One Thing She Overlooked

11. Neo-Calvinists are slimey.

If Corrie Mitchell had to account for Nelson Kloosterman in her brief for Calvinism’s better, kinder, gentler side, what would she say? Of if she read Dr. K’s latest post, would she continue to say this about Calvinism?

Often, Calvinists are accused of being cocky, arrogant, abrasive — usually toward those who don’t share the Reformed theology they believe to be exclusively accurate. The danger comes in elevating the theology, the doctrine above Christ. In the end, Reformed theology doesn’t perfectly answer or satisfy every question we have, for God is bigger and beyond any system or framework that we contrive.

I like the way pastor Art Azurdia reorients us to Jesus by saying, “The evidence of God’s mercy in your life isn’t determined by how much theology you know, by how many books you read, but by your active goodness to people in misery and in need.”

The difficulty for Ms. Mitchell is that she may engage in a bit of the shell-game in which Dr. K excels — accent the positive, ignore the negative. Another name for it is cherry picking, and Dr. K is particularly adept at making his opponents look bad and scaring his readers about his opponents. I know first hand since his series on 2k for Canadian Calvinists hammered away at attempting to connect my own views about Christian involvement in politics to Misty Irons thoughts’ about gays. It took Dr. K almost 5 years to recognize that he might have erred and to apologize (in the banter at his blog somewhere, I’m not going to search now).

Now Dr. K tries to make Brian Lee look like a man who doesn’t give a large rodent’s behind for Chinese Christians (even though Dr. K comes across as not particularly caring for a minister in his former communion). When Lee writes:

. . . neither the Church nor her preachers can say unambiguously that such laws must be enacted. She lacks the authority, and the wisdom, to do so. Perhaps such a law will backfire; perhaps it will lead to more abortions, to more deadly abortions. Perhaps it is politically unwise, though being morally just. If she bases her actions on what God’s word teaches, the church must remain agnostic on such questions.

he really means, according to Dr. K:

There you have it: Chinese Pastor Wang is detained on the streets of Chengdu, along with his parishioners, for opposing China’s one-child abortion policy, while URC Pastor Lee blogs from his desk at Starbucks in Washington, DC, that such pastors lack the wisdom to preach unambiguously that such forced abortions must stop.

I’m guessing that Pastor Wang didn’t get the Washington, DC, URC memo: Sit down and be quiet, Pastor! As a result, he’s in clear and obvious violation of the URC pastor’s virulent policy of religious disengagement.

(As if Dr. K blogging from his bunker in Illinois is showing the courage of Pastor Wang. I guess Pastor Lee didn’t receive Dr. K’s memo about where to blog.)

The thing is, Dr. K cherry picks in both directions. He selectively uses Pastor Wang to show up Pastor Lee (what if Brian were an Asian-American? Would Dr. K write as he did?). And he selectively uses Pastor Wang to prove the transformational effects of Christianity:

Some Chinese also discern in Christianity the roots of Western strength. They see it as the force behind the development of social justice, civil society and rule of law, all things they hope to see in China. Many new NGOs are run by Christians or Buddhists. There are growing numbers of Christian doctors and academics. More than 2,000 Christian schools are also dotted around China, many of them small and all, as yet, illegal.

One civil-rights activist says that, of the 50 most-senior civil-rights lawyers in China, probably half are Christians. Some of them have set up the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians. Groups of well-paid urban Christian lawyers join together to defend Christians—and others—in court. Missionaries have begun to go out from China to the developing world.

So why exactly would he credit Christianity with civil rights efforts if half the civil rights advocates in China are not Christian? Does he ever consider that maybe the diagram here is not a Venn arrangement but a circle (Christians) within a larger circle (civil rights advocates) — let’s call it a Subset Diagram? That is, could it be that civil rights is a product as much of the Enlightenment that Christians eventually embraced as it is somehow an outgrowth of Christian faith? It sure would be possible to find plenty of liberal Christians who support civil rights and don’t give a fig about limited atonement or Calvinistic epistemology.

But such analysis rarely gets in the way of Dr. K’s execution of w-w.

When Ms. Mitchell encounters the Dr. K’s of the world, will she issue a retraction?

But How Should I Vote?

John Piper thinks we should vote as if we are not voting (no holy hedonism at the polls):

1) We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.

2) There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (Revelation 21:4).

3) There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived—and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.

