How Small Are Your Ten Commandments?

Jake Meador addresses the question of whether to support impeachment of President Trump on the basis of the Decalogue (as the Christianity Today editorial did implicitly). After all, if you argue that Trump lied and broke the 9th commandment, what about other presidents who were not exactly truthful about intelligence and wars?

He goes on to say that the Ten Commandments are the basis of Protestant political reflection:

First, the Ten Commandments are central to traditional Protestant political theology. Indeed, the Reformed political theorist Johannes Althusius says that you destroy all possibility of symbiotic human community if you remove the Ten Commandments from public life. (In as much as many of our arguments about symbiotic communal life today depend on structuring our economy in such ways that human selfishness is ingeniously twisted to promote mutual material prosperity, I think Althusius is almost certainly correct.)

Likewise, many early Protestants, Melanchthon included, would argue that the Ten Commandments are simply a distillation of the Natural Law and so to remove the Ten Commandments from all consideration in public life is to render public life lawless; it is to make the norms of public life equivalent to the wishes of the powerful, who have the ability to wield the power of government to their own ends and who, apart from the law, have no mechanism to limit their power. This, of course, is an echo of Augustine’s much-cited line when he says that kingdoms without justice are but little robberies. Given the state of our republic, I, once again, find this line of thought highly persuasive. Therefore, any attempts to push the Ten Commandments to the center of Protestant political thought is quite welcome, for it is an attempt to return Protestantism to its historical roots.

… The magistrate’s responsibility is to preserve the peace of society through protecting the good and punishing the bad. So while I might sin in my inner life through impure thoughts, coveting, or some other vice, these things are not crimes, properly speaking, because they are strictly internal; if these thoughts are externalized in my conduct then they could become subject to civil law.

But what about the sins of the First Table that, as Protestant political theology teaches, magistrates are supposed to enforce? Don’t people remember the original Westminster Confession?

The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he has authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordainances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he has power to call synods, to be present at them and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God. (23.3)

That might be a good idea — having the magistrate (as long as it’s not Donald Trump or Anthony Weiner) evaluate worship — if the church is struggling with veneration for POTUS:

For Rose Ann Farrell, 74, from Florida, the claim rang true. “I really believe he was sent to us,” she said. “From one to ten, he’s a ten. He lives in a Christian world and we needed a strong Christian, somebody who is not afraid. He speaks for us, has the guts and courage to speak what we want to say. His actions, his intentions, are Christian.”

But is it such a good idea to enforce the First Table of the law on Muslims and Mormons?

Plus, why do Protestants concerned about public life so often reduce the Decalogue to the Second Table? That was not the way old Protestant political theology had it. Not only did the First Table restrict religious expression and worship, but the magistrate — maybe someone like Barack Obama — was supposed to enforce worship and morality. It doesn’t get much older for Protestant political theory than Calvin:

no man has discoursed of the duty of magistrates, the enacting of laws, and the common weal, without beginning with religion and divine worship. Thus all have confessed that no polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care, and that those laws are absurd which disregard the rights of God, and consult only for men. Seeing then that among philosophers religion holds the first place, and that the same thing has always been observed with the universal consent of nations, Christian princes and magistrates may be ashamed of their heartlessness if they make it not their care. We have already shown that this office is specially assigned them by God, and indeed it is right that they exert themselves in asserting and defending the honour of him whose vicegerents they are, and by whose favour they rule. Hence in Scripture holy kings are especially praised for restoring the worship of God when corrupted or overthrown, or for taking care that religion flourished under them in purity and safety. (Institutes, IV, 20. 9)

I understand Meador wants to promote the common good and to do so as a self-conscious Protestant. I don’t understand, though, in a nation that prizes freedom — even religious freedom — how that common good is going to come from the Decalogue if the whole of it is in view.

81 thoughts on “How Small Are Your Ten Commandments?

  1. Donald Trump has built his life on everything God hates. Just like Hollywood. Except that he is FAAAAAR better entertainment and I don’t have to violate either of the 2 greatest commandments, or the larger catechism questions 91 through the 10 commandments for it. 😀

    I didn’t vote for him last time and I would publicly burn myself at the stake before voting for Hilary Clinton. I’ll probably vote for him in November though. If you have to watch your country destroy itself, it may as well be entertaining right?

    I’ve scraped things off my shoe with higher moral character and conviction than the average contemporary American politician of either major party.

    One could replace the 3rd person personal pronouns of Romans 1 with “Americans” (including most of the church world) without doing substantive violence to the text.

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  2. “I’ve scraped things off my shoe with higher moral character and conviction than the average contemporary American politician of either major party.”
    Can I borrow that line?

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  3. I don’t understand, though, in a nation that prizes freedom — even religious freedom — how that common good is going to come from the Decalogue if the whole of it is in view.

    Red meat, Darryl. How do we define “common good” at all? There’s Your Truth, My Truth; Red Truth, Blue Truth. It’s a Dr. Seuss book.

    sdb,

    How does one get from natural law to keeping the sabbath holy?

    Who cares?

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  4. So beautifully state. It’s hard to not believe we are in trouble. I can’t even stomach the news. Between the lies and the hypocrisies. Hopefully it won’t infect the church… “A second function, the “civil use,” is to restrain evil. Though the law cannot change the heart, it can to some extent inhibit lawlessness by its threats of judgement, especially when backed by a civil code that administers punishment for proven offenses (Deut. 13:6-11; 19:16-21; Rom. 13:3, 4). Thus it secures civil order, and serves to protect the righteous from the unjust.

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  5. “Hopefully it won’t infect the church…”

    You’re decades too late for that my friend and it’s worse now than ever. American Christendom at least, is sharply divided along exactly the same lines as is the dying world around us.

    Whether it’s the relentless critical theorists on the left, or the relentless “God Bless America” crew on the right. Or anybody attempting to be in between. It all reduces to the same thing. Trying to force sinners to act like saints. With “saints” being defined as they see fit. Just different versions of the same thing.

    There are 2 and only 2 kinds of people on this Earth according to the christian scriptures. Those who have been born dead in Adam, and those who have been born again into new and everlasting life in Jesus Christ. According to His word, that’s what God sees. Sheep of every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue, and goats of every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue.

    Nothing could be wronger than His sheep showing more affinity with goats in self interested worldly causes than they do with other sheep in the true cause of Christ. The devil has been very successful with this.

    It ought not be so.

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  6. Greg, so others watching sex and violence merely depicted in film comes in for rabid moral judgment but your contributing to the (real or perceived) downfall of the country by casting a vote for mere entertainment ain’t to thang? Can’t watch movies because Hollywood is “built on everything God hates” but can vote for Trump even though his life is, too? Eye on the shell, kids. But you either have to inject moral judgment into both or neither, but you can’t be selective.

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  7. “A second function, the “civil use,” is to restrain evil. Though the law cannot change the heart, it can to some extent inhibit lawlessness by its threats of judgement, especially when backed by a civil code that administers punishment for proven offenses (Deut. 13:6-11; 19:16-21; Rom. 13:3, 4). Thus it secures civil order, and serves to protect the righteous from the unjust.

