The Brothers Bayly are persistent in besmirching two-kingdom theology and its proponents but their latest swipe is rich indeed. They have reprinted a mysterious piece (impossible to find anywhere else on the Net) about the enormities of the Obama administration. Nathan Ed Schumacher is the author and Tim Bayly’s foreword runs ever charitably as follows:
This piece . . . demonstrates that the silence of Emergent and R2K men in the face of the wickedness and oppression in our public square is of the same fabric. Fear of man is a principle that knows no boundaries.
I keep wondering why fear of God pertaining to the ninth commandment, you know one of those laws that the Baylys would seem to want to prevail in the public square, does not inform the way these fellows write about Christians — not to mention officers — in the church. But I digress.
Schumacher, it seems, had a conversation with a graduate of a seminary on the West Coast – hmmm – about the woes of the nation and why more ministers were not speaking publicly about such matters. Schumacher contended with the seminary graduate that the difficulties facing the United States were not simply political but moral in nature. But the seminarian responded that the church should only speak to spiritual matters. Schumacher responded:
Here we have a spirituality radically disconnected from morality – an ethereal religion not connected to historic Christianity and its application of ethics to the real world. What kind of “spirituality” or theology is this that can disregard morals, ethics, and God’s Law and even silently abide open murder?
So what is Schumacher talking about when it comes to immorality in the United States? It turns out that morality is closely tied to politics.
We live in an astonishing time in America where the President is making open war domestically on the Constitution, and openly making unlawful wars internationally – such wars outlawed by the Constitution and long vested by the Rule of Law as war crimes and open murder – and formally recognized as such by the Nuremberg trials. When a President publicly usurps the Constitution, making an open show of violating its limits on exercising power, whether it be by his making illegal war, giving secret orders, punishing American soldiers for exposing truth, building secret prisons, operating torture chambers, running kidnapping operations (rendition), publicly asserting his right to kill American citizens with no trial or process, openly publicly stealing money via “bailouts”, taxing in violation of the Constitution, openly violating the Bill of Rights, creating illegal Federal agencies and programs, etc., ad nausem, then what does that mean according to the Principles of Law? It means, without question, that he has invoked the Law of Belligerents against the American people by acting as a belligerent upon the American people themselves, because publicly assaulting their Constitution is, in fact, an assault upon them. In other words, the President is openly making war upon the American people by these belligerent actions – actions which are open, public, and undeniable. If you don’t understand this, you are not paying attention. Our Constitution formally defines this as treason.
Schumacher’s solution is for the church to call a synod:
It is long past time for church Officers to convene formal and official church councils and synods all across this land to address the open lawlessness and public sin and crimes of what passes for “our government”- and to address the way forward. Nevertheless, it is probable that they can be expected to refuse to do this – and likely that they will always have a long list of lofty “spiritual reasons” as to why they cannot accept responsibility. But if church Officers, who are the official voices of moral authority, refuse to do this then there is a deafening silence and they cannot expect to be found faithful – and the rest of us will suffer the continuing consequences of their dereliction of duty – praying that God will raise up some “Thomas Beckets” who are jealous for the church, the Law of God, and who will have the courage to say “No” to our present political “king”.
In the comments on this post, the Baylys add a curious wrinkle to the clear overreach (clear according to what follows below). When one commentator brought up the example of the apostle Paul who did not seem to be overly upset by the rule or policies of Caligula, Tim and David ever lovingly responded:
. . . we don’t need to see it happening constantly with the Apostle Paul or John the Baptist or Jesus or Augustine or Calvin or Edwards or Machen in order to know that the R2K men are wrong when they oppose the church and her officers standing against theft, oppression, rampant gross immorality, the repudiation of the rule of law, and the massive bloodshed of the slaughter of hundreds of millions of wee ones.
When you find yourself arguing that John the Baptist is no model for pastors today, you should wonder whether, just maybe, your cowardice has gotten the best of your faith.
