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?

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189 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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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?

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  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!

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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

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  40. Curt,

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

    There is?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.’

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  44. @Ali
    Not sure what happened there. Guess I was wordy and my message was clipped or I highlighted the text on my phone and mistakenly erased it when I submitted. Weird

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  45. Third time is charmed???

    Anyhow, very briefly… old covenant is not one to one with new. No king, no theocracy, no nation on this side of glory. Jesus is our king, his kingdom is not of this world, and we are pilgrims passing through this world.

    Under the new covenant the principal concern is not worldly justice that will come in next. Paul wasn’t concerned with reforming Rome, he was concerned with building the church. When the church takes her eye off the ministry of word and sacrament in favor of social reform, bad things happen- Constatinianism, social gospel, etc… not a good track record.

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  46. I’m not sure Jesus says ‘justice’ on this side of glory is not a gospel priority since the Lord loves justice, upholds, and executes justice and believers are being conformed to His image; also we are to pray for it for will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night

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  47. D.G.,
    But you neglect the context of participatory governments and that the Gospel has been preached throughout the whole world. What Paul was most concerned about was the reputation of the Gospel and having people rebel against an autocratic government would have damaged that reputation and thus hurt the spreading of the Gospel. Now you need to ask if the Church’s silence on corporate sins achieves the same ends. And if so, are we following Paul’s example when we maintain that silence or when the Church sides with justice on social justice issues?

    But with what you hint at in the context you define, are you saying that because Jesus and Paul never challenged the emperor who claimed to be God, that we should never challenge the emperor on that either?

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  48. “ What Paul was most concerned about was the reputation of the Gospel and having people rebel against an autocratic government would have damaged that reputation and thus hurt the spreading of the Gospel.”
    Evidence?

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  49. “ But you neglect the context of participatory governments and that the Gospel has been preached throughout the whole world.”
    Rome had a participatory government, and there are vast swaths of the world where the gospel is not preached. As far as reputation goes, the sexual liberalization of the Anglican Church is used as propaganda by Muslims in Nigeria to convert Christians to Islam. I haven’t heard anything about minimum wage law being used that way. Curiously, growth of government and welfare safety nets is correlated with decline in Church attendance.

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  50. sdb,
    Rome had an emperor. And that emperor was not elected. And disagreement with the emperor was not smiled on. Go ahead and compare the participatory gov’ts we have now with Rome. And the fact that you tried to compare the two along with your statement that there are vast swaths of the world where is not preached is why I really don’t count your comments as being credible.

    But let’s take your comment seriously anyway. The New Testament is silent on voting both in teach and example. Thus, is it biblical for us to vote?

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  51. @Curt

    Yes, Rome had an emperor, however, as I noted above, municipal elections were held at least as late as the destruction of Pompeii (~80AD). Local leaders made a difference in the well being fo the people. The emperor isn’t the only office that mattered.

    Secondly, no where have I argued that it is only permissible for one to engage in behavior explicitly allowed in scripture. Rather, we may only worship God in ways he directs us and the Church’s authority over our conscience only rightfully extends over matters explicitly stated in scripture or that can be deduced by good and necessary consequence. Voting or not voting (insofar as it is legal) are equally allowable for the believer.

    Yes, there are vast swaths of the world that remain unreached by the gospel. The SBC 2020 plan is developed to address that for example. Many areas where the church once thrived have largely been emptied of Christians. Those areas are largely unreached by the gospel.

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  52. @VV my understanding is that by the end of the reign of Augustus, elections had been eliminated for Caesar, and at the upper levels of government, most elections were really shams. But I could be mistake here.

    At the local level, however, elections continued, and it was the local rulers that had the biggest effect on the quality of life of the citizens on a day by day basis. The graffiti preserved in Pompeii make it clear that local elections were ongoing at least as late as its destruction.

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  53. sdb – the “emperor” – that term technically referred to his military command (imperator) – was officially the Princeps, or “first citizen,” who was granted various titles and honors by the Senate, and was elected to the role of consul through popular vote (which they always won), though really the consulship was not necessary for him to exercise his power since he had lifelong tribunal powers. In theory the Princeps was accountable to the people and was only given his various powers through republican and democratic processes, but in practice he ruled as a king who only upheld the facade of the Roman Republic. The successful emperors (Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Aurelian) realized the importance of maintaining the image of the Princeps as the humble citizen dutifully protecting the Republic, while the less successful emperors (Nero, Commodus, Caracalla) were megalomaniacs who wantonly wielded their autocratic powers. Curt is right that the Roman Empire was hardly a participatory government for the vast majority of its subjects – I’m giving him a hard time about the emperors technically being elected.

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  54. sdb,
    Elections for senate were often undermined and ended in 14AD. Local and municipal elections were held after that but also died out and elections after 14AD occurred outside of Rome. So how much the early Christians could be involved in a participatory government in no way matches our level of participation.

    And, as always, you divert from the point. If all that we can do is to imitate or follow explicit directions, then the silence on voting by Christians implies an absence of voting and thus becomes an action that we cannot participate in. Why? Because what you miss is the application of the Regulative Principle to life. That is the approach D.G. is taking. That is why he implies silence means off limits. It is this applying the Regulative Principle to life that oversimplifies our approach to reading the Scriptures by asking us to ignore the context in which the Scriptural accounts and teachings are given.

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  55. “Curt is right that the Roman Empire was hardly a participatory government for the vast majority of its subjects – I’m giving him a hard time about the emperors technically being elected.“

    To be sure suffrage was limited, but citizens did have quite a bit of influence at the municipal level from what I’ve gathered and they had rights. Paul exercised these rights, but he did not suggest that Roman citizens were under any obligation to use their status in the public sphere to advance justice. While not dispositive in its own it is an important data point for understanding the NT understanding of the obligation of believers in the political sphere.

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  56. “Elections for senate were often undermined and ended in 14AD.”
    Right. As I noted above Augustus phased out elections. We agree, not sure why you want to belabor the point.

    “Local and municipal elections were held after that but also died out and elections after 14AD occurred outside of Rome.”
    As late as 79AD municipal elections were being held across the empire. I think we agree here too.

    “So how much the early Christians could be involved in a participatory government in no way matches our level of participation.”
    This doesn’t follow from what you wrote above nor does it address my claim. Roman citizens such as Paul had the right to vote in local elections that impacted the quality of life of people locally. He did not call on Romans citizens to exercise this right. I noted above that this is not dispositive, but rather an important data point.

    “And, as always, you divert from the point. If all that we can do is to imitate or follow explicit directions”
    I explicitly noted above that this is not the case. You have created a straw man.

    “then the silence on voting by Christians implies an absence of voting and thus becomes an action that we cannot participate in. Why? Because what you miss is the application of the Regulative Principle to life. That is the approach D.G. is taking. That is why he implies silence means off limits.”
    You continue to misconstrue the application of the regulative principle. “Silence” does not mean off limits for believers to engage in some activity. It entails limits on the authority of the church. The scripture does not teach explicitly or implicitly that a believer must be politically engaged, therefore, the church can not bind the conscience of believers on this matter.

    “It is this applying the Regulative Principle to life that oversimplifies our approach to reading the Scriptures by asking us to ignore the context in which the Scriptural accounts and teachings are given.”
    No. The RP allows for drawing conclusions from implicit principles. It protects Christian liberty from legalists who wish to compound burdens on the conscience of believers.

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  57. sdb,
    The Roman Empire had no substantial participatory government especially one that is comparable with our own. Local and municipal elections only never gave voice to citizens regarding the empire.

    There are two principles here that should dictate our participation in the political system: concern for the reputation of the Gospel and love for neighbor. When silence or passivity in the face of injustice hurts the reputation of the Gospel, then our response is obvious. When people see the Church preach against personal sins while being silent about corporate sins, the reputation of the Gospel is damaged. Those with wealth and power are being treated preferentially and, in many cases, we are riding on the coattails of those injustices that exploit either people or the environment. So it seems, if you are concerned with drawing conclusions from implicit principles, that concern for the reputation of the Gospel mandates our involvement in the political process especially in the face of corporate sins that involve social injustices.

    And love for neighbor demands the same involvement as concern for the reputation of the Gospel. Our neighbors aren’t just those who live in the neighborhood or those whom we come in contact with on some regular basis. In the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus didn’t ask who was the victim’s neighbor. Rather he asked who was the neighbor to the victim. And note the answer. It wasn’t the religious experts, it was a Samaritan. So what principles do we have there from which to draw conclusions? When national policies visit injustices on people and we have a participatory political system that allows us to speak to those who create such policies, are we being a neighbor to the victims of those policies by remaining silent? When people live in poverty and our government can help, are we being a neighbor to the poor by remaining silent? When we know that government can help far more people than what all of our churches are able and willing to, are we being a neighbor to those in need by remaining silent?

    Finally, you really don’t follow things here. You selectively pick facts that promote your views even though the other facts contradict your view. It is that selective use of facts and lack of following what is written here that makes me want to ignore your posts because of the frustration caused by your approach. The Regulative principle does rely on conclusions draw from principles. But when D.G. asks for specific examples, then he is not applying the regulative principle that way and you are silent about that.

    And, yes, we have Christian freedom. But what is the purpose of that freedom? Is it so we can kick back, relax and spend that freedom on ourselves? Perhaps, Galatians 5:13-15 tells us:


    13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

    Using that freedom to say that I am not obligated to love my neighbor while others use the freedom from not believing to be involved in helping those in need and being involved in the political process to get more help for those in need tarnishes the reputation of the Gospel. And like or not, conservatives, even Christian ones, have the reputation of sanctifying selfishness, which amounts to spending our freedom on ourselves. I don’t believe that the Church is called to specify distinctively Christian solutions for our injustices. Rather, we, as individuals, are to work collaboratively with unbelievers to find such solutions. But the Church is called to point out those injustices and preach repentance from practicing those injustices just as much as the Church is to point out the personal sins of people and preach repentance. That is part of protecting the reputation of the Gospel and loving our neighbor. And when D.G. asks when did either Jesus or Paul speak against social injustices, then you have to come to grips with the fact that it is D.G. and his literalness who is practicing legalism and ignoring what you wrote about the Regulative Principle–btw, a principle that Jesus did not follow in terms of religious observances.

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  58. Curt,

    When silence or passivity in the face of injustice hurts the reputation of the Gospel, then our response is obvious. When people see the Church preach against personal sins while being silent about corporate sins, the reputation of the Gospel is damaged.

    The trouble, Curt, is that I don’t really see any category in your thinking to identify the fact that sometimes the culture’s definition of injustice is simply wrong or at least flawed.

    Our neighbors aren’t just those who live in the neighborhood or those whom we come in contact with on some regular basis.

    In a broad sense that is true. But how responsible am I to those who are far away from me. I’m a finite person. I simply can’t know about every injustice that is ever committed on the planet. But in one sense, my neighbor is everyone on the planet. So am I sinning because I have not taken the time to research the injustices being perpetrated against tribe x in the deep jungles of India?

    In the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus didn’t ask who was the victim’s neighbor. Rather he asked who was the neighbor to the victim. And note the answer. It wasn’t the religious experts, it was a Samaritan. So what principles do we have there from which to draw conclusions?

    The Samaritan also just happened upon the victim. He wasn’t going out trying to solve societal injustice. So the principles would seem to be that if we encounter someone who needs help and we are able to help him, we should help him insofar as he is able regardless of whether he shares our ethnicity or even our religious beliefs. Could that involve political action? Possibly. But the Samaritan doesn’t solve the problem by voting for someone or voting to give someone else’s money to the innkeeper. He takes his own money and voluntarily helps the victim. That’s not typically what social justice types call for. They call for raising taxes significantly on some group that is determined to have too much and then they pat themselves on the back for their generosity and godliness.

    Which brings me to an important question. When you, Curt, fill out your taxes every year. Do you refuse to take deductions and voluntarily contribute to the government in order to fund social programs to help the poor? Because you are able to do that.

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  59. Curt,

    Conservatives, even Christian ones, have the reputation of sanctifying selfishness, which amounts to spending our freedom on ourselves.

    Perhaps. But its largely the result of propaganda. Conservatives give a far higher share of their income to charity than liberals. It’s simply a difference of philosophy. Conservatives tend to believe that private charity does a better job of helping the poor while liberals trust government more. The difference is not over whether the poor should be assisted. The difference is over how.

    Do you have any category for “Hey, both groups want to help the poor and both are acting to do so, they are just using different means”?

    Using that freedom to say that I am not obligated to love my neighbor

    Literally no one commenting here is saying that. It’s hard to take your criticisms seriously because you say things like this. You think that anyone who disagrees with you on how best to love your neighbor doesn’t really love your neighbor. That’s false and it borders on slander.

    The debate is really over how best to love your neighbor and to what extent the church can prescribe specific ways of loving your neighbor. You tend to believe massive government programs are the answer. I and probably many others think private charity is, as a rule, a better long term solution, though I don’t see anyone calling for the elimination of a government safety net entirely. Why is it wrong for me to want a reduced tax rate so that I can give more to private charity because I believe private charity, as a whole, does a better job helping and actually better encourages the development of virtue in the poor than government dependence?

    It’s also worth noting that Galatians is talking about behavior within the Christian community. Any application it has to voting in a secular context—if any—is very, very secondary.

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  60. @ Curt:

    You are exactly 180 degrees off in your understanding of the Regulative Principle. Again, careful study of WCF 20 is recommended, especially the distinction between “matters of faith and worship” and all other matters.

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  61. “The Roman Empire had no substantial participatory government especially one that is comparable with our own. Local and municipal elections only never gave voice to citizens regarding the empire.”
    “Substantial” is doing a lot of work here. There is no question that the quality of life for people in various municipalities was impacted by the votes made by citizens in those areas. Nor is there a question that Paul was a Roman citizen and thus had the right to (among other things) vote. I have not made the claim that the suffrage was as broad as it is in our society or that people had as much influence. Rather I’ve pushed back against the claim you made that the people in Paul’s culture had not influence. This shouldn’t be controversial.

    “There are two principles here that should dictate our participation in the political system: concern for the reputation of the Gospel and love for neighbor.”
    One’s personal history, family situation, prudence, and a host of other principles are relevant as well.

    “When silence or passivity in the face of injustice hurts the reputation of the Gospel, then our response is obvious. When people see the Church preach against personal sins while being silent about corporate sins, the reputation of the Gospel is damaged. Those with wealth and power are being treated preferentially and, in many cases, we are riding on the coattails of those injustices that exploit either people or the environment.”
    Of course this cuts both ways. When activism hurts the reputation of the Gospel, then our response is obvious, no? I bet if we stack up “socialism”, critiques of the American “empire” and “militarism” against “free enterprise” and “support our troops”, the former are going to poll quite a bit worse than the later… in other words, tying Christianity to socialism or critiques of military power is going to hurt the reputation of the gospel. Perhaps, truth and doing what’s right is more important than nebulous concepts like “harm the reputation”.

    “So it seems, if you are concerned with drawing conclusions from implicit principles, that concern for the reputation of the Gospel mandates our involvement in the political process especially in the face of corporate sins that involve social injustices”
    Well as one who rejects the concept of corporate sins on this side of the cross, this is unconvincing.

    “And love for neighbor demands the same involvement as concern for the reputation of the Gospel. Our neighbors aren’t just those who live in the neighborhood or those whom we come in contact with on some regular basis. In the Good Samaritan parable, Jesus didn’t ask who was the victim’s neighbor. Rather he asked who was the neighbor to the victim. And note the answer. It wasn’t the religious experts, it was a Samaritan. So what principles do we have there from which to draw conclusions? When national policies visit injustices on people and we have a participatory political system that allows us to speak to those who create such policies, are we being a neighbor to the victims of those policies by remaining silent? When people live in poverty and our government can help, are we being a neighbor to the poor by remaining silent? When we know that government can help far more people than what all of our churches are able and willing to, are we being a neighbor to those in need by remaining silent?”
    Unless one has a better solution than the status quo, then yes remaining silent is better than activism. Doing something is not always better than doing nothing. Indeed, many of our interventions to help the poor have made life harder for them and cemented the position of the lower classes. But to go further, we would need to get specific about the issues on the table, and frankly, they get very complicated very quickly. Let’s not be Manachian about these sorts of things.

    “Finally, you really don’t follow things here. You selectively pick facts that promote your views even though the other facts contradict your view. It is that selective use of facts and lack of following what is written here that makes me want to ignore your posts because of the frustration caused by your approach.”
    Your accusations exude love of neighbor. I never have intentionally selectively picked facts in our discussions. If I have erred, I’ll happily stand corrected. So far you have set up straw men, put words in my mouth, and made vague accusations. So far my only claims have been that while Augustus did away with elections at the top, elections at the local level continued as late as the destruction of Pompeii. VV has corrected me and noted that elections of the emperor may have conintued in some form longer than I though. I stand corrected. But my principal point was that elections at the local level made a difference in the quality of life for people, Roman citizens had the right to vote (yes citizenship was narrow), Paul was a citizen, and Paul did not advocate political involvement for other Roman citizens. Thus your claim that Paul would not have written about political involvement because he didn’t live in a culture where there was such a thing is mistaken. I see that you are frustrated, but these kinds of accusations on your part really are inappropriate.

    “The Regulative principle does rely on conclusions draw from principles.”
    Agreed. The WCF says as much – the language is “good and necessary consequence”.

    ‘But when D.G. asks for specific examples, then he is not applying the regulative principle that way and you are silent about that.”
    No. You have created a straw man. Someone asks for exegetical evidence and you accuse them of resorting to wooden literalism, rather than take our commitment to our stated beliefs at face value. Namely that biblical teaching includes things that may be deduced by good and necessary consequence from scripture.

    “And, yes, we have Christian freedom. But what is the purpose of that freedom? Is it so we can kick back, relax and spend that freedom on ourselves? ”
    Of course not, and no one here has suggested otherwise.

    “Using that freedom to say that I am not obligated to love my neighbor”
    No one is saying that we are not obligated to love our neighbor (including blog commenters with whom we disagree).