    I think the second use of the (second table of the) Law in public is out unless you’re in a “Christian” commonwealth such as the Reformers lived in. We don’t enforce the first table because it’s too easy to abuse blasphemy laws (even though we still have them for blasphemies against protect classes and their gods). Natural law is also out because it depends on a Biblical view of Creation and a “Christian” commonwealth. Few will admit this. Where do we get a definition of “common good” that everyone will agree upon as the basis for public order?

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  8. Yes, second table is an extension of the first. And yes, the church is being led by the culture and the uniparty.

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  9. So the 2KT framework is dead…? Are you promoting for the Christian to retreat from society, maintain faux ignorance, or provide a well intentioned, biblically based recommendation on civil law and church relations.

    Not sure how we will not be compelled by the state to change or fold. Isn’t that what the acceptable mainstream is consensus is requiring us?

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  10. There is obviously a new religious test for public office, civil service, private business, health and human service including adoption and education and the overall acceptance in the marketplace of ideas…

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  11. I believe Jefferson’s anti-Calvinist take on separation of church and state defaulted to a higher criticism form of Unitarian Christianity as the most acceptable and progressive form of faith. His wall of separation was a perfect compliment to his “embrace of Unitarianism in fact allowed him to continue his loathing of historic Christian teaching like the Trinity that he found so essential to Calvinism. Both Deists and Unitarians found the divinity of Christ and associated doctrines–the Virgin birth and the Incarnation–revolting. Jefferson’s fear of the Calvinists was not without reason.”

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  12. So the 2KT framework is dead…? Are you promoting for the Christian to retreat from society, maintain faux ignorance, or provide a well intentioned, biblically based recommendation on civil law and church relations.

    Not sure how we will not be compelled by the state to change or fold. Isn’t that what the acceptable mainstream is consensus is requiring us?

    I don’t think the 2K framework is dead until the day of judgment. I don’t see a basis for the church to engage with the government since the government does not buy natural law arguments. Joe Biden even scoffed at the idea of natural law. Most Christians don’t even believe it. We’re also told ITT that the Ten Commandments are not admissible into these discussions. I have never convinced anyone with a natural law argument. They hold sway only in a “Christian” commonweath. The rest of the world is a theocracy, whether it’s secular humanist, Islamic, Hindu, or Chinese Communist.

    I think 2K theorists need to work through the implications of what they’re saying and “red team” their statements with reports from the field. If we can’t use the 10 commandments or even the last 6 and natural law arguments don’t work, we have no basis to engage with our government. If that’s the case, 2 kingdom theorists need to admit this and give the laity the appropriate guidance. As you said, there are starting to be religious tests for public office and even private employment. Maybe we should be preparing to take the church underground. The WCF says the church is more or less visible and that Christians MAY serve as magistrates. This all depends on the circumstances.

    I’d like to hear theories on what the proconsul and centurions did when they converted and still had to serve in their capacities as magistrates. Natural law arguments were probably much more persuasive back then, but did they use them or argue from Scripture? What about Calvin’s Consistory? Modern 2 Kingdom theorists would definitely oppose the idea of Calvin’s Consistory in Geneva these days.

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  13. “… there are starting to be religious tests for public office and even private employment. Maybe we should be preparing to take the church underground …”
    Isn’t this what people like Dreher have been saying for a while now? The problem is, how does one remain faithful to his calling and yet subject himself to the will of the magistrate in certain areas? If employment requires adherence and consent to various gender categories and pro-choice criteria does one sign up in agreement? IOW, live according to the state by day and according to one’s Christian convictions behind closed doors at night?
    Seems like the early Christians followed their consciences along the lines of both tables of the decalog at all times, being praised by some of the more benign emperors as model citizens and hauled off to the arena by the more wicked ones.

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  14. Isn’t this what people like Dreher have been saying for a while now? The problem is, how does one remain faithful to his calling and yet subject himself to the will of the magistrate in certain areas? If employment requires adherence and consent to various gender categories and pro-choice criteria does one sign up in agreement? IOW, live according to the state by day and according to one’s Christian convictions behind closed doors at night?

    How do the illegal immigrants do it? They work for cash off the books. Unlike them, we still have to file tax returns. The job you’re going to have in the future is the one you create for yourself. You’re not going to be able to go to GloboMegaCorp and get one. That’s good anyway for a lot of reasons. It could actually lead to a renaissance in many ways. The Millennial friend I was talking to last nigh works at Starbucks. He and his manager are Christian. A man just came out to them that he’s going under the knife to have his wedding tackle removed and try to convert to female (Starbucks will pay for this). He gave my friend his new name and list of preferred pronouns. My friend informed him with a smile that he’s going to use his old male name and pronouns. My friend has several things going for him that give him the confidence to do this: he has about 5 odd jobs of his own creation, he lives near family in a house his parents bought, he fears God. One of his businesses is a wedding video business and I think he just hangs up the phone when he’s asked to do gay weddings or he only does Christian weddings. As an aside, I wonder what would’ve happened if Jack Philips had just hung up the phone or told the gays, “We’re too busy for that. There’s another cake shop down the street that can help you.” Jesus did not answer every question the Sandhedrin asked him.

    Seems like the early Christians followed their consciences along the lines of both tables of the decalog at all times, being praised by some of the more benign emperors as model citizens and hauled off to the arena by the more wicked ones.

    And this is what Christians in the Global South do. Vishal Mangalwadi thinks governments should listen to Biblical wisdom. I need to read more of Wang Yi to see what he thinks. He has stated he wasn’t interested in reforming the government but I know he and his church members were very public with their opposition to certain government practices like abortion.

    I’m starting to think laymen may need to write a book on Christian living in the post-Christian America (however long that lasts). All of the fallout from Obergefell has, so far, fallen on the laity. I’ll withhold my opinion on the leadership of ?Bigfoot Evangelicals in this matter.

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  15. A man* just came out to them that he’s going under the knife to have his wedding tackle removed and try to convert to female (Starbucks will pay for this)

    I meant “a male coworker.”

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  16. There you go again Steve.

    I know you’re not gonna try n tell me that you don’t recognize a hyperbolic sardonicism when you see it.

    You really should ask yourself why you’re always trying to make me wrong. Your conscience may not be as dead as you try to make it appear.

    BTW, I was mildly but sincerely bummed when you unfriended me on Facebook for no apparent reason.

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  17. Greg, oh so you would actually vote for HRC before publicly burning yourself at the stake (how does one actually do that and if a terrible Greg burns himself in public would anyone come to see)?

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  18. “How do the illegal immigrants do it? ”
    Aren’t they committing a crime by working off the books. How does that square with Romans 12? Frankly, I think the bigger threat is (and has been for 50yrs) the consumerism of our culture. It permeates the church in subtle ways and renders it weak. The entertainment society we live in (bread and circuses on steroids) is an anesthesia for the soul. The challenge is not how to avoid calling Jack, Jacky or making a cake with a rainbow flag (it’s debatable whether it is even problematic for a Christian to do these things). The bigger challenge is raising our kids to embrace the faith and marry within the faith when every pressure in society is working against you and our churches are so tiny that the odds of finding a spouse at church is basically nil. I’m not sure what the answer is here, but watching my slightly older friends watch their kids walk away from the faith and seeing my oldest prepare to move out (she’s a senior in high school), I sure would like to know.

