The Resurrection of Machen’s Warrior Children

I would like to draw people’s attention to this Festschrift for W. Robert Godfrey. The article that interested me the most of these many fine articles was that of D. G. Hart on the warrior children of Machen. In the time of Machen, and even afterward, Reformed folk generally approved of Machen’s fight against liberalism, although even there they were hesitant to adopt the same level of combativeness that Machen had. It didn’t take long, however, for the fight to go out of the OPC, Hart opines (p. 39). When people critique Machen today, it is usually because Machen tended to fight dispensational premillenialists (such as Carl McIntire). with a vim and vigor that approached his fight with liberalism, and most people cannot stomach that. However, the Bible itself tells us to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and there are some among the Reformed denominations who realize the need to fight. Are we right to be militant against the Federal Vision, against the liberals in the PCA, against the general evangelicalism that threatens to turn the PCA into yet another non-Reformed denomination? I believe we are required to do this. As Hart mentions, to be militant about the gospel is “not merely to be one of Machen’s warrior children. It is to belong to the church militant” (p. 55). If you believe some today in the church, there is absolutely nothing left about which we should fight. Unity and peace are the idolatries of today. No doubt some (maybe even many) of the other parties would claim that we idolize theology and correct doctrine. I believe it only seems so to people who do not really care about doctrinal precision. To them, any kind of doctrinal precision seems like doctrinal idolization. From our perspective, we believe the gospel is at stake in many of these controversies. Further, the purity and peace of the church is at stake in all the others.

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857 Comments

  1. Joel S said,

    December 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I agree with the premise in some ways. But I have a question:

    How then do you determine which issues are worth being “one of Machen’s warrior children” over? The whole WCF in every point? Each statement of the WLC?

    Practically speaking, I see neither how that is necessary, charitable, or workable. But at the same time, I see that we ought to be charitably militant against FV and other serious issues. Dispensationalism ought not to be tolerated. But are there not some issues in the PCA over which we ought to be able to just get along?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    December 22, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Joel, I’ve been thinking a lot about this question. One of the issues we have to deal with is the difference between the Westminster Standards and the 3FU. The former are a good bit more specific and detailed about what constitutes the system of doctrine than the latter are. My good friend Lee Johnson, who regularly comments here, has brought up this point before as well. The 3FU are a bit more broad, and less specific, and thus no point of the 3FU is unessential in the RCUS. They do not allow exceptions to the 3FU. I personally have voted to allow candidates in who have exceptions to the WS. Some would think that that is a bad idea. At this point, the best I have to offer is that some things affect the system of doctrine, and other things are much more peripheral. It is a constant struggle to know which is which. I have far fewer problems with someone who takes exception to the “no mental images of Christ” than to the actual pictorial images of Christ (I know someone who is in just this position, and he is a warrior child of Machen). Oftentimes, it is more an issue of a candidate’s attitude towards the confessions of the church, and how they should be defended.

  3. John A. said,

    December 22, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Of course to many in the Reformed world, the PCA long ago ceased to be a Reformed denomination.

    What is Reformed? The 5 pts? Luther was certainly Augustinian. That wasn’t the issue. Reformed meant a lot more than that.

    Does Reformed mean 19th century Princetonian and Southern Theology? I know many in other shall we say smaller Reformed spheres who have been chased out of the PCA because they zealously guard the WCF on many points….e.g the Solstice Day many will celebrate in a couple of days. Constantine, the reason for the season didn’t fly with the Olde Westminster crowd.

    I appreciate the spirit of the inquiry, but it seems to often everyone sits around and argues confessional traditions, when I don’t think the modern denominations reflect the tone, spirit, and certainly not the method behind the construction of those confessions.

    Or has Reformed come to mean a body of denominations with numerous broad traditions rather than a way of thinking about the Bible and applying it to the life of the Church?

    I am more concerned when I see Reformed people selling out (in my opinion) to champion Nationalism, appearing on Glenn Beck and holding hands with Focus on the Family and other Christo-American (Constantinian) power-seeking groups.

    Unity and Peace may be the idolatries of the day, but Factionalism and power-seeking (gatekeeping being a means to that end) are idolatries that have plagued the Church since Apostolic times.

  4. Joel S said,

    December 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Lane, that’s a good point, although if I’m not mistaken, the 3FU identifies Paul unequivocally as the author of Hebrews. What if I’m not convinced of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews? Obviously, that’s not a point affecting the system of doctrine (at least as far as I can tell), and it likely wasn’t even considered a big deal when put in there (though I admit I’m ignorant of the history of that point). But the point is the same: how can we determine what is essential?

    And I do, of course, agree that your answer (regarding the system of doctrine) is probably the best one that we have. But obviously, as you say, it’s hard to see how that definitively works out in practice. I do think it ought to be a matter of attitude more than simply a list. And I think that it will continue to be a question that we will have to wrestle with.

  5. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 23, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Rev. Keister, I can’t speak to the history of the RCUS on confessional subscription, but I think the difference between the Dutch Reformed tradition and that of the Westminster Standards needs to be viewed in a different light than the WCF being more detailed than the Three Forms.

    Look at what the Synod of Dort did — the Form of Subscription is **VERY** strict, and probably for good reason, because the goal was to eliminate Arminianism and anyone who had any “difficulties or different sentiments” from “any article or point of doctrine” from the ranks of the ministry as well as the eldership.

    By contrast, the Westminster Divines crafted a confession which they knew would not be acceptable to its own members who included the “Dissenting Brethren” (i.e., the Congregationalists) and would have included Archbishop Ussher of Armagh, the Primate of the (Episcopal) Church of Ireland, if he had accepted his appointment.

    These were men who in large measure were unquestioned Calvinists — in fact, many were some of the stricter Puritans and even a committed Episcopalian like Archbishop Ussher was well-known for having tried to keep latitudinarian influence out of his church. The Assembly also had to deal with the reality that many of the parish clergy who had received Anglican ordination were not necessarily hostile to Calvinism but were far from being convinced Puritans.

    Strict subscriptionism might have worked in Scotland, but there is no way it would have worked in England, especially considering Oliver Cromwell’s role in the Army. It’s pretty hard to unchurch your Army commanders and many of the strongest supporters of your cause when you’re in the middle of leading a military revolution against royal civil government backed by an episcopal hierarchy whose leaders such as Archbishop Laud in Canterbury were strongly suspected of receiving aid and comfort from true Romanists.

  6. David said,

    December 23, 2010 at 6:21 am

    The PCA would be better off in my opinion if officers were only asked to subscribe to the WCF, with the Catechisms being used and promoted for educational purposes. My understanding is that this was the long-standing tradition among Scottish presbyterians and that Americans were the first to mandate subscription to the catechisms.

    Regarding the history of the PCA, it has never been a strict subscription denomination. If anything the PCA was a more big tent evangelical denomination in its founding. Let’s not forget that the first GA was hosted by the same church that hosted Keswick conventions for many years!

  7. grit said,

    December 23, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I fully assent to the gracious inquiry where a beloved brother may characterize, “unity and peace are the idolatries of today”; but, while I recognize evils of homogeneity and compromise on Christian truth, practice, and the value of individual gifts and persons, it indeed strikes me odd that I would somehow come to a point in contending for the truth where I might set idolatry next to those sweat drops of High Priestly Prayer, “…that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:22b-23, NASB). We are as likely today to fault Reformers who drowned Anabaptists as Catholics massacring Huguenots, and I honestly think there’s few among us who today would burn Servetus alive (where even Calvin was reluctant). Our brother is right too in qualifying perhaps a loss of vigour and vim even from Machen’s day to present. Regardless of how one views the Pericope Adulteræ (John 7:53 – 8:11), we certainly are more an age of ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’. We’re also likely to discount as wisdom that proverbial phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

    Words do indeed hurt, and often quite a bit more than sticks or stones. The Word of God ought to be wielded with great care and respect. What ever else theology is, it begins by being personal, and it is right that it always is, even where we often stumble in the rightness of it or as an esoteric enterprise. I take issue with our lack of care and concern otherwise in offensive and defensive rhetoric, especially if lacking in real personal attachment and love. We may ‘aspire’ that a debate is essentially about the theology, but that is not how such as the FV debate has frankly played out to date, by any ‘side’, and the attitude and real-life flesh-and-blood of the debate is as important of recognition and reconciliation to piety and propriety as any theological care of loving expression. Little lambs are as likely to feel betrayed and bruised by assaults on their pastor as any theological damage from Federal Vision theology, and every good shepherd of the PCA and Church ought to be mindful and diligent of protecting from every harm, whether from met vigilance of doctrinal purity, online position posts, any lack of honourably defending one another, or sacrificial damage by associations. Theology is about people, and doctrine means little without due love, even when professed in the tongues of angels, with prophetic powers, understanding all mysteries and knowledge, or surrendering of body to flame (especially if it’s the body belonging to someone else, which each body does). In the shadow of such as a gay military and an abortion nation our frustration and Christian vigilance is heightened as regards a militant Church and theological fisticuffs, both within and without the Church. Certainly our Christian sensibilities of spiritual warfare have changed from those of the Reformers, but even then Luther and Calvin were ripe to work together toward both peace and purity, as certain Reformed standards advise. That Calvin, Luther, and a host of forefathers weren’t quite able to fully realise Christ’s prayer for unity and purity in Him does not mean unity is any less worthy of doctrinal militancy than other doctrines we rightly hold dear, between Lutherans and Calvinists or otherwise in Calvinist ranks alone. I guess it’s our sorting out of wrestling not, “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, ESV), that merits our care among brethren.

  8. Jim Cassidy said,

    December 23, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Look for an interview with Dr. Hart on his article at Christ the Center at Reformedforum.org. Should be out this Friday or next. We just interviewed him yesterday. And we ask him about the issue of what we ought to be militant about versus what we ought to tolerate.

  9. Brad said,

    December 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

    The boot camps for Machen’s new warrior children seem to be in Greenville and Escondido. Thank God for these two institutions.

  10. Reed Here said,

    December 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

    For me a good rule of thumb has been to distinguish between person and position.

    For example, I can sincerely be kind and gracious in talking with an FV brother or an a RCC friend. There is no call for me to make things personal over what is able to be discussed on a blog.

    At the same time I can speak forcefully concerning my concerns and convictions. E.g., if I believe a statement made by the other person is heretical, I should not only call it heretical, but go to great lengths to show why.

    The other person will from time to time misunderstand, confusing an attack on position with an attack on person. Yet by God’s grace I need to strive to maintain the distinct in both heart and words.

    Such verbal warring can be both holy hot and humbly helpful.

  11. rfwhite said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Green Baggins said, From our perspective, we believe the gospel is at stake in many of these controversies.

    Would you add to the sentence above that those who believe that the gospel is at stake in this or that controversy should attempt to demonstrate this belief and not assume it?

    Would you also agree that the gospel need not be at stake for a matter to become rightly controverted?

  12. rcjr said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:33 am

    …liberals in the PCA…? This in a piece built around Machen? Is it your contention that there are pastors/elders in the PCA who deny the authority of Scripture, the virgin birth, the resurrection? Are there men who embrace this other religion of which Machen wrote? Who are these men of which you speak? I have plenty of concerns over the PCA, but would never want to confuse its problems with those afflicting the PCUSA.

  13. Jim Cassidy said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I think its a mistake to say that a liberal is one who is defined by the denial of the authority of Scripture and miracles in the Bible. That is not at the heart of liberalism. Those are symptoms. The disease behind those symptoms is the desire to accommodate Christianity to sentiments of the culture and the ethos of the times. And that IS in the PCA. Its also in the OPC. And it happens to be in each and every one of our hearts.

  14. rcjr said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Jim,
    I agree that that spirit is in each and every one of our hearts, which is why “liberalism” isn’t a good word for it. If we are all “liberal” then no one is liberal. The difference between you and me and Daryl Hart and Lane is that while that spirit is in all our hearts, we confess that He is risen. Real liberals deny that. And I deny that there are any such people in the PCA. How weird is this, that I should be gently correcting someone for over-the-top rhetoric?

  15. rcjr said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Oops that is, the difference between you and me and Daryl Hart and Lane, all together, and liberals on the other hand… is what I was trying to say.

  16. Jim Cassidy said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

    The difference is that by grace some reject the tendency toward modernism (and that is a historical term of a historical phenomenon), and instead stand firm against the currents of the culture’s thinking and mindset. The question is, really, how well is the PCA – or any church, for that matter – resisting the temptation to accommodate the culture’s thinking?

    And, by the way, these snowflakes floating against the page are awfully distracting!!

  17. paigebritton said,

    December 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Thanks, Reed & Grit.

    I’ve been chewing on the militant language — combat, fight, warrior children — and thinking how easy it is to cross the line between “contending for the truth” and “wrestling with flesh and blood.” I realize the ravenous wolves don’t just go away with a polite “shoo!”, and I”m grateful for my brothers who are vigilant shepherds (and sometimes sheep dogs!) for the sake of the flock. But I’m also grateful for your heads-up about our hearts and tone.

    pb

  18. Keith Phillips said,

    December 23, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Hello,

    First time posting here, but I can’t help think that the following words of Francis Schaeffer — someone who knew and ministered with both Machen and McIntire — are appropos:

    “I have observed one thing among true Christians in their differences in many countries: What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians — what leaves a bitterness that can last for 20, 30 or 40 years (or for 50 or 60 years in a son’s memory) — is not the issue of doctrine or belief which caused the differences in the first place. Invariably it is lack of love — and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences. These stick in the mind like glue. And after time passes and the differences between the Christians or the groups appear less than they did, there are still those bitter, bitter things we said in the midst of what we thought was a good and sufficient objective discussion. It is these things — these unloving attitudes and words — that cause the stench that the world can smell in the church of Jesus Christ among those who are really true Christians.

    If, when we feel we must disagree as true Christians, we could simply guard our tongues and speak in love, in five or ten years the bitterness could be gone. Instead of that, we leave scars — a curse for generations. Not just a curse in the church, but a curse in the world. Newspaper headlines bear it in our Christian press, and it boils over into the secular press at times — Christians saying such bitter things about other Christians.

    The world looks, shrugs its shoulders and turns away. It has not seen even the beginning of a living church in the midst of a dying culture. It has not seen the beginning of what Jesus indicates is the final apologetic — observable oneness among true Christians who are truly brothers in Christ. Our sharp tongues, the lack of love between us — not the necessary statements of differences that may exist between true Christians — these are what properly trouble the world.

    How different this is from the straightforward and direct command of Jesus Christ — to show an observable oneness which may be seen by a watching world!

  19. Reed Here said,

    December 23, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Keith: this is what I’m trying to get at in my comment about distinguishing between person and position.

    To take it a step further, I fin that I’m beginning to stray from this principle when I begin to talk about the other guy’s motive and/or goals. This is as easy as making an observation about what will come of the position (a goal observation) or the demonstratable motives of others who’ve at least echoed the position.

    It is one thing to make these observations and ask the other guy what does he think, i.e., do you share these motives/goals. It is another to assume he does and write a comment based on such an assumption.

    Speaking the truth in love, hard truth in deep love, can be had. I’m learning to take a breath, distinguish between person and position, not assume motives/goals, and then fire away. I think this is the pattern we see in our forefathers, at their best, that we can all applaud.

  20. Peter Green said,

    December 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    “No doubt some (maybe even many) of the other parties would claim that we idolize theology and correct doctrine. I believe it only seems so to people who do not really care about doctrinal precision. To them, any kind of doctrinal precision seems like doctrinal idolization.”

    If I understand this correctly, then anyone who thinks you idolize doctrine, by definition, does not care about doctrinal precision? That seems awfully convenient; you have effectively cut yourself off from any loving criticism – never a good place to be as a Christian.

    Can I not be concerned with doctrinal precision (those who know me, and my fellow seminary students certainly think I am), and yet still think that you have mis-prioritized certain things?

    And for that matter, what of those who want to be “warrior children” for the sake of driving off the Lutheran Law-Gospel hermeneutic, or the dispensational 2K? Of course, you might say that LG is not Lutheran and 2K is not dispensational, and you may be right. But the FVers say that they are consistent with Reformed theology. Should we all just take up arms and beat the hell (literally) out of each other? Last one standing must be the one of whom God approves?

    Our battle is not against other Christians. Our battle is with the devil and all his minions. Occasionally, we need to strive to lovingly discipline and correct errant Christians, and occasionally we need to make war against the enemy within our midst. But our battle is never, nor will it ever be, against other Christians. To employ battle imagery against other Christians is something that, I imagine, can only please the devil.

  21. Sean Lucas said,

    December 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    I think this post typifies what disturbs me most about where our conversations are right now as a church. While it is certainly right and necessary for us to contend for the faith delivered to the saints, I worry about a church in which everyone views each other suspiciously rather than charitably.

    I’ve been meditating a lot recently on Galatians 5:13-15: we were called to freedom; don’t use your freedom for the flesh, but rather serve one another in love and so fulfill the law. And then, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” My fear is that the stress upon doctrinal vigilance is leading us to bite and devour each other in such a way that the church may be consumed.

    Against this critical mindset, Scripture calls us to love another, to think well of each other, to trust the brothers, to be thankful for each other. And even our ordination vows mandate “subjection to the brothers.” I take that to involve a trusting willingness to listen well and speak well to and about one another. And if we come to the time when we must confront a brother about his doctrinal error, it must be with tears and sorrow, the painful duty of love.

    My friends, I love the Reformed faith and the Westminster Standards. I also love the Church and the Presbyterian Church in America. I’m thankful for her elders and members, grateful for the contribution we make to the continuing work of the Kingdom. Let us see the strengths in one another as we work together for the advancement of God’s reign; let us think well of one another and through love serve one another.

    And if we must disagree, let us remember Machen, who noted that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. After all, it is the Gospel and Christ’s Kingdom that we must live even as we defend them.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    December 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Sean, of course I would agree that we should not bite and devour one another. Here’s the question, though: which is more dangerous in the PCA right now: doctrinal indifference (a careless attitude towards the confession) or an overly rigid doctrinal adherence? I could count on a couple of hands the number of guys in the PCA right now who are earnestly contending for the faith with regard to the FV issue, which is more than alive and well at the moment, and still fewer are actually being nasty about it. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of doctrinally indifferent pastors in the PCA. Furthermore, a lot of the biting and devouring, in my experience, is coming from the doctrinally indifferent folks (not to mention the doctrinally deviant folks!), who absolutely hate the fact that anyone could possibly blow the whistle on anyone else. How unloving, I am told!

  23. greenbaggins said,

    December 23, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Peter, my point is not that doctrinally rigid people are inherently above criticism, far from it! My point is that the people who are accusing us today of being too doctrinally rigid are in fact doctrinally indifferent.

  24. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I am reading these comments with a level of surprise that perhaps I should not have. After all, I worked hard to keep my church from joining the PCA (the final two options were the OPC and ARPs, and the church decided the ARPs combined the benefits of both denominations — being as Southern as the PCA but avoiding the PCA’s aggressive push toward broad evangelical rather than Calvinist views.) What I see here reminds me of what I feared would happen if my church joined the PCA, especially in a presbytery such as the Missouri Presbytery.

    If people think the debates within the PCA are harming church growth and think conservatives should stay quiet and “stop rocking the boat,” perhaps they should consider that those very debates are pushing away churches which would naturally be attracted to the PCA as a professing conservative denomination in the Southern Presbyterian tradition.

    Can we not remember Machen’s own distinction, made in “Christianity and Liberalism,” between levels of error? In his day, he pointed out, quite correctly so, that the differences on millenial views were nowhere near as important as those between Arminianism and Calvinism, or between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. In a day when anti-Catholic sentiments were standard even among theological liberals, Machen had high respect for the historic orthodoxy of Roman Catholics on key essentials of the faith, and pointed out that while Catholicism seriously deviates from right doctrine, it is still recognizable as a form of Christianity. By contrast, liberalism is not only not Christianity, but is a religion in an entirely different category of religions from the Judeo-Christian emphasis on a revealed and authoritative Word of God.

    Can we not recognize that there is such a thing as a Christian brother who does not belong in a Reformed church, and who if he continues to advocate his views, should be invited to transfer to a likeminded church?

    Maintaining the strictest standards of Reformed orthodoxy is not incompatible with recognizing the fact that there are true Christians in problematic or even seriously defective “less pure” churches. I can walk hand-in-hand with my fundamental Baptist brother in many things, but he doesn’t belong in a Reformed church and I don’t belong in his. That’s not being insulting to him or to me, but merely recognizing that churches and and do err, and on certain key issues of the Christian faith, ecclesiastical integrity requires that churches take positions that necessarily exclude others from local membership even if nobody should question that they are true Christians.

    There cannot be two correct positons on infant baptism or dispensationalism or tonguespeaking, and while one cannot have a church in which both views on such subjects are taught, such issues are not so critical that they prevent Christian fellowship in the “church as organism,” even if they bar membership in the “church as institute.”

    However, when a person who should be regarded as an evangelical Christian stands in open denial of the confessions of his church and presumes to teach or preach things contrary to the doctrines he has sworn to uphold, there is a very serious problem of integrity. Baptists don’t tolerate people in their churches who refuse to be rebaptized, and that is entirely appropriate. Why should we as Calvinists be any less insistent on our distinctives?

  25. Peter Green said,

    December 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Darrell,

    I appreciate much of what you say. Baptists should be Baptists and Presbyterians should be Presbyterians.

    However, you write: “If people think the debates within the PCA are harming church growth and think conservatives should stay quiet and “stop rocking the boat,” perhaps they should consider that those very debates are pushing away churches which would naturally be attracted to the PCA as a professing conservative denomination in the Southern Presbyterian tradition.”

    Most people that I know who are concerned with the tenor of our dialogue within the PCA are not so small-minded as to only be concerned with “church-growth” or “rocking the boat”. They are concerned that the dialogue within the denomination is unchristian. As in, sin. Sin, of course, is not a good witness to the world, and so, of course, there are implications for “church growth”. However, the people in the PCA are disturbed by the nature of our dialogue in the PCA because they take seriously the vow to “study the peace” as well as the vow to study the “purity” and because they believe that we are required to be godly and not just theologically astute.

    In other words, this is not a debate between people who are concerned with theology and people who just want to fill the pews and not “rock the boat”. This is a debate between people who are concerned with theology and people who are concerned with piety in the midst of theology.

  26. Anon said,

    December 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    It is useful to remember that these doctrinal debates are not merely intellectual. The FV and NPP doctrines have consequences on churches, families, and individuals. It is very, very serious for the sheep in the PCA fold. The same men who call for charity and unity are the ones who, in my experience, treat their own sheep harshly, especially if the sheep dare to ask questions about the direction FV and NPP are leading their churches.
    I realize that I am “hiding” behind a pseudonym, but my experience has made me very wary of speaking out.

  27. Reed Here said,

    December 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Sean: I think you’ll find Lane’s thinking and deameanor is much more in line with the kind of behavior you’re talking about. (Behavior I join you in affirming, and of which I gladly hold you up as a good example.)

    I do think his question does deserve some attention. When I was coming into the PCA (1999), my home presbytery, populated by many brothers who are not offended by the label “broadly evangelical,” were concerned that I might be leaning “truly reformed” myself. At the same time the guys running that year’s MNA church planter’s assessment were concerned that coming into the PCA with my broad evangelical background and language, I might be fodder for some TRs.

    Needless to say I was a bit confused, and fortunately bemused. Since then I’ve grown enough to appreciate the concerns from both sides.

    I will admit that some of my conservative brothers sometimes can’t pin me down. But neither can some of my more moderate brothers. In my experience that in such situations both sides are as likely to give me a wrong response.

    Yes, the more conservatives ones can be distrusting. I see it and receive it from time to time. But even more my experience is the dismissiveness of my more moderate brothers. They hear what they think is nothing more than conservative curmugeonism, label me, smile in a condescending manner, and then dismiss me and my concern.

    While agreeing with your contention for assuming the best, I’m with Lane in his concern here. I’ve seen it too often in my own experience. Men who haven’t actually spent the time to listen to the concerns of their more conservative brethren behave in a condescendingly dismissive manner.

    I admit the wrong behavior of the conservative curmugeon occurs. The condescending dismissiveness also occurs. The question Lane asked deserves a reasoned answer. Both are wrong. Which one is more dangerous?

  28. Reed Here said,

    December 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Peter: there is a rather simple solution for those you know who believe they are hearing sin in the debates within the PCA: confront the sinning brother.

    Following Sean’s admonition here, assume the best of the brother, that he is a weak child of God striving to do something beyond his capacity, yet nevertheless acting by faith in God’s promise to work through his weaknesses. Confront him with his sin; help him reform the expression of his position; encourage him to think the best of his brothers.

    The Spirit will surely bless that. And, I might add, it does seem a simple act of faith, for those of us who are concerned, to take.

  29. Reed Here said,

    December 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Darrell: don’t think anyone is arguing against maintaining our convictions, but how we go about doing so.

  30. Tim Prussic said,

    December 23, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I think that burden of proof for the claim that “the gospel’s at stake” rests on the group making the claim.

    In some (seemingly small and technical) debates the gospel is really at stake (e.g., monophysitism). However, ofttimes we have a tendency to elevate disagreements to a level to which they don’t belong.

  31. Stuart said,

    December 23, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Perhaps what we perceive as “doctrinal indifference” is actually doctrinal difference. People who tend toward precision may think others are simply dismissive of their precision. Yet those seemingly indifferent to theological precision may be on a different theological page altogether. I think it may be inaccurate to lump everyone who complains about doctrinal precision into a category of “indifferent.” They may simply not like where the precision is going.

    On a similar note, what we call “doctrinal precision” may be argumentative gnat straining.

  32. Daniel Ritchie said,

    December 24, 2010 at 4:16 am

    “Are we right to be militant [...] against the general evangelicalism that threatens to turn the PCA into yet another non-Reformed denomination?”

    IME, this is the most important observation in the whole article. The Reformed faith and evangelicalism are two different things. When a denomination tries to be both evangelical and Reformed, it is in danger of going the way of all flesh. For instance, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is a classic example. Founded in 1840 as a union between the evangelical Synod of Ulster and the Seceders (who by this time had been heavily influenced by evangelicalism), the denomination appeared to have impeccable Reformed credentials – full subscription to the WCF (no exceptions or even explanations), purity of worship, etc, etc. Yet because it was a product of evangelicalism, the evangelical latitudarianism had pretty much trumped the commitment to Reformed orthodoxy within a generation. Today, the conservative evangelicals in the PCI often talk about recovering the denomination’s “evangelical roots” as a tonic for Barthianism, Modernism, ecumenism, semi-Pentecostal worship, and so on. Yet they are virtually blind to the fact that it was the denomination’s evangelicalism that created these problems in the first place. Indeed, when Professor J. Ernest Davey was on trial in 1927 for his alleged Modernism (J. Gresham Machen’s disciple, W. J. Grier was one of his accusers), he was able to seal his acquital by an appeal to evangelical experience (saying he “got saved” on such-and-such a date, and received the second blessing a few years later, etc). Hence, if we want to maintain our Reformed piety and identity, they then best thing we can do (in the short term) is dump evangelicalism.

  33. Jim Cassidy said,

    December 24, 2010 at 7:19 am

    I think you nailed it, Daniel.

    I wonder if some here think that to be a “warrior” in the church entails lashing out at everyone with which you have the smallest disagreement or being suspicious of everyone but yourself and your elders (and even they are starting to look a little liberal!). I don’t think that is what Hart is saying. And that is certainly exactly not what Machen did. He was firm, but cordial. He was fair in how he represented his opponents. And he didn’t regard everyone as his enemy as if he was paranoid. So the lesson here isn’t fight every battle that comes up in the church and if you lose storm off and form your own denomination. But there are issues worth putting it all on the line for. Now, which issues those are requires wisdom to determine. But once determined, we’re called to nothing less than militancy.

  34. dgh said,

    December 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

    First a response to Sean: isn’t it odd to cite Gal. 5 as a model for how to regard fellow presbyters when Paul has anathematized fellow presbyters four chapters earlier? And this was a point that Machen repeatedly made, the hymns of love in the NT are cheek-by-jowl right next to polemics.

    In which case, the choice is not between love and polemics. Devouring each other may not be a good thing. But when my father was putting a belt to my backside it sort of felt like I was being devoured. And yet, that was love, right?

    So it is possible to be critical, and even to have a proper level of watchfulness, and love the presbyters. We do it with children, spouses, flocks, so why not fellow officers?

    The second point concern defending the Gospel and defending the truths of Scripture. Most Presbyterians like the Machen of Christianity and Liberalism who contended for the gospel. But when it came to Presbyterian polity in the 1930s missions controversy, lots of conservative Presbyterians are not so enamored. Do we really want to battle over the regulative principle or a system of church courts or over the prerogatives of presbyteries? Some believe that these matters of polity are less important than the gospel. I suppose they may be. But can you have the gospel without the gospel being embodied in a disciplined communion overseen by pastors and elders? And can you maintain a gospel witness with the oversight that comes with presbyterian polity? And can you even be faithful to Scripture without ordering the government of the church along presbyterian lines?

    The reason for the questions is that a big difference between evangelical Presbyterians and Presbyterian Protestants is whether those ecclesiological questions actually matter. If they do, then those structures of oversight indicate that the love presbyters are to show to members and officers is one of being on guard, or on watch for error.

  35. Stuart said,

    December 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

    dgh,

    I agree with you that the choice is not between love and polemics. Scripture calls us to both. How love and polemics are played out or applied is the issue.

    I do pause a bit with the following reasoning . . .

    Do we really want to battle over the regulative principle or a system of church courts or over the prerogatives of presbyteries? Some believe that these matters of polity are less important than the gospel. I suppose they may be. But can you have the gospel without the gospel being embodied in a disciplined communion overseen by pastors and elders? And can you maintain a gospel witness with the oversight that comes with presbyterian polity? And can you even be faithful to Scripture without ordering the government of the church along presbyterian lines?

    Not that I disagree completely, or that I think these subjects are so unimportant that we shouldn’t debate with those who have different views. The reason I pause is that I wonder how far such reasoning can be pushed.

    We agree that if the gospel is at stake, we contend for the faith. We agree that if a central doctrine of the faith that may not be the gospel but vitally important is under attack, we must defend the faith. We even agree that if a doctrine is not the gospel per se but the denial of said doctrine would compromise the gospel, we should try to protect the church from such error. But how far down this line do we go?

    We could conceivably link every doctrine with “maintaining” the gospel in some way. And so we could accuse each other of not maintaining the proper setting for the gospel, which would lead to us accusing one another on compromising the gospel, and then it wouldn’t be a far jump to accuse each other of denying the gospel altogether when we simply disagree on non-central issues. Maybe that seems a bit far-fetched, but stranger things have happend in the history of the church. If our theology has to be of such precision on every jot and tittle that every error is a damning denial of the gospel, I’m not sure who will be able to maintain their place in the visible church.

    Having said that, if all you’re saying is that there are certain doctrines that may not be necessary to the gospel per se or central to the faith in general but very important to Presbyterianism such that we ought not compromise and continue to call ourselves Presbyterian in any real sense (for example, if we abandon Presbyterian government for congregational government shouldn’t we abandon the name “Presbyterian”?), then I agree.

  36. dgh said,

    December 24, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Stuart,

    I’m trying to make a case for the importance of Reformed teachings and practices such that we/I can explain that the reason for being in a separate communion from particular Baptists is more than perverse stubbornness or idiosyncratic obstinacy. And this is something I wish the folks at the Gospel Coalition and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals would consider. Which is more important, our membership in a group committed to the gospel, or in a communion overseen by the officers Christ instituted?

  37. Lee said,

    December 24, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    #4 Joel S.
    Just for the record the RCUS version of the 3FU has changed the part about Paul being the author of Hebrews.
    Just thought I would bring that up!

  38. Ron said,

    December 25, 2010 at 12:39 am

    And this is something I wish the folks at the Gospel Coalition and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals would consider. Which is more important, our membership in a group committed to the gospel, or in a communion overseen by the officers Christ instituted?

    Darryl,

    I’d rather see someone be a member of a Christian church overseen by officers commissioned by Christ than be a member of even the finest Reformed organization that was not a church. I’m sure ACE would agree. I’m not pleased whe groups (maybe such as ACE – I don’t follow them any longer) that make statements or sign documents as if they speak for the church, but I suppose that’s another matter. Yes, we all want to uphold denomination distinctives and that’s a fine thing but it need not be a source of disunity over other precious gospel truths. Obviously I don’t want to plant a church with an Arminian Methodist who baptizes babies or a Calvinistic baptist who doesn’t, but my reasons for those sorts of convictions need not come into play with respect to organizations such as ACE. There’s a place for being more inclusive. I don’t have time for such organizations given my own lot in life, but I must allow for them. Maybe I’m missing something.

    Best,

    Ron

  39. grit said,

    December 25, 2010 at 7:30 am

    GreenBaggins said: “From our perspective, we believe the gospel is at stake in many of these controversies. Further, the purity and peace of the church is at stake in all the others.”

    Forgive me, but if I may, for again I’m grateful for this forum and muchly respect out host, let me illustrate with a topic near and dear to most of our readers concerning this very day, and of which many may be found liberal, though I find it not a matter striking the heart of the Gospel as some. I’m one of those Christmas bah humbuggers some of you may only have read about, for Christmas celebration seems now the default theology in the greater number of Reformed communions. Is it a line in the sand worth defending with stones in the face of such a wave of Protestant approval? I find it is, but not in stones thrown, but rather gathered in to rebuild what has broken in American Presbyterianism. In one sense Americans owe our very nation to our non-observance of Christmas on strong Reformed principle of the abolishment of superstition from our devout religious practice, and yet the vast majority of Reformed conservative ‘battlers’ now enthusiastically embrace the day with a wealth of Christian redemption, even citing Calvin, Luther, and especially Dutch tradition as formative in their practice.

    I’m not here to ruin anyone’s Christmas celebration, I might just as well denigrate such as the Puritan Board (which for me even better illustrates the point), but Christmas may serve to exemplify how to fight and how not to fight. Yes, there are Protestant protestors who perhaps get even nastier than Thomas Nast in creative warfare, in battling either for or against Christmas Day, and people on either side of the debate who claim the battle as a bastion of Reformed peace and purity, yea, the Gospel itself; but none of us reject the honouring of Christ’s nativity, even if consigning Christmas to some hellish daemon propaganda corrupting the Gospel. With view to the nativity of the Christ, there can be little doubt that a December 25th honouring of such is ripe with religious compromise, especially among American Presbyterianism of PCA heritage; but we make little headway in either reformation or effective battle stratagem to delegate our opponents as denizens of Satan. Contending for the Gospel among bearers of Good News ought more befit the, “glorie be to God in the high heauens, and peace in earth, & towards men good wil” (Luke II.14, Geneva, 1560). Yes, we do well to contend well, but there are ways we too often go about ‘correcting’ a brother or embattling a ‘false’ gospel that are as false of good doctrine and, yes, the Gospel, as the false doctrine we would weed from the ‘truly Reformed’. In that sense we, to me, seem as burning of Servetus alive as any other militancy to be stomached.

    Again, perhaps for too many, “there is nothing left about which we should fight”, in the face of some idolatrising of “unity and peace”. We indeed have traditionally been too complacent, even as fighting Presbyterians of note; but where some few of us have lost our taste of infighting, it’s in the divisiveness that marks for micro-denominationalism and sectarian violence, even if rhetorical (though, would I be too out of line to deem it terrorism? – it certainly seems as such for those experiencing it, even to the point of death). Do we really think this conveys Christ and the Gospel to the world? By all means smack the enemy, just let’s make sure we do it justly and not with enemy tactic. Sometimes, just sometimes, by “contending for the Gospel”, what we really mean is, “you Christmas Roman Pope scum of anti-Christianity!” OK, so maybe it sat better in our stomachs in an earlier age, but last I checked the OPC, PCA, ARP, Church of Scotland, and a host of other Reformed bodies dropped that language from out confessional standards, and with good cause.

  40. Zrim said,

    December 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I think it may be inaccurate to lump everyone who complains about doctrinal precision into a category of “indifferent.”

    Stuart, agreed, which is why the taxonomy seems to be more precison/latitudinarian, which is to say intolerant/tolerant. Those who complain about intolerant precision tend to be tolerant latitudinarians who are more tolerant than indifferent. (If you are the same Stuart from recent Creed Code Cult discussion over 2k, it’s worth pointing out here that 2kers tend to want tolerance in matters ideological/civil but as much intolerance in matters doctrinal/ecclesiastical.)

    On a similar note, what we call “doctrinal precision” may be argumentative gnat straining.

    Maybe. But that’s usually a latitudinarian complaint. And, as I see it, the problem isn’t so much that precisionism is “gnat straining” as it is doctrine not informing practice, or a disconect between content and form. Another latitudinarian complaint against precisionism is “dead orthodoxy,” but ironically it’s that latitudinarian phenomenon of holding to certain doctrines but not allowing them to inform practice that seems to be what dead orthodoxy is.

  41. Sean Lucas said,

    December 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    #34-dgh: Merry Christmas, Darryl. Just a quick response. If you go back and read what I wrote, I never pitted love and polemics. What I did say that even our polemics have to be Gospel-drenched and when we rebuke a brother, it must be with tears.

    The other thing that I was trying to say is that we can become so suspicious of one another that we end up devouring one another. That doesn’t preclude the need to rebuke or admonish those who require it; in my pastoral ministry, I’ve sadly had to do this too frequently by means of church discipline. But each time we’ve engaged in disciplinary process, it has been with tears and out of love for the other.

    My fear is that we can become so critical, so watchful, so militant that we can shrivel up. I’m afraid that someone both you and I admire, H. L. Mecken, had that happen to him. Always the critic, always exposing mountebanks, he ended up dying as an angry, alienated, bitter man. Thankfully, the Gospel prevents that from happening to us completely. We must walk more in step with the Spirit and think the best of one another. Hope that helps.

  42. Stuart said,

    December 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Zrim,

    Stuart, agreed, which is why the taxonomy seems to be more precision/latitudinarian, which is to say intolerant/tolerant.

    Eh . . . You may call me latitudinarian (or am I trying to be more precise?) for saying this, but even that dichotomy doesn’t fit exactly. I may work hard at precision in my own theological expression and practice, and still be latitudinarian in the way I interact with my brothers in Christ. I may be intolerant of anything I think is error in my own views but be very tolerant of people within the covenant community of which I am a part. Or I may be very intolerant of error within my church family, but be very tolerant of others outside of my worshipping community.

    Those who complain about intolerant precision tend to be tolerant latitudinarians who are more tolerant than indifferent.

    I’n sure there are those who fit that description well, but there are also those who complain about intolerant precision because they see a form of self-righteousness expressed in the so-called “intolerant precision.”

    Paul is intolerant when it comes to justification (see Galatians), but he doesn’t seem to lean toward “intolerant precision” when he’s addressing the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. He speaks the truth and speaks it boldly, but he concludes that “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Paul has a tendency to be “precise,” but he wasn’t always “intolerant.”

    If you are the same Stuart from recent Creed Code Cult discussion over 2k,

    You called it. Same guy! =-)

    it’s worth pointing out here that 2kers tend to want tolerance in matters ideological/civil but as much intolerance in matters doctrinal/ecclesiastical.

    Well then, I guess I’m finding out I’m more 2k than I realized!

    I said . . . On a similar note, what we call “doctrinal precision” may be argumentative gnat straining.

    And you responded . . . Maybe. But that’s usually a latitudinarian complaint.

    Maybe so, but then Jesus may have been a bit “latitudinarian” himself since he called the Pharisees “precision” straining out a gnat.

    And, as I see it, the problem isn’t so much that precisionism is “gnat straining” as it is doctrine not informing practice, or a disconnect between content and form.

    OK. As I see it, the problem with some forms of precisionism is multifaceted including “gnat straining, doctrine/practice disconnect, content/form discrepancy, and (uh oh, I’m actually going to say it!) “dead orthodoxy” . . . among other things.

    Another latitudinarian complaint against precisionism is “dead orthodoxy,” but ironically it’s that latitudinarian phenomenon of holding to certain doctrines but not allowing them to inform practice that seems to be what dead orthodoxy is.

    Yes. I agree. It works both ways. But just because a latitudinarian complains about a dead orthodoxy which he himself has embraced unknowingly doesn’t mean that the complaint never sticks.

  43. dgh said,

    December 25, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Sean, but why would you associate the critical mindset espoused in this post (and by implication in my chapter) with biting and devouring one another? In your initial response you didn’t leave any room for genuine criticism. It was all about love.

  44. Andrew Duggan said,

    December 26, 2010 at 8:19 am

    That’s because any criticism of those who claim to have good intentions is necessarily mean-spirited. There should be corollary to Godwin’s law for that.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to listen to the siren song to distract those from pointing out the rocks in the water when the ship of the church is sailing in the rocky waters of the 21st century. The main line churches were wrecked a century ago by the same song, and now they are singing to those in charge of the little life boats.

  45. David Gray said,

    December 26, 2010 at 8:37 am

    >>The main line churches were wrecked a century ago by the same song, and now they are singing to those in charge of the little life boats.

    But then why is Tim Keller and his sexual egalitarianism ignored and people get unduly excited about a handful of FV folk?

  46. December 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    John A.,

    Regarding your comment about appearing on the Glenn Beck show being a kind of theological “selling out;” I’m assuming, if I’m not mistaken, that you’re referring to Dr. Peter Lillback’s appearance some months ago.

    I had a conversation with my Westminster friends at church, some of whom thought it was a bad idea and some of whom thought it was fine. Those opposed to the idea are not American citizens and have a tendency to be highly critical of all things dealing with American politics. They actively tried to persuade Dr. Lillback not to go. My own position is that any opportunity to reach a national audience with the gospel is a God-ordained opportunity and is not to be eschewed. Afterward, when I asked my one friend what he thought of Dr. Lillback’s appearance on the show, he replied, “Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.” I laughed because his disdain for Beck makes him unwilling to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in this situation to proclaim His word to a very large television audience. I should add, merely by way of information, that that one appearance tremendously boosted the sales of Lillback’s book, George Washington’s Sacred Fire,>/i> to the point that Amazon ran out of copies and new hard cover editions had to be printed.

    Whatever we may think of Beck and his admittedly badly flawed theology, I think too many Reformed folks are needlessly in hysterics over Beck’s nationalistic influence. Our duty is to proclaim God’s Word and to help ensure that people do not confuse the gospel with national pride, not exactly a new problem in our culture.

    American civil religion has been with us for centuries and will continue as long as the country does. Diligence. Consistency. Tireless efforts to educate, assist and help people to understand the Scriptures. That is our task. Let’s use every means to clarify God’s Word. Going on the Glenn Beck show does no more to legitimise his belief system than James White does to John Shelby Spong’s or Bart Ehrman’s belief systems by debating them in public.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Pilgrimsarbour

  47. December 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Sorry about the italics–I messed up.

  48. John A. said,

    December 26, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Pilgrimsarbour,

    Thanks for the well thought out response. Yes, I was referring to Lillback and to Beisner as well.

    I realize Civil Religion has always been part of the post-Revolution American experience, but I don’t think we should be content with that. I would argue that it’s a huge problem for the Church and has led to massive confusion. I think we should listen to Trueman and others like him. It’s healthy for us to listen to someone from outside our culture. Britain especially, because though they’re outside, they can easily understand our culture and relate to it. He’s pretty calm and level-headed about it, much more than I would be.

    While I certainly reject Beck’s Mormonism, with equal fervour I reject his nationalism. Christians cannot be nationalists. As a rival ‘-ism’, I would argue it sets up a parallel religion that can sure look very similar to our own and before long we’re confusing American ideas and values with those of the Bible… then we go looking for them in the Scripture to vindicate our position. I’m not saying everyone is guilty of that. I’m just saying it’s a danger. We need to be a Pilgrim people which is really incompatible with what’s happening right now in the Christian Right.

    God can use any situation and we should be keen to take advantage of opportunities that are given. But with FOX it gets a little iffy from my standpoint. Fox is not really trying to be a valid news organization. It’s agenda is pretty patent and many Christians have confused the Christo-American/Fox worldview with Biblical Christianity. I think it would be good to stay away. Rather than educate I think it does more to confuse.

    Going on Beck with his specific Americo-Theological outlook is akin to sitting in the Pythia’s seat at Delphi. You can preach ‘at’ Delphi….but shouldn’t sit ‘with’ the Pythia to proclaim the gospel. It’s another religion. In fact Beck is worse, because it looks far more Christian than Delphi ever did.

    I know you won’t agree, but I appreciate the sober reply as well as the thought you gave to it. But I think we would both agree, this whole issue has huge implications.

  49. December 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    John A.,

    Thanks for your response. I’m mindful of the difficulties in explaining to the brethren why American nationalism is not the gospel. On the other hand, I’m not willing to throw out patriotic pride altogether for the sake of the abuses that can result from such thinking. I agree, however, that the whole issue has huge implications. I just think that the attending problems are not insurmountable.

    You said: Fox is not really trying to be a valid news organization.

    I respectfully say, nonsense. Are you sure you’re not swallowing all the leftist media claptrap about Fox being invalid as a news orgainisation, whereas MSNBC is the quintessential example of veracity? You ever see Olbermann and Schultz? Oy vey! Everybody has an agenda, but we need to discriminate between the opinion commentators and the hard news crew. I address some of this, if you’re interested, in my review of Carl Trueman’s latest book Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. You may read it here, if you wish:

    http://the-porters-lodge.blogspot.com/2010/10/book-review-republocrat-confessions-of.html

    Carl told me today that he recently went on a right-wing radio host’s program and had a very good time. The questions were general, but good, and his answers regarding his criticisms of the left were well appreciated. He told me the name of the person, but I had not heard of her, and I’ve forgotten her name. He said he would send me a link to her website.

    I’m thinking, if even Trueman can go on a right-wing show to proclaim the gospel, then my ideas may be enjoying some kind of vindication! :-)

    Blessings in Christ,

    Pilgrimsarbour

  50. Zrim said,

    December 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    …even that dichotomy doesn’t fit exactly [precision vs. latitudinarian instead of precision vs. indifference]. I may work hard at precision in my own theological expression and practice, and still be latitudinarian in the way I interact with my brothers in Christ.

    I wonder if you’re using the term “latitudinarian” synonymously for something akin to subjective disposition toward another. But I’m using it synonymously with objective evaluation of views.

    Paul is intolerant when it comes to justification (see Galatians), but he doesn’t seem to lean toward “intolerant precision” when he’s addressing the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. He speaks the truth and speaks it boldly, but he concludes that “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Paul has a tendency to be “precise,” but he wasn’t always “intolerant.”

    Meat sacrificed to idols was a question of liberty (not doctrine), so that he demonstrated less precision and more tolerance here was appropriate. He “opposed Peter to his face” over seating arrangements because it was a question of doctrine (not liberty). IOW, what made the difference was the category at hand. So, I might amend your statement to say that Paul was precise and intolerant regarding doctrine, latitudinarian regarding liberty.

    Maybe so, but then Jesus may have been a bit “latitudinarian” himself since he called the Pharisees “precision” straining out a gnat.

    Again, “over what?” seems to be the question before we can render a favorable or unfavorable interpretation. And in this case, they were being precise over extra-biblical teachings, which is to say something closer to liberty than doctrine. I don’t think we want to suggest that Jesus had something categorically against precision. That seems like the same error some make about religious authority: he rebukes the religious authorities and some conclude that means he’s got something categorically against religious authority, which seems to suggest more that the interpreters have something categorically against it than Jesus does.

    Yes. I agree. It works both ways. But just because a latitudinarian complains about a dead orthodoxy which he himself has embraced unknowingly doesn’t mean that the complaint never sticks.
    Stuart, my point about so-called “dead orthodoxy” wasn’t necessarily that it goes both ways. When precisionism connects belief with practice it is by definition alive, and precisionism, it most cases, is a concern of those who see the need to make that connection. And it seems to me that latitudinarianism, by its very nature, has a hard time connecting belief with practice, which seems to suggest that the latter may be more prone to what could be deemed “dead orthodoxy.”

    I get the sense from you a premise that precisionism may be more prone to disadvantage than latitudinarianism. But it’s hard to imagine the Reformation owing itself to latitudinarianism over against precisionism.

  51. John A. said,

    December 26, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Pilgrimsarbour,

    Yes, I will check out the review. I would be very interested.

    MSNBC as just as atrocious as Fox. I agree. Neither are very concerned with presenting the facts accurately so that we can discern the truth.

    As Christians I think we should refuse the provided paradigms. I don’t really find Left or Right to be acceptable. As a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom, I want to look at all these issues in way that excludes the American lens. I think we can form of Biblical view of the fallen world, realize all systems fail, all towers end up becoming Babels, and all nations become Babylon. The only Holy nation is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. We can’t split our allegiances right or are we going to try and say a fallen kingdom of the Common Grace order is in sync with the Gospel imperative of the Kingdom?

    There are some excellent news outlets available, but I think Trueman is right….the best source is multiple sources.

    So if I’m not patriotic, some will say I’m extreme left. But leftists will accuse me of being extreme right. We shouldn’t be either. We should reject the paradigm. That’s not being irrelevant. The gospel message is always relevant and can speak to anyone anywhere and nationalism, patriotism, and/or cultural superiority should never be factors in this. If we’re including those in the gospel, we’re in trouble. I’m not accusing you of that, but I certainly would many others. I think all forms Constantinianism are in error whether it be the Left of Wallis and Campolo or the Right of DJ Kennedy and Richard Land. And thus, a news outlet that supports that even if implicitly….should be avoided.

    I just can’t find patriotic pride to be compatible with Scripture. Where do we find that?

    As for me,….. I’m a Mayflower descendant, with settlers in Virginia and Pennsylvania as well. One of my grandfathers fought in the Pequot War and settled Connecticut. My ggggg-father fought in the French and Indian War, and then fought in the Revolution with all of his sons. One of my ggg-fathers was a Confederate Cavalryman in Arkansas, another was a Union soldier at Vicksburg. Did I mention the War of 1812?

    My grandparents were pioneers in the West, one ggg-father came west for the gold rush. I have a nice picture of my young uniformed grandfather standing in Paris in 1945. I’m even a veteran myself, though not proud of it. If you’ll bear with my foolishness you can see I have plenty to be patriotic about, but I believe I need to count it all as dung.

    Trueman’s a charitable guy. I could learn a thing or two from him. It doesn’t surprise me that things would go well for him on a show like that. We don’t have to be afraid of people like Beck, but I don’t think we should any way appear to endorse his message.

  52. Stuart said,

    December 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Zrim,

    Meat sacrificed to idols was a question of liberty (not doctrine),

    Taking this phrase at face value, I respectfully disagree. Every issue comes down to a question of doctrine. In the case of what is said in 1 Corinthians about eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul seems to be arguing more against “liberty” on the basis of doctrine put into practice (8:9-13) . . . and, btw, that would seem to be “precisionist” the way you’ve been describing it.

    Again, “over what?” seems to be the question before we can render a favorable or unfavorable interpretation. And in this case, they were being precise over extra-biblical teachings, which is to say something closer to liberty than doctrine.

    The Pharisees were being precise in their understanding of what they believed the Scriptures required. I would call that doctrine . . . false doctrine in their case, but doctrine nonetheless.

    So the connection over gnat straining in the current discussion is that sometimes perhaps well-meaning precisionists are overly zealous for their own understandings of what they think God requires of us, and thus they cross a line where their doctrine requires something of us that God himself does not.

    I don’t think we want to suggest that Jesus had something categorically against precision. That seems like the same error some make about religious authority: he rebukes the religious authorities and some conclude that means he’s got something categorically against religious authority, which seems to suggest more that the interpreters have something categorically against it than Jesus does.

    No, I am not suggesting Jesus has “something categorically against precision.” Nor am I suggesting Jesus has something against religious authority. I was simply pointing out that Jesus used the gnat straining line against the Pharisees who were trying to be precise in some ways (note how Jesus said they also “swallowed a camel” which is certainly not being very “precise”) on their views of what God required. In suggesting that Jesus was “latitudinarian” I was actually making a pointed challenge . . . just because someone (such as myself) says, “what we call “doctrinal precision” may be argumentative gnat straining” (and I want to point out the all important “may be” in that statement), doesn’t mean that such a person is necessarily a tolerant latitudinarian.

    When precisionism connects belief with practice it is by definition alive, and precisionism, it most cases, is a concern of those who see the need to make that connection.

    “In most cases” being an important phrase (and that important phrase may be a bit generous). Connecting belief with practice is the important aspect of religion that seems to be lost so often in the church. If this is all that is meant by “precisionist” then sign me up! I’m afraid that’s not all there is to precisionism of all stripes, however. As I commented above, I see problems “with some forms of precisionism”, not with all.

    And it seems to me that latitudinarianism, by its very nature, has a hard time connecting belief with practice, which seems to suggest that the latter may be more prone to what could be deemed “dead orthodoxy.”

    I think you’re right that latitudinarianism opens itself up to dead orthodoxy much more than latitudinarians would be willing to accept. That might seem to tip the scales toward precisionism. Yet I would quickly add that the problem with any “ism” (including precisionism) is that sinners take a good thing and pervert it. Is it good to be precise when it comes to doctrine? I would give a resounding “Yes!” to that question. Can precision in doctrine lead to pride, self-righteousness, unloving attitudes, etc. in the hands of sinners? Yes it can. Can a love of precision in theological matters be such a mental exercise that it distracts the precisionist from connecting the dots to living in light of his precise expressions of doctrine? Sadly, I think the answer is “yes.”

    So I think that it might be better to say that sinners are prone to dead orthodoxy whether stemming from their fascination with precision or with their fascination with being broad-minded and tolerant.

    I get the sense from you a premise that precisionism may be more prone to disadvantage than latitudinarianism.

    It’s funny . . . the vibes I seem to give off online!

    I think both “isms” have their disadvantages. I don’t think the problems with precisionism are worse than the problems of latitudinarianism. I think those who like to be precise (and I am one of those guys) sometimes fail to be precise enough, and yet unwittingly (at least I hope this is the case) give the impression that they’ve reached the height of precision in their thinking. But even precisionists need to be sharpened in their thinking.

  53. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 4:13 am

    I woke up this morning and found my in-box filled with email by people who are saying FOX News isn’t trying to be a news organization and who are saying they’re veterans but not proud of it.

    I’ve got better things to do with my time this morning, but frankly I’m angry and I’m going to take time I don’t have to say something that needs to be said.

    Guys, I’m a right-wing Calvinist by any definition of the word. I’m also a reporter living and working outside Fort Leonard Wood. That’s the home of the Army Engineer School (think of the efforts to stop the improvised explosive devices that are the major killer of our soldiers in Iraq), the Army Chemical, Biological, Nuclear and Radiological School (think of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, plus trying to identify the nuclear weapons sites in Iran and North Korea) and the Military Police School (think re-training our MPs to prevent another Abu Ghraib debacle — our two-star general who commands the post is the one who had to clean up that mess a few years ago).

    Believe me, living and working in a community where “green suiters,” their families, and military retirees are the majority of the population, I’m more aware of the problems of the modern American military than most.

    I also have a wife whose mother was in a South Korean village when it was overrun by the North Korean Communists, and whose brother served in the South Korean Special Forces. My niece is planning to enlist in the Army soon, even being fully aware there’s a very good chance she’ll end up in combat in the near future, and given her Korean fluency, quite possibly part of a major war in the Korean peninsula.

    Frankly, if American Christians aren’t grateful for the freedom to worship given us by the United States Constitution, we’re nothing but ungrateful wretches who deserve a good kick in the teeth. Sorry for being blunt, but it’s true. Go ask a few victims of Communist aggression or Islamofascist persecution, what they think about the alternatives to American freedom and democracy.

    If you know a veteran, go thank him or her today (unless, of course, he’s not proud of his service — he’s earned the right to his opinions and they need to be respected).

    If you know someone on active duty, ask if there’s anything you can do to help — at this time of year, a prepaid phone card for families is often a good choice.

    And if you have a son or daughter who is considering the military, make sure they know what they’re doing, but also remember that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of previous generations who served in uniform, you wouldn’t be speaking English today and there’s a very good chance your church building would be a pile of rubble and you’d be hiding your Bible in the floorboards to keep it away from the secret police.

    I think it was Winston Churchill who said that democracy is the worst system in the world — except for all the alternatives. I happen to think that Puritan New England, Calvin’s Geneva, or Knox’s Scotland might have been a little better places than modern America, but we don’t have those alternatives today, and reading Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, or the histories of Calvin or Knox, makes clear that their civil affairs weren’t exactly a piece of cake, either.

    For those Reformed people who want to join the “attack America first” crowd, I’ll pay attention to you when you show me someplace else in the world where you have greater freedom to criticize the government combined with greater cultural support for the basics of Biblical Christianity.

    I think I’ll be waiting a long time before you can give me a better example in the modern world, though I’ll fully grant that there have been better examples at other times in history.

  54. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 6:40 am

    DTM,

    This is a helpful example of what I’m talking about. We need to reject the paradigm. Since we’ve been raised in American culture and shaped not by the Bible but by its values by default we think this way. Why is it that if I don’t like Fox News and the Christian Right, I therefore must be a communist or pro-Islamic? It doesn’t follow. The conclusions are flowing out of a model given to us by society and the media.

    We may have very different views of current events and history which I would argue are within the realm of Christian liberty, but I don’t think you would reciprocate.

    Pretend for a moment were in the 2nd century….

    We need to be thankful for the legions stationed here in Pannonia. They’re leading the charge against those awful Dacians and Marcomanni across the border. They’re defending us and working out the methods of warfare that will teach those people to submit. They even have a new general who’s training them to prevent another massacre, like the kind that was depicted on Trajan’s column.

    If Roman Christians aren’t thankful for the defense the legions give to us, then we’re just wretched. Go thank a member of the legions today. Rome is the greatest place in the world……..

    —–

    Now if you don’t like the analogy, apply it to the Constantinian era and the Persian wars. Let’s just say the Christians in Persia weren’t terribly thrilled with Roman policy. It caused them considerable grief.

    Obviously you’re very passionate in your love for America, but where does the Bible teach me to think this way about a country in the common grace order? Would you be equally fervent if you lived in Italy, or Austria? Do you think Christians there put flags up in their churches and sing nationalistic songs during worship? I’m not saying you do that, but I think everyone knows what I’m talking about, or at least I hope so. Where does the Bible teach us that we’re to be caught up in political factionalism? If we were in Byzantium should he have been cheering for the red or the blues? It seems absurd to us because we’re not in that context. Don’t you think for Christians in other lands they might find our way of structuring our view of the world in a similar manner?

  55. December 27, 2010 at 8:17 am

    John A.,

    Thanks for taking the time to engage me in a (to me) very interesting discussion.

    To clarify my position, I do not believe that love of country is the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor is it any part of the gospel. However, nor do I believe that love of country is by default sinful and is to be avoided at all costs. As with anything in life, it needs to be assessed as to its benefits. If it takes priority over the gospel then it needs to be modified or abandoned. Love of country is a natural, tangible expression of gratitude to the Lord Christ for His grace and providence in the lives of His children. Even those living in dire circumstances with cruel governments experience a love of country; it is part of the human condition. My guess is, as Dennis Prager would say, that you are a part of the modern American university system and all that entails. :-)

    I don’t know what happened to you that you would find your military service to have been something of which you are not proud. I don’t need to know. I can tell you, though, that that is relatively rare among veterans; my father (WW II) and brother (West Point, ’76–Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq) are two that I know who would be sorry to hear that. But as I said, we don’t need to get into that, especially since I cannot discuss it from the experience of a veteran; I was too young for Vietnam and too old for the Gulf, and never felt led by Christ to serve in that way.

    I find myself in the strange and oft-repeated position of trying to pull out of the person with whom I’m having a discussion anything specific about Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, Krauthammer, Hume, Wallace–or any other conservative opinion commentator or straight journalist on Fox which is so offensive, wrong-headed and fallacious that they are to be dismissed out-of-hand. I can tell you right off the bat how I feel about each, and my reasons are mixed. I like some, and others I don’t really get how they made it there. But I must tell you that statements like Fox is not really trying to be a valid news organization strike me as pedantic, a parroting of the jealous common criticisms heard from the main stream media cable competitors who find their audiences steadily dwindling. Please forgive me, but it doesn’t seem well thought out when compared with your other reasonable comments.

    Can you give me a specific example of what burns your wings so about these people aside from the occasional jackassery comment that can be found anywhere in print, online or on television? I’ll tell you straight that I can’t get my “foreign” friends to be specific. It’s all general impressions with them, which I find quite unsatisfying, and certainly has at least as much to do or more with cultural issues and what they’re familiar with than it does with theoretical/ethical/moral/theological concerns. On the other hand, both the BBC’s and the CBC’s anti-American bias and sentiment is well-documented and is something to which I can point as a pervasive taint on their newscasts and on their entertainment programming. Are we to think that being exposed to that kind of thing their whole lives has no bearing on their thinking? Let’s just say I don’t dare bring this up:

    http://www.aim.org/media-monitor/bbc-admits-anti-american-bias/

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2004/04/the_bbc_proeu_and_antiamerica.html

    http://www.vancouverobserver.com/localvocal/2010/12/01/cbc-anti-american

    As far as Carl is concerned, he mentions O’Reilly in his book as having once used the term “socialist” in what he considered to be an inappropriate context. Uh, okay. So that means he’s a troglodyte, and all Fox people are clever and insidious propagandists? I’m a bit confused as to how they can be both clever and insidious and yet stupid nitwits at the same time (something of which George Bush was regularly accused by the left). I’ve never found anyone who could explain that to me. And as far as Beck is concerned, I don’t have any idea why someone like yourself would consider him to be someone of whom we might have cause to be afraid.

    I say fear the Lord instead, and make it a point to proclaim the gospel without the nationalistic baggage that often accompanies it in today’s America. I don’t say throw out all nationalistic or patriotic baggage–merely assign them their proper place.

