I’ll See Your World Order and Raise You One Principality and Two Powers

Isn’t this what caused mainline Protestantism to go south, namely, identifying the church with the work of building human civilization? George Weigel explains:

If there’s anything Catholics in the United States should have learned over the past two decades, it’s that order—in the world, the republic, and the Church—is a fragile thing. And by “order,” I don’t mean the same old same old. Rather, I mean the dynamic development of world politics, our national life, and the Church within stable reference points that guide us into the future.

Didn’t the apostle Paul (saint if you will) think the church had/has bigger fish to fry?

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6)

Russia, neo-liberalism, social justice warriors have nothing on sin, the flesh, and the Devil.

Of course, political order is a good thing, so good that churches need it to function — it may actually be that political order precedes church order rather than the other way around. But if the church sees its mission as supporting political order, it may seriously underestimate the amazing work God called ministers of the word to do. And that perspective might prevent a reviewer from writing this about a book on the nineteenth-century papacy:

Whatever misgivings one may have about the First Vatican Council, one does not need to squint to see a providential hand in Pastor Aeternus. As secular governments continue to chip away at different forms of civil society, especially religious forms, a strong papacy can serve as a powerful counterweight.

Counter-weights to secular governments chipping away at civil society? Isn’t that why we have The New York Times?

Advertisements

51 thoughts on “I’ll See Your World Order and Raise You One Principality and Two Powers

  1. But since we share society with others, we can’t escape through silence on issues that revolve around justice. After all, it is with silence that many German citizens reacted to the rule of the Third Reich. Is that how we are to react to the different injustices we see around us. Here we should note that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that Jesus didn’t ask who was the robbery victim’s neighbor, He asked who was the neighbor to the man who was robbed. And note who didn’t make the list: those who were religious.

    The fault of the mainline denominations isn’t that they pay a lot of attention to social justice issues, their fault is that they reduce the Gospel to social justice issues. The fault of conservative denominations is not that they reduce the Gospel to social justice issues, their fault is that they tend to eliminate all kinds of participation in social injustice from when they preach repentance.

    Like

  2. D.G.,
    You never fail to try to change the subject to the person you disagree with. With the attention I get from you, I am beginning to feel like Tim Keller. Soon you will need an anonymous group for both of us, though his will consist of more than just yourself.

    Regarding your note, just think if you expressed dissenting views in any bar in Nazi Germany. I have no problem with expressing dissenting views in bars or blogs. At some time, if you care about reaching more people with your message, you’ll expand past that. It depends what you care about. And the Church, as an institution, needs to speak out as well–that is besides just in the bars it visits. After all, everything that the Church says and does, that it doesn’t say and does becomes associated with the Gospel. What associations do we want people to make with the Gospel?

    Like

  3. Curt, you said silent and didn’t qualify. People talk all the time. But you only recognize certain kinds of speech. You’re doing with talk what I do with Presbyterianism, you narrow person, you.

    Like

  4. D.G.,
    And so we carry out the Great Commission if we Christians talk among ourselves rather than sharing what the Scriptures say with non-Christians.

    Like

  5. Curt, don’t fool yourself. The “Christian” speech you take to non-Christians (and some Christians) is all law because you won’t oh so much justice. Great Commission? Not so much.

    Like

  6. D.G.,
    As a 2Ker, you know that we have to share society with others. And part of that sharing with others is sharing law. And what laws we share and don’t share become associated with the Gospel because we call ourselves Christians. And what is associated with the Gospel affects how well we can carry out the Great Commission.

    When the dominant branches of the Church sided with wealth and power in the pre-revolutionary times of France, Russia, and Spain, revolutionaries associated the Gospel with oppression and exploitation. And thus when those revolutionaries had their way, the Church was unnecessarily persecuted and the reputation of the Gospel was harmed.