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  19. Aren’t they committing a crime by working off the books. How does that square with Romans 12?

    Sure, but no one seems to care. The only absolute authority is God, not the magistrate. Scripture commands work, so at some point you may have to obey God rather than men.

    The bigger challenge is raising our kids to embrace the faith and marry within the faith when every pressure in society is working against you and our churches are so tiny that the odds of finding a spouse at church is basically nil. I’m not sure what the answer is here, but watching my slightly older friends watch their kids walk away from the faith and seeing my oldest prepare to move out (she’s a senior in high school), I sure would like to know.

    I’ve made the same comments here. These small church denominations don’t take demographic data. I’ve seen lots of kids walk away and the dating prospects for our children are nil as you say. I’ve heard only a few ministers even bring this up. It’s treated like a papercut rather than the sucking chest wound it is. Got any ideas on how to solve the problems? CR Wiley took a good stab at why you should get married and have a family at all if you’re a man living in this society. I’ve heard no good theories on why children of faithful parents depart. I wasn’t raised in a Reformed church, so I hope this isn’t what I’m in for with my kids.

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  20. Reading through some of these threads lately is causing me to better understand what Paul may be saying in his 1st letter to the Corinthian congregation in what we call chapter 7, “… I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another….A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God…” Perhaps his advice may apply even more seriously to our future.

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  21. Wrt “The bigger challenge is raising our kids to embrace the faith and marry within the faith when every pressure in society is working against you and our churches are so tiny that the odds of finding a spouse at church is basically nil.”

    Well and good and right to desire to raise kids to embrace the faith. But, like, why is societal pressure such a big concern? If society were to make it ‘easy’ to embrace the faith, it’s all that more likely that such a faith would only lack substance, and maybe not even worth embracing. Constantine certainly made it ‘easier’ to embrace Christianity, but it’s a very much mixed bag if that was such a good thing for the spiritual vibrancy of the church.

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  22. If society were to make it ‘easy’ to embrace the faith, it’s all that more likely that such a faith would only lack substance, and maybe not even worth embracing. Constantine certainly made it ‘easier’ to embrace Christianity, but it’s a very much mixed bag if that was such a good thing for the spiritual vibrancy of the church.

    I don’t think it’s ever easy to be a Christian. 100 years ago, Machen said it was difficult to be one in his day. It’s been legal to be a Christian here since 1620. Faith has only crumbled in the last 100-150 years.

    Augustine said it was difficult to be a Christian and he lived after Constantine. There were still many societal pressures and penalties for getting baptized. Don’t forget Julian the Apostate, either.

    We should always attempt to falsify our understanding of history with counter-examples, Devil’s Advocacy, and “red teaming,” IMO.

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  23. Reading through some of these threads lately is causing me to better understand what Paul may be saying in his 1st letter to the Corinthian congregation in what we call chapter 7

    There’s also Psalm 124.

    If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
    let Israel now say—
    2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
    when people rose up against us,
    3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
    4 then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have gone over us;
    5 then over us would have gone
    the raging waters.
    6 Blessed be the Lord,
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
    7 We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
    the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!
    8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

    What you should do on your gifts, conscience, circumstances, and the Law of God. There are no easy answers.

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  24. ajc, are blasphemy laws what you have in mind?

    Darryl,
    That’s a very deep question. How do we like the blasphemy laws we have? For example, an illegal immigrant felon just got 15 years for stealing a rainbow flag from a synagogue of Satan and burning it. Hate crime legislation was used against him. This is obviously cruel and unusual punishment for blasphemy.

    Another thought-provoking case came up in the Aquila Report today. I wonder if the judge would’ve allowed blaspheming Mohammed? It’d be one thing if he said, “I strongly condemn blasphemy but since blasphemy laws are as easily used against good people as bad, I’m going to allow this (Kuyper’s argument),” but he didn’t. He made flippant comments. Brazil is also one of the most murderous countries on the planet. Maybe someone should study the correlations of different types of blasphemy with societal metrics. Metrics could be murder rate, abortion rate, divorce rate, etc. In other words, to what extent is Romans 2 true? Furthermore, since every society has blasphemy laws, they seem to be “The Common Laws of Nations” as Calvin put it. You could argue that they’re natural laws.

    I’m actually not advocating blasphemy laws, I’m just thinking this through.

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  25. Wrt “There were still many societal pressures and penalties for getting baptized.” Well, that all changed in 381 AD when Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. No pressure on Christians after that. Only mega-pressure on paganists.

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  26. @Petros – Christianity did a good job of conquering the globe after Constantine. Christianity is a communal faith (don’t neglect gathering together as is the habit of some, etc…) – we need each other. While we don’t have gulags and probably never will, our wealth and the concomitant individualism and materialism that characterize our culture do a much better job at distracting people from the faith than persecution.

    “it’s all that more likely that such a faith would only lack substance”
    Fortunately, it isn’t the strength of our faith that saves. The NT is filled with admonitions about how to organize the church that are in large part ignored by much of the church. As the church is the means by which God has chosen to propagate the faith, weakening the church by neglecting what scripture calls us to unsurprisingly leads many to fall away.

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  27. Can you clarify. Do you think the main impediment to raising kids in the faith is secular society, per your comment “when every pressure in society is working against you”. Or, is the main impediment the (presumed American) church’s “wealth and the concomitant individualism and materialism that characterize our culture”?

    Wrt “Christianity did a good job of conquering the globe after Constantine.” The Crusades certainly tried to advance that cause, and they may be one of the biggest blights in church history.

    Presumably, 2K’ers would/should prefer an earthly life in exile to one that’s tied at the hip to the magistrate?

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  28. “Can you clarify. Do you think the main impediment to raising kids in the faith is secular society, per your comment “when every pressure in society is working against you”. Or, is the main impediment the (presumed American) church’s “wealth and the concomitant individualism and materialism that characterize our culture”?”

    The “we” was referencing our culture, not the church. However, I do this the church has in large part been assimilated to her detriment.

    “Wrt “Christianity did a good job of conquering the globe after Constantine.” The Crusades certainly tried to advance that cause, and they may be one of the biggest blights in church history.”

    The crusades came several centuries after Constantine. Post Constantine and pre crusades, the church spread from the Nordic nations to China. I’m not convinced the Crusades generally deserve to be seen as a blight, though neither were they missionary efforts. Spain’s missionary activity in the west and the UK’s missionary efforts in Africa and Asia are what made Christianity a truly global faith.

    “Presumably, 2K’ers would/should prefer an earthly life in exile to one that’s tied at the hip to the magistrate?”
    Why either-or? 2krs prefer that the church oversee all Christian ministry and restrict herself to ministries prescribed to her by scripture. That doesn’t mean that I or other Christians shouldn’t have political preferences… just that the church should not prescribe them. You can be a socialist, Zrim can be a Trumpinista, Darryl can be a Reaganite, and Walt a Randian, and we can all worship together while disagreeing in politics.