    Go on Beck’s show. Go on Hannity’s. Go on O’Reilly’s. Proclaim the gospel with boldness. For that matter, go on Hardball. Go on Rachel Maddow’s show, or Ed Schultz’s, or even the program of that wretched refuse of reactionism, Keith Olbermann. If I were offered the opportunity (and I can’t think of a reason in the world that I would be since I am nobody) I would thank God and grab it with fear and trembling. Talk about why the gospel must not be confused with nationalism or patriotism. Make waves. Get people thinking. Make some new enemies. And maybe a new friend or two. But do it because it’s the right thing to do in advancing the Kingdom for Christ.

    I believe in American exceptionalism because of God’s sovereignty and His decree, not because we as a people are especially meritorious. Quite the contrary, to be biblical and truthful about undeserved grace and mercy. There’s the difference. Don’t reject it out-of-hand, explain it, define it properly under the rubric of Reformed theology.

    See what you’ve done now? You’ve gone and got me all worked up! :-)

    End of lecture.

    Blessings in Christ and no worries,

    Pilgrimsarbour

  56. December 27, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Yikes! Sorry about the double posting! I looked and looked this morning and could not find my post. And now, after reposting, there it is! Perhaps the blog administrator can remove the second post.

  57. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 8:36 am

    First off, it’s interesting you ask how I would react if I were Italian or Austrian. Maurina is an Italian name, and my family comes from a part of northern Italy that Austria continued to control until the end of World War I. My father grew up during World War II with his mother and father both working in the city of Flint in the war defense plants. I have other relatives who participated in the American invasion and subsequent occupation of Italy. Questions of what it means to be a loyal American when one is not an Anglo-Saxon dating back to the Mayflower are not unfamiliar to me or my father’s family. (Unlike my father, my mother does have ancestry dating back to the English Nonconformists, though they came to the American colonies after Cromwell’s efforts failed, not as part of the founding generations of Puritan New England.)

    More importantly, however, if the only thing you said was that you don’t like FOX News, I would not have written what I did.

    Rupert Murdoch is not Marvin Olasky and FOX is not World Magazine, and I can also make a long list of things I don’t like about FOX. (Olasky too, but that’s a very short list.) The problems go beyond the mere fact that Murdoch is a secular conservative rather than a Christian conservative. He doesn’t even support traditional conservative secular morality; his “sex sells” model of television journalism appeals to some of the very worst elements of the Southern conservative culture. Murdoch’s model of entertainment journalism, if consistently followed, would lead to the “Page Three Girls” that his newspapers have in England. Murdoch is not stupid, and he knows he can’t do that here without antagonizing his primary audience, so he takes partial steps to attract audiences without antagonizing religious leaders. Furthermore, anyone like Murdoch who divorces his wife of many years to marry a woman young enough to be his daughter who has serious ties to the Chinese Communist Party is certainly worthy of a ctitical eye for political as well as moral reasons.

    However, your objections are to much more than just FOX News.

    I don’t know you personally so I can’t and won’t comment on your motives, but I get very frustrated when I see conservative Bible-believing Reformed Christians joining the “blame America first” crowd.

    I am quite capable of joining you in pointing out lots of problems with the United States. What’s the point? Have Reformed people adopted a perfectionist attitude in our views of civil affairs despite the fact that our ecclesiology teaches us, correctly so, that churches are always more or less pure? Why should we expect perfection from the civil realm when we know better than to expect it in the ecclesiastical realm?

    Furthermore, can we not recognize the obvious fact that, for all its many flaws, there is no major nation in the modern world with a culture which is currently more favorable toward the Gospel than the United States?

    I readily grant that there are some countries in the modern world that are at least arguably more Christian than the United States. It’s quite possible that several Latin American countries will turn into a Pentecostal version of the American Bible Belt in the next century, and South Korea is already far more Christian in its cultural and ecclesiastical life than most of the United States. It’s possible that something similar could happen in some parts of Africa and Asia. On the other hand, there are numerous countries where, like the United States, people have every right to criticize their government and worship freely.

    However, there is no other major country in the modern world with a long history of freedom of speech and freedom of worship whose culture is anywhere near as supportive of historic Christianity as the United States. South Korea is one generation away from a military dictatorship and has no tradition of popular suffrage. Latin America and Africa are full of corrupt and despotic regimes. Perhaps with time Christianity will change their political cultures, but that takes generations, not just a few years.

    Coming from a family which has been involved in politics long before I was born, I am painfully aware of how bad things have gotten in our political classes in the United States and how apathetic too many citizens are who have the ability to use their votes to fix the problems, but do not.

    You ask whether as a Christian in Rome, I would be an uncritical advocate of Roman patriotism because of its fight against the barbarians on the frontiers. Of course not! Rome was persecuting the church, and modern America is doing nothing of the sort — at least not yet.

    I’m also anything but an uncritical advocate of America. As America continues to deteriorate, there may very well be a day that Christians need to regard the American civil government as an evil and oppressive anti-Christian band of persecutors, in which case ordinary citizens or subjects need to adopt the stance which Christians have taken for centuries under persecution, namely, praying for their government. God forbid that it ever gets to that point, but if things ever deteroriate that badly, Christians in the role of lesser magistrates, following Knox’s correct understanding of the role of lesser magistrates in defending their citizens against evil sovereigns, will have to make some very difficult decisions.

    However, as long America remains a free republic in which citizens have the ability to affect policy by our votes, and in which we have freedom to worship God according to the Scriptures, we need to do whatever we can to preserve those rights.

    There’s a wing of Reformed Christianity which, in just the last few years, seems to have decided to follow the world-fight model of the fundamentalists, or worse yet, the Anabaptists. I frankly don’t understand that. I sincerely hope it’s not what you’re saying.

  58. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 9:19 am

    DTM,

    I appreciate the response.

    I think you may have missed my point on the heritage bit. I was simply trying to say that I as much as anyone should be true-blue patriotic, but when I became a Christian, it suddenly didn’t matter anymore. When I start focusing on those things, I start becoming proud…I don’t need that.

    I’m not advocating ‘blame America first,’ nor am I looking for perfection. It can’t be found in any nation. I’m content living here, but as a Christian I had better be content living in Tanzania, Spain, or Iran as well. That doesn’t mean I have a Biblical imperative to join their political factions and foster nationalistic passions about those countries. I think you would argue that America is different from those other countries, but there are many, myself included who don’t think so. Most countries are a mix of good and bad. That’s life in a fallen world.

    As Christians we turn to the Bible, so again I ask, where do I find sanction, justification, or even a positive statement that promotes nationalism? If I’m morally bound as a good citizen to be patriotic and nationalistic in America, then doesn’t it follow that would be equally true for a Christian in France…or even Iran? I think…I don’t want to put words in your mouth….you would say American is a Christian country in some form? If so, I would have to ask…what is that? Where do I find a doctrine that teaches Common Grace nations can somehow become Christian?

    As far as America being favourable to the Gospel? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Sure in terms of civil freedom, the United States has a fairly decent record. But from another perspective I could say the United States is positively hostile to the Biblical gospel. But that really isn’t the salient point. South Korea is very favourable to the gospel. Does that mean I should be a South Korean nationalist if I lived there. If so, for what Biblical reason?

    As far as Rome, so does that mean Christians should be nationalistic and patriotic in any country that isn’t actively persecuting the Church? I’m not sure I see your point.

    Where can I read about lesser magistrates in Scripture? It seems to me that’s an argument built on several layers of assumption.

    I’m not an Anabaptist, but I do believe as pilgrims and strangers on the earth we pray for the peace of the city, and like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we build our houses and live our lives, and support the city….yes, even wicked Babylon. But we sure don’t support Babylon in its deeds, even when she doesn’t persecute us directly, and we don’t ever confuse Babylon with Israel.

  59. dgh said,

    December 27, 2010 at 9:25 am

    John A., as a Rush listener might say, “mega dittos.”

  60. Stuart said,

    December 27, 2010 at 10:09 am

    John A.,

    I do believe as pilgrims and strangers on the earth we pray for the peace of the city, and like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we build our houses and live our lives, and support the city….yes, even wicked Babylon. But we sure don’t support Babylon in its deeds, even when she doesn’t persecute us directly, and we don’t ever confuse Babylon with Israel.

    I appreciate your attempts to clarify what I think we both believe a Christian’s response to nationalism should be. And so with dgh I would give my “mega dittos” as well.

    As I have tried on numerous occasions to engage this issue with others, I’ve found nationalism to be a particularly stubborn idol in the hearts of many. Any challenge given to this nationalism usually ends up with someone being called unpatriotic or ungrateful to live in America. It’s a very touchy subject with some, especially if you live in a mostly Republican, military town in the South (as I currently do).

    We should be grateful as Americans (Scripture calls us to be thankful in all circumstances including the circumstances of the nation in which we live), but we should also remember our citizenship is primarily eschatological. Yes we are citizens of the nation in which we live, but we are citizens of the age to come first and foremost. And so if we are going to pledge ultimate allegiance to any kingdom, it should be Christ’s kingdom. And that kingdom, whether we like it or not, will always be in contrast with the kingdoms of this age.

  61. Zrim said,

    December 27, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Stuart, I certainly appreciate the point that sinners sin because they are sinners and that neither precisionism nor latitudinarianism insulates sinners from being vulnerable to it, and that good things can go bad in the hands of sinners. And it’s certainly good to remember that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—not our doctrine.

    At the same time, I don’t think the dangers of doctrinal precisionism or lat’ism are equal. It seems to me that, as the post proper suggests, in the age of the church militant we must cast our lot one way or another, and then take whatever lumps come with the territory. For my part, I don’t really know how doctrinal lat’ism corresponds to the mission of the church militant, whereas precisionism does. There is combativeness for its own sake, and I think one only need look to the Fundamentalism of the 20th century for an example of it (among other problems), something Machen himself was sufficiently suspicious of. So, yes, precisionism can go bad in the hands of sinners, but lat’ism goes nowhere.

  62. Pastor Aaron said,

    December 27, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I am a United Methodist pastor who lurks here. I learn a lot, and may I say I am glad to see that we’re not the only ones facing serious issues! What I wanted to say, though, is that I don’t find the debates here inimical to unity. The Gospel is not a free-for-all; an important task for us is to determine the boundaries of Christian belief and practice.

  63. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Pilgrimsarbour,

    Great conversation, I agree. These are good things to talk about. It’s not always a bad thing to get worked up.

    I’m not in any way saying we have to hate where we live or despise our heritage. I like most here love history, but it’s always frustrating. It doesn’t satisfy. No one is really ever fully in the right…or the wrong. It’s hard to cheer on any side. That may sound wishy-washy, but the fallen world is a complicated mess. I think when we over-simplify—which I believe Nationalism does—we start down a wrong path.

    Your comments here show that you’re not oversimplifying and though we disagree, I respect what you’re saying.

    Well with Beck he starts with…America is Good. That’s plank #1 of his manifesto. I’m afraid I have a theological difficulty with that. He, like O’Reilly treat certain realms….patriotism, the military, and other American icons as sacred and untouchable. There’s just certain areas that you can’t venture into….you can’t even begin to question. Everything by moral necessity has to be viewed through this American lens. That may be good for this common nation, but I don’t think it’s good for the Holy One of which we are a part.

    If we were talking about the Incarnation or something I would be sympathetic to such rigidity, but to ascribe a de facto sacred status to American interpretations of certain historical events, the integrity of certain American persons, and viewing everything through a lens which says America is the altruistic good guy….and everyone else either wears a black cowboy hat or needs to get in line, is really problematic to me.

    ‘My country right or wrong’ is not compatible with a Christian view of a fallen world. Thankfully you’re not saying that by any means, but I think we all know there are many who do….and Fox seems to promote that. And to many Fox is practically speaking the Christian news station.

    I see Fox as largely contributing to a climate of fear. I personally know people that are on the verge of a nervous breakdown because they’re avid Beck watchers but don’t have the discernment to see that he’s misusing basic terms, and most of what he’s saying is based on conjecture, and lots of non sequitirs based on this conjecture, mixed with circumstantial evidence. People are demonized because they don’t share the America is Good lens. Now, you’ll disagree and to dive into the nitty-gritty details is another matter. I’m trying to explain what I see….knowing you’re not going to concur.

    With O’Reilly if you verge into one of those sacred areas, it’s time to cut the mike. Rather than honest discussion, he shouts people down. I don’t find an honest attempt at reporting the news or discussing it. He tells you what to think and has the text alongside to support it. If people understood these shows to be commentary that would be one thing (still not a good,) but most fans I talk to seem to believe these people are reporting the news. They’re telling it like it is. Are they clever? Yes and no. These people are a product, a presentation, a package. There are many people behind them and contributing to what they’re doing.

    I don’t dismiss them out of hand, but I find Olbermann and the Fox crew to be two sides of the same coin. I’m saying toss the coin in the rubbish bin. Both groups have wrong worldviews. Neutrality is impossible, but news organizations can do a little better than that. I’m not sure why you would think the BBC is anti-American. I’ve been a BBC reader and listener for years and haven’t found that at all. No, they don’t treat America as Exclusive, but any news organization that does (which would include the entire mainstream media in the United States) has immediate problems to my mind. I wouldn’t look to the BBC for a good coverage on a British military scandal, but being free from corporate interests, sometimes outfits like the BBC or even NPR can actually do a better job. They’re not trying to make money by targeting a specific consumer interest. Even liberal outfits like MSNBC or CNN report the news from an American perspective. If you don’t believe me, ask someone from outside the United States.

    We do need to submit to God’s sovereignty and decree and right now clearly…America is top dog. But Britain thought herself to be God’s gift to the world at one time and seemed shocked that world-over many were not terribly pleased with her empire. Not a few of those folks were our ancestors. Rome, the Carolingians, the Plantagenets, the Habsburgs, Byzantium…they all thought they were right too, blessed by God. Hindsight being 20/20 we can clearly see where they all were dreadfully mistaken. I’m arguing for a little perspective.

  64. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I think things may have got out of sequence. I see my post 63 on there, but I was responding to Pilgrimsarbour who’s message arrived in my inbox after #62 Pastor Aaron…..but I don’t see the Pilgrimsarbour post here on the site????

    He should have been 63 and I should have been 64.

    Not sure what happened.

  65. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    OK, let me try to respond on several points.

    There may be conservatives who start with the premise that America is good, or with American exceptionalism. That’s not me. I’m very pessimistic about the long-term future of the United States unless some major changes occur in the next decade to two decades. Jesus Christ most emphatically does not need the United States, and if the United States decides it doesn’t need Him, then God will bring America what it will richly deserve, and may or may not raise up some other country. God doesn’t need a civil government to promote the Gospel, but it certainly helps, and it’s pretty difficult to argue that the Reformation or the missionary movement of the 1800s would have succeeded without backing from the civil power.

    Perhaps an example from the church world will suffice to point out what happens when God’s people don’t do their jobs. We’re already to the point that South Korea, with barely more than a tenth of the population of the United States, has more conservative Bible-believing Presbyterians than the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Scotland,and Ireland have in total membership of all Presbyterian denominations, liberal or conservative, combined. South Korean churches already send about as many missionaries overseas as the entire United States evangelical world. There was a day when if people wanted to study Calvinism they traveled to Geneva or Heidelberg; a century or so later, they traveled to England or Scotland or the Netherlands; for the last century, the travel has been to Princeton followed by Westminster. How long will it be before we have to study Korean to read the best Reformed theologians and church planters? How long will it be before the PCA gets finds that most of its Mission to North America staff members have names like Kim or Lee?

    Does that mean God has decided He’s done with the American Reformed church world due to unfaithfulness and has raised up Reformed other countries to embarrass us for our wasting of His gifts to us? I’m not prepared to say that — yet. But I think it is patently obvious that God **IS** doing that in the Anglican world to rebuke the liberal bishops of the United States and Canada by using the bishops of Africa and Asia to remind elite white Episcopal priests that the faith of Archbishop Cranmer and the English Reformation was far more than rich people getting together and calling themselves vestrymen on Sunday morning.

    (Yes, I’m well aware that Koreans will talk about all their church problems. I don’t deny that for one minute and I’ve seen a lot of that firsthand. However, when I see the worst problems of the Korean church world I’m reminded of the problems caused by Davenport and his radical colleagues during the First Great Awakening, or the Anabaptists during the Reformation itself, or the the extremes of the conventicles during the Dutch Second Reformation (Nadere Reformatie). I typically tell Koreans that I wish American churches had their problems.)

    Now back to your other questions:

    1. Regarding being a Christian in Iran or some other explicitly anti-Christian country — Scripture is quite clear. People in such situations are to pray for their government that it will allow the gospel, and pray for the personal conversion of the leaders. They’re also to obey their governing officals in all things which are not sinful, while absolutely refusing to sin and bearing testimony to the civil rulers even unto death if needed. Individual Christians have no right to overturn their governments except as granted to them by their governments, and if they have no such rights, they are to use the best weapon available to any Christian in any situation, namely, the weapon of prayer.

    2. Regarding the doctrine of the lesser magistrates: This is a standard part of Scottish Presbyterianism, and has been since the days of Knox. I’m well aware that the details are complicated, but the basic biblical principles are really quite simple. First premise: The Old Testament royal kingship was unique to Israel, and divine right of kings does not exist under the New Testment; if it did, we would have one divinely ordained king who all Christian governments must obey, just as David obeyed Saul and refused to overthrow him as the legitimate king, and there’s no hint of that in the New Testament. Second premise: Divine authority **IS** given by Romans 13 to civil magistrates to bear the sword to punish evildoers. Conclusion: Lesser magistrates have the right to punish their superiors if they become evildoers in gross public sin against God.

    I don’t think any of that is very controversial in the year 2010, but it’s a major part of why Calvinism was viewed with horror by Roman Catholic rulers all over Europe who realized that they might be able to bully a Lutheran ruler into submission based on his oath of fealty, but if they persecuted a Calvinist baron or military leader, there was a good chance he’d take up arms to defend himself.

    Fortunately we don’t need to deal with that sort of thing in America. We have the right to get rid of wicked, incompetent, or even just less-effective rulers by the ballot box.

    Now why would Christians possibly **NOT** want to work hard to preserve that right which we have, by God’s grace, in the United States?

  66. michael said,

    December 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    All right! Yes!! War! Warriors!

    Who, When and Where? Why should I consider myself one? How do I become one? What is the fight?

    Here are some thoughts about these words from the thread posted, asking and answering this question:

    “…Are we right to be militant against the Federal Vision, against the liberals in the PCA, against the general evangelicalism that threatens to turn the PCA into yet another non-Reformed denomination? I believe we are required to do this. As Hart mentions, to be militant about the gospel is “not merely to be one of Machen’s warrior children. It is to belong to the church militant” (p. 55). … do not really care about doctrinal precision.…”

    I would first like to throw out here as a consideration some thoughts and ideas of Dr. J.V. Fesko from his book “Justification, Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine” P&R Publishing, page 408:

    “… Antinomians fail to recognize that those who have been justified by faith alone have entered the age to come according to their inner man. On the other hand, neonomians fail to see the two towering figures of the first and last Adams. They fail to see how all others have failed to offer God the obedience he has required, save one. …”.

    My 17 year old son asked me to take him to see the recently release remade movie True Grit starring Jeff Bridges Christmas night. I was impressed with this movie on a couple of levels. One level was the quotations of Scripture opening the movie, and several verses and background music that are clearly songs sung in Churches these days all through the movie as it unfolded before us and then at the ending the movie makers posted other verses for you to consider, supposedly to exact upon your memory a True Gospel interpretation of what you just watched?

    For me, from where I sit, movies and television programs and radio broadcasts are tools being used effectively by the personality known as the False Prophet written about in the book of the Revelation to John?

    The second, yet ironic thing about this movie that I came away with after watching it, is its distinct disobedience to the admonition of Scripture because the story line was all about a girl, 14 years old, who went about “taking” vengeance into her own hands in bringing to justice, by money and her wits, the murderer of her father:

    Rom 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
    Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
    Rom 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

    With those thoughts in mind I would like to point to some ideas and understanding I have come to realize in my studies of the Scriptures the last 37 years and counting about being one of Christ’s warrior disciples today, engaged in a full time battle daily against what we call the unholy trinity: “my flesh, this world and the devils”.

    Also, I wonder if both the OPC and PCA and other Reformed fellowships might be experiencing a parallel experience in these days as the people of God experienced in the days of Isaiah, written about in Isaiah 5?

    There is a verse and idea and concept in chapter 5 that is carried forward to the present day Church Christ is engaged with and in in conducting the affairs of Heaven itself in the world through Her against both the antinomian and the neonomian. It is this:

    Isa 5:9 The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
    Isa 5:10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”
    Isa 5:11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!
    Isa 5:12 They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands.
    Isa 5:13 Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst.

    Of special note is the phrase in verse 12: “… or see the work of his hands.”

    When reading the book of Hebrews we see this concept and idea discussed. See Hebrews 1:10.

    When I weigh the reality being taught in Isaiah 5; the current state of the One True Church today around the world; what the writer of the book of Hebrews is pointing to when you read Hebrews 1:10 against what Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church at Eph. 3:8-12 and what Peter wrote to those under his charge and care, 2 Peter 3: 8-12 and what Jesus showed John at Revelations 8 and what the Eighth did by the prayers of the Saints, Christ’s Warrior Church, praying in one accord before the ancient Heavens, I get a sense that there needs to come about into the spirit, soul and body of the Bride of Christ today a Warrior Word that again re-focuses us on these things?

    Maybe we have gotten distracted away from these major essential and mandatory activities as the Church in History in these days by taking personal vengeance out on others, however subtle or bold the vengeance is, taking it out on some who have gone astray from the essentials of Grace and Truth?

    Do we have a beam in our eyes? I know and realize that the Church somehow must keep vigilant in caring for the lambs of God as Jesus taught Peter, as well as training the sheep of His pasture, His vineyard, John 21:15-17 when going about making warrior disciples of all nations.

    I would ask, though, what is the place the Church has today in this world seeing to it the outcome comes about of Christ exercising His vengeance upon the beast, the false prophet, Satan, Death, Hades and those whose names are not written in the book of Life? It’s clear to me the outcome is eternal damnation in the lake of fire, where they are thrown. Where are we, though, the Church, in this great endtime eschatological work these days?

    On the other hand, it seems to me, being one of His sheep, an adopted son of God now, that I, too, will not escape the spirit of judgment or the spirit of burning that Isaiah talks about in Chapter 4 of the book that bears his name!

    It seems to me the Church is being led into a fresh and refreshing baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire so that that, the hastening of the coming of the day of the Lord, as Peter taught there in chapter 3 of 2 Peter comes about? Here’s what Isaiah wrote about this maturing, discipleship process warrior Saints go through so as to rise up and fight the enemies of God and man in the power of His Grace, Mercy and Truth:

    Isa 4:2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.
    Isa 4:3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
    Isa 4:4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.

    I would end these comments with the words of King David as something to think about praying before God in Heaven in light of what Jesus showed John at Revelation 8 the Eighth angel will do after the prayers of the Saints are prayed.

    Here are King David’s words that I now pray daily before God My Father:

    1Ch 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
    1Ch 16:32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!
    1Ch 16:33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
    1Ch 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

  67. December 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    John A.,

    I think Beck, O’Reilly, et. al. are responding to decades of a pendulum which has swung far to the unfavourable left side where America is portrayed as the harbinger of all evil in the world. It’s as if we invented slavery, cheating, lying, double-crossing and whatever other evils are attributed to our founding and expansion. How far back should we go with the reparations? Should Israel sue Rome for their little adventure in A.D. 70? It is the continuing sorry story of mankind. So while I agree with you that nothing “secular” should be considered truly “sacred,” I certainly understand the frustration that these folks have experienced, and they have tapped into that vein in the conservative American consciousness. To not see or acknowledge this is shocking to me. But I too understand the concerns about hijacking biblical and Christian language to be used as a rhetorical political device.

    Now to me, the issue is not so much nationalism as it is the fact that we have a representative republic which affords and requires our active participation. I lose hope and respect for believers who refuse to participate in this great gift God has given us. It’s biblically appropriate to point out that we are pilgrims and strangers here on earth. I also think that that can become an excuse for believers to be intellectually lazy and to not do the difficult work of trying to discern God’s will for us as we participate in the societies in which He’s placed us. If you think that it’s not the believer’s responsibility to participate (as afforded by the government which has been instituted by God Himself) in his society and government, then we are at an impasse. Nonetheless, wherever we all fall on this issue, I don’t think Christians who wish to actively participate in the gift of a representative republic should be made to feel as if they’re less spiritual or diluting or mixing the gospel, unless, of course, it can be clearly demonstrated that they are seriously doing that. And I don’t mean Beck, who by any clear theological understanding is not by definition a true follower of Jesus Christ.

    As far as personalities, I agree that O’Reilly shouts people down, and I don’t watch him much because of that. As far as the BBC and the CBC are concerned, did you click on the links I provided? These are people within their own organisations admitting this. It’s really not up for debate. You seem to be saying that state-sponsored media is the way to go. But as I said to Carl (Trueman), it’s not in the American DNA. If NPR/PBS (which I like and watch) could stand on its own in the marketplace, we wouldn’t have to have fights over federal taxpayer funding for it. We won’t settle the argument here about what the preamble of the Constitution means when it says to “promote the general welfare.” I doubt that the founding fathers had in mind providing individuals and families with taxpayer-funded entertainment.

    And why is it that “corporate interests” regarding media have you all in a tizzy whereas you seem to have no concern whatsoever about government-run media interests? Two sides of the same coin to me. Big Corporations on the one hand and Big Government on the other. As Dennis Prager says, “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen (or individual).” The difference is that Big Corporations can only persuade you to buy into their products or philosophy. Big Government can compel your compliance through legislation. Do what Big Government says or be fined and go to prison. It’s that simple. Corporations can’t do that. So maybe we believers all need a lttle more self-control (that is, Spirit control) when it comes to feeding at the corporate trough.

    In addition, it’s ludicrous this idea (which I have not seen you put forth here) that only the right wing has special interest groups. Unions and trial lawyers are special interest groups just as much as any corporation lobbyists. And the bottom line for corporations is the profit margin; they will support whatever political party will help them best achieve their financial goals. Corporation politics are neutral, neither a “Republican” nor a “Democratic” thing, though the left’s rhetoric of race and class warfare are geared to demonising the right as corporate lackeys, racists, imperialists, homophobes and now “Islamophobes” and whatever else suits their interests.

    I ask my left-leaning American Christian brethren, how can anyone who has a conscience possibly support a political party whose very plank includes abortion on demand for any reason whatsoever? Just look at the folly of these left wing folks who want to make abortion “safe and rare.” Why rare? If there’s nothing wrong with it at all, why try to limit it? They are walking contradictions and don’t even know it. How about environmental concerns which go well beyond biblical stewardship into the idolatrous realm of earth-worship? Have we no biblical warnings for those believers?

    A “climate of fear,” as you call it, is not necessarily a bad thing. If bad things are coming, then I thank God for those who will put their reputations and lives on the line to warn us. Fear is a God-given mechanism which enables us to be vigilant. The fact that it may appear to some to be over-the-top rhetoric does not necessarily negate it as a reality. How we as believers respond to these things is a matter of both biblical understanding and Christian liberty.

    Continuing blessings in Christ,

    Pilgrimsarbour

  68. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    JohnA and other “Two Kingdoms” advocates:

    I realize this discussion wasn’t intended to be about Two Kingdoms stuff. Rather than hijack the thread, I have posted a rather pointed critique of JohnA and his Anabaptist presuppositions, via Verduin, over here on CO-URC:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/co-urc/message/24184

    The problem, unfortunately, is much broader than JohnA. I ended my post on CO-URC with this:

    “I close with this quote from JohnA, which ends a section attacking not only
    theonomists (who deserve attacks) but also Abraham Kuyper: “Even institutions that don’t specifically advocate the extremes Judaizing positions of Theonomy, still strongly advocate Dominionistic and Sacralist Theology. Only the small Escondido school seems to be standing for the truth on this issue. And even among them, many advocate Cultural Doctrine that is rooted in Sacralist presuppositions. We are in the dark ages once again as far as the church goes.”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-\how-did_3117.html

    With ‘friends’ like this, Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido,
    California, most assuredly does not need enemies.”

  69. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    DTM,

    You’re very pessimistic about the long term future of the United States. But let’s say you weren’t. Would the United States be good? Or let me phrase it another way? Was Geneva good? Or Scotland in 1560? Good of course has to be defined, but thus far, I don’t think we’re on the same page. I have a theological problem with any nation being labeled….good.

    Where can I go in the Bible to determine if Scotland was good or the United States is good? Will they not burn up at the eschaton? Are they good because they are Christian? What’s that mean? How does the New Testament describe a Christian Society. It does of course, but that’s the Church. How does it do it in reference to a nation? Please don’t refer to the covenanted, typical, redemptive nation of Israel. If there is a NT parallel it’s the Church, not a common grace nation.

    I’m sorry but I take great exception to your statement that civil government helps the gospel. What Biblical justification do you have for such a statement? How does forcing the unbeliever who cannot obey the laws of God, who is at enmity with God’s law….how can he bring glory to God by conforming with a Kingdom ethic that cannot even be grasped but by those who have been born anew? Doesn’t this just create a sort of societal veneer? Doesn’t it lead to a violent backlash, exactly what we are experiencing at the moment? Our society is reacting to decades of forced and pretty hypocritical conformity to an ethic that makes no sense to lost people. Rather than the gospel….it seems like we’ve given them a social ethic, a nation, a political structure, and a foreign policy.

    I would say the Magisterial involvement with the Reformation was one of its great failings. That’s my interpretation of course. I would say missionary collaboration with the British Crown is a great black mark against the Church. I think we’re still feeling the fallout of this with much the anti-western animosity in the Middle East and especially parts of Asia. The Church was viewed as a tool of the state and both were and are resented.

    Though you won’t agree with my take, I have to return to the basic question. Where do we find state co-operation with the Gospel?

    If you really believe that…. how strange then that you would be against the state fulfilling other redemptive roles. Isn’t that the Jim Wallis argument for the state helping the poor etc?

    I feel Biblically compelled to reject both forms of Constantinianism whether left or right.

    I agree with point #1 in reference to Iran etc…. So how is that situation any different for Christians in the United States? We pray for Obama to be converted. We pray for George Bush to be converted. At least in Iran there are no doubts about Ahmadinejad. But in America there is confusion…that’s what I’m getting at. Explicitly anti-Christian? Just because the United States doesn’t violently persecute Christians, that hardly means our society is pro-Christian. If Christians in other countries don’t think our government is pro-Christian either, shouldn’t we listen?

    People supported Bush, because they thought what he was doing was Christian. But again…..this where the confusion comes in. What if what Bush was doing was very evil? How would Christians in America have known? Cheerleaders aren’t very critical or discerning. I have no idea if you supported him or not, so please don’t take that personally.

    I know the doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate. I’m well aware of its history. But where is it in Scripture? Is it Biblical, or is it built upon assumptions? I certainly can’t find Christians supporting a lesser magistrate— overthrowing a primary magistrate —in order to conform with our notions of what a good government is out of Romans 13. This hearkens back to the general set of questions I keep asking. Where can I find any of this Christian patriotism, nationalism, exclusivity of nations, Constantinianism in the Bible? A lesser magistrate doctrine based on Romans 13 is begging the question, the unproved argument that the State has a symbiotic relationship with the Church.

    You ask why would we not want to work hard to preserve our rights in the United States?

    What is our objective here, as a Church, as the people of God? Why are we here? Are we here to build nations or build the Kingdom of God?

    I’m guessing that’s not an either/or question for you. Okay. How do we do it? Are our weapons for this warfare…the tools of the gospel……..magistrates and lesser magistrates, voting, culture war, and nationalism?

    I hope that’s a rhetorical question, but I’m guessing it won’t be.

  70. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Pilgrimsarbour,

    For the sake of argument I’ll assume you’re correct that America has been portrayed as the source of evil.

    Does that justify what the Fox people are doing? Isn’t that the end justifying the means?

    Am I being intellectually lazy?

    Participation is a broad word. Like it or not, we’re constantly participating in our society almost every moment of the day. Does participation necessitate politics? I’m not saying you can’t vote, but I might come at the whole issue in a very different way. For my part, I can’t find anyone to vote for. In many cases it’s almost better if I don’t know that a particular politician claims to be a Christian. Because if they make such a profession and start tying in what I believe to be erroneous theology in with their agenda…..I actually have more of a problem with that, than some lost person just doing the best they can to make society work in an equitable way. They fail, but the Church isn’t confused by it.

    I’m not arguing for state media, but at present those are good examples of media outlets that have a better approach because they’re not profiteering. While we certainly have Big Government in both the U.S. and the U.K., the governments are checked by their own polarization and the management structures of these news outlets are sort of untouchable.

    I will admit NPR has an American bias. Can’t escape that. BBC has a British bias. That’s why I rely on many media sources from all over the world. Corporations wield a different of power than the state….though as the state knows, it’s every bit as powerful. If the corporations turn against the state….well, we just saw it last month, didn’t we?

    I don’t agree with your assessments, but in regard to the abortion trump card… The Republican party with its militarism and pro-war doctrine can be accused of being equally pro-death. If pro-life is the core criteria, then there’s no one to vote for.

    But see, now were enmeshed in the mire of Nationalist categories. There’s a basic theological difference. I don’t expect the United States to be anything but another Babylon. I want to know from the New Testament where I can find a doctrine that supports the idea that America or any other nation has Divine sanction.

    Please remember Assyria was the rod of God’s anger, but then he destroyed them for their….abortion? homosexuality?…no, for their pride and their bloodthirstiness.

    The fear that you think is healthy in promoting vigilance….is doing the exact opposite. American Christendom now more than ever needs to think through these issues, but it seems like people stop their ears and start chanting, “I’m not listening.”

    You can’t touch what they’ve made sacred. Pilgrim, (I’m not trying to sound like John Wayne) I think you know better. The sobriety and judgment you possess is not found in the average pew.

  71. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    DTM,

    I guess calling me Two Kingdom just ends it right? You win?

    I haven’t counted the number of times I’ve asked the same basic questions….never got an answer. But I’m Two Kingdom…so you win.

    Yes, I’m very critical of Abraham Kuyper. I’m fundamentally opposed to his Transformationalism, believing it to be unbiblical. And I would point to Holland today as an example of its multi-generational outworking. Transformationalist doctrine only transforms one thing….the Church.

    I am appreciative of some of the people at Escondido, though they would have nothing to do with me. In no way would they endorse what I’m saying. There is some overlap, and I appreciate them to that extent with regard to this one category.

    Victory by ad hominem eh?

    I think this thread is winding down. It’s been….interesting. I’ve enjoyed it. I still have my teeth, though you have indicated that you wish otherwise.

    Well at least we agree, these issues are pretty important.

  72. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    DTM,

    I don’t have the time to mess with joining the URC group at Yahoo. I’m awaiting approval.

    I think I’ve been decent and respectful in this discussion, and I’m going to ask you to show me the same courtesy. Could you at least email me what you’ve written? I think that’s fair.

    protoprotestant@gmail.com

  73. David Gray said,

    December 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    >>The Republican party with its militarism and pro-war doctrine can be accused of being equally pro-death.

    Not by any serious adult. The church has taught that war can be just. We are then left with subjective judgments by the magistrate as to whether the requisite criteria have been met. There are no circumstances in which butchering innocent children can be considered as just. For Christians to pretend otherwise can only be pleasing to hell, not heaven.

  74. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I’m a Calvinist. I believe in total depravity. If even with regard to elect Christians all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, I cannot imagine me **EVER** calling a civil goverment “good” in any sort of absolute sense of the word — “better” or “worse,” maybe, but not “good.”

    As I remind some of my friends who you’d perhaps accuse of “dominionism,” we must remember that the Puritans were regularly holding days of fasting and humilitation for things going on in their civil government which were far less serious than our modern problems. Our idea of a “good” government would fall so far short of their standards that the founders of New England would accuse us of extreme wickedness and laziness if we were satisfied with what we consider “good.”

    You probably don’t even want to begin to hear my views on state-controlled or state subsidized media (NPR, PBS, BBC). I own the media organization which, albeit on a small scale in a rural community outside an Army installation, is beating the pants off my competitors and has the highest average daily readership of any of them. There might be reasons for that!

    Hint: Hard work … works.

    Communism didn’t work in Russia, socialism isn’t working in Europe, monopolies didn’t work for the old AT&T or the modern post office, and there’s no reason we should think any of those will work any better in the media.

    Your comments on the doctrine of the lesser magistrate appear to presume that the role of the magistrate in Romans 13 on punishing evil do not apply to other magistrates. Prove that from Scripture. You know that the kings of Israel and Judah removed bad lesser magistrates. If we now have no divinely ordained sovereign ruling as did David and Solomon, may not a godly lesser magistrate punish evil acts by another magistrate, such as a magistrate who is abusing and harming his subjects? President Bill Clinton saw a need to stop the massacre on the former Yugoslavia. Was he wrong, as a civil magistrate, in putting a stop to mass murder of civilians? If President Clinton could do so in a sovereign state not under his authority, can a lesser magistrate not put an end to a massacre or other evil acts by a higher magistrate over him?

    You wrote this: “You ask why would we not want to work hard to preserve our rights in the United States? What is our objective here, as a Church, as the people of God? Why are we here? Are we here to build nations or build the Kingdom of God? I’m guessing that’s not an either/or question for you. Okay. How do we do it? Are our weapons for this warfare…the tools of the gospel……..magistrates and lesser magistrates, voting, culture war, and nationalism? I hope that’s a rhetorical question, but I’m guessing it won’t be.”

    Our primary goal is always to build the Kingdom of God, which typically means Christian families and Christian churches. Those are built via the preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments and exercise of church discipline. If we forget that, we have become politicians first and Christians second. The order for citizens as well as elected or appointed officials must always be Christ first, politics second.

    Now let’s say I live in a city run by organized crime with a corrupt mayor, aldermen, and police force, with strip clubs and gambling rackets generating so much money for their owners that they can basically buy the elections. Things have gotten so bad that businessmen who want to get zoning permits or building permits need to give thousands of dollars in kickbacks to the local political bosses, the schools are falling apart, and people won’t open new businesses because they’re finding used needles in the parking lots each morning from the previous night’s “shooting galleries” — and sometimes real bullets from a different type of shooting.

    I know quite well what my obligation is as a Christian reporter in such as community — and it’s going to make a lot of people really mad, and may get me on someone’s hit list for more than a cancelled advertisement. You’re obviously a newshound and I’m sure you’ll agree on the role of a Christian in the media.

    What, JohnA, do you suggest is the role of a Christian pastor in such a city? Must he only preach the gospel and tell people the church has nothing to say on how the members should behave as citizens in the community?

    That is by no means an unrealistic scenario, and it’s not one found only in Mexican border cities.

    You write a number of things which are politically left of center. The “good government leagues” of the late 1800s and early 1900s, which were instrumental in putting an end to many of the corrupt big-city political machines, were often run by socially conscious Christians who were members of churches that tended toward the political left — and put bluntly, they did a lot of good work that evangelicals refused to do out of a world-flight attitude. I’m assuming you think the Good Government Leagues were a good thing. Why can conservative evangelicals today not use those same tools to bring reform in a corrupt political culture?

  75. December 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    John A.,

    Thank you very much for a very lively, informative and pleasant discussion. I think I’ve said pretty much my piece at this point so I’ll bring my participation here to an close.

    I will leave you, though, with a parting observation which is not intended to be a parting shot, though I mean to be firm:

    I am a bit saddened and unconvinced that you’ve spent any real, serious time watching the FOX News channel. This is based on your assertions that they are a terrible, awful lot, though you have been unable to satisfy me with concrete examples of their nefarious practices other than that they create a “climate of fear” and some of the hosts are rude. You seem to be parroting popular leftist talking points, so it’s difficult to take them seriously. And I can only hope you’ll be as scrupulous in dissecting George Soros’ character as you have Rupert Murdoch’s, not that I would come to the defence of either, mind you.

    Having said that, I wish to offer a parting gift to you because I think you’re a good guy :-) I will reiterate what I repeated to Carl just this past Sunday, having told him this previously:

    I can’t, in good conscience, ever see myself voting for Sarah Palin if she should run for President. Beyond the obvious obnoxious cliches, adages and homespun ‘atta boys, I really don’t think she’s a very deep thinker and would not make a good President.

    I felt, and still feel the same way about President Obama, even more so.

    And I don’t think I would make a good President either.

    May God richly bless you and your family as you seek to serve him daily.

    Pilgrimsarbour

  76. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    JohnA, my sincere apologies to you on this — I had thought the link would let anyone interested see what I wrote.

    I have been a member of the CO-URC listserve for so many years that I had forgotten the archives are not publicly visible. (Actually, I think they might have been publicly visible back in the 1990s when the listserve began under the old eGroups.com server before the Yahoogroups merger, but I don’t trust my memory of something 10 or 15 years ago.)

    Here is the full text. Yes, I’m well aware this is hijacking a thread on one topic and turning it into a “Two Kingdoms” discussion. My intent was to post a link and carry on the discussion there.

    I know most people won’t read this. The gist is that during a longstanding on-and-off discussion about Two Kingdoms over on CO-URC, I’ve been asked repeatedly to write something more than what I’ve written. I cited you as a particularly clear example of what I believe is an Anabaptist attitude if not necessarily full-blown Anabaptist theology which I am increasingly becoming convinced is inherent in the Two Kingdoms movement. I’m well aware that the Two Kingdoms theologians claim rootage in the Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” doctrine which **IS** a legitimate part of the Reformed tradition. I am less and less convinced that the modern Two Kingdoms viewpoint has very much in common with the parts of the Reformed tradition which it claims as antecedents.

    ______

    POST FROM CO-URC

    My own (very preliminary) response to Two Kingdoms stuff and its Anabaptist root

    Thank you for your post, Rev. McAtee.

    Several people on this board have asked me to do some writing on the Two Kingdoms movement. Some of what follows may satisfy that desire. I’m far from ready to send something to Outlook or Christian Renewal or a scholarly journal for print — men like Dr. Hart and Dr. Clark deserve better from my pen in those forums — but I’m becoming angrier and angrier with the people who claim to be Reformed but are advocating this “two kingdoms” stuff and I’m prepared to post this on the internet as a preliminary warning to inquiring people, like Nancy, that all is not well in this category of professedly Reformed thought.

    I read much more than I write when it comes to the Two Kingdoms theology. The more I read of their own blogs, the more I’m coming to see that while this stuff may sometimes claim a Southern “spirituality of the church” heritage, it appears to have a totally wrongheaded root which is not in any way connected to any conservative Reformed theological category and in fact is openly attacking the Westminster Standards.

    Look, for instance, at this discussion over on Rev. Lane Kiester’s “Green Baggins” site which began as a quite legitimate question of how to be militant for truth without being obnoxious, but has recently turned into a Two Kingdoms discussion:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-resurrection-of-machens-warrior-children/#comment-82473

    A number of the “usual suspects” show up — Dr. Daryl Hart, Zrim, etc. — some of the people who started advocating wild views over on Dr. R. Scott Clark’s “Heidelblog” up to and including saying Christians shouldn’t be fighting against gay marriage in California because it supposedly “confuses the kingdoms.”

    There’s also a writer I hadn’t studied before — JohnA, who runs a blog known as “ProtoProtestantism” which says it is dedicated to studying the Reformers before the Reformation. That seemed interesting at first; Wycliffe, Hus, the Waldensians and a number of the other groups which advocated Bible teaching before the Reformation can quite legitimately be respected as people who, even if they had problematic theology, might well have become fully Protestant if they hadn’t had their efforts cut short by death or severe persecution.

    His blog is here: http://www.proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/

    I probably should have expected problems when I saw his first posts declaring that he’s not proud of being a veteran and arguing not only that he doesn’t like FOX News but also that CNN and NPR are unabashed and uncritical suppporters of American power.(Huh?) But people have every right in the world to hold politically liberal or anti-American positions; America is not God’s chosen nation and the Republican Party is not “God’s Own Party.”

    JohnA is a homeschooler. He’s got a lot of insightful commentary on the problems of the late Roman Constantinian consensus that led to the development of Christendom and the secular power of the Roman Catholic Church. He’s clearly done his homework. He’s also got some really useful stuff pointing out how fundamentalists of various sorts often re-invent an imagined golden age in forms of dress and worship, and then insist upon them rather than following the twin Reformed doctrines of Christian freedom and the regulative principle. Examples of that are here:

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_5582.html

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/good-old-days.html

    So far so good. I actually like a lot of what he says about the importance of following Scripture and not just being traditional conservatives, and his emphasis on learning lessons from Christian history is from which **MANY** broad evangelicals could learn a great deal.

    But then he attacks Rick Warren of Saddleback Church — far from being a conservative Reformed man — for asking this question to then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain: “WARREN: OK, we’ve got one last time — I’ve got a bunch more, but let me ask you one about evil. Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?”

    JohnA then asks this: “Why is a supposed Christian asking a politician of a common grace nation something like that? Why is he asking the Common Grace state to define a metaphysical concept?”

    JohnA goes into a lot of detail here …
    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_10.html

    … on what’s wrong with that question in his view. I won’t try to summarize his explanation — go read it in his own words, I want to be fair to him — but re-read JohnA again. According to him, it is wrong to ask a candidate for President of the United States — at present, the most powerful public official in the entire secular world — whether evil exists and how to deal with it.

    That points out the core of the problem with the Two Kingdoms theology. These people, or at least some of them, really **DON’T** believe that the civil magistrate, in accordance with Romans 13, is a minister of God to punish evil — or if they do, they define evil in purely secular terms with which many or most non-Christians can agree. The civil magistrate doesn’t have a duty to do good as defined by Christianity or to punish evil as defined by Christianity, or to promote the Gospel, or even to help maintain conditions favorable to the spread of the Gospel.

    Given that view, I suppose it should not surprise me that JohnA has read deeply from Verduin’s book on the Reformers and their Stepchildren, in which that liberal CRC chaplain at the University of Michigan who defended draft dodgers during Vietnam argued that the Anabaptists were good people.

    JohnA goes much father: “Obama is not a fascist or a Marxist, but Bush was the closest we’ve come to a Hitler-type figure in this nation’s history. To me, the years 2001-2003 were like Germany in the 1930′s. It was unreal, my head was spinning. And just like I always thought…the Christians were the first ones to cheer it all on …. The Tea Party Putsch is at work. We don’t have just one Mein Kampf…we’ve got teams of writers putting out new editions. Some are going rogue, some are arguing with idiots, some are looking out for you while they let freedom ring.”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_10.html

    I suppose it’s not necessarily unacceptable for a Reformed man to say that the Anabaptists were right about a lot of things, that in a post-Christian era we should look to them as models, or even that the modern conservative movement risks co-opting evangelical Christians into a fascist form of nationalism. The sad example of the Gereformeerde Gemeenten under Kersten and their capitualation to the agenda of the Dutch Nazi Party during World War II shows us that such things can happen — and there are elements in the modern secular conservative movement which are totally hostile to biblical Christianity.

    But what do we do with a statement like this: “I have no hope of Reforming institutions like the PCA or OPC. It’s impossible … and one level I don’t care…they’re man-made constructs anyway. A General Assembly, offices with computers and file cabinets a 501c, and a Book of Church Order doth not a church make. The church is not a form…I have found so many of the people in those ranks seem to think they can hold their dominations together with forms. The Confessions are used as restraning chains rather than guides and like it or not, the theology of these bodies is not exactly the same as the 17th century men and I’ll say it, the confessions are wrong in some places. But when we’ve committed to a form like that….there’s not much you can do. By using the confession as a boundary instead of a help, you’ve bound the Bible.”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_4169.html

    Again: “Rather than super explicit detailed documents like the Westminster or Belgic Confessions, we need simple statements of the faith and then we need to trust in the Holy Spirit to hold the church together. The Westminster Confession is not the Bible, and the more you try to bind people to an extra-scriptural document as the basis for holding a faction together, the more they will slip through your fingers.”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_3117.html

    That is ecclesiastical Anabaptism and certainly contrary to both Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed church polity, but more importantly, it is explicitly anti-confessional.

    If there’s any question about how deeply JohnA has drunk from Verduin’s well of appreciation for Anabaptism, read this about why he hesitates to use the label Reformed: “I remember being rather proud of my Reformed heritage and talking with a couple of ex-Amish guys outside of a supermarket. We were talking a little theology and history. They know very well how their forebears were treated by the Protestants. And they know that they are excoriated within the Reformed Creeds. I remember feeling not so proud of my faction when I considered they murdered and waged war in the name of the Kingdom of Christ and sought to destroy the ancestors of these men.”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_11.html

    There’s a lot more to read in JohnA’s writings, but I trust these examples will make my point. This simply is not Reformed and cannot be called Reformed in any meaningful sense of the word, and JohnA actually realizes that to some extent. You don’t need to advocate civil penalties against Amish and Mennonites — I don’t — to realize that Anabaptism and Calvinism are inherently incompatible.

    JohnA is one man, and some may say that just like ZRim and others who are prolific posters on the “Two Kingdoms” theology, he’s just one man with a keyboard.

    So who cares?

    Well, JohnA may be irrelevant, but former Westminster Seminary professor Dr. Daryl Hart, a prolific writer and a scholar of J. Gresham Machen and the history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who is a major Two Kingdoms advocate, is not irrelevant.

    What does Dr. Hart think?

    Quoting from something Dr. Hart put up today:

    “59.dgh said,
    December 27, 2010 at 9:25 am
    John A., as a Rush listener might say, ‘mega dittos.’”

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-resurrection-of-machens-warrior-children/#comment-82466

    That’s a nice comment from Dr. Hart. As a prominent advocate of a theological position who has an earned doctoral degree, he knows full well that whatever he writes will be **AND SHOULD BE** carefully scrutinized.

    When I publicly agree with someone on a specific area where I have major underlying differences, I’m careful to qualify my agreement, and when questioned, I freely explain my differences. (An example is here where I attack the underlying anti-Christian principles of FOX News while supporting their secular conservative position:
    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-resurrection-of-machens-warrior-children/#comment-82464 )

    It is totally unfair to accuse an Orthodox Presbyterian minister like Dr. Hart of being an Anabaptist or of beleiving that “the Confessions are used as restraning chains rather than guides.”

    What is clear, however, is that there are more than a few shades of Anabaptist thinking in the Two Kingdoms movement, and despite the presence of some sincere Old School Calvinists in its leadership, people are being attracted to the Two Kingdoms theology who are Reformed in name and not much else.

    Why is that? Is it because the tree, when fully grown, bears bad fruit?

    I think we need to take a long, hard look at whether it’s time to repudiate the Two Kingdoms theology not just as a wrong view but as one which is inherently Anabaptist and is falsely laying claim to the name Reformed.

    I close with this quote from JohnA, which ends a section attacking not only theonomists (who deserve attacks) but also Abraham Kuyper: “Even institutions that don’t specifically advocate the extremes Judaizing positions of Theonomy, still strongly advocate Dominionistic and Sacralist Theology. Only the small Escondido school seems to be standing for the truth on this issue. And even among them, many advocate Cultural Doctrine that is rooted in Sacralist presuppositions. We are in the dark ages once again as far as the church goes.”

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-am-i-talking-about-all-this-how-did_3117.html

    With “friends” like this, Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, most assuredly does not need enemies.

  77. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    DTM,

    I thought we were done. I would appreciate the email I requested.

    Lots of history, still no Scriptural arguments, no answers to the fundamental questions I’ve asked.

    Why is New England the standard? Geneva? These were Protestant versions of the Holy Roman Empire. You’re assuming they’re good examples, because you’re assuming the points that I can’t seem to get you to prove to me. I don’t look to them as standards….in fact they, like Habsburg Austria, or Carolingian Frank-land or good examples of what we ought to try and avoid.

    As far as news….what sells has nothing to do with truth or what is good. It just says something about the audience. The popularity of Fox speaks volumes about the Church and the society in which we live. Our society has little interest in truth. People don’t like to self-examine.

    Where have I advocated Communism? Socialism? Good government leagues? I most certainly do not. But again, your paradigm demands that just because I reject the Christian Right, I therefore must be advocating these other camps. I’m not operating in that circle of argument, something you seem to keep missing. You think it means I’m left of center. No, I’m a Christian and my Pilgrim theology and ethic doesn’t sign on to the pro-America agenda…..or that of any other nation. If that makes me left…..then I guess you just can’t grasp it.

    I’m not going to let Marx, Lloyd-George, Ida Tarbell, Hayek, Rothbard, or Ron Paul determine how I ought to view the world. Learn something from them all?…sure. I can learn something from anyone. But I don’t need to slavishly devote myself to any fallen-world based system.

    Do you believe in Total Depravity? I often wonder with Dominionists. The two doctrines seem incompatible. How do you transform fallen people with….law? culture?

    I don’t have to prove anything from Romans 13. It’s not saying anything remotely resembling your argument. There’s no discussion of lesser magistrates and the Christian concern with them anywhere in the Scripture.

    What do David and Solomon, types of Christ reigning over the Holy covenanted nation have to do with modern American politics and geo-strategies in post Cold War Europe? So I can participate in a NATO mission that’s killing Serbs because of David and Solomon? Did you read anything I wrote about that? I don’t accept the American narrative on what was happening in Eastern Europe in the 1990′s. But that’s not the issue….we keep straying from it.

    Politics second you say. Then I say, you obviously don’t understand politics. Total Depravity teaches me something about power and its effects on the flesh. Yeah, there’s lots of Christian politicians that have kept that straight. Are you arguing that?

    Again….evading the issue.

    Yes the media should tell the truth…..that’s something we’ve been talking about all along. An American-ist media puts America over the truth.

    You want to transform that society? The gospel does that. Why is it that if someone says, I don’t care about politics…then you must think the gospel doesn’t effect the Christian life? Every time I step out my door I’m being a witness for Christ. Providence governs all spheres, but the Spirit works through the Church. The Spirit doesn’t need Republicans to accomplish His goals. Are you trying to insinuate the mission of the Spirit has failed in the United States because the government hasn’t promoted a specific agenda? I sure hope not.

    Or do you just want it to be stable and orderly so that the gospel can work? That’s what I want….and Rome, Egypt, any pagan government can do that. What’s happening in Mexico is a complicated hemispherical mess that’s not being reportedly honestly in our media.

    David Gray,

    Since I just put forward childish arguments, I won’t bother to respond. That’s clearly what I’ve been doing here.

    Very helpful.

    I’m glad to hear you are a pacifist, because I know of no where in which children are not slaughtered.

  78. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Pilgrimsarbour,

    Thanks for ending it on a peaceable note. That speaks volumes.

    God bless.

  79. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    DTM,

    Okay, I made it to the URC page. You don’t need to email me.

    I was pleasantly surprised. You were very fair. We don’t agree of course, but I thought you did a great job critiquing my views.

    Yes, I’m not trying to call myself Reformed. I’ve made that clear, you made it clear.

    Just because Daryl Hart agrees with me on some things doesn’t mean he agrees with me on everything. I’m 100% certain he does not. Just because he liked what I wrote hardly means he endorses what I’m saying.

    Even you expressed some appreciation for some of my insights. That doesn’t incriminate you or strip you of credibility. It’s called a discussion. I’m trying to challenge and provoke….not to be a stinker, but to get some discussions going that I can’t ever seem to find…sure didn’t in seminary.

    I hope some people have benefitted from this one. I’ve posted these types of threads on my site and people read them and learn a lot. They’re getting to sit in on a conversation.

    You needn’t worry that I’m going to try an infiltrate the URC or any other Reformed denomination. You needn’t worry that people with ideas such as mine will infiltrate. I would never sign on to any of the Reformed confessions, nor would any one who agrees with me.

    Thanks for being fair. I think you’re wrong, but as far as the Yahoo bit goes….I respect what you wrote.

  80. Stuart said,

    December 27, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Zrim,

    At the same time, I don’t think the dangers of doctrinal precisionism or lat’ism are equal. It seems to me that, as the post proper suggests, in the age of the church militant we must cast our lot one way or another, and then take whatever lumps come with the territory. For my part, I don’t really know how doctrinal lat’ism corresponds to the mission of the church militant, whereas precisionism does. There is combativeness for its own sake, and I think one only need look to the Fundamentalism of the 20th century for an example of it (among other problems), something Machen himself was sufficiently suspicious of. So, yes, precisionism can go bad in the hands of sinners, but lat’ism goes nowhere.

    The precisionist in me wants to argue that there is a better paradigm or at the very least a better way to frame these issues than the precisionist/latitudiniarian divide . . . but the latitudinarian in me just wants to tolerate your views for the sake of unity. ;-)

  81. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Thank you, JohnA… I think our notes crossed in cyberspace.

    The full text of what I posted on CO-URC has now been posted here as well … I owe you no less. I’ve seen your note requesting an email and then saying it’s not needed since you’ve read it already — please be assured that when I critique someone, I believe they have a right to know and to interact with what they write.

    For whatever it’s worth, I’m impressed with your line of thought, though not with your conclusions. You’re asking the right questions and you’re probing long and hard and in the right places. As for the answers to those questions … well… let’s just say I’m less pleased with your answers than with the process you’ve gone through to get there.

    You’ve asked several times for Scriptural interaction. I’m hesitating to move into extensive Scriptural exegesis not because I don’t want to do it or can’t do it but rather because I do not want to hijack a discussion of appropriate methods of Christian discourse and turn it into a Two Kingdoms discussion. I am more than willing to cite and exegete Scripture, and do it in detail

    Based on what you’ve written, I think you will appreciate the reasons I bought a copy of the Ante-Nicene Fathers many years ago. If one is ever going to find a “Christ against Culture” model in the history of the main body of the Christian church before the modern collapse of orthodox doctrine, one will find it there, and I frankly don’t find it. What I do find is an aggressive effort to create what we today might call a “Christian subculture,” and to plead to the Romans that rather than being evildoers, Christians are actually the best of all subjects of Rome because they hold themselves to higher standards than the pagans, and that the Emperor should stop persecuting Christians who could be and should be among his most loyal subjects.

    In closing, let me say this clearly: politics **IS** secondary and must always remain so.

    If a traditional old-school Southern Baptist pastor wants to dedicate his life to soulwinning and totally ignore whatever social corruption exists around him and spend his time preaching the Gospel, teaching parents how to raise their children, and disciplining Christians of all ages to live the Christian life, he has committed no sin. I think he’s omitted an important part of the Christian calling, but it is not an indispensible part of the Christian message. I know some Southern Baptists who carefully avoid anything remotely political, and say that when members of their congregation experience changed hearts through conversion and discipleship, they’ll live their lives in ways that will no longer be harming society. In that, they are following the practice of the early church.

    That works perfectly fine until a member of the church decides he wants to run for office and needs some guidance of how to be a Christian magistrate. That could not have happened in Rome. An Anabaptist would seriously question if a Christian can serve as a civil magistrate at all. The old school Southern Baptist won’t say that (or at least shouldn’t) but he also won’t have a whole lot of answers.

  82. David Gray said,

    December 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    >Very helpful.

    >>I’m glad to hear you are a pacifist, because I know of no where in which children are not slaughtered.

    I think you missed a word or two. If you cannot distinguish between an act whose primary purpose is to intentionally take the life of an infant and an act of war which, when justly waged, does not primarily intend to take the life of a child you may wish to ponder that shortcoming. And you may wish to consider your significant rupture with the understanding of the church catholic regarding the permissibility of war on the part of the state, to which God has given the sword.

  83. Zrim said,

    December 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    The precisionist in me wants to argue that there is a better paradigm or at the very least a better way to frame these issues than the precisionist/latitudiniarian divide . . . but the latitudinarian in me just wants to tolerate your views for the sake of unity. ;-)

    Hmmm, my inner precisionist worries that yours may be more of a philosopher-logician, and my inner 2ker thinks your latitudinarian is on the right track at least–it does start with an “L” but it ends with “ibertarian.”

  84. michael said,

    December 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    David Gray:

    And you may wish to consider your significant rupture with the understanding of the church catholic regarding the permissibility of war on the part of the state, to which God has given the sword.

    To wit, I say, AMEN!

    I see clearly that understanding in those words which have bearing on what the Apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote through the hands of Tertius Romans 13.

    Here’s the verses I have in mind regarding that understanding:

    Psa 46:6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
    Psa 46:7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
    Psa 46:8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
    Psa 46:9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

    I come at this from a very present and personal point of view seeing my 20 year old son is currently a member of Task Force Shadow, a part of the 101st Airborne Air Assault division from Fort Campbell, Ky., fighting the forces of evil from air base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    I remind him often of other verses from Scripture, such as these written by King David to his son, King Solomon:

    Psa 72:1 Of Solomon. Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
    Psa 72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
    Psa 72:3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
    Psa 72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
    Psa 72:5 May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!

    I struggle with the fact that the essence of clarity in my son’s mind about why he is putting his soul at risk doing what he is doing over there, [the Justice God wishes NATO forces to meet out upon the Taliban] is being blurred solely because the spirit of apostasy is so great gripping the political consciousness of the nations being oppressed fervently by the god of this world thus spilling over into the NATO mission to bring to an end war as Psalm 46:9 indicates. And just how does God cause wars to cease to the ends of the earth? “… he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. !

  85. John A. said,

    December 27, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Ante-nicene fathers are fantastic.

    I’m glad you say politics are always secondary.

    You may associate me with Anabaptists, but please don’t think for a moment that I’m a credobaptist. Far from it I assure you. I’m not sure if you were implying that, but I just wanted to clarify.

    I’m the guy that’s trying to arguing Two Kingdoms and Federal Vision are both right….in some ways, and both very mistaken on other fronts.

    As a rabidly Amil Two Kingdom Paedocommunionist who doesn’t care much for Kuyper, Van Til, Clark, Reformed Scholasticism or the Christian Right….I’m not exactly kicking down the door of any Reformed denominations am I?

    Let’s just say I’m not exactly making friends out there, but I hope someone will at least pause and consider a point or two that I’m trying to raise.

    Thanks for the exchange and good night.

  86. David Gray said,

    December 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    >>I come at this from a very present and personal point of view seeing my 20 year old son is currently a member of Task Force Shadow, a part of the 101st Airborne Air Assault division from Fort Campbell, Ky., fighting the forces of evil from air base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    Your son is blessed to have a father who is giving him the Word while he performs a God ordained function of the state in harm’s way. I always had a great fondness for the 46th Psalm when I would deploy.