    Whenever the Church sides either explicitly or in silent complicity with wealth and power, it sabotages its carrying out of the Great Commission. And that is what we can’t afford to fool ourselves about. I notice that conservative Reformed theologian would neglect to preach the need to repent from sexual sin. But when it comes to social injustices caused by corporate sins, there seems to be no recognition of the need to preach repentance form participation in those corporate sins. And that lack of recognition caused Vlad Lenin, in 1905, to see the Church as an enemy:


    Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

    Here, Lenin went beyond Marx because Marx’s abolition of religion meant that the state should be freed from the control of the Church. Thus, Marx’s abolition of religion, and private property too, assumed the existence of religion. Lenin also went beyond some of his contemporaries in Socialism too. Compare what he wrote with what Rosa Luxemburg wrote in 1905:


    The workers can easily satisfy themselves that the struggle of the clergy against the Social-Democrats is in no way provoked by the latter. The Social-Democrats have placed themselves the objective of drawing together and organizing the workers in the struggle against capital, that is to say, against the exploiters who squeeze them down to the last drop of blood, and in the struggle against the Czarist government, which holds the people to ransom. But never do the Social-Democrats drive the workers to fight against clergy, or try to interfere with religious beliefs; not at all! The Social-Democrats, those of the whole world and of our own country, regard conscience and personal opinions as being sacred. Every man may hold what faith and what opinions seem likely to him to ensure happiness. No one has the right to persecute or to attack the particular religious opinion of others. That is what the socialists think.

    Again, when we Christians side with injustice either explicitly or in silent complicity, we sabotage our efforts to carry out the Great Commission by providing stumbling blocks to some who would otherwise listen and by moving others to unnecessarily persecute the Church and see the Gospel as an enemy to justice.

    Like

  7. Curt,

    Whenever the Church sides either explicitly or in silent complicity with wealth and power, it sabotages its carrying out of the Great Commission.

    Yes, that describes the OPC perfectly.

    Like

  8. D.G.,
    It does describe the OPC more than you care to admit. Is the OPC, without recommending an economic system of its own, speaking against Neoliberalism or American Empire and militarism? Is the OPC speaking out against ways of life that harm the environment?

    Like

  9. D.G.,
    Those satisfied with the status quo never ask why neither Jesus nor Paul challenged the Roman Empire. And their refusal to ask implies that conditions today are not significantly different than conditions back then. But political systems that are more participatory along with the fact that the Gospel is well known throughout the world, except for a couple of dots on the globe, shows that implication to be false. Those satisfied with the status quo don’t ask if the Gospel is honored or dishonored by their refusal to ask why neither Jesus nor Paul challenged the Roman Empire. Such people seek their own security by imitation rather than looking to use wisdom to carry out the Great Commission and defend the Gospel from being tarnished.

    Your answer, in the form of a question, implies much more that what the Scriptures support.

    Like

  10. Curt, “Those satisfied with the status quo never ask why neither Jesus nor Paul challenged the Roman Empire.”

    Never?

    How do you know?

    Do you read what your write?

    Like

  11. D.G.,
    Scriptures are silent for what reason? Again, did the OT prophets and NT Apostles see all of the situations we now experience? Your comment about Jesus and Paul implies that they have seen everything we have seen and thus we only need to imitate and follow what is literally commanded. But the OT Prophets and the NT Apostles never saw a world where the Gospel was so widespread. They never saw a world where governments were participatory. Should we vote because neither Jesus nor Paul voted for government officials?

    But the OT Prophets saw grave injustices and they challenged those in authority about those injustices. Are those injustices now morally allowed because we are under the New Covenant? Is not speaking up for those who experience injustices, especially grave injustices, a way of loving our neighbor? Remember that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told us that it was Samaritan who was the neighbor to the man robbed and beaten, not the religious professional.

    Your position does not include the command to love one’s neighbor. How is that consistent with Jesus and Paul? How is that consistent with James when James warns the rich about exploiting their workers? While you seek confirmation in being literal, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and gives the Good Samaritan parable as an example. And you still claim that the Scriptures are silent on matters of social injustice because of your selective and literal approach to the Scriptures. Remember that the Arians sought confirmation for their beliefs about who the Son of God is in the fact that they were taking a literal approach to the Scriptures in contrast to Athanasius.