    “while others use the freedom from not believing to be involved in helping those in need and being involved in the political process to get more help for those in need tarnishes the reputation of the Gospel.”
    Well, the sociological evidence is working against you here. Political conservatives are far more generous than their liberal counterparts. How many foster kids do you have in your home?

    “And like or not, conservatives, even Christian ones, have the reputation of sanctifying selfishness, which amounts to spending our freedom on ourselves.”
    Yep. That’s the propaganda. It’s been quite effective, but it is dishonest. Again, the data say otherwise. From everything ranging from who gives blood, who volunteers in schools, who fosters kids, etc… there is a positive correlation between political conservatism and generosity.

    “I don’t believe that the Church is called to specify distinctively Christian solutions for our injustices.”
    So we agree! That could have been easier you know?

    “Rather, we, as individuals, are to work collaboratively with unbelievers to find such solutions.”
    Well that depends on the situation on the believer. In our church we have some who are heavily involved in human trafficking, others who are heavily invested in working with the homeless, others involved in foster care/adoption, and still others dealing with disaster relief. No one can do everything. And what this translates to at the ballot box is pretty complicated. Not everyone is going to balance the various trade-offs the same way or share the same priorities.

    “But the Church is called to point out those injustices and preach repentance from practicing those injustices just as much as the Church is to point out the personal sins of people and preach repentance.”
    Depends. Vague criticism of “environmental” degradation. Should we repent for not pushing to build more nuclear power plants? Should we repent for implementing CAFE standards rather than Pigovian taxes? Should repent of paper or plastic? If I am repenting of not taking care of the environment, what exactly am I repenting of?

    “That is part of protecting the reputation of the Gospel and loving our neighbor.”
    Reputation among whom? A lot of non-believers aren’t going to find your left of center activism so great.

    “And when D.G. asks when did either Jesus or Paul speak against social injustices, then you have to come to grips with the fact that it is D.G. and his literalness who is practicing legalism and ignoring what you wrote about the Regulative Principle”
    When we ask for NT examples of Jesus or Paul speaking against social injustice, we are asking for exegetical evidence for your claim. The fact that there is no evidence of this kind of criticism in a world where it existed is telling. Indeed, the NT writers instructed believers to submit to and honor the emperor. This probably didn’t do so much for their reputation among the zealots. This isn’t literalism, it is responsible exegesis. Studying the context of the NT authors helps us frame out the scope of their understanding of what the authority of the church should be. I’m not seeing any contradiction with how we arrive at the RP from the first table of the 10 commandments.

    “–btw, a principle that Jesus did not follow in terms of religious observances.”
    Well, the RP says that we should only worship God the way he wants to be worshiped. Jesus is God, so I have a hard time seeing how he could have violated the RP. To be sure, some advocates of the RP infer restrictions on practices that are in tension with the example of Jesus, but the evidence that Jesus violated the Mosaic law is pretty thin.

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  62. sdb,
    I said my peace with you, don’t need to say anything else. What I wrote can easily be verified. But I am not going to get into a long drawn out discussion with you for precisely the reasons I’ve mentioned.

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  63. Young Robert,
    Isn’t the key word in your statement below the word ‘sometimes’?


    The trouble, Curt, is that I don’t really see any category in your thinking to identify the fact that sometimes the culture’s definition of injustice is simply wrong or at least flawed.

    That means that it is sometimes true that our silence in the face of injustice unnecessarily tarnishes the reputation of the Gospel?

    Is it how responsible are we for those who live far away or what are we responsible for doing for those who live far away? We are as responsible for those who live far away as we have access to resources that can help those who live far away. That means that we are responsible to use those resources. And, btw, time is one of those resources because we don’t have the time to help everyone in need, but we shouldn’t take that to mean that we should not have to help anyone who is in need.

    When gov’t can help, we should implore our elected officials to get involved. Sometimes just raising awareness allows us to tel others who are in better position to help those who are need. We can also get directly involved when possible.

    And yes, the Good Samaritan happened upon the victim. I guess we could take that to mean that we don’t need to look for trouble. But with the resources we have, we can come across people in need anywhere in the world. The question then becomes, what are our resources? Some of our resources includes gov’t. And when those who are wealthy want to pull an Ayn Rand influence on the gov’t, we have to call attention to that. For that Ayn Rand influence states that those with wealth don’t even want to have any degree of responsibility for many of the actual stakeholders of their own business ventures, let alone help others. And we can also note that when we leave people behind in terms of help or jobs, they notice that and we invite blowback from them for abandoning them.

    Finally, the wife handles the taxes and the finances. And she somewhat aggressively rotates the varied charities we give to. And if businesses that have far more net resources than what we have, that is fine to do deduce some. But there are so many other tax deductions that businesses apply. And so the question you can consider is how much profit is enough? Here we should note that when businesses excuse themselves from maintaining the welfare of their stakeholders, they are slitting their own throats by ignoring the externalities involved with their ventures.

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  64. Curt,

    That means that it is sometimes true that our silence in the face of injustice unnecessarily tarnishes the reputation of the Gospel?

    When Christians don’t stand up for people who are being legitimately oppressed, our witness is harmed. I’m not sure anyone disagrees with that. The disagreements here are over:

    1. How are Christians to stand up for those who are oppressed? As an institution or as individuals?
    2. What constitutes true oppression?
    3. What is the best way to love our neighbor? Private charity or government? Both?
    4. Is doing nothing sometimes the best option?

    We are as responsible for those who live far away as we have access to resources that can help those who live far away. That means that we are responsible to use those resources.

    Sure. But my question is how responsible we are to those we don’t know about and probably can never know about. The way you are talking very quickly places the burden on me to learn about all 7 billion people on the planet, what they are facing, and how I can help. It’s legalism.

    And, btw, time is one of those resources because we don’t have the time to help everyone in need, but we shouldn’t take that to mean that we should not have to help anyone who is in need.

    Yes. And literally no one here is saying we shouldn’t have to help anyone who is need. For that matter, no one on the right is saying that. The only people saying that are maybe the devotees of Ayn Rand and radical social Darwinists. Where are those people? Who is listening them besides some people living in their mother’s basements? I guess Paul Ryan once recommended Atlas Shrugged, but Ryan isn’t advocating for us to help no one either via government or via private charity.

    When gov’t can help, we should implore our elected officials to get involved.

    But it’s not always easy to determine where gov’t can help. And sometimes charity can help better. And it’s possible for us to come to different conclusions on this matter without impugning the motives of others.

    I don’t know anyone here who would disagree that when gov’t can help, we should implore elected officials. The debate is over whether the church should advocate us doing that for specific policies or whether Christians as individuals should do that.

    And yes, the Good Samaritan happened upon the victim. I guess we could take that to mean that we don’t need to look for trouble. But with the resources we have, we can come across people in need anywhere in the world.

    1. No one is saying we shouldn’t look for people to help.
    2. My question is how far our responsibility is to those we don’t know about. You want to lay a burden on us to right injustices everywhere, at least that is where your ideas lead. If you want to do that, fine, but then that means everytime you spend money on yourself for something unnecessary, every moment you sleep (because you aren’t looking to right injustice), every second you breathe not devoted to solving injustice is a sinful moment.

    The question then becomes, what are our resources? Some of our resources includes gov’t.

    My resources include my income, personal savings, and time. My resource isn’t the gov’t except insofar as I can write my congressman. To deploy the gov’t as a resource in our society, you have to have broad political agreement on who and how to help. And that means people are going to disagree. And disagreement isn’t necessarily sin.

    And when those who are wealthy want to pull an Ayn Rand influence on the gov’t, we have to call attention to that. For that Ayn Rand influence states that those with wealth don’t even want to have any degree of responsibility for many of the actual stakeholders of their own business ventures, let alone help others.

    I don’t know anyone who wants to enact a radically Randian state. Further, given that corporations seek to maximize profits for their owners in our society, they do pay attention to their “actual stakeholders.”

    And we can also note that when we leave people behind in terms of help or jobs, they notice that and we invite blowback from them for abandoning them.

    Sure. That’s one reason Trump was elected. But many of the non-Christians who voted for Trump would be turned off by the Gospel by your positions and connection of them with the gospel. Why don’t you care about those people? You seem to care only about non-Christians who lean left. Why is that?

    Finally, the wife handles the taxes and the finances. And she somewhat aggressively rotates the varied charities we give to.

    Well good. But my question was how much extra you give to the government since you seem to want the government to do more. Put your money where your mouth is. Stop giving to charity and give only to government—or, quit accusing Christians on the right of sin when they believe private charity is a better answer than higher tax rates and a more activist state.

    And if businesses that have far more net resources than what we have, that is fine to do deduce some. But there are so many other tax deductions that businesses apply. And so the question you can consider is how much profit is enough? Here we should note that when businesses excuse themselves from maintaining the welfare of their stakeholders, they are slitting their own throats by ignoring the externalities involved with their ventures.

    How much profit is enough? is a question that really can’t be answered universally. The Bible doesn’t tell us. In the real world, prudence says some years 5% might be fine but in other years 15% is wiser. The real world says profit margins differ depending on the industry.

    You also assume there is a universally agreed upon idea of who a business’s stakeholders are. There isn’t. And non-Christian anti-socialists would be offended by your notion that employees are stakeholders of a business in the same way its owners are, and you would tarnish the reputation of the gospel by saying otherwise. When are you going to care about them?

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  65. Robert,
    You wrote:


    When Christians don’t stand up for people who are being legitimately oppressed, our witness is harmed. I’m not sure anyone disagrees with that. The disagreements here are over:

    Your first sentence seems to contradicted when Christians deny the existence of corporate sin. How can one say that both corporate does not exist and the Gospel is harmed when Christians don’t stand for those who are legitimately oppressed?

    As for your questions, I would remind you that we are talking about how we share society with others. So hopefully, we are standing up for the oppressed with others:

    1. How are Christians to stand up for those who are oppressed? As an institution or as individuals?
    Both.

    2. What constitutes true oppression?
    Oppression deals with various levels of marginalization–the denial of equal rights. We could go to Thomas Jefferson for the definition of true oppression (see http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jefinau1.asp ):


    All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

    We could also include those who are economically exploited and those, either present or future, who bear the brunt of dealing with poisoned environment.

    3. What is the best way to love our neighbor? Private charity or government? Both?
    Both

    4. Is doing nothing sometimes the best option?
    Would have to examine on a case-by-case basis.. Also depends on why one does nothing.

    When you ask how we are responsible for those we don’t know about, you seemed to have missed my statement:


    We are as responsible for those who live far away as we have access to resources that can help those who live far away. That means that we are responsible to use those resources.

    Wouldn’t resources include access to information about? After all, that is what technology has created: a smaller world neighborhood.

    You wrote:


    Yes. And literally no one here is saying we shouldn’t have to help anyone who is need. For that matter, no one on the right is saying that.

    This an instance where you employ all-or-nothing thinking what I am saying. What are people saying here? Since some are saying that there is no such thing as corporate sin, they imply that the Church is not to speak prophetically to the state to use its resources to help anyone.. And that goes directly to your Ayn Rand philosophy in two ways: the Church is not to speak to the state about stopping oppression and the Church is not to act to use the state as a resource to help to provide relief.

    You wrote


    When gov’t can help, we should implore our elected officials to get involved.

    Again, certain presuppositions limit how we do this. The denial of corporate sin means that there are those who believe who disagree about the necessity of demanding that our elected officials get involved.

    And your question:


    My question is how far our responsibility is to those we don’t know about.

    Again, that addresses the issue of available resources. In some cases, the issue is we didn’t take the time to know about. Take Germany citizens during the Nazi years. How many could have learned about the most oft practiced atrocities committed by their gov’t but they didn’t take the time to know. In other cases, we don’t have the time to learn or respond to ourselves. And what you write immediately afterwards shows that you are are employing all-or-nothing thinking to what I am saying even though by limiting what we do by the resources we have, it’s obvious that I am not employing all-or-nothing thinking in my responses.

    And what is below is the last issue I will deal with because your format here doesn’t allow for exploring the issue on more than a superficial basis: You wrote:


    My resources include my income, personal savings, and time. My resource isn’t the gov’t except insofar as I can write my congressman. To deploy the gov’t as a resource in our society, you have to have broad political agreement on who and how to help. And that means people are going to disagree. And disagreement isn’t necessarily sin.

    Do you really believe that your only resource to get gov’t to help is to write your elected officials? You need organization and you need to participate with unbelievers and you can get your church involved to challenge the gov’t too.

    Yes, people are going to disagree. That is plain as the nose on your face. Do you think that I have ever been in a protest or some other activism where no one disagreed?

    I am stopping here because of both the length of he response and number of issues don’t provide for substantial answers and because you are asking abstract questions while implying the addressing of specific cases. In addition, the all-or-nothing thinking expressed in your concerns is not based on what I wrote but on how you have reading some of what I have written.

    So either we discuss some specific cases and we limit the issues we address, or the discussion will be a mere diversion from the subject of whether the Church should speak prophetically to the state about corporate sins.

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  66. @Curt Some day you may find it in you to admit a mistake. Until then your authoritarian streak is showing. Everything to teach and nothing to learn. Instead if deflection and going down rabbit trails you might find it more productive to admit mistakes in your understanding and ask how those misconceptions might or might not influence your conclusions. You were wrong about Roman citizens voting and you have the reg principle exactly backwards.

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  67. Curt,

    We could go to Thomas Jefferson for the definition of true oppression.

    No, we couldn’t. Because we define oppression biblically.

    This is where a lot of your thinking goes wrong. You don’t seem to have a category for people who claim oppression but who, in reality, aren’t truly oppressed from a biblical perspective.

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  68. Robert,
    Why don’t you give that definition and see how Jefferson’s definition measures up. But then ask whether your use of that definition is more in line with 2KT or Transformationalism.

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  69. Curt, “When Christians don’t stand up for people who are being legitimately oppressed, our witness is harmed.”

    I disagree with that. It is so broad as to be meaningless. How do you know you’ve stood up for anyone legitimately oppressed? Have you stood up for the people on public assistance in Hillsdale?

    And what about the oppression that dominates me? I live in a society riddles with systemic injustice. It oppresses me.

    Have you stood up for me?

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  70. Curt,

    Jefferson owned chattel slaves. Call me crazy, but something tells me that means he probably isn’t all that good of a source for defining injustice.

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  71. Robert,
    But what Jefferson owning slaves proved was a horrific inconsistency that he didn’t see. And he didn’t see it because he assumed white supremacy.

    But the authoritarian approach says what Jefferson said cannot be correct because of what else he did. That is because the authoritarian approach looks SOLELY to the credentials of the source to determine the truth of the statement. And actually, arguing against what he said by pointing out what he did is a logical fallacy (see https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/11/Ad-Hominem-Tu-quoque ).

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  72. D.G.,
    Are you being serious? Both in and out of the evangelical community, that support for Trump has hurt the REPUTATION of the Gospel.

    BTW, you can disagree all you want with how not standing up for those who are legitimately oppressed hurts the Gospel all you want, that only shows on which side of the oppression you live. By saying that, I am not saying that you or anyone else who enjoys privilege over oppression actively participates in oppression. I am saying that because you are not on th other side of oppression, you will more likely struggle with seeing the harm done to the reputation of the Gospel.

    Let me ask this, with whom have you been sharing the Gospel? I ask because most of the people I’ve shared the Gospel with already have a negative view of it because of what they see in Christians. In other words, when I say that failing to defend the oppressed hurts the reputation of the Gospel, I am speaking from experience with sharing the Gospel. And it isn’t just the people I’ve talked to, consider what Vlad said (see ):


    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.

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  73. “ And has that enhanced or hurt the reputation of the Gospel?“
    Among whom? Most of my colleagues hated Christianity pre-Trump. Abortion, gay rights, and evolution are far more important to them than “economic justice” or matters of war. The working class (where religious observance has dropped like a rock) has been quite supportive of Trump. His approval rating is hovering in the 40’s. 25% of the electorate was comprised of white evangelical voters, so 80% of white evangelicals accounts for 20% of voters. What does criticism of Trump in the name of Christ do for the reputation of the gospel among the 20+% of non-evangelical voters? Somewhere around 10% of his support comes from nonChristian/nones. What about the reputation of the gospel among them?

    Perhaps the church should not engage in politics and believers in the public square should not engage in political advocacy in the name of their religion.

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  74. @Robert
    “ Because we define oppression biblically.“
    I’m not so sure about this. TJ may have been a hypocrite and nonbeliever, but he is also a central architect of liberal republicanism.

    But if your concern is oppression by the tyranny of the devil (to borrow from HC1), then of course TJ has nothing to offer and scripture is our only rule. But if your concern is building a better republic, then TJ has lots to say and the Bible isn’t so relevant.

    Where Curt errs is by assuming that if something falls outside of the jurisdiction of the church, then anything goes. I think the analogy between eating meat sacrificed to idols and political engagement is very helpful. If you have high cholesterol, perhaps it is imprudent to eat meat at all. This isn’t a church issue though. It is not OK to not love one’s neighbor, but how that plays out in practice is a prudential matter, and that makes it a matter of conscience. I suspect that sincere believers can even find themselves on opposite sides of an issue – should we ban gmo’s because of environmental justice or should we genetically modify rice to be rich in vitamin A and cure a lot of third world blindness? Maybe one concludes that is above one’s pay grade or that you have more pressing concerns. The church shouldn’t attach her name to one position or the other. She shouldn’t be proTrump or antiTrump, etc….

    As citizens, if we want to know how to vote read TJ. The church should stick to Word and Sacrament. Does that make sense?

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  75. The brilliance of 2K is that it recognizes the otherworldly character of Christianity. Jesus tells us that his kingdom is not of this world – our hope is not in better government, but in the resurrection. This is at the core of what it makes Christianity truly universal – it doesn’t demand a particular civic scheme, definition of justice, or culture. Pierre Manent puts it far better than I ever could,

    The radical originality of Christianity is due to the fact that the Christian community does not superimpose itself on any preliminary political or social community. The specific feature of the Christian church, in any case, the specific feature of the Catholic church in its complete form and vigor, is that it seeks its members in all the preexisting human communities.

