wives telling them to lose weight. When I sign up to teach a course, submit a proposal, publish a paper, submit an expense form, or do any of the 100’s of mundane things I have to do each day, no one looks at these things and associates them with Christianity. That’s not to say that nothing I do bears on Christianity. Lots of it does. But not everything.

    Furthermore, for all your concern about the scorn heaped on Christianity by left-leaning non-Christians, do you concern yourself with the scorn heaped on Christianity by right-leaning non-Christians? Or do you not think you have anything to learn from the capitalism and the right?

    Like

  18. In other words, drop the ideological approach to dealing with such matters and focus on particularities. Let’s consider specific issues and see how that works out. Perhaps a commitment to secularism by Christians is a good thing? Maybe someone ought to write a book on that. What do you think?

    Like

  19. D.G.,
    I believe that when Jesus talked about practicing one’s faith in public, He was saying not to imitate the Pharisees for the sake of show and gaining people’s approval. ON the other hand, instead of practicing our faith in public, we could be like the priest and Levite who, instead stopping to help, passed by the man who was lying on the road to Jericho from being being beaten and robbed because they had more private settings in which they could live out their faith. Or we could be like Peter who denied knowing Jesus and thus nothing we do would be associated with the Gospel. Which are you suggesting?

    Like

  20. D.G.,
    But you didn’t answer the question. The problem is that once we identify ourselves as Christians, the association of whatever we do, say, not do and not say with the Gospel is a fixed cost. People witness what we do, say, not do, and not say. There is nothing in what I said that indicates that I am drawing attention to myself other than claiming to be a Christian. So are you suggesting that we don’t tell people that we are Christians?

    Like

  21. Curt, “The problem is that once we identify ourselves as Christians, the association of whatever we do, say, not do and not say with the Gospel is a fixed cost.”

    See? It’s always economics.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.