  87. David Gray said,

    December 27, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    >You may associate me with Anabaptists, but please don’t think for a moment that I’m a credobaptist.

    But you are just as guilty of rebelling against the historic understanding of the church and embracing novelty as the anabaptists.

  88. dgh said,

    December 28, 2010 at 5:19 am

    David Gray, has it struck you as odd that you are — in line with the original post — more willing to be militant about the church’s support for war than you are about FV? I recall you positive comments here: http://www.baylyblog.com/2009/06/a-sermon-for-the-presidentand-for-the-people-of-god.html

  89. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 7:33 am

    >David Gray, has it struck you as odd that you are — in line with the original post — more willing to be militant about the church’s support for war than you are about FV? I recall you positive comments here:

    No, nor should it strike you as such, based on what you posted.

    First oddity is the link you post says nothing about the FV.

    Second oddity is that nowhere do I, to the best of my memory, invoke the church’s support for a particular war. I do embrace the historic church teaching on just war, believe Paul when he said that the state is ordained to bear the sword and consequently that war is not inherently sin.

    Do you, as an elder in my church, teach that war is inherently sinful? I don’t particularly enjoy disagreeing with you but when Augustine is on my side it doesn’t bother me quite as much.

    Or are you taking that position on any particular war?

    To be honest I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say here.

  90. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Dr.Hart, you’re a recognized expert on Machen,

    In light of the questions raised about a Reformed view of war, I’m wondering if you could comment on Machen’s decision to become a YMCA secretary assisting American troops during World War I, and his conviction that he needed to do so because many people after the war would have wished they had served if they did not, (I’m going by memory here, but my understanding is that Machen considered the Army chaplaincy but in those days chaplains had much less direct contact with troops than they do now, and therefore chose to be a YMCA secretary instead.)

    My guess is that Machen’s own personal example as an Ivy League Princeton Seminary professor choosing to leave his professorship and quite literally get down into the mud of the Western Front has had at least some influence in the OPC and its view of war. I’m not aware of any Westminster professor who has left his professorial duties to join in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, or the current War on Terror — please correct me if there is a professor I have forgotten who did so — but I’m quite sure lots of young men in the OPC have read Machen’s history as they made decisions whether to enlist or not.

    I am also guessing that if there is an “other side” to Machen’s decision in World War I, you will be helpful in pointing out that qualification in Machen’s decision.

  91. Todd said,

    December 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

    DTM,

    Just for note, even though he served, Machen was against the war, and actually felt out of place at Princeton with all the pro-America rhetoric eminating from there. Some quotes from Machen:

    “An alleged war in the interest of democracy…does not appeal to me….This talk about British democracy arouses my ire as much as anything.”

    “The war for humanity, so far as its result is concerned, looks distressingly like an old-fashioned land-grab.”

    “I am opposed to all imperial ambitions, wherever they may be cherished and with whatever veneer of benevolent assimilation they may be disguised.”

    “Imperialism, to my mind, is satanic, whether it is German or English.”

    “Princeton is a hot-bed of patriotic enthusiasm and military ardor, which makes me feel like a man without a country.”

  92. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

    But I don’t think you’d have found Machen equating willful child slaughter with the state wielding the sword. And correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think Machen was a pacifist who denied that such a thing as a just war existed. If he objected to WWI it would have been on much narrower grounds (which were arguably justifiable).

  93. Zrim said,

    December 28, 2010 at 11:18 am

    David Gray, you keep coupling military questions with abortion issues. He may have left his teaching post for military duties, but I don’t think you’d find Machen protesting abortion clinics (undignified and activist) and calling those who don’t “unfaithful’ (revivalist, as in the Tennants calling confessionalists opposed to the Bench “unregenerate”). Nor is there anything remotely suggesting he’d preach a sermon to the President. In fact, there is the opposite:

    “There are certain things which you cannot expect from such a true Christian church. In the first place, you cannot expect from it any cooperation with non-Christian religion or with a non-Christian program of ethical culture. There are those who tell us that the Bible ought to be put into the public schools, and that the public schools should seek to build character by showing the children that honesty is the best policy and that good Americans do not lie nor steal. With such programs a true Christian church will have nothing to do. . . .

    In the second place, you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning aside from its proper mission.”

    “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age.”

    What part of “…you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day…” comports with glorified political speeches, like the one dgh provides and you champion?

  94. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 11:22 am

    >>David Gray, you keep coupling military questions with abortion issues.

    Only in reply to an R2K advocate who did.

    >>you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day

    to which we discover the truth of what Lewis wrote:

    “They’ll tell you that you can have your religion in private, and then they’ll make sure you’re never alone.”

    When everything is made political by the state then you’d have the church be silent.

    Machen had never encountered a state as intrusive as the modern state.

  95. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 11:24 am

    And obviously from Pastor Bordow’s posts we see Machen quite willing to comment on “political” matters.

  96. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

    >>http://www.reformed.org/webfiles/antithesis/index.html?mainframe=/webfiles/antithesis/v2n1/ant_v2n1_curr1.html

    >>Four days prior to the U.S. declaration of war, Machen wrote to the New Jersey Representatives in the U.S. Congress:

    >>”In urging the defeat of measures involving a permanent policy of compulsory military service, I am not writing in the interests of “pacifism”….Compulsory military service does not merely bring a danger of militarism; it is militarism.”

    Machen is quite willing to speak out politically and publicly.

  97. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

    If Machen was willing to speak publicly about conscription do you think he’d have been silent about child slaughter?

  98. Andrew McCallum said,

    December 28, 2010 at 11:35 am

    To one of you W2K folks,

    Am I right in saying that you believe that war can be justified, but that you cannot justify it on biblical principles? John A’s position seemed to be that no war was good but it sounded as if he is a lone ranger sort of evangelical with a mish mash of competing theologies. But as confessional W2K folks, you believe that we can say that some wars are just or good, but you would not go to the Bible to try to define “just” or “good,” but instead look to creational, natural law principles that are equally as available to your non-Christian neighbors as they are to you. Is that correct?

    Cheers….

  99. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Someone correct me if I am wrong on the details, but I believe Machen once even spoke at a city council meeting against the installation of stoplights on the grounds that people should not have to sit and wait for no reason when there was no oncoming traffic.

    If Machen, as a citizen, could speak to the government on matters like that where there was no claim of biblical warrant, surely he would have spoken up on questions like child-murder and sodomy where there are **EXPLICIT** passages of Scripture on the subject.

    I do not have a problem with saying that the church as institute must speak slowly, carefully, and only in unusual cases on political questions. Barring extreme cases like abortion and homosexuality, the general assemblies probably **SHOULD** stay silent, and even then, the details of how best to fight such evils should be left to the prudence of Christian political leaders who know what they’re doing and probably know a lot better than the typical pastor.

    That’s why we have Christian political organizations to do things that the church as institute should not do but which individual Christian citizens can and likely should be doing.

  100. Todd said,

    December 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Andrew,

    As a W2ker, speaking for myself, bearing the sword would at times include war, but war apart from God’s sanction, which was only given to OT Israel, can never truly be called “just.” All wars between common grace states involve sin on both sides at some level, less than altruistic motives, etc…though obviously not always at the same level. One nation’s goals can be much more evil than the other.

    What we would caution against is the church as an organization to support a war or condemn participation in a war based on what they suppose is a just war or not. It is a matter if liberty of conscience whether a believer should fight in a particular war or not. Beside being outside our Biblical calling as the church, we do not usually possess the necessary information to determine if a war is just or not. For example, history has revealed many less-than noble motives for America entering war that were not known to the general public at the time.

    Does that answer your question?

  101. dgh said,

    December 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    For what it’s worth, as Todd said, Machen opposed WWI. And as Darrell and David said, Machen also spoke out on public matters, from jay-walking legislation to copyright law. And as Zrim quoted, Machen believed the institutional church (and her officers as officers) should refrain from political pronouncements. The difference then is that when Machen entered public life he did so as a citizen, not as a Christian.

    The difficulty that many people have with 2k is this idea that one can separate one’s Christian identity from one’s membership as a citizen. I don’t see why that is so hard since even church officers make such moves, for instance, when they examine their own children for membership. Do they act like a parent at that point, or like an elder? However you answer, the Augustinian tradition has allowed for Christians to recognize that they share things in common with non-believers, while also being different in religious matters. For the anti-dualists, such distinctions between the common and the religious, or between citizenly and the churchly selves are outlandish. But 2kers say those distinctions are basic to living between the advents of Christ.

    In my judgment, a deeper divide here is not church polemics but different estimates of the U.S.A. John A. raised several useful points about the way that Christians as pilgrims might regard the U.S. Patriotism in this sense is restricted by a believer’s higher loyalties.

    And keeping Machen in mind, Americans are also divided about patriotism along political lines. A tradition used to exist that conceived of the U.S. as a modest republic, not a world hegemon. For the modest republican types, U.S. military engagements from WWI to the present (with over 3,000 U.S. military bases around the world) is a departure from an older understanding of America as an isolated country, established to leave behind European military struggles. The War between the States was the first sign that the U.S. was changing from a republic to a nation with imperial ambitions (okay, maybe the Mexican-American War counts too). Either way, for some of us, just-war tradition or not, American military might is not something that causes the adrenaline to pump; instead, it is an indication of our republic’s loss of modesty. (And this is not a shot against the military personnel who should be commended for their service and bravery; it is a shot against a nation that employs too many soldiers.)

  102. Zrim said,

    December 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    DTM, aside from the vagueness of your assertion, what is so “special and extraordinary” about “abortion and homosexuality” that the church should even begin to contemplate the exception clause of WCF 31.5? I get that some feel strongly about certain issues. What I don’t get is why a very narrow and particular band of concerns should enjoy ecclesiastical sanction and voice?

    I mean, I feel strongly that RvW should be overturned, which is to say that states should be given their rights back to govern themselves (contra many pro-lifers, btw, who favor federal outlawing), but I’m even more opposed to any ecclesiastical body giving spiritual sanction to my political opinion.

  103. Zrim said,

    December 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Andrew, not to take anything away from Todd’s helpful answer, but I don’t think the issue here surrounds the larger questions of just war, etc. Instead, it seems to me that some here are simply critical of our current war. So what? Others may not be, fine, but 2k wants to make room for everyone to have his particular take on whatever civil issue.

    For my part, I do think the rhetoric of “pro-death” when giving voice one’s criticism of the current war is as overblown as saying the current reproductive legislation is all about being “pro-death.” It’s this kind of incendiary and unhelpful rhetoric that 2k wants to make more sane. (Although, I will say, as one critical of the current war, I don’t know how the doctrine of pre-emptive war comports with any definition of just war.)

  104. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Zrim, you asked me “what is so ‘special and extraordinary’ about ‘abortion and homosexuality’ that the church should even begin to contemplate the exception clause of WCF 31.5?”

    Fair question.

    Murder of anyone without due process of law is an extreme sin that itself warrants the death penalty. When that involves babies, who as Calvinists we cannot call innocent but have only original sin, not actual sin, the offense is horrifically compounded. The primary purpose of the state is to restrain wickedness, and when it fails to do so, it fails in its primary duty.

    Romans 1 teaches that homosexuality is a special class of sin — when we have homosexuality in society, it is because God has handed the culture over to sin.

    Romans 1:22-27: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

    Of course, people who don’t think babies are yet humans or who think homosexuality is not contrary to nature will not agree that these are “cases extraordinary.”

  105. Andrew McCallum said,

    December 28, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    All wars between common grace states involve sin on both sides at some level, less than altruistic motives, etc…though obviously not always at the same level. One nation’s goals can be much more evil than the other.

    Todd – I agree that no nation can be said to be completely and perfectly just in it’s goals and motives, but the same could be said of any of our personal actions. And yet we still talk about someone’s actions as being just. We don’t mean that such actions are without taint of any kind of sin whatsoever since that can only be said of the actions of Jesus and those in heaven. So can we agree that, generally speaking, the goals and motives of a nation can be just, even though not perfectly so? I’m very thankful for the brave soldiers and military leaders who fought against Nazi Germany in WWII. To say that the motives of US and England were perfectly just would be very naive on my part, but I don’t think it is much of a stretch to say that many of the motives of the US and our allies were good and just. Soldiers suppressing evil on an international level seems to me to analogous to policemen suppressing evil on a local level. I’m thankful for both types of protection and consider them to be good and necessary.

    I think where the W2K and other 2K folks (like me) part company is over whether we can look to the Scriptures to define what is good in the civil sphere. The W2K would support me when I look to the Scriptures to define how I can personally apply the ethics of preserving life, but it would seem that they are uncomfortable if, after becoming an elected official, I look to this same standard to define how I must act in my civil capacity. That being said, it seems that some W2K folks will allow for some permeability between secular and sacred walls. My observation is that there is some latitude within W2K understandings here and I’m still learning about where the limits are for W2K adherents.

    It is a matter if liberty of conscience whether a believer should fight in a particular war or not.

    Generally I agree with this.

  106. Andrew Duggan said,

    December 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    DGH wote

    The difference then is that when Machen entered public life he did so as a citizen, not as a Christian.

    Except DGH posted this letter from Machen to the governor of Pennsylvania and signed it

    J. Gresham Machen, Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

    Identifying oneself as Professor of “New Testament” at a Theological Seminary, doesn’t pass muster of the idea of entering into “public life he did so as a citizen, not as a Christian.” Not only did Machen enter into public life as a Christian, he did so as a minister of the Presbyterian Church, since his ordination was to be a teacher at PTS. Even though no longer at PTS, his ministerial credentials are based on his teaching position even at WTS. So when he signs as “Professor of New Testament” he not only is attaching Christian but minister in the church to the weight of his “public life”. The DGH spin doesn’t change the historical facts. On the other hand, Machen would have done better to just sign his name.

  107. dgh said,

    December 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Andrew, if the question is simply one of finding in Scripture norms for the magistrate’s rule, then the biblical injunction of being subject to the powers that be in the U.S. context would be one of upholding a Constitution that makes no mention of God or Scripture.

    As far as a wall of impermeability among proponents of 2k, it comes less from Jefferson and more from the Protestant doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Is the Bible given as a book by which civil powers should rule? If it is, it one of the oddest pieces of political philosophy ever written.

  108. Todd said,

    December 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    “I think where the W2K and other 2K folks (like me) part company is over whether we can look to the Scriptures to define what is good in the civil sphere. ”

    Andrew,

    Yes, that may be the difference, the Scriptures do define what is good and evil, but not how common grace states are to enforce the good. For example, the Scriptures tell me prostitution is sinful, but not whether as an American lawmaker I must seek to make it illegal, or what the punishments should be If I did. That is not the purpose of the Bible, unless you agree with theonomy, which I obviously do not, which teaches OT penal codes were not only for Israel.

  109. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    >>I mean, I feel strongly that RvW should be overturned, which is to say that states should be given their rights back to govern themselves (contra many pro-lifers, btw, who favor federal outlawing), but I’m even more opposed to any ecclesiastical body giving spiritual sanction to my political opinion.

    Which is why a faithful pastor will preach on the extreme wickedness of child murder, which is so prevalent in the society in which God has placed us, but will not preach on what constitutes an appropriate statutory remedy.

  110. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Todd wrote: “For example, the Scriptures tell me prostitution is sinful, but not whether as an American lawmaker I must seek to make it illegal, or what the punishments should be If I did. That is not the purpose of the Bible, unless you agree with theonomy, which I obviously do not, which teaches OT penal codes were not only for Israel.”

    Huh?

    It is a matter of Christian indifference whether we have legalized prostitution because what the Bible calls sinful for Christians is not necessarily wrong for the secular world? Did I just read that from a conservative Reformed Christian?

    Rushdoony attacked the “general equity” clause of the Westminster Confession. I’m not a theonomist, and I don’t need to be a theonomist to affirm that clause which the Grand Patriarch of theonomy attacked, and to believe that the Old Testament civil law gives general principles for Christian magistrates of what they should do.

    In our community, the local ministerial alliance has worked with the civil government for years and has managed to use a combination of community pressure, boycotts, zoning rules, strict enforcement of military regulations, law enforcement actions, and targeted economic pressure on business owners to shut down almost all of the local strip clubs outside Fort Leonard Wood. That’s a pretty major achievement given the “Sodom and Gomorrah of the Midwest” reputation our community once had (hint: Sen. John Danforth launched his national career after his role working with the federal government as Missouri’s attorney general to conduct a major sting operation that blew wide open the corruption of local government and its involvement in organized crime wars).

    Aggressive efforts by local pastors and churches in this community have worked to dramatically reduce gross public wickedness. If they can work here, they can work anywhere. Reformed Christians once knew that. Why leave it to the Baptists to do what we ought to be doing? After all, it’s our own Reformed theological heritage of the civil magistrate that much of the Christian conservative movement has been reading for the last three to four decades, often mediated through Schaeffer or through World Magazine.

  111. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    >>For the modest republican types, U.S. military engagements from WWI to the present (with over 3,000 U.S. military bases around the world) is a departure from an older understanding of America as an isolated country, established to leave behind European military struggles.

    I actually tend to agree, at least in part, with most of your description of recent history but this is a bit much. Both Japan and Germany declared war on us. Now I know some will argue we had it coming with Japan due to our reluctance to provide them with raw materials but it is farcical to argue that we are under some sort of obligation to provide the raw material for an empire which was going to inherently be inimical to our interests.

  112. Todd said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    “It is a matter of Christian indifference whether we have legalized prostitution because what the Bible calls sinful for Christians is not necessarily wrong for the secular world? Did I just read that from a conservative Reformed Christian?”

    DTM,

    Look again at what I wrote. I didn’t say prostitution wasn’t wrong for the secular world. I said the Bible doesn’t tell me that particular sin needs to be outlawed by the state, opposed to, say, fornication before marriage, or the practice of Mormonism. And just because the bible doesn’t specifically give an answer to a question – that does not mean I must be indifferent to it. The Bible doesn’t tell me whether the state should outlaw all pornography, but that doesn’t make me indifferent to the terrible havoc pornagraphy is wreaking in the lives of people- both Christian and non-Christian.

  113. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    This is not the right place to spend lots of time or electrons discussing American expansionism.

    However, what’s the difference between an American military base in Japan or Germany and a British colonial fort in India? Well, first off, we were attacked and we won the war. Just war principles do apply. We had every right to do to Germany and Japan pretty much whatever we wanted — and there are reasons why German troops struggled mightily to be able to surrender to Americans rather than Russians because they knew what we would do to them would be much better than the tender mercies of the Soviets.

    However, what did we do after World War II? Did we take over Germany and Japan and run them as colonies? Absolutely not. In fact, we spent hundreds of billions of dollars (current value) through the Marshall Plan to rebuild their economies, and then, **BY THE REQUEST OF THEIR ELECTED GOVERNMENTS** continued to spend tens of billions every year to defend them from the former Soviet Union, while allowing their civilian economies not only to rebuild but to become major competitors to our domestic industries.

    Even on the level of direct military expenditures, go take a look at what happens in lots of foreign countries when we have removed our troops and restationed them to CONUS or to a forward-deployed location — the local economy arond the base typically tanks because of all the money our troops were pouring into the area.

    If we’re running an American empire, we’re doing a really lousy job — instead of helping our homeland, we’re helping lots of other countries while hurting own own economy.

  114. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    >>with over 3,000 U.S. military bases around the world

    Meant to comment on this stunning number. What is the source for this item? Unless someone has a very novel definition of what constitutes a base that number sounds dramatically high to me.

  115. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Todd, I do want to read you carefully.

    You write that “I didn’t say prostitution wasn’t wrong for the secular world. I said the Bible doesn’t tell me that particular sin needs to be outlawed by the state, opposed to, say, fornication before marriage, or the practice of Mormonism … The Bible doesn’t tell me whether the state should outlaw all pornography,”

    I guess I’m not sure how I misunderstood you. I do believe the Bible teaches that prostitution, fornication before marriage, polygamous Mormon marriages, and pornography should be outlawed by the state.

    Practical political realities mean we can’t today effectively outlaw fornication, not because we shouldn’t but because we can’t get the votes to do so, but we **CAN** argue that Christian landlords should be allowed to refuse to rent to cohabiting couples. The rest of those are outlawed in whole or in part.

    The actual practice of idolatrous religions is something explicitly allowed by our federal Constitution as part of a compromise with the Maryland Catholics who helped to bankroll the Continental Army. There’s no practical way to undo that today, and I don’t think it’s worth trying. But Mormonism was forced to get a “new revelation” against polygamy before Utah could be admitted as a state, and that was the right thing for the Congress to do given the limitations of its power under the Constitution.

  116. Todd said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    “I guess I’m not sure how I misunderstood you. I do believe the Bible teaches that prostitution, fornication before marriage, polygamous Mormon marriages, and pornography should be outlawed by the state.”

    Well, at least we found a clear place of disagreement, which is always nice, but for clarity’s sake, in mentioning Mormonism I wasn’t speaking about polygamy, but the practice of false religion. But thanks, I get the disagreement. Cheers

  117. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Paul tells us:

    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

    Now in this passage it refers to “bad” conduct and those who can be labeled as a “wrongdoer”. Does R2K really suggest that our understanding of “bad” and “wrongdoer” should be uninformed by scriptures and that there is some other source of definition which should guide us?

  118. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    David Gray wrote: “Meant to comment on this stunning number. What is the source for this item? Unless someone has a very novel definition of what constitutes a base that number sounds dramatically high to me.”

    I did some Googling myself on the 3,000 base number. It’s being thrown around on a number of websites but there is no possible way that is correct unless they’re including everything from Fort Bragg to a 20-person FOB outside Mosul as a “base.”

    I’ve got some ideas where the 3,000 number is coming from but I’ll leave it to the person who originally used the number to defend and document the number.

    Let’s just say that when one reads partisan political left-wing websites, we probably ought to question their knowledge of military matters or ability to detect likely problems with numbers, just as they would suspect whether we truly understand feminism or pacifism well enough to detect likely problems with membership statistics for the Quakers.

  119. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Maybe the people responsible for originally creating the number are counting recruiting offices across America with two NCOs. After all to the sort of people who create those sort of numbers most of America is a foreign country.

  120. Tim Prussic said,

    December 28, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I know that the more radial 2Kers are deadly opposed to any notion of Christendom, but what about the rest of you. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Christendom? What should we have learned (both positive and negative) from the first one, and should we pursue a second?

  121. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    David, remember the uproar in San Francisco with a military recruiting office and an attempt to use zoning regulations to restrict it as an undesireable business, on the same grounds that conservative Christians for years have used zoning to restrict “adult entertainment”?

    These people really do have a very different idea of what America is or should be.

    After the 2004 elections, leftist filmmaker Michael Moore created a red-and-blue map of what he called the “United States of America” with “Jesusland” in the south and west.

    Demographics being what they are, unless the Republican Party really messes things up with Hispanics, in a generation we’re going to have a socially conservative majority in most of the United States except for New England, the “Rustbelt” of the former industrial Midwest, and even California will be controlled by socially conservative Catholic and Pentecostal Hispanics.

    When even the Democrats are listening to Catholic and Pentecostal conservatives and doing what their own voters tell them is needed to have a moral country, I don’t think I’d mind if the few remaining bastions of true left-wing sixties-style liberalism (as opposed to the old populism of William Jennings Bryan or FDR, which I can tolerate) decide to do what they want.

    For now, unfortunately, San Franscisco values are still infecting the rest of the country. While it is far too strong to say that the California theology a manifestation of that infection, there does seem to be a spirit of capitulation to that form of radical leftism that is infecting the Reformed churches and it’s flowing out of California.

    Defeatism in California may be understandable. We don’t need that defeatist spirit in the rest of the country and our churches.

  122. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Tim, that’s a really good question, and it’s one I’ve thought about formally or informally virtually since my conversion almost three decades ago.

    First, some bio. I was raised in a secular conservative family in Grand Rapids where I spent my entire life growing up in politics with my father, after he left the military, working as a Republican Party official. Someone else here who doesn’t know me said I don’t understand politics. As someone who grew up as a non-Christian in a political family, I know the bad, the nasty, and the purely evil side of politics better than the vast majority of Christians at the lower levels of politics, and I sometimes wonder about the apparent naivete even of evangelical members of Congress.

    We have numerous models from history of how to run governments when the majority of the population (or at least the majority of the population that counted) were Christians. It seems that we can learn a key lesson from understanding the separate role of the three spheres of Christian endeavor: family life, church life, and civil life. God has appointed different headships in each and most of the problems that have happened in Christian society have happened when the three spheres become confused.

    The qualifications for selecting the heads of the church — elders and deacons — are specified in Scripture. There are many requirements for fathers in Scripture. While the qualifications for civil rulers are nowhere near as specific (general principles, though, are there, and a wealth of good and bad examples in the Old Testament), it should be quite clear that while being a good father is a foundation for being a good elder or deacon or civil leader, the qualifications for church leaders do not necessarily make for good civil leaders, and vice versa.

    Let’s look also at what has worked elsewhere in nations that emphasized strict morality and social order.

    Perhaps because of the role of Christians in Korea, I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying the “common grace” example of pre-Christian Korea and of China. When the missionaries went to Korea in the late 1800s, they found a nation which was virtually one of “Calvinists without Christ.” Many of the key items of a Reformed civil culture — a strong emphasis on families, the role of fathers in the home, respect for authority in home and state, a high value placed on education, and a strong sense of social order and fatalism — were very much like a secular version of a Reformed culture. Historic pre-Christian Korea even had a strong emphasis on a citizens’ militia of farmers rather than an elite army of knights and nobles that disarmed the peasantry, which had the effect of limiting the ability of the kings to abuse their people and also managed to drive off the Japanese and the Mongols, keeping Korea a free and independent nation (though sometimes under tribute) for thousands of years until 1905.when the Japanese took control of Korea as part of their naval victory over Czarist Russia.

    Between Confucian civil government ethics and Sun Tsu’s books on warfare, Korea, entirely apart from Christian influence, managed to develop a common grace version of something that would be quite recognizable to the lairds of Knox’s Scotland (less so to the city council of urbanized Geneva or the burghers of the Netherlands). China, despite being conquered several times and being divided frequently between warlords, did much the same thing.

    I think what we can learn from these examples is that Confucius, though he never heard of the Apostle Paul, understood the truth that if a man cannot rule his home, how can he rule anything else? One key to a functioning Christian or even secular government must be to strengthen the family and the role of the fathers in the home.

    Doing that requires tools that are possessed less by the state and more by the church and the family — the church to teach what right looks like, and the extended family to step in and take more direct action when a son-in-law is abusing his authority or refusing to do what he should be doing. However, the state can do a great deal to help or hurt the family structure.

    Second, the state needs to get out of the way of the church so the church can do its job. The church’s role is primarily to teach, and a pastor can and should from time to time follow the prophet’s role in rebuking the civil rulers. But in general, the duties of the church involve things which the civil authority is not competent to do — teaching, administering the sacraments, and exercising church discipine against the ungodly and heretical. The state needs to stay far away from those three functions.

    But the church also needs to observe its proper role. In a medieval era when most civil rulers were illiterate, trained clergy assumed tremendous power as advisors because of their knowledge of history and ability to correspond with others. The result was that people who should have become civil rulers became priests instead though they were not qualified for that office, and both the church and the state suffered corruption because of mixing of their essential functions. A good pastor should, in cases extraordinary, be willing and able to rebuke the civil powers. There’s no call for a pastor to become an expert in public works or warfare; if he has those skills, he ought to use them in civil roles, not remain in the pastorate, unless of course he’s called to be a tentmaker and that just happens to be the way he pays his bills to support a small church someplace.

    We’ll see that in church history, most of the problems of a Christian civil government happened because the church wasn’t doing its job, the church was trying to do the state’s job, the state was trying to take over the role of the church, or the family was falling apart because of underlying social problems. I know that’s not a solution for everything, but maintaining the three spheres of Christian endeavor solves many things.

  123. dgh said,

    December 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    David Gray, does the Bible say whether to install a stop sign or a stop light? But if I run one and don’t stop when the police are pulling me over, don’t they have the authority to use force to enforce this non-biblical norm?

    Darrell, yes, the 3,000 figure may be overdone. But 740 seems more in the ballpark, that is of a hegemon, not of a modest republic. Since much war policy is now conducted not in the interests of staying out of world conflict — as George Washington wanted — but for preserving world peace, American expansionism is an important factor in considering what wars are “good.”

  124. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    >David Gray, does the Bible say whether to install a stop sign or a stop light?

    No.

    >But if I run one and don’t stop when the police are pulling me over, don’t they have the authority to use force to enforce this non-biblical norm?

    Yes.

    So is the law nothing but a utilitarian exercise in where to place stoplights and the equivalent? And is that the full extent of the Biblical intent of government?

  125. David Gray said,

    December 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    >Darrell, yes, the 3,000 figure may be overdone. But 740 seems more in the ballpark, that is of a hegemon, not of a modest republic.

    Why use the crazy man number then? And even 740 is very inflated if you mean actual bases as most people would understand them.

  126. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    dgh said on December 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm: “Darrell, yes, the 3,000 figure may be overdone. But 740 seems more in the ballpark, that is of a hegemon, not of a modest republic. Since much war policy is now conducted not in the interests of staying out of world conflict — as George Washington wanted — but for preserving world peace, American expansionism is an important factor in considering what wars are “good.”

    Dr. Hart, without getting into the details of what does or does not constitute an overseas military installation, I think we’re actually in agreement on your second sentence.

    I listen to the stories of Arab military officers coming to the United States for training in the latest and best techniques of Army engineering, policing, or chemical/nuclear/biological defense. One of my articles on an Iraqi general’s comments when coming to Fort Leonard Wood to thank the American Army for its training got some international media attention a few years ago when the Associated Press picked it up. I’m very much aware that the United States, even while looked to with admiration by secular and moderate Arabs throughout the Middle East, is regarded with considerable suspicion for reasons that in some cases make sense from Arab eyes.

    Arabs have pretty much figured out that we have no desire to directly rule the Middle East, but we do want to “expand” by putting supportive regimes into place to rule other parts of the world, and those regimes have not always had the support of their people.

    You cited the views of Maj. Gen. George Washington, who as a colonel in the Virginia militia and then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, had very good reason to say America needed to focus on matters at home and not get tied up in overseas military affairs. No less a Dutchman (and Grand Rapidian, and newspaper owner) than Sen. Arthur Vandenberg agreed as late as World War II.

    I believe Sen. Vandenberg was right to say in 1945 that the reasons for his lifelong “Fortress America” views had been fundamentally changed by World War II, and that America could either become a force for promoting peace and democracy worldwide or watch as our enemies promoted something very different.

    If American expansionism means “making the world safe for democracy,” it’s pretty hard to disagree with that in most cases. But the rise of radical Islam has created a very difficult situation for us in which a free election would turn Saudi Arabia into a horrible nightmare of Islamofascism, and probably do the same to Egypt and several other countries.

    Maybe if a century ago Rev. Samuel Zwemer and the RCA missionaries to Arabia had been more successful, we wouldn’t have this problem today. In the long run, the only solution to the Arab problem is conversion. But those are the cards we’ve been dealt — for much of the Middle East, our choices are supporting corrupt traditional monarchs or secular Arab nationalists, and if we do neither, we’ll soon be seeing radicalized Islamic states rise up which hate America and all we stand for.

    Frankly, if we don’t want another 9/11, I don’t see what choice we have but to try to play factions off against each other in the Arab world, while hoping that Iraq and the Palestinian Authority turn into some sort of functioning democracies comparable to Turkey so Arabs figure out that if they rule themselves via democracy without declaring Jihad on the West, we’ll let them do pretty much whatever they want.

  127. Andrew McCallum said,

    December 29, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Tim Prussic asks: I know that the more radial 2Kers are deadly opposed to any notion of Christendom, but what about the rest of you. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Christendom? What should we have learned (both positive and negative) from the first one, and should we pursue a second?

    Tim,

    I would firstly say that,like our W2K friends here, I don’t like the historical attempts at establishing Christendom. After Constantine, in the East the Church became a function of the State while in the West the State became a function of the Church. In the later case this was largely a pragmatic matter where the Church filled the gap left by the collapsed civil authority, but still the history of the merger of the proper functions of state and church is largely a sad story. The remedy was of course to assign church and state their proper sphere of authority and as DTM points out the Scriptures do this. To me sphere sovereignty is at the core of any proper understanding of 2K. The W2K (which I think is what you are referring to as “radical” 2K) folks take this separation beyond just functional separation of church and state to separation between sacred and secular such that the state cannot look to anything in the sacred realm to form its laws and practices. This sounds very much like the atheistic attempt to separate state from church although I’m told that an atheistic version of such separation is not what the W2K folks are aiming at. But how the atheist and the W2K advocate go about making this separation differently is not quite clear to me. I’m not entirely sure it is clear to the W2K folks and I have the distinct impression that they answer this question in somewhat different ways.

    Some of the things that DTM says in #121 underscores the lessons learned from Van Til and many others. You cannot get away from a religious basis for government, it’s just impossible. If we are successful in removing any taint of Christian theology from the civil realm we will not be left with laws, practices and decisions based purely on logic, reason, and general creational principles, but rather we will be left with a civil realm where non-Christian theologies and philosophies have moved in to replace Christian ones. We just cannot escape the deeply religious nature of creating culture.

  128. dgh said,

    December 29, 2010 at 5:39 am

    David Gray, I used the example of traffic laws to show that your assertion that government has no place to go for law other than Scripture is flawed. That example may not mean law is barely utilitarian. But laws do have their functional dimension, such as when Assemblies of the church only use Roberts Rules for orderly discussions. Perhaps you want to rethink your only Bible view of law.

  129. paigebritton said,

    December 29, 2010 at 6:47 am

    DGH:
    Andrew Duggan wrote a response to you which was caught in the spam filter — it was belatedly added as #106, if ya want to look at it. (Your #107 appears to be answering the other Andrew, so I don’t think you have seen this one yet.)
    pax,
    pb

  130. paigebritton said,

    December 29, 2010 at 6:49 am

    DTM:
    Re. the name swap — I fixed it for ya (and removed your apology.)
    :)
    pb

  131. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 7:13 am

    >I used the example of traffic laws to show that your assertion that government has no place to go for law other than Scripture is flawed.

    Actually it was used to show that a Christian understanding of government doesn’t permit law devoid of reference to the Scriptures. And a traffic light doesn’t lay a glove on that notion. I don’t have an “only Bible” understanding of law but I do have a notion that statutory law should not be utterly alienated from being informed by the Bible. Two different things.

  132. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    December 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I am starting to believe Dr. Hart has not spent any real amount of time in primary sources when it comes to understanding what “Theonomists” or anyone else believes concerning the application of God’s Law in civil society. If Dr. Hart had he would not continue to misrepresent the positions of others using the type of examples (i.e. – the stop sign/stop light) he does. Dr. Bahnsen’s famous “build a fence around your pool” (see ch. 14 of “By This Standard” to read this in more detail) being the most well-known example that shows the fallacy of Dr. Hart’s attempt to argue that those seeking Biblical Law as the basis for Civil Law must go outside the Bible for traffic laws since the Bible knows nothing of vehicular traffic. To that the Theonomist says, “Of Course.” Biblical principles concerning Civil Law must be updated to fit context. The “stop light/stop sign” example is at best a strawman.

  133. Peter Green said,

    December 29, 2010 at 9:13 am

    With all due respect, Dr. Hart, I’m not sure the stop light example proves what you want it to prove. After all, as Benjamin alluded to with the fence around the pool, there is excellent Biblical support for stop light laws. The command not to kill provides the normative principle and the command to build a fence on top of your roof to protect from people falling off is a biblical example of that normative principle applied, which mutatis mutandis applies to stop lights.

    However, the secular realm has no basis for stop light laws. On what basis should we make stop light laws? To protect life. And why should we protect life? Because none of us want to die. And on what basis do our desires have any morally compelling force? Well perhaps we want to ensure the survival of the species and so we order laws that encourage the survival of the species. why should we care about the survival of the species? Because we are created/evolved to desire self-preservation. Why should we care how we have been created/evolved?

    You might say that its not a question of morality, but rather legality; the state has decreed it so, because the state is tasked with governing and protecting its citizens. But on what basis has that task been given to the state? By the people who formed it. And on what basis did the people who formed the government give that task to the government, or on what basis did they form the government at all? Because they have a right to organize the government, which governs them. Do they? On what basis do that have that right?

    Secular arguments for any sort of morality are ultimately arbitrary and/or inconsistent with people’s fundamentally held presuppositions. Morality is nothing other than a description of the character of God and so to discuss morality without appeal to the transcendent, immanent, personal, Triune God of whom that morality is a description, is nonsensical.

    Within Biblical morality there is ample non arbitrary basis for stop-light laws. Apart from the character of God as revealed in Scripture, stop light laws are arbitrary. Since there is no basis for valuing life, there is no basis for laws that protect life, except for arbitrary assertions about what we should and shouldn’t value.

    All people know and act on Biblical morality to one extent or another. However, when they act so, they are acting inconsistently with their fundamentally held presuppositions. Romans 1 makes it clear that apart from an acknowledgment of the exists and creative work of the Triune God, there is no basis for morality, and consequently, as people become consistent with their rejection of God, they will become more and more immoral. There is nothing restraining them. In other words, in so far as any unbeliever acts morally, they are acting inconsistently with their fundamentally held presuppositions. Objective Natural Law, which is the notion that we can construct a consistent moral framework in the secular realm apart from an appeal to God and/or the Scriptures (as opposed to subjective natural law, which I define as the notion that all people know God and know what it right, regardless of whether they consciously acknowledge him, and with which I certainly agree), allows unbelievers live inconsistently, instead of challenging them with the absurdity of their own lives, and forcing them to make a choice between the only two consistent worldviews: Christianity and Nihilism.

  134. Ron said,

    December 29, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Even the inductive inference of what might occur without stop light laws presupposes that which can only be justified by Scripture’s account of creation and providence.

  135. dgh said,

    December 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Ben, I wasn’t presuming to be referring to theonomy. Did you hoist too many last night for Hodgemas? I was simply saying that the idea that we need the Bible for law is wrong. Lots of societies and institutions make laws without the Bible.

    And I don’t think it is inconsistent for non-Christians to make laws without reference to the Bible. They are simply doing what humans do.

    But if the Bible is the only source for law, then shouldn’t all Christians overturn this U.S. government as fast as possible and establish a truly consistent polity?

  136. dgh said,

    December 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Andrew D. since Machen argued for liberty in the civil realm and for narrowness in the church realm, my point about how Machen argued as a citizen vs. as a Christian stands. What is more, since WTS was not an ecclesiastical institution, your point fails. Machen was simply listing his professional office.

  137. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 11:24 am

    >>I was simply saying that the idea that we need the Bible for law is wrong. Lots of societies and institutions make laws without the Bible.

    And do all those laws equally result in the state properly serving its God ordained function? Did the laws of the Third Reich equally serve those ordained functions as well as those of the United Kingdom? You certainly can makes laws without the Bible but your laws are less likely to conform to the proper functions of the state as ordained by God.

    >>But if the Bible is the only source for law

    Who is arguing for that? It is a straw man whose existence seems to be solely driven by your personal needs. The Bible isn’t the best source for law but at a basic level it is the best source for law in a macro sense.

  138. Peter Green said,

    December 29, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Dr. Hart, you have effectively avoided addressing the force of all of my arguments.

    No-one is arguing that it is not the case that “lots of societies and institutions make laws without the Bible.” Of course they do. How does that relate to anything that’s been said thus far?

    Furthermore, how in the world, does your last paragraph follow? Even if the Bible is the only “source” (what do you mean by source?) for law, why in the world would it be incumbent on Christians to overturn the US government? That makes no sense.

    And it’s great that you “don’t think it is inconsistent for non-Christians to make laws without reference to the Bible.” You haven’t really addressed any of my arguments though. On what non arbitrary basis can any unbeliever hold to any sort of moral evaluation? And just because they are “doing what humans do” does not mean that they are not acting inconsistently with the fundamentally held presuppositions. They make laws because that’s what humans (made in the image of God) do. I agree. But my assertion is that in doing so, they reveal the bankruptcy of their own worldview. They can not act consistently with their fundamentally held presuppositions, and so they act inconsistently. They stubbornly “suppress the truth” that there is a God, while still acting in a moral fashion, which betrays the lie they live; morality is nothing other than a description of the character of God. To make any sort of moral proclamation is to declare that God exists (even if the moral proclamations are inaccurate; eg. homosexuality is morally acceptable).

    To say: “Look at the sunlight” is to declare that there is a “sun”. To make a moral proclamation is to declare that there is a God. Thus unbelievers live inconsistently, and “Objective Natural Law” inadvertently enables unbelievers’ philosophical inconsistency.

  139. Ron said,

    December 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I was simply saying that the idea that we need the Bible for law is wrong. Lots of societies and institutions make laws without the Bible.

    Yes and a lot of fine scientists are professing atheists. That one can make laws – even laws that reflect God’s general equity, or draw profound scientific inferences does not mean the laws and inferences are internally consistent with the worldview of the one propounding them. So you are correct, one does not “need the Bible” to make laws in an arbitrary and inconsistent manner as it pertains to his secularly autonomous worldview.

    And I don’t think it is inconsistent for non-Christians to make laws without reference to the Bible. They are simply doing what humans do.

    Correct – it is very consistent “for non-Christians to make laws without reference to the Bible.” But the only consistency the non-Christian is demonstrating is that he is consistently inconsistent by presupposing the philosophical notion of universal, abstract entities such as civil “laws” and lording them over people without any appeal to an ultimate law giver to Whom he must give an account. His epistemology is as autonomous as his ethic is tyrannical.

    Ron

  140. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    paigebritton said on December 29, 2010 at 6:49 am: “DTM:
    Re. the name swap — I fixed it for ya (and removed your apology.)
    :)
    pb”

    Thanks!

  141. Andrew Duggan said,

    December 29, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    DGH,

    You had originally said Machen did not identify (in public life) as a Christian, well, Professor of New Testament at Theological Seminary is not just a profession. Do you really think that the governor didn’t see the “Christian” in Machen’s self-attested title? On what basis do you contend that Machen didn’t intend to convey his being a Christian by using his title? Considering the close association of “New Testament” studies at a Theological Seminary with “Christianity”, reasonably the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that Machen never intended to convey anything about being a Christian by identifying himself as a Professor of New Testament. It seem rather, that it is your claim that Machen entered public life only as a citizen that fails, and I thank you for providing the evidence. It is still common practice in the OPC for Seminary professors to be called to that position by the Presbytery. So when they use their title as seminary professor it is equivalent to a pastor signing a document “Pastor, ________ [Orthodox] Presbyterian Church”.

    If you want to take Machen to task for doing so, that is another story entirely, and one that I would likely be sympathetic to, but more likely I’ll leave you to keep on spinning.

  142. michael said,

    December 29, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I believe the parallels are stark.

    God, through His mouthpiece Moses, teaches that when His Word is applied properly in the civilian realms, inside the Nation of Israel and in other countries, Israel and other countries will learn how great God and the law of God is:

    Deu 4:5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
    Deu 4:6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
    Deu 4:7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
    Deu 4:8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

    Now, here we these days with those guys, Israel, coming up so lame in heart and deed!

    Today, God uses another, Greater Nation among all nations, the Body of Christ, for a similar reason, tasked to manifest the manifold wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in heavenly places.

    However, consider this about that:

    Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    Gal 5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

    Now, this common salvation/law is written upon the hearts of flesh and find no civilian laws that can come against them.

    The law is not for the righteous so a stop, a stop light or no sign or light means nothing to the lawless apostates. He or she is self-willed and self-condemned by the law of God anyway.

    Why? Because against such things, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus at work in a person’s soul, there is no law to prevent the manifestation of its fruit.

    Christianity, unlike present or past day Israel can work in every culture, kingdom or democracy quite well. We are obligated to obey the laws of the land. And these laws in no way can separate us from the Love of God!

    I suppose perhaps when I am fully functioning under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, through Christ by One Spirit to the Father, producing the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance I will have an easier go of it in any country governed by Sharia Law?

    I suppose, perhaps, especially if I hold to the Faith once delivered to the Saints while I am there in that country?

    Common sense teaches this, right?

    Pro 16:20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
    Pro 16:21 The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
    Pro 16:22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
    Pro 16:23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

  143. Ron said,

    December 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    You had originally said Machen did not identify (in public life) as a Christian, well, Professor of New Testament at Theological Seminary is not just a profession. Do you really think that the governor didn’t see the “Christian” in Machen’s self-attested title?

    Hi Andrew,

    With all due respect, if that is all you have then I dare say you haven’t much. :) When Ellen Charry of Princeton Theological Seminary uses her title I don’t necessarily see “Christian” as an implication, let alone a Christian worldview that has any relevance to the question of how we might govern ourselves in a fallen world.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  144. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    >>When Ellen Charry of Princeton Theological Seminary uses her title I don’t necessarily see “Christian” as an implication, let alone a Christian worldview that has any relevance to the question of how we might govern ourselves in a fallen world.

    It is possible that we live in a society which perceives things differently…

  145. Ron said,

    December 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    David,

    I’m not sure I understand.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  146. Zrim said,

    December 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    DTM, re #104, I didn’t ask you about the morality of abortion or homosexuality. I asked you why the church needs to get involved in those questions when they are politicized.

    Of course, people who don’t think babies are yet humans or who think homosexuality is not contrary to nature will not agree that these are “cases extraordinary.”

    Well, I think life begins at conception and homosexuality is contrary to nature, but I still don’t agree that when they become political questions the church has any business getting involved. So, are you saying that theer are times when the (political) world sets the church’s agenda? If so, how isn’t that liberalism’s slogan? Is it that the the (political world) sets the church’s agenda when it’s your agenda but it doesn’t when it’s the others guy’s agenda?

  147. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    >>Well, I think life begins at conception and homosexuality is contrary to nature, but I still don’t agree that when they become political questions the church has any business getting involved.

    Christians didn’t get involved when it became a political issue. Abortion has always been a political issue. Christians became involved, in the sense you mean, and faithful preachers preached, when child murder was legalized.

  148. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    >So, are you saying that theer are times when the (political) world sets the church’s agenda?

    Rather what you are saying is that the world has the power to silence the church by declaring a matter to be political. Calvin and Luther loathed contraception and all Protestant churches taught against it until the 1930s when the Anglicans led the way, as they so often do. But now if a minister addressed such a subject R2K sorts would undoubtedly find it inappropriate.

  149. Zrim said,

    December 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    David Gray, I said, “I mean, I feel strongly that RvW should be overturned, which is to say that states should be given their rights back to govern themselves (contra many pro-lifers, btw, who favor federal outlawing), but I’m even more opposed to any ecclesiastical body giving spiritual sanction to my political opinion.”

    To which you responded, Which is why a faithful pastor will preach on the extreme wickedness of child murder, which is so prevalent in the society in which God has placed us, but will not preach on what constitutes an appropriate statutory remedy.

    I don’t follow. It would make more sense if you had said, “Which is why a faithful pastor will preach on the extreme wickedness of federalism, which is so prevalent in the society in which God has placed us…” My point is that castrating states’ rights is more a political taboo than legalizing abortion. And, yet, if a pastor used his bully pulpit to sanction my political views I’d bring the doctrine of the spirituality of the church to bear on him tenfold. I wish you lifers would make more effort to understand statesers, but even more I wish you’d try to understand 2k-SOTCers.

  150. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    >My point is that castrating states’ rights is more a political taboo than legalizing abortion.

    I am a “stateser”. Each act of abortion is murder. When we are surrounded with “respectable” murder like abortion you honestly don’t think the law should be preached against such Molech like wickedness? A preacher doesn’t need to address what sort of statute should be drawn up to address this murder or whether a constitutional amendment is appropriate. He should preach that this form of murder which is practiced by all classes in the land is an abomination and wickedness from the pit of hell. He should not preach that people should call their representative and tell them to vote for House Bill 251.3.

  151. dgh said,

    December 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    David Gray, you wrote: “Does R2K really suggest that our understanding of “bad” and “wrongdoer” should be uninformed by scriptures and that there is some other source of definition which should guide us?”

    That sounds to me like you are objecting to sources for establishing good or evil other than Scripture. If not, I stand corrected. But if standards for good and evil exist other than those revealed in Scripture, why insist that government adhere to biblical norms?

  152. dgh said,

    December 29, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Peter Green, the reason why it would be incumbent on Christians to overturn the state if its laws departed from Scripture would be the same as the reasons for the reformers to overturn Rome’s teaching and worship. If the Bible reveals a set of standards that are required of the government, and if Christians believe the Bible, then they have an obligation to make sure that their state follows the Bible.

    I mean, would it be okay for Christians in a liberal church to let liberal teachings and rulings go unopposed? I hope you would say no. In which, if the Bible is the norm for the state as it is for the church, don’t believers have the same obligations in politics as they do in the church?

    Now if you want to say there is a different biblical standard for the state than there is for the church, you could maybe make that claim. But since the one state revealed in the Bible was culpable for departing from the moral, ceremonial and civil laws revealed by God, I’m not sure how you find a different biblical standard for the state.

  153. David Gray said,

    December 29, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    >>That sounds to me like you are objecting to sources for establishing good or evil other than Scripture. If not, I stand corrected. But if standards for good and evil exist other than those revealed in Scripture, why insist that government adhere to biblical norms?

    There are many sources of good and evil. Only one is inerrant. If the state is to perform its God ordained functions which source do you think it would be prudent to utilize? In our nation every adult Christian has the opportunity to exert political power, unlike in Rome. Do you suggest that Christians forswear the vote? And if not what basis of good and evil should they utilize in exercising political power?

  154. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 30, 2010 at 1:06 am

    ZRim, let’s try to think this through.

    You wrote: “I didn’t ask you about the morality of abortion or homosexuality. I asked you why the church needs to get involved in those questions when they are politicized … Well, I think life begins at conception and homosexuality is contrary to nature, but I still don’t agree that when they become political questions the church has any business getting involved. So, are you saying that theer are times when the (political) world sets the church’s agenda? If so, how isn’t that liberalism’s slogan? Is it that the the (political world) sets the church’s agenda when it’s your agenda but it doesn’t when it’s the others guy’s agenda?”

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that it was okay for churches to preach on abortion until the issue became politicized.

    For most of American history, there was no question that abortion was a crime. Left-wing feminists like Susan B. Anthony opposed it. Right-wing Christians opposed it. While abortion existed, it was regarded as a criminal activity and roundly condemned by basically everyone except women who wanted to avoid the consequences of sexual promiscuity, men who wanted to conceal affairs, and, of course, the abortionists themselves.

    Are you telling us that once abortion became a political issue with two sides advocating their stances in the political realm, churches needed to stop speaking out against abortion while previously they could do so since there was a common consensus across the political spectrum that abortion should be illegal?

    If I’m reading you correctly, I can’t see how you can avoid David Gray’s conclusion that “what you are saying is that the world has the power to silence the church by declaring a matter to be political.”

    Show me why I am wrong.

    Fair warning … I may not be able to respond for a while. I am back in my office now after a two-alarm fire, and I’ve got a ton of work to do. Our outgoing county prosecutor (unfortunately, a sad example of an incompetent Christian magistrate, and one who lost her Republican primary re-election bid with barely 20 percent of the vote, coming in last of three candidates) has filed a lawsuit against the county arguing that they didn’t pay her enough. Plus, I’m trying to beat an out-of-town television station on a story about a gun-toting neighbor who shot a local realtor’s dog in her own yard on Christmas morning, causing a $2,000 vet bill. When I’m done with that, I have to deal with several articles on our city administrator blasting the Missouri Department of Transportation for an expressway rerouting that will cause chaos in our main business district, an insurance agent and retired union worker who are suing each other after a shooting incident, and a bunch of other more routine stories.

    None of that is anywhere near as important as the discussion we’re having here, but as a Reformed minister told me years ago, “The problem with you reporters is you confuse the urgent and the important.” He’s right, but in a capitalist world, I earn my money and the money needed to pay my newspaper employees by writing stories people want to read and helping other reporters write theirs. My Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, and secular non-churchgoing readers love stories about shoot-em-up fights in the street, blazing fires, car crashes, incompetent elected officials, sex scandals, and extensive coverage of anything that could raise their taxes. They’re not very interested in this sort of theological debate, except that they might appreciate an article about a local church running out a liberal minister.

    So I’ll try to stay involved in this thread, but I’ve taken a bunch of time for the last couple of days that I can’t justify from an economic standpoint, no matter how important the issues are to the long-term health of Reformed churches.

  155. Peter Green said,

    December 30, 2010 at 8:48 am

    You are grasping at straws, Dr. Hart (and strawmen). If by “overturn” you mean use the legal and appropriate means to work for change then yes. I would say the same to true for both ecclesiastical and civil engagement, with rare exceptions, perhaps. God’s sovereignty gives us the freedom to use sanctified means.

    However, there is a difference between the civil and the ecclesiastical realms – no one would deny this, least of all me. But the difference does not reside in their *basis* for moral judgments and guidance. The government wields the power of the sword; the church does not. Women cannot rule the the church; there is no biblical reason why women should not rule the civil government.

    You seem to be making the bizarre logical jump from “the civil and the ecclesiastical realm must both ultimately base their moral judgments on the reality of God and His revelation” (with which I agree) to “the civil and ecclesiastical realm are equivalent with no distinction” (with which I, of course, disagree).

    The standard is the same, but the application of it is different, because the state and the church are distinct entities, which both find their only basis for moral judgments in the reality of the existence of God and His revelation.

    You still have not addressed any of my original arguments, though.

  156. dgh said,

    December 30, 2010 at 9:11 am

    David, I’m confused. At 137 you accused me of establishing a straw man for suggesting you were advocating the Bible as the only standard for civil law. Now in 153 you say that for the state to perform its god-ordained function (funny how the emperor Paul recommended for executing those functions didn’t have the Bible at his disposal) it should use the only inerrant source of right and wrong. So are you saying that there is an inerrant source for determining the rules of traffic at intersections?

    As far as Christians voting, you know some Reformed Protestants who believed that the U.S. was compromised for not acknowledging the Lordship of Christ in the Constitution — the Covenanters — did not vote. It’s not that difficult to imagine such a scenario because it happened. I disagree with the Covenanters on the national covenant, but I admire their integrity. All the critics of 2k can do is kvetch about 2k and then function as 2kers in daily life.

  157. dgh said,

    December 30, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Peter, I don’t understand how the Bible functions as the norm for both civil society and the church and yet you can have women barred from office in the latter but not the former. Is not the state bound to conform to biblical norms? f not, why not. Just because the state applies biblical law with the sword, doesn’t mean that the law is not in effect. Remember John Knox? On biblical grounds he was not real pleased with queens running affairs in England or Scotland. Ever heard of the Baylys who regularly claim, on biblical grounds, that women should not hold public office?

    In which case, you have your own fancy footwork for separating the norms of the church and the state but it is riddled with a major inconsistency — namely, that the Bible is the norm for the state but it is not really the norm for the state, or only the norm on the matters on which you say it counts. Please tell me how I too may become pope.

  158. Zrim said,

    December 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I am a “stateser”. Each act of abortion is murder. When we are surrounded with “respectable” murder like abortion you honestly don’t think the law should be preached against such Molech like wickedness? A preacher doesn’t need to address what sort of statute should be drawn up to address this murder or whether a constitutional amendment is appropriate. He should preach that this form of murder which is practiced by all classes in the land is an abomination and wickedness from the pit of hell. He should not preach that people should call their representative and tell them to vote for House Bill 251.3.

    David Gray, with all the hysterical “child murder” language it seems to me you’re more lifer than stateser. The latter aren’t nearly as given to over-wrought, incendiary and frankly reckless language.

    But my point is that there must be a distinction made between the moral and political aspect of a phenomenon. I’m not at all saying that preachers or churches should not hold fast to the moral degeneracy of elective abortion (sorry, I prefer strong language over the hysterical stuff about Molech and murder: do you really expect to persuade those in the public square of your outlook when you speak like that?). But unless one has been living under a rock for the last 35+ years, abortion, like it or not, is one of the most politicized issues of our time—seems to me you lifers have a vested interest in acknowledging this, not only because it’s a plain fact, but more because that’s your main beef, the outlawing (political term) of this thing called abortion. It’s very nice and polite of you to tip your hat to SOTC by saying a preacher ought not to be explicitly political by telling his congregation how to vote, etc. Unfortunately, it’s not really that easy in 2011 America. When David Bayly preaches to the President from afar it’s not a little obvious that he’s making a political statement, unless one wants to maintain the laughable claim that abortion is only a moral issue and not a political one today.

    And, as far as your hysterical language goes, have you considered that the NT has a lot more to say about sexual sins than those concerning life and death, as in “Play by the revealed rules on sex” more than “Don’t go killing someone”? Illicit sex is what precipitates abortions. I only point this out because most lifers who use your linguistic-hysterics also like to claim that preaching against abortion from pulpits is necessary because justified sinners are just as prone to sinful behavior as unjustified sinners; it’s a way of trying to look savvy, etc. But whatever else it may suggest, the NT data on imperatives against sexual sins far outweigh imperatives not to kill. IOW, if preachers want to make sure the abortion base is covered they’d do much better to focus on penchants toward sexual sins than penchants for blood.

  159. Zrim said,

    December 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that it was okay for churches to preach on abortion until the issue became politicized.

    DTM, that’s a little too absolute and fine pointed for me. No, I’d rather say that in 2011 America preachers do very well to consider how highly politicized the issue is and exercise much more propriety and care in how they decide to address the particular issue. Those who think themselves theologically conservative, anyway. As it is, I see way more theological progessivism underlying those who think they may speak footloose and fancy free.

    Are you telling us that once abortion became a political issue with two sides advocating their stances in the political realm, churches needed to stop speaking out against abortion while previously they could do so since there was a common consensus across the political spectrum that abortion should be illegal?

    Nope. In addition to my answer above, and assuming what I have been saying to David Gray about the distinction between the moral and political considerations of any behavior, speaking about a political issue is always out of line, whether an immoral act is presently outlawed or legalized. Granted, the lines can be fuzzy, but that’s precisely why we need them as brightly lit by an old school 2k as possible.

    If I’m reading you correctly, I can’t see how you can avoid David Gray’s conclusion that “what you are saying is that the world has the power to silence the church by declaring a matter to be political.”

    Again, there is a difference between moral and political silence. Maybe you think no distinction should be made, but then I don’t know what you (presumably) have against the social gospels of the liberals, unless their only problem was that they had the wrong kind of social gospel. So, the world has no power to silence the church if we consider the distinction. But, yes, once it becomes political then we must exercise much more care not to be led around by the nose by the world at and voilating something like WCF 31.5 or the spirituality of the church, to say nothing of at the expense or co-opting of the Great Commission.

    P.S. I’m inclined to think how one negotiates the issue of abortion in our day separates those serious about 2k-SOTC and those not so serious. It’s our abolition. Here’s to more Stuart Robinsons.

  160. David Gray said,

    December 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    >David Gray, with all the hysterical “child murder” language it seems to me you’re more lifer than stateser. The latter aren’t nearly as given to over-wrought, incendiary and frankly reckless language.

    Do you deny that an unborn child is a child? Do you deny abortion is murder? The fact that a simple factual description of what abortion is tells me more about you than I think I want to know. One may recognize the hellish nature of child murder while maintaining a sound appreciation of how our federal system was intended to work.

    Frankly you’ve dishonored yourself enough here with the above statement. Perhaps you should stop digging, for your own very non-political sake.

  161. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 30, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    The phrase “Machen’s Warrior Children” appears to originate from an essay of the same name by John Frame. Frame criticizes MWC for (1) drawing boundary lines where Scripture does not give conclusive definition; and (2) paying insufficient attention to the Scriptural teaching about contentious spirits and gentleness.

    It appears that Dr. Hart has taken up the term as an ironic badge of honor, if I’m reading him correctly.

  162. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Lane, I would respectfully but qualifiedly dissent from your thesis:

    Unity and peace are the idolatries of today. No doubt some (maybe even many) of the other parties would claim that we idolize theology and correct doctrine. I believe it only seems so to people who do not really care about doctrinal precision. To them, any kind of doctrinal precision seems like doctrinal idolization.

    It may well be the case that both are true: unity and peace can be idols for some; and doctrinal precision may be idols for others.

    In any event, we do not want doctrinal precision but doctrinal accuracy.

    The Federal Vision is doctrinally precise. It makes precise distinctions between covenantal election and decretal election; baptismal regeneration “in some sense”, and more. And yet it is inaccurate.

    Examples could be multiplied: Hermann Hoeksema, the Trinity Review, dispensationalism. All of these are doctrinally precise, but doctrinally inaccurate. Norm Shepherd made a doctrinally precise declaration on the nature of saving faith; but he was incorrect (as far as I can tell).

    It may seem like I’m making a trivial (overly precise!) distinction here, but the methodologies are different. Those concerned to be precise will focus on continually refining doctrinal statements in order to achieve ever-greater levels of specification. The result is a focus on and priority on secondary standards, such as the Confession.

    Those concerned to be accurate will focus on testing doctrinal claims against the primary standard, Scripture; and precision will be a tool for achieving accuracy.

    So it’s not correct to say that those who warn of the danger of idolizing precision are those who care nothing for precision. Doctrinal precision is a tool, not a goal; if it becomes a goal, it can become an idol.

  163. David Gray said,

    December 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    >elective abortion

    I didn’t realize till I checked your blog that you are a member of a liberal church that ordains women. I’m surprised and disappointed to see an OPC pastor willing to make common cause with liberals on that blog. I’m not surprised when the ELCA, CRC or PCUSA come short in these matters.

  164. michael said,

    December 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Zrim:

    No, I’d rather say that in 2011 America preachers do very well to consider how highly politicized the issue is and exercise much more propriety and care in how they decide to address the particular issue.

    I would say what Jesus said, loose paraphrase: ” the student, to attain to the level of the Master must attain to the level of the Master, becoming nothing more that an orator of His”.

    Some fools seem to exceed the Master’s Word when preaching! grrrr

    Your words, cited above, seems to me to miss the fact that True Believers have a Truly Good Shepherd and His green pastures are the best gastronomical pastures. They certainly pale the political winds some preach to from their pulpits.