    The whole thing is worth reading…

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  76. Curt, when did people associate evangelicalism with THE gospel? You mean you’re average American understands imputation? How could 1.2 billion Roman Catholics be wrong?

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  77. SDB,

    If Scripture isn’t our infallible definition of oppression and justice, then the Christian church is inherently oppressive against homosexuals, people who commit fornication, and on and on and on. The PCA is oppressive for excommunicating impenitent homosexuals, abortion providers, etc.

    If Scripture isn’t our infallible definition of oppression, then oppression is defined by whoever gets the most power. In which case there is no such thing as oppression ultimately.

    I don’t go to TJ to define justice and oppression for me except insofar as he agrees with Scripture and/or natural law.

    I suspect that sincere believers can even find themselves on opposite sides of an issue – should we ban gmo’s because of environmental justice or should we genetically modify rice to be rich in vitamin A and cure a lot of third world blindness?

    Sincere believers can find themselves on opposite sides of some issues, i.e., where Scripture is silent on an issue.
    Where Scripture is not silent, Christians must agree. Now that can be hard to translate into politics since political parties and candidates are collections of positions. For example, I can conceive of Christians, for example, voting for a Democrat even though the Bible is anti-abortion because of other issues, though pro-life Democrats are few and far between. What I can’t conceive of is a Christian supporting NARAL or Planned Parenthood because the only reason for NARAL and Planned Parenthood is to ensure the legality of baby dismemberment and murder. That’s not loving your neighbor—those babies are our neighbors.

    Curt is right that the Bible isn’t silent on justice issues. Where it is silent is on how to apply these justice issues in the context of modern republican governments. And it certainly seems to shy away from the church supporting particular candidates or parties. Individuals are to go by the standard of love for neighbor. On some issues I would say love of neighbor is fairly clear to apply; on others, not so much.

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  78. SDB,

    This is at the core of what it makes Christianity truly universal – it doesn’t demand a particular civic scheme, definition of justice, or culture.

    So Christianity doesn’t demand that innocent life be protected? The Christian church can be okay with a definition of justice that says its okay to murder the poor or the rich or Asians or Americans or whoever regardless of whether they have committed a crime?

    This is where the kind of 2K advocated here starts to run into serious problems. I would agree that Christianity doesn’t demand a particular civic scheme and, broadly speaking, a particular culture. But Christianity certainly says that some cultural practices are evil—infant sacrifice, widow burning, for example. And it certainly has a view of justice that says some things are inherently unjust. There’s a reason why we follow the Ten Commandments and essentially expect the state to do the same, at least with the second table of the law.

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  79. D.G.,
    Seems like an odd question. They don’t have to know that many specifics, like imputation to know that evangelicals insist that we must believe in Christi to be saved.

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  80. Robert,
    You wrote:


    Curt is right that the Bible isn’t silent on justice issues. Where it is silent is on how to apply these justice issues in the context of modern republican governments. And it certainly seems to shy away from the church supporting particular candidates or parties. Individuals are to go by the standard of love for neighbor. On some issues I would say love of neighbor is fairly clear to apply; on others, not so much.

    Some points are to be made here. First, the Church should shy away from support particular candidates and parties. But it shouldn’t shy away from either the current and past results of what the policies of particular candidates and parties have wrought or in reasonable projections of what the policies of candidates and parties will bring. The Church should focus on the specific unjust results that are happening. How to remedy those results should solved by Christians working in collaboration with nonChristians to find solutions. That is because we share society with others and should share it as equals.

    Second, though the Scriptures are silent about how to apply justice issues in our current context, we will be accountable for what and whom we support and for what on which we are silent.

    Third, I fully agree with the last statement of what I just quoted from you.

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  81. Curt,

    Part of the problem is that it just isn’t always clear what the results of our voting decisions will be long term, especially when it comes to economic matters. Achieving “economic justice,” whatever that means, involves multitudes of little decisions made not only in the voting booth but in everyday shopping and so on. There simply is no way to be informed about all of it. Even economists can’t do it, and they disagree strongly among themselves about every single economic issue.

    Add to that the simple fact that the Bible doesn’t condemn wealth disparities except when the wealthy are legitimately oppressing the poor. And that’s why I keep looking for a biblical definition of oppression. Paying someone $5 an hour vs. $15 an hour isn’t necessarily oppression.

    And—you need to put some teeth in your proposals. Besides being so vague as to be unhelpful, are you prepared to enact church discipline against someone who does not support raising the minimum wage or whatever policy you support. Because it’s pretty clear that you think those who do not hold your views on economic matters and ways to be involved politically are sinning. And if they are truly sinning, then church discipline is in order.

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  82. Robert:

    So Christianity doesn’t demand that innocent life be protected? The Christian church can be okay with a definition of justice that says its okay to murder the poor or the rich or Asians or Americans or whoever regardless of whether they have committed a crime?

    This is where the kind of 2K advocated here starts to run into serious problems. I would agree that Christianity doesn’t demand a particular civic scheme and, broadly speaking, a particular culture. But Christianity certainly says that some cultural practices are evil—infant sacrifice, widow burning, for example. And it certainly has a view of justice that says some things are inherently unjust.

    And of course, it does. Reformed Christianity in particular says

    Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?

    A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves[721] and others[722] by resisting all thoughts and purposes,[723] subduing all passions,[724] and avoiding all occasions,[725] temptations,[726] and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any;[727] by just defence thereof against violence,[728] patient bearing of the hand of God,[729] quietness of mind,[730] cheerfulness of spirit;[731] a sober use of meat,[732] drink,[733] physic,[734] sleep,[735] labour,[736] and recreations;[737] by charitable thoughts,[738] love,[739] compassion,[740] meekness, gentleness, kindness;[741] peaceable,[742] mild and courteous speeches and behaviour;[743] forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil;[744] comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent.[745]

    Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?

    A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves,[746] or of others,[747] except in case of public justice,[748] lawful war,[749] or necessary defence;[750] the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life;[751] sinful anger,[752] hatred,[753] envy,[754] desire of revenge;[755] all excessive passions,[756] distracting cares;[757] immoderate use of meat, drink,[758] labor,[759] and recreations;[760] provoking words,[761] oppression,[762] quarreling,[763] striking, wounding,[764] and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.[765]

    — WLC 135, 136.

    But of course, what counts as “just defence thereof against violence”?

    And here’s where the theonomists and progressives hit the wall.

    The theonomists need a definition for “just defence” and “violence”, so they look to OT case law. The progressives look to MLK or Thomas Jefferson.

    2kers observe that OT case law is expired; and MLK and TJ are not Scripture, hence not binding. God Himself has not seen fit to provide an abiding civic definition of “just defence” or “violence.” Those things are left to the conscience.

    What is NOT negotiable is that we all must pursue just defence of others against violence. And that’s where Curt is just is in la-la land. He mistakes freedom of conscience for license, the typical error of the progressive, theonomist, and pietist tribes.

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  83. Jeff,

    The WCF also says this about the case law:

    19.4 To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

    General equity would imply some kind of abiding civic definition or application. Parapets on roofs may not be required, but a concern for safety is. Granted, translating that into specific civic policies can be difficult. But it’s one thing to say that and another to say that we ignore the Bible altogether when it comes to civic justice, which seems to be what SDB was at least implying in responding to my critique of TJ and getting our definition of justice from him.

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  84. @ Robert:

    Right, we agree that the general equity is binding, but that it doesn’t take you as far as parapets or stoning. That’s what I was getting at above.

    So now consider this from a jurisdictional standpoint.

    First, the church. The church has jurisdiction over matters of faith (and worship). That grants authority to teach the general equity of the law, limiting that teaching to good and necessary consequence from Scripture.

    Now the believer in a democratic government. The believer has the right and responsibility to vote his conscience. He may, without sinning, listen to or ignore Thomas Jefferson’s opinions about oppression. Then having considered, he votes, doing his best to justly defend against loss of life, etc.

    The key element is that making declarations of sin is NOT in the individual’s jurisdiction (save in thecasr of a personal offense).

    So the church teaches the general equity, speaking where God speaks and refraining where God refrains.

    The individual seeks to obey the general equity, making use of secular sources *without* placing those sources on par with Scripture (ie binding on the conscience).

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  85. Jeff,

    The key element is that making declarations of sin is NOT in the individual’s jurisdiction (save in thecasr of a personal offense).

    This is confusing to me. It implies that making declarations of sin is the church’s jurisdiction (which I would agree with being Presbyterian and all), but most of the 2Kers here seems to be unwilling to have the church call anything the government does sin.

    If you’re talking about individual’s not being able to call another individual Christian’s vote a sin, then I would by and large agree with you.

    The individual seeks to obey the general equity, making use of secular sources *without* placing those sources on par with Scripture (ie binding on the conscience).

    I would agree with that. But it still means that we get our definition of justice from Scripture, not from Thomas Jefferson or any other secular source. The direct teaching and good and necessary consequence teaching of Scripture on justice must define justice for the Christian. It must do that for every matter that Scripture speaks to.

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  86. @robert & Jeff
    Abortion is a good case study I think. It is fair to say that Christians should recognize that abortion is murder and thus a sin. But what should the Christian do about abortion? I can imagine a believer faithfully working to outlaw abortion. I can imagine another believer who thinks that prohibition would not reduce the abortion rate and by driving it underground would make interventions harder and make abortion riskier for moms. Another believer may think that a woman should not be forced to carry her rapist’s baby to term (see the violinist analogy), but since there is no practical way to make conditional on proving rape means that you can’t outlaw it. Another believer may hear all these arguments and not know what to think, and direct their attention to other issues. I don’t see that the church should bring charges against any of these.

    An even hairier issue might be a campaign to redistribute income as a means of ameliorating covetousness. Should all lying be banned by the government? I suspect most believers think immaterial lies shouldn’t be a matter for the criminal justice system.

    Perhaps these items are too specific, is it just to kill infants because of the sins of the father? Is it just to sell oneself into slavery to meet one’s debts? Is it ok to pay people the same for different amounts of work? I suspect our answers will be prudential rather than exegetical. Do you see clear cut Biblical answers?

    Even in issues for which there is broad consensus among economists I don’t see warrant for the Church to rule what a biblical stance is. What am I missing?

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  87. sdb – I basically agree with you. We have been trying to get Curt to provide examples where a specific government policy is ipso facto sinful, but he hasn’t even tried to come up with one. And that is the problem: there are very few government policies that are inherently sinful. A government policy that allows abortion may be objectionable, but it isn’t sinful: the sin is committed by the abortion provider and the person who obtains an abortion. A Supreme Court ruling that allows gay marriage isn’t sinful, but the homosexuality itself is sinful. I believe a Christian can be both pro-choice and anti-abortion, as well as pro gay marriage and anti-homosexuality.

    To Robert’s point, in my view the only government policies the Church should call sinful are those that require active participation in sinful acts. The most obvious and extreme example is the extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust. I’m tempted to add slavery in the US, but that’s a bit trickier for several reasons. First, the government allowed slaves, but did not mandate the practice, which makes it similar to the abortion issue. Second, slavery is not per se sinful, but the way it was practiced in the US certainly was. I would again argue that the government policies that allowed slavery were objectionable, but the real sin was committed by the slave owners and those who captured the slaves.

    A better example of sinful government laws in the US might be Jim Crow laws and segregation practices that deliberately discriminated against people because of their race, which constitutes a violation of the 6th Commandment and the command to “love your neighbor.” I believe the Church should have condemned these laws and policies as sinful.

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  88. @vv
    Good points. Government policies that mandate sinful behavior would necessitate resistance. In the case of abortion, a policy that required a mother to abort a downs baby or a pregnancy by a mother who already had a child would have to be resisted. The danger for believers is applying a sort of transitive property of sinfulness:
    1. Sacrificing animals to idols is sinful.
    2. Christians should not support/promote idolatry.
    3. Purchasing meat sacrificed to idols subsidizes idolatry.
    4. Therefore purchasing meat sacrificed to an idol is sinful.
    Paul obviously disagreed with this. In the case of abortion, the parallel rationale might be:
    1. Abortion is sinful
    2. Christians should not subsidize abortion
    3. Obtaining a mammogram from a Planned Parenthood clinic subsidizes abortion (I’m making this up for an illustration, I have no idea if they really provide that service).
    4. Therefore making use of Planned Parenthood’s resources is sinful.
    Another example might be
    1. Apartheid is sinful
    2. Christains shouldn’t support apartheid
    3. Buying goods from South Africa (again let’s pretend it is 1990) supports the apartheid regime
    4. Therefore it is sinful to buy a diamond

    Given that the government mandates sinful behavior, it seems to me that the response of the Christian is largely prudential. Of course, it should be guided by love of neighbor, but there are other prudential concerns that come into play has well as we see from the example of Paul.

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  89. SDB, VV, Jeff,

    I’m going to comment on what SDB said as a way of talking about the whole thing.

    Abortion is a good case study I think. It is fair to say that Christians should recognize that abortion is murder and thus a sin.

    Yes.

    But what should the Christian do about abortion? I can imagine a believer faithfully working to outlaw abortion.

    This is where it gets trickier to translate into public action. I don’t think you can say that a Christian is obligated to devote his time to outlawing abortion. Some may be called to that. But it’s a matter of priorities. One’s first priority is to his family if he has one. I have four children under the age of 8. My first concern is to make sure they are protected. They are my closest neighbors. I may not have any time after taking care of them to work on abortion as a larger societal issue. Maybe the best I can do is vote. But then I vote based on a collection of issues, knowing that abortion is one of many things to consider when evaluating a candidate. Maybe I don’t vote at all. Maybe I vote Republican because of a prolife party platform. Maybe I vote for a prolife Democrat. Maybe I vote for a Democrat who is not actively pro-abortion but is not actively pro-life either. Maybe I vote for a pro-choice Democrat because of other considerations but I remain prolife. Personally, I cannot choose the last option, but I can possibly conceive of someone else making that choice without sinning.

    Whatever the case may be, in this specific instance, as with all others, my concern should be love for my neighbor as well as the biblical teaching that love of neighbor involves protecting innocent life. So:

    I can imagine another believer who thinks that prohibition would not reduce the abortion rate and by driving it underground would make interventions harder and make abortion riskier for moms.

    That believer would be wrong.

    First, where does Scripture say the goal of laws against murder—and they are found in both Testaments—is to reduce the murder rate? At best, it is a secondary consideration.

    Second, where does Scripture say my goal should be to make the committing of sin less risky? If abortion is murder, and SDB has said that it is, then why would I want the murderer to be able to kill without risk? That’s like saying you aren’t going to allow the police to use deadly force to stop a murderer of adults because you don’t want the murderer of adults to be at risk when he commits his crime.

    Another believer may think that a woman should not be forced to carry her rapist’s baby to term (see the violinist analogy), but since there is no practical way to make conditional on proving rape means that you can’t outlaw it.

    That believer would also be wrong. Where does Scripture give us guidance that it is alright to destroy an innocent life because of the personal emotional pain involved in preserving that life?

    Another believer may hear all these arguments and not know what to think, and direct their attention to other issues.

    What to think about abortion is really rather clear. SDB already said it’s murder. If one is going to be okay with allowing the legality of murder, then one should be consistent. Legalize it across the board.

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  90. VV,

    And that is the problem: there are very few government policies that are inherently sinful. A government policy that allows abortion may be objectionable, but it isn’t sinful: the sin is committed by the abortion provider and the person who obtains an abortion.

    The problem is that the Bible condemns sins of omission as well as sins of commission. A government law that says abortion is fine mandates the state to overlook murder and even to guard and protect those who commit murder. If the Bible mandates the protection of innocent life, then a policy that achieves the opposite is sinful.

    The question is what to do about the law as it stands and whether Christians are obligated to push for new legislation. It would seem from the New Testament example that the Apostles did not think Christians were obligated to petition the government for a change in legislation. So I don’t think Christians are obligated to actively fight abortion laws except insofar as it touches their immediate neighbors and insofar as they are able. All of us have demands on our time that force us to prioritize. But if abortion is murder, I don’t see how actively supporting the prochoice position is anything but sinful.

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  91. SDB,

    Your examples are well put, but they leave out the question of intent. I think we have to read between the lines, so to speak, and say that Paul allows for buying meat sacrificed to idols because the intent behind the purchase is simply to provide food for oneself and one’s family and not to promote idolatry. Do you really think Paul would have said it was okay for a professing Christian to purchase meat sacrificed to idols if the intent of the Christian was to continue and support idolatry?

    So I can conceive of getting a mammogram at PP if your intent is to get a mammogram. But if your doing it in order to make sure they can continue aborting babies, there’s a problem. I would apply it to Apartheid similarly.

    Because we’re all sinners, there’s no way to buy anything that somehow has not been touched by sin. Which is why the intent is so important.

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  92. Robert – “The problem is that the Bible condemns sins of omission as well as sins of commission. A government law that says abortion is fine mandates the state to overlook murder and even to guard and protect those who commit murder. If the Bible mandates the protection of innocent life, then a policy that achieves the opposite is sinful.”

    By this logic, adultery and homosexuality should be outlawed, as well as practicing any religion other than Christianity. Isn’t this basically a return to Christendom? Though I do tend to agree with you on abortion – if we believe it is murder (and I do), then it should be outlawed, just as all other murder is outlawed.

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  93. So I don’t think Christians are obligated to actively fight abortion laws except insofar as it touches their immediate neighbors and insofar as they are able. All of us have demands on our time that force us to prioritize. But if abortion is murder, I don’t see how actively supporting the prochoice position is anything but sinful.

    Robert, I’ll go one further. How is having a particular political position sinful? I have a political view that persons should be free to worship idols without sanction from the state (i.e. Mormons, RCs, Muslims). Am I guilty of idolatry for that view, or only until I actually commit idolatry in my person? If the former, hello theocracy. If the latter, how would it be any different for elective abortion? Isn’t there a difference between what Christian Jane does in the voting booth and what she does with that unwanted pregnancy? Why not use political tools to oppose a political view (she pulls the “aye” lever, you pull the “nay” on the question of elective abortion and leave it at that) instead of using spiritual or moral tools against another’s political views?

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  94. Zrim,

    How is having a particular political position sinful?