4) We do not withdraw. We are involved—but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.

5)We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

I appreciate the involved lack of involvement. It strikes me as a way to capture the exilic status of Christians. But when it comes to doing something that may be good for my community, my city, my county, my state, or my nation, this doesn’t amount to much. If it teaches Sarah Palin’s evangelical followers to be less obsessive about the Republican Party, great. But if it allows evangelicals to ignore important differences among policies and candidates, no thanks.

On the other side of the Christian spectrum comes the counsel of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.

If only the bishops were that careful about associations with Protestants.

So while Piper counsels nonchalance, the bishops raise the stakes and make voting a matter of conscience. In some matters, it could reach that threshold. But once you start raising the specter of conscience, everyone can claim it and compromise — living together — becomes impossible. As I’ve already typed, no thanks.

Postscript: This just in, a two-kingdom perspective.

How then shall we best love our neighbors outside the church? How shall we preserve and protect those lives that are not directly subject to the moral government of the church?

We have no comparable clarity here. Shall we enact laws against abortion? Christians may, in our wisdom, decide it is best to do so. But neither the Church nor her preachers can say unambiguously that such laws must be enacted. She lacks the authority, and the wisdom, to do so. Perhaps such a law will backfire; perhaps it will lead to more abortions, to more deadly abortions. Perhaps it is politically unwise, though being morally just. If she bases her actions on what God’s word teaches, the church must remain agnostic on such questions.

Therefore, the church should be mindful of its members’ dual citizenship, and differing degrees of clarity on how God’s law shall be applied in different aspects of their lives. God’s law is not multifaceted. It is one and simple and true. But our grasp of it, and our application of it to our neighbors in particular times and places, is finite and variable.

Yet while the church is bound and limited in what she may teach, the individual Christian is free. She may engage in politics, may lobby for pro-life causes, may hold civil office. But the church may not compel her to do so.

Yes, thank you.

Love Hopes All Things

So I hope the BBs won’t accuse Brian Lee of being a sissy preacher for the way he reacts to the recent news of Houston’s civil magistrates wanting to inspect pastors sermons (don’t you think they are simply doing what Geneva’s city council did to Calvin and the Company of Pastors?):

“The city of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons.” This headline, within hours of being posted on, was forwarded multiple times to my inbox, with comments such as “unbelievable.”

My response? So what? Sermons are public proclamation, aren’t they?

If a government entity comes to me and demands that I turn over my sermon manuscripts, well… I think I’d be inclined to send them along. And I’d be sure to send each one with a carefully written cover letter explaining exactly how the blood of Christ redeems sinners from death and the grave. (Although good luck deciphering my rough outline, and reading my marginal handwriting. I can send you a link to the audio.)

Sermons aren’t exactly what the legal profession would call “privileged information.” (News reports suggest, however, that other “pastoral communications” might be a part of the subpoena, and insofar as those are private communications of pastors, I would fight their release.)

I grant that there are complex legal issues involved. And, seeing how it has just been a few hours since this story started to bubble up on the Fox News outrage-of-the-week radar, I make no claim to understanding the merits of the legal case.

All I can tell so far is that the city passed a controversial non-discrimination ordinance, which among other things, would allow biological males to use the ladies room, and vice versa. A petition in opposition garnered 50,000 signatures, then was thrown out on a technicality. Next, a lawsuit against the ordinance was filed, to which the city responded with a subpoena for sermons from pastors associated with churches opposed to the ordinance.

And why, I ask, should pastors be unwilling to send their sermons to whoever should request a copy?

Remember, though, that in the world of 2k, we don’t all agree on the secular stuff.

This Guy Needs His Own Blog – Part 2 (Gamble vs. Lee)

Brian Lee has some very helpful and wise reflections on his decision to open Congress in prayer. I call it a capitulation to the nation’s civil religion. I believe this is fair even though it hurts to say it because Brian is a good friend and a Reformed pastor whom I respect. It is fair because (I won’t give reasons for befriending Brian) civil religion is precisely the theme by which Brian frames his post-prayer considerations:

Civil religion is thick in America. “God” is on our money, and in the Pledge of Allegiance, not to mention in the Declaration of Independence. We regularly ask him to bless America at ball games. And every session of the U.S. House and Senate opens with a prayer.