    Let 2011 be filled with Spirit Filled men of God, full of the power and fire from Heaven itself holding firm the sword of the Spirit and welding it as they must.

    Without so doing, there is no honor for the Godly shepherds who do not preach the Word, as we learn rightly, here:

    Psa 149:1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!
    Psa 149:2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
    Psa 149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
    Psa 149:4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
    Psa 149:5 Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.
    Psa 149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
    Psa 149:7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
    Psa 149:8 to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
    Psa 149:9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!

    Let the shepherds and the sheep and the nations hear the Word of the Lord!

  165. Peter Green said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Dr. Hart, you still have not addressed the arguments I raised in #133, and #138.

    The Bible forbids women from becoming elders. The state is not ruled by elders. The Bible does not forbid women from holding civil office. Ergo women can hold office in the state. Is that footwork “fancy” enough for you?

    I know who the Bayly’s are but I am not particularly interested in what they think. (I should note that the difficulty of applying the biblical law to the civil realm, and the diversity in opinions does not invalidate the project as some 2Kers want to believe. If it did, all of Christianity would be invalidated – or at least all of Protestantism).

    As I already stated, to say that the Bible is the *basis* for morality for both the church and the state, does not make the state and the church equivalent (as in identical with no distinction). That’s a non sequitur.

    I’m not an expert on how to become the Pope, but I believe it would entail becoming RC, moving up the ecclesiastical ranks, attaining to the rank of arch-bishop, and being voted in by the college of cardinals (after the death or retirement of Benedict, of course).

    I am genuinely interested in hearing your interaction with my arguments in 133 and 138 because you are, perhaps, the most consistent 2Ker. I disagree with you, but I am sure my own thinking can be sharpened and improved through your interaction, as I hope yours is through mine. If, however, you are not interested in interacting with my arguments, please say so, so that I am not tempted away from my German studies any more.

  166. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Zrim wrote: “P.S. I’m inclined to think how one negotiates the issue of abortion in our day separates those serious about 2k-SOTC and those not so serious. It’s our abolition.”

    You’re actually drawing a parallel I can agree with.

    It is a matter of historical fact that the “Spirituality of the Church” doctrine, whatever its rightness or wrongness, was used by Southern Presbyterians in service of the horrid practice of racial generational slavery based on manstealing (note that I am making very specific qualifying statements there) as well as the more recent and only somewhat less obnoxious practice of racial segregation.

    You don’t need to be a Unitarian liberal to believe abolition of slavery was a good thing. John Newton, Jonathan Edwards’ son, and the Wesley brothers certainly differed in their theology, and I would have major problems with some of their beliefs, but they were all correct in condemning slavery based on biblical exegesis.

    I may live in the South, but I’m not a Southerner, so I feel no need to defend the “Peculiar Institution,” nor, in my view, should those whose heritage includes such things. On the contrary, conservatives who defend that part of their heritage need to be called to repent. (And yes, believe me, I get some very angry comments when I say such things in the rural South.)

    A “Spirituality of the Church” doctrine which hamstrings biblical efforts to root out wickedness in society is highly suspect at best, and an attempt to gag the Bible at worst. I have no doubt that many who advocate this “Two Kingdoms” theology are sincere in their beliefs. So were some (not all, but some) “Spirituality of the Church” people who said the church has no business opposing racial segregation and slavery. They were wrong then; they were wrong now.

    With regard to abortion, the stakes are even higher. At least black slaves weren’t being routinely murdered by saline solution, with their skins burned off in the womb before their birth. Put bluntly, those who stand by in silence while babies are murdered have blood on their hands.

  167. dgh said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Peter, if the Bible requires rule by elders, why doesn’t the state have elders? You simply keep peeling off another layer of the onion.

    The reason why this is important is because 2k is constantly criticized for not advocating biblical morality or biblical norms in public. Well, now you, who are not 2k, tell me that it is okay for the state not to be ruled by elders. But that means that the state doesn’t have to follow Scripture. So it’s okay if you say the state doesn’t have to follow the Bible, but not if I do it. Huh?

    As to your point about the inconsistency or bankruptcy of non-Christians making laws — pardon my bluntness, but so what? I’m not trying to win a debating match with my neighbors. I’m only trying to live a quiet and peaceable life. If non-Christians can make laws that promote social order that makes church life easier, without being consistent, great.

    Anyway, what’s the big deal about their inconsistency? Why would you expect them to be consistent? A non-believer could never be consistent, unless they acted in accord with their unbelief. And why would we want that?

  168. dgh said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    DTM, please give up the SOTC being used to justify slavery. Is it fair to mention that world-and-life viewism was used to justify apartheid? Plus, some have also used SOTC to oppose the church supporting the federal government in the Civil War (Hodge), the church supporting prohibition (Machen), and the church declaring that women may not serve in combat (Troxel). So slavery hardly invalidates SOTC. (If I had a nickel for every time . . . .)

  169. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    David Gray wrote: “I didn’t realize till I checked your blog that you are a member of a liberal church that ordains women. I’m surprised and disappointed to see an OPC pastor willing to make common cause with liberals on that blog.”

    If you mean ZRim, he’s apparently a member of Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. That’s a leading church in the denomination that was at one time the “college church” for the old campus of Calvin College, and is still filled with many professors and denominational bigwigs.

    I went to seminary with his pastor. There are a lot worse men in the CRC than his pastor, and by CRC leadership standards, he’s fairly orthodox. The church is not a hotbed of liberal nuttiness.

    However, let’s not kid ourselves — this church is in Classis Grand Rapids East, one of the worst classes of the entire denomination, and is by no means a conservative remnant congregation. There are such churches in the CRC, and I can respect people who believe they need to remain in the CRC and fight rather than walk out. Seventh Reformed Church did that in the RCA even after the battle had long before been lost. But that’s not Calvin CRC by any stretch of the imagination.

    We need to ask hard questions about why **ANYBODY** in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church would want to make common cause with that kind of stuff. Again, I’m not taking about OPC people encouraging CRC conservatives; that I could understand and probably could support.

    I can understand why PCA people are attracted to “Two Kingdoms” theology because of its similarity to historic Southern Presbyterian SOTC doctrine, but is there something in this “Two Kingdoms” theology which allows CRC people to stay in bad churches, and if so, why are OPC people tolerating it?

  170. Peter Green said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Dr. Hart,

    Thanks for your interaction. I am still baffled by what you think my position requires me to believe, but I don’t think we are going to get any further with this line of inquiry. If I believed what you believe about what I believe, then I would be 2K too. Fortunately, I do not believe what you believe what I believe, so I will remain happily as I was! :)

    Peace in Christ,
    Peter

  171. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 30, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Dr. Hart wrote: “DTM, please give up the SOTC being used to justify slavery. Is it fair to mention that world-and-life viewism was used to justify apartheid?”

    Yes, that is fair. Kuyper’s theology was used in South Africa to defend apartheid, and any fair evaluation of Dutch Reformed church life in the United States and other countries will show a strong tendency toward ethnocentrism; an argument can be and has been made that when the Dutch are a majority, they create apartheid; when they are a minority, they create ethnic subcultures. Because of that clearcut historical fact, the burden is on Dutch Reformed people to explain why their theology of culture will not lead to apartheid and a sense of ethnic superiority.

    I can and have spent lots of time on that issue in the past. I have a long history of arguing some version of “the Dutch are not God’s chosen volk.”

    The core of my argument is that Kuyper’s presumptive regeneration, not his theology of culture, is responsible for treating all people of shared covenant heritage as being “in the fold,” thus making (in practice) ethnic heritage rather than personal conversion into the key test of fellowship.

  172. Zrim said,

    December 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    David Gray, thanks for your concern for my honor, but I think I’ll manage (or is that really a way to silence me?).

    As for the direct questions you ask re abortion, it would seem that my strong language all the way through this thread should be enough to answer; I think I’ve been clear enough for you to easily figure it out, but hint: I consider my moral and political views more conservative than the average lifer. But what you haven’t yet evidenced is any understanding of the distinction between the moral and political dimensions of a given phenomenon, nor the distinction between the spiritual and political. All I can conclude at the moment is that you think it’s all one stew where it’s unclear where the red meat ends and the rotten carrots begin. To the extent that you are here (and elsewhere) representing it, it’s this inability that accounts for the widespread moralizing of politics and the politicizing of faith that is American Protestantism.

    (And as far as my church membership, I’m not sure what that has to do with the point, other than you’re not sure what to do with the point. But if it helps, I’m no fan of my denomination. Now for the hurt: it’s precisely because it pursues the very cult-culture confusions you seem to be demonstrating here and elsewhere. And, just to keep a whiff of relevancy going in terms of the post proper, the precise assessment of the CRC is that it is more latitudinarian evangelical than liberal. Sure, the progressive-evangelicals far outnumber the funda-evangelicals, but they’re both equally opposed to the paleo-confessionalists. In that way, ex-liberal Thomas Oden was prophetic when he said that Fundamentalists and Liberals have much more in common than either would be willing to admit.)

    Michael, yeah, I like the Psalms, too.

  173. Zrim said,

    December 30, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    DTM, like David Gray, you’re straying from the larger point, namely the distinction between the spiritual mission of the church and the political concerns of the world. But it seems to me that it doesn’t matter how high up the temporal chain we go, temporal concerns are never eternal ones such that the church should meddle in them (directly or indirectly). I understand there is overlap. But do you understand that if you want to make political questions surrounding “abortion and homosexuality” ecclesiastical concerns someone could just as easily say that political questions surrounding “immigration and poverty” are as well? Indeed, those are arguably themes much more prominant in the Bible.

    So it seems to me you have a couple of choices: keep on with only certain political questions of your special, personal concern getting ecclesiastical energies and resources, or have the church throw her arms the whole world. The favoritism and selectivity of the former should speak for itself. The latter only serves to break the church’s back. The third alternative is the SOTC where it’s all out in the cold and you can fight whatever civil battles you want however way you want but on your own dime.

  174. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    December 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Yes, ZRim, I do understand that there are people who make immigration and poverty into central concerns of the church. You may or may not know that I spent a number of years living in inner-city Grand Rapids and served on the board of directors of an inner-city neighborhood association. Perhaps you don’t know that I once lived in New Mexico, and my wife and my entire extended family are not from the United States.

    If you’re living in New Mexico, Florida, Texas, or California, issues of immigration and poverty are issues the church cannot avoid. There are biblical answers to questions of poverty, and they focus on teaching such things as a biblical work ethic and biblical principles of money management, and (in the case of immigration issues) the critical importance of placing honesty before personal profit, i.e., not lying to immigration officials and not breaking the law.

    Context means a great deal. If you’re pastoring a church filled with people who are constantly tempted to lie about the immigration status or get married to a U.S. citizen merely to stay in the country and you don’t preach on honesty, obedience to law, and the permanent lifelong character of marriage, you’re not doing your job as a pastor. If you’re pastoring a church where immigration-related issues rarely if ever are an issue that causes sinful behavior in your members, it’s probably a subject best left for other places than the pulpit.

  175. Zrim said,

    December 31, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    DTM, what I had in mind was something like Jim Wallis who considered the Arizona law on immigration wicked and immoral:

    The law signed today by Arizona Gov. Brewer is a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. It is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It is not only mean-spirited – it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. Enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. This law will make it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona, and will force us to disobey Jesus and his gospel. We will not comply.

    Those hysterics sound familiar. They come from confusing cult and culture (a variant of confusing law and gospel). You and David Gray talk about “child murder” and Wallis talks about being “forced to disobey Jesus.” Have any of you ever considered just opposing political policies politically instead of morally or spiritually and simply doing so as individuals?

    http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=media.display_article&mode=P&NewsID=8526

  176. David Gray said,

    December 31, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    >You and David Gray talk about “child murder”

    Is the unborn child not a child?

    Is abortion murder?

    Stop with the sophistry and call a spade a spade.

  177. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 31, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Zrim, I’m going to rehash a couple themes from our previous conversations, if that’s OK.

    Why can’t Jim Wallis simply be wrong (or right) without getting the alleged separation of cult and culture involved here?

    There are cultural matters, after all, that are sins. So Jim didn’t confuse cult and culture simply by saying the “S” word.

    The claim that he is “forced to disobey Jesus” is striking, but it needs to be examined on its own merits. How, Mr. Wallis, are you being forced to disobey Jesus and His gospel? We can’t assume that he’s wrong simply because this is a cultural matter. (We can perhaps assume that he’s unlikely to be right, but not that he’s absolutely wrong).

    And of course, “we will not comply” is all nice and edgy, but it depends logically on the prior claim of being forced to disobey Jesus. If Wallis is right, then yeah, he should not comply. If he’s wrong, well…

    Zrim: Have any of you ever considered just opposing political policies politically instead of morally or spiritually and simply doing so as individuals?

    What’s the point in that? Opposing political policies politically instead of morally is the lowest form of political action. It’s what Dems and Repubs do when they pass laws for the sake of political gain.

    Laws are expressions of morality: You *ought* to do X. Decoupling law from moral thought is like dehydrating water.

    But in any event, this kind of statement illustrates well the potential for doctrinal precision to run amok:

    Zrim: They come from confusing cult and culture (a variant of confusing law and gospel).

    This is a favorite meme of yours, and it’s intriguing. But it’s also extremely problematic. Where in Scripture (or in the Confession for that matter) is it taught Thou Shalt Not Confuse Cult and Culture? Or that confusing cult and culture is a kind of confusion of Law and Gospel? I’ve read Scripture and the Confession for years and never noticed either of those in there.

    And if those two items are not taught in Scripture, then why are you imposing them on the rest of us as if they were?

    And this brings us back around to the question of doctrinal precisionism. There is a lot of value in being doctrinally precise, but the danger is that one might confuse a pious opinion with the actual teaching of Scripture.

    The Confession points out that our consciences are free from

    (1) Commands of men contrary to Scripture, and
    (2) Commands of men beside Scripture in the areas of faith and worship.

    It’s obvious and clear that the areas of faith and worship therefore have greater liberty than other areas, since we are free not only from commands contrary to Scripture but even from commands beside Scripture.

    And yet, your version of 2k seems to want to turn this on its head: libertarianism in the common realm, doctrinal precisionism in matters of faith. Paradoxically, 2kers of your stripe seem to grant the rest of us very little liberty in matters of faith.

    And so you introduce new teachings, not obviously found in Scripture or the Confession, that bind our consciences: “confusing cult and culture is a variant of confusing law and gospel.”

    I just don’t think you have the mandate to put that on the rest of us, to insist that either we use your categories, or else we are compromising the gospel.

  178. dgh said,

    December 31, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Jeff, but granting little liberty in matters of faith is precisely what comes with appeals to Scripture. 2k is constantly criticized for silencing Scripture, or for not recognizing Christ’s rule over all things (with Christ’s rule being revealed in Scripture). And yet, when we point out the “silence of Scripture” on stop signs, health care, or immigration reform, we are branded as traitors to a book that speaks to all of life.

    In which case, if the Bible speaks to all of life, then there is little liberty with all of life. Lack of liberty goes with the territory of appealing to the Bible.

    The flip side, of course, is saying that you may not bind the consciences of Christians apart from Scripture. That is what Zrim — if I may speak for him — is saying, and why the cult-culture distinction is a necessary consequence of the sufficiency of Scripture. What 2k is saying normatively about liberty in cultural matters is what Scripture says about not being bound by the doctrines and commandments of men as the teaching of Scripture.

    I don’t see why that is such a problem.

  179. dgh said,

    December 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Peter Green, fine for you to bow out rather than explain your baffling position. But again, if you think the Bible is the norm for the state on murder, why isn’t the Bible the norm for the state on worship (i.e. religious freedom or lack thereof), or on which sex gets to rule. I am baffled at a hermeneutic that allows you to pick and choose from Scripture which norms apply to the state, unless, of course, that hermeneutic is convenience.

  180. David Gray said,

    December 31, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    >And yet, when we point out the “silence of Scripture” on stop signs, health care, or immigration reform, we are branded as traitors to a book that speaks to all of life.

    Is scripture silent on the shedding of innocent blood?

  181. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    December 31, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Who said Scripture is silent on those things?

  182. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 31, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Aside: I can’t help but think of “Darrell and my other brother Darryl.”

    DGH: 2k is constantly criticized for silencing Scripture, or for not recognizing Christ’s rule over all things (with Christ’s rule being revealed in Scripture). And yet, when we point out the “silence of Scripture” on stop signs, health care, or immigration reform, we are branded as traitors to a book that speaks to all of life.

    Well, I certainly do not view you as a traitor! Perhaps I’m too latitudinarian. Would you prefer for me to be more of a warrior child and join team Kloosterman?

    But I would prefer the term “reticence” to “silence”, since Scripture does have *some* things to say that are relevant to stop signs (“obey them”) and health care (“use honest weights and measures”). What Darrell called “principles” expresses it nicely.

    DGH: Lack of liberty goes with the territory of appealing to the Bible.

    This is strange to me. Scripture commands me to love my neighbor, but grants great liberty in the execution of that command.

    I suspect that your premise is flawed, and that this flawed premise is at the heart of your heartburn over “Scripture speaking to all of life.” When you think about Scripture speaking, I suspect you think of it speaking in precise ways or not at all.

    Moreover, you haven’t addressed the core point above: the set of commands that we are free from is greater in matters of faith and worship than in other areas. That’s simple logic. The magistrate has the right to tell me to stop at the stop sign without specific Biblical warrant; he does not have the right to tell me to believe that Mary was ever-virgin.

    So what’s the ground for your assertion that “lack of liberty goes with the territory of appealing to the Bible”?

    And finally, my complaint to Zrim was not that he was appealing to the Bible, but that he’s introducing teachings that are *not* in the Bible and declaring those teachings to be matters of salvific import.

  183. michael said,

    December 31, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Jeff wrote:

    I suspect that your premise is flawed, and that this flawed premise is at the heart of your heartburn over “Scripture speaking to all of life.” When you think about Scripture speaking, I suspect you think of it speaking in precise ways or not at all.

    Ha! I use to get heartburn hearing or reading that God has taken my liberty away when declaring I am dead in trespasses and sins!

    Now liberty comes when I reckon myself dead to sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ by One Spirit!

    Also, when I pray to My God, “Thy Kingdom come and Thy Will be done” I am saying I realize the liberty I yearn for comes to me by His Will not mine!

    Now, I am ever so mindful that I am still in the world yet escaping the corruptions of the world through His exceedingly great and precious promises!

    Rom 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
    Rom 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
    Rom 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
    Rom 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
    Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
    Rom 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

  184. dgh said,

    December 31, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Jeff, how is it that we have greater freedom in matters of faith and worship? More than in what? Plumbing? The logic doesn’t follow at all since the greatest commandment is to love the lord our God with all our being. Do we have greater liberty in that? It doesn’t follow from logic and it certainly doesn’t fly exegetically. Think about it. Was Paul anathematizing the Judaizers for doctrine or for transforming Galatia with better techniques of hygiene?

  185. dgh said,

    December 31, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    David Gray, the Bible is not silent on murder, nor is the light of nature. That’s why pro-choice folks refuse to call abortion murder. They actually know that murder is wrong.

  186. David Gray said,

    December 31, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    >That’s why pro-choice folks refuse to call abortion murder.

    And R2Kers like Zrim. Glad you and I agree on that.

  187. Zrim said,

    December 31, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Jeff, I’m sorry, but your complaint that the categories I am invoking are nowhere found in either Scripture or the confessions seems to reveal a real lack of engaging the prominent 2k literature. I have always assumed you were aware of the biblical, confessional and historical appeals 2kers make. I can understand not being convinced or having hesitations, but this claim of “introducing new teachings,” etc. is unsavory to say the least.

    Nevertheless, for the sake of charity, I’ll assume you more unconvinced. I understand that the suggestion of cult-culture confusion being a variant of law-gospel confusion to be one of the more vexing for certain 2k critics. But I hope you believe me when I say that the point isn’t to raise cult-cultural confusion to the same level as law-gospel confusion–that’s the point of using the more subtle and implicit language of “variants and tendencies.” The point is to say that law corresponds to culture and gospel corresponds to cult. The world is ruled by law, the church by gospel. I for one don’t see what is so controversial about that. I am not “declaring those teachings to be matters of salvific import,” I am only pointing out that our theology isn’t merely an academic task but an organic project. If that’s true then there has to be a way that earning personal justification by way of law keeping finds its way into a socio-cultural manifestation.

    I find this breath-taking:

    And yet, your version of 2k seems to want to turn this on its head: libertarianism in the common realm, doctrinal precisionism in matters of faith. Paradoxically, 2kers of your stripe seem to grant the rest of us very little liberty in matters of faith.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. But I’ll be as clear as possible: that is exactly right, there is little liberty in matters of faith. There is either one God in three Persons or there isn’t. Jesus is either the Second Person of the Trinity or he isn’t. He either rose from the dead or he didn’t. We are either justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone or we aren’t. Children of believers should be baptized or they shouldn’t. God has either prescribed how he is to be worshipped or he hasn’t. You get my point, the list could go on.

    The alternative to “2k of my stripe” is to say that there is great liberty on things God has clearly revealed in Scripture but very little on things he is silent on. That seems to me to be the precise opposite of something like Dt. 29:29 and your point that the Confession says our consciences are free from the commands of men contrary to Scripture, and commands of men beside Scripture in the areas of faith and worship.

  188. Zrim said,

    December 31, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    David Gray, like I have already told you, I prefer strong language to hysterics. Maybe this will quell some of your hysteria. I am both morally and politically opposed to abortion; I am opposed to one segment of the human population being legallly able to take the life of another, at will or whim, simply because the former houses the latter.

    But, and maybe this will raise your ire again, I am also opposed to calling people who disagree with me “child murderers or accomplices to murder” or whatever host of incindiery language. I understand that might make me a wuss of some kind to you, but what can I say–blame on on my uptight midwestern rearing that esteemed virtues like personal constraint, compromise and tolerance. But does it help you to know my choicers think my moral and political views are archaic, oppressive, mysogynistic and lacking any appreciation for individual liberty and privacy?

  189. Zrim said,

    December 31, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    One more thing, David Gray. I don’t know that one could get more conservative than Bork. He sums up my views on the whole political question over abortion:

    “I oppose abortion. But an amazing number of people thought that I would outlaw abortion. They didn’t understand that not only did I have no desire to do that, but I had no power to do it. If you overrule Roe v. Wade, abortion does not become illegal. State legislatures take on the subject. The abortion issue has produced divisions and bitterness in our politics that countries don’t have where abortion is decided by legislatures. And both sides go home, after a compromise, and attempt to try again next year. And as a result, it’s not nearly the explosive issue as it is here where the court has grabbed it and taken it away from the voters.”

    Judge Robert Bork in Newsweek, Jun 20, 2009 (from the magazine issue dated Jun 29, 2009).

    I wonder if lifers like you could ever admit that not only is abortion is one of the most bitter and divisive politics but also imply that when someone disagrees with you then you simply come back tomorrow and try to win the day without going ape and calling him a murderer? Can you esteem compromise?

  190. David Gray said,

    December 31, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    You are like a man blind from birth who is struggling to describe purple.

    Bork was right as I was aware long ago.

    People who disagree with me on abortion aren’t murderers unless they are abortionists or people who hire abortionists.

    But abortion is child murder and to refer to an accurate description as hysteria is to tickle the ears of those who are indifferent to the shedding of innocent blood.

  191. William Scott said,

    January 1, 2011 at 8:39 am

    The holocaust was legalized mass-murder by a secular government. Abortion is legalized mass-murder by a secular government. There are clear distinctions, of course, but the above fact remains.

    Bonhoeffer boldly opposed the evil of the secular government in this matter*. Honestly, what do ya’ll think of the vast majority of the “conservative” clergy and churches in Nazi Germany who continued to administer the Word and Sacrament but turned a blind eye to this political, secular, governmental issue?

    And, for the sake of argument, even if ya’ll don’t think that there were any truly conservative, orthodox clergy or churches in Germany at the time—what would you think of a hypothetical completely orthodox German church where the Gospel was faithfully preached and the sacraments faithfully administered, but there was never a peep of opposition (or, at best, nothing more than some off-handed expressions of disapproval) raised on the divisive “political” issue of the holocaust?

    I certainly don’t believe our nation has fallen as far as Nazi Germany–but IF the church in Nazi Germany had a moral duty to boldly oppose the holocaust, does the Church in America (or Canada, etc) have any less of a duty to boldly oppose the present holocaust of the unborn in our nation ?

    God Bless,
    Will Scott

    p.s. *The reference to Bonhoeffer is not intended to address whether his later involvement in an assassination plot was proper. It is only intended to address his clear opposition from early on of the wicked actions of the Nazi’s in contrast with other ministers who were silent on these “political” issues.

    p.p.s. Of course, I believe that as a Church we should fight this evil at all levels–no doubt the hardest, but so far the most effective fight is through the non-political route of pregnancy care centers and prayerful “picketing” like the type done in the recent “40 days for life.” (It’s effective–they noted that an abortion mill that had year round coverage by prayerful “picketers ” had reductions of around 40% in business–and a number of centers have shut down as a result of these recent prayerful pickets (and the director of the planned parenthood (where “40 days for life” first started it’s prayer vigils back in 2004) resigned in 2009 and joined 40 days for life). 40 days for life is largely Roman Catholic–we Protestants should be ashamed if we are any less valiant in fighting against the holocaust in our nation (sadly I have failed to be faithful in this matter myself).

  192. William Scott said,

    January 1, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Er, the first sentences should have been:
    The holocaust was mass-murder legalized and supported by a secular government . Abortion is mass-murder legalized and supported* by a secular government. There are clear distinctions, of course, but the above facts remain.

    *[supported, for example, by the hundreds of millions of tax dollars given on a yearly basis to planned parenthood]

  193. Peter Green said,

    January 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Dr. Hart,

    The Bible forbids women from being elders. This is a Biblical norm. Therefore men should not be elders.

    I trust that is absurd to you. That is the logic you are applying to my position.

    The Church and the State are not equivalent. For one who appreciates doctrinal precision, you don’t seem to be willing to grant my position the nuance and carefulness I believe I have, but instead are seeking to deny me the right to make any sort of distinctions and nuance.

    You seem to be precommitted to a particular (and inaccurate) understanding of my position, and seem to be entirely unwilling to allow me to define my own position, and to engage me on those terms.

    Prove me wrong. Otherwise, I shall not bother responding.

  194. dgh said,

    January 1, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Peter Green, then please explain how biblical norms apply to the state and how they don’t. You want biblical norms on say the sixth and seventh commandments, right? But what hermeneutic allows you to have the Bible on murder and marriage but not on whether, for example, women should rule or whether we tolerate Mormanism.

    I really am trying to understand this appeal to the Bible that keeps being thrown in the face of 2k as if we don’t believe in its authority. But when I point out that the anti-2k folk have a similar 2k interpretation, but simply draw the line between biblical norms in public life at a different place than 2kers, I’m greeted with consternation and bafflement.

    So please do explain.

  195. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Zrim and Dr. Hart, I think we may have gotten to the nub of the issue here, which is very positive (from my point of view):

    DGH: Jeff, how is it that we have greater freedom in matters of faith and worship?

    Zrim: But I’ll be as clear as possible: that is exactly right, there is little liberty in matters of faith.

    Since what follows goes against the grain for both of you, I ask you to stop and contemplate it seriously for a moment.

    WCoF 20.2: God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, (1) in any thing, contrary to His Word; or (2) beside it, if matters of faith, or worship.

    Consider now the set of commands contrary to God’s Word. Consider the set of commands beside God’s Word. It’s perfectly obvious that the first is smaller than (and is a proper subset of) the second.

    Again: if the magistrate commands me to stop at a stop sign, I don’t have the liberty to disobey. But if the magistrate commands me to venerate Mary, I do have the liberty to disobey. Why? Because there is greater liberty in matters of faith than in other matters.

    This is the basis for the Regulative Principle, right? The magistrate doesn’t have to have specific Scriptural warrant for his commands, but the Church has to have specific Scriptural warrant for hers. Why? Because our freedom is greater in matters of faith and worship; so therefore, the standard is higher for the one who wishes to give commands.

    I’m surprised that you would wish to contest this.

  196. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Zrim: I can understand not being convinced or having hesitations, but this claim of “introducing new teachings,” etc. is unsavory to say the least.

    I don’t mean that cult/culture is out of thin air. I have indeed read Kline, for example, and a bit of van Drunen and Horton and Hart also.

    But the specific proposition that “cult/culture confusion is a variant of law/gospel confusion” is, I confess, something I’ve only seen in the Old Life neck of the woods. Perhaps I should get out more.

    And that’s really the teaching I object to. The cult/culture distinction is a tool, and a useful tool in some ways. I don’t have a basic problem with it. The problem is when you start demanding that either (a) the rest of us use it too, or (b) admit that we have the law and gospel confused — that’s when I start squawking.

    Zrim: I understand that the suggestion of cult-culture confusion being a variant of law-gospel confusion to be one of the more vexing for certain 2k critics. But I hope you believe me when I say that the point isn’t to raise cult-cultural confusion to the same level as law-gospel confusion–that’s the point of using the more subtle and implicit language of “variants and tendencies.”

    I’m glad to know that this is your intent, and I suspected it might be. Still, I wanted to point out that your language is stronger than you realize. A “variation” of X is still a kind of X. And if X is “law/gospel confusion”, then that has salvific import. To put it plainly, when you tell people that their cult/culture confusion is a variant of law/gospel confusion, you are telling them that they are engaging in Galatianism.

    And I suspect that you both do and do not wish to communicate this. “Do”, because you see cult/culture confusion as a serious error and want to highlight the seriousness of it; but “Do Not”, because you probably don’t really want to have people doubting their salvation because you’ve diagnosed them with cult/culture confusion.

    Am I right?

    So I wonder whether a different word might convey your meaning better. Perhaps “cult/culture confusion is an echo of law/gospel confusion.” Or some other term that doesn’t make a back-door accusation of legalism.

    Zrim: The point is to say that law corresponds to culture and gospel corresponds to cult. The world is ruled by law, the church by gospel. I for one don’t see what is so controversial about that.

    Really? You can’t imagine someone wondering where the third use of the Law has any place in your scheme? Or why, if the world is ruled by Law, that 2kers are so reluctant to apply the Law to the world?

    I think there’s a lot more controversy to your structure than meets the eye.

    Zrim: I am only pointing out that our theology isn’t merely an academic task but an organic project.

    Amen to that.

    Zrim: If that’s true then there has to be a way that earning personal justification by way of law keeping finds its way into a socio-cultural manifestation.

    Sure. It’s called “legalism”, and it’s one of the two ruling ethos’s of our day, along with license. And to the extent that the church places legalistic demands on others, then it’s engaging in exactly that.

    But it’s not at all clear to me that every time the church speaks to the culture, that she’s placing legalistic demands on the culture.

  197. Zrim said,

    January 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    David Gray, it seems to me that you represent what could be considered the political correctness of pro-lifery: if one isn’t sufficiently opposed to abortion then he’s out. But it seems to me that one target of paleo-2k is cause-Christianity amongst those who conceive themselves as conservative and who have agreed with progressives that Christianity must be socially and politically relevant.

  198. Zrim said,

    January 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Again: if the magistrate commands me to stop at a stop sign, I don’t have the liberty to disobey. But if the magistrate commands me to venerate Mary, I do have the liberty to disobey. Why? Because there is greater liberty in matters of faith than in other matters.

    Jeff, the problem is that when you read WCoF 20.2 you seem to be assuming something about the civil magistrate commanding you obey the doctrines and laws of men. But I read it as ecclesiastical authorities doing so. So when ecclesiastical men command me to believe that which is contrary to Scripture I must disobey. They are not at liberty to teach that justification is by faith and works, or to have my child re-baptized or to refrain from substance use and worldly amusements or employ Christian education.

    You are correct that I see cult-culture confusion to be a serious problem. That is the point of 2k, I think. You are also correct that my aim in pointing out the confusion isn’t to instill personal doubt. I understand some might read it that way, but there isn’t much more that I can think of than to say that.

    You suggest a toning down of the strong language, but, first, I don’t see how “cult/culture confusion is an echo of law/gospel confusion” is really any milder than “cult/culture confusion is a variant of law-gospel confusion.” Second, I don’t see what’s wrong with strong language. And third, I am suggesting that cult/culture confusion makes things safe for legalism, so I don’t know why I’d want to find language that diminishes that point. You suggest that legalism and license are equal forces in the world, but I disagree, I think the default setting is much more for legalism because that is the natural setting of human heart.

    Really? You can’t imagine someone wondering where the third use of the Law has any place in your scheme? Or why, if the world is ruled by Law, that 2kers are so reluctant to apply the Law to the world?

    You’re forgetting another favorite theme of my scheme, which is to say that the Christian life is about obedience (which earns charges of legalism). But the point of saying that law corresponds to culture and gospel to church isn’t to say that there is no place for law in the church (church discipline) or no place for mercy in the world. It’s to say that each is primarily governed by two different principles. I don’t want my sheriff showing grace to criminals anymore than I want my elders showing law to sinners. Sheriffs don’t set free, they punish; elders don’t prosecute, they forgive.

  199. David Gray said,

    January 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    >David Gray, it seems to me that you represent what could be considered the political correctness of pro-lifery: if one isn’t sufficiently opposed to abortion then he’s out. But it seems to me that one target of paleo-2k is cause-Christianity amongst those who conceive themselves as conservative and who have agreed with progressives that Christianity must be socially and politically relevant.

    That isn’t even close to purple.

  200. Peter Green said,

    January 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Dr. Hart, thank you for the response.

    First off, I never intended to insinuate that you do not believe in the Bible’s authority. If I gave that impression, forgive me for misspeaking. I am certain that you do believe in the authority of the bible – we just have different ideas about what that authority entails vis a vis the secular realm.

    Let me be clear about what I believe: I am sympathetic to the theonomic movement (far more so than to their critics). However, I am decidedly not a theonomist. My biggest critiques of the theonomic movement are that the movement lacks a robust understanding of the importance of wisdom and maturity in applying the law, lacks a healthy understanding of the organic nature of growth and sanctification and God’s patience with that process, and insufficiently deals with the way redemptive history affects our interpretation of the OT Law and the uniqueness of the situation of Israel (their critics blow this particular point vastly out of proportion, though).

    That being said let me explain, positively, what I believe: All of Scripture is the revelation of God and morality is *nothing other* than a description of God’s character. Because all humans exist in God’s world, all are subject to God, and therefore to the morality revealed in His self-revelation (i.e. the bible). God’s moral evaluations can be both individual and communal/national. Therefore, it is incumbent upon both individuals and communities/nations to adhere to the moral principles which are God’s character. Furthermore, since one ignores God’s moral requirements to one’s own detriment, states, which are tasked with protecting their citizens, have a vested interest in adhering to God’s moral requirements, apart from the additional explicit requirement to fear and honor Jesus (Psalm 2) who is their King. The difficulty of applying God’s moral requirements, or even discerning what those moral requirements are, does not invalidate the whole project.

    Just because the moral character of God as revealed in the whole Bible is to be the guide for everyone and every entity does not mean that applies to everyone and every entity in the same way. The Bible itself makes distinctions between the rights of employees vis a vis employees, the nature of the authority of the state versus the nature of the authority of the church, the moral requirements for parents to children, and children to parents; husbands to wives; slaves to masters; etc. etc. Wisdom is required to apply the biblical norms, and some biblical norms apply more or less literally in some situations than in others.

    The prohibition that women may not be elders, or teach in church does not apply to the state because the state is not the church. “Elder” is an ecclesiastical office. It is not inconsistent to say that women cannot be “elders” but they can be “senators”. The Bible does distinguish between the state and the church; no-one disputes this.

    You say “please explain how biblical norms apply to the state and how they don’t”. I am not saying that; you are saying that I am saying that at least by logical implication. I completely disagree. I do not say that, and I deny that anything I said would logically infer that statement either. The biblical norms (i.e. God’s character, which establishes objective morality for the universe) apply to all people and all entities. But they apply in different ways.

    The command to put a fence on ones roof does not apply literally to a culture that does not walk on their roofs. However, the normative principle, of which that law is an application, applies to all people and all cultures. It requires wisdom to know how though, and the dialogue of the Church that the Holy Spirit uses to sanctify us and improve our knowledge and understanding. I disagree with Jim Wallis about a great many things. However that does not invalidate the project of seeking to apply biblical morality to all of life – including civil life – anymore than my disagreement with Lutherans, RCs, Baptists, etc. invalidates the project of applying the Bible to our ecclesiastical practices.

    The 2K/Natural Law approach seems to me to be based on the hope that unbelievers will remain inconsistent, which you seem to acknowledge (see #167, cf. 133, 138). In other words, the 2K/NL project seems to be analogous to making an invalid argument, but crossing your fingers and hoping your opponent doesn’t notice the logical error. Any discussion of morality apart from an appeal to the God of whom that morality is only a description of His character is ultimately based on logically invalid/inconsistent/arbitrary arguments. Therefore, any attempt to use NL as a way of “dialoging” with unbelievers about morality and/or using NL to construct a philosophical ethical system, is building your house upon the sand. It will work, at least to a degree, because unbelievers are inconsistent, but it can never be a long-term solution.

    However, if by NL you only mean the facts needed to apply Biblical principles to a particular situation, then I affirm the value of NL (for instance, the “fact” of whether or not global warming is a) happening, and b) caused by humans, is not a fact that the Bible would reveal, but neither of those facts can suggest a morally right action apart from the revelation of morality in the Bible. An unbeliever has no basis for deciding what to do with those facts, because an unbeliever cannot even explain why there is moral value in his own life.)

    I hope I have explained my position better. I really don’t have too much more time to continue in this discussion, because I have a German exam in a week that I must pass. However, I will try to respond once or twice more, if you so desire.

  201. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Zrim: Jeff, the problem is that when you read WCoF 20.2 you seem to be assuming something about the civil magistrate commanding you obey the doctrines and laws of men. But I read it as ecclesiastical authorities doing so.

    Ecclesiastical authorities also do so. The text reads “commands of men” without qualification; the magistrate was just used as an example.

    Zrim: So when ecclesiastical men command me to believe that which is contrary to Scripture I must disobey. They are not at liberty to teach that justification is by faith and works, or to have my child re-baptized or to refrain from substance use and worldly amusements or employ Christian education.

    I think you were moving too fast there.

    (1) When ecclesiastical men command us to believe that which is beside Scripture (not “contrary” as you had), we are at liberty from those commands. I’m guessing that was just a slip of the keyboard?

    (2) The crux of the issue is, Whose liberty are we talking about? You speak as if WCoF 20.2 were about the liberty of ecclesiastical men to give commands. That’s nowhere near the mark.

    WCoF 20 is talking about the liberty of the Christian individual; in para 2, specifically with regard to the commands of men. And it makes plain that in matters of faith and worship, our liberty from the commands of men is greater than in other matters.

    The clear implication is therefore the regulative principle: the Church and her officers have less discretion, a higher bar of proof to meet before declaring “Thus saith the Lord.” (Hence the tremendous obnoxiousness of the billboard messages that put words in God’s mouth)

    But you’ve confused subjects, apparently, and turned the whole thing into “Christians have less liberty in doctrinal matters.” That’s a serious confusion.

  202. Zrim said,

    January 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Jeff, you might think it odd to make this about the liberty of ecclesiastical authorities, but you’re the one who seems to want to make the odder case that there is liberty of conscience over doctrinal matters. And you go to WCoF 20.2 to do it. I’m just trying to work with what you give me. You’re the one who has objected to the assertion that “Christians have less liberty in doctrinal matters.”

    I know WCF 20 is about liberty of the individual from the doctrines and commandments of men, but how is it about liberty in doctrine? The whole Confession is a project in doctrinal precisionism in matters of faith, so how do you interpret there any latitudinarian clauses? Maybe you’re using the same hermeneutic that leads you to deny that general revelation is sufficient to govern civil tasks, but the 2k point is that we are as free from the commandments of men as we are bound to the doctrines of God.

  203. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Zrim, it’s just the good and necessary implication of the plain text. I do indeed object to the assertion that Christians have less liberty in doctrinal matters, and believe that assertion turns Christian liberty on its head.

    Perhaps it would make you feel better to point out that I’m *not* saying that Christians have liberty to dispute what God has revealed. The Confession itself is trying to restrict itself to what Scripture plainly teaches or implies by good and necessary inference — nothing more. Theological speculations are not allowed in … because of our liberty in doctrinal matters.

    Zrim: the 2k point is that we are as free from the commandments of men as we are bound to the doctrines of God.

    I can live with this. And if you want to say that God has revealed much, much more doctrine concerning salvation and the church, I’ll agree further (perhaps that’s why you see less liberty in cultic matters?).

    But the basic principle of the matter, the plain reading of the Confession, is that there are two categories of commands of men: (A) Those contrary to Scripture; (B) Those beside Scripture.

    It’s plain logic that (B) includes and is bigger than (A). Therefore, in matters of faith and worship, we are free from a larger number of commands of men than in other matters.

    Again: My mother can command me to wear my jacket, but not to wear a St. Christopher’s medal.

    Zrim: The whole Confession is a project in doctrinal precisionism in matters of faith, so how do you interpret there any latitudinarian clauses?

    The latitude is found in what the Confession *does not* say. Think about it. The Confession not only specifies how the Reformed community has interpreted Scripture, thus being doctrinally precise in a positive sense; but by omission, it also frees up the believer in the pew from being conscience-bound to crazy things his pastor teaches — UNLESS those things pass the strict scrutiny test of “good and necessary inference from Scripture.”

    That’s precisely the function of the Confession that I’m applying to you, brother Zrim. You say, “Cult/culture confusion is a variant of law/gospel confusion.”

    I say, Interesting idea. Where is it taught in the Confession? or the Scripture? If not, then … I have liberty to disregard that teaching as a teaching of man that is beside the Scripture.

    In summary: our liberty is not from the doctrines of God, but from the commands of men. There is a larger class of commands of men that are beside Scripture, than are contrary to Scripture. Therefore, we have greater freedom in matters of faith and worship, than in other matters.

    And in particular, we have liberty from SOTC teachings unless they be proved and accepted by the Church as good and necessary inferences from Scripture. Doctrinal precision is well and good, but it doesn’t give one permission to draw lines of orthodoxy *inside* the Confession.

  204. michael said,

    January 1, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Peter Green,

    Setting aside that as wax melts before the fire so the wicked perish, what you addressed there at #200, was excellent!

    What verses came to my mind when reading your words were these besides already making mention of the wicked addressed in Psalm 68 were these:

    Pro 14:30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
    Pro 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
    Pro 14:32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
    Pro 14:33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
    Pro 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
    Pro 14:35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.

    As an aside comment to your Natural Law inference and reference, it seems from those Proverbs cited, that Natural Law in general constructs a philosophical ethical system of belief about sin being a reproach to any people causing a natural response when violated.

    It seems when the Wicked rule the nation it’s just a matter of time before their evildoing will come to a natural and violent end!

    As it is, we, the True Believers of Christ in that nation, are still considered sheep for the slaughter!

    Only God can convict a soul of a subjective thought crime. The rest of us have to wait for the evil experience to be done objectively, and if necessary, bear up under that evildoing until the evildoing comes to its appointed end!

    Again, those were good words and edifying to my soul!

    Thanks

  205. Zrim said,

    January 1, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Jeff, when I say doctrinal matters I mean what the Confession has restricted itself to what Scripture plainly teaches or implies by good and necessary inference. But I don’t see how what is confessed is the result of liberty. It’s the result of precision.

    I agree that you have liberty to disregard the suggestion that cult/culture confusion is a variant of law/gospel confusion. Like I’ve already said above, I’m not saying that cult/culture confusion rises to the same level of law/gospel confusion. What I’m saying is that if indeed law corresponds to culture and gospel to cult then it seems to me that to confuse culture and cult is a way of confusing law and gospel.

    But if you want to say that there is liberty from SOTC teachings then I wonder what you make of WCF 31.5 which states that “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.” I know the 2k-SOTC critics like to focus on the exception clause here, but in light of your suggestion that there is liberty from SOTC teachings I am drawing your attention to the former part of the statement, namely that ecclesiastical bodies ought not meddle in civil affairs. That’s pretty SOTC. Are you saying there is liberty on that teaching which has been “proved and accepted by the Church as good and necessary inferences from Scripture” (the Confession cites Luke 12:13-14 and John 18:36, and I might even add 1 Cor. 5)?

  206. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Zrim: Are you saying there is liberty on that teaching which has been “proved and accepted by the Church as good and necessary inferences from Scripture”

    Of course not; hence the “unless” in the sentence you quoted.

    Zrim: But if you want to say that there is liberty from SOTC teachings then I wonder what you make of WCF 31.5…

    Perfectly happy with 31.5. I just don’t view it as a cloak that covers additional doctrinal pronouncements. It’s not *all* SOTC teachings I have in mind, but the ones that are additional to Scripture.

    Zrim: I agree that you have liberty to disregard the suggestion that cult/culture confusion is a variant of law/gospel confusion.

    That’s a very welcome concession. Thank you.

  207. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Zrim: When I say doctrinal matters I mean what the Confession has restricted itself to what Scripture plainly teaches or implies by good and necessary inference. But I don’t see how what is confessed is the result of liberty. It’s the result of precision.

    It’s actually both at once. The Confession is a good example of doctrinal precision in that it settles questions that needs settling and leaves others alone.

    So for example: Lapsarian controversies are left alone in the Confessions. The debate was, of course, well-known by the time the Confession was written. And some (Beza, Turretin) had taken firm stances on the issue, and even suggested that a proper understanding of the Gospel hinged on one position.

    But the Confession refuses to touch that issue — and so implies that it’s a matter of liberty.

  208. Zrim said,

    January 2, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Jeff, I see where you’re coming from now. But, again, when 2k says there is little liberty in doctrinal matters it simply means those expressly codified in creedal, confessional and catechatical formulations (not finer and disputable points of doctrine), which seems pretty uncontroversial.

    And I don’t view 31.5 as a cloak that covers additonal doctrinal pronouncements either. I think it’s a fairly general outline for 2k. And my guess is that what SOTC views you have in mind as problematic I see as fairly well aligned with the spirit of 31.5.

  209. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Zrim,

    I’m glad we’re closer to agreement. Here’s where the rubber tire comes full circle while meeting the road (how’s that for a splinched metaphor!):

    When someone comes along and wants to be doctrinally precise, there are two possible options.

    (1) In Machen’s case, the “precision” he was after was actually already spelled out in the Confession. He was simply asking for enforcement of doctrine already accepted by the church. He was not further refining doctrine, simply asking that doctrinal standards be upheld — that is, he was after greater accuracy, not greater precision.

    (2) But in several (but not all) of the issues cited in the original “Machen’s Warror Children” article, the Confession does not spell things out in detail, and additional precision (on, say, eschatology) requires creating additional doctrinal pronouncements.

    In case (2), it is right and proper for individuals (and elders) to take a skeptical view of precisionism; that skeptical view does not mean a lack of love of doctrine, nor an idolization of peace. No, it means properly upholding Christian liberty. It means resisting any confusion between the Word of God and the word of man.

    Can you agree to that? I believe last year at Old Life you mentioned the virtue of “dissent” in theology.

  210. dgh said,

    January 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Jeff,

    First, your notion that Christians have greater liberty in matters of faith and worship is surprising because you have repeatedly said that the Bible speaks to all of life. If that’s the case, then stakes of all of life are raised, meaning, we have no freedom anywhere because Scripture is the norm for everything we do. That’s why I say that when you appeal to the Bible as the standard for public life, which was the context here before you started to comment, means that the magistrate’s duties and citizen’s obedience are on the order of following scripture.

    I don’t see how we have any liberty to disobey Scripture, and since Scripture is the standard for faith and worship, saying we have greater liberty in matters of faith and worship sounds oxymoronic.

    But I think there is a further confusion in your appeal to Ch. 20 of the confession. Christian liberty is different from liberty of conscience. Christian liberty is the liberty we have spiritually in Christ, freedom from the penalty of sin, etc. Liberty of conscience means that we are not bound by conscience to anyone except to the Lord.

    But just because I obey the magistrate it doesn’t mean I am doing so out of conscience; that is, just because the magistrate says the speed limit is 60 and I drive somewhere around there, I’m doing so because I think the Lord has ordered things so that 60 mph is the holy speed. I obey the magistrate because the Lord tells me to. I don’t drive at 60 because I think God has revealed 60 mph.

    That means there is great freedom in driving and plumbing because God has not revealed the holy standard for either. But there is not such liberty for worship and doctrine.

    As for your point about the cases cited by Frame, what I think you don’t consider is whether Frame thinks fighting liberalism is on the same order of fighting for Reformed Christianity. My sense is that he thinks Machen’s children were often foolish to fight for details of Reformed doctrine or worship, but they were right to fight liberalism.

    So what I object to in Frame is his willingness to settle for a generic conservatism rather than to fight for Reformed Christianity. Is Reformed Christianity more precise than evangelicalism? By all means. Given your view of precision, that would seem to make Reformed Christianity defective. But if the Bible teaches a lot more than evangelicalism, then such precision is not only good but biblical.

  211. Zrim said,

    January 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Jeff, first, I’m not sure you have Machen right. It seems to me his project was more about precision than accuracy. Precision says, We got it right so let’s adhere to it (“Reformed and always reforming,” which is Reformation). Accuracy says, It all may be wrong so let’s keep tinkering (“Always reforming,” which is modernity). I’d point to Horton’s chapter in “Always Reformed” for a good treatment on the difference.

    Second, yes, I do think theological dissent is a Protestant virtue over against what one finds in Roman or evangelical (read: Anabaptist) formulations of authority, both of which are much more authoritarian than Presbyterian. So I think we have two virtues going on in Reformed Protestantism: doctrinal precision and Presbyterian ecclesiology. Without either we wouldn’t have had the Reformation or the 2k revisions of Belgic 36 or WCF 23.

    Third, with regard to the point about cult-culture confusion being a variant of law-gospel confusion, upon spending the afternoon with DVD’s “NL2K,” he recounts the legacy of Stuart Robinson and says that “If connecting the two kingdoms doctrine to the gospel seems exaggerated, one may recall from previous chapters that Calvin and the Reformed orthodox made the same connection, particularly through their close attention of the two kingdoms doctrine with the idea of Christian liberty, which Calvin called an ‘appendix’ to the doctrine of justification.”

    I can’t re-produce the portion of Chapter 3 he refers to here at the moment. But you can go to the link below and see the brief case he makes:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=jnd9vRw51TwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=natural+law+and+the+two+kingdoms&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=XeggTYOFBcXUngeFydyaDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=true

  212. Zrim said,

    January 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Sorry, Jeff, I see that my tech skills are more being sanctified than transformed. When you click the link go to pages 73-74.

  213. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Dr. Hart (#210):

    The attempt to split “Christian liberty” from “liberty of conscience” is perhaps understandable given the title of chapter 20, but it doesn’t stand close scrutiny. 20.4 interchanges the two seamlessly.

    DGH: I don’t see how we have any liberty to disobey Scripture, and since Scripture is the standard for faith and worship, saying we have greater liberty in matters of faith and worship sounds oxymoronic.

    No more do I. You aren’t suggesting that we have liberty to disobey Scripture in matters other than faith or worship, are you?

    And this is why I continue to say that Scripture speaks to all of life, but not in the same ways. We don’t have liberty to disobey Scripture in whatever it says, wherever it says it.

    DGH: That means there is great freedom in driving and plumbing because God has not revealed the holy standard for either. But there is not such liberty for worship and doctrine.

    Exactly whose freedom are we talking about? You’re talking as if the freedom was on the part of the magistrate to set the speed limit, but that isn’t really what 20.2 is talking about, right?

    You haven’t addressed the principle argument: there are more commands of men from which we have freedom in matters of faith and worship, than in other matters. It’s just a matter of basic logic, and I don’t feel … erm, at liberty … to back down from it unless you can address it.

    DGH: As for your point about the cases cited by Frame, what I think you don’t consider is whether Frame thinks fighting liberalism is on the same order of fighting for Reformed Christianity.

    I don’t consider all of Frame’s examples to be on the same par. The ones I cited were cited for a specific reason: They are not settled in the Confession, and can therefore reasonably be said to not be settled in Scripture.

    Which implies that fighting over them is not “fighting for Reformed Christianity”, but for something else.

    Frame’s argument, by the way, which he makes clear, is that MWCs are foolish to fight for issues not settled by Scripture.

    I happen to disagree with some of his examples; I think they are in fact settled by Scripture (“Christian Liberty”, for example).

    But I agree fully with the principle: issues not settled by Scripture ought not become occasions for conflict.

    Don’t you agree with that principle also?

    DGH: Given your view of precision, that would seem to make Reformed Christianity defective. But if the Bible teaches a lot more than evangelicalism, then such precision is not only good but biblical.

    My view of precision is this: it is a tool to serve theological accuracy. Where Scripture speaks, whether in cult or culture, we must obey. Therefore, anything taught directly in Scripture or discovered by good and necessary inference in Scripture is binding on us; everything else is at liberty.

    Which is, by the way, why I became Reformed: I came to believe that Reformed teachings best conformed to Scriptural teachings. So far from considering Reformed theology “defective”, I consider it to be, well, the best expression of Biblical Christianity.

    At the same time, I consider an essential part of being Reformed to be on guard against those who would wish to add additional teachings to the Scripture.

    For that reason, I believe it is appropriate for us to have a default stance of skepticism towards those who wish to be more precise than the Scripture.

    Therefore, I consider the Confession to be a good benchmark: if one encounters teaching that takes a stand on a matter left open in the Confession, then that teaching bears the highest burden of proof before it is to be accepted.

    I understand that doesn’t fit neatly into a “precision good/precision bad” scheme, but that’s the nature of sola scriptura.

    I don’t wish to go fifteen rounds on this, so I’ll let you have the last word here.

  214. dgh said,

    January 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Jeff, WCF 20.1 talks of Christian liberty, not liberty of conscience. 20.2 speaks of conscience. 20.4 only talks about Christian liberty. I don’t see any interchange of the concepts and liberty of conscience is different from Christian liberty. That difference is pretty important.

    If all you meant by greater freedom regarding worship and faith was a matter of quantity, then you might of said that. But you also asked me how binding of conscience is part of the territory of appealing to the Bible. You agree that we are not free to disobey Scripture. So I am still very perplexed how you can say we have greater freedom on worship and faith, then say that the Bible speaks to all of life, and then say we have greater freedom of any kind. Scripture is a rule. Rules don’t generate liberty. You’re the one who wants to expand biblical instruction — contra 2k. I don’t see how more liberty goes with more biblical norms.

  215. David Gray said,

    January 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    >>And this is why I continue to say that Scripture speaks to all of life, but not in the same ways.

    This is exactly the crux of the matter. Well stated.

  216. dgh said,

    January 3, 2011 at 5:08 am

    David Gray, since I’ve had my innings with Jeff on this, maybe you can explain how the idea that the Bible speaks to all of life is more than simply inspiration. Do you think the Bible speaks to baking? Does the Bible have instructions on how to bake? Does it include recipes?

    You may think these questions are beside the point. But baking is part of life. It is what I do, at least in the latter months of the year. Where should I go in the Bible to learn about what God says about this activity?

  217. Ron said,

    January 3, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Darryl,

    At the very least we may apply these principles to baking, but you already knew that I’m sure.

    So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31

    And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17

    If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11

    —-

    You have a gift from yours truly coming your way. Seek out a seminarian with the initials DL.

    Ron

  218. Zrim said,

    January 3, 2011 at 8:21 am

    For that reason, I believe it is appropriate for us to have a default stance of skepticism towards those who wish to be more precise than the Scripture.

    I do, too, Jeff. But it seems to me that this skepticism is better aimed more at the Reformed cultural-philosophers concerned for accuracy than the Reformed liturgical-doctrinalists concerned for precision. It’s the former who strain and tell us that our theology owes a great deal of gratitude to philosophy, and it’s the latter who point out that the confessions footnote the Bible, which means we actually owe our theological gratitude to the Bible and not philosophy.

  219. David Gray said,

    January 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    >Do you think the Bible speaks to baking? Does the Bible have instructions on how to bake? Does it include recipes?

    Jeff was right, “And this is why I continue to say that Scripture speaks to all of life, but not in the same ways.”

    Are you employed as a baker? Then the Bible would instruct you to bake to the best of your ability for your employer. Are you baking for your family? The Bible would instruct you to give thanks for God’s provision in your baking.

    I’m surprised, given your appropriate enthusiasm for Luther’s concept of vocation in the past, that you don’t see how the Bible speaks to all of life.

  220. Ron Henzel said,

    January 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    David Gray,

    You wrote:

    I’m surprised, given your appropriate enthusiasm for Luther’s concept of vocation in the past, that you don’t see how the Bible speaks to all of life.

    So then, the Bible “speaks to” political science (government, etc.) the same way it “speaks to” baking?

  221. David Gray said,

    January 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    >>So then, the Bible “speaks to” political science (government, etc.) the same way it “speaks to” baking?

    Ron Henzel,

    What part of:

    >>Jeff was right, “And this is why I continue to say that Scripture speaks to all of life, but not in the same ways.”

    left you so confused?

  222. dgh said,

    January 3, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    David Gray, I understand that the Bible tells me to give thanks and pray. But it doesn’t tell me the ingredients in a cake. Isn’t cake part of life? Or are you saying that the Bible doesn’t reveal the specifics of recipes. If that’s the case, then the Bible doesn’t address a whole range of issues that Christians face everyday.

    And yet you seem to think that the Bible speaking to all of life is key to this argument. It looks to me like getting a proper grip on what the Bible reveals is key. Without that, lots of believers go off half cocked into the public arena claiming to speak for God on the basis of some odd interpretation of Scripture — like a biblical basis for stop signs or stop lights at an intersection.

  223. dgh said,

    January 4, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Ron, by “all” you’re including your own comments here?

  224. Ron said,

    January 4, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Hi D,

    No, I’m not, but there does seem to be a broad brush being used by you in a way that Irons does / did. What reminded me of my post of a couple years ago was the cake mix analogy.

    Hope you like the gift and it’s not a fresh copy of Theonomy in Christian Ethics.

    Best,

    Ron

  225. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Are you employed as a baker? Then the Bible would instruct you to bake to the best of your ability for your employer.

    David Gray, two things:

    1. This does not really answer the question of where the Bible speaks to a common task (hint, btw, the Bible speaks to people, not their tasks). Instead it answers the question, How should believers go about their common tasks?

    2. That said, while I have no quarrel with your answer as far as it goes, one lingering question is, What happens when my unbelieving co-worker bakes a much better cake than me, or even what happens when I don’t bake to the best of my ability? It seems to me these things happen all the time. And the “do everything common with excellence” outlook seems to neglect the fact that supernatural faith doesn’t really do much to improve the native skills of believers. If that were true then I’d be better at math than I was 20 years ago when I converted, but so far excellence is still not how I’d describe my spatial-mathematical skills–maybe I’m just not trying hard enough to apply my faith? I’ve nothing against excellence, but what answers like yours never seem aware of is the realities of creation in redeemed creatures.

  226. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Dr. Hart,

    Does the Bible speak to worship? And yet we do not have a detailed blueprint of how a worship service is to be conducted.

    Does the Bible speak to church polity? And yet we do not have a detailed blueprint of the church is to be governed and administered. (i.e. a BCO)

    Stop with the asinine pseudo counter-examples. The Bible speaks to many things to a greater or lesser degree, and it speaks to different things in different ways. You don’t have to believe that, but if you can’t understand that that is what we believe, you don’t have any business arguing with us.

  227. stuart said,

    January 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Zrim,

    What happens when my unbelieving co-worker bakes a much better cake than me, or even what happens when I don’t bake to the best of my ability? It seems to me these things happen all the time. And the “do everything common with excellence” outlook seems to neglect the fact that supernatural faith doesn’t really do much to improve the native skills of believers. If that were true then I’d be better at math than I was 20 years ago when I converted, but so far excellence is still not how I’d describe my spatial-mathematical skills–maybe I’m just not trying hard enough to apply my faith? I’ve nothing against excellence, but what answers like yours never seem aware of is the realities of creation in redeemed creatures.

    You and I have already been around this bend before, but I think some more refining of our thoughts on these matters is still possible. I’ve appreciated the chance to think through some of these issues with your assistance.

    When the Scripture says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23), I don’t think it necessarily means our work must be better or more excellent than that of another person. That’s reading too much into the passage and is, as you said, not taking into consideration “the realities of creation” in redeemed creatures.”

    If we understand “heartily” to mean something along the lines as “to the best of my ability” then my best may not be as good as the best of someone else. So when my unbelieving co-worker bakes a much better cake than me, what has happened, generally speaking, is that he has demonstrated more skill and ability than me. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t worked “heartily.” It could simply mean that he’s better at making cakes than me.

    Yet a possible problem arises with the second half of your question . . . “or even what happens when I don’t bake to the best of my ability?” If by “I don’t bake to the best of my ability” you mean, “I don’t work heartily as to the Lord”, then what has happened is sin. Now of course, the good news of Scripture tells us that sin is covered and forgiven because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, but that doesn’t make it less of a sin . . . for as you know, sin is “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God” (WLC 24).

    Having said this, I will grant that context has a lot to do with how we define “the best of my ability.” If I trying to bake a cake at home while I am looking after my three little ones (age 5 and under) because my wife had a doctor’s appointment and we couldn’t get a sitter, then the best of my ability in baking a cake will be reduced to a certain extent . . . but that doesn’t necessarily mean that in that situation I would not be working heartily as to the Lord.

    So Scripturally speaking, I see no problem in calling the butcher, baker, or the candlestick maker (or the pastor, for that matter) to do all to the glory of God and to the best of their abilities. I would see a problem in saying that everything every single Christian does must be better than what every single non-Christian does. Not only does that go beyond Scripture, but it’s simply impossible. Still, I wonder if all transformationalists are really calling us to such an impossible task?

  228. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Stop with the asinine pseudo counter-examples.

    Here is a good example of what happens when “all of (temporal) lifers” are asked to explain how the trivial aspects of temporal life are covered in the Bible. So, Peter, are you saying that baking is despised by God? But 2k says that Jesus is Lord over all of life, from baking to politics, and loves it all. It’s just that 2k takes issue with making the Bible a handbook for all of temporal life instead of, or more craftily alongside of, God’s revealed word about eternal life.