    The Bible says love your neighbor. To hold to a position that is unloving to your neighbor—that abortion on demand should be legal—is therefore sinning. I am not loving my unborn neighbor by voting for someone with the express purpose of making sure that unborn person can be killed with impunity. That’s the prochoice position.

    I have a political view that persons should be free to worship idols without sanction from the state (i.e. Mormons, RCs, Muslims). Am I guilty of idolatry for that view, or only until I actually commit idolatry in my person?

    Is that your political view, or is your view that Christians should be free to worship according to their conscience and that the only way to guarantee that in a representative democracy is to extend that freedom to all people?

    A person who advocates for abortion rights wouldn’t be guilty of abortion unless she gets one or is actively involved in someone getting one. The person would be guilty of not loving her neighbor. So apply that to idolatry. The question is would a position advocating freedom for idolaters be unloving to neighbor? I don’t think so.

    1. There’s a long tradition of viewing the so-called Noahic laws as applying to Gentiles. These laws do not include laws against idolatry however sinful it might be. They do include laws against murder.
    2. The call for repentance and faith in both Testaments presuppose an uncoerced decision.
    3. We see no evidence of the Apostles offering people conversion or the sword—again, presupposes a freedom of choice of sorts.
    4. We see Paul unafraid to appeal to his rights as a Roman citizens. One of those rights was a “right to idolatry,” so to speak, since many idolatrous religions were granted legal status.

    Isn’t there a difference between what Christian Jane does in the voting booth and what she does with that unwanted pregnancy?

    Yes. But sin is possible in both cases, is it not? The position some of you are advocating would seem to necessitate that it is impossible to sin in the voting booth. That’s a bit odd for people who believe in total depravity.

    Why not use political tools to oppose a political view (she pulls the “aye” lever, you pull the “nay” on the question of elective abortion and leave it at that) instead of using spiritual or moral tools against another’s political views?

    Again, this presupposes that it’s impossible to sin in the voting booth. Even if Christians disagree on which positions are sinful, I don’t think it’s possible for a Christian to say it is impossible to sin with your vote.

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  95. VV and Zrim,

    By this logic, adultery and homosexuality should be outlawed, as well as practicing any religion other than Christianity. Isn’t this basically a return to Christendom?

    I confess that this is the most powerful critique of what I am saying. I’ve already said why freedom of religion might be considered a different case. But I recognize it’s not airtight.

    I could make a case for outlawing both adultery and homosexuality. The question then would be what penalties to impose. My inclination would be not to punish people who commit these sins unless they are truly harming someone else. Perhaps just citations?

    Adultery, while not formally illegal, already has certain penalties attached to it in the law. It is a grounds for an uncontested divorce, for example.

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  96. @Robert
    I agree that intent matters. But we can’t judge the motives of others – we probably don’t even know our own hearts.

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  97. “If one is going to be okay with allowing the legality of murder, then one should be consistent. Legalize it across the board.”
    Why be consistent across the board? Police officers who kill someone are treated very differently from civilians who do so (and with good prudential reason, though perhaps the tide is shifting here). You will be treated very differently if you beat someone to death for scratching your car than if you beat a pedophile to death for trying to pick up one of your kids. This isn’t a hypothetical – a few year ago in Texas, a happened upon a pedophile preying on his son and the father beat the pedophile to death. This level of force wasn’t necessary to subdue the offender – this was rage and vengeance. He was let off (and even celebrated). This isn’t too different than the conditions under which Moses was called a murderer. Should we treat this father the same way we do others? We make distinctions all the time. It is tough for police and soldiers to do their job if they have to worry about prosecution for murder, so we raise the bar very, very high, knowing well that there are some who get away with murder. We know that the father reacting in rage at the victimization of his son is unlikely to be a danger to society and in fact has made society safer, so we look the other way. Whether we prosecute murders or not (perhaps we plea them down to lesser offenses to get the offender off the street) is not a prudential concern. The same would apply to abortion. If outlawing abortion causes more harm than help, then it seems to me that prudence should dictate our legislation.

    “Where does Scripture give us guidance that it is alright to destroy an innocent life because of the personal emotional pain involved in preserving that life?”
    I think you are underestimating the power of the violinist analogy. Here it is in a nutshell in case you aren’t familiar with it. Imagine that a world famous violinist has a rare kidney disease that will take 9mos to treat. For whatever reason, he needs someone to provide his blood supply during the interim or he will die. There are no volunteers to do so because the procedure is highly invasive. The volunteer would be free to go on with his life with minor adjustments, except that this person would be with him everywhere he went connected by an IV. There is a modest risk of injury, some non-negligible cost, and a modest risk that the volunteer could die. Since no matches volunteer, his friends decide to find a match on their own. They happen upon you, knock you out, and you wake up connected to the violinist. If you disconnect yourself from the violinist, he will certainly die. Are you obligated to remain connected and beholden to this person? You didn’t agree to do so, but it is a relatively short interruption to your life. Should the state punish you if you decide to detach yourself from the violinist? I’m not so sure that the answer is obviously yes. Do you disagree? More generally, when is lethal force justified to free you of a constraint placed upon you by someone else? Can you shoot a kidnapper who poses no lethal risk to you? What about an associate who doesn’t quite realize what is going on (say a child left to guard you)? This isn’t entirely hypothetical either given the use of child soldiers in Africa. What if the kidnapper is a pregnant woman and killing her will result in the death of her innocent baby? If collateral damage is OK in such a situation, why isn’t collateral damage OK in the case of the rape victim?

    As far as the split between the first and second table of the law, do we really want to say that covetousness and lying should be criminalized? Sure we criminalize lying under certain conditions, but not “consistently”. If we can pick and choose when to criminalize lying, why not adultery, murder, covetousness, and stealing on prudential grounds?

    As far as the Noahic covenant, and the necessity of punishing murderers (with death no less), I’ve always thought that exegetical inference was over realized. We have several examples in scripture where murderers are explicitly not called to justice by execution: Simeon, Levi, Moses, David, and Paul to name a few. There is no indication in the text that they should have been executed by the authorities for the murders they committed. There are more than a few exceptions to Genesis 9:6 it would seem or perhaps (more likely in my estimation) this text is not laying a foundation for criminal law.

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  98. Robert, anyone can say that his political view is a way of fulfilling the second greatest commandment (and the other guy is all about undermining it). But that’s a good way to moralize politics and politicize faith. Isn’t this what pro-DACA types do to those are simply a little more hard nosed about immigration policy, or what some choicers do to those of us not convinced of elective abortion?

    …or is your view that Christians should be free to worship according to their conscience and that the only way to guarantee that in a representative democracy is to extend that freedom to all people?

    It’s not as self-interested as that. It’s that true religion shouldn’t be enforced and false punished at the tip of a sword. The implication is that idolatry should be legal and I have no problem with that characterization since it still contends that there is such a thing as idolatry and it’s evil. But it should be an evil that is also legal. The larger point is still to ask whether that makes me sinful? If not then why would a choicer be sinning in his political view?

    …voting for someone with the express purpose of making sure that unborn person can be killed with impunity. That’s the prochoice position.

    No, it’s not. The choice position is concerned with protecting the privacy and liberty of women. You should try to understand the position of your opponent before opposing it as simply bloodthirsty. After all, how would you like the lifer position to be all about making sure women are oppressed and deprived of liberty? That’s not why I oppose elective abortion and anyone who casts my conclusion as misogynistic is just as unhelpful to the debate as those who cast choice as being all about killing the unborn with impunity.

    The position some of you are advocating would seem to necessitate that it is impossible to sin in the voting booth. That’s a bit odd for people who believe in total depravity.

    The implication here is an overrealization of the power of politics. Odd for conservative Calvinists who are supposed to put no hope in princes. Total depravity is that we are sinful in all our faculties, not that we can sin in things that are not inherently moral or spiritual. Are you saying voting is a moral or spiritual act? I’m saying it’s just a political act.

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  99. D.G.,
    Many people from the LGBT community I have spoken know what the Gospel says. They know it from having it been shoved down their throats. And many others also know what the Gospel says because they came out of evangelical homes. All one has to do is to listen to them to find this out.

    If you want to believe that the Gospel is not harmed when the Church is, though silence, complicit with oppression and exploitation, you are free to believe that. But that is the feedback I get when I talk with political nonconservatives.

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  100. Robert,
    First, economists are not a monolithic group. How they judge systems greatly depends on the schools of thought they adhere to. And no one is talking about economic egalitarianism here.

    But what I am pointing out is the Church’s responsibility to speak out against what they see is wrong. When wealth disparity becomes too great, you have oppression of the poor or neglect of th poor. The Scriptures speak against both. When people work 40 hours a week and cannot afford homes for either themselves or their families, then the disparity has become too great. And this is especially true when gentrification occurs.

    Now it isn’t the Church’s job to align itself with a specific economic model of thought that promises to address the problem. I don’t think it is the Church’s responsibility to advocate socialism or some kind of regulated markets or free markets. But when the poor are being oppressed or neglected, it is the Church’s job to raise hell about that–after all, we raise hel about out wrongs. It is the Church’s job to speak prophetically to those in power and to demand change. And that is different from the Church either saying nothing or advocating specific changes.

    Why shouldn’t the Church recommend specific changes? Because those changes should be determined by collaboration with others in society. But again, not recommending specific changes is different than defending the status quo.

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  101. Curt – “When wealth disparity becomes too great, you have oppression of the poor or neglect of th poor. The Scriptures speak against both. When people work 40 hours a week and cannot afford homes for either themselves or their families, then the disparity has become too great. And this is especially true when gentrification occurs.”

    I doubt you can objectively defend any of this. Wealth disparity can *possibly* lead to oppression of the poor, but doesn’t *necessarily* lead to oppression of the poor. Do you have any evidence that the poor are being oppressed right now because of wealth disparity?

    And people who work 40 hours a week can afford a home. It may not be the home they want in a location they want, but they can afford a home. Proof to the contrary?

    I’m sick of people demonizing gentrification. I’ll grant that gentrification can be harmful and exploitative in some situations, but not necessarily all or even most. In many ways it helps communities. Just look at the current gentrification in Harlem and the south Bronx. Those neighborhoods are being significantly improved through gentrification coupled with affordable housing regulation.

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  102. SDB,
    Why be consistent across the board?

    Your examples don’t address my point. Murder across the board is illegal—except for abortion—but punishments vary depending on circumstances. First degree, second degree, etc. etc. If abortion is murder and we’re going to outlaw murder, then abortion should be illegal. How we would punish those who get an abortion is a different matter. I imagine very few cases would qualify as first degree murder.
    If outlawing abortion causes more harm than help, then it seems to me that prudence should dictate our legislation.
    But I reckon you would not take this position on any other issue. If making it legal to kill your family would cause less harm and more help, would you be in favor of it? Seems to me that if prudential concerns should guide you on abortion, they should guide you in such a case as well.

    I think you are underestimating the power of the violinist analogy.

    I recognize it has emotional power. But it’s a false analogy and shows the desperation of the pro-choice movement.

    https://www.str.org/articles/unstringing-the-violinist#.WunWjC-ZPOQ

    That being said, if abortion were illegal, there should be different penalties for the woman who gets an abortion after a rape and the woman who gets pregnant on purpose simply to have an abortion and the woman who is just careless and sleeps around. The fathers would be penalizes as well.
    As far as the split between the first and second table of the law, do we really want to say that covetousness and lying should be criminalized? Sure we criminalize lying under certain conditions, but not “consistently”. If we can pick and choose when to criminalize lying, why not adultery, murder, covetousness, and stealing on prudential grounds?

    I don’t see where the Bible ever prescribes criminal penalties for mere covetousness that doesn’t translate into action. Am I missing something?

    Unless I am mistaken, the Bible only criminalizes lying under oath in court cases. Perhaps also in cases of intentional fraud. Which is exactly what our system does.

    My argument would be to look to the general equity of the Old Testament laws to see what kinds of things are criminalized and how they are penalized. For example, lots of things are criminalized in the OT and the death penalty is prescribed, but in the vast majority of those cases, the death penalty is only the maximum possible sentence. Judges were supposed to consider the circumstances of the case and make a prudential decision as to what penalties were to be imposed. Our system has different penalties and maximum penalties prescribed, but the way things are applied is similar.
    So in the case of abortion, for example, I’d outlaw the practice except where it is legitimately necessary to save the mother’s life. And I’d prescribe different penalties depending on the circumstances. Just like the OT does in distinguishing penalties for manslaughter, first-degree murder, etc.

    The point is that while the Bible does not punish all species of murder the same, it does penalize all species of murder. If abortion on demand is murder, it should be illegal.
    As far as the Noahic covenant, and the necessity of punishing murderers (with death no less), I’ve always thought that exegetical inference was over realized. We have several examples in scripture where murderers are explicitly not called to justice by execution: Simeon, Levi, Moses, David, and Paul to name a few. There is no indication in the text that they should have been executed by the authorities for the murders they committed. There are more than a few exceptions to Genesis 9:6 it would seem or perhaps (more likely in my estimation) this text is not laying a foundation for criminal law.

    Scripture allows for substitute penalties in all capital cases except for what is roughly equivalent to first-degree murder in our modern legal system. Since none of those examples equate to first-degree murder, I see no inconsistency.

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  103. Zrim,
    Robert, anyone can say that his political view is a way of fulfilling the second greatest commandment (and the other guy is all about undermining it).

    Yep. And they can also say that about his spiritual view as well. Mainliners can tell me that my view that faith in Christ is the only way of salvation doesn’t actually is unloving to my neighbors. Doesn’t mean I should agree or take them seriously.

    Can people misuse the Bible and moralize things and go wrong in politics? Sure. Can happen with anything.

    But that’s a good way to moralize politics and politicize faith. Isn’t this what pro-DACA types do to those are simply a little more hard nosed about immigration policy, or what some choicers do to those of us not convinced of elective abortion?

    Sure it’s what they do. So it’s up to them to provide convincing exegesis to prove the positions they oppose are wrong.
    The larger point is still to ask whether that makes me sinful? If not then why would a choicer be sinning in his political view?

    Because the choicer is violating the second table of the law, which the Jews, the church, and Scriptures have all seen as enforceable and sinful in a way that the first table is not. Again, the prophets don’t necessarily condemn the outside nations for idolatry. It’s more that they call it stupid. Even though idolatry is wrong, the prophets when they speak to Gentile nations condemn violations of the second table. Paul expects the state to punish evil with the sword, but he doesn’t expect the state to punish legal pagan religions, for example.
    No, it’s not. The choice position is concerned with protecting the privacy and liberty of women. You should try to understand the position of your opponent before opposing it as simply bloodthirsty.

    Its concerned with protecting the privacy and liberty of women and believes that the only way to do that is to make sure that women can kill their babies with impunity. It may not be that they want women to do that, but they certainly want to make sure they can do that. It’s still evil. No one puts it that way, but that’s what it is biblically speaking.

    After all, how would you like the lifer position to be all about making sure women are oppressed and deprived of liberty?
    That is what the lifer position is all about in the popular mind, and I will try to argue otherwise, but I also recognize that people will not change their minds unless God removes their hardness of heart. So I do my best, but at the end of the day, I simply don’t care what the reprobate say about any biblical position. They aren’t qualified to make an evaluation when that evaluation is simply wrong. The liberal position is that to believe faith in Christ is the only way of salvation is hateful and oppressive. At the end of the day, I don’t care if they view it that way. They’re simply wrong. It would like caring that some nut thinks saying that 2+2=5 is oppressive.
    Are you saying voting is a moral or spiritual act? I’m saying it’s just a political act.

    I’m saying it is in some way all three. But are you saying it is impossible to ever sin when committing a political act? Again, very odd for people who are supposed to believe that sin taints everything.

    The position some of you are advocating logically makes it so that no one ever sins in casting a vote. Are you all really arguing that?

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  104. Curt,

    When wealth disparity becomes too great, you have oppression of the poor or neglect of th poor. The Scriptures speak against both.

    The Scriptures speak against the oppression of the poor and the neglect of the poor. But the existence of great wealth disparity does not in itself indicate that oppression or neglect is happening. In some cases it may be, but it’s not universally true. The owners of Wal-Mart have far more wealth than I ever will, but they haven’t oppressed me.

    You also have the problem of identifying when wealth disparity is too great. What is the figure or percentage the Bible gives that tells us when a rich person is too rich?

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  105. Robert, I’m saying politics aren’t nearly as important as some seem to think it is, to the point of saying that simply pulling a lever in a certain direction can actually set someone in trouble with his elders. To think so is the old liberal program, which, speaking of odd, is what makes ostensibly otherwise conservative Calvinists taking a page from their play book so curious, talking about the unborn the way religious liberals talk about immigrants. I know the pro-life movement has been very effective at getting even conservative Calvinists to believe that abortion is the one political domain where the liberal rules about moralized politics is valid, but it sure seems like of all groups they should know better and show a little more skepticism about the movement mentality. I guess everyone, even conservative Calvinists, needs something to hyperventilate over. SAD!

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  106. Curt: “Many people from the LGBT community I have spoken know what the Gospel says. They know it from having it been shoved down their throats.”

    Not the word picture I would have chosen.

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  107. @ Robert

    A couple of thoughts.

    (1) Making something legal is not “passing a law saying it’s ok.” There’s a distinction between legal and moral that is clear in 2k. The first is civic and not binding on the conscience. The second is spiritual and is binding.

    (2) You wrote

    Zrim? If outlawing abortion causes more harm than help, then it seems to me that prudence should dictate our legislation.

    Robert: But I reckon you would not take this position on any other issue. If making it legal to kill your family would cause less harm and more help, would you be in favor of it? Seems to me that if prudential concerns should guide you on abortion, they should guide you in such a case as well.

    If there were an epidemic of family killings and it turned out that (say) family therapy was more effective than criminalization *or* the combination of the two, then I would absolutely push for family therapy laws.

    I wish more pro-lifers would take a prudential approach. Too many want all or nothing, with the result that more lives are lost waiting for perfection.

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  108. Vae,
    With capitalism, power follows wealth. Thus, the consolidation of wealth leads to the consolidation of power. And power acts in its own interests while sacrificing the welfare of all others.