Two aspects of this response are striking. The first is the Bayly habit of hitting below the belt – that is, questioning masculinity rather than formulating an argument. The second is that the Bible really does not need to be our guide because the existing evils are so enormous. Paul, Jesus, and the rest of the apostles may not have led protests against their societies, but their silence is only an opening for the Baylys’ shouting. Never mind that a cardinal conviction of Reformed Protestantism is that officers in the church, whether individually or collectively, need a biblical warrant for using their authority.
I do wonder why the Baylys do not recognize how partisanly political their moral hectoring looks. It is not as if Obama is the first president to abuse the powers of the Constitution or propose questionable economic policies. Can the Baylys or Schumacher remember the former president’s apparent disregard for the Constitution in the Gulf War, the Medicare bailout, or the Patriot Act? Do they not know that Christians on the Left opposed Bush in terms remarkably similar to the way they castigate Obama, thus making party affiliation more than biblical interpretation the basis for moral posturing?
I also wonder if the Baylys have ever heard of the United States Civil War and the debates that Old School Presbyterians had over support for the federal government. The 1860s was a time of grave national crisis also driven by a hotly disputed moral issue and the Old School General Assembly of 1861 decided to address the matter through the clumsy Spring Resolution. Here we have a church doing exactly that for which Schumacher calls and the Baylys approve — an Assembly addressing a moral and political question. And yet, Charles Hodge, a man who voted for Lincoln, believed secession was treasonous, and that treason was immoral, opposed the church taking a stand on matters that literally broke the United States apart. Hodge wrote:
. . . a man who acts on the theory of secession, may be justly liable to the penalty of the civil law; he may be morally guilty in the sight of God; but he has committed no offense on which the church can take cognizance. We therefore are not inconsistent in asserting, 1. That secession is a ruinous political heresy. 2. That those who act on that doctrine, and throw off allegiance to the Constitution and the Union, are guilty of a great crime; and, 3. That nevertheless they are not amenable in this matter to the church. The question whether they are morally guilty, depends on the question whether their theory of the constitution is right. If they are right, they are heroes; if they are wrong, they are wicked rebels. But whether that theory is right or wrong it is not the province of the church to decide.
The reason why the church cannot decide such political and constitutional matters, even when morality is involved, is that the Bible does not address these topics. Hodge explained:
The church can only exercise her power in enforcing the word of God, in approving what it commands, and condemning what it forbids. A man, in the exercise of his liberty as to things indifferent, may be justly amenable to the laws of the land; and he may incur great guilt in the sight of God, but he cannot be brought under the censure of the church.
What the Baylys (as well as most critics of the spirituality of the church) miss is the distinction between morality and authority. The Baylys go knock-kneed whenever a 2k person suggests that a moral truth should not necessarily be advocated by the church. The Bayly logic seems to be that if it is right, then all authority must be used to execute the right. But biblical teaching would also prompt questions about who has authority to enforce the good. Just because I believe drivers who pass me on the right are wrong does not mean that I have power to pull those drivers over and lock them up in our basement. The Baylys desire to marshal the church’s power behind their interpretation of the Constitution (and their assessment of the culture wars) comes dangerously close to ecclesiastical vigilantism: the church can and should do whatever is right and not bother with the technicalities such as the confession of faith or Book of Church Order. Ironically, then, in the Baylys’ twisted logic, the very constitution of the church becomes expendable in the defense of the United States Constitution.
A related point that the Baylys miss is how radical their views are compared to the supposed radicality of 2k. Charles Hodge was by no means the most vociferous proponent of the spirituality of the church. But he could see the folly of positions like the Baylys on good 2k grounds. Hodge was not a radical and neither are 2k proponents. In contrast, the Baylys’ disregard for the constitution of their church and the teachings of their confession of faith several steps down the road to anarchy.
And they call 2kers antinomian? Call again.