  229. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Stuart, my sense, for better or worse, is that when some folks say believers should “do everything with excellence” they mean do it better than unbelievers as well as beyond one’s own created abilities. One sign is that they tend to lament the fact that Christians don’t often outpace non-Christians in all sorts of creational tasks.

    But I also wonder if you might make too much out of the Colossians passage to “work heartily.” Whatever else it means, I am not sure it means we should strain at our common performances to actually wonder if we’ve sinned by not submitting sterling cultural or common products or not having lived up to one’s potential. Since one’s potential is rather a fuzzy notion, I’d rather conceive of sin as having personally, clearly and directly transgressed the moral law of God.

  230. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 4, 2011 at 10:44 am

    “Stop with the asinine pseudo counter-examples.”

    LOL!

    If he stops, then what else can the R2K emperor DG Hart wear?

  231. stuart said,

    January 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Zrim,

    my sense, for better or worse, is that when some folks say believers should “do everything with excellence” they mean do it better than unbelievers as well as beyond one’s own created abilities. One sign is that they tend to lament the fact that Christians don’t often outpace non-Christians in all sorts of creational tasks.

    You may be right about that. I’ll interject here once again that “do everything with excellence” (defined as “do everything better than the pagans”) is not necessarily the same thing as “whatever you do, work heartily as to the Lord.” So I actually think we might be on the same page on this, or at least in the same book!

    But I also wonder if you might make too much out of the Colossians passage to “work heartily.” Whatever else it means, I am not sure it means we should strain at our common performances to actually wonder if we’ve sinned by not submitting sterling cultural or common products or not having lived up to one’s potential. Since one’s potential is rather a fuzzy notion, I’d rather conceive of sin as having personally, clearly and directly transgressed the moral law of God.

    I’m not sure I said that “we should strain at our common performances to actually wonder if we’ve sinned by not submitting sterling cultural or common products or not having lived up to one’s potential” . . . but I’ll go along with your objection. I actually agree with you that the Colossians 3 doesn’t mean that. If you’re referring to my baking-a-cake-with-my-kids-around-example, I didn’t mean that to be taken the way you apparently did. I only meant to give an example of how “best of my ability” cannot mean best of my ability in every single thing not contextually considered. I was anticipating a possible objection to what I had said in the previous paragraph (and not necessarily from you) . . . that possible objection being, something along the lines of “well, ‘work heartily’ may not mean excellence in comparison to others, but it must at least mean excellence as compared to oneself.” But it can’t exactly mean that either because one day I might bake a cake with excellence because of my circumstances and another day I may bake a mediocre cake because of my circumstances, and yet I can still work heartily as to the Lord in both situations. When we work through the verbage, I think we might be closer to the same position than first thought.

    But just for clarity’s sake, I have a few questions for you . . .

    Do you think there is a personal, clear and direct way of transgressing the command of Colossians 3?

    Do you think the command of Colossians 3 is not connected to the moral law and therefore not all that important?

  232. David Gray said,

    January 4, 2011 at 11:02 am

    >>What happens when my unbelieving co-worker bakes a much better cake than me

    You give thanks for the skills God has given them. As I did when standing in front of a Rembrandt which I couldn’t possibly hope to match.

    >>or even what happens when I don’t bake to the best of my ability?

    You repent. Luther said the life of the believer was to be one of daily repentance. Luther was right.

  233. stuart said,

    January 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Zrim,

    It’s just that 2k takes issue with making the Bible a handbook for all of temporal life instead of, or more craftily alongside of, God’s revealed word about eternal life.

    I hear what you’re saying, and I think too often Christians use the Bible as some kind of handbook for life while disregarding or simply forgetting the central ideas of Scripture.

    Yet even a confessional 2ker would have to admit that “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” So God’s revelation to us may not exactly be a handbook for life, but there is not an absence of addressing life as lived in this present age either.

  234. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    “So, Peter, are you saying that baking is despised by God? ”

    Uh… what?

  235. Ron Henzel said,

    January 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    David Gray,

    You wrote:

    What part of:

    >>Jeff was right, “And this is why I continue to say that Scripture speaks to all of life, but not in the same ways.”

    left you so confused?

    The part that I missed in my hasty reading. My apologies; thanks for pointing out my oversight.

  236. dgh said,

    January 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Peter, perhaps then you want to avoid sounding confusing yourself if when you say the Bible speaks to ALL life you make the fine print into bold. And perhaps you could also get all of YOU (since you invoked “us”) to cease and desist from calling 2k radical. It turns out 2k and its critics think there are limits to what the Bible reveals. But in most of these discussions 2k is blamed for limiting Scripture. At least 2k is clear. If you think that clarity is asinine then I guess the problem goes deeper.

  237. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Do you think there is a personal, clear and direct way of transgressing the command of Colossians 3 [“work heartily”]? Do you think the command of Colossians 3 is not connected to the moral law and therefore not all that important?

    Stuart, the context of the Colossians 3 phrase has to do with the orderliness of Christian households, namely directives for wives to submit, children and slaves to obey and fathers to not exasperate (and parallels other texts that call for our civil obedience to magistrates). I think it may be a bit misguided to pull out the “work heartily” phrase and make it work the way you are suggesting.

    Yet even a confessional 2ker would have to admit that “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” So God’s revelation to us may not exactly be a handbook for life, but there is not an absence of addressing life as lived in this present age either.

    Agreed. While Christianity is not a way of life there certainly is a way of life resident within it. But that way of life is isn’t the same one the world thinks of when it contemplates a way of life.

    David Gray, if I must “repent” for not living up to my inner potential (whatever that means) then does that mean my elders may discipline me when I don’t? I don’t know, I think I still want their jurisdiction limited to my moral and ecclesiastical performance and leave my cultural performance alone.

    “So, Peter, are you saying that baking is despised by God? ”

    Uh… what?

    Peter, the question put to an “all of temporal lifer” was about how baking is addressed by Scripture. The point is that baking is part of temporal life. You dismissed this as “asinine.” Is that because baking is out of the realm of God’s interest? The irony of “all of lifers” is that they never seem very concerned about the trivial or mundane parts of life, you know, where most of us live pretty much every day. Some evidently even think those parts are “asinine.”

  238. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Peter Green: “Stop with the asinine pseudo counter-examples.”

    Darryl Hart: “If you think that clarity is asinine then I guess the problem goes deeper.”

    Still LOL!

    Did Darryl Hart continue providing another asinine pseudo counter-example? Or did he not?

  239. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Zrim,

    What was asinine about the pseudo counter-example is that Dr. Hart declared what he considered to be a sufficient answer, namely, a recipe in the Bible: “Does the Bible have instructions on how to bake? Does it include recipes?”

    This is asinine.

    The Bible doesn’t have a verbatim liturgy and yet we all say that the Bible speaks to our worship practices.

    It is as asinine to require the Bible to have a cake recipe before one can say that the Bible speaks to cake making, as it is asinine to say that the Bible must have a verbatim liturgy before we can say that the Bible speaks to worship.

    They are *pseudo* counter-examples because I and others have *consistently* noted that the Bible speaks to different things in different ways. (Dr. Hart, if you want to call this the “fine print”, then so be it). In other words, the counter-examples address a totally different point than anyone was making, thereby rendering the counter-examples pseudo.

    As it happens, the Bible does speak to baking, as it speaks to everything. However, it may not speak to baking *explicitly* but rather by “good and necessary inference”, application, by principles, mutatis mutandis, and all that.

    In addition to what has already been said here and elsewhere about doing everything to God’s glory and our best effort, biblical morality suggests that it is wrong to bake a cake with poison in it. That may seem obvious, but apart from a Christian worldview, there is no basis for the moral value of life, pleasure, beauty, etc. A non-Christian may make a cake without poison but if they do, they are only doing so consistent with the Christian worldview, not their own.

    Biblical morality suggests that it is good to make a cake that is tasty (Ecc. 2:24-26).

    Biblical morality suggests that making a cake might be inappropriate when there are more important things to do. (Luke 10:38-42).

    There are countless other questions that could be raised and considered Biblically: Should the cake be “healthy”? How does one balance the requirement to take care of our bodies by healthy eating with the appropriateness of a tasty cake? Should the eggs be “free range” (The Bible is concerned, after all, with how we treat animals)? Should it be chocolate or vanilla (if the recipient of the cake is allergic to chocolate, then vanilla. Otherwise, it’s up to personal taste, if done with thanksgiving – 1 Timothy 4:4)? Is baking a cake the best use of your time (factoring in the legitimacy of leisurely activities – see Ecc. 2:24f)? What are your motives in baking the cake?

    Etc. etc. etc.

    You have consistently said, here and elsewhere, that “transformationalis” are only concerned with a few pet projects. Apart from the fact that that is not, in fact, a valid logical argument against the transformationalist project, that is a broad generalization without any reference to any examples that we could actually talk about. And even so, all you are really saying is that transformationalists are sinful with their own prejudices. Big surprise there. However, there are clearly more important issues. Jesus censured Martha, after all, for not being concerned with the more important things. God is more concerned with the genocide in the Sudan than he is with the starving child who steals a loaf of bread. All sins are not equal. All problems in the world are not equal. However, that does not mean that God, through the Bible, does not address all aspects of life. Nor does it mean that God “despises” baking, or even that transformationalists think so (a strange accusation, if I ever heard one). And just because we might disagree about what is a more “serious” issue, or how, exactly, the Bible addresses a particular aspect of life, does not invalidate the attempt to discern how the Bible addresses that aspect of life, any more than our disagreements with Baptists invalidates the attempt to discern what the Bible says with regard to baptism.

    And to return to the claim that transformationalists choose their pet projects, and that I think God “despises” baking: I led a Christians Education class on Biblical Christian Ethics, in which we addressed a number of different issues each week. I had a week scheduled for “food ethics”, but ran out of time.

    Dr. Hart,

    I have never referred to 2K as “radical”, and I will take this moment, for the sake of charity and respect for the Christian brother, to urge others not to refer to 2K as “radical”. I write with genuineness.

    We both agree that there are limits to what the Bible *reveals*. After all, neither of us know when Jesus will return (Deut 29:29 is one of my favorite verses, BTW). However, we differ, if I understand the nature of our disagreement correctly, on whether or not the Bible addresses all aspects of how we live (i.e. ethics). I say that the Bible addresses all aspects of how we live. You deny it (I believe). I don’t *think* I have been unclear about that. I don’t think I ever used the term “revealed”, nor argued in such a way.

  240. TurretinFan said,

    January 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Mr. Green,

    I would point out that some (if not all) of those of us who refer to “Radical 2K” are referring to a species of the genus 2K. Calvin’s view of the two kingdoms was not radical. But there is a species of 2K that is radical. I’d be happy to give a more complete taxonomy of it some other time, but it is closely tied to a rather extreme manifestation of the redemptive-historical hermeneutic, and borders on dispensationalism.

    -TurretinFan

  241. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    In addition to what has already been said here and elsewhere about doing everything to God’s glory and our best effort, biblical morality suggests that it is wrong to bake a cake with poison in it. That may seem obvious, but apart from a Christian worldview, there is no basis for the moral value of life, pleasure, beauty, etc. A non-Christian may make a cake without poison but if they do, they are only doing so consistent with the Christian worldview, not their own.

    Peter, I don’t really care why an unbeliever respects my life as long as he does. You seem much more concerned for the pagan’s epistemology than his behavior. But something tells me that when the pagan cashier gives you correct change you put it in your pocket and go on your way without faulting her for not having the right “Christian worldview” that led her to do so. That’s called living like a 2ker but speaking like a worldviewer.

    Do you really need the Bible to tell you that cake should taste good and that there’s a time to bake and a time to not bake? If so, how do you account for those who’ve never cracked a Bible but know these things? My guess is that you’ll say something about “borrowed capital.” But how can they borrow what has been indelibly written on their own hearts by God himself?

    I agree that there is inequality amongst sins, but how do you really go from that to “God cares more about genocide than a starving child stealing bread”? Small comfort to the child, who still matters and whose hairs are numbered. And, no, I’m not saying transformers are being sinful, I’m saying their transformationalism is really getting in their way. If you think the interpretation that God despises the trivial is odd then maybe you should stop speaking in ways that strongly suggest it.

  242. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    “Calvin’s view of the two kingdoms was not radical. But there is a species of 2K that is radical.”

    Yes.

    It’s vital to distinguish between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. In the same way it’s vital to distinguish between 2K and Radical 2K. Darryl Hart espouses Radical 2K.

  243. David Gadbois said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Peter Green, it always rings hollow to us 2Kers when someone says “the Bible tells us to engage in X ethically, therefore the Bible ‘speaks to X’”. The abstract ethics of baking is not the mechanics of baking, which was Dr. Hart’s point. Yes, the Bible requires us to be honest and hard-working in our various callings and vocations, but if that is all that is meant when one says the Bible ‘speaks to X job/skill/study’, does that really establish your point?

    Does the fact that we are supposed to be nice and moral when baking really mean that there is such thing as Christian baking?

    Also you claim that there is no basis to value life outside of a “Christian worldview”. I think this Vantilian claim is overstated, as non-Christian theists can appeal to a divine command theory of morality. And rightfully so, as the existence of God and morality are revealed universally as a product of general revelation (Romans 1-2).

    And the 2K/natural law position simply argues that the matter of whether or not non-Christians can epistemically justify their basis of morality is immaterial. It only matters that they know it by means of natural law as an artifact of general revelation. In the secular realm I’m not concerned with whether or not they can philosophically justify anything, I just want them to practice what is good.

  244. stuart said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Zrim,

    the context of the Colossians 3 phrase has to do with the orderliness of Christian households, namely directives for wives to submit, children and slaves to obey and fathers to not exasperate (and parallels other texts that call for our civil obedience to magistrates). I think it may be a bit misguided to pull out the “work heartily” phrase and make it work the way you are suggesting.

    If I didn’t know better I would think you might be trying to sidestep my questions. =-)

    Context is certainly important. And you’re right that in context the text is addressing slaves. You’re also right to connect this passge to the way we should honor our superiors in a similar way WLC 127 connects the fifth commandment to commands to honor those above us in some way (whether in the magistrate or our boss at work). And I’ll admit the way I stated the scenario certainly sounds as if I am making the command to work heartily too general.

    All that said, Col 3:23 is certainly connected to 3:17 . . . “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” I’m inclined to see the general idea of doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and with thanks to God the Father in 3:17 as spelled out more specifically in the “work heartily as for the Lord” clause of 3:23. Granted, it is applied to the master/servant relationship, but is difficult to see how doing a half-way, lazy job on some task, even outside of that master/servant relationship, can be reconciled with “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That would seem to imply that I can’t be lazy when I’m doing tasks for my boss, but I can be lazy when I’m doing tasks at home with no superior. I think that’s a big part of my concern with this subject in general. Maybe my own proclivity to laziness can be justified by Scripture, but I doubt it.

  245. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    To TurretinFan and Truth:

    I recognize the validity of your point. Perhaps Dr. Hart would suggest a term that he prefers, in order to distinguish between different branches of “2K” theology.

    Zrim,

    I “fault” (poor word) everyone for not having a Christian worldview, but which I mean to say that I hope everyone becomes a Christian. Does that free me from the accusation that I “[live] like a 2ker but [speak] like a worldviewer”? What would it look like (to you) to “live like a worldviewer” with regard to accepting change from a cashier?

    I am deeply concerned with their epistemology (i.e. the state of their eternal souls as decided by [i.e. on the basis of] their belief system).

    I am also deeply concerned with their behavior, as I believe God is (cf. Matt 28:18-20), which is why I think it is important, as Christians, to engage the world seeking to establish righteousness and justice wherever possible. It is a two-front war though, because the attempt to establish righteousness and justice will only be successful as the world is progressively converted (which is why Jesus pairs conversion and discipleship/command following in the Great Commission).

    I don’t deny that they have the law of God written on their heart (I said as much above). In so far as they respect life, however, they do so consistent with the Christian worldview and inconsistent with their own. Apart from a belief in God, life is meaningless, and there can be no moral value assigned to anything, whether life or death, pleasure or pain, etc. I’ve discussed this at length above. God is the source of morality. Morality is *nothing other* than a description of His character. To say anything else makes morality autonomous and equally, or perhaps more, transcendent than God. Because morality is a description of His character, to deny that He exists is to remove all possibility for the distinctions of morality and immorality.

    You misunderstood my example about the child, which is my fault for not making it clear. My comparison was between the act of stealing vs. the act of genocide, not between a starving child and those suffering from genocide.

    “If you think the interpretation that God despises the trivial is odd then maybe you should stop speaking in ways that strongly suggest it.”

    Please give me specific examples of this. And let me poll the audience to see if anyone else received that impression from anything I wrote.

  246. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Stuart, I understand that clarifying the way I am can be construed as side-stepping, but I’m still not convinced that the context bears the weight of your point. If you want to find a command against sloth and laze why not go to Proverbs?

  247. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    You misunderstood my example about the child, which is my fault for not making it clear. My comparison was between the act of stealing vs. the act of genocide, not between a starving child and those suffering from genocide.

    So, then, Peter, God cares more about genocide than stealing? I don’t see how this helps your point. Again, I get that these two phenomenon are different, what I don’t get is how God’s care for one is diminished by the reality of the other. I mean, what happened to “all of life” and “every square inch.: I sit that this square foot over here is of more import than that square inch over there just because it’s bigger? But 2k says it all matters equally to God. In this way, 2k is way more Kuyperian than the Kuyperians.

  248. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    David:

    “The abstract ethics of baking is not the mechanics of baking”

    Exactly, which is why Dr. Hart’s examples are pseudo counter-examples. No-one, least of all me, was arguing that the Bible reveals the “mechanics” of baking, if by that you mean “put it in the oven for 350 degrees for 30 minutes”. However, if by “mechanics” you mean “how something is done”, sometimes there is freedom to work for a “godly” result (a tasty cheesecake with pureed strawberries on top, running down the side, and pooling on the plate, with, perhaps, some whipped cream as well), and sometimes the “process” (how it is done) is prescribed or constrained. We might say that it is a godly, biblical result to feed the poor and take care of the orphans, but that it is wrong to levy heavy taxes or to go into debt in order to do so (obviously, the specifics here could be debated, but they still illustrate the point).

    As for “Christian baking”, anything that is good and right and true, or done well, is done consistent with the Christian worldview, and inconsistent with all other worldviews because the Christian Triune God defines what is right and good and true, and what is done well, and therefore, anyone who denies the existence of that God, only does what is right and good and true inconsistent with their fundamentally held presuppositions.

    Or do the standards for right and good and true transcendence God Himself?

    As far as non-Christian theists go, I have been dealing with non-theists for time and simplicity’s sake, and I don’t have time to fully engage that question. However, suffice it to say, there is only one accurate worldview, because there is only one reality within which we live (I believe that Nihilism is the only other *consistent* worldview, but of course it is not accurate). Because there is only one accurate worldview, everything else will either be the opposite of (nihilism) or bastardizations of the accurate worldview (non-Christian theism). Non-Christian theists will be inconsistent and/or arbitrary at some time in their worldview (different forms of theism will be inconsistent at different places), because it is not based on the real God.

  249. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Zrim,

    God’s care is not “diminished” (your word, not mine) because He is infinite, and His care is infinite. Caring more about X sin does not “diminish” His care for Y sin. Nothing I said suggests that, and it is a non sequitur.

    “I mean, what happened to “all of life” and “every square inch.”

    What about it? To say that God cares about “all of life” is not to say that He considers all sins equal. Likewise, to say that God differentiates between sins, does not mean that He doesn’t care about all of life. That is also a non sequitur.

    “I agree that there is inequality amongst sins.” #242
    “But 2k says it all matters equally to God.” #248

    Have you changed your mind?

    ““If you think the interpretation that God despises the trivial is odd then maybe you should stop speaking in ways that strongly suggest it.””

    You still have not given specific examples of this.

    [Me] “What would it look like (to you) to “live like a worldviewer” with regard to accepting change from a cashier?”

    Nor have you answered this question.

  250. stuart said,

    January 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Zrim,

    I understand that clarifying the way I am can be construed as side-stepping, but I’m still not convinced that the context bears the weight of your point. If you want to find a command against sloth and laze why not go to Proverbs?

    First, let me say I didn’t actually say that I thought you sidestepped the questions. I said, and I quote . . . “If I didn’t know better I would think you might be trying to sidestep my questions.” The emphasis goes on “if I didn’t know better.” I didn’t think you were sidestepping. I apologize if you thought my attempt at humor was serious.

    Second, in the interest of meeting you half-way (as you did for me so kindly on CCC today), Proverbs is indeed a clearer place to go in Scripture to address sloth . . . and the fact that Proverbs addresses sloth at all seems to indicate that the Lord is indeed concerned about whether I do my cultural tasks “heartily” or not (at least if you understand “heartily” as the opposite of lazy), even if the Colossians passage doesn’t bear that weight.

  251. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Peter, the thing about making assertions like, “The Bible speaks to baking” is that the plain meaning ordinary language filters with concludes that if I open the Bible I can find something in it about the mechanics of baking. That’s just how language coupled with common sense works. So if you have to go through all sorts of contortions to explain that “The Bible speaks to baking” doesn’t actually mean it says anything about how to bake then maybe something is wrong with the language you employ in the first place? My suggestion is that a better formulation is to say that the Bible speaks to people–not their tasks, interests, hobbies or vocations.

    “I agree that there is inequality amongst sins.” #242
    “But 2k says it all matters equally to God.” #248

    Have you changed your mind?

    No, the first statement is from an ectypal point of view (the creature’s point of view), the second is from an archetypal point of view (the Creator’s point of view). We may distinguish between greater and lesser sins from our temporal position, but God doesn’t from his eternal position.

    You still have not given specific examples of this [If you think the interpretation that God despises the trivial is odd then maybe you should stop speaking in ways that strongly suggest it].

    Your whole perspective is one that implies that God differentiates between the trivial and enduring along the temporal spectrum, such that the higher order have more of God’s favor. But he despises not the lowly. If anything, he esteems the lowly above the exalted.

    What would it look like (to you) to “live like a worldviewer” with regard to accepting change from a cashier?

    To make her tell you why she gave you correct change before accepting it. My guess is that you don’t do that. Neither do 2kers because, as Gadbois helps point out, all we care about is her behavior. So while you speak like an “all of lifer” you actually live like a 2ker when you are quite satisfied with being treated justly.

  252. David Gray said,

    January 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    >>Peter, the thing about making assertions like, “The Bible speaks to baking” is that the plain meaning ordinary language filters with concludes that if I open the Bible I can find something in it about the mechanics of baking.

    That just isn’t true.

  253. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Stuart, that’s fine as far as it goes. Again, I’ve nothing against excellence. I just think there has to be a category in the Christian life that allows for both cultural failure and mediocrity, since those are every bit as much creational realities as excellence is. I mean, if there is a category for sin in our redemptive existence (as in, “I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father”) then I don’t understand why failure and mediocrity don’t get one in our creational lives.

  254. Zrim said,

    January 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    David Gray, yes it is. Nyah.

  255. Peter Green said,

    January 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Zrim,

    To your first paragraph: no. (cf. David Gray’s response #253)

    To your second paragraph: Fair enough, but I don’t think the view that God considers all sins as equally heinous stands up to Scripture. If you want to believe that, though, that is your right.

    To your third paragraph: I’m not sure what this means: “Your whole perspective is one that implies that God differentiates between the trivial and enduring along the temporal spectrum…” I’m not sure I know what it means for God to differentiate “along the temporal spectrum”, nor how my argument suggests that.

    I never said God despises the lowly, nor can anything I have said be taken that way, which, I assume, is why you still have not yet actually quoted or cited anything I have said which suggests that.

    To your final paragraph: being an “all of lifer” doesn’t require me to be a jerk (although I am having a hard time controlling my words here, for which I hope you will forgive me and have patience). When I get a chance (i.e. have developed a strong relationship of mutual respect, and/or am invited to do so) I graciously (I hope) challenge my friends and acquaintances about the basis for what they hold to be right and good and true. Nothing in being an “all of lifer” requires me to do that all the time, to everyone. That is a straw man.

  256. Phil Derksen said,

    January 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Zrim said: “We may distinguish between greater and lesser sins from our temporal position, but God doesn’t from his eternal position.”

    WLC Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, AND IN THE SIGHT OF GOD?
    A. All transgressions of the law of God are NOT equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

  257. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 5:01 am

    >>David Gray, yes it is. Nyah.

    One of your better posts.

    However by your standard Isaiah never talks about Christ because where is his name?

  258. dgh said,

    January 5, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Peter Green, the preferred term for me is post-Constantinian 2k (pc2k).

    Have you considered that if the Bible speaks to all of life that I as an elder who ministers God’s word have power over all of the lives of the members of my congregation? I have power over when and what and how they bake. It also means that if the Bible speaks to baking, the shouldn’t our confessional standards talk about baking, about all of life, since they are efforts to summarize God’s word.

    The problem, then, with your claims about ALL is that it proves too much and is not at all supported by the history of the church and the faith she professes. When John writes that “these things are written that you may believe,” I think he is indicating what the Bible is revealing — Christ and the way of salvation, not inspiration or how to on how to live your life.

    But back to the church and her power, if the Bible speaks to all of life, there goes liberty of conscience since now the Bible becomes the standard for everything (even though Paul writes that the Bible is not the standard for eating meat, whether or not to marry, or whether to observe Jewish holidays). Maybe theonomists don’t scruple much over Christian liberty, but such liberty stems from the idea that the Bible does not speak to matters and in those matters we have free consciences to do them before the lord — even eating what some consider an unhealthy cake (are there really healthy cakes? isn’t the lack of health from a this worldly perspective what makes a cake “good”?)

    But for pseudo-counter examples, your brief exegesis on biblical baking is pretty good (since I’m such a nice guy I’ll refrain from “asinine”). You wrote: “There are countless other questions that could be raised and considered Biblically: Should the cake be “healthy”? How does one balance the requirement to take care of our bodies by healthy eating with the appropriateness of a tasty cake? Should the eggs be “free range” (The Bible is concerned, after all, with how we treat animals)? Should it be chocolate or vanilla (if the recipient of the cake is allergic to chocolate, then vanilla. Otherwise, it’s up to personal taste, if done with thanksgiving – 1 Timothy 4:4)? Is baking a cake the best use of your time (factoring in the legitimacy of leisurely activities – see Ecc. 2:24f)? What are your motives in baking the cake?”

    These are all considerations that the light of nature easily answers and don’t have to be shoehorned into the Bible. I grant you that we need to work at good and necessary consequences for the order of a service. That is not the camel nose under the tent of biblical baking, though, since the WCF acknowledges that when it comes to the mechanics of worship and church government (circumstances) we follow the light of nature not the Bible which is silent.

    If the Bible is silent about the circumstances of worship and church government, how much more baking and plumbing (hi Jeff).

  259. dgh said,

    January 5, 2011 at 5:28 am

    BTW, just a comment about this thread. It is remarkable to me that little discussion has followed from GB’s original point church polemics and tolerance. It is worth noting that it is the so-called r2ks who are among the most militant these days in church polemics on the side of Reformed orthodoxy. Meanwhile, 2k’s critics are generally absent in those battles, but very much present in the polemics of culture. And that appears to be the chief fault of 2kers. We are polemical about the wrong things — about the church and not the culture. But since Machen was a libertarian and a conservative Presbyterian, the current dynamics of 2k and its critics is about par for the course. Lots of evangelical Presbyterians abandoned Machen because he would not support Prohibition and thereby those evangelicals capitulated to liberalism in the PCUSA. I wonder if the same thing is happening in some Reformed communions today.

  260. Peter Green said,

    January 5, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Dr. Hart,

    I recognize that my position might suggest that elders “have power over when and what and how [congregants] bake”. However, I do not think that is the case for a few reasons. First, one of the ways in which the Bible speaks to an issue *is by establishing it as a issue in which there is freedom*. See for instance, I Tim 4:4. I find this sentence ironic: “Paul writes that the Bible is not the standard for eating meat, whether or not to marry, or whether to observe Jewish holidays” because this is Paul/the Bible “speaking” to these issues.

    Second, not all sins are equally heinous, and therefore should not be the concern of elders. Elders are only to discipline heinous sins. They should teach and exhibit patience with all other sins.

    Third, there is the problem of ambiguity and differences in interpretation. Generally, in conservative, Bible-believing churches, elders should concern themselves with sins that are universally acknowledge by *Christians* such at extra-marital sex, stealing, quarreling, etc., and sins that are cautified in their ecclesiastical standards (refusing to bring a child for baptism, etc.) Obviously, this is a slippery and difficult task, which is why our elders especially need *wisdom* in applying the Bible and executing their duties (cf. my above posts about wisdom).

    As for the WSs, they are “efforts to summarize God’s word”, not comprehensive statements on all that the Bible teaches, whether explicitly, implicitly, or through application. Obviously the WSs don’t address baking, because baking is addressed by the Bible by means of applying the Bible. The WSs could not address everything that the Bible applies to, because that would make the WSs infinite, and we would have to constantly be updating it (like adding a section for how the Bible applies to blogging, which is, perhaps, not a bad idea).

    I believe that John is referring to his own book, not the whole Bible.

    As for “freedom of conscience” that seems to be a favored motif with 2kers. I completely affirm Christian liberty, but Christian liberty does not mean complete and unconstrained autonomy. It means autonomy from the demands of others. God still rules. And so, even when God is giving us freedom, there are still constraints. As I already noted, Paul, in I Tim 4:4, establishes certain things as within the purview of Christian liberty *if done with thanksgiving*!! (As a side note, in regard to healthy cakes, my wife makes a *superb* almond flour carrot cake muffin. Whether or not it is “healthy” depends on the slippery definition of healthy, but it is certainly healthier than most other cakes. But that’s beside point.)

    As for NL, it is certainly correct that the Bible generally doesn’t reveal a good bit of information that is necessary for us to make ethical decisions. For instance, the Bible doesn’t reveal what a “healthy” diet consists of (unless you want to go with the “Maker’s Diet” people, who believe that the OT diet was God’s healthy diet for the Israelites). We need science, of which non-Christians are just as capable as Christians, to tell us what X food does to the body, etc. However, science might tell us that X food does Y to the body, which is what I refer to as a “fact” (cf. my distinction between facts and moral teaching in an above post), which has not moral value in and of itself. The fact that X causes Y doesn’t tell us whether Y is good or not. We need the Christian worldview to assign the (correct) moral value to Y. So an unbeliever might be able to tell us, through “NL”, that cyanide causes death, but that unbeliever, through NL, could not tell us that death is a morally wrong result – only the Christian worldview can do that.

    In other words “NL” gives us the raw material, but we need the Christian worldview to put that raw material together. This, is the “transformationalist” project, as I see it. (BTW, if we are talking about “transformationalists” in terms of the three categories Keller identifies, then I am a man without a home. I appreciate the transformationalist project and the doctrinialist project).

    Unbelievers do only what they want to do (in one sense). They don’t consume cyanide because they don’t want to die. This is good, because the doctrine of original sin does not teach that humans are as bad as they possibly can be. They still have “good” desires, like loving their wives, raising children, respecting life, etc. However, their fundamentally held presuppositions, require, for the sake of consistency, nihilism. Romans 1 makes it clear that the natural and consistent result of rejecting the *true* God (i.e. non-Christian theists are included in this critique) is a downward spiral into sin.

  261. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 8:29 am

    >>It is worth noting that it is the so-called r2ks who are among the most militant these days in church polemics on the side of Reformed orthodoxy.

    I hadn’t noticed R2K being particularly helpful in the struggle against egalitarian heresy.

  262. TurretinFan said,

    January 5, 2011 at 8:30 am

    DGH wrote: “These are all considerations that the light of nature easily answers and don’t have to be shoehorned into the Bible.”

    Compare:

    I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

    (WCF 1:1)(emphasis added)
    And:

    II. Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these:[list of the 39/27 book canon omitted for brevity] All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.

    (WCF 1:2)(emphasis added)

    - TurretinFan

  263. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Maybe we need to crack down on R2K folks who seem to reject WCF 1:2. Presumably in this instance combativeness would be a virtue.

  264. Zrim said,

    January 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Phil, re #257, fair enough, but several things. First, it seems to me that, given 151’s exposition on 150 that 150 may be accommodating the archetypcal perspective to the ectypal more than making a pure archetypal statement.

    Second, my point flows more from 152 which seems to be a pure archetypal statement and states that “Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law, deserves his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.” Peter’s point was that “God is more concerned with the genocide in the Sudan than he is with the starving child who steals a loaf of bread.” If every sin, even the least, deserves God’s wrath and curse then I don’t see how God is more concerned with genocide than a child lifting a piece of bread. I get that we should assess these sins differently, but 152 seems to be saying that God doesn’t.

    Third, Peter pulled the discussion into the categories of sin, etc. That’s not really the set of categories to use. I think the set of categories may be more providence or common grace, sacred/secular, common/holy, etc. That said, the larger point here is that “all of lifery” tends to say on the one hand that “the Bible applies to all of life” but on the other it tends only to apply it to higher order temporal life: law, politics, education, philosophy, marriage. When questions are posed about the trivial aspects of temporal life, like baking or plumbing, all-of-lifers are stumped and bark out that such questions are asinine. Then, as Peter demonstrates, the point turns to saying that the Bible doesn’t address baking as if it tells us something about the mechanics of baking. But, despite David Gray’s articulate protestation in 253, that is how ordinary language and common sense work: when one says “the Bible speaks to baking” it means I should be able to open the Bible and use it to bake a cake. And since it doesn’t, we see how poorly ordinary language and common sense have been used. The Bible doesn’t speak to baking (or higher order aspects of temporal life, for that matter). It speaks to people, more precisely God’s own people, even more precisely God’s own people wherever they are along the temporal spectrum of life, whether baking or legislating (see, precision, I’m staying relevant to the post proper). And it doesn’t tell them either how to bake or how to legislate, it tells them how to behave and not behave in their own minds and bodies.

  265. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 5, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Phil D (#257):

    Good point.

  266. Zrim said,

    January 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I hadn’t noticed R2K being particularly helpful in the struggle against egalitarian heresy.

    Really? It’s the neo-Cals who use the inferior taxonomy of complementarian/egalitarian, and it’s the paleo-Cals who use the superior taxonomy of elitism/egalitarian. Maybe you think 2k hasn’t been helpful because you presume egalitarianism is only about sex?

  267. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 10:06 am

    >Maybe you think 2k hasn’t been helpful because you presume egalitarianism is only about sex?

    No but a man who accepts the authority of a church that pretends to ordain women is in a poor position for this discussion.

  268. Peter Green said,

    January 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Zrim,

    “speaks to” does not equal “speaks to the mechanics of, only the mechanics of, and nothing else”.

    Whatever language and commonsense filters you have on, take them off.

    I already explained that the asinine nature of the counter-example lay in the requirement that for the Bible to “speak to baking” it must include the mechanics.

    As for your exegesis of the WLC: Any and all sins are sufficient to warrant condemnation, but that does not imply that all sins are equally heinous. I will quote the LC again (thanks Phil!):

    “All transgressions of the law of God are NOT equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in *the sight of God* than others.”

    “in the sight of God”

    You can either disagree with the LC, or change your opinion. Your choice.

    Zrim, with all due respect, your conception of what a “transformationalist” is, believes, and does, is so far from the truth. You argue against what you think is required of the transformationalist position without letting actual, self-proclaimed transformationalists define what they themselves believe. Since I am a transformationalist (of a sort, and if you want to use that term), I want to apply the Bible to discourse, and it seems to me that not allowing someone to define their own position and discussing that definition is disrespectful. I have tried (imperfectly, I admit) to interact with what you and Dr. Hart actually believe. Please extend the same courtesy to transformationalists (all of them, not just me). Bold pronouncements about what transformationalists do or don’t do, believe or don’t believe, are generally unhelpful, especially when they are grossly inaccurate and unsubstantiated by actual examples that can be discussed. It is easy to say “PC2Kers are ____ and _____ and _____”. It is much harder to say “Dr. Hart is ____”, because that statement can actually be tested as to its validity and truthfulness. If you haven’t read many transformationalists or interacted with them, at length, in person and in their ministries, it might be best to avoid making such pronouncements.

    If I seem pissed off, its because I am, and for that I apologize. I am still learning to discuss these matters without anger, but I am not yet fully sanctified. Please forgive my impatience and anger.

  269. David Gadbois said,

    January 5, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Peter, I think Zrim’s point is well-taken concerning his remark on common sense language. When the neo-Calvinists talk about the Bible “speaking to” every area of life, I take it they are saying something more profound than simply the fact that biblical ethics apply to all areas of life. That we should be nice and honest while doing X is a rather trivial way of “speaking to” X, and frankly does not require the Bible for such an ethic. The neo-Calvinists are trying to say much more than that, that a biblical worldview can actually equip us to do X *better* and not just more ethically than non-Christians. That is what is meant when it is asserted that a biblical world and life-view should be brought to bear on various worldly tasks, skills, and vocations. But to simply say that we should be nice and hard-working in all areas of life is to assert an *ethical* view, this does not provide us with a worldview to actually accomplish a given secular task.

    You are also still obsessed with presuppositions and logical consistency on the part of unbelievers. None of these are required for unbelievers to know and follow general revelation or natural law.

    You also assert that there is only one true worldview, but this is just the common gloss over the distinction between general and special revelation that I see Vantilians frequently engage in.

  270. Zrim said,

    January 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    No but a man who accepts the authority of a church that pretends to ordain women is in a poor position for this discussion.

    David Gray, how about one who, after a long time looking for a peaceful way out, is about to leave said church for a variety of reasons, one of which is the one you state? Another is the very same sort of 2k opposition/neo-Cal affirmation you demonstrate.

    Peter, as you may infer by my exchanges with David Gray, I inhabit all things neo-Cal transformational here at ground zero SW Michigan where the 2k peso has an awful exchange rate. I’m going on over fifteen years now. So I like to think I know a little something about what self-describing transformers mean when they speak the way you do. If it helps, some of my best friends and most of my family come from your outlook, more or less. Whatever frustration you feel in all this, consider what it’s like to be an OldLifer in NewGeneva.

    P.S I cannot add to what I and Gadbois already have when it comes to the use of language, presuppositions and logical consistency, natural and general revelation.

  271. Peter Green said,

    January 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Zrim,

    It seems we have reached an impasse. Thanks for your time and interaction. Godspeed finding another church.

    Peter

  272. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    >David Gray, how about one who, after a long time looking for a peaceful way out, is about to leave said church for a variety of reasons, one of which is the one you state?

    That is a good thing under the current circumstances.

  273. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    For those interested in learning more about R2K (and Darryl Hart), here’s a post to read and consider:

    A primer on the R2K novelty, with a note on Servetus….

  274. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    A primer on the R2K novelty, with a note on Servetus….

  275. dgh said,

    January 5, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Peter, I’m completely flummoxed by your understanding of sin and what elders should discipline — only heinous sins? I’m also mystified that they should only discipline on the basis of what Christians understand within a consensus about right and wrong. Either way, you’re hedging again about the Bible speaking to all of life and whether or not the church ministers the Bible to all of life.

  276. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    >I’m completely flummoxed by your understanding of sin and what elders should discipline — only heinous sins?

    You are an elder. When was the last time you were involved in a case of church discipline for impatience?

  277. dgh said,

    January 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    David Gray, don’t forget to go after theonomists along with 2kers when you draw up charges based on WCF 1.2. I don’t know if you noticed but a theonomist said this in 261:

    “it is certainly correct that the Bible generally doesn’t reveal a good bit of information that is necessary for us to make ethical decisions. For instance, the Bible doesn’t reveal what a “healthy” diet consists of (unless you want to go with the “Maker’s Diet” people, who believe that the OT diet was God’s healthy diet for the Israelites). We need science, of which non-Christians are just as capable as Christians, to tell us what X food does to the body, etc. However, science might tell us that X food does Y to the body, which is what I refer to as a “fact” (cf. my distinction between facts and moral teaching in an above post), which has not moral value in and of itself. The fact that X causes Y doesn’t tell us whether Y is good or not. We need the Christian worldview to assign the (correct) moral value to Y. So an unbeliever might be able to tell us, through “NL”, that cyanide causes death, but that unbeliever, through NL, could not tell us that death is a morally wrong result – only the Christian worldview can do that.”

    Meanwhile, you may want to read the entire WCF 1, which TFan selectively quotes. In 1.6 the divines write that the light of nature is necessary for the circumstances of worship and church government. Is not worship and church government part of “life”? But then the WCF itself teaches that the Bible does not speak to all of life.

    As for 2kers being opposed to the egalitarian heresy, Westminster California has been quite explicit in opposing women’s ordination. And at the risk of patting myself on the back, my own ecclesiastical stripes came during opposition to women’s ordination in the CRC. All the Baylys do is blog.

    BTW, being flummoxed has nothing to do with patience. I could be patiently or impatiently confused. So why do you impatiently rush to judge me?

  278. Peter Green said,

    January 5, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Dr. Hart, while I’m flattered that you quote me at length, I take issue with being referred to as a “theonomist”. Allow me to quote myself (woohoo, I’m getting quoted by everyone):

    “However, I am decidedly not a theonomist.” #200.

    As I have refrained from calling you a R2Ker, please do not lump me in with a movement with which I went to pains to list my disagreements.

  279. Peter Green said,

    January 5, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Oh, PS, I’m not ordained so no need to worry about the charges! :)

  280. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    >>David Gray, don’t forget to go after theonomists along with 2kers when you draw up charges based on WCF 1.2.

    I don’t see many active theonomists about.

    >>Meanwhile, you may want to read the entire WCF 1, which TFan selectively quotes. In 1.6 the divines write that the light of nature is necessary for the circumstances of worship and church government. Is not worship and church government part of “life”?

    It is illogical to assume that because nature speaks to something the Bible does not. Is it really your position that the Bible doesn’t speak to worship and church government?

    >>As for 2kers being opposed to the egalitarian heresy, Westminster California has been quite explicit in opposing women’s ordination.

    Good!!

    >>And at the risk of patting myself on the back, my own ecclesiastical stripes came during opposition to women’s ordination in the CRC.

    I’ve only known you in your OPC incarnation. Good, I much prefer respecting your actions to the alternative.

    >>All the Baylys do is blog.

    That is factually incorrect.

    >>BTW, being flummoxed has nothing to do with patience. I could be patiently or impatiently confused. So why do you impatiently rush to judge me?

    That has nothing to do with the point I was making. But then I’m pretty sure you know that. And believe me, I’m not impatiently rushing to judge you.

  281. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 5, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    “And at the risk of patting myself on the back, my own ecclesiastical stripes came during opposition to women’s ordination in the CRC.”

    I heartily echo David Gray’s commendations! Darryl Hart, do you have articles/posts that you can point us to about your opposition to WO?

  282. TurretinFan said,

    January 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Let me make amends for my failure to quote WCF1:6

    VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

    (emphasis added)

    -TurretinFan

  283. dgh said,

    January 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Peter Green, I stand corrected. You are only sympathetic to theonomy, not a real theonomist. Still confused, though.

  284. dgh said,

    January 5, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    David Gray, it is not illogical to say that the Bible doesn’t not speak to all aspects of corporate worship or church government. It is actually confessional, thanks to Tfan. I mean, how else would you get Roberts Rules? Leviticus is detailed, but not like that.

  285. Peter Green said,

    January 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks, Dr. Hart. Sorry for the confusion, but I think I need to be done with this thread (if I can manage that). I’ve already spent far too much time on it.

    Peter

  286. David Gray said,

    January 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    >>David Gray, it is not illogical to say that the Bible doesn’t not speak to all aspects of corporate worship or church government.

    If I’d said that you’d have a point.

  287. Ron said,

    January 6, 2011 at 12:01 am

    David,

    If you reach for you Bible to render an opinion on which sins ought to be punished by civil magistrates and what might be an equitable punishment for such transgressions then you are a theonomist. End of story. Agreement with other Christians on the application of the case laws is not a necessary condition for being a theonomist. Most Christians are not aware of their adherence to theonomy. Furthermore, one may have a doom and gloom eschatology and be a theonomist just as one need not be concerned with reconstructionism to be a theonomist. G.I. Williamson, for instance, showed himself to be a theonomist though he has never accepted the label. Google his article on theonomy… He merely balked at pedantic points that were not necessary conditions for being a theonomist. Indeed, there are many theonomists who do not know they are theonomists. Sadly enough, I have even known more than a few theonomists who are outright too cowardly to admit their theonomy publically. It’s to their shame. Would we even think of denying our Calvinism?! Frankly, the only true non-theonomists I’m aware of in the Reformed tradition are the radical 2K adherents who in my estimation would allow for the legislation of any law, even those that resemble the equity of ancient Israel’s case laws, just as long as the laws were not justified by Scripture! These men are incapable of drawing distinctions. If forensic justification, then union with Christ is useless. If natural law exists, then Scripture has nothing to say to the unbeliever. That is how they reason.

  288. Ron said,

    January 6, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Excuse me, that was to have been addressed to Peter Green.

  289. Peter Green said,

    January 6, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Ron,

    Applying the criminal justice system of the OT Law is one of the most important aspects of theonomy, with which I agree. Our current CJS is wicked. It’s a particularly important issue to me.

    Whether that makes me a theonomist, frankly, I don’t care too much. There isn’t a dictionary definition of theonomy. Theonomy, among other things, is a movement. A movement with which I prefer not to be named as an adherent for the reasons I mention about in #200. And the CJS of the OT is a particularly good example of how (in my opinion) the theonomists downplay the need for an importance of wisdom in applying the law. I don’t think the OT Law functioned (or was meant to function) in Israel the way theonomists typically think. Wisdom was needed then, and wisdom is still needed. No law will be of much value at all if wisdom isn’t at the foundation.

    Chris Wright’s book on OT ethics is superb, in my opinion, although his critique of theonomy in his appendix misses the mark terribly.

  290. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 6, 2011 at 6:56 am

    David G (#270):

    When the neo-Calvinists talk about the Bible “speaking to” every area of life, I take it they are saying something more profound than simply the fact that biblical ethics apply to all areas of life.

    I don’t self-identify as a neo-Cal, but when I say that “the Bible speaks to every area of life”, this is what I mean:

    (1) The commands of Scripture are to be followed in every endeavor, sacred or secular; and
    (2) Certain commands of Scripture (e.g.: “do all to the glory of God”) are relevant to every endeavor.

    Nothing more nor less.

    DG: That we should be nice and honest while doing X is a rather trivial way of “speaking to” X, and frankly does not require the Bible for such an ethic.

    I’m not sure we should speak of obedience to Scripture as trivial. But even if so, it is necessary. Yes, non-Christians can coincidentally obey God without referring to Scripture; but for Christians, that’s not an option. We are not at liberty to say, “Plumbing is a common endeavor; therefore, I need not worry that the commands of Scripture might apply to my plumbing.”

    What I’m pushing here is the necessity of obedience in all of life. And I imagine that you agree with that principle, right?

    The way that I express that is, “Scripture speaks to all of life, but not in the same ways in every area.” Dr. Hart has tried to talk me out of this way of speaking, but unsuccessfully so far.

  291. TurretinFan said,

    January 6, 2011 at 7:34 am

    DGH earlier asked:

    Do you think the Bible speaks to baking? Does the Bible have instructions on how to bake? Does it include recipes?

    Actually, it does speak to baking. You may recall that under the ceremonial law there were temporal restrictions on the use of leaven. That ceremonial law, of course no longer binds.

    Additionally, the Bible requires us either to bake bread or to procure it from someone who does back it, because it is one of the elements in the Lord’s Supper.

    Does the Bible tell us which grains to use, how much water to mix in, whether to use baking soda or baking powder? Surely not. However, the Bible does teach us not to include arsenic in place of the wheat. It does teach us not to engage in the laborious task of baking bread on the Lord’s Day.

    It may provides us with many principles of wisdom and prudence that inform bread-making. It even even describes the taste of the bread from heaven, manna, if we should wish to try to imitate it.

    But it leaves many circumstances without discussion. It does not tell you how many degrees Fahrenheit to set your oven, whether or not to put raisins in your batter, or anything like that.

    But the Bible does tell us a lot about running a country, about principles of justice and equity, about crime and punishment. Things that some people wish that the Bible said as little about as it does about baking bread. It says a lot about marriage, family, and raising children.

    -TurretinFan

  292. Ron said,

    January 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Whether that makes me a theonomist, frankly, I don’t care too much. There isn’t a dictionary definition of theonomy. Theonomy, among other things, is a movement.

    Well Peter, let me just say just a couple of things – I can more readily define theonomy than I can “movement”. And to say “theonomy, among other things, is a movement” seems to suggest you have a definition in mind for theonomy, which includes those “other things” to which you refer but do not mention. In any case, should you come up with a better label than “theonomy” for the “movement” that embraces autonomy do let me know. I’ve got an idea, how about our calling it “consistently Reformed”?

    Warmly,

    Ron

  293. dgh said,

    January 6, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Tfan, I assume that you think a federal republic is okay as a form of government. I also assume you would agree that the Bible says nothing about federalism or republicanism. So the implication might be that it’s okay to have a republican form of govt. as long as the nation also follows the Bible. The nation follows the Bible some of the time (second table of the law), but not other times (monarchy).

    The problem with this appeal to Scripture is that all institutions that rule by Scripture in Scripture — Israel and the church — these institutions do not have the liberty to go outside of Scripture for their rule or practice or ministry. Both Israel and the church needed/need to have a biblical warrant for everything they do. That is the basis for the sufficiency of Scripture and the regulative principle.

    But your view — if I have intuited it correctly — is that governments should follow the Bible but only part of the time, and not the way that the institutions in Scripture follow the Bible in their rule.

  294. TurretinFan said,

    January 6, 2011 at 8:07 am

    DGH wrote:

    “Both Israel and the church needed/need to have a biblical warrant for everything they do.”

    No, they don’t. See WCF 1:6, quoted above.

    -TurretinFan

  295. dgh said,

    January 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Tfan, good dodge. But Israel and the church need biblical warrant for the elements as opposed to the circumstances of what they do. Is that the same for civil governments? If not, why not, and how does the Bible function as the norm for the state? If so, if civil governments have to have a biblical warrant for the core aspects of their functions, then how is religious freedom permissible since it is not permissible in the church or in Israel?

  296. Zrim said,

    January 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

    But the Bible does tell us a lot about running a country, about principles of justice and equity, about crime and punishment. Things that some people wish that the Bible said as little about as it does about baking bread. It says a lot about marriage, family, and raising children.

    Tfan, the implication here seems to be that the Bible addresses higher order temporal affairs (law, statecraft, marriage and family) in ways different from lower order temporal affairs (food preparation), which seems to further imply that the Bible should be used to order these civil affairs at least as much as it does ecclesiastical affairs.

    But your own namesake, in contrasting civil from ecclesiastical power, indicates that the former is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while the latter by “the word of God alone.” (Institutes, 3.279). So, so what if the Bible says “a lot more” about running a country than baking bread? According to Turretin, that’s not the point. The point is that, no matter how many references to higher order compared to lower order one can muster, special revelation is sufficient to govern the ecclesiastical (insufficient for the civil) and general revelation is sufficient to govern the civil order (insufficient for the ecclesiastical), which is really what sola scriptura means.

  297. TurretinFan said,

    January 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Zrim:

    You seem to be doing battle with positions I haven’t taken via the mechanism of “implications.” Do you agree with what I actually said?

    -TurretinFan

  298. TurretinFan said,

    January 6, 2011 at 11:55 am

    DGH:

    You wrote:

    Tfan, good dodge.

    Identifying your mistake was not intended as a “dodge.” But, whatever.

    Next:

    But Israel and the church need biblical warrant for the elements as opposed to the circumstances of what they do.

    Israel needed biblical warrant for the elements of worship, just as we do. That’s because of the second commandment.

    But I don’t suppose you mean the congregation of Israel as worshipers. You mean Israel in its other kingdom, as a nation-state, a two-kingdoms distinction that existed then, in which the head of state (the King) could not offer sacrifices in the temple, because he was not a priest. A distinction blurred at times, but a real distinction nonetheless.

    So what do you mean by “the elements.” Are you suggesting that there are also elements of Justice, like there are elements of worship? If so, before you tell me what they are, can you please tell me any theologian from Moses until you who talked about “elements of Justice” as distinct from “circumstances of Justice.”

    You wrote:

    Is that the same for civil governments? If not, why not, and how does the Bible function as the norm for the state? If so, if civil governments have to have a biblical warrant for the core aspects of their functions, then how is religious freedom permissible since it is not permissible in the church or in Israel?

    Your claims about the alleged absence of religious freedom in the nation-state of Israel are wrong. The religious freedom was significantly less than pluralistic states have, of course, but the laws of Israel permitted unbelieving resident aliens. Even the church permits unbelievers to attend the services, while fencing the baptismal font and the communion table.

    And, of course, this entire “religious freedom” question is simply an appeal to an emotional issue. Suppose that the impact is that there is no religious freedom. What then?

    And, of course, the answers to your questions about how the Bible norms states is a question that has been answered many times by many Reformed writers, including my namesake.

    Some of those norms are spelled out in the original WCF and catechisms. Fewer are spelled out in the American revisions of the WCF. Do I need to continue?

    -TurretinFan

  299. David Gray said,

    January 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    >Both Israel and the church needed/need to have a biblical warrant for everything they do.

    What is the biblical warrant for a church to repaint its building? What is the warrant for the type of paint? What is the warrant for where the paint can be purchased? What is the warrant for the color of paint?

    Much like the baking question.

  300. Zrim said,

    January 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Tfan, so what is the point exactly of saying that the Bible says a lot about running a country (and marriage and family)? Was it that, while it may speak to believing people who run a country or who are married what their duties are, the Bible has nothing to do with how to run a country or ordering a family? If so, then agreed.

    But usually when folks say that they mean the Bible plays some significant part in informing common activites. Maybe you don’t, but that would be sort of rare.

    Do I agree that the Bible says a lot about running a country and ordering families? I don’t know about “a lot,” but I suppose one could say that the themes are there, but it’s the implications of such things that seem much more compelling and interesting to me. Which brings us back to your statement: for the sake of discussion, granted. Now, so what?

  301. TurretinFan said,

    January 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Zrim:

    You asked: “Tfan, so what is the point exactly of saying that the Bible says a lot about running a country (and marriage and family)?”

    Someone here had raised the subject of baking as an example, presumably, of some area where the Bible has little to say. No problem. We’re willing to acknowledge that God has not said a lot about the proper settings to use on your Kitchenaid(R) breadmaker. There may be some general principles to apply – but no the sort of thing one finds in a users manual for the machine.

    Yet there are areas where the Bible has a lot to say: areas like government and family. Our point is that when God speaks, people should listen and obey. If God is silent about something – He’s silent about it. If He talks – it’s important – pay attention. If God did provide the equivalent of a user’s guide for something – use it! If God gave you a Psalter, sing it! And so forth.

    On the other hand, to act as if God said as little about how to run a country as He did about how to make a loaf of bread … that’s just irresponsible. I’m not accusing you of that, by the way, but simply making a general assertion.

    As for your “speak to believing people,” I don’t know where you get that, if you mean it as a limitation (if you mean “only to believing people”). If you think that Israel was mostly a nation of believers, you and Elijah should have a little sit-down chat. If you think that God’s word is only for those who already believe, you and the beloved disciple should be introduced.

    So, if someone says, “Should a nation tolerate witches,” and you say, “well, let’s look to the light of nature, because the Bible doesn’t say anything about that,” you don’t know your Bible. (Not that you’ve said that, mind you.)

    Are there going to be legitimate disagreements over the general equity and classification of some of the laws for the Israelites? Undoubtedly!

    Is it easy to apply all the wisdom of the Proverbs to every aspect of life? No, it is not. Yet the difficulty or ease of applying what the Bible says is a different question from whether the Bible is our rule not only of faith but also of life.

    -TurretinFan

  302. dgh said,

    January 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Tfan, religious freedom is an emotional issue because people who don’t practice the true religion in Israel or the church get killed — either physically or spiritually (excommunication). You say that Israel practiced religious freedom. That’s a hoot. Tell that to the Philistines. Tell that to Nadab and Abihu. You’re right that unbelievers existed in Israel. And wasn’t that the reason God sent them into exile?

    So religious freedom is an emotional issue because of its poignancy. It is a matter of life or death whether one practices the true religion and Israel and the church had power to punish on the basis of false religion. The Bible is pretty clear about true and false religion. Now you come along and say religious freedom — with a wave of the hand — is an emotional issue, as if to disregard the bullseye on your forehead for departing from the standards followed by Jerusalem and Geneva.

    Tell Servetus that religious freedom was an emotional issue. I think he’d agree.

  303. TurretinFan said,

    January 7, 2011 at 7:45 am

    DGH:

    And that’s what I mean about “radical two kingdoms.” Your version of “two kingdoms” is something that would be abhorred by both Calvin and Moses as evil.

    But prove that your argument isn’t an emotional one. “Servetus!” is not an argument (despite what everyone who can’t argue against Calvinism thinks). It’s an emotional appeal. Where’s your argument that “religious freedom” is the duty of the civil magistrate? Which texts did the Reformers exegete wrong and the Anabaptists exegete right? Or prove from the light of nature that the laws given to Israel were not good laws, if you can.

    But the emotional appeals are … just that.

    As for your comment: “people who don’t practice the true religion in Israel or the church get killed,” it is misleading. Servetus suffered the death penalty because he was a notorious and open blasphemer, not simply because he didn’t practice the true religion.

    God himself immediately killed Nadab and Abihu with fire. That’s not Israel’s nation-state at work. But do the facts matter in an emotional appeal? I’m guessing not.

    The Philistines? Israel was supposed to wipe out the Canaanites, but that was a very specific punishment on them for a very specific reason. It wasn’t a general principle that Israel was supposed genocidally eliminate all nations of unbelievers.

    And yes, God did punish the Israelites. They are not the only nation God punished (read the woes in the prophets). May God have mercy on the many nations today that do not follow His revealed will!

    -TurretinFan

  304. Zrim said,

    January 7, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Yet there are areas where the Bible has a lot to say: areas like government and family. Our point is that when God speaks, people should listen and obey. If God is silent about something – He’s silent about it. If He talks – it’s important – pay attention. If God did provide the equivalent of a user’s guide for something – use it! If God gave you a Psalter, sing it! And so forth.

    Tfan, sorry for the thickness, but I’m still fuzzy on what the point is of saying that “the Bible has a lot to say about running a country and a family.” You seem to be saying that the Bible says a lot about these things so listen to it, or when God speaks we should listen. That’s fine as far as it goes, but I’m going to appeal to the ordinary use of languaeg again and say that when someone says, “The Bible says a lot about running a country and families, and when God speaks we should listen” it seems to mean “The Bible should be consulted on these common matters at least as much as general revelation.”

    That said, I’ve answered your question about whether I agree with you on your “The Bible says a lot about running countries and homes,” so I wonder if you might address what I pointed out your namesake’s words, which again, was that in contrasting civil from ecclesiastical power, Turretin indicates that the former is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while the latter by “the word of God alone.” (Institutes, 3.279). This seems to suggest that special revelation is sufficient to govern the ecclesiastical (insufficient for the civil) and general revelation is sufficient to govern the civil order (insufficient for the ecclesiastical), which is really what sola scriptura means.

    As for your “speak to believing people,” I don’t know where you get that, if you mean it as a limitation (if you mean “only to believing people”). If you think that Israel was mostly a nation of believers, you and Elijah should have a little sit-down chat. If you think that God’s word is only for those who already believe, you and the beloved disciple should be introduced.

    Well, all of the epistles of NT are composed of letters to the churches. I can’t think of a single one that is written to a geo-political nation, which seems to suggest something about the indicative-imperative hermeneutic. And I do not think Israel was mostly a nation comprised of individual believers. She was the covenant geo-political nation of God, within which there certainly existed spiritual unbelief alongside belief. And what is true of her is true of the New Covenant church, except that she is no longer a geo-political nation but a spiritual institution.

    So, if someone says, “Should a nation tolerate witches,” and you say, “well, let’s look to the light of nature, because the Bible doesn’t say anything about that,” you don’t know your Bible. (Not that you’ve said that, mind you.)

    It turns on how you mean “nation.” If by “nation” you mean something civil or geo-political then it’s something subject to natural revelation. If by “nation” you mean something spiritual as in “the church” then it is subject to special revelation and witchcraft is verboten.

    So when Bill Maher in the 2008 presidential election year suggested that Sarah Palin, by virtue of her COG pastor performing a form of witchcraft on her when she entered politics, should disqualify her for civil office he is being Constantinian, the sort 2k abhors, the kind that says a nation shouldn’t tolerate witchcraft. I agree with him that she practiced a form of witchcraft, but that shouldn’t one iota disqualify her from civil office (her politics do, ahem), no more than the fact that the Mormon running for office thinks one day he’ll be deified instead of glorified and wears secret magic skivvies. It disqualifies her from church membership.

  305. Peter Green said,

    January 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Zrim,

    “Well, all of the epistles of NT are composed of letters to the churches. I can’t think of a single one that is written to a geo-political nation, which seems to suggest something about the indicative-imperative hermeneutic.”

    I recommend you spend some time in the OT, particular the prophetic books. Jeremiah and Amos are particularly interesting in regard to the above thesis.

  306. Zrim said,

    January 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Peter, 2k, following covenantal theology, understands the NT to interpret the OT. It understands the New Covenant era to be parallel with the exilic eras of the OT, not the theocratic eras. The inter-advental and semi-eschateological era in which we now live is the final exilic era and anticipates the final theocratic era upon Christ’s return. The exilic era is charcaterized by pilgrimmage living as resident aliens, where we endure as a people without a home looking for a better country, in the meantime minding our own affairs and living peacefully and quietly amongst the pagans.

    Or, as A Letter to Diognetus puts it:

    Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

    And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

    They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

    To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

    Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

    Coupled with the point about the NT epistles being exclsively internal affairs, what part of any of that has to do with spiritual institutions addressing geo-political nations? The Decalogue was given to Israel alone, not her surrounding neighbors. They get the Code of Hammurabi.