    Yes, oppression, as well as the neglect, of the poor happens as a result of that consolidation of power. The oppression is seen in how the law is unequally applied to incarcerate those who are vs those who have wealth. For example, take the incarceration rates of the poor for the possession of marijuana vs the incarceration rates of wealthy bankers who launder money for drug cartels as an example of wealth leading to the oppression of the poor. And include in that oppression how privately owned prisons profit from holding more and more prisoners. But that is here.

    The above is just an example for the US. Do you want to look at some other nations?

    Do you want to also look at how growing wealth disparity leads to neglect of the poor?

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  109. Robert,
    see my note Vae. And one other point, we don’t have unlimited wealth here. Thus, the greater the wealth disparity, the more poor others become. But one also has to look at the exploitation employed for the consolidation of wealth.

    We should look at James’s statements on the rich and ask why do Christians defend growing wealth disparity.

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  110. Jeff,

    (1) Making something legal is not “passing a law saying it’s ok.” There’s a distinction between legal and moral that is clear in 2k. The first is civic and not binding on the conscience. The second is spiritual and is binding.

    Sure. The same distinction exists in other approaches to government.

    (2) You wrote

    If there were an epidemic of family killings and it turned out that (say) family therapy was more effective than criminalization *or* the combination of the two, then I would absolutely push for family therapy laws.

    Sure thing. But would you also push for the de-criminalization or legality of family killings. Methinks you wouldn’t, and that’s my point. If it were demonstrable that there were fewer family killings when we legalize them, would you be okay with it being legal for someone to kill your family with impunity?

    I wish more pro-lifers would take a prudential approach. Too many want all or nothing, with the result that more lives are lost waiting for perfection.

    Depends on what you mean by prudential. If prudential means you stop working to make the act illegal altogether, then I would not agree. If by prudential you mean working with pro-abortion people to enact policies that can reduce the abortion rate even as you also work or aim for eventually outlawing the practice altogether, then I’m with you.

    I would actually love to be full-on 2K. The problem is that the kind of 2K that some people advocate here seems to devolve finally into absurdity. It would require the church to have no opinion on whether or not the state is within its rights to legalize the persecution of the church and the murder of Christians.

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  111. Curt,

    With capitalism, power follows wealth.

    This is true in every single economic system that has ever existed.

    And one other point, we don’t have unlimited wealth here. Thus, the greater the wealth disparity, the more poor others become. But one also has to look at the exploitation employed for the consolidation of wealth.

    1. Poverty and wealth are relative. Even if there is greater wealth disparity in 21st century America than before, the poor in 21st century America are vastly better off than the poor in 20th century America. The poor in 21st century America have a much higher standard of living than the wealthiest people from the ancient world.

    2. It is possible to grow wealth. And it is beyond dispute that countries with freer economies have much better standards of living. There’s a reason why communist China enacted economic changes and why North Korea is trying to talk to the US.

    3. You have to define exploitation. You are operating on a definition of exploitation that most people on the right would not agree with and that is very hard to square biblically.

    We should look at James’s statements on the rich and ask why do Christians defend growing wealth disparity.

    James doesn’t condemn the wealthy for being wealthy or for growing their wealth. He condemns the church for preferential treatment of the wealthy and the wealthy for mistreating the poor. The fact that there is a growing disparity of wealth between rich and poor does not necessarily mean the poor are being mistreated.

    The Bible never gives a figure for how much money is too much or what the proper disparity between rich and poor should be. There may be some concerns socially regarding growing wealth disparity that make social upheaval more likely. But there is nothing immoral about growing one’s wealth at a vastly greater rate than someone else unless you are legitimately oppressing that person.

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  112. Curt,

    I don’t want to enter too deeply into the fray here, but I don’t sense a sophisticated understanding of capitalism as a system from you. For example,

    With capitalism, power follows wealth. Thus, the consolidation of wealth leads to the consolidation of power. And power acts in its own interests while sacrificing the welfare of all others.

    In market systems (whether Keynesian or classical), accumulation of wealth comes as a result of fulfilling the perceived needs of the populace. The system is intrinsically ordered to incentivize entrepreneurs to fulfill unmet needs. Consumers drive their own consumption; they are not compelled to consume. Thus, the relationship is symbiotic, not parasitic. Of course, it is not *always* this way. Economic systems cannot eradicate human self-interest, but the intent of capitalism is to democratize the power structure so consumers and suppliers counter-balance one another. The characterization of capitalist economies as zero-sum is also ignorant of demonstrable fact of market economies puling over a billion people out of poverty at warp speed: https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21578665-nearly-1-billion-people-have-been-taken-out-extreme-poverty-20-years-world-should-aim

    https://www.policyed.org/numbers-game/hows-middle-class-doing/video

    Additionally, your comments about exploitation also sound to me like Trump’s comments about trade deficits. Trump claims we’re getting ripped off because of the trade deficit but ignores the fact Americans are purchasing goods and services abroad. In the same manner, you claiming my Wal-Mart purchases are exploitative because I’m paying Wal-Mart overlooks the fact I am also buying the goods (freely) to make my life better.

    Your other comments about the disparity of punishment for the poor is truly troubling, but I’m not sure how we determine what is attributable to the market economy and how much is attributable to government policy. After all, you are criticizing the public policy, not capitalism. It sounds like you want better legislation, not better economic interaction.

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  113. sdb: Why be consistent across the board?
    Robert: Your examples don’t address my point. Murder across the board is illegal—except for abortion—but punishments vary depending on circumstances. First degree, second degree, etc. etc.

    I’m not so sure about that. My example of police officers was chosen because the bar before a killing by a police officer is considered murder is much higher than it is for a civilian. If they faced the same scrutiny as a civilian, they couldn’t do their job. We don’t “outlaw” murder per se. We “outlaw” killing someone else under certain circumstances and have all sorts of qualifications about what counts as an unjustifiable homicide.

    sdb: If outlawing abortion causes more harm than help, then it seems to me that prudence should dictate our legislation.
    Robert: But I reckon you would not take this position on any other issue. If making it legal to kill your family would cause less harm and more help, would you be in favor of it? Seems to me that if prudential concerns should guide you on abortion, they should guide you in such a case as well.

    I’m not sure in what civic universe it would be prudent to single out a particular family for execution. This sounds like something from the hunger games. There are all sorts of “bad” things people do that we don’t want laws forbidding because the cost of enforcement would far outweigh the benefit to society. We have a principle in our legal system that we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to assess criminal sanctions. On college campuses, there is a raging debate about this. Certain crimes (non-consensual sex) are impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. By maintaining this bar, we are essentially saying that these immoral acts are legal. If you leave your car unlocked and someone steals cash you leave lying on your dashboard, it is highly unlikely that the police will prosecute the crime because it will be impossible to prove the cash was stolen. Sure we could lower the bar to make sure people don’t get away with immoral acts, but we have made the prudential decision that it is better to let some people get away with murder, rape, and theft than undermine the liberty of a few innocent people.

    Sdb: I think you are underestimating the power of the violinist analogy.
    Robert: I recognize it has emotional power. But it’s a false analogy and shows the desperation of the pro-choice movement. https://www.str.org/articles/unstringing-the-violinist#.WunWjC-ZPOQ

    I read the article, but I didn’t find it very compelling. Here is what I took to be his critiques:
    1. Getting hooked up to the violinist is artificial while pregnancy is natural. I intentionally restricted my analogy to a rape victim. The pregnancy wasn’t natural in the sense of occurring on its own. Someone did something that caused it to happen. In my example, that something was against the will of the woman. I don’t see how the natural/artificial distinction bears on the analogy.
    2. The analogy implies that the baby is an invader, parasite, and not where she belongs (trespassing). The author claims that the baby isn’t trespassing because the womb is where the baby belongs. This is an odd sort of reasoning. The baby only “belongs” there if the mother invited her in. If a rapist put the baby there, then the baby is trespassing.
    3. The analogy is asymmetric because the aborted baby is dismembered and the violinist is merely unplugged. I’m not sure this distinction does the work that the critic suggests. Does that mean aborting a fetus very early (before it is dismembered) is OK? The morning after pill is licit because the fetus is just unplugged rather than dismembered? I don’t see that. Going the other way, is murder by pulling the plug really morally different than murder by stabbing?
    4. The analogy breaks down because you have an obligation to your child that you do not have to a stranger. This is a very odd moral claim to make in light of Jesus’s teaching about loving one’s neighbor. We are called to be willing to leave our family behind for the sake of the gospel and to love our enemies. Secondly, this child (in my telling) is the result of rape – this she is a stranger to the mother.
    5. If it is licit to deny the necessity of life before the child is born, then it is licit to deny the necessity of life after the child is born. I don’t think this follows exactly how the author intends. If it is possible to free oneself of obligation to the violinist without killing him, then it seems to me that killing him would be unjustified (gratuitous). Similarly, if one needs to be free of one’s obligation to care for one’s child, relinquishing parental rights is an option. Killing the child is gratuitous.

    So unless I’m missing something, the author really hasn’t undermined the violinist analogy. Now I agree that the analogy does not work in the case of a child conceived as a result of consensual sex. There is an implied consent there. The child didn’t ask to be conceived, so if you engage in activity that results in conception, then you are responsible for the result. In the case of rape, there is no implied consent. If you are justified in killing your captor to secure freedom (even if your life isn’t threatened, and the captor is a child guard who doen’t realize you were kidnapped), then it seems to me that abortion that results from rape can be justified as well. From a moral point of view, I’m not entirely convinced that it is OK to kill one’s captor to secure your freedom (this is a tough one for me), so I’m equally unconvinced about the justification of abortion in the case of rape. But the law recognizes that killing someone to secure one’s freedom is legally justified. If we extend that to abortion in the case of rape, then I think the law is faced with the impossible task of distinguishing justified and unjustified abortions.

    Of course, if there is something I’m missing here, I’ll happily stand corrected. I just don’t see that the argument you linked addresses the challenge very well.

    As far as the split between the first and second table of the law, do we really want to say that covetousness and lying should be criminalized? Sure we criminalize lying under certain conditions, but not “consistently”. If we can pick and choose when to criminalize lying, why not adultery, murder, covetousness, and stealing on prudential grounds?

    I don’t see where the Bible ever prescribes criminal penalties for mere covetousness that doesn’t translate into action. Am I missing something?

    I thought you said above that the second table of the law shoulld be the basis of our criminal law. Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant above.

    Unless I am mistaken, the Bible only criminalizes lying under oath in court cases. Perhaps also in cases of intentional fraud. Which is exactly what our system does.My argument would be to look to the general equity of the Old Testament laws to see what kinds of things are criminalized and how they are penalized. For example, lots of things are criminalized in the OT and the death penalty is prescribed, but in the vast majority of those cases, the death penalty is only the maximum possible sentence. Judges were supposed to consider the circumstances of the case and make a prudential decision as to what penalties were to be imposed. Our system has different penalties and maximum penalties prescribed, but the way things are applied is similar.

    Wait a minute. The OT doesn’t merely criminalize the first table of the law. It criminalizes (with capital punishment) violating the sabbath, blasphemy, and dishonoring one’s parents. I don’t see how the Mosaic law (which was implemented as part of the theocracy) can apply in the NT.

    The point is that while the Bible does not punish all species of murder the same, it does penalize all species of murder. If abortion on demand is murder, it should be illegal.
    As far as the Noahic covenant, and the necessity of punishing murderers (with death no less), I’ve always thought that exegetical inference was over realized. We have several examples in scripture where murderers are explicitly not called to justice by execution: Simeon, Levi, Moses, David, and Paul to name a few. There is no indication in the text that they should have been executed by the authorities for the murders they committed. There are more than a few exceptions to Genesis 9:6 it would seem or perhaps (more likely in my estimation) this text is not laying a foundation for criminal law.

    Scripture allows for substitute penalties in all capital cases except for what is roughly equivalent to first-degree murder in our modern legal system. Since none of those examples equate to first-degree murder, I see no inconsistency.

    I’m not following your rationale here. How is what Simeon, Levi, and David not first degree murder? If a gang banger’s sister is raped by a rival gang, and a couple of guys from the gang shoot up a house full of the rival gang, how is that not first degree murder? If general sends a soldier into the field with an order for the other soldiers to pull back so that he would be killed, how is that not first degree murder? In the case of David, there was no civic punishment. The state was not compelled to act. To be sure, God disciplined David (at extreme cost!), but we aren’t arguing over what the church should do about someone who has an abortion, or what God is likely to do to the unrepentant sinner. The question is what obligation the state has. In David’s case (and Paul’s), the state did not bring any punishment.

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  114. “If it were demonstrable that there were fewer family killings when we legalize them, would you be okay with it being legal for someone to kill your family with impunity?“
    Robert, Are you asking – if it is less likely that my family will be murdered if murderers were not punished, would I support not punishing murderers? Or to turn it around, if your family were more likely to be murdered if we hold murderers responsible for their crimes, would you support state sanction?

    I can’t imagine how this would work, but yes. If murder went down because we stopped punishing it, then I would be all for not punishing murder. That would mean someone could kill my family and get away with it. I’d rather live in a place where the homicide rate was 1/100,000 and murderers got away with it than in a place where the homicide rate was 3/100,000 and the murderers were punished.

    Similarly, if I could get a law passed that provided support to single mothers and women with children that was so supportive that the likelihood of having an abortion dropped in half, but to get that law passed I had to agree to Medicaid funding for elective abortions, I think I would support the bill if it really meant that fewer babies were being killed. I agree that these trade-offs are messy and the outcomes are unpredictable. That’s why the church shouldn’t bind your conscience on these type of issues.

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  115. Curt, you’re speaking with forked tongue. First, Christians force the gospel down non-Christians throats. Then Christians are silent in the face of oppression.

    But when you pursue “biblical” justice, you serve up cheese cake? And on oppression, you speak about it all?

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  116. @ SDB:

    #1, 3 sure.
    #2: Your response cuts both ways. Who gets to say what “belongs” means? You assume that the baby only “belongs” if the mother invites (libertarian assumption of rights); the writer assumes that the baby “belongs” because the act of sex has a telos of reproduction (The writer is Catholic; we had a brief friendly email exchange about 15 yr ago).

    This is a stalemate.

    #4: This is a very odd moral claim to make in light of Jesus’s teaching about loving one’s neighbor. We are called to be willing to leave our family behind for the sake of the gospel and to love our enemies.

    You seem to be implying that the command to love neighbor undoes the specific obligations to family. That’s not in evidence. It might be the case — I would argue *is* the case — that the command to love neighbor coexists with a hierarchy of relationships. We still owe special care to the church; we still owe special obligation to care for our family and honor our parents.

    Secondly, this child (in my telling) is the result of rape – this she is a stranger to the mother.

    That applies to 1% of abortions. Zebras don’t set the norm for horses. To be fair, Thompson sets up the argument in this way; but her argument is usually carelessly extended to cover all abortions.

    #5: (Koukl) If it is licit to deny the necessity of life before the child is born, then it is licit to deny the necessity of life after the child is born. (SDB) I don’t think this follows exactly how the author intends. If it is possible to free oneself of obligation to the violinist without killing him, then it seems to me that killing him would be unjustified (gratuitous).

    Why should location matter? If the baby cannot be licitly killed outside the womb, then why inside?

    Because the obligations to the baby constitute Good Samaritan obligations instead of Minimally Decent Samaritan obligations, per Thompson?

    Nonsense. Parenting entails at minimum being a Good Samaritan for 18 years. That doesn’t entitle the parents to kill the child — nor even to kick the child to the curb without a court proceeding. Contra Thompson, parenting is a situation in which (a) Good Samaritan obligations hold, and (b) those obligations do not create license for eviction or killing.

    So why then can the mother evict the baby inside the womb, with consequence certain death? Thompson pleads that the demands for keeping the baby are too great. That’s called parenthood.

    Now: Thompson again pleads that parenthood *in the case of rape* is an extenuating circumstance. And I actually agree *as a matter of public policy.* That is, if we were to make a grand bargain that abortion would be legal in the case of rape or incest but illegal otherwise, a position that enjoys great support from the American public, then we could save about 350k lives per year.

    350,000.

    To me, that’s worth it.

    But in terms of ethics, I think Koukl has the upper hand — even though I don’t buy the telos arguments.

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  117. @Jeff – good comments. Here are a few responses:

    #2: Your response cuts both ways. Who gets to say what “belongs” means? You assume that the baby only “belongs” if the mother invites (libertarian assumption of rights); the writer assumes that the baby “belongs” because the act of sex has a telos of reproduction (The writer is Catholic; we had a brief friendly email exchange about 15 yr ago).

    This is a stalemate.

    Fair enough. I guess this means that this argument is not dispositive one way or the other. Would you agree?

    #4: This is a very odd moral claim to make in light of Jesus’s teaching about loving one’s neighbor. We are called to be willing to leave our family behind for the sake of the gospel and to love our enemies.

    You seem to be implying that the command to love neighbor undoes the specific obligations to family. That’s not in evidence. It might be the case — I would argue *is* the case — that the command to love neighbor coexists with a hierarchy of relationships. We still owe special care to the church; we still owe special obligation to care for our family and honor our parents.

    That’s a good point. Paul’s comment about the unmarried being able to devote their full attention to service to God is relevant here I think. On the other hand, it exists in tension with Jesus’s declaration that one must hate one’s mother and father to follow him. This would seem to indicate that family is not at the top of our hierarchy of relationships. However, I’m not so sure how this applies to killing to free one’s self.

    Secondly, this child (in my telling) is the result of rape – thus she is a stranger to the mother.

    That applies to 1% of abortions. Zebras don’t set the norm for horses. To be fair, Thompson sets up the argument in this way; but her argument is usually carelessly extended to cover all abortions.

    Right, I believe that Thompson has extended her argument along these lines herself. I’m only arguing that one can make a moral case for abortion in cases of rape. However, if we agree that abortion can be morally justified in cases of rape and thus create exceptions in law for this, then we make other restrictions on abortion practically unworkable.