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  29. @sdb, I suppose I remain unclear why you think the secularism/individualism/materialism of society-at-large is uniquely an impediment to raising kids in the faith, particularly for a 2K adherent who presumably would not advocate for Christian-transformation-of-society. It seems to me that the record of church history is that the church thrives best when it’s on the margins of society and when it’s not the dominant force.

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  30. “It seems to me that the record of church history is that the church thrives best when it’s on the margins of society and when it’s not the dominant force.”
    I’ve seen that claim elsewhere, but I’m not clear on what the evidence for that is.

    I don’t know that the individualism/materialism of society at large is “uniquely” an impediment for raising kids in the faith (and I apologize if I was unclear and indicated otherwise). But I do think that it is less ideal than other alternatives. A society that is conducive to communal activities (even if the society is not particularly Christian) is likely to create less of a headwind against passing on the faith than the one we have now. Institutions of all sorts (Christian and otherwise) are struggling to maintain adherents – from the Elks to bowling leagues. Those cultural headwinds affect the church as well.

    Reading between the lines, I gather that you think that if we don’t think that the church should transform society, then we are more or less agnostic on what’s good for society (and by extension the church). Perhaps an analogy would help — there are better and worse ways to design plumbing systems even if there is no Christian way to do it. A society that implements bad plumbing systems will affect the plumbing in the church too. Pointing out that the bad plumbing system is bad for the church and wondering if there is a way to ameliorate this problem for our churches is not in conflict with a 2k way of viewing things. Similarly, I think the hyper individualism and materialism that characterizes our society is bad for building community. This affects the church, and I wonder how to combat this given the bad effect it has on handing down our faith to our children.

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  31. “It seems to me that the record of church history is that the church thrives best when it’s on the margins of society and when it’s not the dominant force.”

    Did the church not thrive during the Reformation when it was the fulcrum of historical events?

    particularly for a 2K adherent who presumably would not advocate for Christian-transformation-of-society

    The West was heavily influenced by Christianity resulting in a culture and prosperity evident to everyone who is trying to move here from the Third World. Was this a bad thing?

    Maybe some 2Kers want to return to the situation of first century but they haven’t explained why this is desirable or profitable other than that the church will somehow thrive. The church did not thrive during the first and second centuries. It held on and the church still had a lot of problems. The explosive growth wasn’t until it was legalized. The Huguenot church did not thrive under Catholic/Guise/Royal persecution – it was scattered and eventually disappeared after the repeal of the Edict of Nantes. The refugee Huguenots fled to South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, England, North and South America. In South America, a bunch of them were killed by the Portuguese in Brazil.

    To add another counter-example, has the church not thrived in North America where it has been legal to worship since 1620? The last 100 years have been a steep decline, but not necessarily because we’ve lacked persecution.

    I say you should be careful what you wish for.

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  32. @sdb and Walt, while I’m personally persuaded that the church has historically (and even in 2020 today) been considerably more (pietist alert) spiritually vibrant when it’s been on the margins of society, set that debate about history aside for a moment. I suppose what I’m probing is your seeming inconsistency. In the abstract, OL’ers espouse strict 2K views and are very critical of those in the U.S. who advocate for and defend Judeo-Christian values in the public square and political sphere. But, when the rubber meets the road in your life of raising kids (or seeing your tiny Reformed churches not grow), you bemoan that secular society doesn’t encourage/reinforce values that you deem helpful.

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  33. I suppose what I’m probing is your seeming inconsistency. In the abstract, OL’ers espouse strict 2K views and are very critical of those in the U.S. who advocate for and defend Judeo-Christian values in the public square and political sphere. But, when the rubber meets the road in your life of raising kids (or seeing your tiny Reformed churches not grow), you bemoan that secular society doesn’t encourage/reinforce values that you deem helpful.

    I am definitely not in this camp. I definitely agree that modern 2Kers have several inconsistencies. Up the thread, I was merely trying to point out that modern 2Kers should be laying their cards on the table rather than be vague and leave everything up to the laity to figure out.

    Personally, I think we should use the Bible in the public square. If natural law is just the publication of God’s moral law in Creation, we can more easily get the same moral law from the Bible. I don’t think there’s any way around a Christian culture if CHristians keep outbreeding atheists and liberals (just as we outbred pagans in Rome) and the idea of pluralism was workable with state’s rights and strong beliefs in the Bill of Rights but mostly required a Protestant Christian culture.

    I generally agree with the other things sdb said about consumerism and communal life.

    Generally, I don’t think OLers agree on much haha.

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  34. “In the abstract, OL’ers espouse strict 2K views and are very critical of those in the U.S. who advocate for and defend Judeo-Christian values in the public square and political sphere.”
    I think you miss the point of 2K. 2K has nothing to say about what you as a citizen choose to advocate for in the public sphere. Perhaps you want to repudiate the 1st amendment and advocate the“Judeo-Christian” value against the legality of using the Lord’s name in vain. That’s fine you should be free to do so. But the church should not discipline members who disagree with you and you shouldn’t claim to be speaking on behalf of the church. Simply put, the Bible doesn’t tell us whether the state should prohibit blasphemy.

    “But, when the rubber meets the road in your life of raising kids (or seeing your tiny Reformed churches not grow), you bemoan that secular society doesn’t encourage/reinforce values that you deem helpful.”
    I don’t see how having the church bind the conscience of her congregants on political matters would help here. The republican-libertarian fusionism advocated by the movers and shakers on the religious right (e.g. Kemp) have contributed to this mess.

    It is curious to me to see you respond to a cultural concern with the response that we should transform society. I don’t see that as a realistic option even if I thought this was a role for the church. Given where we are (and let’s not pretend that 2K has really had any significant influence in the 20th century), what should believers do? It seems your answer is to double down on the transformationalism that has utterly failed. I’m looking for other answers.

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  35. Walt et al,

    I was merely trying to point out that modern 2Kers should be laying their cards on the table rather than be vague and leave everything up to the laity to figure out.

    I find this frustrating as well. Granted, 2K must leave a lot to the laity, which in some ways is a plus. However, it seems hard to justify it never being appropriate to discipline a Christian for a particular political stance.

    Can a Christian, without committing grievous sin, actually be a communist? The Bible, after all, assumes the right to own personal property and prohibits theft.

    Can a Christian politician, without committing sin, advocate for abortion on demand with absolutely no restrictions? the Bible, after all, prohibits murder.

    Can a Christian, without committing sin, vote for a politician who very clearly is stoking class envy and covetousness in his voting block? The Bible prohibits coveting.

    Can a Christian, without committing sin, vote for a politician who wants to reinstitute chattel slavery? The Bible prohibits man stealing.

    I’m not sure transformationalism is right, but to say a Christian should never, ever be disciplined for a political stance seems, well, intuitively wrong. Where is the line drawn?