  307. Peter Green said,

    January 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    The Decalogue was given to Israel alone, not her surrounding neighbors.

    To be shared with their neighbors when they visited (Deut 4:1-8).

    Exile isn’t a theme in the NT. Two verses (in I Peter and Hebrews) don’t make a “theme” of the NT. Our situation is analogous to the Wilderness/Joshua generation, not to the exilic generation.

    The book of Joshua and the Book of Acts are parallel stories just as Joshua and Jesus are parallel stories. Acts is the story of King Jesus conquering His land, which is now not just Palestine, but Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

  308. dgh said,

    January 7, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Tfan , I admit that Calvin would reject my view of religious freedom or allowing Servetus to live. But if you allow Servetus to live Calvin would also reject your view. When are you going to be honest about that? Even Doug Wilson, Mr. Christendom, says that Servetus would enjoy a long life in Moscow, Idaho. Calvin does not know of long lives for heretics — Calvin, along with all pre-1600 Christians.

    So which is it? Are you in favor of pre-1600 arrangements or not? If not, you are much closer to “r”2k than you are to Calvin.

  309. Peter Green said,

    January 7, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Dr. Hart, isn’t it correct that Calvin wrote Servetus a letter urging him not to enter the city because he knew the city officials would kill him?

  310. dgh said,

    January 8, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Peter, I do not know for sure. If your point is that Calvin did not take delight in Servetus’ execution, that is true. My point is that few Christians today who think 2k is radical would be prepared to adopt the political order that prevailed in Calvin’s day if it meant needing to write to Roman Catholics and Mormons and ask them to flee the United States or the UK because their faith was a capital offense against the state.

  311. dgh said,

    January 8, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Peter, I do not know for sure. If your point is that Calvin did not take delight in Servetus’ execution, that is true. My point is that few Christians today who think 2k is radical would be prepared to adopt the political order that prevailed in Calvin’s day if it meant needing to write to Roman Catholics and Mormons and ask them to flee the United States or the UK because their faith was a capital offense against the state.

  312. TurretinFan said,

    January 8, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Zrim:

    I think you may be attributing more complexity to me than I actually intended. My point is relatively simple. What God says should be consulted insofar as it speaks in every area where it speaks. And God’s word is not only relevant to faith, but also to life. One of the areas that God’s word should be consulted is statecraft, inasmuch as it speaks. Does a state want to know if safety regulations are proper? Well, Israel had them. So, while we may not have a “railings around the roof” law (because our roofs aren’t inhabited), we might have a law requiring cars to have seatbelts, on the same general equity principle.

    DGH::

    Wilson is a very skilled writer and speaker – God has given him great skill in rhetoric, but he’s not my touchstone of orthodoxy or even what it means to be “Reformed.” In fact, I’ve written against his “Federal Vision Joint Statement,” in pretty strong terms.

    But, in any event, laws that punish open and notorious blasphemy of the one true God are just laws. They can be implemented fairly and they can be implemented unfairly. They were implemented unfairly against Naboth – but the law by which Naboth was murdered was itself a good law.

    I have said before and I will say again that comments like, “Calvin does not know of long lives for heretics” or “if it meant needing to write to Roman Catholics and Mormons and ask them to flee the United States or the UK because their faith was a capital offense against the state,” seem to reflect a severe misunderstanding of the laws of Geneva, the position of Calvin, and the position of folks like myself and the Westminster Assembly. You are caricaturing them/us with those kinds of comments.

    -TurretinFan

  313. dgh said,

    January 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Tfan, your inability to admit the difference between you and Calvin is remarkable. You act as if you are following him and using him to critique 2k. But you won’t come out and say you agree with the execution of Servetus. I’ll add the execution of adulterers that the New England Puritans had on their books.

    My point is not to say that you want to abolish through the death penalty heretics of blasphemers. It is to try to get you to admit that you are modern and not pre-modern. Your view of the state is much more post 1776 and 1789 than you care to admit. But when you want to criticize 2k you appeal to pre-modern norms by which you yourself could not live.

    I think that is unfair and dishonest.

  314. Peter Green said,

    January 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Dr. Hart, on what basis could you say that it would be wrong for the state to burn heretics or execute adulterers?

  315. TurretinFan said,

    January 8, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    DGH:

    You write: “Your view of the state is much more post 1776 and 1789 than you care to admit.” And then you falsely accuse me of dishonest. Why on Earth can’t you just take me at my word? I’d appreciate an apology.

    I too would like to see your argument for why a state cannot punish adultery with the death penalty. But will an argument be forthcoming or just more emotional appeals? I’m not holding my breath.

    -TurretinFan

  316. dgh said,

    January 9, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Tfan, so you are more on the side of pre-1776 than of post 1776. That’s good to know because by my lights, that makes your view extreme. It had never dawned on me that adultery should be punished by death, though of course I was aware of such practices in the OT and at times in church history. But all the churches I know, from those where Jonathan Edwards to John Piper minister to those where Charles Hodge and J. Gresham Machen labored, none of these churches have wanted the state to make adultery a capital offense.

    That’s not emotion. That’s fact.

  317. dgh said,

    January 9, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Peter Green,

    1) Those were part of Israel’s civil code.

    2) Israel has expired.

    3) No nation now has the relationship to God that Israel did.

    4) The church has the relationship to God that Israel did.

    5) The church punishes unrepentant adulterers and blasphemers by excommunication — a spiritual form of capital punishment.

    6) The New Testament gives no evidence of making adultery or blasphemy a capital offense.

  318. TurretinFan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 8:40 am

    a) No wonder you stick to the emotional issues. That argument doesn’t come close to proving that a state cannot punish adultery or blasphemy with death. I mean, it doesn’t even get off the ground. This is basically the dispensational antinomian argument applied to the civil law instead of the moral law.

    b) Excommunication is not spiritual capital punishment. Excommunication is discipline. People can and do return from excommunication, and that ought to be the goal with excommunication. No one returns from capital punishment – it is retributive justice, not discipline.

    c) The general equity of Israel’s civil code remains, so it is insufficient to point to the the fact “Israel has expired.”

    - TurretinFan

  319. Andrew Duggan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    But all the churches I know, from those where Jonathan Edwards to John Piper minister to those where Charles Hodge and J. Gresham Machen labored, none of these churches have wanted the state to make adultery a capital offense.

    And all this time I thought DGH was arguing that the church should not meddle in the affairs of the state. What can’t be business is it of the church to opine on how (or if) the state should punish adultery? So it seems that it is OK for the church to want the state to enforce some things in certain ways, just so long as it is not according to scriptural teaching?

  320. Andrew Duggan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    That “What can’t be business is it of the church…” should read “What business is it of the church …”. I’m not quite sure where that “can’t be” came from

  321. Andrew Duggan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I think it might be clearer this way “none of these churches expressed a desire for the state to make adultery a capital offense.” Those churches left the state alone about what to do with adulterers. It really came across as though the churches were not simply minding there own business…

  322. Peter Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Dr. Hart, you haven’t actually answered my question.

    On what basis can you that the state should not execute heretics (like Jews, for instance)? Or adulterers?

    Since you do not think that Scripture should be used to inform the operations of state, on what basis can you say that the state should not execute adulterers?

  323. Zrim said,

    January 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Tfan, maybe I am attributing more complexity than you intended. But it seems to me that if Turretin is correct that when it comes to safety regulations we are regulated by “natural reason, civil law and human statutes,” then instead of pointing out that when it comes to running a country you would’ve said general revelation—not special revelation— has a lot to say about it. Which brings me back to my point: so what if “The Bible has a lot to say about running a country”? The implication of your statement seems to be that the Bible should be consulted on these common matters at least as much as general revelation. But, again, how does this align with Turretin who contrasts civil from ecclesiastical power by indicating that the former is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while the latter by “the word of God alone.” (Institutes, 3.279).

    Re the stoning of adulterers:

    The Bible is a mysterious book to many people, not least because of the peculiar (and harsh) laws and punishments one finds in the Old Testament. I can recall a discussion of religion and ethics on Larry King Live a number of years ago, when the evangelical guest was asked why he could be so adamant about enforcing the Bible’s morals when the punishments assigned for breaking these rules seemed so outrageous. Obviously we don’t stone people for their sexual activities, so isn’t the sin just as outdated as the punishment? Sadly, the pastor was completely flummoxed as to how to interpret these sections of the Bible.

    Calvin and the Reformed offer a few simple guidelines to help you get started solving these alleged conundrums for yourself. Accordingly, there are three different kinds of laws in the Old Testament: ceremonial, civil, and moral. The ceremonial laws regulated the believing community’s life of worship, including the intricate sacrificial system oriented to the temple. The civil laws pertained to the “nation” of Israel as a unique theocratic society. Some scholars describe these temporary arrangements as a kind of martial law phenomenon, a state of “intrusion ethics” in which the normal order of affairs is suspended and God rules his people directly in a way that hints at the final intrusion of the kingdom of God in the age to come. Finally, there were and are moral laws written on every human’s conscience; these are the basics of what is right and wrong. Calvin equated this with “natural law” and insisted it could be accessed via general revelation. In that sense, it was rooted in God’s creation of the world (that is, “natural”), and some relative degree of justice in the world is possible because of “common grace”–the superintending work of God that restrains evil and lets the rain fall on the just and on the unjust.

    As Christians, we rejoice in the fact that Christ has fulfilled all the law (Rom. 10:4). The ceremonial laws are fulfilled because Jesus was the final and perfect sacrifice (Heb. 10:10-12). The civil laws are abrogated because the church, Israel, is made up of a people in exile without any socio-political expression in this phase of redemptive history. We do not, in other words, live in a period of intrusion ethics. We have no need, therefore, of ecclesiastical officials to govern the affairs of state and nation, nor do we need the sacrifices of goats and bulls to atone for our sins. But what of the moral laws?

    For Calvin, Christ has redeemed us especially from the consequences of breaking the moral law; he has fulfilled all righteousness and has taken upon himself the curse of the law so that in him we might have abundant life. We then pursue a life of piety out of gratitude. Our adherence to the moral law can profit us nothing in relation to our justification before a holy God, yet it continues to inform all of the interactions between creatures, believer and unbeliever alike. In this sense, the moral law remains in effect such that right is right and wrong is wrong.

    What then is the quick answer to the question of stoning adulterers? Our approach flows out of this basic categorization of laws and a Reformed understanding of where we are currently situated in redemptive history. The moral law remains in effect in this qualified way so that adultery is wrong at all times and in all places. But the stoning punishment of Deuteronomy 22:23-24 is no longer in effect because this particular code belonged to the civil law that temporarily governed the nation of Israel but has long since passed away.

    Ryan Glomsrud (D.Phil., University of Oxford), “Why We Don’t Stone Adulterers,” Modern Reformation, Issue: “Interpreting Scripture” July/August Vol. 19 No. 4 2010 Page 23.

    So, Tfan, if you want to say that “The general equity of Israel’s civil code remains, so it is insufficient to point to the the fact ‘Israel has expired’” in order to suggest that capital punishment is for adulterers, then what is the general equity of making sure the castrated don’t come into the assembly (Dt. 23)? If adulterers should receive retributive justice in civil cases, does this mean that those with hyster/vasectomies receive ecclesiastical discipline?

  324. Peter Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Zrim, your quote doesn’t answer the question either, and as is common for most critiques of the OT law, seems to have wicked implications for the character of God (were the laws really “harsh”? By what standard do we judge them to be harsh? If they were “harsh” then why is the law so consistently praised in the Bible? Is it consistent with God’s character to be “harsh” towards his covenant people?)

    The quote has the flavor of: “Thank God we’re no longer under the OT law anymore, because it was so barbaric. We are so much more enlightened now, and we know that it is wrong to stone adulterers.”

    I get that you and Dr. Hart don’t think the Bible should be applied to the state. Granting that, then what should the punishment for adulterers be, and on what basis do you say that? And why can’t the state, apart from the Bible, decide to stone adulterers? Why would that be wrong?

  325. Peter Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    PS Both you and Dr. Hart have been making Biblical arguments for why you think that the OT laws should not be applied to the state, which is, in a way applying the Bible to the state.

  326. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    So, Tfan, if you want to say that “The general equity of Israel’s civil code remains, so it is insufficient to point to the the fact ‘Israel has expired’” in order to suggest that capital punishment is for adulterers, then what is the general equity of making sure the castrated don’t come into the assembly (Dt. 23)?

    Now you’ve gone and confused the civil law and the ceremonial law. There is no “general equity of the ceremonial law” that abides.

    Zrim, I’m not saying that I do or don’t want capital punishment for adulterers, but the plain fact is that the Scripture does not teach that “the civil law that temporarily governed the nation of Israel … has long since passed away.”, as you cited.

    Rather, as the Confession says, “To [Israel] also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require. ”

    So the question then is, What is that general equity? You seem to be saying, “None whatsoever” — which would make WCoF 19.4 a silly and vacuous statement.

    The Confession’s approach is much more nuanced than “Israel is done; the civil law is done.”

    And I’m alarmed by the fact that you appeal to the ceremonial law to prove something about the civil — it’s not the first time that you’ve done so. What happened to theological precision?

  327. dgh said,

    January 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Tfan, you seem to have the market cornered on what’s emotional. Nice use of “antinomian” and “dispensational.” But please do tell me why earlier pastors and theologians did not insist on capital punishment for adulterers while you do?

    BTW, execution is a form of discipline, just as excommunication is.

  328. dgh said,

    January 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Peter, first you are here telling me all the ways that I don’t answer your questions. Now I answer one directly and you tell me that I haven’t answered your question. My, you’re a demanding fellow. Could it be that I haven’t satisfied you but have actually answered your question?

    My sense, off the cuff, is that the state, as explained by Peter and Paul, is obligated to punish wickedness and reward the good for the sake of social order. So the state would punish adultery according to the consequences of such for the good of a society. It’s mandate is not to inflict punishment of offenses against God, but against the commonwealth.

    Have I avoided Scripture sufficiently for you, or are you now going to turn around and ding me for not following Scripture? Since, btw, the early church does not seem to be in the business of taking adulterers to the civil magistrate for punishment, in fact, since Paul discourages believers from going to civil courts, it would seem that the spiritual discipline of the church is sufficient from God’s perspective in this age. Or are you going to suggest that church’s lobby for the execution of her members caught in adultery?

    As far as the appeal to Scripture to understand the difference between the church and Israel, sorry, but where else would you have me turn? Plus, the point of turning to Scripture in these matters is to figure out what God’s revealed will is for his people. Why would you think that God’s revealed will also should be followed by those outside the covenant community? Where was Israel told to establish a foreign policy of making the Far East safe for Torah? Or where did Paul say that the church should make sure that all Roman citizens should comply with Christian norms?

  329. Peter Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Dr. Hart,

    “Could it be that I haven’t satisfied you but have actually answered your question?”

    That certainly is a possibility, and so I apologize for my presumption.

    As for my own views, I am not necessarily advocating that the state should execute adulterers. I am just pressing you on what basis you think the state should regulate such crimes.

    “So the state would punish adultery according to the consequences of such for the good of a society. ”

    And by what standard would they judge this, and what would constitute an appropriate punishment? Why would death not constitute an appropriate punishment (or could it)? In other words, how is one supposed to evaluate what is an appropriate punishment for a particular crime. Some thing the death penalty is inappropriate for any crime. Others disagree. How is the state to make such decisions?

    “Where was Israel told to establish a foreign policy of making the Far East safe for Torah?”

    I wouldn’t use your politically charged language, but, simply, Deuteronomy 4:1-8. (If “foreign policy” is not defined to require active engagement – isolation is a foreign policy after all – and “making the Far East safe for Torah” [allusions to our contemporary political climate?] means encouraging the spread of Torah to other countries.)

  330. TurretinFan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    DGH:

    “But please do tell me why earlier pastors and theologians did not insist on capital punishment for adulterers while you do?”

    You seem to be confused (again). I haven’t insisted on anything except that your argument against the death penalty for adultery is bankrupt. It doesn’t even come close.

    You wrote: “BTW, execution is a form of discipline, just as excommunication is.”

    No. Learn from what I wrote above.

    -TurretinFan

  331. TurretinFan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Zrim:

    The article you quoted is just a typical (no offense to the author) explanation for why some people are not insisting that the state must stone adulterers. It doesn’t provide an explanation for why the state must not stone (or otherwise execute) adulterers. In other words, finding a reason not to follow the Bible is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

    -TurretinFan

  332. Zrim said,

    January 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Peter, the tone of your response seems to suggest that living under unfulfilled law would be preferential, which is typical of theonomist leaning folks (I know, you reject the label “theonomist” but I think you’d make a pretty good one). But don’t you see the preposterousness of such a view? I understand the point of suggesting my view is more enlightenment informed, but do you understand that yours is a way of suggesting a return types and shadows? The basic building block to theonomy is to completely misunderstand the concept of fulfillment, which is the whole point of New Covenant Christianity. (I don’t know what the civil punishment for adultery should be, but I could live with the guilty losing legal leverages in the divorce settlement long before getting lethal injection.)

    So, Jeff, that said, you may be alarmed by the fact that I appeal to the ceremonial law to prove something about the civil, but that seems like small peanuts compared to a system being championed here that seems to want to return to Old Covenant types and shadows under the siren song of “It’s God’s law, so it must be the secret code for the Good Society.” For my part though, talk about alarming, it sure seems to me that that sort of project is one that misses the eternal forest for the temporal trees. Whatever else it entails, theological precisionism is all about the larger picture. So go ahead and ding me for confusing ceremonial and civil law, but your via media approach is once again lending some aid to those whose larger project would put us back under law for the sake of the Good Society. But aren’t we supposed to be seeking a better country?

    Tfan, so still no interest in addressing how your namesake thinks “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes” should tutor civil life while “the word of God alone” governs ecclesiastical life and how your statement that “The Bible has a lot to say about running a country” suggests something different?

  333. TurretinFan said,

    January 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Zrim:

    I have disagreed with my namesake before, but I don’t recall you quoting anything from Turretin that I would disagree with. I think it was more a matter of the suggestions or implications you thought were there (either in him or me or both) rather than any outright contradiction.

    Still, I always delight to read what Turretin has to say, so if there is something particular that you think should give me pause, I’m all eyes.

    -TurretinFan

  334. Peter Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Zrim, with all due respect, you don’t know my view. Pointing out that you don’t have a viable alternative to the OT law doesn’t mean that I am in favor of wholesale, one-for-one assumption of the OT law. You write:

    “The basic building block to theonomy is to completely misunderstand the concept of fulfillment, which is the whole point of New Covenant Christianity.”

    You may recall (although apparently not) that I made a very similar point when I was offering my own critique of theonomy.

    “I could live with the guilty losing legal leverages in the divorce settlement long before getting lethal injection.”

    Why?

  335. dgh said,

    January 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Tfan, so what exactly is the point of this exchange? You tell me how 2k is at variance with Calvin. I point out some of the virtues of being at variance with Calvin and ask if you agree with Calvin? You won’t say whether or not you agree with Calvin and add that that is not the point. The point is my disagreement with Calvin. I try to explain my difference. You tell me my argument is bankrupt.

    It must be nice to be the judge and never have to submit to scrutiny or justify your view — not to mention hide behind a pseudonym. You may not be bankrupt, but you sure are dodgy — which is not how someone would characterize Turretin.

    Dude, Turretin up!

  336. dgh said,

    January 9, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Peter, as if I haven’t said this before, the light of nature would give the state a lot of what it needs to determine that adultery is harmful and what the punishment should be.

    As for Deut. 4:8 as Israelite foreign policy, that’s a stretch. Which is generally what happens when you need to find all truth and morality in Scripture.

  337. Peter Green said,

    January 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I’m curious what, “in the light of nature”, would enable the state to determine what was an acceptable form of punishment? In Singapore they cane you if vandalize. Is that excessive? If its not excessive, is it what other states should do? In some places adultery is punishable by death. In other cases all that happens is you loose rights in the divorce. How is one to judge between the alternatives?

  338. dgh said,

    January 10, 2011 at 5:13 am

    Peter Green, it’s the same light of nature that allows Presbyterian judicatories in the U.S. to use Roberts Rules in governing debate. Why is this so complicated? And what’s the point? Simply to say that the state needs the Bible? Well, if the Bible teaches that adulterers should be stoned (though the NT does not), and you believe the state should follow the Bible, then aren’t you in favor of stoning adulterers and executing Mormons and Roman Catholics (i.e. idolaters)?

  339. Zrim said,

    January 10, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Peter, your question to me about why it’s preferable for adulterers losing legal leverage instead of gaining lethal injection isn’t quite as interesting as mine to you: if even the NT has dispensed with notions of corporate punishment for the spiritual sins of covenant members then why are you so interested in reviving them for the legal infractions of pagans?

    But, look, I’ve no problem with the corporate punishment of sin, since that’s what the cross was all about in reconciling God to sinners. Despite the theonomic project that wants to hold up human polity as sinful and in need of biblical tutoring, Roman law serves as a type of perfect spiritual judgment. One take-away from the cross is to indeed show the folly of human wisdom (it kills God), but much more than that it is to demonstrate God’s perfect judgment against sin. If, in your theonomic impulse, you want to emphasize the former over the latter, such that OT law becomes more or less a blueprint for temporal living instead of eternal life, you actually end up closer to human folly than godly wisdom. And if so, you may not follow the letter of theonomy but you do have its spirit.

    Tfan, I take it then your answer is to say that you disagree with your namesake about how the two kingdoms are to be regulated and cannot harmonize your statements with his formulations. That’s fine, I’m with Kuyper in disagreeing with Calvin that idolaters and blasphemers should be civilly punished, but you could have just said that.

    Still, I always delight to read what Turretin has to say, so if there is something particular that you think should give me pause, I’m all eyes.

    Well, it seems to me that the master has a grip on not only the principles of two kingdom theology but also those of sola scriptura that the student who claims both may not. Again, in contrasting civil from ecclesiastical power, Turretin indicates that the former is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while the latter by “the word of God alone.” (Institutes, 3.279). It seems to me that this is another way of saying that special revelation is sufficient to govern the ecclesiastical (insufficient for the civil) and general revelation is sufficient to govern the civil order (insufficient for the ecclesiastical), a notion with which you seem to disagree.

  340. TurretinFan said,

    January 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

    DGH wrote:

    “Tfan, so what exactly is the point of this exchange?”

    The reason I entered the exchange was to clarify that there is a difference between “two kingdoms” in the sense of Calvin or Turretin and the radical form of two kingdoms (r2k) that you have promoted here and elsewhere.

    “You tell me how 2k is at variance with Calvin.”

    No, not 2k – r2k. Calvin held to two kingdoms – you hold to a radicalized version.

    “I point out some of the virtues of being at variance with Calvin and ask if you agree with Calvin?”

    I must have missed the “virtues.” I haven’t seen any reasonable defense of your variance from Calvin. I’ve just seen an emotional appeal to “religious freedom” and claims that amount to saying that Calvin thought all heretics should be killed by the state. As I pointed out, that’s a caricature.

    And, in fact, the caricatures confirm my point in differentiating between “two kingdoms” (like Calvin) and “radical two kingdoms” (like you).

    You wrote: “You won’t say whether or not you agree with Calvin and add that that is not the point.”

    The point really isn’t whether and to what extent I agree with Calvin. I’m not the one promoting r2k. I’m one of r2k’s critics. Badmouthing me doesn’t defend your view.

    “The point is my disagreement with Calvin. I try to explain my difference. You tell me my argument is bankrupt.”

    Well, it was a terrible argument. What do you want me to do? Pat you on the back? You should change your position, not defend it with untenable arguments.

    “It must be nice to be the judge and never have to submit to scrutiny or justify your view — not to mention hide behind a pseudonym.”

    a) None of this badmouthing me supports your view.

    b) I have a blog with thousands of entries and well in excess of ten thousand comments. I do, in fact, have to submit to scrutiny and I do have justify the views that I promote.

    You wrote: “You may not be bankrupt, but you sure are dodgy — which is not how someone would characterize Turretin. Dude, Turretin up!”

    :eyeroll:

    -TurretinFan

  341. TurretinFan said,

    January 10, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Zrim:

    You wrote: “Tfan, I take it then your answer is to say that you disagree with your namesake about how the two kingdoms are to be regulated and cannot harmonize your statements with his formulations.”

    I can’t see how you got that from “I don’t recall you quoting anything from Turretin that I would disagree with.” It seems to me that my characterization of my position is nearly the exact opposite of your characterization of my position.

    Nothing that you have quoted from Turretin stands in opposition to anything that I have said. You yourself characterize what Turretin said, but that’s not the same thing as Turretin saying it.

    I don’t have any particular desire to debate whether Turretin’s position is similar to or different from your characterization. However, as I said, if you’d like to quote something from Turretin that you think disagrees with my position, I’m more than happy to hear what he says.

    -TurretinFan

  342. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

    “Are we right to be militant against the Federal Vision, against the liberals in the PCA, against the general evangelicalism that threatens to turn the PCA into yet another non-Reformed denomination? I believe we are required to do this.”

    It’s right to be militant against R2K. And it’s a testimony to those who have been militant against the errant doctrine of R2K and against those who militantly espouse it and teach it.

  343. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 10, 2011 at 11:54 am

    “No, not 2k – r2k. Calvin held to two kingdoms – you hold to a radicalized version.”

    TFan is to be heartily commended for emphasizing the distinction between 2K and Darryl Hart’s R2K. And for refusing to let Darryl Hart hide his R2K teachings under the 2K umbrella.

  344. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Zrim (#333):

    I think it’s best for us to hash some stuff out offline, so I’ll try to do that soon-ish. But one thing needs to be made publicly clear:

    So go ahead and ding me for confusing ceremonial and civil law, but your via media approach is once again lending some aid to those whose larger project would put us back under law for the sake of the Good Society.

    For the record (and despite your characterization), I am not a “via media” guy. I’m a “get it right” guy.

    When you push back against OT-laden theonomy or low views of the visible church, I cheer. When you trot out questionable arguments, I criticize.

    That’s not lending aid to this camp or that camp. It is one churchman saying to another: “get it right.” If you listen to my criticism (if correct), it will make your argument stronger. If you ignore it (again, if correct), you yourself will be giving aid to your opponents by presenting a weak and dismissible case.

    And I have enough respect for you to believe that, under the right circumstances, you can listen to such criticism. So do me proud here, Zrim. Man up, admit the bad argument, come back with a better example (perhaps Ex. 21.28 – 36?), and talk about the meat of the issue here:

    What is the general equity of the civil law?

  345. dgh said,

    January 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Truth Hides, I’m not hiding, Tfan is. He says I disagree with Calvin on 2k. I admit to that when it comes to the responsibility of the magistrate. He says he disagrees with me on 2k. But when I ask whether he agrees with Calvin or the Puritans about the use of capital punishment for heresy or adultery, he says that’s besides the point.

    So here’s the point. Saying I disagree with Calvin is criticism. I’m willing to Truth up to that. Tfan is not willing to own up to his own disagreement or agreement with Calvin. Why? Because disagreeing with Calvin is bad.

    As I recall, I’ve had similar dodgy conversations with a gal who goes around claiming to be Truth.

    Wow.

  346. Peter Green said,

    January 10, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Zrim,

    I assume you mean corporal punishment, not corporate.

    “why are you so interested in reviving [corporal punishment for the spiritual sins] for the legal infractions of pagans?”

    Who said I was? (rhetorical question)

    “Despite the theonomic project that wants to hold up human polity as sinful”

    Was the Third Reich sinful? (also rhetorical question)

    “If, in your theonomic impulse, you want to emphasize the former over the latter, such that OT law becomes more or less a blueprint for temporal living instead of eternal life, you actually end up closer to human folly than godly wisdom.”

    False dichotomy. I am a Calvinist after all. I do believe in the *three* uses of the law. Also, the OT law is a type and shadow of Christ, not post-enlightenment secular godless legal systems.

  347. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    “So here’s the point. Saying I disagree with Calvin is criticism. I’m willing to Truth up to that. Tfan is not willing to own up to his own disagreement or agreement with Calvin. Why? Because disagreeing with Calvin is bad.”

    IIRC, TurretinFan has said that he even disagrees with Francis Turretin on rare occasion. So I think you are sadly and badly mistaken, Darryl Hart, when you state that Tfan is not willing to own up to his own disagreement with Calvin.

    The two most accurate and appropriate one-word summations of Darryl Hart’s arguments that have come on this thread is:

    o Asinine

    o Emotionalism

    Peter Green receives credit for pegging Darryl Hart’s examples as asinine. And Tfan receives credit for noting the emotionalism in Darryl Hart’s arguments. The excessive emotionalism clouds and distorts the faculties, thereby causing them to produce asinine examples.

  348. Zrim said,

    January 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Jeff, it seems it was unclear, but I was admitting to the weak argument.

    The general equity of the civil law is to say that adultery must bear some form of legal penalty. And what I have said is that it seems to me that in our time and place, if the resident Biblicists allow for such an accounting, losing legal leverage seems far more preferable to lethal injection.

    But, that said, I do take issue with the assertion that the meat of the issue is the general equity of the civil law. The meat of the issue and what we’re really talking about here is OT law and its fulfillment in Christ. Theonomy of whatever strain or degree, even that which doesn’t even want to admit itself, interferes with New Covenant Christianity. It is an undue obsession with law and everything that was fulfilled by Christ instead of Christ himself. Frankly, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how straining over what the general equity of the civil law might look like pales in comparison to how we understand just what the New Covenant is in relation to OT law.

  349. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Zrim (#349):

    Thank you.

    But, that said, I do take issue with the assertion that the meat of the issue is the general equity of the civil law. The meat of the issue and what we’re really talking about here is OT law and its fulfillment in Christ.

    Right, which is why WCoF chap. 19 was written. The “general equity” question (19.4) is then a subset of the fulfillment issue: Jesus, the new Israel, the eternal Son of David, brings to an end the state of Israel, and the civil law ended with it — BUT NOT (says the Confession) the general equity, which teaches justice to all nations. Here, I’m assuming that WCoF 19.4 is heavily informed by Calv. Inst 4.20.16.

    Pc-2kers need to explain how to identify the “general equity of the civil law” under their scheme; else, Rushdoony is waiting in the wings with an 890-page answer to fill your silence.

    Explaining how to identify the general equity is a part of explaining how Jesus fulfills the OT law, just as explaining how to identify the moral law is a part of the same. The latter is necessary so that the pc-2k scheme does not become antinomian; the former is necessary so that the pc-2k scheme does not end up advocating some kind of heteronomianism: one law for the church, another entirely different law for the state.

  350. Reed Here said,

    January 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Zrim (Daryl): Hopefully you’ll remember from previous posts that I’m friendly and inclined to the pc-2k position. If not, let this reminder suffice to be the backdrop for my question.

    I think Jeff has hit something significant here. Exactly how does the general equity principle (assuming you agree that this is biblical) work under the pc-2k scheme?

    I think I am one that gets it in terms of your criticism of the theonomic leaning of most of the current Evangelical (I know Daryl, whatever that is) Church. The whole presuppositional base of the common approach to God’s law is seriously flawed.

    Ok. then, assuming that the criticism is more or less on target, how about Jeff’s question? I think a thorough, rigorous answer to that will go a long way to eliminating the confusion some of us have about some of the details.

    Thanks for considering this request.

  351. TurretinFan said,

    January 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    DGH wrote: “Truth Hides, I’m not hiding, Tfan is.”

    Oh no! Hiding! That would be a violation of the 11th commandment: “Thou shalt present a bigger target for thine opponent’s ad hominems and tu quoques.” See the Westminster Mid-Length Catechism, Question/Answer 75 for more details.

    DGH: wrote: “He says I disagree with Calvin on 2k. I admit to that when it comes to the responsibility of the magistrate.”

    Good that you admit it! Too bad you can’t justify it.

    DGH wrote: “He says he disagrees with me on 2k. But when I ask whether he agrees with Calvin or the Puritans about the use of capital punishment for heresy or adultery, he says that’s besides the point.”

    And it is beside the point. Even if I were a Romanist (God forbid!), my criticism of r2k as r2k would be just as valid.

    DGH wrote: “So here’s the point. Saying I disagree with Calvin is criticism. I’m willing to Truth up to that. Tfan is not willing to own up to his own disagreement or agreement with Calvin. Why? Because disagreeing with Calvin is bad.”

    It couldn’t possibly be because I want to stay on topic and don’t want to get distracted. :eyeroll: Oh no, it has to be because disagreeing with Calvin is bad! Or worse, because I’m a yellow dog!

    -TurretinFan

  352. David R. said,

    January 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    “Exactly how does the general equity principle (assuming you agree that this is biblical) work under the pc-2k scheme?”

    For whatever it’s worth, there’s some discussion of this issue in VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, beginning on page 169. (The book is easily accessible via google books.)

  353. todd said,

    January 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    You can also go to http://opc.org/GA/WomenInMilitary.html read the minority report on women in the military for an explanation of general equity. Here is a part:

    An assumption which has been mutually fundamental to theological and legal minds alike is that equity is actually based upon God’s natural revelation. Calvin, like Augustine, viewed equity as “natural law.”[12] Similarly, Thomas Ridgeley maintained that the judicial laws which promoted Israel’s civil welfare expired when her polity became extinct, except for those laws which were founded in and agreeable to the “law of nature and nations.”[13] Francis Turretin argued that Jewish polity and law have been abolished, except for their “general determinations, founded upon the moral law.”[14] A.A. Hodge reasoned in the same manner, stating that one must make a “careful examination of the reason of the law” to determine whether it is of a transient or binding nature.[15] In his ethical treatise on the commonwealth and the church, Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes states that the “law of nations” is one and the same as the “law of nature” which translates into the idea of equity.[16] Judges who determine equity discern “the interpretation of the law of nature” and uphold the “eternal law of God” and “the reason of his Sovereign.”[17] Sir William Blackstone (1723-80), who published the first systematic exposition of English law in 1765 (Commentaries on the laws of England), adopted models from continental legal scholarship and arranged the institutions of English law around a basic scheme of natural rights.[18]

    3. “General equity” in Conf. 19.4
    This is the sense of “equity” which pervaded the thought of the Reformers and would have been the prevalent ethos as the Westminster Assembly convened.[19] It is reasonable to assume then that the expression general equity, as it appears in Conf. 19.4, is a terminus technicus consistent with the concept in English and American jurisprudence described above.[20] Thus, to argue for the “equity” in any particular statute of Israel’s civil code, one must demonstrate that there is a general moral principle which stands behind it. This is why the Confession states that the civil code ought not to be applied at face value. Its statutory laws were uniquely for Israel and have expired. Their only relevancy to any other commonwealth is the equity that can be shown to be required—assuming that equity lies behind or under the present statute.

    In other words, the Westminster divines were arguing that the law was judicially outdated. Just as a person would appeal to a court of equity if he believed that the common law was not designed for his particular situation, so also the Westminster divines appealed to general equity because they did not believe that the “common law” of Moses was designed for 17th century England. They presumed that one should not appeal to the civil law of Moses to establish a certain practice for today; unless one could demonstrate that the equity in, under or behind that particular law is an abiding principle for all societies and cultures based upon God’s moral law. To put it another way, the judges of Britain, who would be expected to follow the Confession of the Churches of England and Scotland, were not expected to view the Mosaic law as the common law of the land. Rather, they were to use the Mosaic law as a guideline to train their consciences in principles of justice and equity. As Francis Turretin has put it, “Although the best and wisest laws (as far as the state of that people was concerned); were sanctioned by God, it does not follow that on this account they ought to be perpetual. God, from positive and free right, could give them for a certain time and for certain reasons, to some one nation, which would not have force with respect to others. What is good for one is not immediately so for another.”[21] We contend that the issue of women in combat is precisely the type of scenario that falls under the concerns of Conf. 19.4. “Report I” makes its case for male-only combatants primarily from the Old Testament, and to be more precise, from theocratic statutory law (Num. 1, Deut. 20), and narrative (Jdg. 4 [Deborah]). But the Confession of Faith teaches that we approach these passages predisposed with the assumption that these judicial laws have “expired together with the state of that people.” We maintain that if one wishes to cite these passages in order to deduce that their equity prescibes that only men should fight in the military, then it is also clear that more than females are prohibited from military service.

  354. David Gray said,

    January 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Let us be thankful for the wisdom of the GA in adopting the majority report and not the incipient liberalism of the minority report.

  355. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    David R (#353) and Todd (B, I presume? #354):

    Thank you both. I do in fact have NL2K and have read it casually. Several things strike me.

    (1) As an aside, it was remarkable how much the OPC report on women in the military devolved once again on the Murray/Kline divide. Report I depends explicitly on the Murrayian analysis of church/state relations, while Report II uses the language of Klinean analysis of redemptive history. E.g.: “[the Conquest] was an interruption of the common grace order established by God in the covenant with Noah. The Conquest of Canaan then, was an intrusion and anticipation of the final judgment to come.” Classic Kingdom Prologue stuff.

    So once again, the church finds itself holding opposite ends of the Murray-Kline stick. I would hope it could find its way clear at some point in the future.

    (2) Both sides in the report, AND van Drunen (pp. 168 ff.), appear to agree with Calvin: The general equity of the Mosaic Law is identical to the natural law, which is identical to the decalogue. Thus Calvin:

    Now, as it is evident that the law of God which we call moral, is nothing else than the testimony of natural law, and of that conscience which God has engraven on the minds of men, the whole of this equity of which we now speak is prescribed in it. Hence it alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws. — Inst 4.20.16.

    But here’s where I get confused. Both the decalogue (1st table) and the natural law (e.g., Rom 1.18-20) teach first and foremost that God is to be worshiped aright. On this basis, Calvin famously said that the laws of nations should consider the rights of God as a person:

    The duty of magistrates, its nature, as described by the word of God, and the things in which it consists, I will here indicate in passing. That it extends to both tables of the law, did Scripture not teach, we might learn from profane writers, for 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. — Inst. 4.20.9.

    (Note in passing that Calvin grounds his argument in the twin pillars of Scriptural argument and natural law here!).

    But pc-2k, in order to be post-Constantinian, says “We disagree with Calvin; in order for the state to be the state and the church to be the church, we must locate the first table of the law within the church alone.” (right?)

    But in so doing, are you not saying that either (a) the natural law does not include the first table of the decalogue, OR (b) the state should not follow the natural law?

    The first seems contrary to the history of Reformed thought; and the second looks to be heteronomian — substituting a different law (a truncated law) in place of the natural law, which is the general equity of the Mosaic law, which is the moral law, which is the decalogue.

    So when the pc-2ker says “the state ought to follow the natural law”, I get confused as to what he means by this. Todd, Zrim, David R, others: When you use the words “Natural Law”, what specifically are you talking about?

    We’re back to my original question — What is the general equity of the Mosaic Law?

  356. Zrim said,

    January 10, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Jeff and Reed, what David R. points to and what Todd provides seem satisfactory to answer the question of how to identify the general equity or how general equity works under the pc-2k scheme. In a word, and to borrow from DVD’s NL2K: “The civil or judicial law of Moses has been abrogated with the coming of Christ, yet has continuing applicability insofar as it reflects the natural law.” I take that to mean whatever can be found in harmony with natural law, which is to say that which is universally and naturally known, is what general equity is.

    Now, I can see how this won’t satisfy a larger Protestant outlook that with Barth says “No!” to natural law (Jeff, your denial of general revelation as sufficient to govern civil order seems to me to be a variant of Barthian rejection), but it does seem to me that it’s this Barthian view that pc-2k is meaning to correct which is clearly no small task. But whatever else can be said, if natural law is so pernicious as to receive such a rejection, it seems to me that we really have no way to explain pagan human civilization in all of its flourishing. One option is to say the flourishing is a façade, but then we make Calvin himself a fool when he praises them, to say nothing of Paul a liar who clearly teaches natural law.

    David Gray, so long as you see such things through a liberal/conservative dichotomy instead of an evangelical/confessional one the Reformed two kingdoms-SOTC project will be lost on you. Yes, the conservative-evangelicals may have won the day against the liberal-evangelicals, but the confessionalists lost to the evangelicals when they accepted the liberal-evangelical mantra that the world sets the church’s agenda and meddled in civil affairs.

  357. dgh said,

    January 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    David Gray, yes, it’s great the OPC adopted the majority report and could beat its breast on opposing women in the military. But has a single OPC woman in the military been disciplined? Doesn’t matter, we were able to tell the military where we stood. Pastoral counsel to our gals — well, that’s another thing all together.

  358. dgh said,

    January 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Jeff, so why don’t you tell us what the general equity of the first table is? Civil religion? Generic Protestantism? The National Covenant? The Tudor monarchy as the supreme head of the church?

    It’s not as if 2k has the only problem on this one. It is the case that 2k has had the honesty to admit the problem.

  359. Zrim said,

    January 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Jeff, what pc-2k wants to say is that in the New Covenant only the second table of the Law can be said to bind the state; that here are two kingdoms: that of the right hand and that of the left; that both kingdoms are under the authority of Christ, but are administered in diverse ways; that in each kingdom, Christians live under Christ’s lordship according to the nature of that kingdom; that the kingdom of the right hand describes the ministry of Word and sacrament and the kingdom of the left hand describes the exercise of power in the ecclesiastical and civil realms. Because of the distinction between the two kingdoms and because the Decalogue is substantially identical with natural law, Christians should advocate laws and policies in the civil realm on the basis of the universal, natural knowledge of the second table of the law.

    I think the question you have to ask is that if you want the state bound by the first table then you must also say the state is as uniquely qualified to deliberate on spiritual matters as the church is, which means that Congress can tell us what is and what is not true worship. That might get you the sort of consistency you want, but I’m willing to make such a distinction and stand with Kuyper who did “not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians” on this matter in order to let the church retain her independence. You say that to do so is “contrary with Reformed thought.” But have you considered the 20th century revisions of Belgic 36 and the revisions of WCF 23 of 1787-88? The latter not only erases the magistrate’s duty to uphold both tables (as in punish idolaters and blasphemers) but also wants magistrates to uphold the good name of everyone no matter his spiritual creed or non-creed. So, how is that “contrary to Reformed thought” exactly?

  360. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2011 at 7:16 am

    DGH (#358): …yes, it’s great the OPC adopted the majority report and could beat its breast on opposing women in the military. But has a single OPC woman in the military been disciplined?

    This is a good point, and it goes to an issue of pragmatism: Should the church make pronouncements it is unwilling or unable to enforce within its own ranks? (Pretty clearly, No, IMO).

    DGH (#359): Jeff, so why don’t you tell us what the general equity of the first table is? Civil religion?

    This was not such a good point. I’m happy to talk about my own (incomplete) understanding of general equity at a time when we *aren’t* trying to analyze pc-2k. But to mention it now would just muddy the waters. That couldn’t have been your intent, could it? ;)

  361. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Zrim (#360):

    Jeff, what pc-2k wants to say is that in the New Covenant only the second table of the Law can be said to bind the state … because the Decalogue is substantially identical with natural law, Christians should advocate laws and policies in the civil realm on the basis of the universal, natural knowledge of the second table of the law.

    This is helpful. Thank you. Two followup questions, and I’m done:

    (1) So when the pc-2ker says things like “We cannot expect an unbeliever to keep the law” or “the Scripture is given to the church, not the world”, he is not suggesting that the second table of the decalogue is irrelevant or non-binding on nations?

    (2) I can see and understand how the identification of 1st table with one kingdom, 2nd table with the other, leads to your statement above. But what of the argument that *both* tables are (a) part of the moral law, (b) therefore part of the general equity, and (c) therefore binding on nations? (This is Calvin’s argument).

    In other words, it seems that pc-2k “refutes” Calvin simply by saying, “Luther is more right”, but without identifying the specific flaw in Calvin’s reasoning.

    Which of (a), (b), or (c) is incorrect, and why?

    Thanks.

  362. todd said,

    January 11, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Jeff,

    I don’t know if you have access, but the latest issue of the Westminster Theological Journal contains an article entitled “Calvin and the Two Kingdoms” where Calvin’s inconsistent position on this is analyzed.

  363. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Todd, I don’t have access, but I can try. It might be helpful if you can sketch the argument here.

  364. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2011 at 10:33 am

    >>Doesn’t matter, we were able to tell the military where we stood.

    For OPC chaplains it isn’t a small matter.

  365. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2011 at 10:34 am

    >>David Gray, so long as you see such things through a liberal/conservative dichotomy instead of an evangelical/confessional one the Reformed two kingdoms-SOTC project will be lost on you.

    You mean like Machen? Try Liberalism and Christianity, it did me a world of good.

  366. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Apparently not enough good to get the title right, make that Christianity and Liberalism.

  367. Zrim said,

    January 11, 2011 at 10:49 am

    So when the pc-2ker says things like “We cannot expect an unbeliever to keep the law” or “the Scripture is given to the church, not the world”, he is not suggesting that the second table of the decalogue is irrelevant or non-binding on nations?

    I think in saying that pc-2k is wanting to make a spiritual and ecclesiastical point which just seems missed by its critics who seem to neglect ecclesiology, as well as a point about the difference between persons and political institutions. Recall my own point that the Bible doesn’t speak to vocations but to people who have vocations, etc. New covenant Christianity is about people.

    I can see and understand how the identification of 1st table with one kingdom, 2nd table with the other, leads to your statement above. But what of the argument that *both* tables are (a) part of the moral law, (b) therefore part of the general equity, and (c) therefore binding on nations? (This is Calvin’s argument).

    In other words, it seems that pc-2k “refutes” Calvin simply by saying, “Luther is more right”, but without identifying the specific flaw in Calvin’s reasoning.
    Which of (a), (b), or (c) is incorrect, and why?

    Again, Jeff, one has to take into account the larger political arrangements of our time and what it may very well mean for a magistrate to take on the first table. This doesn’t seem like something Calvin, as a product of his Constantinian time, could have adequately contemplated. But it does seem to me that the confessional revisions I mentioned already reflect this accounting.

    As I mentioned above, one distinction that might help here is the one between personal agents and geo-political entities, which is to say that both tables are binding on all people but only the second is binding on civil magistrates to enforce. Otherwise, if we say that the first table is binding on states to enforce then I don’t see how we avoid the problem of true religion at the point of a sword instead of the power of the Spirit, potentially being persecutors instead of doing to others as we’d have done to us. And I don’t see how we avoid civil magistrates potentially telling us that to refuse the idolatry of the Mass or confess Allah is to invite bodily punishment. And, as Stuart Robinson argued, I don’t see how we avoid forcing those who refuse our religious creed to perjure themselves when they attempt to join us in the public square. I get your logic, but can you see how logic without taking into account a raft of considerations is just inadequate?

  368. TurretinFan said,

    January 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Zrim:

    Do you view John the Baptist as “Old Covenant” or “New Covenant,” or some third option?

    -TurretinFan

  369. todd said,

    January 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Jeff,

    As DR. Jeon explains in the article, Calvin’s position is confusing, for on the one hand he was no theonomist:

    “For the statement of some, that the law of God given through Moses is dishonored when it is abrogated and new laws preferred to it, is utterly vain. For others are not preferred to it when they are more approved, not by a simple comparison, but regard to the condition of times, place, and nation; or when that law is abrogated which was never enacted for us. For the Lord through the hand of Moses did not give the law to be proclaimed among all the nations and to be in force everywhere; but when he had taken the Jewish nation into his safekeeping, defense, and protection, he also willed to be a lawgiver especially to it…” (Inst 4:20.16)

    “As I have undertaken to describe the laws by which Christian polity is to be governed, there is no reason to expect from me a long discussion on the best kind of laws. The subject is of vast extent, and belongs not to this place. I will only briefly observe, in passing, what the laws are which may be piously used with reference to God, and duly administered among men. This I would rather have passed in silence, were I not aware that many dangerous errors are here committed. For there are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false.” (Inst 4:20:14)

    And Calvin certainly taught that governments were to be ruled by their knowledge of natural law,

    Dr. Jeon points out, “Although Calvin made the distinction between church and state in light of the two kingdoms, his distinction is inconsistent because he was not able to break away from the political philosophy of a medieval Christendom, as in the example of his support for Servetus being put to death for blasphemy.”

    Dr. Jeon’s summary:

    “Calvin was a great Reformer, theologian, pastor, and political leader in the city of Geneva. His hermeneutical, theological, and practical contributions have been immense throughout the past five centuries, transcending linguistic, cultural, and political boundaries. However, his views on the two kingdoms require further reformation because the Bible teaches that, while heresy was punished as a capital offense in the OT under the Jewish theocracy, during the New Covenant age, heresy is to be punished by church authorities and does not invite any form of physical force. The famous dictum, `the Reformed church should always be reforming’ may be the appropriate implication of Calvin’s political philosophy, summed up in his adaptation and exposition of the two kingdoms.”

    Jeff,

    I doubt this summary does it justice but it is all I have time for.

  370. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Very Helpful Todd. Thanks. I have the journal, and will add comments as I have time.

  371. dgh said,

    January 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Jeff, why would a question that you can’t answer be an attempt to muddy the waters? Why would it not be an effort to clarify the standard by which 2k is being judged? I don’t mind judgment as long as we know what is the true norm. But a lot of people judge 2k as unReformed for departing from Calvin or the Puritans, when in fact those same people depart from Calvin and the Puritans. That doesn’t strike you as a little muddying if not mud-slinging?

    So the question remains. For non-pc2k, what is the general equity of the first table? I’d be very curious to hear. I am tempted to think when reading kvetches like Dr. K. that it means simply a return to the halcyon days of Beaver Cleaver America. That’s fine and I’d be glad to live in those decent and relatively wholesome times. But that is, Toto, a long way from Geneva.

  372. Zrim said,

    January 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Tfan, it seems to me that John the Baptizer is announcing the NC in a way that is unique from OC prophets.

    I’m not sure where that places him strictly speaking, but my guess is that you have his rebuke of Herod in mind in order to suggest that New Covenant Christianity may include rebuking civil authorities?

  373. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Todd (#370): Thank you.

  374. TurretinFan said,

    January 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Dear Zrim,

    No, I have in mind his speaking to tax-collectors and soldiers about their vocations:

    Luke 3:12-14 (KJV)
    Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, “Master, what shall we do?”
    And he said unto them, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.”
    And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, “And what shall we do?”
    And he said unto them, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”

    Compare a hypothetical r2k response:

    Luke 3:12-14 (r2kV)
    Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, “Master, what shall we do?”
    And he said unto them, “Use the light of nature, the kingdom I’m heralding has nothing to do with this world.”
    And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, “And what shall we do?”
    And he said unto them, “I’m a prophet of God, not a political scientist. Only reason and the light of nature govern your activities – ask them.”

    Yes, of course, that’s tongue-in-cheek, but hopefully you get the point that John the Baptist understood that the Bible speaks to people in their professions. Reason and the light of nature are also important in those aspects of life, but the Bible still speaks to tax collectors and soldiers and is applicable to the particulars of what they do.

    That’s why I was surprised by your comment: “Recall my own point that the Bible doesn’t speak to vocations but to people who have vocations, etc. New covenant Christianity is about people.”

    And I think I could muster up some additional examples, if you like.

    -TurretinFan

  375. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Zrim (#368):

    Thanks for the answers. I believe I grasp the dimensions of your answer.

    I get your logic, but can you see how logic without taking into account a raft of considerations is just inadequate?

    Oh, yes, I do. The problem is getting the Scriptures right; and you are pushing towards a kind of pragmatism. No doubt we’ll take this up again, after I’ve had a chance to digest Jeon’s paper.

  376. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    DGH (#372):

    Jeff, why would a question that you can’t answer be an attempt to muddy the waters? Why would it not be an effort to clarify the standard by which 2k is being judged?

    For the simple reason that you never actually told us what the general equity of the law is.

    It would be one thing if you said, “Here’s my answer; what’s yours?” Then I have to stand and deliver.

    But it’s quite another to respond to a question with, “First, what’s your answer?”

    That seems dodgy. If a student tried it, it would definitely be dodgy.

    And now … bonus! The discussion can veer off on a meta-tangent about who has to answer the question first. And if we can keep that up long enough, the shot-clock will expire.

    I’m on to you, brother Darryl. :P

    So: What’s the general equity of the first table of the law, and why is it not binding on the magistrate? We’ve heard from Zrim and todd now …

    But you do make a good point about others having to answer this question also. It turns out it was the meaty question after all.

  377. TurretinFan said,

    January 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Let’s say that theologian X agrees with Calvin that the general equity of the Mosaic law continues, that the civil magistrate should enforce both tables of the law, and that the civil magistrate may punish blasphemy, sabbath-breaking and adultery with death. Suppose, however, that theologian X disagrees with Calvin that a civil magistrate may punish theft with death.

    Now, let’s say that theologian Y agrees with Calvin that the general equity of the Mosaic law continues, but disagrees with Calvin that the first table of the law should be enforced, and disagrees with Calvin that the civil magistrate may punish adultery with death.

    Then, suppose that theologian X says that theologian Y’s departure from Calvin is “radical,” and theologian Y responds, “well you depart from Calvin too!” Wouldn’t it be fair for theologian X to say, “so what?”

    -TurretinFan

  378. Phil Derksen said,

    January 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    TFan #375: Brilliant!

  379. dgh said,

    January 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Phil, for a joke to be funny it has to be realistic. Even 2kers know that Jesus wasn’t a political scientist (even if anti-2kers can only think of Jesus in political terms).

  380. Zrim said,

    January 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Tfan, the 2KV bit is cute, but what is the difference between your point that “the Bible still speaks to tax collectors and soldiers and is applicable to the particulars of what they do” and my point that “the Bible doesn’t speak to vocations but to people who have vocations”? I assume you are saying there is a difference since you express “surprise” at my statement.

    But what I am saying is that the Bible speaks to people of whatever station in life. Sure, John told state officials to do what is right as they carried out their duties, but Jesus also told common housewives caught in adultery to knock it off. But neither of these are instructions on soldiering/tax collection or wifery—they are imperatives that follow indicatives, they are ways for the forgiven to live accordingly in their respective lives, third use of the law, etc. My original point to Jeff was that this goes to the distinction 2k wants to make between persons and political institutions and against those who want to say that the Bible is more or less a handbook for creational tasks instead of a revelation about how the eternally redeemed should go about their temporal lives. I don’t see how this is controversial.

    Jeff, I may be pushing towards a kind of pragmatism, but not only do I stand in good ecclesiastical company (i.e. revisions of Belgic 36 and WCF 23), but it also seems to me you’re pushing toward something close to Biblicism.

  381. TurretinFan said,

    January 11, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Zrim:

    Have you seen either Jeff or myself (or anyone else that would not self-identify as pc-2k) say something similar to “the Bible is more or less a handbook for creational tasks instead of a revelation about how the eternally redeemed should go about their temporal lives”?

    Even “Your Best Life Now,” doesn’t go that far, does it?

    -TurretinFan

  382. dgh said,

    January 12, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Tfan, have you ever heard of implications? You seem to think that your view whatever it is has no implications. It’s only about what you say explicitly but no one can attribute any more meaning to what you say beyond what you determine. But when did you ever hear a 2ker say, “Only reason and the light of nature govern your activities – ask them,” which are the words you put into 2kers mouths above.

    If we have live with implications, why shouldn’t you. I know. It’s because you’re not on trial.

  383. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:04 am

    David Gray, sorry I previously missed your book recommendation. But for those still working with conservatism-liberalism dichotomies and need a confessional-evangelical understanding, the sequel to “Christianity and Liberalism” is “The Lost Soul of American Protestantism.” Seriously, man, step into the 21st century.

    Tfan, on top of the point about implications, which was previously lost on you above re your words and your namesake’s, if YBLN isn’t an example of pragmatic and worldly Christianity then I truly wonder what is. But it seems to me that the views you and Jeff champion are simply more sophisticated and Reformed versions of Warren’s popular and evangelical religious pragmatism. I know Jeff wants to peg pc-2k with Reformed pragmatism, but he’s then going to have to include the Reformed ecclesiastical revisions. For my part, I’ll take Belgic and WCF over Warren and Frame, slings and arrows and all.

  384. TurretinFan said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:59 am

    a) DGH and Zrim, it’s not that I’m unaware of the idea of “implications,” it’s that I don’t think you’re very skilled at drawing them. Consequently, rather than debating the “implications” of what I say, I’d rather stick to debating what I actually say.

    b) DGH if your point is that my hyperbole in the r2kV parody above goes too far, ok. That is how you sound to me when you criticize the OPC for talking about women in the military.

    c) DGH – I think I’ve told you before that my views are a strict subscription to WCF 1646 and catechisms. If you want to place those views on trial, you’re welcome to do so. Hopefully, however, such a trial would consist of more than shouting “Servetus!”

    I will acknowledge one aspect of validity in what you are saying. If I am going to criticize your position, I need to offer an alternative. The alternative might be the position of the WCF 1646, or of the American revisions, or of the WCF as modified by the RPCNA, but whatever alternative it is, I guess it is fair for you to be able to say, “your alternative has the same problem you criticize in my position.”

    So, please accept my apologies for not more bluntly stating that I think that either the WCF 1646 or the WCF (American revisions) is a great alternative to your position, with the WCF 1646 being a more complete statement.

    -TurretinFan

  385. dgh said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Tfan, huh? I subscribe the American revisions and always have. And if you’re going to say that the 1640s conception of the civil magistrate is the same as the 1780s, I don’t know what you are reading. In 1646 the Divines had already ratified the Solemn League and Covenant. That meant that Roman Catholics were not allowed to worship in England, Scotland, or Wales. The American revisions prevented Presbyterians like John Witherspoon from ever saying that Roman Catholics should not be able to worship in the United States.

    I appreciate your offering an alternative, but it is an awfully confused one.

  386. David Gray said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:39 am

    >the sequel to “Christianity and Liberalism” is “The Lost Soul of American Protestantism.” Seriously, man, step into the 21st century.

    Already read it. Based on the author’s comments here I’m sorry he’s willing to hang OPC chaplains out to dry but it was a good book.

    Got any 22nd century recommendations?

  387. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Zrim (#381): …but it also seems to me you’re pushing toward something close to Biblicism.

    Personally, I think the “Biblicism” insult has way out-run its shelf-life. For one thing, its provenance appears to 19th century, used to disparage historical-grammatical exegetes. Calvin, apparently, was a Biblicist.

    For another, it’s a weird world where “Bible” is good and “Biblicism” is bad.

    And for another, it’s awfully imprecise. What people usually mean by “Biblicist” is “naive exegesis.”

    So do me a favor: If you mean “naive exegesis”, say that; but drop the “Biblicism” meme. It’s insulting to the Bible.

  388. TurretinFan said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:51 am

    DGH:

    a) I do think your positions are in conflict with the American revisions. I think we’ve had this discussion before, and perhaps we can have it again some other time.

    b) Obviously there were men who adopted the American revisions who disagreed with the original WCF. I think we’ve already discussed the fact that there is no explicit contradiction between the original and the revisions.

    c) Yes, one impact of the American revisions might be a conflict over the Solemn League and Covenant. Yet there is a middle ground between SL&C and Jeffersonian separation of church and state.

    -TurretinFan

  389. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

    DGH (#383): But when did you ever hear a 2ker say, “Only reason and the light of nature govern your activities – ask them,” which are the words you put into 2kers mouths above.

    In all seriousness, it’s taken me a while to figure that the above statement is *not* your position. Some of the pc-2k catchphrases, such as “general revelation is sufficient for common life”, if taken literally, mean exactly that.

    So while I believe I’ve gotten your position more accurately now — namely, that Scripture informs our consciences in the carrying out of common activities; and that the magistrate is obligated to the second table of the Law — still, that position has *not at all* been clearly expressed.

    And some of the pc-2k slogans (“the Bible is for the church, not the world”) bear much of the blame for that.

  390. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2011 at 9:00 am

    So then, Tfan, having superior skills at drawing implications, if Warren’s “Your Best Life Now” isn’t implying that the Bible is more or less a handbook for creational tasks instead of a revelation about how the eternally redeemed should go about their temporal lives, what is its problem? I assume you’re critical of it. Is it that a self-proclaiming and unabashed evangelical wrote it (careful of religious bigotry), or maybe that its concern is for the more trivial aspects of temporal life instead of the more sophisticated?

    But, then again, maybe you’re saying YBLN, while problematic, really isn’t all that bad in the final analysis. I think that while he’d caution against tipping into something close to theonomy, Warren would agree with you that the Bible is pretty useful for “running a country” (whatever that means). So maybe while you’d caution against tipping too far into something close to prosperity gospel, you’d agree that the Bible is pretty useful for “personal happiness” (whatever that means). If so, my point is that you’re both missing it by a wide mark: the Bible is not a handbook for any sort of temporal living or worldly care, full stop. It’s a revelation for eternal life.

  391. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

    David (#387): Got any 22nd century recommendations?

    A movie, actually, produced sometime in the 2120′s: “Dude, Where’s my Church?”

  392. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 9:12 am

    For the record, I subscribe to the revised 1789 Confession. However, I believe it ascribes a stronger role to the magistrate than pc-2k does, as evidenced in the following:

    * The magistrate is to be under God and over the people, for God’s own glory and the public good (23.1)
    * Christians as magistrates are to maintain piety (23.2).

    (Dr. Hart, your stated understanding of this phrase is that the magistrate is to leave churches in peace; I cannot understand either the grammatical or the historical basis for this reading)

    * The church is supposed to pray that it will be “countenanced and maintained” by the magistrate, rather than ignored (WLC 191).

  393. Phil Derksen said,

    January 12, 2011 at 9:36 am

    DGH RE #380: I’ll be sure to check with you the next time I think something is informatively funny – just to make sure that it really is… ;-)

  394. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Jeff, come now, I do believe you’ve spoken highly of Frame’s “Something Close to Biblicism.” You get to praise it, but when I point it out I’m out of bounds?

    …it’s a weird world where “Bible” is good and “Biblicism” is bad.

    I guess I don’t understand. You like the term “Biblicism” or not? You prefer “naive exegesis” to “Biblicism”? I don’t see the difference. But don’t you think there is a difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura, where the former takes into account more than the Bible but still makes the Bible alone the final rule of faith and life and the latter which says, “The Bible says adulterers must be stoned, so I guess we have to stone them…ok, lethally inject them; or the Bible says we are to only worship God, so I guess that means magistrates should force human obligation to God the way they keep people from killing each other”?