    #5: (Koukl) If it is licit to deny the necessity of life before the child is born, then it is licit to deny the necessity of life after the child is born. (SDB) I don’t think this follows exactly how the author intends. If it is possible to free oneself of obligation to the violinist without killing him, then it seems to me that killing him would be unjustified (gratuitous).

    Why should location matter? If the baby cannot be licitly killed outside the womb, then why inside?

    I don’t think location matters here. The difference is what is required to free oneself of the obligation. If I am kidnapped and I kill my abductor even though I know I don’t need to in order to gain my freedom, then that killing is unjustified. If I could free myself from obligation from the violinist without killing him, but I decide to shoot him anyway, then I have committed murder. If the only way to regain my freedom is to kill him, then perhaps one might argue that the death is justified. Similarly with the child. If a mother see’s her rapists face every time she looks into the eyes of her attacker, she can relinquish her parental rights without killing the child. If she were to kill the child, it would be an unjustified killing.

    Because the obligations to the baby constitute Good Samaritan obligations instead of Minimally Decent Samaritan obligations, per Thompson?

    Nonsense. Parenting entails at minimum being a Good Samaritan for 18 years. That doesn’t entitle the parents to kill the child — nor even to kick the child to the curb without a court proceeding. Contra Thompson, parenting is a situation in which (a) Good Samaritan obligations hold, and (b) those obligations do not create license for eviction or killing.

    So why then can the mother evict the baby inside the womb, with consequence certain death? Thompson pleads that the demands for keeping the baby are too great. That’s called parenthood.

    Of course, you can “evict” your child after she is born. I don’t think most people find that objectionable when the baby is a new born. Perhaps it grows more controversial as the child gets older.

    Now: Thompson again pleads that parenthood *in the case of rape* is an extenuating circumstance. And I actually agree *as a matter of public policy.* That is, if we were to make a grand bargain that abortion would be legal in the case of rape or incest but illegal otherwise, a position that enjoys great support from the American public, then we could save about 350k lives per year. 350,000. To me, that’s worth it. But in terms of ethics, I think Koukl has the upper hand — even though I don’t buy the telos arguments.

    I think the trouble you run into with making an exception for rape is that non-consensual sex is almost impossible to prove. This has been a disaster on college campuses where we are left with he said/she said situations. If a woman who is desperate enough to not be pregnant that she is willing to kill her child, why wouldn’t she claim rape to justify it legally? How intrusive is the state willing to be in order to distinguish between legitimate claims of rape and illegitimate ones. I suspect the answer is “not very”.

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  118. D.G.,
    While you speak theoretically, I have heard from people and how they view their experiences. And if we are concerned about all the people with whom we have a chance to share the Gospel, then we will listen to their accounts of their experiences.

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  119. Brandon,
    Our disagreement starts with your view of the market:


    In market systems (whether Keynesian or classical), accumulation of wealth comes as a result of fulfilling the perceived needs of the populace. The system is intrinsically ordered to incentivize entrepreneurs to fulfill unmet needs.

    For the market is driven not just by needs, but by desires. And the goal of those meeting those needs and desires is to profit off that venture. But all too often, it isn’t just to profit off that venture, it is maximize one’s profits off that venture. Thus we have advertising to motivate people to see products as being needs though they actually aren’t.

    Another disagreement we have over Capitalism and the markets, is that, like many conservative apologists of the markets, the stakeholders who are recognized are producers and consumers. Workers, and the communities, that depend on their pay are stakeholders too. Society in which those communities reside is a stakeholder also. Thus how well workers are compensated for their work and what taxes are paid to the communities and society in general become a legitimate concern when evaluating the market.

    Those who live in the areas in which the production, selling, use, and disposal of these products are stakeholders too because of how the environment can be affected. Thus a business’s impact on the environment becomes a legitimate concern about the market. Vendors, and their employees, that supply material for the manufacturing of the products being sold are stakeholders too. So while we buy a candy bar from an American company, we should note that those providing the chocolate to that American company often use trafficked labor, including child labor, to harvest the cocoa and they become stakeholders too. So how foreign workers are recruited and treated becomes a legitimate concern about the market.

    I very much appreciate the tone of your note. I hope I made clear our differences.

    After all, a stakeholder consists of anyone who is impacted by the operations of a business. Such would be an economics based view of a stakeholder. But all too often, our view of economics has been reduced to the definition of commerce. And thus we don’t always have a wide enough perspective of the market.

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  120. Robert,
    Your first statement about power following wealth is not always true. The problem with your statement is that I am referring to political power following wealth, not economic power. And thus we have to consider political and economic systems together.

    To give a counterexample to your statement, one only needs to consider some of the revolutions that have occurred in the world. The October 1917 Russian Revolution serves as a counterexample as does the Cuban Revolution. In both cases, political power preceded acquisition of wealth. Did the consolidation of wealth then add to the political power of those in charge? Yes. But those revolutions didn’t come into existence and succeeded because of the gradual accumulation of wealth by those respective revolutionaries.

    Next, poverty and wealth are relative. Take the definition of abject poverty used for the world. The standard for such poverty is living $1.xx or less per day. So eradication of such poverty for people to live on more than that per day. But suppose that amount is $2.00 per day. That would still qualify as still living in abject poverty in America and, most probably, the urban areas of China. But we could measure poverty by food security, standards for living quarters, affordability of healthcare, as well as social alienation from others. There are many other standards that can help measure poverty. And when you see people working full-time jobs but are homeless, then you see poverty.

    As for exploitation, we need to discuss the continuum of exploitation more than the definition. The definition is rather clear:


    the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work

    Now that doesn’t account for exploitation of the environment, but we can focus on that remembering that God is our judge. It doesn’t matter is others disagree. But when employers can pay living wages for full-time work but don’t, isn’t that exploitation? If employers can get away with verbally or even physically abusing their workers because their workers keep their jobs in order to survive, isn’t that exploitation?

    As for James, you missed chapter 5:


    Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

    So how is underpaying one’s employees different from not paying one’s employees? We could also go to Jeremiah 22:13-17 and his message to kings:


    “Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness
    And his [d]upper rooms without justice,
    Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay
    And does not give him his wages,

    Who says, ‘I will build myself a roomy house
    With spacious [e]upper rooms,
    And cut out its windows,
    Paneling it with cedar and painting it [g]bright red.’

    “Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar?
    Did not your father eat and drink
    And do justice and righteousness?
    Then it was well with him.

    “He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy;
    Then it was well.
    Is not that what it means to know Me?”
    Declares the Lord.

    “But your eyes and your heart
    Are intent only upon your own dishonest gain,
    And on shedding innocent blood
    And on practicing oppression and extortion.”

    Isn’t wealth disparity sometimes, if not often, the result of exploiting workers and others? And again, it matters not whether people quibble over the definitions of words like exploitation and poverty, God is our judge. He judges the hearts that stand behind our actions.

    Yes, the Scriptures don’t give an exact figure for how much to pay employees. But only legalists would require one.

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  121. SDB,

    I’m not sure in what civic universe it would be prudent to single out a particular family for execution. This sounds like something from the hunger games. There are all sorts of “bad” things people do that we don’t want laws forbidding because the cost of enforcement would far outweigh the benefit to society. We have a principle in our legal system that we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to assess criminal sanctions. On college campuses, there is a raging debate about this. Certain crimes (non-consensual sex) are impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. By maintaining this bar, we are essentially saying that these immoral acts are legal. If you leave your car unlocked and someone steals cash you leave lying on your dashboard, it is highly unlikely that the police will prosecute the crime because it will be impossible to prove the cash was stolen. Sure we could lower the bar to make sure people don’t get away with immoral acts, but we have made the prudential decision that it is better to let some people get away with murder, rape, and theft than undermine the liberty of a few innocent people.

    But we haven’t made murder (except in the case of abortion), rape, or theft legal. All we have done is raise the bar for proving that murder, rape, or theft has happened. I think that is entirely reasonable and very much in keeping with the general equity of the biblical law.

    It’s one thing to say that murder is illegal but there is a high bar to proving that murder has happened and quite another to say that murder is legal. With abortion, we have said that some forms of murder are legal.

    I thought you said above that the second table of the law shoulld be the basis of our criminal law. Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant above.

    Sorry. My basic position would be that that we should look at what the Bible condemns in the non-Israelite nations in the OT as well as what we see in the NT as a guide for what should and should not be criminalized.

    Wait a minute. The OT doesn’t merely criminalize the first table of the law. It criminalizes (with capital punishment) violating the sabbath, blasphemy, and dishonoring one’s parents. I don’t see how the Mosaic law (which was implemented as part of the theocracy) can apply in the NT.

    The OT criminalizes those things only within the boundaries of Israel. It doesn’t seem to condemn those things in the non-theocratic nations. So, it would seem that such things should not be criminalized in our NT context.

    I’m not following your rationale here. How is what Simeon, Levi, and David not first degree murder? If a gang banger’s sister is raped by a rival gang, and a couple of guys from the gang shoot up a house full of the rival gang, how is that not first degree murder? If general sends a soldier into the field with an order for the other soldiers to pull back so that he would be killed, how is that not first degree murder? In the case of David, there was no civic punishment. The state was not compelled to act. To be sure, God disciplined David (at extreme cost!), but we aren’t arguing over what the church should do about someone who has an abortion, or what God is likely to do to the unrepentant sinner. The question is what obligation the state has. In David’s case (and Paul’s), the state did not bring any punishment.

    In the case of David, you have something more akin to second-degree murder or negligent homicide. What he orders makes the death of Uriah more likely, but it doesn’t cause it directly. Conceivably, if Uriah was a good enough fighter, he could have defended himself. I’m not saying what David did was right, just that it’s not first-degree murder.

    Perhaps I’m wrong about Simeon and Levi. However, there was no state to hold them accountable and, in fact, they were punished. Simeon loses his place in the family and Levi doesn’t get a landed inheritance.

    Or to turn it around, if your family were more likely to be murdered if we hold murderers responsible for their crimes, would you support state sanction?

    For consistency’s sake, I’d have to say yes. First, if that were the case, I’d arm my family to the teeth. Second, where does the Bible tell us that what is legal is based so much on consequentialism?

    I’m not arguing that we ignore prudential concerns. I’m just trying to point out that consequentialism is not a solid Christian position for just about anything.

    I agree that these trade-offs are messy and the outcomes are unpredictable. That’s why the church shouldn’t bind your conscience on these type of issues.

    But again, the problem is that this form of 2K that you are advocating leads to the church having no position on some things that it seems rather self-evident that it should. You would have to tell me that I am not sinning if I advocate the state rounding up and killing all the Baptists if, in fact, I make the prudential observation that their doing so would make it less likely that they would kill all the Presbyterians. Really?

    This is my problem with the version of 2K that many of you advocate—it makes it impossible for Christians to ever sin in any political decision. That just seems inherently absurd. Not all political decisions are adiaphora or touch on matters that are adiaphora.

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  122. Curt,

    .But those revolutions didn’t come into existence and succeeded because of the gradual accumulation of wealth by those respective revolutionaries.

    No, they succeeded because the revolutionaries seized the wealth. Wealth and power go hand in hand. Always.

    Next, poverty and wealth are relative.

    Sure.

    There are many other standards that can help measure poverty.

    Which means measuring wealth and wealth-based exploitation is not so easy.

    And when you see people working full-time jobs but are homeless, then you see poverty.

    Not in every instance. Some people may choose to live in their car and work full-time because they want to save money for a house, for example. Some people work full-time but are homeless because they choose to spend their money on an addiction. Some people are unwilling to buy or rent what they can really afford.

    the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work

    “treating someone unfairly” is not self-evident. The way workers are treated in other countries would be seen by Americans as unfair, but the workers in those countries don’t necessarily agree.

    But when employers can pay living wages for full-time work but don’t, isn’t that exploitation?

    Where does the Bible define a “living wage”? And what about people who choose to work part-time and thus do not get a living wage but are happy to do so for a variety of reasons?

    If employers can get away with verbally or even physically abusing their workers because their workers keep their jobs in order to survive, isn’t that exploitation?

    Probably in most cases.

    As for James, you missed chapter 5:

    No I didn’t. That text doesn’t condemn the rich for being rich but for oppressing the poor. I agree it is wrong for the rich to oppress the poor.

    As for the difference between withholding a wage and underpaying:

    1. The person who is “underpaid” is still paid something. As long as he agrees to the wage and the payer pays it as has been agreed, there’s no objective wrong that has been done because:
    2. The Bible nowhere to my knowledge sets rates of pay or gives any guidelines as to what a living wage is.

    Isn’t wealth disparity sometimes, if not often, the result of exploiting workers and others?

    Sometimes, yes. You seem to believe it is always the case that people are rich because they have exploited others.

    Yes, the Scriptures don’t give an exact figure for how much to pay employees. But only legalists would require one.

    I’d be happy with some general guidelines, but they don’t seem to be forthcoming from you.

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  123. “ But again, the problem is that this form of 2K that you are advocating leads to the church having no position on some things that it seems rather self-evident that it should. You would have to tell me that I am not sinning if I advocate the state rounding up and killing all the Baptists if, in fact, I make the prudential observation that their doing so would make it less likely that they would kill all the Presbyterians. Really?“

    Sorry if I was unclear earlier. I noted above (I thought) that a policy that mandates you sin would be a problem. I think the example I used would be a policy mandating abortion of downs kids. But I don’t see that scripture mandates that we use the state to enforce morality. The state is a blunt object that is inherently consequentialist.

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  124. “ But we haven’t made murder (except in the case of abortion), rape, or theft legal. All we have done is raise the bar for proving that murder, rape, or theft has happened“
    Except we don’t make things legal. In our system we assume legality unless it is forbidden (punished).

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  125. “The OT criminalizes those things only within the boundaries of Israel. It doesn’t seem to condemn those things in the non-theocratic nations. So, it would seem that such things should not be criminalized in our NT context.”
    Sodom was condemned because of homosexuality, lack of hospitality, and idolatry.
    Ninevah was condemned for false worship. So was Canaan. On the other hand, other countries seemed to plug along – Rome wasn’t judged until it became Christian.

    “In the case of David, you have something more akin to second-degree murder or negligent homicide. What he orders makes the death of Uriah more likely, but it doesn’t cause it directly. Conceivably, if Uriah was a good enough fighter, he could have defended himself. I’m not saying what David did was right, just that it’s not first-degree murder.

    Perhaps I’m wrong about Simeon and Levi. However, there was no state to hold them accountable and, in fact, they were punished. Simeon loses his place in the family and Levi doesn’t get a landed inheritance.”

    David’s was clearly a conspiracy to commit murder, and he was condemned accordingly from what I recall. I don’t think mapping modern day ideas like degrees of murder is consistent with the Mosaic law he was operating under. The Noahic covenant to which you appealed to require a government punish murder requires the spilling of blood (if you read it this way). Neither Simeon, Levi, nor Paul were executed for their crimes. If we turn to the NT we have the example of God striking down Ananias and Sapphira – I don’t think we should take that as our criminal justice model though.

    “I’m not arguing that we ignore prudential concerns. I’m just trying to point out that consequentialism is not a solid Christian position for just about anything.”
    It is when scripture leaves us without a guide. Should I eat mean sacrificed to idols? It depends on the consequences…. if it causes my brother to stumble, I shouldn’t. If it doesn’t have a bad consequence, then I am free to. Most of our choices are consequentialist. Should I have a soda or water with lunch? Should I drive a Prius or an SUV, should I vote democrat or republican, should I cut this deal with the other party or not, etc… all of these are driven by consequentialism. There are moral absolutes and they give us important boundaries, but it seems to me that most of our choices do not depend on these things directly. Rather, it is our motives and our conscience that matters, and this is why repentance is so important – our motives are never pure, and we can deceive ourselves. But the fact that I have a conviction does not give me license to place that burden on others. This seems to me where we are constantly tempted to go – especially in the political sphere. The self righteousness on display by political supporters is galling. There’s a reason that we are admonished not to put our trust in princes. There are good prudential reasons for working with them and we should honor the rulers God has chosen to place over us, but we shouldn’t be under any delusions that the government is going to fix our fundamental problem. At best it will ameliorate our problems. Where to focus, how to balance trade-offs, etc… are not addressed in scripture.

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  126. @ Robert:

    One can easily sin at the voting booth by

    (1) Voting out of selfish ambition instead of love,
    (2) Cheating
    (3) Judging one’s brother for their political affiliations.

    The point is that (1) is unseen, being a motive, and is not divined from particular votes.

    That is, “love would vote X” is (almost?) always wrong.

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  127. D.G.,
    How cute you all-or-nothing thinker you. Never said it was all about experiences. But that doesn’t imply that experiences don’t play a role–that is unless one doesn’t want to listen to the people they are sharing the Gospel with.

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  128. Robert,
    But didn’t imply a different hand-in-hand relationship than what you just stated. After all, you responded what I wrote when I wrote that power follows wealth. But when revolutionaries seize wealth, they show that wealth follows power. Thus the relationship between wealth and power in Capitalism is different than in revolutions like the October, 1917 Russian Revolution. And that goes back to why we should curb wealth disparity.

    And no, measuring economic exploitation can be quite easy unless one wants to use the relativity that exists in measuring poverty to minimize its effects. When people trafficked into labor that exploitation. When full-time workers are paid low wages that do not provide for their essential needs and then are told that they either put up with those wages or look for another job by employers who live very comfortably, that is exploitation. When we are told that we have tolerate the environmental damage that operating a business causes or do without that business, that is exploitation.

    Now I am going to stop and go back to a point no one agreed with. Why? Because saying the Bible did define a living wage is an absurd answer. It is like what Chris Rock said about being paid minimum wage when he was young. He said that when an employer pays their workers minimum wage they are saying that they would like to pay the workers less but are not allowed to.

    Anyway, all your responses point to my observation that the dominant branch of the Christian Church in America is repeating the mistakes of the dominant branches of the Church in the pre-revolutionary times of France, Russia, and Spain: it is siding with wealth and power. And so don’t be surprised when those calling for revolution, especially iof they succeed, not listen to the Gospel because of how some have associated with wealth and power and look at the Church as its enemy. In the meantime, that dominant branch of the Church here can comfortably ignore the writing of the prophets whether they come from the Scriptures or the subway walls and tenement halls.