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  36. @Robert & Walt

    My understanding (limited as it is) is that 2K is the principle that the church’s proper authority only extends as far as scripture provides it. So on matters where scripture is silent, the church must also be silent. On those matters the laity is left to figure things out in the secular realm. How that principle is applied can be tough. We all agree that the church should not tell us what we can and cannot eat, how to best design roads, or what fraction of our GDP should go towards defense spending. We also agree that the church should speak out against neglect of widows and orphans, abortion, and covetousness. Then there is the gray area that addresses what the state should do. Does the Bible require that believers not just care for orphans and widow, but also work to compel the state to care for orphans and widows? If you can show that scripture requires Christians to find a political solution to the problem of neglect of orphans and widows, then the 2K’er would have to conclude that the church should speak on this matter.

    What I have not seen is a compelling case that scripture teaches that Christians are under obligation to compel the state to address the evil of abortion (for example). If a Christian votes for a politician who supports no restrictions on abortion because she thinks abortion is not wrong, that is a problem and the church should speak against that (and discipline that member). But if a believer votes for a politician who supports no restrictions on abortion because she believes (perhaps mistakenly) that outlawing abortion will not reduce the incidence of abortion, force it underground, and thus make it harder for pro-lifers to make a case against abortion to mothers considering it, then I don’t believe she is sinning and the church has nothing to say on the matter. That doesn’t mean that in one’s secular capacity the 2Ker shouldn’t try to convince the fellow believer that her view is mistaken. It just isn’t an ecclesiastical question.

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  37. Zrim says: “Greg, oh so you would actually vote for HRC before publicly burning yourself at the stake (how does one actually do that and if a terrible Greg burns himself in public would anyone come to see)?”
    =====================================
    Why ya gotta be like this man? That’s not the part of my comment you were addressing. It’s right up there. Everybody can see that.

    Also, I was wrong. You didn’t actually unfriend me. I do have the distinct recollection of a notification reporting that your account was no longer in my friends list. I have a Firefox extension that tells me these things. Maybe you temporarily deactivated your account or something. In any case, I felt I should mention that.

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  38. @sdb, well actually, OL 2K’ers brutally critique Christians who advocate for certain policies in the public square and calls them “transformationalists”. Maybe you’re saying you’re an exception to that general rule, I’m not sure. The 2K around OL is hardly live-and-let-live in that way. OL is far more “Christians are duty-bound to keep out of the affairs of the earthly kingdom and focus on their heavenly calling.”

    But to be clear, I’m not advocating for transformationalism. I actually have a fair bit of sympathies with 2K. In fact, 2K is just one (of many) reasons why I’ve far less concern than you do about secular society’s influence on whether kids remain in the faith, or not.

    You (rightly) note that God designed humanity to live in community, and that all the forces of society nowadays encourage individualism/materialism/isolationism. Ok. So, shouldn’t this be a magnificent opportunity for the church to spread the gospel, by being living exemplars of being a faithful faith community, that would be so winsome to the secular/lonely/depressed world that they’d wonder why Christians were living such fulfilled lives and therein seek Christ?

    If kids aren’t growing up in the faith (or are leaving it altogether in adulthood), I wouldn’t lay the blame at the feet of secular society. Judgment begins with the household of God.

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  39. SDB,

    Do you believe the state is in any way accountable to God and has a specific mission given to it by God? If so, what is it?

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  40. On those matters the laity is left to figure things out in the secular realm. How that principle is applied can be tough. We all agree that the church should not tell us what we can and cannot eat, how to best design roads, or what fraction of our GDP should go towards defense spending.

    Certain things are far less clear to the laity. AFAIK the first century church DID make rules such as “Stay out of bathhouses.” Paul DID write about what you should eat under certain circumstances. I think the first century church also made rules on which government jobs you could have or whether you had to renounce one if you converted. For a modern example, you cannot be a Christian and a member of the Communist party since Communism is built on atheism. You cannot, as a Christian political leader, support abortion. We just saw this down in Texas where a PCA ruling elder who ran for governor was asked to step down because of his pro-choice stance. If we’re in a first century redux, perhaps it’s time for more guidance. Church leaders are absolutely supposed to lead the laity. Not everything is adiaphora.

    Obviously, you and I will disagree completely on this.

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  41. Can a Christian, without committing grievous sin, actually be a communist? The Bible, after all, assumes the right to own personal property and prohibits theft.
    Can a Christian politician, without committing sin, advocate for abortion on demand with absolutely no restrictions? the Bible, after all, prohibits murder.
    Can a Christian, without committing sin, vote for a politician who very clearly is stoking class envy and covetousness in his voting block? The Bible prohibits coveting.
    Can a Christian, without committing sin, vote for a politician who wants to reinstitute chattel slavery? The Bible prohibits man stealing.
    I’m not sure transformationalism is right, but to say a Christian should never, ever be disciplined for a political stance seems, well, intuitively wrong. Where is the line drawn?

    Robert,

    I totally agree. Johannes Vos gets into a lot of these issues in his commentary on WLC. I think Christian ethics extend further than many would like to admit

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  42. My understanding (limited as it is) is that 2K is the principle that the church’s proper authority only extends as far as scripture provides it. So on matters where scripture is silent, the church must also be silent. On those matters the laity is left to figure things out in the secular realm. How that principle is applied can be tough.

    sdb,
    One more thought. Communal life generally requires communal standards and rules. Think of all the rules the Pilgrims had at Plymouth in 1620, for example. I think they’d laugh at our modern conception of 2K. For a modern example of communal life, think of the Amish or the navy. On my ship, we had a ton of rules: navy regs, CO’s standing orders, tons of publications and training standards we had to conform to, etc. It was definitely communal.

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  43. There is nobody who represents my interests. I can’t even watch the news anymore. I can’t play this game. The GOP just nominated a gay judge who is married to another man with twin daughters. Trump is using Christians as the GOP has for a while. I’m too woke. I can’t even support our military. Their lives are worth more than mercenaries for hire. I’m out…
    I prefer the spirit and sentiment of a true common good, not fake news and false reality.

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  44. “ I think Christian ethics extend further than many would like to admit…”

    Of course it does. Brother Hart. You are a good man. Seem like a great guy. But the cognitive dissonance lies in those who speak as if we can check ourselves. I think if our conscience be true it would be preferable to check out. It’s getting pretty hard to stomach.

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  45. There is nobody who represents my interests. I can’t even watch the news anymore. I can’t play this game. The GOP just nominated a gay judge who is married to another man with twin daughters. Trump is using Christians as the GOP has for a while. I’m too woke. I can’t even support our military. Their lives are worth more than mercenaries for hire. I’m out…

    You sound pretty black-pilled. I’m getting there. T. David Gordon is there .

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  46. There is nobody who represents my interests. I can’t even watch the news anymore. I can’t play this game. The GOP just nominated a gay judge who is married to another man with twin daughters. Trump is using Christians as the GOP has for a while. I’m too woke. I can’t even support our military. Their lives are worth more than mercenaries for hire. I’m out…

    YOu sound pretty black-pilled. I’m almost there. T. David Gordon is there too:
    tdgordon.net/theology/why-i-do-not-vote.doc

    I found the best, concise exegesis and confessional explanation of the role of the magistrate and our obedience to him on his site also. sdb, I think you’d like it.
    tdgordon.net/theology/r13.doc

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  47. Pete, “Christians are duty-bound to keep out of the affairs of the earthly kingdom and focus on their heavenly calling.”