    Like

  12. Scriptures are not silent about justice. They are silent about government solutions to injustice.

    “Do not commit adultery” does not imply “Create laws compelling faithfulness”

    “Do not oppress your workers” does not imply “Create laws compelling just compensation.”

    Either law might or might not be good public policy; but neither one is commanded nor implied by Scripture.

    Like

  13. Jeff – exactly.

    Curt – you assume that an “empire” is a bad thing. I’m actually an imperialist, because I believe a global American empire would make the world a safer, more just place than it is now. For all its moral failings – and it had plenty – the Roman Empire actually generated relative peace and prosperity: the Pax Romana was the most peaceful period in European history. How can you in good conscience oppose that?

    Like

  14. Dr. Hart—-“Curt, if Scripture is silent, that silence supports a lot.” Hmmmm, reeeaaally!??

    Bit of a forked tongue and double mindedness here I’m afraid.
    Only very selectively does this apply for the rabbinic hard line confessionalist however. Ya know when it works for them.
    That give with the right hand then take away with the left later on when it better suits them.

    Like

  15. Jeff,

    Scriptures are not silent about justice. They are silent about government solutions to injustice.

    But are they? The Mosaic code offers lots of government “solutions” as it were.

    There’s a question about how or if the code should be applied, but it seems there might be a place for developing solutions based on the general equity of those civil laws. I’m not a theonomist, just kind of thinking out loud here.

    Like

  16. “ Again, did the OT prophets and NT Apostles see all of the situations we now experience? Your comment about Jesus and Paul implies that they have seen everything we have seen and thus we only need to imitate and follow what is literally commanded.”
    Again, the writings of scripture did not originate in the will of man, rather the OT prophets and NT Apostles wrote as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit is omniscient, he certainly has seen all that we have seen and more besides. So yes, we should follow what he commands and neither add nor subtract from it.

    Like

  17. D.G.,
    Who said the Scriptures are silent? We have the OT Prophets who challenge those in authority over social injustices, amongst other things. We have James who challenges the rich.

    But there is more than the one reason for the silence you claim to exist. After all, the NT times didn’t see the changes we have seen. NT times didn’t see more participatory forms of government or the fact that the Gospel has been spread throughout most of the world. These are two key factors that change both how the Gospel is perceived and how we can love our neighbor than how we would do the same when merely imitating Jesus and Paul response to government. We also have the Good Samaritan parable and the command to love one’s neighbor. So the issue becomes whether imitating exactly how Jesus and Paul responded to the government is a way of loving one’s neighbor today given the different historical context and living situations in which we find ourselves. Does the reputation of the Gospel unnecessarily suffer when we sit in silent complicity while social injustices abound around us?

    Like

  18. Curt,

    So the issue becomes whether imitating exactly how Jesus and Paul responded to the government is a way of loving one’s neighbor today given the different historical context and living situations in which we find ourselves.

    If it was a way to love neighbors for Paul and Jesus, you can’t rule it out today. That’s all some of us are claiming.

    But you leftists are never content with living in a fallen world. Make it utopia! NOW!

    Like

  19. “If it was a way to love neighbors for Paul and Jesus, you can’t rule it out today. That’s all some of us are claiming.“
    Exactly. Is it bad form to ding, ding, ding the host?

    Like

  20. D.G.,,
    Neither can you assume it to be true.

    And your last sentence illustrates the fatal flaw of conservatives. I am not a utopian and there are other leftists who join me. But conservatives understand the present by studying the past only. So your conservative ideology might be a deciding factor in your interpretation of the Bible, rather than the text itself.They never pay attention to how movements and ideologies change. That is why you claim that I am a utopian. But I believe I have already addressed this.