Recently the question of civil religion became very concrete for me. I was asked, as a pastor in Washington, D.C., to serve as guest chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives, and open that body with prayer. The question of “Whether and what sort of civil religion shall we have in America?” quickly became “Should I pray in the House of Representatives? If so, how?”

But Brian went ahead and prayed even though he remains torn about whether he should have prayed. The whole piece is worth reading but I highlight the best reason he gives for not praying (even though he did — it’s confusing):

2) The difference between Congress and church.

Before you file this under “most obvious argument ever,” take a moment to consider exactly what the essential difference is. A church is a particular worshiping community, a creedal body, because it prays to a particular God. When I pray publicly in church, I therefore pray in the first person plural. That is, I pray in common and on behalf of every member of that community. While guests are welcome to observe and join in, there is no presumption they must do so. In doing so I presume for all to whom we are praying, and how we are praying, and why we expect our prayers to be answered.

To whatever degree “Christian” may describe America, we are quite obviously not a creedal nation. Membership in Congress is explicitly not subject to a religious test; it is in this sense an anti-creedal body. It is therefore impossible for me to pray before Congress as I pray in church, on behalf of the assembled body, for Congress does not have an agreed-upon God. However, while I may not be able to pray on behalf of people who don’t share my faith, I can certainly pray for them. In this way, I occasionally pray for sick unbelievers when I’m invited to visit them in the hospital.

Christians must not presume false unity within a pluralistic group by praying in the first person plural on their behalf. If we do pray in such settings, we must pray as individuals, to a particular God, for the group. And indeed, this seems to me most consistent with the pluralistic character of our polity, that we retain our religious distinctiveness even as we enter the public square, instead of pretending as though there is none.

That difference and the pervasiveness of civil religion would have been enough for me (feeling all full of my abstract self) to decline. Another reason is one that Richard Gamble highlights in his book, In Search of a City on a Hill. That is, American Christians (especially conservative ones) have been way too silent about the state taking over Christian language and ideas. Gamble writes:

Today, 50 years after the city on a hill first appeared in modern political rhetoric and nearly 400 years since John Winthrop shepherded his flock to New England’s shores, Americans are left with a secularized metaphor, politicized by the Left and the Right and nearing the point of exhaustion. The metaphor has been forced to carry an impossible load of nationalist, populist and collectivist aspirations. Americans have inherited two political cities looming so large in the media, the political culture and even the church, that together they have eclipsed the historical Winthrop and the biblical Jesus. The biblical metaphor, appropriated by the Puritans and reinvented by modern Democrats and Republicans, has been transformed so successfully into a national myth that few can see or hear these words without all of their modern political meaning attached. Even many Christians, how might be expected to guard their property more vigilantly, argue over which national values the politicized city should stand for and miss the fact that they have lost their metaphor. They argue over which party ought to build the city, over whether Kennedy’s or Reagan’s vision best defines the city, rarely stopping to consider whether Jesus ever had America in mind in the Sermon on the Mount. Such is the power of civil religion in twenty-first century America. Even if Americans manage to convince themselves, in spite of the evidence, that John Winthrop envisioned a glorious future for American ideals and institutions, can they really convince themselves that Jesus intended the United States to take up his disciples’ calling as a city on a hill? Distracted by a contest between two early political cities, Americans forget that the original city on a hill was neither Democrat or Republican. It was not even American. (178-79)

In other words, most of the critics of 2k who fault the notion of two kingdoms for secularizing politics, or culture, or child rearing, wind up secularizing Christianity by making it serve ends that are common (and even profane). At least 2kers are up front about the secular and try to preserve the uniqueness of Christianity. The integralists, the ones who want to see all of life whole with everything Christian, dumb Christianity down.

And it is for the reason that civil religion is so hard wired in American political discourse that I would have preferred that Brian Lee decline the invitation to pray before Congress. If he could have editorialized before praying, and explained that he was praying only as a minister, praying for (not with) Congress members, then perhaps it would have been useful. But as it is I fear that the huge appetite of American civil religion will swallow up his good prayer and thoughtful post-prayer reflections.