    Wrong. Christians are bound to be careful if they enter the public square and issue Christian imperatives. It’s a free country. They can do that. But it’s not good to abuse Christianity for political ends.

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  48. SDB,

    My understanding (limited as it is) is that 2K is the principle that the church’s proper authority only extends as far as scripture provides it. So on matters where scripture is silent, the church must also be silent. On those matters the laity is left to figure things out in the secular realm. How that principle is applied can be tough.

    I’m not sure that definition is adequate to differentiate the 2K view from any other political approach, including theonomy. All Magisterial Protestants agree that the church must be silent where Scripture is silent, do they not? It’s just that the theonomists, for example, believe that Scripture is not silent on things that a 2Ker believes that it is silent on.

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  49. @dgh, wrt “Christians are bound to be careful if they enter the public square”. Yes indeed, and most are careful to look both ways before crossing the street, too. Wrt “it’s not good to abuse Christianity for political ends”. I’m sure there’s 100% agreement on that lofty but ill-defined statement. The more salient questions are the ones that Robert and Walt are asking – would you weigh in how your 2K worldview would answer them?

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  50. @Robert
    That could be, but I’m not so sure. They certainly are not unanimous in adopting a regulative principle applied to worship. I see 2K as parallel – can we worship in all the ways scripture does not explicitly forbid or should our worship be restricted to what scripture prescribes? Similarly, does the authority of the church extend as far as scripture does not forbid or does the authority of the church only extend as far as scripture prescribes? If the church is allowed to do anything that scripture doesn’t forbid, then it is fine for the church to sponsor karate classes in an attempt to Christianize the martial arts. If the church is restricted to doing what scripture prescribes (word and sacrament), then she shouldn’t. That doesn’t mean that a believer shouldn’t be allowed to sponsor karate classes in an evangelistic endeavor, but he should be free to sponsor karate classes independent of evangelistic concerns.

    I think the burning question is whether scripture *requires* believers to take a particular political stance. I think the answer to that is no, but I can imagine that one could be 2K and disagree with that. I just haven’t come across a compelling argument from scripture that requires it.

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  51. @sdb, well actually, OL 2K’ers brutally critique Christians who advocate for certain policies in the public square and calls them “transformationalists”.

    That isn’t my read of Darryl’s comments. The critique as I see it is when Christians advocate for certain policies in the public square in the name of the church. In other words, the problem is not that a Christian opposes the legality of abortion. The problem is when someone argues that the Christian political policy regarding abortion is to forbid it. The implication is that it is sinful to disagree.

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  52. “it’s not good to abuse Christianity for political ends”. I dont think anyone here is advocating that. We can argue the foundations of law and order. Obviously if the commandments need to be thrown out perversion of justice and atrocities permitted are to become increasingly commonplace. If you are arguing for the golden rule, how is that working out? Im fine dealing with reality, but dont forget that the church is being perverted as much by the far leftist Democrats as the fairly left GOP and trump dominionists. When are you going to start speaking to us directly. Who here is seeking to abuse Christianity for political ends? That’s building a narrative to escape the real problem….

    “I’m sure there’s 100% agreement on that lofty but ill-defined statement. The more salient questions are the ones that Robert and Walt are asking – would you weigh in how your 2K worldview would answer them?” Yeah, how is true doctrine and faithful living not going to be compromised from the outside? We agree that these issues are complicated, but I dont see anyone sounding the alarm in any sincere or thoughtful way. I see plenty of CRT and Revoice-type of acquiesce occurring (as well as the promotion of Trump as secular savior) but not much proposed to keep us insulated.

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  53. sdb,

    What do you think of the OPC’s statement on abortion?

    Adopted by the thirty-ninth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1972)

    Believing that unborn children are living creatures in the image of God, given by God as a blessing to their parents, we therefore affirm that voluntary abortion, except possibly to save the physical life of the mother, is in violation of the Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13). We state the following reasons:

    The Bible treats human personhood as beginning at conception (Psalm 139:13-16; 51:5; Jeremiah 1:4,5; Luke 1:14-44; 1:29-38; Exodus 21:22-25).
    The Bible considers the human person to be a complete person (Genesis 2:7; Numbers 23:10; Deuteronomy 6:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). This unity is severed only by death and then only temporarily until the natural, intended union is restored at the resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
    The Bible forbids murder because man is created in the image of God (Genesis 9:5, 6). The Bible further says that succeeding generations of men are conceived in the image of God (Genesis 5:1-3).
    We call upon society and the church to show compassion toward unwed mothers and mothers of unwanted children. To this end, not only sympathetic counsel, but also concrete help should be extended (1 John 3:16-18; James 2:14-17).

    But we also call upon our society to return to the law of God, recognizing the Word of God that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

    Adopted by the 39th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Minutes, May 15-20, 1972, pp. 17-18, 149).

    As a statement of the OPC church, it’s binding on the members of the OPC.

    Personally, if I were an OPC member, I’d be glad for their statement on women in combat should there be a draft. The Left’s chaos has spread to the military and I do not want my boys serving in it. They are not fodder. I would help them submit for conscientious objector status based on the OPC’s statement. All NAPARC churches should adopt it.

    I guess my point is that the church should be careful about wading into public matters but it’s not useless, can be good, and its decisions are binding on members since the church is the visible, communal body of Christ governed by visible officers.

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  54. “it’s not good to abuse Christianity for political ends”. I dont think anyone here is advocating that. We can argue the foundations of law and order. Obviously if the commandments need to be thrown out perversion of justice and atrocities permitted are to become increasingly commonplace. If you are arguing for the golden rule, how is that working out? Im fine dealing with reality, but dont forget that the church is being perverted as much by the far leftist Democrats as the fairly left GOP and trump dominionists. When are you going to start speaking to us directly. Who here is seeking to abuse Christianity for political ends? That’s building a narrative to escape the real problem….

    This is really it. There has been a collapse in public morality, chaos is spreading, and magistrates are rewarding evil and punishing good. Good is defined as T. David Gordon defines it above. Some people are arguing that the Bible is a good source of morality. T. David Gordon doesn’t rule this out but reminds us that Paul never thought it was necessary. I think I agree with that, but that means the death of the Western system we’re now living in. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Still, there has to be some form of public morality that the magistrate enforces or no one will be able to go about their lives. The Left has chosen to make everything a civil rights battle and a public morality play rather than enforce public morality.

    Many of us are Bubble People or work in an Ivory Tower. Outside, things are getting nastier. Things have happened to me and family members that wouldn’t have happened a short time ago. Other things are being threatened by magistrates in total opposition to what is “good.” Chaos is spreading.

    As to your other point, the collapse of the PCA is coming from Left wing theocrats (SJWs, etc), not from the Right.

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  55. ” The critique as I see it is when Christians advocate for certain policies in the public square in the name of the church. In other words, the problem is not that a Christian opposes the legality of abortion. The problem is when someone argues that the Christian political policy regarding abortion is to forbid it. The implication is that it is sinful to disagree.”