    So in the meantime, what I wrote before stands–with a correction for a typo:


    But since we share society with others, we can’t escape through silence on issues that revolve around justice. After all, it is with silence that many German citizens reacted to the rule of the Third Reich. Is that how we are to react to the different injustices we see around us? Here we should note that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that Jesus didn’t ask who was the robbery victim’s neighbor, He asked who was the neighbor to the man who was robbed. And note who didn’t make the list: those who were religious.

    The fault of the mainline denominations isn’t that they pay a lot of attention to social justice issues, their fault is that they reduce the Gospel to social justice issues. The fault of conservative denominations is not that they reduce the Gospel to social justice issues, their fault is that they tend to eliminate all kinds of participation in social injustice from when they preach repentance.

    Like

  21. Curt, if I am more like Jesus and Paul in my witness than you are, I’ll take it.

    Silence on social justice? Who would ever have enough time or words for all the injustice in the world — intersectionality anyone?

    Maybe you are silent too about a lot of bad stuff, but as someone who like to present as righteous, you call attention to your own noise.

    Like

  22. D.G.,
    But that is the question, are you more like Jesus and Paul for imitating them when they are responding to different conditions?

    And one doesn’t have to choose between commenting all or social justice issues or none.

    Finally, the noise I hear are the personal comments and even accusations you make. You are simply trying to change the subject by making personal comments.

    Like

  23. Curt, so I’m not silent. Give me credit.

    You know, the conditions of Christians and non-Christians weren’t so hot when Jesus and Paul lived, right? Or do you think they were living in 1950s U.S.A.? Wait, that’s an awful time for you socialists too.

    So injustice is always there, it is not silent (thank you, Schaeffer). And yet our Lord was silent.

    You still haven’t wrestled with that Curt.

    Cue the prophets.

    This is fun.

    Like

  24. D.G.,
    Yes, you are silent about a great many things. But your question illustrates the problem. The concern of your question does not take into account the added responsibility that we all have while living in nations that have at least somewhat participatory governments. Nor does your question address whether Christians have changes in their responsibilities now that the Gospel has been spread throughout most of the world. Nor does your question address how what the OT prophets said would apply today. I understand that the ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply, but some of what the OT prophets preached against were social justices practiced by non-covenant nations. So are those concerns of the OT prophets no longer applicable?

    With the added responsibilities we have and the carry over of at least some of what the OT prophets said, is the simple imitation of what Jesus and Paul did a way of loving others as ourselves or would your simple imitation be like saying to Jesus that He should have turned the other cheek when confronting the moneychangers in temple? Context is to understanding the Scriptures what location is to real estate. Why was the Lord silent?

    Like

  25. Curt – “I understand that the ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply, but some of what the OT prophets preached against were social justices practiced by non-covenant nations. So are those concerns of the OT prophets no longer applicable?”

    What “social justices” that the OT prophets condemned are being practiced in the US today? I’m not asking rhetorically, I really want to know what you have in mind.

    Like

  26. D.G.,
    The prophets did apply to Jesus and Paul for both quoted them often. And if they quoted the prophets regarding Jesus’s fulfilling of the prophecies and Paul’s definition of the Gospel, why do you think that the rest of what the prophets wrote is no null and void? Again, your acting as if context doesn’t matter. That is regardless of the fact that we are not living when Jesus lived when His crucifixion and resurrection had yet taken place. And His mission was to die on the cross and rise from the dead. And we are not living in the times of Paul when the Gospel was unknown in most of the world. And we are not living in those times and places where we have no participatory political system. Neither Jesus nor Paul voted for their governmental leaders nor taught their followers to do so. Does that mean that Biblical silence then implies that we shouldn’t vote now?

    Your argument rests on presupposing that context is irrelevant in terms of how we interpret and implement the 2nd table of the law. And thus, mere imitation and the following of explicit commands, some of which were for specific situations occurring at that time and place, is adequate for following the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. But again, is that what the Good Samaritan did in the parable? Which of his actions were the result of mere imitation or the following of concrete commandments that said what he was to precisely do? Or were his actions based on loving one’s neighbor and what that meant for the specific situation in which he found the victim he became a neighbor to? And what were the responses of the religious leaders who walked by the victim without lifting a finger?