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  129. Of the ~3% of workers who are at the minimum wage or lower, the majority are not in households below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage makes it harder for unskilled people to enter the workforce and pushes increased automation. Only 10% of people in households below the poverty line held a steady job for the past year. Getting the other 90% into jobs is crucial for their well being. One way to make that happen is to lower the minimum wage and eliminate payroll taxes. The we should implement wage subsidies via expansion of the EITC that pays out weekly and Pigovian taxes on energy.

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  130. Curt,

    Thus the relationship between wealth and power in Capitalism is different than in revolutions like the October, 1917 Russian Revolution.

    No, it’s not. Wealth and power are reciprocal. Wealth follows power and power follows wealth. In every system. The revolutionaries would not have succeeded without seizing wealth.

    Capitalism, historically, allows for a greater number of people to increase their wealth than socialism. There’s a reason why no purely socialistic country has succeeded. There’s a reason why socialist utopias such as China have been sustained only by freeing up their markets.

    When full-time workers are paid low wages that do not provide for their essential needs and then are told that they either put up with those wages or look for another job by employers who live very comfortably, that is exploitation.

    The workers who are paid low wages are welcome to make themselves more marketable and gain skills to increase their pay. It’s pretty easy to do so in this country. Many employers will pay for your education. Lots of student aid is available.

    I am not exploiting someone for paying him what his skills are worth to me. He has other options.

    Anyway, all your responses point to my observation that the dominant branch of the Christian Church in America is repeating the mistakes of the dominant branches of the Church in the pre-revolutionary times of France, Russia, and Spain: it is siding with wealth and power. And so don’t be surprised when those calling for revolution, especially iof they succeed, not listen to the Gospel because of how some have associated with wealth and power and look at the Church as its enemy. In the meantime, that dominant branch of the Church here can comfortably ignore the writing of the prophets whether they come from the Scriptures or the subway walls and tenement halls.

    And your point of view turns people off to the gospel on the non-Christian right. So why should I not care about them?

    And from my personal experience, people on the left really love the “give peace a chance, hippie Jesus.” So why should I be worried.

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  131. Jeff,

    I agree with most of what you said.

    The point is that (1) is unseen, being a motive, and is not divined from particular votes.

    You can’t say this absolutely. If a person votes to persecute Presbyterians but not Baptists, it’s very easy to call that a sin.

    I can’t discern whether a vote for a pro-abortion candidate in itself is a sin. I can discern that a person who believes it is legal to murder babies is sinning very easily.

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  132. SDB,

    Except we don’t make things legal. In our system we assume legality unless it is forbidden (punished).

    I don’t think that’s exactly true. Abortion was at one time illegal, at least in many jurisdictions.

    Effectively what we have said is that Abortion is not murder until a certain point.

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  133. SDB,

    Sorry if I was unclear earlier. I noted above (I thought) that a policy that mandates you sin would be a problem. I think the example I used would be a policy mandating abortion of downs kids.

    Okay. But it seems to me that from the 2K view that many advocate here, you would have to say that it would not be a sin for a voter to vote for such a policy as long as he himself doesn’t end up aborting his own down’s syndrome kid. If I’m wrong about that assumption, why?

    But I don’t see that scripture mandates that we use the state to enforce morality. The state is a blunt object that is inherently consequentialist.

    The entire point of law is to enforce someone’s morality. Biblical law enforces God’s morality. The state is just a means to enforce the law.

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  134. “The entire point of law is to enforce someone’s morality. Biblical law enforces God’s morality. The state is just a means to enforce the law.“

    I’m not so sure that is true. While many laws have profound moral implications, I don’t think we go from “morality” —> “law”. Consider murder. Jesus tells us that to express anger towards another person is morally equivalent to murder. But we don’t have laws against expressing anger or disdain. We have chosen not to punish that immorality. The reason is that the state is a blunt instrument that exists to promote domestic tranquility (to turn a phrase). Lots of things that are illegal are not inherently immoral and lots of things that are immoral are not illegal. It is illegal to bring a banana from Hawaii to the mainland. Nothing immoral about bringing a banana with you for a snack later on, but it is not practical to ensure that every banana is safe for crops on the mainland, so all produce is banned. Similarly it is illegal to bring a bottle of water onto a plane. Nothing immoral about that, but it is to hard to distinguish between innocuous fluids and dangerous once, so the law stands. Lust is immoral, but the freedom press means that scantily clad models are a fact of life. Covetousness is immoral, but advertising created to make one covet is not.

    Power can be abused, so giving the state power comes with trade-offs. If you don’t give it enough power, then it can’t circumscribe some bad stuff. Give it enough power to circumscribe a lot of bad things and you end up with tyranny. How one should balance these trade offs is not discussed in scripture. This is why the church should not attempt to rule on it one way or the other. There are boundaries for the believer to be sure – we always have to honor our leaders regardless of how immoral they may be. When the civil law conflicts with God’s law, we have to obey God rather than man. We should be careful not to cause a brother to stumble, and we should love our neighbor. Within those boundaries (that the church should opine on), there is a lot of latitude on political questions.

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  135. Robert,
    Your error lies in the belief that the commutative property applies to power following wealth. For you seem not to recognize that, in Capitalism, wealth following power is a natural consequence. That those with wealth buy influence from those willing to sell their voice. Thus, those with wealth use that power for the sake of protecting their own interests. On the other hand, when power follows wealth, it is through struggle and conflict. It is not a natural consequence.

    As for your claim about Capitalism, you need to identify which form of Capitalism allows the greater number of people to seize wealth. For example, after WW II, we followed the Bretton-Woods system which included governments being able to control the flow of capital from the nation as well as their own currency. For America, there was egalitarian growth across all economic classes. Like today, it was still state capitalism and thus those with wealth benefited by skimming from the public treasury, but that was limited. Today, we have neoliberal capitalism that seeks to free those with wealth from as many social responsibilities as possible despite the fact that much of their success was due to their meeting of those responsibilities to any of their stakeholders. Wealth disparity has grown in the nations that have employed neoliberalism. And with that growing wealth disparity comes not only the exploitation of people and environment, but also comes the consolidation of political power. And that consolidation of political power makes government less accountable to all of the people. So what that our interventions and foreign policies primarily benefit the military industrial complex and other arms manufacturers at the expense of those who are the recipients of the use of those weapons? Those with wealth who own businesses that make the weapons used benefit from the sale use of their products. Remember that until Iraq invaded Kuwait, our government even allowed the sale of material used for WMDs to leaders like Saddam Hussein and terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

    What have we seen with Socialism? What we have seen is this. When Socialism emerged from or threatened to spring forth from the democratic process, the US has intervened and replaced such regimes with dictatorships. That trend started in 1953 in Iran and repeated itself in Guatemala (’54), Brazil (’64), Greece (’67), Chilé (73), and others. And even if we count the Soviet Union as a Socialist regime, it employed neither Capitalism nor Socialism, it overcame obstacles never faced in the US and was undone by an arms race by a nation that had no qualms or problems with ever increasing deficit spending because the dollar was the word’s reserve currency.

    And with the wealth that was spread, what have environmentally? What have we seen in terms of military interventions or government oppression of people around the world. Look at some of our allies for examples of the last item mentioned.,

    As for those low income workers being able to make themselves more marketable, did you ascertain that from talking to many of those workers. ANd even becoming more marketable doesn’t help when specific markets are flooded with applicants. If you really want to understand the plight of those on low income wages, why not talk to them? But more important than that, why let a market where the basic ethic is to maximize profits determine the value of its participants? Doesn’t such a market only recognize the extrinsic value of people? And if society only recognizes the value of people as determined by the market, then isn’t society blinding itself to the intrinsic value of each person? What do the Scriptures say about the love of money and yet you want the market, where, again, the basic ethic is to maximize profits, to determine the value of each person. Isn’t such reliance on the market to determine whether people can get living wages or not a substitution of the traditions of men for God’s Word?

    You are assuming too much in saying that people always have other options. Again you need to talk to people who suffer from the workings of the market. In addition, you have no qualms when the market assigns people either no jobs or poverty wages. Such actions by the market raise no red flags for you or any desire to question the market. It is as if you lbelieve that the market is infallible despite the fact that the basic ethic of the market is to maximize profits.

    And why should you be worried about people on the left? Are you too busy stereotyping them so that you can justify not caring about share the Gospel with them. If a church member errs in doctrine, aren’t you quick to want to correct them? Are you afraid of correcting those on the because, even with the corrections, they would still be leftists but they would be in your own church.

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  136. Vae,
    Much of the oppression comes from race-based enforcement of the law. And another form of oppression comes from what government allows those with wealth to do to people and the environment. In he meantime, we have foreign policies that support brutal tyrannies, promote and/or practice violence, or allow businesses to exploit the people or resources from other nations. Does that help?

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  137. Curt,

    No, that doesn’t help. There is no systematic “race-based” enforcement of law. Name a single law or policy that mandates different enforcement of law for different races. What does the government “allow those with wealth to do to people and the environment?” Name one single government policy that actively encourages harm to others or the environment contra Scripture. Name a single government policy that encourages tyranny or exploitation of people from other nations. You are spouting leftist socialist talking points with any actually evidence to back your assertions, as you have done repeatedly on this thread and others.

    That said, are there instances when law is enforced by individual prosecutors in an unfair, and even racially unjust manner? Perhaps, but that is not the design of the law. Same with all your other points: individuals and groups are responsible for sin and injustice, not the law or the “system.” So the problem is sinful people, not some sort of systemic oppression. Even in a perfectly just legal system there would be injustice because of the sinful people in that system.

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  138. “Your error lies in the belief that the commutative property applies to power following wealth…It is not a natural consequence.”
    This is an incoherent mess.

    “As for your claim about Capitalism, you need to identify which form of Capitalism allows the greater number of people to seize wealth.”
    Unlike socialism, capitalism is not an ideology with different “forms”. In capitalism does not entail the seizure of wealth – it entails the generation of wealth.

    “For example, after WW II, we followed the Bretton-Woods system which included governments being able to control the flow of capital from the nation as well as their own currency.”
    Bretton-Woods was not a “form” of a capitalism. It was an agreement among westernized countries to use the gold standard.

    “For America, there was egalitarian growth across all economic classes.”
    Unless you were black or a woman and only counted certain forms of compensation. Wealth distribution was more or less unchanged. Wage income was more even, but that was because the upper class took their compensation in the form of non-wage income.

    “Like today, it was still state capitalism and thus those with wealth benefited by skimming from the public treasury, but that was limited.”
    Examples? Speaking of stereotyping…

    “Today, we have neoliberal capitalism that seeks to free those with wealth from as many social responsibilities as possible despite the fact that much of their success was due to their meeting of those responsibilities to any of their stakeholders.”
    Neoliberalism is simply the third way between laissez faire systems and centralized systems. It is simply a synonym for state regulated capitalism unless one wants to adopt the ideological perjorative use of the term, but then that wouldn’t be very loving towards one’s neoliberal neighbors would it.

    “Wealth disparity has grown in the nations that have employed neoliberalism.” Wage disparity has grown, but in economic growth requires this. Someone, somewhere is always earning $0. If the richest makes $20 at t=0 and $100 at t=t’, then wage disparity has grown. Amazingly, wealth itself has been remarkably steady – the top 1% hold about 1/3 of it from 1920 -2014 (See table 4 and figure 5 at this link).

    “And with that growing wealth disparity comes not only the exploitation of people and environment, but also comes the consolidation of political power.”
    Curiously, environmental issues have dramatically improved among western countries. The election of Trump, Brexit, and rise of once fringe elements on the far right across Europe indicate that political power is not being consolidated. I suspect that Stalin would never have allowed himself to be humiliated the way Jeb Bush was in the last primary.

    “And that consolidation of political power makes government less accountable to all of the people.”
    So support your local tea party…

    “So what that our interventions and foreign policies primarily benefit the military industrial complex and other arms manufacturers at the expense of those who are the recipients of the use of those weapons? Those with wealth who own businesses that make the weapons used benefit from the sale use of their products.”
    As do teachers, nurses, police officers, and firefighters whose retirement pensions are invested in these companies.

    “Remember that until Iraq invaded Kuwait, our government even allowed the sale of material used for WMDs to leaders like Saddam Hussein and terrorists like Osama bin Laden.”
    Not leaders like Saddam, but to Saddam himself – he was an ally once who betrayed us. We never allowed the sale of weapons to terrorists like Osama, rather weapons were sold to anti-Soviet groups and “fell” into the wrong hands. Oops. Pretty sure the intent wasn’t to profit though. This was small change compared to what we spend on our military directly.

    “What have we seen with Socialism? What we have seen is this. When Socialism emerged from or threatened to spring forth from the democratic process, the US has intervened and replaced such regimes with dictatorships.”
    You forgot to mention that these “democratic” processes that sprung forth were due to Soviet backed campaigns.

    “That trend started in 1953 in Iran and repeated itself in Guatemala (’54), Brazil (’64), Greece (’67), Chilé (73), and others.”
    Yeah, with the exception of Iran (where Carter fell asleep at the wheel listening to folks like yourself), those countries are all far better off than any country under communism. For some reason, you left off the democratically elected Chavez regime in Venezuela. Unimpeded socialism at its finest. Go back and read the left wing commentary on Chavez in the early days. So he had to use the military to censor dissent… he was doing so much to help the poor and stick it to the oil companies. Now Venezuela has to import energy and people are starving to death. I suspect that Venezuela would have been much better off had we intervened and put in a right wing tyrant.

    “And even if we count the Soviet Union as a Socialist regime, it employed neither Capitalism nor Socialism,”
    Oh baloney. Leninism was a form of socialism. Dividing the ruling and working classes wasn’t a betrayal of socialism, but absolutely necessary to manage a command and control economy.

    “it overcame obstacles never faced in the US and was undone by an arms race by a nation that had no qualms or problems with ever increasing deficit spending because the dollar was the word’s reserve currency.”
    Right. A largely agrarian nation throughing off the rule of a ruthless monarch. Nothing at all like the US. Perhaps it was done in by the inefficiencies of a centralized economy. Maybe Hayek was right?

    “And with the wealth that was spread, what have environmentally?”
    Yes, let’s compare the environmental record of socialist countries in Eastern Europe and China to Western Europe and the US.

    “What have we seen in terms of military interventions or government oppression of people around the world. Look at some of our allies for examples of the last item mentioned.”
    Yes, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the Castro regime in Cuba, China, Cambodia, Romania,…. why would anyone want to live in Canada, Australia, or the US.

    “As for those low income workers being able to make themselves more marketable, did you ascertain that from talking to many of those workers. ANd even becoming more marketable doesn’t help when specific markets are flooded with applicants.”
    You aren’t becoming more marketable by acquiring skills in where the supply exceeds the demand.

    “If you really want to understand the plight of those on low income wages, why not talk to them?”
    1. Anecdotes != data.
    2. Most of us have. I rub shoulders with the working poor a lot. Virtually all of them are in their situation because of terrible life choices (having kids out of wedlock, drug use, alcoholism). I have two close friends in the construction business. Once is a residential contractor and the other runs a concrete business. The contractor has trouble finding framers at $16/hr who a) show up on time and b) can pass a drug test. He put in the 100hr wks and took on a lot of personal risk to build his business. He does OK (clears in the low $200’s) most years, but his margins are pretty narrow. My friend who runs the concrete business got into his management position by being promoted within at a place he started at in high school. He runs into the same issue in getting people to show up and stay on the job. The work is physically demanding and uncomfortable, and too many quit by the time they are trained. He is left holding the bag on the money spent training them to do the work. You should talk to more small business owners perhaps…

    “But more important than that, why let a market where the basic ethic is to maximize profits determine the value of its participants?”
    The basic ethic of the market is not to maximize profits. The basic ethic of the market (insofar as it makes sense to say that a mechanism for setting prices has an ethic) is the fair exchange of goods and services and transparently and equitably spreading risk.

    “Doesn’t such a market only recognize the extrinsic value of people? And if society only recognizes the value of people as determined by the market, then isn’t society blinding itself to the intrinsic value of each person?”
    No. Unlike communism, capitalism is not a worldview that covers all of life. The market determines what the value of your labor is. It says nothing about your value as a human being because you are more than your labor. Materialists get tripped up on this distinction. I wouldn’t think that a Christian would. A social welfare net is fully compatiable with capitalism. The trade offs of implementing such a welfare net are not obvious.

    “What do the Scriptures say about the love of money and yet you want the market, where, again, the basic ethic is to maximize profits, to determine the value of each person.”
    Isn’t part of loving one’s neighbor shining the best light on how they define themselves? Do believers who embrace capitalism claim that their basic ethic is to maximize profits or that this determines the value of a person? I’ve never heard that anywhere other than from left wing critics of capitalism.

    “Isn’t such reliance on the market to determine whether people can get living wages or not a substitution of the traditions of men for God’s Word?”
    If one required believers to do so, then you might have a point. But again you misconstrue this. The market determines whether certain tasks have sufficient value to learn a living from. A lot of people don’t work to earn a living. Lots of people like to do certain tasks to earn a bit of extra spending money. Indeed, this is in fact the case for the overwhelming majority of people who earn the minimum wage. A better system would be to let the market set wages as low as they need to go, then subsidize households so that they have enough to get by on.

    “You are assuming too much in saying that people always have other options. Again you need to talk to people who suffer from the workings of the market. In addition, you have no qualms when the market assigns people either no jobs or poverty wages. Such actions by the market raise no red flags for you or any desire to question the market. It is as if you lbelieve that the market is infallible despite the fact that the basic ethic of the market is to maximize profits.”
    Markets can fail – this isn’t controversial. But no one has successfully proposed a superior alternative. The value of work is not set by the value of the person doing it but by the wealth it generates. When someone’s skill set does not enable them to earn a living wage, I think it is a good idea for the state to subsidze their work so that they receive a lving wage.