Political Reflections — Pious or Otherwise

The debate last night has many Americans thinking about politics, not to mention the presidential campaign more generally. What these moments bring out are a host of observations on the nature of politics by believers. Some, like the Alliance Defending Freedom, have declared this coming Lord’s Day to be “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Pastors are supposed to use sermons to evaluate the presidential candidates according to “biblical truths and church doctrine.” Brian Lee, a URC pastor in Washington, D.C., doesn’t think much of this effort:

But most pastors are reluctant to exchange their spiritual freedom from politics to demonstrate their political freedoms for politics. A survey of 1,000 mainline and evangelical protestant pastors released this week suggests that only 1 in 10 believe they should endorse a candidate from the pulpit, despite the fact that almost half plan to personally endorse outside of their church role.

Furthermore, previous studies have shown that this reluctance isn’t based on belief that the government has a say on the content of their speech. Clearly, many pastors are constrained by the sanctity of their office, and in particular, the pulpit. They recognize the very real tradeoff that in our polarized age political speech may offend and drive off many members of the flock they are called to shepherd.

Furthermore, the New Testament offers no encouragement for direct political action. When Jesus was asked a trick question about the propriety of paying taxes — is there any other kind? — he asked whose name was on the coin, and told his followers to “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Later, when on trial for his life, he did not deny his royal authority, but instead claimed “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Then there are those instances where Christians try to strike a balance — avoid extremes at all cost. Justin Taylor offers an example of this:

It is true that “this world is not our home,” but it’s not true that “I’m just passing through” like a leisurely amusement park ride.

We are dual citizens, responsible and active members of both God’s spiritual kingdom and earthly kingdom. And if we seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength—and to love our neighbor as ourselves—then we should care to some degree about politics and elections and the role of government in our land. . . .

Some argue that we should be invested in evangelism or preaching or social justice instead of politics. But most of us can care about both. Let me offer two reasons why we, as Bible-believing, gospel-centered evangelicals, should care about politics at varying levels and degrees.

First, we care about politics because we care about God’s glory and God’s good gift. Everything is designed to be from God and through God and to God (Rom. 11:36)—including our government. Everything we do—from drinking our coffee in the morning to having a sandwich for lunch to voting at the booth to serving as an elected official—is to be done for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). . . .

Second, we care about politics because we care about the good of our neighbors and the good of our country. If you have to choose between evangelism and politics, choose evangelism. Saving an eternal soul is more important than fixing a temporal need. But most of the time, we don’t have to choose.

In point of fact, we do need to choose based on how we reflect on this stuff. If evangelism is more important than transforming the city or electing the right candidate, it will mean that we treat cities and candidates as less important. People who aren’t invested in Major League Baseball don’t care about the playoffs, even if they care in some way about the players who are citizens or their neighbors who are fans. Our powers of assessment affect the time we devote to certain activities. Priorities matter. And that is why some members of the Gospel Coalition are trying to find ways to elevate the importance of the arts, cities, and Christian cultural (and political) engagement. One of the easiest Christian strategies is to follow Abraham Kuyper and call such activity “holy.” Then the temporal and earthly gains the significance of the eternal and the heavenly. I wish the folks at Gospel Coalition would mind the priority of their organization’s name.

This leaves the best reflection of all on politics — the one uncluttered by religious outlook. Here I cut and paste from a post earlier today at Front Porch Republic.

The blogosphere is filled with opinions on last night’s debate between the president and the challenger. The chattering classes has gotten a whole lot larger. Unless you are a historian and follow the posts at the History News Network, you probably didn’t see Leo Ribuffo’s reflections. A good friend who teaches history at George Washington University, is writing a biography of Jimmy Carter, and calls himself a McGovern Democrat, Leo is also wittily acerbic. Here is a good example (the rest is here):

Romney obviously won. The question is why. Quite possibly he won because he was channeling his inner Governor George Romney, a moderate Republican in the context of his era. In other words, having secured the Republican nomination, Mitt looked confident and relaxed because he was no longer confined to saying only things he didn’t believe. Perhaps if Romney is elected this inner George would prompt him to restrain the cultural conservatives and limited government zealots who dominate his party. I wouldn’t bet on it, but who knows? Lack of principle made Richard Nixon a better president for the welfare state than anyone expected.

Perhaps Obama lost the debate because he was having an off night. Or because he was over-confident. Or conversely, sensing the precariousness of his situation given the high level or unemployment, he channeled his inner Tom Dewey and decided to sit on his lead in the polls. Or perhaps, channeling his inner Michael Dukakis, he actually thinks a presidential election is about competence, not ideology. But I would speculate further that Obama had trouble mounting an effective and spirited defense of the welfare state because at heart he is a “new kind of Democrat” skeptical of government programs.