    Basically, by ignoring context and pronouncing that the social concerns of the prophets are now null and void, are you trying to limit what it means to love one’s neighbor for the sake of your personal interests, or are you doing so out of concern for the welfare of your neighbor?

    Like

  27. “Neither Jesus nor Paul voted for their governmental leaders nor taught their followers to do so. Does that mean that Biblical silence then implies that we shouldn’t vote now?”

    Municipal elections were held as late as the destruction of Pompeii indicating that Roman citizens such as Paul had the right to vote for local officials. Scripture’s silence means that the church lacks the authority to declare that not engaging in participatory government is not sinful. We love our neighbor by not burdening him with man made rules. Other ways we love our neighbor will vary based on context.

    Like

  28. sdb,
    And yet the Scriptures are silent on whether Paul voted.

    Scriptural silence occurs for multiple reasons. To assume that the Scriptures are silent implies that the Church lacks authority to declare if something is sinful is wrong. Why? Because the implication cannot be made when there are multiple conclusions that can be drawn from the premise.

    Like

  29. But to assume that the Church lacks authority to speak where God Himself has not spoken is exactly correct.

    For when the Church speaks, it separates sin from not-sin. If God has not declared X sinful, the Church may not presume to fill in His silence with either permission or mandate.

    God’s silence = liberty, to be exercised in love.

    Like

  30. “And yet the Scriptures are silent on whether Paul voted.

    Scriptural silence occurs for multiple reasons. To assume that the Scriptures are silent implies that the Church lacks authority to declare if something is sinful is wrong. Why? Because the implication cannot be made when there are multiple conclusions that can be drawn from the premise.”

    I’m not entirely sure that I’m following you here Curt. My reasoning follows from the WCF,

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added…

    The epistle to the Colossians is an important text here. Since the Holy Spirit is the author of scripture and knows all things that have or will occur, the fact that the scriptures were written 2000yrs ago does not limit their efficacy. However, the scriptures don’t address all issues – even issues that are crucial for our common life together. Where the scriptures are silent, the Christian does not have the authority to declare that behavior sinful or not. This does not entail a wooden literalism as we are called to deduce from the Scriptures consequences that apply to contemporary questions.

    You are quite insistent that there is such a thing as communal sins and that Christains today are obligated to engage in political advocacy to right situations that you view as injustices. You appeal to the minor prophets for support of your position. Against your position is that Christ did not confront Pilate over Rome’s unjust occumpation of Palenstine, and Paul, a Roman citizen, only refers to his civic rights in his appeal to caesar. In addressing the responsibilities of Roman Christians (an audience that undoubtedly included Roman citizens), his instructions did not include an appeal to citizens to excercize their civic right to address injustices in their societies. In contrast, we see Peter and Paul tell slaves to submit to their masters and Peter tell women to submit quietly abusive husbands. Philemon is similarly problematic for your position (and that of theonomists).

    Lot’s of dumb, stupid, idiotic things aren’t sinful. It is fine for believers to point that out. It isn’t fine to suggest that believers are sinning by not opposing those stupid things, a session blocking a member from the table over his political views, or a presbytery dismissing a pastor over his engagement in activity not forbidden in scripture. To do otherwise is legalism.

    Like

  31. Curt, “honor the emperor” is in the context of emperors who were persecuting Christians.

    Imagine Jeremiah saying, “honor the king who is worshiping Baal.”

    Context goes both ways, brah.

    Like

  32. D.G.,
    Yes, that statement was made in that context. But the context of that statement included much more than the persecution of Christians. And that is illustrated by comparing what Paul wrote about civil authorities and what Jeremiah wrote.