  395. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Some of the pc-2k catchphrases, such as “general revelation is sufficient for common life”, if taken literally, mean exactly that ["Only reason and the light of nature govern your activities"].

    So, Jeff, when Turretin, in contrasting civil from ecclesiastical power, indicates that the former is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while the latter by “the word of God alone” he also means that “only reason and the light of nature govern our activities”?

    But you have engaged pc-2k now for some time, and you know full well that such statements are further qualified and nuanced (i.e. rigid but permeable wall, the difference between legal and Christian secularism, etc.). But maybe your problem is the Biblicist caveat of “if taken literally.” Stop doing that, it’s what Biblicists do. You do recall, don’t you, the first and greatest commandment of Reformed hermeneutics 101: context? And the second is like unto it, more context.

  396. TurretinFan said,

    January 12, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Zrim:

    You wrote: “So then, Tfan, having superior skills at drawing implications, …”

    I am not trying to claim any superior skill. I think the whole approach of arguing against implications risks wasting time because one isn’t engaging what one’s opponent says.

    You wrote: ” … if Warren’s “Your Best Life Now” … ”

    Joel Osteen is the author of “Your Best Life Now.” His congregation is bigger than the entire OPC (not that it matters).

    You wrote: ” … isn’t implying that the Bible is more or less a handbook for creational tasks instead of a revelation about how the eternally redeemed should go about their temporal lives, what is its problem?”

    I think Osteen would almost certainly say that the Bible is revelation about how the eternally redeemed should go about their temporal lives. Of course, he despises “theology,” and he seems to act as though prosperity (in this life) and godliness go hand in hand.

    You wrote: “I assume you’re critical of it.”

    Yes.

    You wrote: “Is it that a self-proclaiming and unabashed evangelical wrote it (careful of religious bigotry), or maybe that its concern is for the more trivial aspects of temporal life instead of the more sophisticated?”

    I have a variety of concerns about Osteen: the almost complete lack of any law preaching, the lack of emphasis on the Bible, and the primary focus on the now.

    You wrote: “But, then again, maybe you’re saying YBLN, while problematic, really isn’t all that bad in the final analysis.”

    See above.

    You wrote: “I think that while he’d caution against tipping into something close to theonomy, Warren would agree with you that the Bible is pretty useful for “running a country” (whatever that means). So maybe while you’d caution against tipping too far into something close to prosperity gospel, you’d agree that the Bible is pretty useful for “personal happiness” (whatever that means). If so, my point is that you’re both missing it by a wide mark: the Bible is not a handbook for any sort of temporal living or worldly care, full stop. It’s a revelation for eternal life.”

    I don’t see how you can reconcile “the Bible is not a handbook for any sort of temporal living or worldly care,” with the fifth commandment, without conceding that the Bible is pretty useful for “personal happiness” (whatever that means). Maybe you can, but I don’t see how.

    -TurretinFan

  397. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Zrim (#395): You prefer “naive exegesis” to “Biblicism”? I don’t see the difference.

    I prefer the term “naive exegesis” to the term “Biblicism” to describe the use of Biblical texts decoupled from serious study.

    The first term accurately diagnoses the problem. The second term makes it seem as if adherence to the Bible were a bad thing, or that the cure is to be less Biblical (instead of more).

    The first term, as a charge, places the responsibility on the chargee to justify his exegesis. The second term, as a charge, faults the chargee for appealing to Scripture, which is insane.

    Yes, “naive exegesis” is a far superior term to “Biblicism.”

  398. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Zrim (#396):

    I don’t have access to Turretin, so I’ll let TFan speak to what Turretin means here. I’m utterly lacking in context.

    Zrim: But you have engaged pc-2k now for some time, and you know full well that such statements are further qualified and nuanced (i.e. rigid but permeable wall, the difference between legal and Christian secularism, etc.).

    Sometimes, yes. At your best, you qualify your statements and allow room to maneuver. But when you criticize others, you apply the full, literal weight of your slogans to them. And when pressed for details on the true boundaries of your slogans, you demur.

    So I give you half-marks for sophistication without consistency or clarity.

    But maybe your problem is the Biblicist caveat of “if taken literally.” Stop doing that, it’s what Biblicists do. You do recall, don’t you, the first and greatest commandment of Reformed hermeneutics 101: context? And the second is like unto it, more context.

    I’m making full use of context when I say it. See above.

    But further, speaking as a teacher, slogans have to meet a high standard of literal accuracy. For as you know, many folk forget the details and walk away with the slogans. So if the slogans are not literally accurate, they mislead.

    Speaking of tendencies: the tendencies of your slogans are to erect walls less permeable than you yourself see them.

    By the way — taking things literally is not merely a “Biblicist” trait, but a mathematical trait also, and a philosophical one, and sometimes a theological one, and a legal one, and a computer-programmer one. A large swath of the population is literally minded, and I recommend keeping that in mind when you formulate your slogans.

  399. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Tfan, yes, I got my revivalists mixed up. They all look the same.

    You say one of your criticisms of Osteenism is that it is a primary focus on the now. That is the point of my 2k criticism. But what is good for the goose of untutored Osteenism is good for the gander of tutored Rushdooneyism. The Bible isn’t about the concerns of the here and now, whether those concerns are about personal happiness or how to run a country.

    I don’t see how you can reconcile “the Bible is not a handbook for any sort of temporal living or worldly care,” with the fifth commandment, without conceding that the Bible is pretty useful for “personal happiness” (whatever that means).

    2k has nothing against obedience. In fact, it takes it on the chin for saying that the Christian life is all about obedience, up to and including political obedience, which isn’t really the default setting of either American cult or culture. So I’ll see your point about obeying parents but raise you Luke 14:26 where we are told to hate them. And that’s the 2k point about the otherworldiness of new covenant Christianity. We live in the tension of the already-not yet. We live with both the fifth commandment and Luke 14:26 the same way we live with the sixth commandment and that same text which says we must even hate our own lives. It could be that both the pro-life and family-values programs need a more eternal perspective. Life may be the highest temporal good and family might be the highest temporal institution, but they both are to be hated if they get between believers and Jesus. If the highest temporal goods and institutions are set in eternal perspective this way then maybe the idea that the Bible has some interest in the lesser concerns of “running a country” is even more misguided?

  400. TurretinFan said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Dear Zrim:

    I mean this in the kindest possible way. You wrote: “The Bible isn’t about the concerns of the here and now, whether those concerns are about personal happiness or how to run a country.” But I think you must really speak a different dialect of English from me. Because you surely do think that the Bible is about the concerns of the here and now, including concerns about personal happiness and about how to run a country.

    That’s why you scoff (in a nice way) at my parody of John the Baptist in the r2kV – because you would say something similar to him (the real JtB, not the parody one) if asked the same question – you wouldn’t respond like the parody. At least, I get the sense that you wouldn’t.

    But if I took you at your word, when you write: “The Bible isn’t about the concerns of the here and now, whether those concerns are about personal happiness or how to run a country,” then I’d simply have to say that clearly you’re wrong. The 5th commandment is very here and now – so is the sabbath. In fact, the sabbath itself is exclusively here and now, since it points in a shadowy way to the eternal rest we are yet to enjoy.

    And the sabbath was made for man!

    That doesn’t mean we want to lapse into the error of Osteen – but neither should we lapse into an opposite error of suggesting that the Bible has nothing to do with the here and now.

    And yet, after seeing you comment back and forth, and even though in my dialect of English your words “The Bible isn’t about the concerns of the here and now, whether those concerns are about personal happiness or how to run a country,” mean that the Bible isn’t about the concerns of the here and now, I’m absolutely sure you don’t mean that.

    Which makes dialog rather challenging.

    -TurretinFan

  401. dgh said,

    January 13, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Jeff, I’m not sure that in any of your and my discussions I have come close to saying the light of nature ONLY governs a believers actions. Come on.

    As for your reading of the magistrate in the revisions, I’m not sure why a Christian magistrate maintaining piety would be construed so that the state promotes religion or supports the church (which one?). It seems like it means a Christian magistrate should be devout. And since I believe that even Saddam Hussein glorified God — since all things work to God’s glory — I’m not sure how pro-church the idea of a magistrate under god and over the people is. As for the Larger Catechism, well chalk that one up to a church and ministers who rarely consulted it.

    But I think you need to concede that the American revisions are a long way from the Erastianism of the original Westminster Confession. For some reason, it’s hard to get 2k critics to admit that. Or could it be that they don’t want to admit that 2k has much more of a standing within the American churches?

  402. John A. said,

    January 13, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Here’s my response to DT Maurina’s critique of me and my website. His link appeared earlier in this out of control thread. (smile)

    http://proto-protestantism.blogspot.com/2011/01/maurinas-critique-of-wwwproto.html

    And, in reference to the latest GreenBaggins post, he accuses of DGH of guilt by association. Just because DGH agreed with what I said earlier in this thread, he accuses him of supporting and condoning everything I’ve written. That’s not only not true, it’s quite an unfair assessment.

  403. Zrim said,

    January 13, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Jeff, this thread is getting hard to navigate. I missed your point about slogans.

    Re your point on slogans, fair enough. At the same time, though, the same could be said about any synoptic and succinct formulation: be careful how you state things because someone could misunderstand. True, but that’s what unpacking is for.

    But would you caution the same way about the formulation that “we are justified through faith alone but not a faith that is alone”? I really do think that the formulation I propose on sola scriptura, and the one you pushback on, is the ecclesiological version of this soteriological formulation on sola fide. I know you don’t like connections being made between cult-culture confusions and law-gospel confusions, but frankly, to push back on the implications of sola scriptura seems to me to be not too unlike pushing back on the implications of sola fide.

    Tfan, yes, dialects have something to do with this. But it’s less English versus non-English and more pc-2k (me) and non-pc-2k (you). It’s not too unlike speaking in Protestant dialects and Catholic dialects, or confessional and evangelical dialects.

    But when I say that the Bible is not relevant to the cares of this world I’m making a point about the otherworldly nature of faith. The Bible’s message is about sinners being made eternally right with God, not how sinners get along in this temporal world. If you want to fault Osteenism with being too temporal then I’d agree, but I don’t think you go far enough; when you make room for the Bible to govern political arrangement you make things safer for Osteen who also thinks the Bible is good for temporal affairs, or put another way, the Bible is “relevant.” What I am saying is that the Bible is relevant but on God’s eternal terms, not our temporal felt needs. So, why do you get to say that the Bible is relevant for running a country but Osteen can’t say it’s good for personal health and wealth?

    You say, “But if I took you at your word, when you write: ‘The Bible isn’t about the concerns of the here and now, whether those concerns are about personal happiness or how to run a country,’ then I’d simply have to say that clearly you’re wrong. The 5th commandment is very here and now…” But you haven’t engaged the point about Luke 14:26, which tells us something very different from the fifth commandment, and it’s point is very otherworldly. What I’m saying is that we live at once in this world but in hope for the next one. Yes, we’re told to love and obey our parents, but we’re also told to let the dead bury their own. You seem to want to solve that tension in favor of this world instead of live with the tension and a favor toward the next.

  404. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 13, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Zrim (#404): But would you caution the same way about the formulation that “we are justified through faith alone but not a faith that is alone”?

    I think “we are justified through faith alone by not by a faith that is alone” is a much more tightly constructed slogan, much less capable of being misunderstood, than

    “Scripture is silent on common affairs”

    or

    “The church is ruled by grace, the common order by law”

    (Really? You don’t show grace to your children? Of course you do!)

    The reason I’m pushing on this, which probably makes me look like a “2k opponent” rather than a “friendly pc-2k critic” (which I am), is that I believe the process of tightening up your slogans — engaging in theological precision, in fact! — would substantially help the pc-2k cause. It would (IMO) cause some needed reflection on the abiding validity of the moral law as a reflection of what is just in a timeless, non-expired sense.

  405. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

    DGH (#402):

    Jeff, I’m not sure that in any of your and my discussions I have come close to saying the light of nature ONLY governs a believers actions. Come on.

    I think you have. A favorite slogan: “Scripture is silent on common affairs.” I’ve encouraged various modifications to this slogan to make it more accurate, and you’ve resisted them all. And mocked me in the process, but that’s neither here nor there.

    In fact, you make a huge bifurcation between “all of life” and “Christian life.” On your account, Scripture governs our “Christian life” (whatever that may mean — it’s neither a Biblical nor confessional term), but Scripture is silent on “all of life.”

    So please forgive me if I’m confused by this, but it’s, well, confusing.

    If you think that Scripture governs my actions while baking, then stop saying that Scripture is silent on baking. That’s a recipe for madness.

  406. dgh said,

    January 13, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Jeff, if a believer lives in two kingdoms, then it’s pretty easy to think that the light governing one is not the same as the light governing the other. But the ONLY in the other formulation is especially troubling and actually uncharitable. Since 2kers insist that Scripture governs worship — even down to prohibiting juggling — it’s hardly fair to say that ONLY natural law governs a believers life.

  407. TurretinFan said,

    January 13, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Zrim:

    You wrote: ” … the Bible is not relevant to the cares of this world … . ”

    Taken literally, that’s self-evidently false.

    “Yes, we’re told to love and obey our parents, but we’re also told to let the dead bury their own. You seem to want to solve that tension in favor of this world instead of live with the tension and a favor toward the next.”

    It may seem that way to you, but that’s not my position. My position is that there are two kingdoms (in fact, there are many spheres of life), and that the Bible is relevant to both (and all spheres). We are both told to honor our parents, and we also recognize that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

    Your comment I quoted above, in context, says: “But when I say that the Bible is not relevant to the cares of this world I’m making a point about the otherworldly nature of faith.” The context makes it sound like you don’t mean the literal meaning of your words, but are simply making a broad sweeping statement to counter what you perceive to be an error with respect to thinking that faith is chiefly (or solely) thisworldly.

    The problem (from my perspective) is that you are making a point about X by saying something other than X, and your statement itself isn’t true. If you just want to say that faith is other-worldly, say that! If you want to say that the emphasis of the Bible is on redemption, say that. But don’t say that “the Bible is not about the here and now,” unless that’s what you mean.

    Please!

    This practice of saying things you don’t mean makes those dialoging with you frustrated.

    -TurretinFan

  408. Zrim said,

    January 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I think “we are justified through faith alone by not by a faith that is alone” is a much more tightly constructed slogan, much less capable of being misunderstood, than “Scripture is silent on common affairs” or “The church is ruled by grace, the common order by law.” (Really? You don’t show grace to your children? Of course you do!)

    Jeff, the ecclesial formulation I have in mind that you push back on is that “General revelation is sufficient to govern civil tasks (insufficient for ecclesial tasks), and special revelation is sufficient for to govern ecclesial tasks (insufficient for civil tasks).” That just seems like sola scriptura to me, the way “we are justified through faith alone by not by a faith that is alone” is sola fide.

    But as far as the civil ruled by law and ecclesial by gospel, the point of the formulation isn’t to say that that there is no place for law in the redemptive realm, otherwise there would no third use and no church discipline, etc. And one couldn’t formulate that the Christian life is all about obedience. Likewise, it isn’t to say that there is no place for mercy in the civil realm. Otherwise first time offenders would be treated like serial killers. The point is to say that the two realms are ruled in different ways, which really seems uncontroversial to me. To suggest, for example, that the civil realm is ruled by at least as much grace as the ecclesiastical would mean that sheriffs set free at least as much as they lock up; and to suggest that the ecclesiastical realm is ruled by at least as much law as gospel would mean that elders punish at least as much as they forgive. I don’t know about you, but those scenarios scare me.

    Moreover, the true church who is ruled by gospel must discipline. But even that discipline is ruled by gospel, which is to say that the point is restoration and not mere punishment, which, in contrast, is the point of the sheriff locking people up–I’m also not a fan of civil justice systems thinking in terms of “corrections” instead of “punishments.” Church’s should discipline in order to restore, not punish, and civil magistrates should lock up in order to punish, not correct.

  409. todd said,

    January 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Zrim,

    For what it’s worth, I think Jeff and TFan have a point, in that your writing style doesn’t translate well to blog discussions. I often have a difficult time understanding what you mean, even when I think I am agreeing with you. Offering examples with your slogans would really help I believe.

  410. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    It’s odd: I feel that we are very close to being very close, and yet can’t quite close the gap. *sigh*.

    DGH (#407): Jeff, if a believer lives in two kingdoms, then it’s pretty easy to think that the light governing one is not the same as the light governing the other. But the ONLY in the other formulation is especially troubling and actually uncharitable.

    Well, it’s not meant uncharitably. But I can see why it might seem that way, if that’s not what you intend.

    Let me try to trace over the point again, so you can see why I think that the “only” is a reasonable construal.

    (1) You insist that “Scripture is silent on common affairs” (correct?)
    (2) The meaning of this language is that Scripture has nothing to say about common affairs.
    (3) The implication is that natural law is the only thing that says something about common affairs.

    I respond, No, Scripture continues to speak to me while I am baking or plumbing, and its commands have direct relevance to what I may or may not do in my baking or plumbing.

    You say, Yes, certainly, but that doesn’t mean that Scripture has anything to say about baking or plumbing.

    And I ask, But if I bake in X way out of obedience to the Scripture (for example, not stealing my neighbor’s recipe), aren’t I saying that Scripture says something about my baking?

    And you reply, That’s an equivocation.

    So I conclude from this dialogue that your view is that Scripture really *does not* say anything at all about the common realm; hence ONLY the light of nature guides us in the common realm.

    Is that an unreasonable take?

  411. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Zrim (#409):

    Jeff, the ecclesial formulation I have in mind that you push back on is that “General revelation is sufficient to govern civil tasks (insufficient for ecclesial tasks), and special revelation is sufficient for to govern ecclesial tasks (insufficient for civil tasks).” That just seems like sola scriptura to me, the way “we are justified through faith alone by not by a faith that is alone” is sola fide.

    I can understand your attachment to it, given that you think it is equivalent to sola scriptura.

    What if it isn’t, though?

    Here are two reasons to believe it is not.

    First, sola scriptura does not admit of exceptions: The church is not allowed to bind the conscience of a believer to *any* doctrine not taught in Scripture, period.

    The Revelation Slogan, however, admits of all manner of exceptions. For example, special revelation has much to say about family life, indicating that (for a Christian at least) following the light of nature alone is insufficient.

    general revelation is used for the ecclesial task of keeping order in a meeting (Robert’s rules), indicating that some circumstances of church government are to be ordered according to the light of nature (compare the Confession).

    So two principles cannot be logically equivalent if one has exceptions and the other does not.

    Second, sola scriptura can be formalized like this:

    If x is not taught in Scripture, x may not be taught by the church.
    Further, if x is necessary for salvation, x is plainly taught in Scripture.

    but the Revelation Principle can be formalized like this:

    If x is necessary for church tasks, it will be taught in Scripture.
    If x is necessary for civil tasks, it will be taught in the natural law.

    It’s fairly clear that no logic can make those two formalizations equivalent.

  412. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Daryl: using Jeff’s conundrum formula, maybe this would help:

    In what manner(s) are you objecting that Scripture speaks to baking? (I could give some answers, but I’d rather not speak for you and mess it up).

    In what manner(s) are you not objecting that Scripture speaks to baking?

    What is the matrix we should be using to apply these differentiations?

  413. Zrim said,

    January 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Jeff, the slogan does admit for exceptions in both directions. Robert’s rules may assist the church in keeping order and (you’ll recall from previous conversations on this very point) the second greatest commandment may help us steer through the political question of abortion.

    Todd, I’ve given examples to the points I’ve made (sheriffs locking up and elders forgiving, Robert’s Rules for the church and the second greatest commandment for the public square). Are those still not helpful? But I really don’t see how the formulation of general revelation being sufficient for civil tasks, etc. is all that muddy. In fact, it seems as clear and concise as anybody could possibly make it.

  414. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Jeff, the slogan does admit for exceptions in both directions.

    Do you mean sola scriptura, or the Revelation Principle?

  415. Zrim said,

    January 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    “… the slogan does admit for exceptions in both directions.”

    Do you mean sola scriptura, or the Revelation Principle?

    Jeff, I mean the revelation principle.

    But that rests on Protestant understanding that sola scriptura, strictly speaking, admits of what might be called “exceptions,” which is to say that sola scriptura means that while we say that the Bible alone is the final inspired source for faith and life we also take into account the uninspired sources of tradition and reason. This is over against the more Anabaptist and Biblicist understanding of solo scriptura, where tradition and reason are rejected (and, for good measure, against Roman construals of two-source authorities of Scripture and tradition). Without sola scriptura as it is defined this way, we have no room to use Robert’s Rules., for example. So if we use Robert’s Rules to stake out keeping order in ecclesial deliberations then why can’t we use reason to figure out that the civil magistrate should only be bound to carry out the second table and not the first?

    So the part of the revelation principle that says “special revelation is sufficient for ecclesial tasks” isn’t Anabaptist because we allow for general revelation to use Robert’s Rules for order and to revise things like Belgic 36 and WCF 23. In the same way, the part of the principle that says “general revelation is sufficient for civil tasks” isn’t saying that the Bible can’t be used in the civil arena because the second greatest commandment, which really undergirds all human reasoning, is there. The principle is charting out broad rules for each sphere.

  416. dgh said,

    January 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Reid and Jeff, Jeff has already heard this but it seems relatively common sensical to say that the Bible does not speak to the kind of oven I buy as a baker, the kind of flour I use, the kind of goods I bake, and the kinds of prices I set. For some believers who are pietistic or biblicistic — sorry if that sounds offensive — they may believe that all of those decisions are informed by their reading of Scripture. And where such pietists or biblicists become a problem for sessions is when they tell other bakers that they should follow their biblically derived choices about ovens, recipes, and prices. For I can see how other bakers look at catalogues, warranties, prices, and markets to make those decisions — not ever once consulting the pages of Scripture beyond starting the day with prayer and thanking the Lord for work.

    In which case, the Bible does not reveal anything that would bind a believer’s conscience about plumbing or baking.

    And my objection to saying that the Bible speaks to all of life, as in Frame’s case for biblicism, is that it apparently binds believers according to Scripture, since only the Lord, who speaks in Scripture, can bind consciences. When you talk about a biblical or a Christian world view, you are generally talking about a norm or a prescription. And the Bible has norms that the church ministers to God’s people. But the church does not bind consciences in areas where Scripture is silent.

    So if the Bible is silent from the perspective of the institution ordained to minister God’s word, how is that same book all of the sudden vocal on all sundry of earthly matters?

    One more kvetch, by making the Bible the guide to daily life, we have neglected the wisdom derived from the light of nature by both saints and unbelievers. I’ll put Julia Child up against any church’s best cake baker any day of the week.

  417. TurretinFan said,

    January 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Unless Bobby Flay goes to your church.

  418. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Daryl: I’m not all that disagreeing with you. I’m rather seeking to bring some clarity.

    So we would say that the Bible does not directly inform us on the trade of baking. E.g., it does not prescribe specific conditions for the kind of oven to use, etc.

    Yet we would say that the Bible does indirectly inform us on the ethical behavior of a baker following Christ. E.g., it does speak to just measurements, etc. We would qualify that such information is not explicit to baking as a trade, but directly applies to the Christian as gratitude (i.e., the third of the law).

    So, at the very least pc-2k is critiquing a tendency in Evangelicalism (biblicism?) to blur the distinction here?

    As well, pc-2k looks at this topic from another angle, namely the distinction between Church and State. while the bakery argument is not exactly the same, there are some parallels, and some similar blurring problems?

    I think I understand this better than I can explain, and find myself in some general agreement with you. (i may be a lot like Lane here, basically a 2k’er, but still working on the details of my understanding).

  419. TurretinFan said,

    January 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    DGH wrote:

    And where such [bad guys] become a problem for sessions is when they tell other bakers that they should follow their biblically derived choices about ovens, recipes, and prices.

    That’s only true when the bad guys are wrong. But that means actually dealing with the bad guys’ argument from the Bible. That’s the way to handle that problem, not to try to create a categorical rule that the Bible has nothing to say about baking.

    Not being privy to DGH’s session meetings, I can’t know for sure that it never happens that one baker is telling another baker that the Bible says you have to set your ovens to 349 not 350 – but it does seem highly unlikely.

    It seems more likely that the problem that faces sessions is that the bad guys have more credible arguments from Scripture about more general things – like that the Bible teaches conservationism, thrift, or healthy living.

    And just attaching pejorative labels to those positions isn’t a rebuttal. Indeed, if the Bible teaches those things, then the bad guys ought to carry the day – but if the Bible does not then they ought to be rebuked for claiming it does. All of that can be done by careful study of Scripture.

    -TurretinFan

  420. Zrim said,

    January 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Tfan, I understand you’re more of the philosophical wing of the house that esteems pristine logic over common sense. But when someone wants to make the “biblical case for conservationism and healthy living” that just seems like code for “I have a persuasion about social responsibility and personal holiness I’d like the rest of you to have, so in order to do that I’ll be pulling out my Bible now to show you how God agrees with me.” Five bucks says it has something to do with SUVs, HBO original series and six-packs.

    I’ve nothing against careful study of Scripture (or healthy living and thift), but I also think that more often than some seem willing to admit when folks want to “make credible arguments from Scripture that the Bible teaches healthy living and thrift” we may also be dealing with some form of legalism. And I don’t know that we always need exhaustive exegesis to figure it out. Sometimes it’s just a matter of instinct and common sense.

  421. TurretinFan said,

    January 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Zrim:

    I do admit a fondness for logic. In that vein, I think you will agree with me:

    1) If the Bible’s teachings imply something about SUV ownership, we need to follow what the Bible says; and

    2) If the Bible’s teachings imply nothing about SUV ownership, it’s wrong for people to go around putting words into the Bible’s mouth (as it were).

    So, while your instinct might be right (the Bible might be being used as a pretext – and/or some form of legalism may be lurking) – the principle by which we judge is the standard of Scripture – not a blanket rule.

    Right?

    -TurretinFan

  422. Doug Sowers said,

    January 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I have watched and read you guys for well over a year, and you know what? I love and respect you all as my brothers in Christ, but how about DGH, debating Douglas Wilson? This is a very important subject, that needs to be explored in depth. And I think between DGH, and Wilson, you could shed some much needed light on this issue.

  423. David Gadbois said,

    January 14, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Tfan, sadly this is a common approach Zrim takes. He’ll abstractly agree that the 2nd and 3rd uses of the Law are valid and biblical and then wander off further down the line in his argument and say crazy things like “the Bible is not relevant to the cares of this world”. He may fancy himself as a purer practitioner of 2K doctrine, but he should perhaps stop and wonder if his more idiosyncratic beliefs and statements aren’t a detriment to the 2K cause (which I count myself a part of) in public forums like these.

  424. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Actually, I suspect that the real issue under the table is “Christian counseling” and whether the Bible can or ought to be used as a textbook thereof.

    I suspect that because (a) it’s been done (Jay Adams, Dan Allender), and (b) it’s being done in spades at Westminster East, right in DGH’s back yard.

  425. Stuart said,

    January 14, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Jeff,

    You might have a point about the influence of those who seem to indicate the Bible is a “textbook” for counseling.

    There are also the “encyclopedia” approach and the “recipe book” approach to Scripture that makes more people than Zrim a little uneasy. Those who want to use the Bible primarily as an encyclopedia of how to understand a certain subject (say abortion) or as a recipe book to consult when they want to have a successful baking business may be unwittingly missing the whole point of what Scripture actually says. It’s similar to the problem of losing the forest for the trees.

    I don’t agree with all of the formulations of Zrim or DGH, but in so far as their formulations challenge the misguided assumptions of the textbook, encyclopedia, and recipe book approaches to Scripture, I can appreciate their stance.

  426. Zrim said,

    January 14, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Tfan, I agree that the principle standard by which we judge is indeed Scripture. But my point is about liberty of conscience, something given a whole chapter in WCF, a confession that has done quite a bit of the scriptural work for us already (at least, I’m good with its bone fides). It has done such good exegetical work in the area of liberty that I think it’s good for instilling an intuitive sense of what the Bible has to say about a thing indifferent like SUV ownership: as you please.

    Todd suggests more examples to help make my points. You also said something about making the biblical case for thrift. The Bible also speaks of generosity. When you and I go out for lunch and our bills come you have liberty to show prudence in your tipping and I have liberty to show generosity. Those are categories of wisdom, discretion and liberty, not law. Neither of us should take out his Bible and try to make a law-laden case for how the other should be more like us. However, neither of us has liberty to skip out on his bill. If either of us does that then we appeal to the Bible and hold the other accountable.

    David G., when I say crazy things like “the Bible is not relevant to the cares of this world” or “the gospel doesn’t have direct or obvious bearing on temporal life” they are ways of overstating things in such a way as to force those who want to peddle the modern doctrines of relevancy to think a little more about it. It’s also to make a point about the two categories I think are key to 2k: the temporal and the eternal. Maybe you think that’s “idiosyncratic and unhelpful,” but maybe it’s just the case that you side more with Hodge and I with Thornwell and Robinson. Whatever the case, I’ll err on the side of saying the Bible really is more about our eternal destination than our temporal cares, which seems to be the implication of Jesus saying his kingdom is not of this world.

    Those who want to use the Bible primarily as an encyclopedia of how to understand a certain subject (say abortion) or as a recipe book to consult when they want to have a successful baking business may be unwittingly missing the whole point of what Scripture actually says. It’s similar to the problem of losing the forest for the trees.

    Bingo, Stuart. But watch what you say, they’ll be calling you a radical (“a liberal, fanatical, criminal”).

  427. dgh said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Reed, the ethical behavior in Scripture is of course binding on all Christians. But none of those prescriptions are specific to any common calling. In fact, the only vocation to which the Bible gives specific instructions is the ministry of the word.

    Tfan, this is where we completely disagree. I do not think you can make an implication of Scripture (and I am distinguishing this from a good and necessary consequence) binding for a Christian. A certain use of an SUV — which I personally oppose, and may do so on creational grounds, stewardship and all that — cannot be the basis for binding other believers consciences. I’ve used the example before of not shopping at chain stores. I do that out of love of neighbor. But that is not a norm for everyone else because it is not a matter of conscience — as in God is telling me I must not shop at chain stores.

    And this is where Christian liberty kicks in and why I sense that most vociferous critics of 2k really don’t have a place for differences among Christians of the kind that Paul allows in Rom. 14, and 1 Cor. 8. Most 2kers think that their understanding of some issue in culture or politics is the Christian view. And so when 2k comes along and questions this on the grounds of liberty of conscience, 2k is accused of antinomianism. But the only law that 2kers oppose is those attempts by believers to make their consciences binding on everyone else.

  428. David Gray said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

    >But the only law that 2kers oppose is those attempts by believers to make their consciences binding on everyone else.

    So R2K has no problems with laws restricting or eliminating abortion.

  429. TurretinFan said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Zrim:

    Since you know that I strictly subscribe to the original WCF, and since that original WCF has the same chapter on Christian liberty, I trust that you realize that my objections are not to Christian liberty.

    On the other hand, I think that if you read the section of the WLC on the Decalogue, you’ll find that confessional and catechized people have (on the whole) a much narrower view of Christian liberty than most broad “Evangelicals.”

    Why? Because catechized people think that the Bible has a lot to say about how we live our lives, whereas a lot of broad “Evangelicals” act as though the Bible is just telling us that Jesus loves us and we need to pray the sinner’s prayer.

    And that is because catechized people think that man’s chief end is to glorify God, whereas the broad “Evangelical” thinks that God’s chief end is to glorify man.

    -TurretinFan

  430. TurretinFan said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

    DGH wrote:

    Tfan, this is where we completely disagree. I do not think you can make an implication of Scripture (and I am distinguishing this from a good and necessary consequence) binding for a Christian.

    The only disagreement seems to be semantic. When I refer to the implications of Scripture, I am referring to the good and necessary consequences.

    And, as I said to Zrim, you know perfectly well that I adhere strictly to the WCF 1646, which includes the same chapter on Christian liberty. So, that’s not the point of disagreement, either.

    -TurretinFan

  431. dgh said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Tfan, SUV’s is good and necessary consequence?

    David Gray, my you are a charitable reader.

  432. dgh said,

    January 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Tfan, btw, if you hold strictly to 1646 WCF, how can you affirm the American revisions? Is this like one of those Truth unites. . . . truth divides, or truth speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

    Also, the implication is that your view of implication or good and necesssary consequence has not caught up with your view of Christian liberty. So this is about Christian liberty. That is a doctrine that 2k keeps pressing on all transformers or take-captivity Christians. What is the implication of their hegemony, of their “Christian” way of teaching or baking, for those believers who disagree with their teaching or baking?

  433. David Gray said,

    January 14, 2011 at 10:13 am

    >David Gray, my you are a charitable reader.

    Shouldn’t I be? And given what you stated I arrived at the logical conclusion.

  434. TurretinFan said,

    January 14, 2011 at 10:15 am

    DGH:

    I don’t think that either special revelation (Scripture) or general revelation provides a blanket rule against SUVs. If you do, and your conscience is consequently bound, then I would consider you a “weaker brother” on that issue and not invite you to go to the SUV dealership with me.

    I’ve addressed the non-contradiction between the original and the American revisions on my blog (my analysis is here). You are welcome to disagree, as I think you did at the time when I wrote that.

    But perhaps you could stow the “speaks out of both sides of its mouth” remarks.

    -TurretinFan

  435. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

    David Gadbois said iin post 424 at January 14, 2011 at 12:26 am: “Tfan, sadly this is a common approach Zrim takes. He’ll abstractly agree that the 2nd and 3rd uses of the Law are valid and biblical and then wander off further down the line in his argument and say crazy things like “the Bible is not relevant to the cares of this world”. He may fancy himself as a purer practitioner of 2K doctrine, but he should perhaps stop and wonder if his more idiosyncratic beliefs and statements aren’t a detriment to the 2K cause (which I count myself a part of) in public forums like these.”

    On the contrary, ZRim’s statements have been extremely helpful to me. I have no problem with saying that ZRim has educated me on how bad the Two Kingdoms stuff is. Yes, his views are extreme. Nobody has yet told me why he is not being consistent with his 2K presuppositons, and why the less extreme people are simply being less consistent.

    If the Two Kingdoms theology is tolerated in Reformed circles without clearly explaining why ZRim’s views are not a consistent development of 2K theology, our war to defend babies about abortion is over. Furthermore, anytime someone starts to say in the anti-Christian secular world that a moral principle of the Old Testament is wrong and gains traction for their wicked views in Congress or a state legislature or local government, we’ll start hearing 2Kers in our Reformed churches say we shouldn’t preach about that moral principle from our pulpits because “politics has no place in the pulpit.”

    Jefferson created a Bible without the parts he didn’t like. Classical liberals tried to demythologize the Bible. Now we have professed conservative Calvinists arguing that we can’t preach on moral issues once they’ve become “political.”

    Attendance statistics for the PCUSA show pretty clearly what members think about pastors and churches that don’t sound a clear trumpet call on matters that God cares about deeply enough to give us directions in His Word.

    The 2K stuff needs to be rooted out of our churches. NOW. This is a battle we cannot affod to lose.

  436. Zrim said,

    January 14, 2011 at 11:01 am

    David Gray, pc-2k by definition doesn’t have a secret handshake or an official stance on abortion. But if you’re asking what this pc-2ker’s views are I am morally and politically opposed to abortion. But I’m just as opposed to those who make their own convictions on a particular issue a litmus test for orthodoxy, as in “those who don’t care like I care don’t really care and are unfaithful.” Tim and David Bayly on line two for you.

    Tfan, coming out of it and into Reformation Christianity, I appreciate the point that broad evangelicalism traffics in a good deal of antinomianism (or maybe better undernomianism). But I don’ think the solution is to suggest that the Bible has something to clearly say about what sort of car I drive or where I shop in the same way it clearly has something to say about whether I pay my bills. I think the solution is to be better tutored on law and gospel and how to balance the fact that while the Christian life is all about obedience it’s also about gratitude, that love and duty are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that this is what well catechized people understand.

  437. paigebritton said,

    January 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

    FWIW, guys, Doug Sowers left a note earlier that was belatedly approved (#423) but he asked me to correct the initials so now it makes more sense.

    pb

  438. Zrim said,

    January 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

    DTM one compliment deserves another: thank you for confirming my own theory that the particular socio-political issue of abortion serves to divide those serious about a 2k that says the gospel is about reconciling God to sinners, full stop and those more serious about cause-Christianity and social gospel. If 2k is seen as unhelpful toward a particular social and political agenda the call is to run out on a rail the way. Stuart Robinson ring a bell, anybody?

  439. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 14, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Okay, ZRim, you and I may finally agree on at least one thing — Two Kingdoms theology, if consistently applied, means churches should not preach on abortion and why it should be stopped by the state.

    At most, Christian voters and Christian elected officials should leave their Bibles at home and make a case against abortion in purely secular “common grace” terms that abortion is murder and should be stopped for secular reasons that have nothing to do with religious beliefs. (And yes, there are some good secular arguments against abortion, arguments I personally choose not to make, but I respect those who do.)

    So what do we do then to respond to “population bomb” advocates who say the world is becoming overpopulated and we need to reduce the number of people, or who argue that Downs Syndrome babies should be aborted because they are inherently inferior? Those are logically consistent secular arguments, too — wrong, but logical and consistent.

    We need absolute truth when it comes to matters of life and death. We can get that absolute certainty from our inerrant and infallible Bibles.

    When we deal with common grace and natural law arguments, we can never have certaintly, we can never have closure, and I believe Christians who make such arguments have decided to bring a knife to a gunfight. Why waste our time with inferior weapons when we have the Word of God? I know that means nothing or means very little to unbelievers, but appeals to Scripture should mean a great deal to Christians, and if the appeals to the Bible are accurate exegesis of Scripture, they should settle the issue.

  440. TurretinFan said,

    January 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Zrim:

    You wrote:

    But I don’ think the solution is to suggest that the Bible has something to clearly say about what sort of car I drive or where I shop in the same way it clearly has something to say about whether I pay my bills. I think the solution is to be better tutored on law and gospel and how to balance the fact that while the Christian life is all about obedience it’s also about gratitude, that love and duty are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that this is what well catechized people understand.

    I don’t think I disagree with you there.

    -TurretinFan

  441. GAS said,

    January 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Pardon the interruption but I wonder if a poor layman might attempt to take a shot at grasping the basic outline of pc-2k?

    It appears to me that the pc-2k project is a reaction against Neo-calvinism and it’s further affect on broad evangelicalism known commonly as Worldviewism.

    In “Revelation and Symbolism” Kuyper makes a historical analysis that the Reformation lead to cultural advancement (out of the dark ages apparently). He advances that the laity, prior to the Reformation, being stuck in the superstition and feelings of Romanist worship resulted in a “dullness” in their mental capacities. The Reformation brought the laity out of this dullness because true religion is based on Revelation which leads to understanding and faith. This he posits is why western civilization advanced in liberties and politics.

    Now I don’t know if Dr Hart rejects this analysis out of hand or perhaps he can agree with the general principle based on a natural law basis. That is, the laity now learning to use the natural law principles of reading and writing advanced culture based mainly on these improved natural law skills.

    The Neo-calvinist project apparently believes that regeneration itself sharpens natural law skills. (I don’t know if Kuyper believed this.) That Revelation and regeneration leads to greater knowledge of natural law principles.

    This I believe is what they specifically reject. They believe that not only is this false but that this leads to a false pride amongst Christians and the affect of that false pride has a negative consequence on both Culture and Church. The negative consequences for Culture is that Christians have too much undue antagonism against unbelievers instead of living peaceably with them. The negative consequences for the Church is that it gets bogged down into natural law projects to the neglect of it’s spiritual project, that being it’s only duty.

    The solution is to reject any Neo-calvinist projects that seek to combine Revelation with Natural Law.

    Am I close or am I way off?

  442. David Gadbois said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Darrell said On the contrary, ZRim’s statements have been extremely helpful to me. I have no problem with saying that ZRim has educated me on how bad the Two Kingdoms stuff is. Yes, his views are extreme. Nobody has yet told me why he is not being consistent with his 2K presuppositons, and why the less extreme people are simply being less consistent.

    It has been said before in this forum, but the basic answer is that 2K does not overturn the 2nd and 3rd uses of the Law. And the 2K emphasis on natural law should lead naturally to opposing things like abortion in the secular sphere.

  443. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    GAS (#442):

    The Neo-calvinist project apparently believes that regeneration itself sharpens natural law skills. (I don’t know if Kuyper believed this.) That Revelation and regeneration leads to greater knowledge of natural law principles.

    I can’t say whether Neo-cals believe this, but it is certainly what Zrim and DGH appear to oppose.

    And I applaud them for it. The stage IV version of that disease is “God’s Little Instruction Book.”

    But confused into the mix is a separate idea: That God’s norms reflected in the moral law *ought* to be followed and upheld, whether they make our lives better or not.

    In some cases, we might draw a straight line in Proverbs fashion: *IF* mortgage lenders had been using honest weights and measures in the last decade, we might not have persistent unemployment now.

    But sometimes, doing the right thing leads to no better outcome than doing the wrong thing, or so says The Preacher (Eccl.).

    But either way, we ought to be faithful to Christ in all that we do — and that seems to entail (to my way of thinking) that Scripture should be allowed to speak to whatever extent it does speak to our common endeavors.

    So we might put it like this: DGH and Zrim and I are united on

    (a) Christian liberty — one Christian may not place a law on another without full warrant from Scripture.

    (b) “personal theonomy” — each individual must live a life of obedience to God’s law.

    (c) There are two jurisdictions or “kingdoms” (thus Calvin, Luther — but I don’t quite like the term in this day and age), the church and the state. Both have legitimacy of themselves.

    We differ on

    (d) Does the Scripture speak in broad ways about common affairs, or does it speak to Christians about their moral behavior in those common affairs?

    (e) Does a Christian magistrate have an obligation to use the Scripture to inform his conscience about the nature of justice, OR can he rely on the light of nature alone? (This is a murky question, and I still don’t understand their position on it).

  444. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Darrell (#436): Nobody has yet told me why [Zrim] is not being consistent with his 2K presuppositons, and why the less extreme people are simply being less consistent.

    Two thoughts:

    (1) As much as I disagree with them, Zrim and DGH have ahold of a stick worth shaking: There is a profound tendency for Christians to look at the Scripture, decide it means X, and try to force everyone else to believe X also.

    Against this, they raise the banners of liberty of conscience and two kingdoms.

    You might see it as a radical departure from Reformed theology; I see it as an overcorrection.

    In fact, Zrim somewhat admits as much when he concedes that he “overstates things” in order to get people to think.

    (2) “Two Kingdom” thought covers a very broad spectrum, from Calvin to Luther to Covenanters to Westminster West. So even if you reject Zrim utterly, I hope you don’t reject the basic notion of two jurisdictions with independent authority.

  445. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    DGH (#417): So if the Bible is silent from the perspective of the institution ordained to minister God’s word, how is that same book all of the sudden vocal on all sundry of earthly matters?

    My question is, why have you limited things only to the perspective of the institution? Are priests alone allowed to read the Bible? (snarky, but with a real point)

    Take your WalMart example, which I appreciate. You have come to the conclusion that the best way to show love for neighbor is to deliberately patronize locally owned stores. Thus, you would say (I think), that

    (a) Obedience to the command of Christ to love one’s neighbor means or entails shopping locally, and

    (b) At the same time, that the church has no right to turn this into a rule.

    So wouldn’t it be fair to say that in (a), Scripture speaks to you individually about WalMart shopping (in conformity with the Reformed faith), but in (b) Scripture does not speak to the institution about WalMart shopping?

    What I’m getting at is that perhaps by looking only at how Scripture speaks to the institution, you might be overlooking how Scripture speaks to the individual.

    Most Christians, in fact, seek for ethical guidance in their common affairs by considering what the Scripture has to say. And the extensive section in the WLC about the decalogue seems to encourage that kind of moral reasoning.

  446. Stuart said,

    January 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Bingo, Stuart. But watch what you say, they’ll be calling you a radical (“a liberal, fanatical, criminal”).

    Zrim,

    I’ve certainly been called much worse.

  447. GAS said,

    January 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks Jeff.

  448. todd said,

    January 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    “Does a Christian magistrate have an obligation to use the Scripture to inform his conscience about the nature of justice, OR can he rely on the light of nature alone? (This is a murky question, and I still don’t understand their position on this”

    Jeff,

    I might respond to this but I’m not sure what you mean by using Scripture to inform a magistrate’s conscience concerning the nature of justice. Can you elaborate what you mean by this?

  449. Zrim said,

    January 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    …you and I may finally agree on at least one thing — Two Kingdoms theology, if consistently applied, means churches should not preach on abortion and why it should be stopped by the state.

    DTM, I’m not saying that pulpits have to stay away from abortion absolutely. What I am saying is that, to the extent that abortion is a highly politicized issue in 2011 America, Reformed pulpits should be much more conservative and cautious in what they say about it. Frankly, if “Sanctity of Life Sunday” (next week) is any measure, I think pulpits which conceive themselves as conservative aren’t being nearly conservative enough when they preach sermons clearly designed after cultural-political exegesis, which is actually a very theologically progressive posture. Pulpits should be reserved for Christ and him crucified. Why is that so hard or controversial?

    Does a Christian magistrate have an obligation to use the Scripture to inform his conscience about the nature of justice, OR can he rely on the light of nature alone? (This is a murky question, and I still don’t understand their position on this).

    Jeff, my short answer is both. My extended answer is that if you’re asking whether a magistrate who is a Christian should pay attention to Scripture as he goes about his magisterial tasks then I think the answer is actually pretty clear: yes, and so should the baker who is a Christian. But if Paul is right then the conscience is as God-made as a pair of feet, and so should also be used freely. It seems to me that the allergy against using the light of nature stems not from a doctrine of total depravity as much as from a doctrine of utter depravity. I have fallen arches, but I still use my feet to cross a room, so what’s the problem in using a fallen conscience to get through my daily tasks? My conscience may be totally depraved but it isn’t utterly useless, just like my fallen arches.

  450. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2011 at 6:28 am

    >>What I am saying is that, to the extent that abortion is a highly politicized issue in 2011 America, Reformed pulpits should be much more conservative and cautious in what they say about it.

    So Reformed pulpits can address issues until secular society politicizes an issue? Who has authority in the pulpit?

  451. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Todd, what I mean is that if we believe that God *is* just, then the moral law as a reflection of God’s character tells us what justice looks like. God’s justice is justice, not merely in the church, but in all creation.

    For that reason, it would seem that by reading and meditating on the law, our sense of justice is sharpened. Here I have in mind Ps 1 and Ps 37.30-31 and Ps 119, but Heb 5.14 as well, and of course the Confession: This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness (and while you’re looking it up, check out the proof-texts also).

    So while a magistrate should certainly be fully up on the law of the land; nevertheless, he must administer that law justly, which requires (IMO) meditating on the law of the Lord.

  452. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Zrim (#450): It seems to me that the allergy against using the light of nature stems not from a doctrine of total depravity as much as from a doctrine of utter depravity.

    Actually, it stems from conflicted usage.

    In 2k thought, apparently, “natural law” is held to be identical to “the decalogue” (though it sometimes appears to be limited to the “hexalogue”, the second table).

    But in philosophy, “natural law” refers to an objective standard of ethics that stands outside any divine command, per Locke and Grotius. It is ethics derived from reason alone, and purposefully separated from divine command ethics.

    Until this thread, Zrim, I had never heard you say that the second table of the Law is a legitimate source of human law. You might have said it and I missed it, but I was looking for it and didn’t see it.

    What I understood you to be saying instead was that the natural law is identical to the decalogue, but that the decalogue is not to be used in the public square. (!)

    For that reason, I believed that the Zrim/DGH version of natural law was closer to Locke than to the Reformers.

    So let me be clear: I am not allergic to Scripturally-informed conscience as the basic method of living this life. That’s what we all pretty much do, since Scripture does not give definite prescriptions for … let’s look around the house … how or whether to pick up the Uno cards, when to finish the grading, whether a drawing robot is a good or bad thing, etc.

    I *am* allergic to a natural law theory that either (a) decouples itself from the decalogue and adheres to pure reason or conscience as the source of ethics and law; or (b) makes Christians feel ashamed for doing their best to be faithful to the Scriptures in common endeavors.

    How are we doing?

  453. dgh said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

    David Gray wrote: “So R2K has no problems with laws restricting or eliminating abortion.”

    Duh.

  454. dgh said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Darrell wrote: “If the Two Kingdoms theology is tolerated in Reformed circles without clearly explaining why ZRim’s views are not a consistent development of 2K theology, our war to defend babies about abortion is over.”

    This is delusional, as if Zrim could defeat a movement, or as if “Reformed circles” have a monopoly on opposition to abortion.

    I think you best get a grip.

  455. dgh said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:55 am

    GAS, I thinks your point about 2k and neo-Calvinism is correct though it is not the only point of disagreement. I do not think that regeneration makes Christians smarter or wiser. I believe that wisdom about the world comes mainly from studying the world, the way that thinkers like Leon Kass and Wendell Berry do.

    The point then is that neo-Calvinist’s typically neglect the light of nature because Christ is only revealed in Scripture and so the Lordship of Christ over every square inch must come from Scripture. This neglects the order of creation and efforts to find out how our lives may or may not conform to the order that God has ordained in his creation.

  456. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:59 am

    >Duh.

    Well at least it wasn’t a four letter word.

  457. dgh said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Jeff, on the point about why I limit Scripture to the institution as opposed to the individual: I do so because our tradition does (and Frame’s objections to the RPW and his case for biblicism both reflect an inability to grasp this part of our tradition). In order to have liberty of conscience you have to make this distinction between what the Bible requires and so what churches may lawfully require from members. Without that distinction, my reading of the Bible becomes a norm for you, and this is actually what is often happening with criticisms of 2k — because I don’t agree with Tim Bayly’s reading of the Bible, I am not biblical and am unreliable. Huh?

    Plus, my decision to love my neighbors by shopping locally is not derived from scripture. It reflects my reading of political theory and economics. I then apply those insights as I try to live within my neighborhood and region. But even those categories — neighborhood and region — are not prescribed or defined by Scripture.

    So my own counsel on economic decisions is hardly based on what the Bible reveals. And if you keep telling me that the Bible speaks to all of life, I’m going to keep insisting that it doesn’t because all of life involves economic decisions and how to define neighborhoods. And it is not at all clear to me that my reading of political theory or economics is required of all Christians. Hence it is not a Christian world and life view. It is one person’s conviction.

  458. dgh said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Jeff, you wrote:

    “(d) Does the Scripture speak in broad ways about common affairs, or does it speak to Christians about their moral behavior in those common affairs?

    “(e) Does a Christian magistrate have an obligation to use the Scripture to inform his conscience about the nature of justice, OR can he rely on the light of nature alone? (This is a murky question, and I still don’t understand their position on it).”

    Of course, 2k says the Bible speaks to some of the ethical matters that Christians confront in common affairs. Do I take the post-it notes from the office home? No. The Bible says don’t steal. I don’t know why you think we differ on something like that.

    Where we likely differ is your attempt to extend the Bible to all common activities, as if every decision I make is on the order of whether or not to steal or lie.

    As far as the Christian magistrate, let’s just say that we agree since you are as unclear about this as you think I am. I do not know, for instance, what you think about a Chrstian magistrate’s duty to uphold the laws of a nation when those laws make no reference to God or Scripture. Can a Christian take a vow to uphold such laws? The Covenanters used to believe a Covenanter could not.

    That means I am more than willing to acknowledge that Scripture binds a Christian magistrate. But what I don’t hear from 2k critics is that a magistrate is also bound to uphold secular laws. And since many 2k critics have this la la land notion of America as a Christian nation, they seem to think there is no imcompatibility between U.S. laws (at least on the days they are medicated and not hysterical) and the Bible. I actually do see tensions between SCripture and U.S. law and I believe some Christians may not be able to serve because of it. (I don’t think you are guilty of this but you do traffic on the other side of 2k arguments.)

    In that case, I have all along conceded that the Bible speaks to some aspects of a Christian’s duties in the public square, just as I have long admitted that Christian plumbers and bakers should not lie.

    It’s just that I think baking, plumbing, and ruling involve a lot more than the Ten Commandments, and in fact, most of the important work of these vocations is not ethical.

  459. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:13 am

    DGH (#458): Jeff, on the point about why I limit Scripture to the institution as opposed to the individual: I do so because our tradition does….

    That’s surprising to me. I thought that all the people of God were to search out the Scriptures (WCoF 1.8), and that the reading of Scripture is to be a part of both public and private worship, and that the moral law is of use to all men to inform them of their duty (WLC 95).

    And of course:

    Question 156: Is the Word of God to be read by all?

    Answer: Although all are not to be permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.

    So what can you possibly mean, that our tradition limits Scripture to the institution and not the individual?

  460. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

    >It’s just that I think baking, plumbing, and ruling involve a lot more than the Ten Commandments, and in fact, most of the important work of these vocations is not ethical.

    And how does preaching on the evil of the common practice of child murder not fall within the realm of the Ten Commandments?

  461. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I would also commend to the interested, Fisher’s commentary on WSC 90.

    E.g.: Q. 12. When is the word received with faith, in time of reading and hearing of it?

    A. When there is an application of it to the soul in particular, in a suitableness to the state and case of the person, and the nature of the word, whether in a way of promise, Lam. 3:24, or threatening, Psalm 119:120.

  462. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

    dgh said at 455 on January 15, 2011 at 9:50 am: “Darrell wrote: ‘If the Two Kingdoms theology is tolerated in Reformed circles without clearly explaining why ZRim’s views are not a consistent development of 2K theology, our war to defend babies about abortion is over.’ This is delusional, as if Zrim could defeat a movement, or as if ‘Reformed circles’ have a monopoly on opposition to abortion. I think you best get a grip.”

    Dr. Hart: While I don’t always succeed, I try to choose my words carefully, especially when they are words of criticism.

    I said “If the Two Kingdoms theology is tolerated in Reformed circles without clearly explaining why ZRim’s views are not a consistent development of 2K theology, our war to defend babies about abortion is over.”

    Key words are “**our** war to defend babies” (not the war by other non-Reformed churches) and “ZRim’s views” (not ZRim personally).

    I never said Reformed circles have a monopoly on opposition to abortion. I never said ZRim has the personal ability to wreck the pro-life movement.

    Obviously God can make even the stones cry out if the people called by his name remain silent. The PCUSA and other mainline denominations are reaping the whirlwind of wickedness, and God is raising up people who truly are faithful to his name when the sons of once-faithful churches choose to reject their inheritance of faith.

    What I **DID** say is that ZRim’s views, as repeatedly articulated here and elsewhere, are dangerous. The views are the problem, not the person.

    Given time, both people and movements, whether in the theological, academic or political worlds, tend to become consistent with their presuppositions. Somebody needs to show very clearly why ZRim’s views are not a logical and consistent development of Two Kingdoms theology.

    What I see coming from too many Two Kingdoms people is a defeatest spirit that turns into a world-flight approach that is very much like the “I’ll fly away”
    spirit of early- to mid-20th Century dispensationalism. I believe we can correctly condemn that as de facto Anabaptism even if it’s not theological Anabaptism.

    What I’m afraid is happening is that ZRim, along with too many other young Reformed people (and yes, I know ZRim is not YRR) are seeing the consistent conclusions of Two Kingdoms theology that their fathers and elders either do not see or fail to take to their logical end.

  463. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    David Gray said in 451 on January 15, 2011 at 6:28 am: Quoting ZRim “What I am saying is that, to the extent that abortion is a highly politicized issue in 2011 America, Reformed pulpits should be much more conservative and cautious in what they say about it.” ANSWER: “So Reformed pulpits can address issues until secular society politicizes an issue? Who has authority in the pulpit?”

    David, you hit the nail on the head right here.

    So let’s ask the question ZRim raised. “Sanctity of Life Sunday” is coming soon. I totally understand why lots of Reformed people will object to either ecclesiastical or civil “Holy Days” — we don’t need to celebrate Fathers Day to preach on biblical fatherhood — so it’s not fair to ask the 2K pastors here if they will preach on abortion on “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” But how many 2K pastors will preach on abortion at some point in the next year?

    We can be certain that lots of Reformed churches have people in their pews who have had abortions or who may consider one in the future. It is a major temptation due to sexual promiscuity that many churches don’t like to address but which is plaguing not only the secular world but also the church world. If pastors aren’t preaching on abortion, put bluntly, they are not doing their jobs.

  464. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Zrim wrote: “Pulpits should be reserved for Christ and him crucified. Why is that so hard or controversial?”

    This is another one of those inaccurate and extreme slogans. Pastors are called not only to evangelize but also to feed the flock – to provide edification and build up believers in sanctification.

    Timely preaching against the mass murder that is going on today is not in conflict with preaching Christ and him crucified, for the same Christ said: if ye love me, keep my commandments.

    -TurretinFan

  465. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    >“Pulpits should be reserved for Christ and him crucified. Why is that so hard or controversial?”

    That sounds surprisingly like “no creed but Christ.”

  466. Zrim said,

    January 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Tfan, I’m surpised you’d object to the plea to preach Christ and him crucified as “inaccurate and extreme.” Then again, I’m not. But to the extent that I think there are parallels between soteriological matters and ecclesiological ones, your notion that the church should preach Christ PLUS politics seems like the ecclesiological version of the soteriological notion that we are justifed by faith PLUS something. But if we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then shouldn’t we preach Christ alone?

    So at what point do you think the church oversteps her bounds and begins to become a glorified socio-political action group? My sense is that 2k-SOTC critics think this happens when either a church preaches politics the critics don’t care much about or they preach a brand of politics the critics disagree with. And so it just seems like you guys think that a certain measure of social gospel is ok, so long as it’s your social gospel. Even so, it sure would go down easier for me if you just admitted that you think a little bit of social gospel is good. I’d still disagree, of course, but at least it would seem a little more forthright on your part.

  467. Zrim said,

    January 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    David Gray, that criticism sounds a lot like one sympathetic to “Word and deed” ministry, which usually comes from “No creed but Christ” types. But I’m of the “Word and sacrament” persuasion, which usually comes from those who are also creedal-confessional.

  468. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Zrim:

    I object your characterization: “Tfan, I’m surpised you’d object to the plea to preach Christ and him crucified as “inaccurate and extreme.””

    That’s not close to what I said, and I invite you to retract your characterization.

    -TurretinFan

  469. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    “So at what point do you think the church oversteps her bounds and begins to become a glorified socio-political action group?”

    For well-catechized people, the rule of faith Scripture. That’s what sets the bounds and limits, not pious-sounding slogans that result in a 27 (or less) book canon of Scripture.

    -TurretinFan

  470. Zrim said,

    January 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    So Reformed pulpits can address issues until secular society politicizes an issue? Who has authority in the pulpit?

    Good question. It seems to me that when pulpits address politicized issues then we have the world setting the church’s agenda, which suggests that when pulpits do this it is the world that has the authority. At least the 20th century Protestant liberals were forthright enough to freely admit this.

    But let me try again: I’m not saying that something like abortion should be always and absolutely avoided in the pulpit. I’m saying that pulpits (at least those who think themselves conservative) should be much more careful about how they do it and not be so cavalier as to suggest that the last 35+ years in American legislation and culture never happened.

  471. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Zrim now: “I’m not saying that something like abortion should be always and absolutely avoided in the pulpit.”

    Zrim then: “Pulpits should be reserved for Christ and him crucified.”

  472. Stuart said,

    January 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    This is another one of those inaccurate and extreme slogans. Pastors are called not only to evangelize but also to feed the flock – to provide edification and build up believers in sanctification.

    Tfan,

    I agree that the whole “We preach nothing but Christ and him crucified” slogan is inaccurate when used by some. I’ve run into a lot of folks who have turned Paul’s words into a rallying cry for a certain type of preaching. But I think they are misusing the phrase.

    Since the binding of the conscience has been a topic in these comments recently, we should note that in the context of 1 Corinthians 2, Paul is not establishing a kind of preaching method that should be binding on the conscience of every preacher. One of the problems Paul faced in Corinth was the emphasis on rhetoric, worldly wisdom, and a fondness for cleverness of speech. Into that context, Paul resolved to “know nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified.”

    And even that phrase shouldn’t be taken as if the only thing Paul talked about was Christ dying on the cross for our sins. All one has to do is read the rest of 1 Corinthians to see that Paul certainly taught them more than just “Christ and his death.” As I’ve told several folks about this issue, the phrase should be read “Christ . . . and him crucified” (the second half of the phrase emphasizing the “stumbling block” part of who this Christ is), not “Christ and him crucified” (as if the phrase should all be read together and the only content of Paul’s message was about Christ’s death on the cross).

    Having said that, I’m certain part of Zrim’s concern touches on those who use the pulpit to espouse a political position rather than preach the good news of Jesus. I have been in those services when I’ve thought the sermon could be lifted from its ecclesiastical context and dropped into any secular venue without much trouble. There are sermons that the political concern overtakes any soteriological, ecclesiastical, or or eschatological concern.

    And then, of course, there is the issue of whose political position will we support from the pulpit? Isn’t looking out for the poor and needy just as clearly taught in Scripture as being against mass murder?

  473. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Stuart:

    I don’t think you and I have any disagreement.

    I’ll take this chance to point out what seems to be a recurring theme:

    1) Zrim or DGH says something that sounds radical.
    2) Someone objects.
    3) Zrim or DGH then attributes the opposite radical position to the objector and claims that they (Zrim or DGH) were just aiming for balance.
    4) Then, shortly later, some new radical-sounding claim is made … (go to 2).

    Take an example:

    DGH wrote: “But again, if you think the Bible is the norm for the state on murder, why isn’t the Bible the norm for the state on worship (i.e. religious freedom or lack thereof), or on which sex gets to rule.”

    That is a statement that implies that DGH thinks that the Bible is not the norm for the state on murder (since we know that DGH does not think that the Bible is the norm for the latter two categories).

    But the Bible clearly is the norm for the state on murder. Even if you only think that the civil magistrate must enforce the second table, you must surely recognize that murder is within the second table.