    So, hypothetically, a Christian civil servant arises and makes a positive case to outlaw abortion based on science, human right to life but with the main emphasis the word of truth. Not opinion or religion but the living word in which all of reality and creation is based….. Is that dude a fundi whack job? Not sure how Christian virtue is the key to political gain? Or how attempts to compromise the church would be the goal in a world where humanism has greatly compromised the church. Of course politics has compromised the church, but thats becasue the church and the politics were already compromised.

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  56. @sdb, wrt “The critique as I see it is when Christians advocate for certain policies in the public square in the name of the church.”

    Q1: What does “in the name of the church mean”? Can you give an example of when that’s even been publicly done in the past year and by whom?

    Q2. Should there also be critique if Christians advocate for certain policies in the public square in the name of their own personal faith in Christ?

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  57. @sdb.
    For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Mt 14:3,4.

    Presumably, 2K would not argue that John the Baptist was misguided, is that right?

    So, here you have a prophet of God, with close familial ties to Jesus and close ministry ties to Jesus. Would it be unreasonable if outsiders suspected John was doing it “in the name of Jesus”? When John said to the magistrate “it is not lawful….”, in whose name, or under what auspices, did he say that? Unlawful according to what or whom? Was John, as joe-citizen of the empire, really just expressing his mere personal 2K opinion? Yikes, the issue John addressed was one of private (im)morality of unbelievers, not public policy, and which some might argue seems far less consequential than today’s public policy towards abortion.

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  58. In the specific case of JtB, 2k would argue that Israel was a theocracy. John is the last OT prophet performing the usual role of speaking to the king of God’s people.

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  59. Q1: What does “in the name of the church mean”? Can you give an example of when that’s even been publicly done in the past year and by whom?

    When a church makes a statement that we should have policy X. Here is an example.

    RESOLVED, That [the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 12–13, 2018] desire to see immigration reform include an emphasis on securing our borders and providing a pathway to legal status with appropriate restitutionary measures, maintaining the priority of family unity, resulting in an efficient immigration system that honors the value and dignity of those seeking a better life for themselves and their families…

    It’s about six months outside of the window you requested, but I think this is a pretty good example.

    Q2. Should there also be critique if Christians advocate for certain policies in the public square in the name of their own personal faith in Christ?

    If you claim, “based on my faith in Christ, we should pass comprehensive immigration reform” that would be a problem in my mind. There is one faith (Eph 4). So does our faith require support comprehensive immigration reform or not? If it does, then the implication is that those of us who support open borders and those others of us who deportation of all who entered illegally are sinning. If it can’t be shown by scripture that this is the case, then our faith does not entail that we must support comprehensive immigration reform. We shouldn’t lie and say otherwise in attempt to compel others to sign on to our agenda. That being said, if you want to campaign for comprehensive immigration reform because you think it is the prudential thing to do, then go for it. Being a Christian shouldn’t keep you from engaging in the political process.

    Regarding John the Baptist, I echo JC’s observation.

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  60. My comment was swallowed from my link. Here is a linkless version.

    Q1: What does “in the name of the church mean”? Can you give an example of when that’s even been publicly done in the past year and by whom?

    Here is an example of advocating a political policy in the name of the church:

    RESOLVED, That [the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 12–13, 2018] desire to see immigration reform include an emphasis on securing our borders and providing a pathway to legal status with appropriate restitutionary measures, maintaining the priority of family unity, resulting in an efficient immigration system that honors the value and dignity of those seeking a better life for themselves and their families

    I presume this is close enough to within the past year to meet your request.

    Q2. Should there also be critique if Christians advocate for certain policies in the public square in the name of their own personal faith in Christ?

    I think it would be a problem to say that according to my faith we should pass comprehensive immigration reform. We have one faith (Eph 4:5). If our faith compels us to pass comprehensive immigration reform, then those of us who support open borders and those of us who support deportation of all those unlawfully present are sinning. For that to be the case, scripture needs to speak to the matter. If it doesn’t, then our faith does not compel us to pass immigration reform.

    Re John the Baptist, I echo Jeff’s observation.

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  61. @JC and sdb, ok, but that sure seems like a novel approach to say Israel was a theocracy in the days of JTB. That would be huge news not only to the Romans, but also to the Jews. Do you view Israel to be a theocracy today? If not, when exactly did Israel cease to be a theocracy?

    Ok, so your 2K view is that you can neither advocate for public policy a) in the name of the church, nor b) in the name of your own personal faith. Is it fair to assume that you would have been hugely upset at William Wilberforce?

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  62. Petros said,

    That sure seems like a novel approach to say Israel was a theocracy in the days of JTB. That would be huge news not only to the Romans, but also to the Jews.

    I have to agree. The Herods weren’t legitimate kings and didn’t have much power anyway. Herod’s rule is much more akin to the reign of a secular ruler, with the Jews living as a pilgrim people awaiting the coming of the Messiah to set all things right. Sure the Herods professed some kind of nominal adherence to the law of Moses, but they were duty bound not to violate the secular law of the Romans, effectively making the secular state supreme. Seems like JTB’s confrontation of Herod works more against certain 2K understandings than with it.

    Maybe it would be better on 2K to say that JTB wasn’t speaking for the church but only for Himself? The difference with our setting being that He clearly had divine approval in a way that no individual today could legitimately claim. Even then, I think it’s pretty weak.

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  63. SDB,

    That could be, but I’m not so sure. They certainly are not unanimous in adopting a regulative principle applied to worship. I see 2K as parallel – can we worship in all the ways scripture does not explicitly forbid or should our worship be restricted to what scripture prescribes? Similarly, does the authority of the church extend as far as scripture does not forbid or does the authority of the church only extend as far as scripture prescribes?

    I’m not sure how relevant this is. Everyone who denies the regulative principle are going to say they do so because Scripture does not prescribe it. If it did, they would follow it.

    Even in that SBC resolution given, the assumption is that Scripture provides prescriptions to the the secular state that should be followed in developing immigration policy, and that where Scripture speaks, the church is authorized to speak.

    I’m hard pressed to think of any Protestant who believes the church can bind the conscience where Scripture is silent. The difference seems to be over how much each tradition believes Scripture continues to prescribe certain things. Theonomists are theonomists because they believe Scripture’s word to ancient Israel is equally the word to all states. They’re not doing their thing because they think Scripture is silent and therefore that the church can bind the conscience wherever Scripture is silent.

    IOW, The difference between 2K and Theonomy, as another “extreme” is that 2Kers thinks that Scripture speaks authoritatively to the secular state much less than the theonomists believe. And there’s a whole spectrum in between.

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  64. That is, they deny the regulative principle because they believe Scripture prescribes that we can do whatever we want in worship wherever Scripture is silent.

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  65. “If not, when exactly did Israel cease to be a theocracy?”
    Some time between the temple veil being rent and Pentecost. The mosaic covenant was supplanted by the new covenant. In the days of JtB, the mosaic covenant (including the civil law) still applied.

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  66. ” I’m not sure how relevant this is. Everyone who denies the regulative principle are going to say they do so because Scripture does not prescribe it. If it did, they would follow it.”
    Fair enough. Now apply that to politics instead of worship. Does the church have the freedom to do anything not forbidden in scripture or is it constrained to only do what is prescribed in scripture. 2K would say the later, and base that (in part) on the freedom we have in Christ.