    Like

  33. Jeff,
    The question that must always be asked is why haven’t the Scriptures spoken about a particular issue. What is often really being asked there is why have the Scriptures literally mentioned that issue. For if we go past the literal mentioning of issues, we might find that the Scriptures have spoken about a particular issue. Remember that Arians were confident in their position on Christ because they followed what the Scriptures literally said. Athanasius included what the Scriptures conceptually said.

    Like

  34. Curt,

    What is often really being asked there is why have the Scriptures literally mentioned that issue. For if we go past the literal mentioning of issues, we might find that the Scriptures have spoken about a particular issue.

    But it’s one thing to say Scriptures speak to a particular issue and another to say that Scripture defines how we as a society are to solve the issue or how Christians are to act to solve the issue.

    Scripture says injustice is evil. It doesn’t prescribe how I as a person am to address it politically.

    Like

  35. Curt,

    We’ve dealt with that in our previous conversations. What Scripture teaches includes both what it literally says and also what it implies.

    Just because you have literalism in your sights doesn’t mean the rest of us do.

    Like

  36. “What is often really being asked there is why have the Scriptures literally mentioned that issue.”
    No it isn’t. What is really (truly!) being asked for is where your assertions are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence can be deduced from Scripture. Going to from the parable of the good Samaritan and an idiosyncratic interpretation of the minor prophets to a declaration that it is sinful not to advocate for a living wage (an issue we discussed a few threads back if you recall) or support firearm restrictions is skipping a lot of steps. Go ahead and pick a political issue and deduce from scripture what one must do in relation to that issue to keep from falling into sin. Be specific, platitudes don’t cut it.

    Like

  37. sdb – “Go ahead and pick a political issue and deduce from scripture what one must do in relation to that issue to keep from falling into sin. Be specific, platitudes don’t cut it.”

    Bingo! I asked Curt to give me specifics earlier in the thread, and got crickets in response. I expect the same in response to you.

    Like

  38. Jeff,
    When one points to the lack of literal examples of Jesus and Paul and follows that with the conclusion that the Scriptures are silent, one is not looking for what is implied.

    Like

  39. Robert,
    I agree with your comment. But unfortunately, there is great reluctance on the part of many Reformed Christians to identify social injustices.

    Like

  40. Curt,

    But unfortunately, there is great reluctance on the part of many Reformed Christians to identify social injustices.

    There is?

    Like

  41. “When one points to the lack of literal examples of Jesus and Paul and follows that with the conclusion that the Scriptures are silent, one is not looking for what is implied.”

    No it isn’t. I look to the context of Paul and note that he had and other Roman citizens could vote – something you were mistaken about earlier in the thread. And I see that Paul never instructed gentiles to vote or to engage politically. Then I look to Paul’s command to honor and submit to Caesar and deduce that political activity should be constrained even when your ruler is an insane homicdal imperialist. When Jesus recognizes the rightful authority of a ruler who dismantled the Roman Senate and converted the republic into an empire, I deduce something about the relationship between the believer and the state. Then I look to Paul’s teaching on meat sacrificed to idols and his bromides against legalism in Colossians and conclude that placing extra burdens on people’s conscience is sinful. Finally I see that slaves and abused women are told to submit and I conclude that justice on this side of glory is not a gospel priority.

    These are not the fruit of wooden literalism, but instead are good and necessary consequences deduced from scripture.

    None of this is to say that political activism is wrong. Feel free if your conscience directs you. But realize that not every Christian is called to the same path. One can vote for Trump and support the NRA out of love for their neighbor and one can vote for Stein and support NARAL out of love for neighbor. The church doesn’t get to condemn either. Individuals are free to make their case in the public sphere.

    Like

  42. What SDB said.

    From my perspective, Curt, I feel that several people have given you carte blanche invitation to make a case from Scripture for your claims.

    That invitation is still open.

    We all understand that the implications of Scripture are binding.

    Like

  43. sdb says I conclude that justice on this side of glory is not a gospel priority.

    It isn’t?
    Acts 7:34 I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANS, AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO RESCUE THEM; COME NOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO EGYPT.’

    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 )

w

Connecting to %s