    -TurretinFan

  474. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    TFan, no. 472: if I might jump in with a possible defense of Zrim’s apparent contradiction.

    It seems to me that Zrim is objecting to the sermon that is merely moralistic (political). E.g., a sermon that says: abortion is murder (correct), a nation that supports murder will experience temporal judgment (correct), Christians should oppose abortion (correct), and … (silence about Christ and how his life/death/resurrection/rule apply to the Christian with regards to abortion – incorrect).

    The ultimate and explicit point of the sermon must be Christ and Him crucified. Any subject touched on by Scripture is an appropriate context for a a sermon, yet if it does not apply Christ than it hardly deserves to be called a Christian sermon, let alone offered from the pulpit of a church professing allegiance to him.

    To give Zrim the benefit of the doubt, I’ve always understood his objection here to be against so called preaching on abortion that has little difference with a stump speech a politician might offer on the campaign trail. That latter is perfectly appropriate (and I would add, righteous) speech. Yet is wrong to offer the same as a sermon.

    Much worse than a nation which promotes abortion is a Church which promotes Christless preaching. Abortion is a great wickedness. God’s people ignoring Jesus is worse!

  475. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Reed:

    That would seem to fit my model in #474.

    1) Zrim makes an extreme-sounding statement;

    2) It turns out that it is in opposition to an opposite extreme (Jesus absent completely from the pulpit) – but a position no one here has been advocating; (In fact, recall his false witness against me in characterizing my objection as though were an objection to preaching Christ and him crucified)

    3) And it is alleged that the statement was just intended to be a call to balance.

    In fact, I think you’re right. And I don’t disagree with what you wrote. I doubt the Baylys would disagree with what you’ve wrote. Doug Wilson would probably be able to nod his affirmation to what you’ve written there. Even Rick Warren would probably begrudgingly assent to what you’ve said. We all agree.

    In other words, everyone except the most ultra-liberal folks out there recognize that preaching involves preaching the cross. So, it appears that Zrim’s point is just a red herring.

    But go back and consider why Zrim said what he said. Look at what he was responding to. Was Zrim responding to someone who said, “We can leave Jesus out of sermons.” If not, then even if we interpret Zrim’s slogan in the sense we assume he intended it (i.e. the Zrim now sense), we still have a problem.

    Zrim’s immediately prior sentence, you may recall was: “Frankly, if “Sanctity of Life Sunday” (next week) is any measure, I think pulpits which conceive themselves as conservative aren’t being nearly conservative enough when they preach sermons clearly designed after cultural-political exegesis, which is actually a very theologically progressive posture.”

    Notice that he’s going after professedly conservative pulpits in that comment. So, where’s the beef?

    Does Zrim really think that professedly conservative pulpits believe that it is ok not to preach Christ crucified? Or that they, in fact do preach such sermons (whether intentionally or not)?

    It appears that Zrim objects to Sanctity of Life Sunday, and that he doesn’t want pastors to preach one whole sermon a year against a sin that is killing millions of people a year, at least not if there is going to be any mention of what the civil magistrate’s duties are with respect to the sixth commandment. That’s what it looks like – and to defend that point, he makes extreme statements that he then retreats from. And the moderate statements that he winds up with don’t stand against the position he’s opposing.

    - TurretinFan

  476. Zrim said,

    January 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Tfan, I’m sorry, but you really seem to be working awfully hard at unraveling what I think is a pretty straight-forward point. But, as long as “mass murder” is your concern, I wonder if you’d work this hard about sermons that want to say something about the injustice of pre-emptive war that takes the lives of civilians (something no definition of “just war” I’m aware of knows)? I’m not saying this is you, but I’ve asked Reformed pastors who think nothing of saying in their sermons or intercessory prayers something about the need to “outlaw abortion” (outlawing is political and legislation language) what they’d make of others who would do the same with regard to the current war. The response is something akin to the idea that “politics are inappropriate in the pulpit.” Why do concerns over current reproductive legislation escape this analysis but those about war don’t? Maybe you’ll offer up something about how unjust war is within the purview of the church, but I’m more inclined to say that the spirituality of the church would have us keepp both politicl concerns at bay instead of finding a way to invite them both in.

    OldLife offers this quote from Machen recently which I think is relevant:

    There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for His unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten – it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Christian for fellowship with his brethren. . . . There are congregations, eve in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes to Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one find only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of mediation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problems of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861 . . . Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God. And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace. Is there no refuge from strife? . . . . Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, . . . to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.

    Do the principles Machen articulates here apply to our day, or are his words outdated? If so, what sorts of “social problems” do we have in our day that would ask Jesus to slide over a bit in his throne or otherwise distract us from the balm and rest he aims to give us from the woes and cares of this present age? Is it at all possible that even that which some consider a “horrible social evil and holocaust” needs to be quieted and set aside so his people can hear his voice as clearly as possible about the great things he has done and the great things he has prepeared for those who love him? Or is it that this one social and political concern is the one that gets to play by different rules and distract us from the unfettered gospel?

    You also say this: But the Bible clearly is the norm for the state on murder.

    I’m still wondering what you make of your namesake’s idea that civil power is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while ecclesiastical power by “the word of God alone.” I think you said before that you have disagreed with Turretin, so would this be an example? He thinks civil power is not regulated by the Bible but you seem to.

  477. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Reed, I agree with what you thought would be appropriate. I’m not at all sure that Zrim is saying what you said.

  478. Zrim said,

    January 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    David Gray, the question may not be so much how Reed and me line up but what one thinks of something like David Bayly’s “A Sermon for the President and for the People of God.” If I’m not mistaken, you think this sort of thing is appropriate, but I think it’s a good example of what Machen is talking about:

    http://www.baylyblog.com/2009/06/a-sermon-for-the-presidentand-for-the-people-of-god.html

  479. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Zrim:

    If #477 is supposed to clarify your objection to Sanctity of Life Sunday, it failed with respect to me. Let me try to help you out.

    Imagine that I, TurretinFan, have a pulpit from which to preach and I plan to preach on Sunday that (among other things) intentional abortion is murder, murder is wrong, the civil magistrate has a duty to uphold the 6th commandment, and that since my hearers are in a limited sense the civil magistrate they ought to fulfill their obligation with respect to the 6th commandment by conforming the law of the land to the law of God. I will then point out that Christ died for us, and that if we love Christ, we will keep his commandments.

    1. Do you have any objection to my hypothetical sermon?

    2. If the answer to (1) is “no,” then I truly do not understand why you are raising a fuss about Sanctity of Life Sunday. What is your problem with it?

    3. If the answer to (1) is “yes,” then please identify what your objection is.

    -TurretinFan

  480. TurretinFan said,

    January 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Zrim:

    You wrote:

    I’m still wondering what you make of your namesake’s idea that civil power is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes,” while ecclesiastical power by “the word of God alone.” I think you said before that you have disagreed with Turretin, so would this be an example? He thinks civil power is not regulated by the Bible but you seem to.

    Candidly, I think you’re basing your comment on what you read in Van Drunen’s book, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, p. 208. And I don’t think you’ve correctly understood what Van Drunen wrote. I’ll reserve comment about whether Van Drunen properly understood Turretin.

    -TurretinFan

  481. dgh said,

    January 16, 2011 at 10:16 am

    David Gray: “Well at least it wasn’t a four letter word.”

    Duhh!

  482. dgh said,

    January 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Jeff, come on. We have been around this topic long enough for you to at least understand — whether you agree — that when I talk about our tradition and Scripture and the church I am talking about the limits of church authority based on what Scripture reveals. So if the Bible speaks to all of life, does the church have authority over baking plumbing, baking, and taxes?

    I would think you would know by now that this is what I am appealing to. That Scripture limits what the church may say and that such limits are the basis for Christians to be free from the doctrines and commandments of men.

    Sorry for constantly associating you with Frame, but his failure to understand the regulative principle and his case for biblicism appear to be at work with your own view (which I think is prone to leaks) about the Bible speaking to all of life and your not recognizing the way that Scripture functions in the holy and common vocations.

  483. dgh said,

    January 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Darrell, you need to prove from the Bible that the passivity and withdrawal you associate with 2k — which may be a proper constriction of the institutional church’s responsibilities, as Machen himself understand the work of the church — is wrong. If you read Paul in 2 Cor. 4 you don’t see the kind of cheerleading for transformation or triumphalism that you seem to assume is the Reformed view. You also won’t find that kind of triumphalism in Calvin. But since you seem to read the rest of Christianity through the lens of Kuyper and a Reformed-world-and-life view, I suggest that you read our faith less Whiggishly and try reading Kupyer from the perspective of Calvin’s teaching on how Christians are to regard the present life — somewhere in book III of the institutes. I believe you may end up accusing Calvin of an Anabaptist view. How anachronistic is that?!?

  484. dgh said,

    January 16, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Tfan, apparently with all of our interaction before on these points you still haven’t really reflected on the point I was trying to make about the Decalogue.

    1) the Decalogue is a unit.

    2) If you appeal to the 6th commandment as a standard for the state, you must also appeal to the rest of the commandments.

    3) If you only appeal to the second table, you are setting yourself up as the arbiter of which commandments apply to the state and which ones don’t.

    4) If you do that you may be in violation of the first commandment.

    5) In which case, if you are going to make a big deal of the 6th commandment, to be consistent you should also make a big deal of the 4th, for instance.

    6) if you make a big deal of the 6th and not the 4th, you are not consistent.

    BTW, I don’t think you need to appeal to the Decalogue for the state to oppose murder. Our nation is opposed to murder and has laws against it that don’t cite Exod. 20. Even pro-choicers know that murder is wrong. That is why they argue (fallaciously) that abortion is not murder.

  485. Zrim said,

    January 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Tfan, I know logicians hate this, but my answer is yes and no.

    Like I have said here and plenty elsewhere, I am, like you, morally and politically opposed to abortion; I think my own anti-abortion views are even more conservative than those who characterize theirs as “pro-life,” because my political views include no exception for assault and also opposing federal legislation that usurps local magistrates to outlaw it in every nook and cranny of the union the way the current legislation usurps local authority in order to legalize it; I, too, believe that murder is wrong and that the magistrate has a duty to punish the wicked and reward the just (and protect the weak and defenseless, I might add).

    But the objection I’d have to your sermon outline is that it sure seems like a political point being made with something about Christ clumsily tacked onto the end to circumvent the objection. My point is that even my own political views should be told to take a back seat to Christ and him crucified. I understand some here think that by “Christ and him crucified” I mean something somehow impoverished or lacking, but I truly find this puzzling. By Jesus’ own hermeneutic, all the Scriptures are about him. So what I sense is that while we share moral and political views on the issue of abortion and how it is a blight on our nation (sorry, I prefer strong language to rhetorical hysterics like “holocaust and mass murder”), we diverge more mightily on a doctrine vital to the health of the church, the spirituality of the church. For my part, I can live with an imperfect polity and with things not shaking out the way I think they should in the civil sphere, but what bothers me much more is the way some views end up fettering the gospel and distracting us from it with the traditions of men and the cares of the world. One upshot is alienating those from the gospel who don’t share our political views. I’d rather oppose my political opponents where I’m supposed to, in the voting booth instead of around the Lord’s Table. But it sure seems to me that the critics of 2k-SOTC would have it be both and in so doing create a spiritual havoc in the church that pales in comparison to whatever blight legalized abortion brings to a civil nation.

  486. TurretinFan said,

    January 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    DGH:

    If you can tell me what’s wrong with this argument, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with your argument.

    1) God is one.

    2) If you appeal to general revelation, you must also appeal to special revelation.

    3) If you only appeal to general revelation, you are setting yourself up as the arbiter of what revelation applies to the state and what doesn’t.

    4) If you do that you may be in violation of special revelation.

    etc.

    - TurretinFan

  487. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    DGH (#483): Jeff, come on. We have been around this topic long enough for you to at least understand — whether you agree — that when I talk about our tradition and Scripture and the church I am talking about the limits of church authority based on what Scripture reveals. So if the Bible speaks to all of life, does the church have authority over baking plumbing, baking, and taxes?

    I think you misunderstood. The point of #446 was to open up a new and possibly fruitful line of thought. In that point, I anticipated and answered your objections in #483. I get the sense that perhaps you didn’t read it carefully?

    So once more, with feeling, four-part harmony, and as much theological precision as I can muster:

    (1) There are two groups of people who are certainly required to use the Scripture:

    (a) The officers of the church, who use it to preach, evangelize, admonish, exhort, and make decisions on doctrinal matters.

    (b) All Christians, who are to read it with faith and obedience.

    (2) The first group (of which you are speaking) must certainly use the Strict Scrutiny test of good and necessary inference from Scripture; they cannot lay down rules about shopping at WalMart, purchasing SUVs, or reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover, without grounding such rules in good and necessary inferences from Scripture.

    (3) The second group (of which I am now speaking) is not required to use the Strict Scrutiny test to justify their attempted obedience to Scripture. Here we have in mind an individual, considering his own behavior coram deo. He reads in Ephesians, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” He considers: how does this Scripture apply in my life?

    [See? I used the word "apply" instead of "mean." I can be reasonable ;) ]

    He concludes that in his family, this Scripture requires him to no longer scold his children about chores, but to find a different way to get them to get the chores done.

    My point is, He doesn’t need run this by the church to get their approval on his obedience. Individual Christians, reading the Scriptures on their own (as indeed the Catechism says they ought), will be interpreting them, and applying what they learn.

    We either tell them to “stop it!”, or we can admit that the Scripture is *not* just for the institution, and that not all uses of Scripture have to pass the Strict Scrutiny test. Not that we want individuals coming up with crazy interpretations on their own, but that we recognize that reading Scripture, interpreting it, and applying it, is a part of the Christian life.

    (4) So the Strict Scrutiny test is not universal for every application of Scripture, but instead applies when one Christian tries to bind the conscience of another.

  488. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Zrim (#486):

    Is it fair to say that while in church, you would rather have the intended audience of the sermon be those in the congregation, rather than those out there in the culture (say, the POTUS)?

    And if so, would it be fair to say that those in the congregation are much more likely to be considering having abortions rather than considering performing them or allowing them?

    And that therefore, a good “pro-life” sermon (assuming that today’s text was, say, Exodus 20.13) would focus more on the wrongness of having abortions than the wrongness of permitting or providing them?

  489. Zrim said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Is it fair to say that while in church, you would rather have the intended audience of the sermon be those in the congregation, rather than those out there in the culture (say, the POTUS)?

    Jeff, yes, it seems to me that the intended hearers of the preached word should be those of the congregation of God. That is the indicative-imperative pattern of Scripture, so it seems to me that the Reformed, who pattern themselves after Scripture, should follow this general principle.

    And if so, would it be fair to say that those in the congregation are much more likely to be considering having abortions rather than considering performing them or allowing them? And that therefore, a good “pro-life” sermon (assuming that today’s text was, say, Exodus 20.13) would focus more on the wrongness of having abortions than the wrongness of permitting or providing them?

    My point has always been that there is a difference between what a Christian does in his/her own body and what s/he does in the voting booth in order to make the point about simultaneous minimal personal liberty and maximal political liberty (which is to say, “No, you mayn’t have or perform this act, but you may vote as either a private individual or public magistrate in ways that might make the world safe for it”). But even when the consideration is personal instead of political, I just find the assumption behind your statement hard to buy. Not that they are less vulnerable to sinning than others, but realistically I just find it hard to believe that those nurtured in more or less conservative churchly environs are considering having abortions, so much so that our pastors think they need to explicitly exhort them against it on a regular basis. To my mind, it’s like me nurturing my daughters in righteous living, which includes not cheating at school. Then one day the school legalizes cheating. Now, I don’t see anything wrong with addressing this in the immediate wake of the decision, but when I designate a day once a year called “Sanctity of Studying Sunday” and tack a reminder onto their bedroom doors not to cheat, it seems to me that I’m more making a statement about the school’s policy than I am concerned for her personal ethics and behavior.

    All that to say, it may sound naïve, but I really have to wonder how much faith we place God’s own promises to preserve us in holiness when we seem overly worried about the goings on in the wider world. I also have to wonder whether we’re being a bit condescending toward our own when we seem to imply that they’ll act in immoral ways if given the legal opportunity. I mean, lots of immoral things are legal, so the special focus on legalized abortion seems a bit myopic.

    But two more things. First, the NT is more concerned for sexual ethics amongst the faithful than for life ethics. Second, reason tells me that abortion is precipitated by sexual indiscretion. Those two things seem to imply to me that if we want to hedge ourselves in from abortions happening amongst us we do better to exhort ourselves in sexual ethics. That way, and to bring my point full circle, we follow the pattern of both special revelation and general revelation.

  490. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 17, 2011 at 11:23 am

    dgh said in 484 on January 16, 2011 at 10:31 am: “Darrell, you need to prove from the Bible that the passivity and withdrawal you associate with 2k — which may be a proper constriction of the institutional church’s responsibilities, as Machen himself understand the work of the church — is wrong. If you read Paul in 2 Cor. 4 you don’t see the kind of cheerleading for transformation or triumphalism that you seem to assume is the Reformed view. You also won’t find that kind of triumphalism in Calvin. But since you seem to read the rest of Christianity through the lens of Kuyper and a Reformed-world-and-life view, I suggest that you read our faith less Whiggishly and try reading Kupyer from the perspective of Calvin’s teaching on how Christians are to regard the present life — somewhere in book III of the institutes. I believe you may end up accusing Calvin of an Anabaptist view. How anachronistic is that?!?”

    Did not John Calvin include in his books prefaces to political leaders asking them to reform their governing practices?

    The Apostle Paul made use of his rights as a Roman citizen, even (as was often the case) when he was a minority of one citizen in the room who was a Christian. We now have a large majority of professing Christians in America, a substantial minority of evangelicals, and the power of the vote which allows us not only to appeal to the government to allow us our civil rights under the law but also to make those laws. The Apostle Paul was not in that situation. We are. Should we not use those rights?

  491. dgh said,

    January 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Jeff, your two examples only prove (?) my point. A father who reads the Bible and sees something about how he should treat his children or about having patience is also someone who is accountable to his elders if he exhibits behavior that is at odds with biblical teaching. A father who reads economics and then shops in a way that attempts to embody love of neighbor is not so bound by church officers because there is no good and necessary consequence as a matter of conscience for elders to impose such a norm.

    So in both cases we are again talking about what Scripture says and the ways it is silent. And that difference is at the heart of church power and Christian liberty. Biblicism and expansionist views of the regulative principle make hay of a distinction that was at the ground level of the Reformation — sola scriptura.

  492. dgh said,

    January 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Tfan: you wrote: “If you appeal to general revelation, you must also appeal to special revelation.”

    Nice try but would you like to supply a biblical text for this? It sounds to me like you’re saying that if I eat meat offered to idols I need to supply a biblical text that compels me to do so. You may say that the Bible says that we may eat or not eat meat offered to idols. In which case, the Bible is not prescribing anything about eating meat.

    But if meat eaters find a biblical text, and meat avoiders find a biblical text, then the God who is one has given a Bible that speaks out of both sides of its meat.

    In other words, your reach for the Bible in matters where the Bible is silent is to take away the grounds for Christian liberty.

    You wrote: “If you only appeal to general revelation, you are setting yourself up as the arbiter of what revelation applies to the state and what doesn’t.”

    No I am not, I am simply following the reading skills I learned in public schools which tell me that the Bible does not speak to constitutions, length of baseball paths, diameters of pipes, or monetary policy. I am also following the Reformed tradition which recognized that the Bible was limited in what it revealed, hence the lack of chapters in the Reformed confessions on the arts and sciences.

    But if you think the Bible speaks to everything, then our confessions are seriously inadequate.

  493. dgh said,

    January 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Darrell, noting that Calvin addressed the Institutes to the King of France hardly does justice to what Calvin also writes about the way that Christians are to regard the present life. But this is a constant rhetorical device of neo-Cal’s, only to read the parts they like rather than try to account for the triumphalism they delight in in some parts of Calvin and the passivity that is clearly on display in other parts.

    I understand why Calvin wrote Francis. Calvin was still a French citizen and was pleading for the lives of Protestants. That doesn’t mean that he was putting his trust in princes. He sang the psalms and knew that the only hope for humans, in life and in death, was the gospel that the church ministered, not the office of foreign ministry in the French kingdom.

  494. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    January 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Dr. Hart,

    Are not also guilty of ignoring Calvin’s thoughts on the penal laws (as seen best in his commentaries on both John 8 regarding adultery) and the divine call given to kings in John 10:35 where he says:

    “35. ‘To whom the word of God was addressed.’

    For Christ means that they were authorized by an undoubted command of God. Hence we infer that empires did not spring up at random, nor by the mistakes of men, but that they were appointed by the will of God, because he wishes that political order should exist among men, and that we should be governed by usages and laws. For this reason Paul says, that all who resist the power are rebels against God, because there is no power but what is ordained by God, (Romans 13:1-2.) It will, perhaps, be objected, that other callings also are from God, and are approved by him, and yet that we do not, on that account, call farmers, or cowherds, or cobblers, gods I reply, this is not a general declaration, that all who have been called by God to any particular way of living are called gods; but Christ speaks of kings, whom God has raised to a more elevated station, that they may rule and govern. In short, let us know that magistrates are called gods, because God has given them authority. Under the term Law, Christ includes the whole doctrine by which God governed his ancient Church; for since the prophets were only expounders of the Law, the Psalms are justly regarded as an appendage to the Law. That the Scripture cannot be broken means, that the doctrine of Scripture is inviolable.”

  495. January 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    [...] yet another round of snark-prone discussion of 2k at Green Baggins (I don’t think we’ll reach the record of 800-plus comments that we did [...]

  496. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    dgh said at 494.on January 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm: “Darrell, noting that Calvin addressed the Institutes to the King of France hardly does justice to what Calvin also writes about the way that Christians are to regard the present life. But this is a constant rhetorical device of neo-Cal’s, only to read the parts they like rather than try to account for the triumphalism they delight in in some parts of Calvin and the passivity that is clearly on display in other parts.”

    While I suspect we all do this at times unwittingly, I certainly do not do it intentionally.

    In my case it likely has someting to do with the fact that while I am theologically trained, I am a layman and a business owner in a field that forces me to work hundred hour weeks, and I have to pick and choose what else I do with my time. Most if not all of the people I know in the Ozarks would find these 2K debates very strange. My readers are more interested in a major drug bust which I was working on gathering information about this morning, and the visit of our Congresswoman tomorrow to Fort Leonard Wood — ironically, a non-pacifist member of a Mennonite denomination who serves on the House Armed Services Committee — than they are in these 2K debates.

    (And yes, I think she is extremely inconsistent but she has about a decade and a half of pro-life and anti-gay marriage credentials in the Missouri legislature and subsequent activities which seem to have convinced lots of ‘religious right’ voters to vote for her. Our county was the only major part of her district to vote against her, mostly for military-related reasons. In this case, I guess it’s good that her personal beliefs are better than those of her denomination.)

    dgh said at 494.on January 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm: “I understand why Calvin wrote Francis. Calvin was still a French citizen and was pleading for the lives of Protestants. That doesn’t mean that he was putting his trust in princes. He sang the psalms and knew that the only hope for humans, in life and in death, was the gospel that the church ministered, not the office of foreign ministry in the French kingdom.”

    I don’t think anyone has accused Calvin of putting his trust in princes, and I concur that we have greater warrant from Scripture to appeal to our own civil rulers than to do foreign policy when we are not in the State Department or Congress.

    I honestly don’t see how that is relevant.

  497. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Nice reading you again, Rev. Glaser… BTW, our churches will soon be in the same denomination and even the same presbytery once Gospel of Grace Church of Springfield is received into the ARPs. You will never see me at presbytery, however — I can affirm the URC church order but not full-fledged presbyterianism.

    A major reason I never joined the PCA outside Fort Leonard Wood, which is much closer to me, is that their pastor had no problem with me serving as an elder even though I don’t agree with presbyterian church government, and when I objected to his efforts to put me in church office, I was told that the presbytery would even be willing to ordain me to the PCA pastorate at his recommendation. I don’t know if that would have happened or not; I certainly hope not. I do know the ARPs well enough to know that kind of stuff will not be tolerated at your presbytery, and that is a good thing.

  498. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    DGH (#492): Well, I had hoped for some kind of understanding, but it was not to be.

    I can’t imagine that you would make a father’s decision to scold or not scold his children about chores a matter of church discipline. It seems like you’ve bitten the bullet here just to prove the point; but in real life, you would never do such a thing.

    The same liberty of conscience that applies to a man raising his children, is the same liberty of conscience that applies to a man shopping at local stores.

    Both are seeking to obey a command of Scripture (“do not exasperate your children” and “love your neighbor”, respectively), and both are at liberty to obey that command in the ways they best see fit.

  499. Zrim said,

    January 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Tfan, Re #481, I’m not clear on why quoting Turretin from DVD is any reason not answer what I think is my rather simple question about how civil power is regulated by “natural reason, civil laws and human statutes” in relation to your assertion that “The Bible clearly is the norm for the state on murder.” You also say I don’t understand DVD, which also seems to be a reason continue to pout about it instead of an opportunity to tutor my ignorance.

    But I’ll keep piling it on with some Kuyper from DVD. In light of your sustained assertions that the Bible “has a lot to say about running a country” or “The Bible is the norm for the state on murder,” I wonder how you’d respond to Uncle Abe:

    Does it follow, therefore, that the sooner we stop our observation of life the better, so that we can seek the rules of state polity outside life in Holy Scripture? This is how some mistakenly think that we reason…However, the opposite is true. Calvinism has never supported this untenable position but has always opposed it with might and main. A state polity that dismisses and scorns the observation of life and simply wishes to duplicate the situation of Israel, taking Holy Scripture as a complete code of Christian law for the state, would, according to the spiritual fathers of Calvinism, be the epitome of absurdity. Accordingly, in their opposition to Anabaptism as well as the Quakers, they expressed unreservedly their repugnance for this extremely dangerous and impractical theory.

    If we considered the political life of the nations as something unholy, unclean and wrong in itself, it would lie outside of human nature. Then the state would have to be seen as a purely external means of compulsion, and every attempt to discover even a trace of God’s ordinances in our own nature would be absurd. Only special revelation would then be capable of imparting to us the standards for that external means of discipline. Wherever, thus, this special revelation is absent, as in the heathen worlds, nothing but sin and distortion would prevail, which would therefore not even be worth the trouble of our observation…However, if we open the works of Calvin, Bullinger, Beza and Marnix van St. Aldegonde, it becomes obvious that Calvinism consciously chooses sides against this viewpoint. The experience of the states of antiquity, the practical wisdom of their laws, and the deep insight of their statesmen and philosophers is held in esteem by these men, and these are cited in support of their own affirmations and consciously related to the ordinances of God. The earnest intent of the political life of many nations can be explained in terms of the principles of justice and morality that spoke in their consciences. They cannot be explained simply as blindness brought on by the Evil One; on the contrary, in the excellence of their political efforts we encounter a divine ray of light…

    …with proper rights we contradict the argument that Holy Scripture should be seen as the source from which a knowledge of the best civil laws flow. The supporters of this potion talk as though after the Fall nature, human life, and history have ceased being a revelation of God and although, with the closing of this book, another book, called Holy Scriptures, as opened for us. Calvinism has never defended this untenable position and will never acknowledge it as its own…We have refuted the notion that we entertain the foolish effort to patch together civil laws from Bible texts, and we have declared unconditionally that psychology, ethnology, history and statistics are also for us given which, by the light of God’s Word, must determine the standards for the state polity.

    So now Kuyper is asserting that what we know in our created humanity is what regulates the civil code, not the absurd notion that the Bible does. He seems to be suggesting that to think the Bible norms common life is actually the Anabaptist error, contrary to the typical pc-2k critics who like to accused it of being a form of Anabaptism. Any ideas, or do you want to continue with the fat bottom lip?

  500. GAS said,

    January 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Zrim (490),

    May the Preacher speak about the cultural milieu around us that could lead to personal sin? Of course it’s one thing to warn about how culture might affect the church members and another to call them to a cultural action. But you seem to suggest that the milieu is incidental to any potential sins. That does seem naive.

  501. Zrim said,

    January 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    GAS, maybe you missed it when I suggested twice in this thread that I’m not saying something like abortion should be always and absolutely avoided in the pulpit. What that means is that the Preacher certainly may speak about the cultural milieu around us, including abortion. But the point is that he should be very careful about it, because like it or not, it is highly politicized. And if we’re serious about the spirituality of the church then it seems to me we’ll be sensitive to that fact. If the spirituality of the church is not so important then ho hum and pass me some Bayly’s Irish Cream.

    For my part, I have heard abortion addressed well from pulpits and poorly, mostly poorly. But it can be done. Who says I’m a pessimist? But I do wonder: since lots of immoral things are perfectly legal maybe we shouldn’t stop at “Sanctity of Life Sunday”? My local sheriff lets my local video store let people (over 18) rent porn. Maybe once a year we should explicitly remind the congregation that this is impermissible? Since lots of immoral things are legal we could conceivably fill up the calander with “Sanctity of fill-in-the-blank Sunday.” But I’m more inclined to require ministers of Word and sacrament to preach through the Catechism every Lord’s Day, and my hunch is that those that do that will cover the imperatives and principles that keep us from other principles in the cultural milieu that lead us to sit in abortion clinic waiting rooms and seedy little corners of local video stores.

  502. dgh said,

    January 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Jeff, actually, I believe any elder should be concerned about a man who abuses his children. Do you not? Don’t you think a session should discipline for that?

    Obviously, I use a charged word. But I do think a session has real authority over people based on what Scripture reveals. The Bible has somethings to say about parenting. A session that neglects to oversee her members on the basis of this instruction is delinquent.

    Sorry, Jeff, but once again I am completely flummoxed. You think the Bible speaks to all of life but don’t think fathers should have to be accountable to their elders for biblical teaching? You also have sometimes accused 2k of departing from Calvin. Well, have you ever read the consistory minutes of Geneva and the sorts of micromanaging that sometimes occurred (laudably) on biblical grounds. I am flummoxed because I don’t see a coherent position, where the Bible speaks, how the church ministers the word, and who has authority.

  503. dgh said,

    January 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Ben, I have not said ever that I follow Calvin in everything. All 2kers acknowledge a tension within Calvin. But when 2kers bring up the spiritual, less triumphalist, and suffering parts of Calvin, anti-2kers generally shout the other side down.

    As I say, I have an account for Calvin’s political side. Do the anti-2kers have an account of Calvin’s theology of the cross or do they even see it is in tension with Kuyperianism?

  504. dgh said,

    January 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Darrell, maybe you don’t think Calvin was putting his trust in princes, but some of us wonder the way you blister 2k if you are putting your trust in the pro-life movement.

  505. TurretinFan said,

    January 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Zrim:

    I find it shocking that you think that the mass slaughter of unborn infants is comparable in seriousness to the things to which you have compared it. And I am also shocked that you think “blight” is a sufficiently strong term to describe this horrific on-going series of murders of the most weak and defenseless members of society. Perhaps the reason you are so upset by Bayly’s sermon is that you don’t consider the sin of the murder of infants to be as serious a sin as we do, or as God did when he condemned the worshipers of Molech.

    -TurretinFan

  506. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    dgh said in 504 on January 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm: “Darrell, maybe you don’t think Calvin was putting his trust in princes, but some of us wonder the way you blister 2k if you are putting your trust in the pro-life movement.”

    That’s a fair question.

    At least in my circles, being pro-choice or taking the liberal Roman Catholic position that “I’m personally opposed to abotion but I don’t believe I should impose my personal faith on others by my vote” is almost always a mark of a liberal church. I believe it correctly in most cases marks a person or a church who does not take the Bible seriously. In other cases — and I’m trying to be generous — it marks someone who is evangelical but has a worldview problem.

    The reverse is not true, however. Just because someone doesn’t kill babies doesn’t make someone a Christian — lots of Roman Catholics who are pro-life are also praying to Mary and the saints and by defintion are not trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

    I do believe that a Christian citizen in America who uses his vote to elect baby-killers has some very serious problems, and just as with a pastor who does not preach on abortion, will have to answer to God for his negligence.

    Are there other things to preach on? Absolutely. Many of them are far more important. But asking shepherds of God’s sheep to take a stand against baby-killing seems like a pretty easy thing to ask, and should not be in any way a difficult decision to do.

  507. TurretinFan said,

    January 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    DGH:

    You wrote:

    Tfan: you wrote: “If you appeal to general revelation, you must also appeal to special revelation.”

    Nice try but would you like to supply a biblical text for this? It sounds to me like you’re saying that if I eat meat offered to idols I need to supply a biblical text that compels me to do so. You may say that the Bible says that we may eat or not eat meat offered to idols. In which case, the Bible is not prescribing anything about eating meat.

    But if meat eaters find a biblical text, and meat avoiders find a biblical text, then the God who is one has given a Bible that speaks out of both sides of its meat.

    In other words, your reach for the Bible in matters where the Bible is silent is to take away the grounds for Christian liberty.

    So, in answer to your corresponding line that if I appeal to the 2nd table, I must also appeal to the 1st table, I ask you to provide a biblical text.for this.

    As for your argument about meat, Scripture does speak explicitly to the question, so your example seems odd. I have no idea what you think its relevance to our discussion is.

    You continued:

    You wrote: “If you only appeal to general revelation, you are setting yourself up as the arbiter of what revelation applies to the state and what doesn’t.”

    No I am not, I am simply following the reading skills I learned in public schools which tell me that the Bible does not speak to constitutions, length of baseball paths, diameters of pipes, or monetary policy. I am also following the Reformed tradition which recognized that the Bible was limited in what it revealed, hence the lack of chapters in the Reformed confessions on the arts and sciences.

    But if you think the Bible speaks to everything, then our confessions are seriously inadequate.

    The question isn’t what the Bible reveals, but whether what the Bible reveals is to be applied to the state.

    You stated later: “As I say, I have an account for Calvin’s political side.”

    Where have you hidden this account, so that we might read and evaluate it?

    - TurretinFan

    P.S. I should point out that my alternative to your view, DGH, is that all of God’s general and special revelation is binding to the extent it speaks. It’s also my position that God’s general revelation speaks not only to 2nd table issues, but also to 1st table issues.

    So, for example, general revelation teaches the need for the Sabbath and the existence and nature of God. Thus, even if the civil magistrate were only bound by general revelation, the civil magistrate could not escape the 1st table which specially reveals to us the law that is written on our consciences.

    -TurretinFan

  508. Tim Bayly said,

    January 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Reading through the correspondence above, I’ve pulled out a few R2K comments and responded to them over on Baylyblog http://www.baylyblog.com/. Since David and I haven’t contributed to this discussion as it’s proceeded, I thought it best not to clog things up here. Love,

  509. Steve G. said,

    January 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Zrim wrote: “Pulpits should be reserved for Christ and him crucified. Why is that so hard or controversial?”

    Not to Godwinize this thread but if tomorrow the govt started rounding up Jews and putting them in concentration camps would Zrim still say the church should focus only on Christ crucified? Isn’t this what the Christian churches of Germany in the 1930′s and 40′s did for the most part? Stick their heads in the sand and do/say nothing about the oppression of minorities in Germany, until it became too late?

  510. Zrim said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I find it shocking that you think that the mass slaughter of unborn infants is comparable in seriousness to the things to which you have compared it. And I am also shocked that you think “blight” is a sufficiently strong term to describe this horrific on-going series of murders of the most weak and defenseless members of society. Perhaps the reason you are so upset by Bayly’s sermon is that you don’t consider the sin of the murder of infants to be as serious a sin as we do, or as God did when he condemned the worshipers of Molech.

    Tfan, yeow. You may find my preference for strong language over rhetorical hysterics shocking, but what I find utterly frustrating is not being sufficiently “pro-life” for you and the Bishops Bayly. Do you understand that with all the “baby-killer” language you sound a lot like the blitzed out drones who applied that same term to American troops when they came home after Vietnam? But I think what you really mean to say is that because I don’t care the way you care I don’t really care at all. That sounds like my wife.

    I do consider taking the lives of the weak and defenseless evil. But have you considered that God was just as angry with the strange fire Nadab and Abihu brought as he was with the babies the Molech worshippers did? What both condemnable things have in common is idolatry. So you can get as lathered as you please and make all sorts of wild connections between Molech worship and American reproductive legislation (oh, and believers sending their kids to public schools, don’t forget that little gem), but the problem really is one of spiritual apostasy. One just happens to be embodied in ulgier ways (infanticide) than another (fire). Which sheds a different light on the Bayly’s endorsing rap music in worship. But if the protest here will be that infanticide isn’t the same as unscriptural worship, I’ll agree, but then you need to deal with what happened to Aaron’s sons.

    Not to Godwinize this thread but if tomorrow the govt started rounding up Jews and putting them in concentration camps would Zrim still say the church should focus only on Christ crucified? Isn’t this what the Christian churches of Germany in the 1930′s and 40′s did for the most part? Stick their heads in the sand and do/say nothing about the oppression of minorities in Germany, until it became too late?

    Steve G., if I had a dime for every time someone pulled the old Third Reich fear card I could take my wife to Hawaii. Sigh. So the church really is at least as much to blame for genocide as the people who actually committed the crime? So, do we blame the South African Kuyperians for Apartheid? But even 2k doesn’t even think of going that lame route.

    But have you considered that if 2k-SOTC means we don’t meddle in civil affairs that one of the upshots is not giving the typical megalomaniac what he wants, which is undivided loyalty and endorsement? Which means it probably won’t take long for him to come down on churches who confess that Jesus alone is Lord, as well as discipline those of her members who kill or steal with their own hands. So if it’s war wounds you’re looking for maybe the cracked skulls of those who don’t bend the knee to tyrannical Caesars will suffice? Or maybe you think plotting to kill one’s magistrate is admirable, as in Bonhoeffer? I mean, isn’t that the only real way to stop genocidal mania? You can’t really be suggesting that churches humbly petition maniacs to stop their mania, as if that would really do something, and you really want to see evil averted, don’t you? But how is assassinating one’s magistrate in keeping with biblical commands to submit? See how it gets a little more complicated than just getting up on a 2011 American soapbox, reaching across time and place and smugly suggesting things? Does it bother you at all to pass such sweeping judgment on believers in another time and place?

  511. grit said,

    January 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Warring children of Machen may yet find a civil and orderly place in the church militant or even in cultural militancy, so long as we appreciate that sectarian violation of Christian brethren was not the ideal that Machen or Luther or Calvin or rather especially our LORD had in mind in the work of the Church, Christian comportment, or witness before the world.

  512. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    DGH (#502):

    Jeff, actually, I believe any elder should be concerned about a man who abuses his children. Do you not? Don’t you think a session should discipline for that?

    Obviously, I use a charged word…

    Yes, quite. And utterly over the top as well.

    I’m not talking about abusing children (!!!). I’m talking about the normal business of parenting.

    DGH: But I do think a session has real authority over people based on what Scripture reveals. The Bible has somethings to say about parenting. A session that neglects to oversee her members on the basis of this instruction is delinquent.

    Yes, but the Bible doesn’t have everything to say about parenting. It tells me not to exasperate my children — but it doesn’t tell me what things in particular will exasperate them. And that’s why the session will not make things like nagging children about chores a matter of church discipline (!!! I’m still floored by your bringing “abuse” into this).

    DGH: Sorry, Jeff, but once again I am completely flummoxed.

    That makes both of us. I thought I was making a reasonable and unobjectionable point — that individuals are supposed to read, interpret, and apply the Bible to their lives, and was met with

    * The session should micromanage anything that the Bible speaks about, and
    * The Bible is for the institutional church, not the individual members of it.

    I dunno. I think we’d best give it a rest here.

  513. Steve G. said,

    January 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Zrim said:

    “Steve G., if I had a dime for every time someone pulled the old Third Reich fear card I could take my wife to Hawaii. Sigh. So the church really is at least as much to blame for genocide as the people who actually committed the crime?”

    If I had a dime for every time someone attributes an argument to me I did not make, I could take you, me and your wife to Hawaii. Please don’t attribute arguments to me that I did not make. Exactly where did I say the churches were to blame for the genocide exactly as the people who actually committed the crime? I don’t believe I said that anywhere.

    “But have you considered that if 2k-SOTC means we don’t meddle in civil affairs that one of the upshots is not giving the typical megalomaniac what he wants, which is undivided loyalty and endorsement?”

    Yes, I have considered it, and that’s my point. And actually, that should be the position of any church, 2k-SOTC or not. The problem is that according you to (as least it seems to me you are saying this, feel free to tell me I’m wrong), they shouldn’t have spoken directly to this from the pulpit. It would have been too “political” or too “controversial” to use some words you’ve used above.

    “Which means it probably won’t take long for him to come down on churches who confess that Jesus alone is Lord, as well as discipline those of her members who kill or steal with their own hands.”

    Indeed. The problem is the German churches continued to preach “Jesus is Lord” without applying what that meant in terms of their society and govt. The Nazi govt had no problem with any preaching as long as it wasn’t “political”, the very thing you seem to decry. “Jesus is Lord” was fine as long as it stayed in the churches and no one sought to apply it to society at large.

    “You can’t really be suggesting that churches humbly petition maniacs to stop their mania, as if that would really do something, and you really want to see evil averted, don’t you?”

    No but those churches should have taken public stands against the Nazi’s, whether from the pulpit or otherwise. They should have taken a “political” stance. They should have take a “prophetic” stance.

    “See how it gets a little more complicated than just getting up on a 2011 American soapbox, reaching across time and place and smugly suggesting things?”

    Again, I don’t believe I ever said it was easy or not complicated so now you owe me two trips to Hawaii. And I’m no less smug than you are. We’re both “reaching across time” and “suggesting things”, me one thing, you another. If I’m smug, then you too are no less smug for judging me, aren’t you?

    “Does it bother you at all to pass such sweeping judgment on believers in another time and place?”

    Does it bother you to pass a sweeping judgment on me? You know nothing about me, about what I’ve studied/read about the period, the extent of my knowledge of the period.

    Does it bother you that the German churches for the most part did nothing to oppose Nazism? History has rendered it’s own verdict on the German churches. They either acquiesced or supported the regime as it engaged in wars of aggression or genocide. They’ve judged themselves.

    “Or maybe you think plotting to kill one’s magistrate is admirable, as in Bonhoeffer? I mean, isn’t that the only real way to stop genocidal mania? But how is assassinating one’s magistrate in keeping with biblical commands to submit?”

    I really wish you quit trying to tell me what I think or guess what I think. You’ve only need ask instead of trying to guess. I don’t know what the correct thing would have been to do – I struggle when it comes to this. But it seems funny that you look like you are judging Bonhoeffer while you questioned me judging the inaction of German Christians.

    Nevertheless, answer this question for me. From a Christian standpoint should an American Christian soldier have fought against Hitler? If so, then why? If not, then why not?

    Lastly, it seems to me that your position ignores the OT prophets. They railed not only against idolatry but injustice and sins in society. And not only did they prophesy against Judah/Israel, they also prophesied against pagan societies. If God’s prophets in the OT did this, then why shouldn’t Christians today speak up against societal evils today? I’m not talking about supporting political parties – I don’t believe in this and there’s plenty in both the Dems and Repubs that isn’t biblical. But to say that the church should just preach “Jesus is Lord” and “Christ crucified” seems to be ignoring the prophetic role, especially in a society where the church has the freedom to speak truth to power.

  514. dgh said,

    January 18, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Jeff, I consider a parent nagging a child to the point of exasperation abusive of parental authority, not in the way that social services regards abuse but in the way the Bible might imply abuse. I think that churches should discipline wayward members about biblical teaching. You don’t seem to think so. You seem to let parents apply the Bible to themselves.

    I don’t understand that.

    I also think that the Bible speaks to how parents govern their children. I don’t think the Bible speaks to SUVs. So I think the church has some role in disciplining members over childrearing, not over SUV ownership.

    I don’t understand why you don’t understand that.

  515. dgh said,

    January 18, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Tfan, the biblical text for the need to apply the first table if you’re going to apply the second table — let’s see — would be the Old Testament since God had a habit of holding Israel accountable to both tables and not just the second.

    But if you think both tables are applicable to the magistrate, what about banishing Mormons and Roman Catholics from this Christian nation? When are you ever going to answer this?

  516. dgh said,

    January 18, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Darrell, no 2ker, Zrim included, thinks the church should not discipline a member who has or performs an abortion. The issue that 2k is raising is the means of opposition to abortion, and whether the church must become caught up in what is frankly a political controversy — your phrase, electing baby killers is indeed rich since I do not think that technically any elected officer in the U.S. performs abortion as an office holder.

    So I wonder if you think that the church has ever suffered for adopting a political stance, whether its witness has been compromised for political activism. If you don’t think so, then I don’t think you know anything about real liberal Christianity.

  517. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 18, 2011 at 7:10 am

    dgh said in 516 on January 18, 2011 at 1:35 am: “So I wonder if you think that the church has ever suffered for adopting a political stance, whether its witness has been compromised for political activism. If you don’t think so, then I don’t think you know anything about real liberal Christianity.”

    My mother was more or less run out of Park Congregational Church in Grand Rapids when she, as a choir member, refused to sing the Age of Aquarius at a flag burning outside the church led by the associate pastor who was a sixties radical infected with all that garbage. Some other choir members didn’t want to sing but just failed to show up that day. My mother, as the wife of a Republican Party official, outright refused and got into a lot of trouble; she left the church and joined a different Congregational church which had left the UCC not for theology but for politics and combined social conservatism with theological liberalism. (Ironically the minister at the time and many of the members had deep Dutch Reformed roots and had enough integrity to leave the CRC rather than claim to believe things they did not believe — the church back then was about where a moderately liberal CRC would be today.)

    I hope that answers your question about whether I have seen liberal social gospel politics in action. As a lifelong Congregationalist I can assure you that I have many more examples.

  518. Darrell Todd Maurina said,

    January 18, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Steve G. said in 513 on January 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm: “Indeed. The problem is the German churches continued to preach ‘Jesus is Lord’ without applying what that meant in terms of their society and govt. The Nazi govt had no problem with any preaching as long as it wasn’t ‘political,’ the very thing you seem to decry. ‘Jesus is Lord’ was fine as long as it stayed in the churches and no one sought to apply it to society at large.”

    Bingo.

    Steve G. said in 513 on January 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm: “Lastly, it seems to me that your position ignores the OT prophets. They railed not only against idolatry but injustice and sins in society. And not only did they prophesy against Judah/Israel, they also prophesied against pagan societies. If God’s prophets in the OT did this, then why shouldn’t Christians today speak up against societal evils today? I’m not talking about supporting political parties – I don’t believe in this and there’s plenty in both the Dems and Repubs that isn’t biblical. But to say that the church should just preach ‘Jesus is Lord’ and ‘Christ crucified’ seems to be ignoring the prophetic role, especially in a society where the church has the freedom to speak truth to power.”

    Double bingo.

    The Great Commission says we are to teach people to observe ALL things he has commanded. Evil dictators and democratic secularists in the modern world don’t usually care what people **BELIEVE** — they usually care what people **DO.** Churches which do not teach people to apply their faith to their lives pose little threat to either group. We need to tell people to obey the whole counsel of God, not just the parts which currently have no political implications.

    In that regard, I appreciate Dr. Hart clearly stating that church discipline is warranted against abortionists and those who obtain abortions. At least we can agree on that much.

  519. David Gray said,

    January 18, 2011 at 8:49 am

    >>You may find my preference for strong language over rhetorical hysterics shocking

    One of the great indictments of R2K is that this particular advocate continually refers to literal and accurate descriptions of events as “hysterical”. An inability to deal with reality does not speak well for this individual and indeed points to a rather hysterical refusal to grasp the horror of what is happening around him in this society. But then in Germany in 1943 he’d have found a literal description of the Holocaust to be “hysterical” as well.

  520. Zrim said,

    January 18, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Steve, sorry if I attributed things to you that you don’t mean to argue. But from my own experience, when people start bringing up the Third Reich in this discussion (typically initiated by the critics of 2k) the unpacking usually yields the same things.

    But as you unpack your smaller comment that’s what I see. You still seem to be suggesting that the church within the context of a certain regime had the moral duty to directly oppose that regime. But where is there any example of the NT church doing this? Where is there anything other than commands to submit to the civil magistrate? You argue from the OT in order to make the point that the church has some duty to rail against society. But according to Reformed hermeneutics, the NT interprets the OT, and there we find nothing to suggest anything other than humility. But even if you want to go to the OT, the 2k point is that there are theocratic and exilic eras in the OT; the church is situated in the final exilic era, waiting for God alone to inaugurate the final theocratic era.

    I can see if one is starting with the premise that the church is somehow the world’s moral and political police that she has a duty to pipe up against certain tyrants and get behind good regimes. But I don’t share that premise. The church’s commission is to hold out the unfettered gospel. One way to fetter it and hide her light under a bushel is to co-opt that mission with a moral or political mission.

    The spirituality of the church goes to those churches that either directly endorse or directly oppose any civil magistrate. So churches that either acquiesce or support a civil regime are just as problematic as those that oppose.

    You ask me whether, from a Christian standpoint, an American Christian soldier should have fought against Hitler. There are lots of wrinkles in that question, not least is obeying one’s enlisting magistrate, but I think another part of the answer lies in the doctrine of the liberty of conscience, so I cannot say whether he should or shouldn’t. I think he should obey his magistrate, which may mean yes; I also think military service, given the right civil context, can be a thing indifferent, which may mean do whatever your conscience tells you.

    Here’s a question back: from a Christian standpoint, should a German Christian have fought against America? If you say no, then I wonder if that’s more an American answer than a Christian one, since we still have the problem of obeying one’s enlisting magistrate. I mean, when Jesus says to render unto Caesar his due (read: obey him) and Paul says to obey your magistrate I don’t see any caveat about tyrants. In fact, when Jesus says to obey Caesar “they were amazed” for good reason: their magistrate was something of a tyrant. And Paul was quite aware of civil magistrates who wouldn’t pass muster of any modern conception of “good king.”

  521. Zrim said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:09 am

    One of the great indictments of R2K is that this particular advocate continually refers to literal and accurate descriptions of events as “hysterical”. An inability to deal with reality does not speak well for this individual and indeed points to a rather hysterical refusal to grasp the horror of what is happening around him in this society. But then in Germany in 1943 he’d have found a literal description of the Holocaust to be “hysterical” as well.

    And one of the greatest blunders of certain 2k critics is to make utterly no distinction between political and historical events and play upon the collective social fears of Americans. But, David Gray, nobody is trying to take your deeply held convictions about abortion away from you. Some of us are just trying to say that there is a much more sane and responsible way to convey those convictions. I understand your convictions do not enjoy predominant cultural approval (I’d include myself, but evidently my opposition to the current reproductive legislation isn’t sufficiently indignant to be included), but when you’re on the bottom of the social heap is it really becoming to go for the groin?

  522. TurretinFan said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Zrim:

    You wrote:

    From #158:

    David Gray, with all the hysterical “child murder” language it seems to me you’re more lifer than stateser. The latter aren’t nearly as given to over-wrought, incendiary and frankly reckless language.

    I’m not at all saying that preachers or churches should not hold fast to the moral degeneracy of elective abortion (sorry, I prefer strong language over the hysterical stuff about Molech and murder: do you really expect to persuade those in the public square of your outlook when you speak like that?).

    And, as far as your hysterical language goes, have you considered that the NT has a lot more to say about sexual sins than those concerning life and death, as in “Play by the revealed rules on sex” more than “Don’t go killing someone”?

    I only point this out because most lifers who use your linguistic-hysterics also like to claim that preaching against abortion from pulpits is necessary because justified sinners are just as prone to sinful behavior as unjustified sinners; it’s a way of trying to look savvy, etc.

    #175:

    Those hysterics sound familiar. They come from confusing cult and culture (a variant of confusing law and gospel). You and David Gray talk about “child murder” and Wallis talks about being “forced to disobey Jesus.” Have any of you ever considered just opposing political policies politically instead of morally or spiritually and simply doing so as individuals?

    #188:

    David Gray, like I have already told you, I prefer strong language to hysterics. Maybe this will quell some of your hysteria. I am both morally and politically opposed to abortion; I am opposed to one segment of the human population being legallly able to take the life of another, at will or whim, simply because the former houses the latter.

    But, and maybe this will raise your ire again, I am also opposed to calling people who disagree with me “child murderers or accomplices to murder” or whatever host of incindiery language.

    #486:

    So what I sense is that while we share moral and political views on the issue of abortion and how it is a blight on our nation (sorry, I prefer strong language to rhetorical hysterics like “holocaust and mass murder”)

    #510:

    Tfan, yeow. You may find my preference for strong language over rhetorical hysterics shocking, but what I find utterly frustrating is not being sufficiently “pro-life” for you and the Bishops Bayly. Do you understand that with all the “baby-killer” language you sound a lot like the blitzed out drones who applied that same term to American troops when they came home after Vietnam?

    I have come to the conclusion that you’re offended by my (and others) accurate description of the extraordinarily heinous sin of intentionally taking the life of a child, also known as infanticide, child-murder, kid-killing, or baby-butchering. That last one finally adds a little color, but if you’ve seen an abortion performed and you’ve seen cows butchered, you’ll think that the cows are the lucky ones.

    And, of course, cows are not made in the image of God. Their blood does not cry out to God for vengeance.

    And the New Testament has plenty of condemnation of murder:

    Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

    Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

    Matthew 19:18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

    John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

    Romans 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    Galatians 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

    1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

    1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

    1 John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

    Revelation 9:21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

    Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

    Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

    Will you accuse the apostles and Jesus himself of rhetorical hysterics? Will you dare to say that they have “over-wrought, incendiary and frankly reckless language”? I hope you would have the shame not to say that.

    So why do you say that about the brethren?

    -TurretinFan

  523. TurretinFan said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

    DGH wrote: The issue that 2k is raising is the means of opposition to abortion, and whether the church must become caught up in what is frankly a political controversy … The church is caught up in a moral controversy. Politicians may seek to make something of it – or they may not. Nevertheless, it is a moral controversy.

    -TurretinFan

  524. TurretinFan said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

    DGH wrote:

    Tfan, the biblical text for the need to apply the first table if you’re going to apply the second table — let’s see — would be the Old Testament since God had a habit of holding Israel accountable to both tables and not just the second.

    God had a habit of holding other nations accountable to both tables too – including those nations who had only the light of nature and not special revelation.

    But if you think both tables are applicable to the magistrate, what about banishing Mormons and Roman Catholics from this Christian nation? When are you ever going to answer this?

    I’ve answered it more than once. When are you going to listen? Banishing unbelievers from the land is not demanded by the first table or the second table of the law.

    -TurretinFan

  525. David Gray said,

    January 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

    >>Some of us are just trying to say that there is a much more sane and responsible way to convey those convictions.

    A man so entrenched in error as to find a straightforward and accurate description of matters to be less than sane is deeply in need of repentance.

    Your desire to embrace euphemisms, even when discussing matters among those who are members of the visible church, is testimony to your current state.

  526. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 18, 2011 at 10:14 am

    DGH (#514):

    Jeff, I consider a parent nagging a child to the point of exasperation abusive of parental authority, not in the way that social services regards abuse but in the way the Bible might imply abuse.

    I don’t think your interpretation passes the “parallel structure” test. Do you think Paul is talking about extraordinary kinds of “obedience” in Eph 6.1? Then why should he be talking about extraordinary kinds of “exasperation” in 6.4?

    DGH: I think that churches should discipline wayward members about biblical teaching. You don’t seem to think so. You seem to let parents apply the Bible to themselves.

    That’s sloppy (and unkind – “You don’t think churches should discipline their members” – really!).

    I think that churches should discipline wayward members about clear and provable violations of Scripture, but that it is *impossible* — not merely undesirable, but impossible — for the church to take charge of discipline over every instance of sin.

    For example: In the passage under discussion, Paul also says: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

    Assuming we were living in a society with slavery, how would the church possibly take charge of discipline over the heart attitude of a slave?

    See, you don’t like talk of “motives”, but the fact of the matter is that Scripture has much to say to individual believers about their hearts. In the Scripture, outward behavior is not enough; it is imperfect evidence; it is what man sees, but the Lord looks on the heart.

    The church can preach the Word, but it cannot police the heart. Therefore, it is *impossible* for the church to take charge of discipline over every matter that Scripture teaches on.

    Is a father exasperating his teenager? Or is the teenager on hair-trigger today? An elder can notice patterns, and have conversations, and provide encouragement from the Scripture. But he can’t police every action and every thought and intention of the heart. That’s madness.

  527. TurretinFan said,

    January 18, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Zrim wrote:

    But have you considered that God was just as angry with the strange fire Nadab and Abihu brought as he was with the babies the Molech worshippers did? What both condemnable things have in common is idolatry.

    a) Nadab and Abihu violated the regulative principle of worship by offering strange fire. It was a second commandment violation, not a first commandment violation.

    b) God’s objection to Molech was stronger than to many of the other false gods. The Israelites were not called to banish all unbelievers, or even all the worshipers of Molech, but they were required to stone those who sacrificed their children, even if those people were not Israelites:

    Leviticus 20:1-5
    And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not: then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.

    And the killing of their own children is singled out as one of the prominent abominations:

    Deuteronomy 12:31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.

    And, of course, every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse both in this life and that which is to come — and God has shown his wrath on violations of many of the commandments. Not only did he wipe out the Canaanites and destroyed the Egyptians, but he slew Nadab and Abihu (second commandment), Uzzah (3rd commandment), the man gathering sticks in the wilderness (4th commandment), the children who despised Elijah (5th commandment), Jezebel (6th commandment), David’s first child by Bathsheba (7th commandment), (remarkably, I can’t think of any good examples for the 8th commandment off-hand), Shemaiah the Nehelamite (9th commandment), Achan (10th commandment).

    That doesn’t make all sins equally heinous, however. Some sins are, in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations more heinous in the sight of God than others. Murder is especially heinous, and it is aggravated when the victim is helpless, and when the victim is someone who the murderer is required to protect and nurture.

    -TurretinFan

  528. curate said,

    January 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Eighth commandment, Achan stole the devoted things that belonged to the LORD.

  529. Zrim said,

    January 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Tfan, I’m not a member of the whiny culture of offense and thus as easily offended as some, so I’m not offended by your rhetorical hysterics. I just think it’s pretty misguided and is the sort of thing Robert Bork had in mind when he described “the politics of divisiveness and bitterness” around this particular issue. Your side may think it’s saving lives but have you considered that the way you all speak helps to keep everyone so deeply and viscerally divided and entrenched that it actually retards hope of saving lives?

    Re 528, I still don’t see what any of that has to do with American jurisprudence circa 1973 or its aftermath. Are you making connections between spiritual Israel and civil America somehow? If so, that’s the sort of thing I think 2k is critical of. Maybe you also think that during the inter-advental age natural or man-made disasters are evidence of God’s judgment on geo-political nations for their social, cultural, moral and political misdeeds? If so, how is that different from Pat Robertson drawing straight lines from RvW to 9/11 or promising terrorist attacks on Orlando for allowing gay pride parades? But what you and Pat seem to forget is that when God pours out his judgment and wrath natural and man-made disasters pale in comparison. And didn’t he say “It is finished,” as in God’s wrath was satisfied on the cross? A final and consummate judgment is yet to come, but it sure seems like an implication of your views which suggest a connection between spiritual Israel and civil America (or any geo-political nation) is that some of it is doled out between the cross and the consummation, which would seem to suggest that the cross was insufficient.

    David Gray, it seems to me that you are epitomizing the political correctness of pro-lifery: unless one is willing to repeat the talking points of the firebrands then his shared opposition to abortion is as good as its affirmation. But it is interesting to me that when I describe my opposition to abortion to choicers the way I have described it here I receive an almost equally visceral response. I can’t win for losing: either my views aren’t sufficiently indignant, earning suggestions for repentance by the fetus firebrands, or I’m a hopeless misogynist amongst the femini-nazi’s. Do you realize how much you both have in common?

  530. David Gray said,

    January 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    >>Do you realize how much you both have in common?

    Do you realize that you characterize a sober and accurate assessment of reality as being less than sane?

    Why is that? Whatever the answer is it isn’t something good.

    And this is among members of the visible church who ought to be able to handle such a description.

  531. truthunites said,

    January 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    A Q for all those who oppose R2K as it has been constitued, argued, and advocated for by Darryl Hart and Zrim:

    What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned about R2K, Darryl Hart, or Zrim as a result of all the polemical back-and-forth on this thread?

  532. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    TU (#532):

    I’ve learned that Zrim believes that the second table of the decalogue is relevant to civil law.

  533. Zrim said,

    January 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    So, David Gray, do you mean to say that the pro-life movement isn’t vulnerable to firebrand political correctness the way the choice movement has femi-nazis? That seems less than reasonable. Or maybe you do think it is so vulnerable. If so, I wonder what pc-pro-lifery would sound like if it weren’t the sort of hyperventilating polemics you champion. (I think this is the part where you invoke outright criminal behavior to draw the line, or as the man said, compare yourself down to easy devils and handily declare yourself fit.)

    TU, what happened to the AD part? After all, the post-proper is about hard edges that unite and divide.

  534. David Gray said,

    January 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    >hyperventilating polemics you champion

    How does describing murdering children as child murder constitute hyperventilating? How is that accurate and reasonable descriptions of monstrous evils upset you much more than the evils do themselves?

  535. truthunites said,

    January 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    “TU, what happened to the AD part? After all, the post-proper is about hard edges that unite and divide.”

    I monkeyed around with WordPress and now I’m missing the full extent of my blog handle. Oh well.

    Truth Unites… and Divides!!!

    Truth (expressed in street vernacular): R2K sucks!

    This truth unites … and divides people.

    Like the “Less Filling” vs. “Tastes Great” debate.

    “R2K Sucks!” versus “R2K is da Bomb!”

  536. GAS said,

    January 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Dr Hart,

    I’m confused on the pc-2K position regarding liberty of conscience. In one sense you allow for it within the Christian sphere and it seems it is disallowed in the political realm.

    It seems to me that the whole Reformed Classical Liberal political tradition is based on resistance to tyranny as initially declared in the Magdeburg Confession and through Beza to the founders of this country. Is the pc-2K position in opposition to the Reformed resistance to tyranny tradition?