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  67. ok, but that sure seems like a novel approach to say Israel was a theocracy in the days of JTB. That would be huge news not only to the Romans, but also to the Jews. Do you view Israel to be a theocracy today? If not, when exactly did Israel cease to be a theocracy?

    Maybe you are all right – he was the final OT prophet and he was responding to Herod as such but he was also a prophet in a transitional phase where he was just telling a secular ruler what he thought he should hear and was a bit confused by the whole situatoin. Notice JTB got confused as to who Jesus actually was. When he was imprisoned, he sent his disciples to Jesus asking him, “Are you the one, or should we expect another?” (Luke 7:20). This is because he thought the arrival of the Messiah and the eschaton were the same event, and no one was more deserving of final judgment than Herod.

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  68. Many could argue that appeals to natural law is no longer binding in todays cultural/political spheres. That theres too much atheism and faux Christianity to have a compelling impact and influence in mainstream society. I don’t see how attempts to “affirm a robust doctrine of natural law as part of our system of doctrine” will have much of an impact. I think believers already buy into such concepts. Our inability to apply them is due to the current state of the world and its adversity to even the truths of natural law grounded in God’s creation. Despite all that, I think we should stand our ground and make our case in the public and political spheres and if we have the ear of a political official or God forbid enter that crazy realm, we allow our knowledge of Gods truth and our reality lead our way.

    That being said, I think Hart would even break from VanDrunen, possibly. Maybe our cynicism and bit of forgetfulness about the potency of Gods living word is getting the best of it. We can still seek opening to shed some light on the nature of things… See: Natural Law in Reformed Theology: Historical Reflections and Biblical Suggestions
    by David VanDrunen https://opc.org/os.html?article_id=301&issue_id=74

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  69. @robert

    “Sojourn ran the 930 art center, a diverse, artistic place from wood carving to videography to skateboarding. This culture around art, music and literature helped the network realize the ultimate goal is transforming communities and lives.“

    If one thinks that the church can do anything not forbidden in scripture, why not sponsor wood carving, videography, and skateboarding? On the other hand, if the church may only do what scripture prescribes, then presumably wood carving and skateboarding are out.

    Is the “ultimate goal” of the church transforming society and lives? What is the scriptural basis for a goal for the church to transform society (never mind ultimate goal).

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  70. “Is it fair to assume that you would have been hugely upset at William Wilberforce?“
    1. I don’t get hugely upset about much of anything.
    2. I think Wilberforce’s opposition to the emancipation of Catholics, opposition to women abolitionists, and opposition to worker rights were unfortunate. As he claimed to hold these views on the basis of his faith was also regrettable.
    3. What makes one an OL’er? Are there a minimum number of comments one must reach to join the club?

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  71. SDB,

    If one thinks that the church can do anything not forbidden in scripture, why not sponsor wood carving, videography, and skateboarding? On the other hand, if the church may only do what scripture prescribes, then presumably wood carving and skateboarding are out.

    It’s a matter of wisdom. The church is tasked primarily (exclusively?) with the work of discipleship. So if it wants to sponsor a skateboarding club, for example, as a means of discipling skateboarders, what’s the issue? Seems like skateboarding while memorizing the Shorter Catechism wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    Now practically speaking, this can devolve into a lot of silliness. Church art walks anyone? But there’s a lot of things I think the church can do that might not fit neatly into either the regulative or normative principle. There’s a large Presbyterian Church in town that sponsors an after school tutoring program to help the kids at a local public middle school in a disadvantaged area. As part of the program, the gospel can be shared, kids get to see the life of the church, albeit from a distance; tutors build relationships with students that can lead to discipleship. I don’t see any problem with this.

    I agree that the church’s job is not to transform culture or “renew the city.” Casting the church’s mission in such terms is just silly and can draw the church’s eyes away from its true mission. But there’s a difference between that and a bunch of skateboarders at the local PCA or OPC Church who want to reach out to their neighbors and get the elders’ permission to start a Bible study for skateboarders at the church.

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  72. “Now practically speaking, this can devolve into a lot of silliness. Church art walks anyone?“

    Can you read Playboy just for the articles? Sure it is possible, but practically speaking this devolves into lust.

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  73. SDB,

    Is the church violating her mission if it sponsors a ministry to skateboarders to make disciples of people who belong to that subculture?

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  74. The devil is in the details. Evangelism is part of the mission of the church, and it is proper to make that evangelism culturally relevant (e.g., Paul in Athens). But as you said, how one translates the gospel message to different cultures requires wisdom…it is very easy to make the gospel appear trite or ridiculous in an effort to be relevant (kind of like middle aged dads wearing shorts and using their kid’s slang).

    I didn’t get the impression that the arts center mentioned above was so concerned with evangelism as it was transforming the activities.

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  75. A few observations regarding the American revisions of Chapter 23 of the WCF Of the Civil Magistrate

    I would just argue that there are many ‘Christian’ churches/denominations that are so in name only, but in reality have nothing to do with Jesus Christ, making the portion, “to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians,” appear quite the fallacy. There is nothing common or Christian about many of the apostate denominations of our time. So must this again be revised? Words and meanings matter…

    It is the humanist, Unitarian churches of the day that were already apostate and have promoted a low view of Churches that seek to maintain biblical faithfulness. (Contrast the religious vs. the enlightened a.k.a. the Unitarian Jefferson)…

    The Calvinist Roots of American Social Order
    https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/04/19116/

    Constitutional Calvinist
    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/constitutional-calvinist/

    James Madison Understood Religious Freedom Better than Jefferson Did
    https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/05/james-madison-understood-religious-freedom-better-than-jefferson-did/

    Calvin and Madison on Men, Angels and Government
    https://harpers.org/blog/2009/11/calvin-and-madison-on-men-angels-and-government/

    How Christian Were the Founders? The Case of Madison and Jefferson
    https://www.faithandfreedom.com/how-christian-were-the-founders-the-case-of-madison-and-jefferson/

    WHAT IS STILL AMERICAN IN THE THOUGHT OF THOMAS JEFFERSON?
    https://isi.org/modern-age/what-is-still-american-in-the-thought-of-thomas-jefferson/

    “Jefferson preferred “Primitive” Christianity, in which Jesus was not God, there was no Trinity, and the church did not exercise any civil or social power. One Christian group in the United States appeared to him especially committed to each of those hated dogmas: Calvinists.” https://mereorthodoxy.com/john-calvin-thomas-jefferson/

    3. (Completely rewritten) Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest,* in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

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  76. I’m finally getting into Calvin’s natural law theory in Tuininga’s book. If I’m reading it correctly, Calvin believed that natural law was mostly based on conscience or the Law written on the human heart. He was, on one hand, amazed by human accomplishments in the liberal and mechanical arts in pagan societies. On the other hand, he was pretty negative about our ability to understand natural law from conscience since our foolish hearts are darkened.

    To me, the application is that the Bill of Rights and Constitution were a fuller expression of natural law produced by a nominally-CHristian society in a post-Westphalian context. This is why you don’t see a Bill of Rights outside the Anglosphere.

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