Random Election Day Thoughts

Most of the time, I don’t follow politics. It’s much better for the blood pressure. It also means I don’t wind up wringing my hands over things I cannot change. I vote. I pray for the elected officials. And yes, sometimes I pray for 2X4’s to come into a resounding intersection with the pates of politicians. I am a political conservative when it comes to voting. I don’t mind saying that. We have a constitution, and we should not keep on re-interpreting it for the benefit of pork-barrel spending and taxes that would make our founding fathers gasp. We should not keep operating under the mindset that the solution to the debt-crisis is more spending. If government were a business, it would have been bankrupt long ago. Most importantly, we need to defend life, especially life at the poles of human age.

And I will also say this: a nation deserves its leaders.

It is disgusting to me how the particular race of our president is being made into a political matter. Folks, the color of Obama’s skin has NOTHING to do with whether he is a good or bad president. I don’t know why anyone on either side is thinking any differently. It makes no sense to me. For me, it is about policy, not skin color. I disagree with Obama’s policies. If Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell were to run for president, I’d vote for either one of them in a heartbeat.

2k – Affirmations & Denials (3 of 3)

This is the third of three of Dr. Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials on the 2K topic. Remember, please read the other two (theological, vocation) before posting comments. Thanks.

(Reed DePace)

Affirmations on Ethics

1) Affirmation: Christians have an obligation to submit to God’s laws as they are found in general and special revelation.
Denial: persons cannot obey God’s law truly apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
Denial: non-Christians may not please God in their external observance of God’s law.
Denial: even if non-Christians may not please God, their civic virtue is crucial to a peaceful and orderly society.

2) Affirmation: Christians please God in their good works thanks to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Denial: the good works of Christians are not free from pollution (i.e. they are filthy rags).

3) Affirmation: the state and families have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
Denial: the church does not have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.

4) Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.
Denial: church members must not obey the magistrate rather than God.

5) Affirmation: God has established a pluriformity of institutions (e.g. civil society) for the sake of social order.
Denial: the church has no calling to establish social order but will have an indirect influence on peace and order by encouraging godliness in her members.


2k – Affirmations & Denials (2 of 3)

This is the second of three of Dr. Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials on the 2K topic. Remember, please read the other two (theological, ethics) before posting comments. Thanks.

(Reed DePace)

Affirmations about Vocation

1) Affirmation: the church is called to gather and perfect saints through word, sacrament and discipline.
Denial: the church is not called to meddle in civil affairs.

2) Affirmation: the Christian family is called to nurture and oversee children in both religious and secular matters.
Denial: Christian families will not all look the same but have liberty to rear children according to Scripture and the light of nature.
Denial: non-Christian families do not rear children in godliness or holiness but still have legitimate responsibility for rearing their children.

3) Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Denial: the state does not hold the keys of the kingdom.

4) Affirmation: A Christian is called to use his talents and gifts to serve God and assist his neighbor.
Denial: some Christians are not called to engage in civil affairs.
Denial: the responsibilities attending one Christian’s vocation may not be the standard for other Christians.


2k – Affirmations & Denials (1 of 3)

I thought it might be helpful in the 2K discussions if there were a list of principles with which we could interact. Since he has been such a prominent voice on this subject, I asked Dr. Darryl Hart if he might be willing to provide such a list. He graciously agreed to do so.

The list provides fifteen 2k principles in the form of Affirmations, coupled with corresponding denials. Following Dr. Hart’s formatting of these principles, this post contains the first six theologicalaffirmations. Two additional posts will include vocation affirmations (four) and ethics affirmations (five).

For the sake of the flow of Dr. Hart’s argument, please read all three posts first. Then post comments and questions where appropriate (corresponding to the affirmation(s) and/or denial(s) you’re commenting upon.)

I want to thank Dr. Hart for the work he put into this list and allowing us to post and discuss this here. Please remember to treat each other with the Christian civility that marks your profession of faith in Christ and your commitment to love your brother. Thanks!

(Reed DePace)

Theological Affirmations

1) Affirmation: Jesus is Lord
Denial: Jesus is not Lord over everyone in the same way; he rules the covenant community differently than those outside the covenant.

2) Affirmation: the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ
Denial: Outside the visible church is not part of the redemptive rule of Christ (even though Christ is still sovereign).