    “And why should you be worried about people on the left? Are you too busy stereotyping them so that you can justify not caring about share the Gospel with them. If a church member errs in doctrine, aren’t you quick to want to correct them? Are you afraid of correcting those on the because, even with the corrections, they would still be leftists but they would be in your own church.”
    No. 2K means that you are welcome in my church just as you are Curt. I wish you no ill will even if you denigrate my integrity and intelligence. I still love you and want ot see you fluorish as a believer. I do think your understanding of the regulative princple is completely backwards and thus you continue to misconstrue 2K. I also think your politial/economic judgement is ideologically driven and would be quite destructive to see put into practice. Your reading of Zinn and Chomsky has twisted your perspective terribly. But that doesn’t mean that your erroneous perspective is sinful or that you should be coerced into changing it as a condition of attending my church. Sure – you are insulting and hypocritical, but then we all have failings on these things. You should reflect on what it would look like to love your conservative neighbor in a comment thread. But your politics should not be a barrier to Christian fellowship.

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  139. JRC: The point is that (1) is unseen, being a motive, and is not divined from particular votes.

    Robert: You can’t say this absolutely. If a person votes to persecute Presbyterians but not Baptists, it’s very easy to call that a sin.

    OK. I can’t say that absolutely. Can I say it 99.5% of the time? I mean, if we have to reach that deep into the bag of hypotheticals, we’re talking about uber-zebras, right?

    So now if we are looking for a general maxim, it should be (pick one) “In general, voting (is / is not) a matter of sin so much as wisdom.”

    Robert: I can’t discern whether a vote for a pro-abortion candidate in itself is a sin. I can discern that a person who believes it is legal to murder babies is sinning very easily.

    What makes the difference between your first case and your second? Is it not that a vote for a person may hinge on multiple, competing factors? Perhaps (hypothetically) Romney is pro-choice, but Obama is also pro-choice *and* will fail to take actions leading to war with Russia in a decade. Or perhaps (hypothetically) Clinton is pro-choice, but Trump has a pro-choice history and seems mentally unfit to lead. But Clinton thinks “national security” means “storing classified documents on my home server built by my friend”, so that leaves me voting Gary Johnson or something — who is pro-choice.

    We accept that “lesser of two evils” is a typical, inevitable political choice. In matters of sin, we either never or rarely accept the “lesser of two evils” concept (depending on one’s understanding of Biblical obedience).

    So now, let’s unpack the second statement. “I can discern that a person who believes it is legal to murder babies is sinning very easily.” I think you mean, “… a person who believes it should be legal…”, since we agree that it is regrettably the fact that it is legal to murder babies in this country.

    I think what you mean is something like the Casey decision that established that a woman has a right to an abortion if she wants it, subject to the undue burden test.

    Even there, I can conceive of two motives for agreeing with Casey (I don’t), one of which is sinful and one of which is not.

    The first, the “Marcotte” reason, is to hold that abortion is a positive moral good, yadayada. I think we agree that this is wrong.

    The second, the “libertarian” reason, is to hold that a society of adults can only function when adults make adult decisions. Abortion is wrong; so is getting drunk or stoned. The libertarian reasons that the total cost of criminalizing either, both monetary (enforcement costs) and societal (juvenalization of the populace), is too great for the benefit. Hence: abortion is wrong, but criminalization is not worth it.

    At that point, you might argue that the libertarian is wrong. I would argue that also as a matter of public policy. But at that point, we are talking ways and means, not is it right to kill a baby?

    I don’t think that debate falls under the category of sin, but of wisdom.

    Also: UberZebras would be a cool name for an indie-metal band.

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  140. Vae,

    You wrote


    There is no systematic “race-based” enforcement of law. Name a single law or policy that mandates different enforcement of law for different races

    Notice that your grounds do not support your position about there being no systematic, race-based enforcement of the law. Here you are assuming that the absence of any law implies the absence of any systematic, race-based enforcement of the law. In fact, your reason misses the meaning of the term race-based enforcement of the law.

    In addition, NYC’s Stop and Frisk policies were found to be discriminatory in court and the city was ordered to change its policies. In fact, the government has found systematic, race-based enforcement of the law in other places like Ferguson, Missouri.

    Other data challenges your statement (see https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/07/data-police-racial-bias ). Collective bias leads to systematic, race-based enforcement of the law. And there are multiple reasons for that collective bias (see https://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/hard-truths-law-enforcement-and-race and https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/fbi-white-supremacists-in-law-enforcement and for a balance to the last link cited https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/fbi-warned-about-white-supremacists/).

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  141. Jeff,

    OK. I can’t say that absolutely. Can I say it 99.5% of the time? I mean, if we have to reach that deep into the bag of hypotheticals, we’re talking about uber-zebras, right?

    So now if we are looking for a general maxim, it should be (pick one) “In general, voting (is / is not) a matter of sin so much as wisdom.”

    More or less agreed. My position would actually be “In general, voting is not a matter of sin so much as wisdom.”

    Robert: I can’t discern whether a vote for a pro-abortion candidate in itself is a sin. I can discern that a person who believes it is legal to murder babies is sinning very easily.

    What makes the difference between your first case and your second? Is it not that a vote for a person may hinge on multiple, competing factors? Perhaps (hypothetically) Romney is pro-choice, but Obama is also pro-choice *and* will fail to take actions leading to war with Russia in a decade. Or perhaps (hypothetically) Clinton is pro-choice, but Trump has a pro-choice history and seems mentally unfit to lead. But Clinton thinks “national security” means “storing classified documents on my home server built by my friend”, so that leaves me voting Gary Johnson or something — who is pro-choice.

    We accept that “lesser of two evils” is a typical, inevitable political choice. In matters of sin, we either never or rarely accept the “lesser of two evils” concept (depending on one’s understanding of Biblical obedience).

    Agreed, more or less.

    So now, let’s unpack the second statement. “I can discern that a person who believes it is legal to murder babies is sinning very easily.” I think you mean, “… a person who believes it should be legal…”, since we agree that it is regrettably the fact that it is legal to murder babies in this country.

    That’s what I meant, thanks.

    The first, the “Marcotte” reason, is to hold that abortion is a positive moral good, yadayada. I think we agree that this is wrong.

    Yes.

    The second, the “libertarian” reason, is to hold that a society of adults can only function when adults make adult decisions. Abortion is wrong; so is getting drunk or stoned. The libertarian reasons that the total cost of criminalizing either, both monetary (enforcement costs) and societal (juvenalization of the populace), is too great for the benefit. Hence: abortion is wrong, but criminalization is not worth it.

    I actually tend toward libertarianism on a lot of issues. My guiding principle would be something like “as long as innocent persons are not harmed.”

    The problem here is that I don’t see where Scripture ever gives us a general principle that political matters are to be decided based on how something juvenalizes (is that a word?) the populace. One could argue that any law juvenalizes us.

    You might be able to make a better case that monetary costs should be taken into account, but I think that is on shaky grounds as well.

    At that point, you might argue that the libertarian is wrong. I would argue that also as a matter of public policy. But at that point, we are talking ways and means, not is it right to kill a baby?

    I don’t think that debate falls under the category of sin, but of wisdom.

    The issues of sin and wisdom do overlap, however. But I think it’s a pretty safe biblical principle that we are obligated to do what we can to protect innocent life. That’s certainly how the fifth commandment is exegeted in the Reformed tradition. A pro-choice position is the antithesis of that. Your choosing not only to decriminalize something; you are choosing to positively protect baby murderers. You are choosing to put the state in a position not merely staying out of it but mandating the full resources of the state to positively safeguard those who are committing murder. You aren’t just voting for the act not to be criminalized, you are voting for the police force to positively, when necessary, stand guard over the abortionist and do nothing to stop murder.

    Also: UberZebras would be a cool name for an indie-metal band.

    LOL.

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  142. Curt, “those with wealth buy influence from those willing to sell their voice.”

    Wrong again. You seem to know nothing about political machines in U.S. cities that keep Democrats in power.

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  143. D.G.,
    You mean that when Bill Clinton promoted NAFTA and willingly vetoed Glass-Steagall, it wasn’t because they were willing to sell their voices? When Democrats vote with Republicans on pro-business tax bills, increased military spending, and deregulation it isn’t because they haven’t sold their votces.

    When Democrats in state legislature vote to give state tax breaks to businesses or give businesses special deals, that isn’t because they haven’t sold their votes?

    And what about Democrats in cities, they too have been lenient to businesses at the cost of fairness and sustainability? Don’t you follow all the offerings given to companies like Amazon when they seek an additional hub or build a new headquarters? Are Democrat office holders in cities opposing gentrification? What do you think is the biggest draw Urban Democrats have? Isn’t it that they are not Republicans?

    And finally, who was behind the taking down of Occupy in the various cities? Didn’t that start with Obama whose Justice Department never criminally prosecuted a single person of significance from the financial sector despite the fraud and the destruction to the economy that followed? And wasn’t carried through by Democratic mayors?

    And are Democrats only elected to urban offices?

    Finally, the only difference between Republicans and Democrats is that while the Republicans run the A train, which is an express train, the Democrats run the C train, which is the local, and they add to that some amenities to make the train ride endurable. However, both the A and C trains end up at the same final destination. Also, logically speaking, to try to use Democrats in cities as a counterexample to establish a universal negation is not logically sound.

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  144. D. G.,
    Are you playing Alex Trebek on Jeopardy where you give the answer and I guess the question? Can I have a lifeline or two, please?

    What about The Constitution that supports your points?

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  145. @ Curt: Can you point to a single government in existence that has been organized around the principles you espouse?

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  146. Jeff,
    I might be able to if they left-leaning democracies were not overthrown by the US. Check your post-WW II history and the number of countries the US has intervened in.

    In addition, what I am proposing is a hybrid government that combines what we have with what would have been in the Soviet Union had Lenin & Stalin not hijacked the Revolution.

    But one other point should be made. The founders of our nation did not look to any given nation to provide a complete model for what they were creating. Our biggest problem is our centralization of power that comes from the consolidation of wealth in the private sector. At least it use to be that any person in business could distinguish power and authority. But that might have disappeared with neoliberalism’s reduction of stakeholder to shareholder.

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  147. Curt – I agree that there are (usually unintended) biases in any legal system. I agree that black people often do not get the benefit of the doubt by police officers or even private citizens, and much of that is unfair. However, what you are confusing is injustice in the implementation of a system with the design – or structure – of the system itself. Stop and frisk, for example was designed to reduce crime in high crime neighborhoods, which just happened to be minority neighborhoods. The goal was to reduce crime, not to harass non-white people. If the express purpose of stop and frisk was to discriminate on racial grounds, you might have a point.

    So again I ask, where’s the law or policy that discriminates or differentiates enforcement based on race? And absent that, what’s your remedy for the racial injustices you believe are so rampant?

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  148. Here are a few left leaning democracies the US didn’t overthrow:
    1. Venezuela
    2. Bolivia
    3. Zimbabwe

    Which socialist democratic revolutions thwarted by the US weren’t supported by the Soviets or China?

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  149. One of the core tenets of conservatives is the imperfectibility of man. If your management/pedagogical/political system requires perfected leaders to work, then the problem is the system. Socialism may look good on paper, but every time it has been tried, it has resulted in utter ruin for the people on whom it has been tried. Why? Because it requires coercion. The working classes don’t want what it is selling – they want a shot at being one of the big shots. That’s why lotteries work and lottery style employment schemes do so well (think athletics, acting, and academia). The corruption of the vanguard is totally predictable – you can’t get socialism without a Stalin, and the Stalins of this world will not give up their power willingly. This is the brilliance of the separated powers and checks and balances of the US system. It recognizes this tendency in man and has built its political system around this reality.

    The reason that evangelicalism (and much of the modern GOP) is not conservative is because they miss this fundamental truth. The polis is not going to do what it ought. Given that, how should we organize society so that if functions and creates space for the church to do what it should do? This is the way that conservatism frames its question and why it is successful when it is implemented. Of course, this is difficult for those who insist on the perfectibility of man. The evangelical idealist would like to assume away the homosexual, prostitute, drug addict, etc… while the leftwing idealist would like to assume away the power hungry, greedy, and self interested. These people and all the other crooked types are part of our polity and always will be. How do we channel such a polity in a productive direction? Socialism doesn’t provide an answer. Either does the social gospel. Prudence, humility, empiricism, skepticism, and candid reckoning with reality characterize the conservative stance and explain why the American (western) model has been so successful.

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  150. D.G.,
    So Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 doesn’t assume White supremacy or even privilege?

    You’re a student of history so you should know that The Constitution was written more in response to class struggles than race struggles, and yet the White supremacy that was part of the time made it into The Constitution. But the document itself was written in response to economic hardships including Shays Rebellion. And what The Constitution did was to construct a federal government that could better respond to insurrections as well as make a key part of the government, the Senate, immune to popular opinion. And Madison himself expressed fear over allowing elections to be open to all classes of people lest agrarian reform take place. And it was Pinckney who talked about classes declaring that the Landed Interest class, the wealthy class, should be forever the ruling class over professional men and commercial men.

    So what is it that The Constitution did? It tried to ensure the maintaining of the status quo by enabling gov’t to better respond to insurrections and be adequately immune to the concerns of the people. The apparent lack of centralization of federal power provided a layer of protection for America’s elites many of whom were slave owners and others who were wealthy. There egalitarian voices there but they were drowned out.

    As for your comparison, tell me the similarities and differences between the two parties. Then we will compare that with the difference between Stalin and I.

    Many of your responses contain a thin veneer for the disrespect you want to show. And despite what the Scriptures say in terms of how we should regard one another, that seems not to bother you.

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  151. Vae,
    When those who implement the structure of the system do so with bias, then there is systematic injustices being performed. That is why NYC’s Stop and Frisk and Feruguson’s implementation of traffic fines and resulting imprisonment for hose unable to pay the fines showed systematic injustices that were racially based. And it isn’t just race, it is also class since one’s class determines how one’s violations of the law are treated and one’s influence on the writing of laws is determined. We now have a private prison system that demands quotas for providing services. And those quotas allows for all sorts of abuses. And the people most vulnerable to abuses are those who have the least access to legal resources. For more info, See

    http://www.njjn.org/uploads/digital-library/Criminal-Lockup-Quota,-In-the-Public-Interest,-9.13.pdf

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/private-prison-quotas_n_3953483.html

    THose who enforce the law are as much a part of the system as the rules are.

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  152. “ Many of your responses contain a thin veneer for the disrespect you want to show. And despite what the Scriptures say in terms of how we should regard one another, that seems not to bother you.“
    Pot meet kettle.

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  153. The south wanted slaves counted and the north did not. Thus the north didn’t count the slaves as persons and south did? The north was filled with white supremacists and south wasn’t? If the south had prevailed, would you have examples of white supremacy in the constitution? If not, why is the 3/5ths compromise an example of that?

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  154. Curt, the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation was a white supremacist.

    I don’t doubt that the founders believed in white supremacy. But that’s not what they were intentionally trying to do, as if they were forerunners of the KKK (talk about disrespect).

    Heck, the Bolsheviks were white supremacists on your logic.

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  155. D.G.
    Regarding the founding fathers, white supremacy was a part of The Constitution. It may not have been a focus, but part of what comes with white supremacy was explicitly stated in the Three-Fifths compromise.

    BTW, why are you asking me about the Bolsheviks. They don’t represent me. Personally, I regard them as vanguard opportunists who weren’t interested in introducing Marxist Socialism in the country. Socialists are divided on that claim though. But if you want to examine them, what in their practices or words suggested they were white supremacists?

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  156. Curt – white supremacy WAS a part of the Constitution, just as slavery WAS once legal and Jim Crow laws WERE once in place in some places. It’s 2018, and there are no “white supremacy” laws on the books today.

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  157. @vv How do see white supremacy written into the constitution? I am skeptical that the 3/5’s compromise reflects that.

    One place where I think you see racial disparity in the law is the sentencing difference between crack and cocaine. It is like having different penalties for DUI based on whether you were drinking Colt45 or Guinness. Not technically a race based law, but obviously targeting different demographics.

    There is also a strong class bias in our criminal justice system. Because prosecutors have so much discretion, they can stack charges to coerce a plea. Those without means to hire an attorney are at a major disadvantage. Only 5% of people in prison had a jury trial. There is a disparate impact based on race.

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  158. sdb – yes, you could make a case that the 3/5 compromise was not inherently racist/white supremacist, though that’s certainly what it amounted to in practice. I don’t think anyone had in mind Norwegian or Flemish slaves when they came up with the 3/5 compromise.

    As for different sentences for crack and cocaine, I don’t know enough to comment either way. Maybe crack use is associated with higher degree of criminality? I really have no idea, though I doubt it is as simple as Colt 45 vs. Guinness. I agree there is a class bias in the criminal justice system, but disagree that it is racially motivated. I also disagree that it is inherently unjust: not everyone is entitled to the best criminal defense lawyer, just as everyone isn’t entitled to have their cancer treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering or eat at 5-star restaurants. One easy way to avoid class bias in the criminal justice system: don’t commit crimes.

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  159. @VV I don’t doubt that the Framers were racist and probably white supremacists of one flavor or another. But it seems odd to cast the 3/5ths compromise as the south wanted that number to be 1 and the north (non-slave states) wanted that number to be 0. The south wasn’t gunning to get slaves counted as full persons because of their belief in the equality fo man, and the north wasn’t opposing it because they didn’t think Africans were persons. It was electoral politics through and through – how would seats in the house be apportioned.

    The thing about not committing crimes is that it is impossible not to. Bill Stuntz on our criminal justice system is definitely worth reading on this topic as well. To be sure, crack use is associated with higher degrees of criminality, but that association is race based – it doesn’t exist in reality. While everyone may not be entitled to the best criminal defense lawyer, I do think they are entitled to one at least as competent as the prosecutor. But I don’t see that problem as race based.

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  160. sdb – the impetus may have been electoral politics, but the fact is both the southern and northern states were willing to count slaves as less than whole people. That’s white supremacy to the core, if not in theory then certainly in practice. It’s a good idea to make defense attorneys as competent as the prosecutors, but how to you determine that? If both have graduated from law school and passed the state’s bar exam, isn’t that sufficient proof of basic competency?

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  161. @vv I think the issue is more one of funding and work load. Prosecutors have much higher funding per “client” than public defenders.

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