Whatever the reasons, Obama was lousy. Some pundits instantly attributed his abysmal performance to his “professorial” demeanor. This dopey short-hand has now become standard, akin to Jimmy Carter the engineer (wrong) and George W. Bush the “faith-based” president (even more wrong). Let’s abandon this cliché. Actual professors by definition hold jobs, which means that we had at least one successful job interview in which we looked people in the eye, explained our merits, and showed enthusiasm about our past work and future plans. Then, after being hired, we figured out how to adapt our complex and sometimes esoteric ideas to reach the audience at hand. As my old friend Warren Goldstein of the University of Hartford emailed me in mid-debate, “Most of us have to be 10 times better than that to keep 20 year olds awake in class.”

Hearing (all about) Me Speak

As Zrim has already indicated, pronunciations matter. If you say the word evangelical with a long e in the first syllable, as in “egads,” then according to popular wisdom you are one, that is, a born-again Protestant. If you pronounce it with the short e in “whatever,” then you aren’t ehvangelical.

The same goes for conservatism. If you slip in an extra syllable, as in “conservativism,” then you are likely unfamiliar with the discussions about what it means to be a conservative. But if you say the real word, “conservatism,” then you’re in the ball park of knowing something about the American Right even if you are not a card-carrier.

A twist on correct pronunciation came for me as my wife and I were driving to Washington, D.C. last week for the Round Table on the future of evangelical politics hosted by Brian Lee and the saints at Christ Reformed Church (URC). Scanning the dial in hopes of finding a voice different from Sean’s, we stumbled upon the local affiliate of the EWTN radio network which broadcasts the Al Kresta show weekdays at 4:00. This particular day found the host away at a conference and the show re-airing the “best of” Al Kresta. Imagine my (all about me) surprise when my wife and I heard Al introduce the hour-long interview I did about From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin on September 20, live in the Ann Arbor studio. Imagine my (all about me) further surprise to hear me babble on like a surfer dude. Which raises the question, if you sound goofy, can you really call yourself a confessional Protestant or a political conservative?

But misgivings about my voice and diction did not prevent a thoroughly enjoyable event with Michael Gerson and Terry Eastland thanks to the great hospitality and event planning of Brian and Sara Lee. The audio for the event is here (though you will need Quick Time to listen). Future events still include David VanDrunen this Thursday night (October 20), and Dave Coffin preaching(Sunday, October 23).

I believe the biggest difference to surface between Mike Gerson and me was his willingness to appeal to higher law (justice and human dignity) in thinking about a Christian understanding of politics and my reluctance to jump over existing laws, institutions, and powers for the sake of a higher good. I also believe this is one of the most profound difference between evangelicals and confessional Protestants in the sphere of religion, and between evangelicals and conservatives in matters political.

Consider, for instance, the willingness of revivalists to circumvent ordained clergy in order to bring the gospel to people (some of whom are already church members). George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent did this. The Gospel Coalition is still doing it. Think too of the way that evangelicals will appeal to the Bible to circumvent the authority of creeds or confessions with Scripture functioning as a higher law above man-made doctrines.

In politics evangelicals will appeal to Christian morality usually without considering such matters of state sovereignty. This happens when evangelicals look to the federal government to implement laws that state or local governments have not adopted, or when born-again Protestants seek to intervene internationally without doing justice to the existing governments in place. I know, I know, these matters are difficult and the complexity of the situation can lead to pacifism or even indifference. I also concede that folks like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr., neither of whom used a long e when saying the word evangelical, also appealed to the higher law for the Declaration of Independence and Civil Rights. Still, evangelicals appear to me to be largely indifferent to existing governmental structures and laws when political forms get in the way of eternal truths. And every conservative (both religious and political) knows that this is a recipe for revolution.

This is not to say that Gerson espouses such radicalism, but only to point out that implicit in the appeal to a higher law is an impulse that makes evangelicals insufficiently aware of the restraint and stability that conservatives hope to preserve.

Old Life in the Imperial Capital

Brian Lee, pastor at Christ Reformed Church (URC) in Washington, D.C., has put together another fall program of lectures and events, this year devoted to the theme of Christianity and Politics. I will be speaking with Michael Gerson, speech writer for George W. Bush, on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Terry Eastland, publisher of the Weekly Standard, will be moderating our discussion of evangelicals and American politics. (Terry’s presence is remarkable given the collapse of his beloved Braves. I don’t point this out to mock or chest thump but to express real empathy; if Terry takes Braves’ losses the way I go blue after a Phillies’ defeat, then his willingness to get out of bed is a tribute to his mental health.)

[Taken from CRC’s press release]
The full schedule follows (speaker bios below):

Sunday, October 9th,11:00 am — Michael Horton, “Evangelism and Social Justice”

Thursday, October 13th, 7:00 pm — Michael Gerson, Darryl Hart, Terry Eastland, “The Future of Evangelicals in Politics”

Sunday, October 16th, 11:00 am — Brian Lee, “Govern Well, or Be Governed?”

Thursday, October 20th, 7:00 pm — David VanDrunen, “Natural Law and Christian Politics”

Sunday, October 23rd, 11:00 am — David Coffin, “The Spirituality of the Church”

Events will be held at Christ Reformed Church’s new Logan Circle home, historic Grace Reformed Church (the church home of President Theodore Roosevelt), located at 1405 15th Street NW, Washington, DC. Reception to follow. Free parking is available (with validation) at the Colonial Parking Lot at 1616 P Street NW, one block west of the church. Call 202.656.1611 for more information or visit our website at


Dr. Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, Host of the White Horse Inn radio program and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He has written The Gospel Commission and Where in the World is the Church, as well as The Christian Faith, a new highly-acclaimed one-volume systematic theology. He is a minister in the United Reformed Church.

Michael Gerson, opinion writer for the Washington Post and former head speech writer and senior policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He is the author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, and Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America’s Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail if They Don’t).

Terry Eastland, Publisher of The Weekly Standard and is ordained as an elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Darryl Hart, visiting professor of History at Hillsdale College in the area of American Religious history and the author of numerous books on Christianity and Politics, including From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism and A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, and blogs on religion and public life at

Dr. Brian Lee, founding pastor of Christ Reformed Church, Washington, DC, and holds degrees from Stanford University, Westminster Seminary California, and Calvin Theological Seminary. Prior to becoming a pastor Dr. Lee also worked in Washington on Capitol Hill, at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and at the Department of Defense. He studied Dutch Calvinism as a Fulbright Scholar in the Netherlands in 2001.

Dr. David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He has written Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought and Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. He is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and holds a Law Degree from Northwestern University School of Law.

Rev. David Coffin, Senior Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia.

Silence is Leaden

I am detecting a parallel among critics and questioners of 2k. On the one hand, opponents have trouble with the idea (sorry Jeff, I’m not going ad hominem intentionally) that the Bible is silent on a range of subjects and activities. At the same time on the other hand, critics feel free to draw conclusions about someone’s views simply by virtue of their silence upon a subject. I don’t necessarily believe these are at root the same. But I also sense a high degree of affinity.

The latest example of this phenomenon comes yet again from the Baylys in their reaction to a 2k post by Brian Lee over at the Daily Caller. He writes, for instance:

Christianity is not politically conservative or politically liberal — though Christians may be either. Christianity is not political at all. It is in a sense politically agnostic. But in another sense it calls into question the basis of every earthly power, including politics.

The entire article is worth reading as a healthy summary of biblical argument that goes by the name 2k but is really an expression of a redemptive historical reading of the difference between Israel and the church.

But Brian’s silence about abortion is not golden from the vantage of mid-western conservative Presbyterianism. According to the Baylys:

What Pastor Lee needs to think about is that obedience to the call to suffering, to our Lord’s command to take up our cross and follow Him, is at least as applicable to his parishioners as they exercise political authority and power as it was to Herod as he considered the call of John the Baptist, and the Areopagus as they considered the call of the Apostle Paul, to repent. Which is the call it appears Pastor Lee studiously avoids–unless, that is, his call to repentance is aimed at his fellow URC churchmen and women from Grand Rapids and Friesland who pray and write letters and vote, hoping their legislators will, for instance, bear the sword against those slaughtering the unborn across our land.

One wonders when the Baylys will listen to what folks like Brian Lee say rather than simply calling them up short for what they don’t. Maybe the Baylys actually need to cogitate upon pastor Lee’s own views about Christianity and politics as much as they are certain of their own. After all, Lee is a minister of the gospel just like they are. He may know the Bible as well as the Baylys and may actually know what to do when the Bible is silent – namely, remain silent.