3) Affirmation: the Bible is the only rule for the visible church (in matters of conscience).
Denial: Scripture does not reveal everything but only that which is necessary for salvation.

4) Affirmation: Christ alone is lord of conscience
Denial: Christians have liberty where Scripture is silent.
Denial: the pious advice and opinions of Christians is not binding.

5) Affirmation: the visible church has real power (spiritual and moral, ministerial and declarative, the keys of the kingdom) in ministering the word of God.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences apart from Scripture.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians, and assemblies.

6) Affirmation: Christ’s righteousness alone satisfies God’s holy demands for righteousness, and believers receive this righteousness through faith alone (i.e., justification).
Denial: believer’s good works, much less unbelievers’ external obedience to the law, do not satisfy God’s holiness but are filthy rags.


2k – 2nd Table Only – Another Biblical Argument

(Reed DePace)

In a previous thread I presented a biblically based argument for the 2K proposition: in the new covenant era the civil magistrate’s duties are limited to the 2nd Table of the Ten Commandments (from honor to parents to no coveting of neighbor’s possessions). A number sought to challenge that argument by referencing Psalm 2, verses 10-12 in particular.

Some prayerful reflection on that passage led to a few observations, which when taken together, I believe present another biblically based argument in support of this Reformed 2K proposition. While you’re reading Psalm 2, go ahead and read Rom. 13:1-5 and also Heb. 13:17.

To begin, let’s note the context of Psalm 2:10-12. For the sake of the discussion here, let’s ignore the initial audience, the pagan civil magistrate under the Old Covenant era. (Although there appears to be an additional huge supporting biblical argument from reflections in that direction – maybe later).

Surely, given the reference in v. 6 (Zion) in part in view in Psalm 2 is Christ’s rule over His Church (2K terminology: the Sacred Kingdom). Yet it is also clear that the primary focus of the Psalm is Christ’s rule over the pagan nations of the world (2K terminology: the Secular Kingdom). In this context, the commands in Ps. 2:10-12 can only be understood as a direct command applicable to the pagan civil magistrates in the New Covenant era.

At the very least, it is a command for these civil magistrates to recognize from Whom they have their authority, and thus to Whom they are accountable for its use. Even more we could say the Psalm promise judgment to these civil magistrates for the failure to rightly use their God-given authority. Jesus is the Great King Who will demand an accounting of the civil reigning “in his name” as it were.

So now imagine the pagan civil magistrate who hears this warning? What’s the first question he is going to ask? “O.k., how do I rightly use this authority?” In the New Covenant era, the passage that best answers that question is Rom. 13:1-5. Here we see Psalm 2’s divine ordination of civil authority picked up and explained in practical terms. Again, tracking with the previous thread’s arguments, at the very least the civil magistrate would conclude he is responsible to use his authority with reference to 2nd Table issues, those dealing with man’s relationship with man.

But what about the 1st Table issues? Where in the New Covenant might I find insight into whether or not the civil magistrate’s authority includes these issues, man’s interaction with God? Hmm …

Turn to Heb. 13:17 and notice the some interesting comparisons and contrasts with Rom. 13:1-5. In both there is mention of a God-ordained authority. In both there is the notion of accountability for the exercise of that authority. Yet there are two critical differences between these passages. In the Hebrews passage, the ordained authority is the elders of the Church, not the civil magistrate. Further it is an authority that involves 1st Table matters, man’s relationship with God.

The parallels are pretty clear: both passages have in view the authority of the Great King Jesus, delegated to an ordained human authority, who will be held accountable for his use of that authority.

The differences are pretty clear as well: 2nd Table authority is delegated to the civil magistrate, and 1st Table authority is delegated to the church elder.

To be sure, these aren’t the only considerations for the authority of the church via its elders (i.e., they do exercise 2nd Table authority, but only spiritually, not materially). Nevertheless, the parallel/contrast does support the 2K argument that the civil magistrate is given authority only over 2nd Table issues.

I’m drawn to the hermeneutical principle that the unclear in Scripture is to be understood in light of the clear. This particularly applies from OT to NT. Psalm 2 is best understood in light of NT passages that inform its subject matter, such as the two here. This comparison/contrast between Rom 13:1-5 and Heb 13:17, coupled with the contextual considerations outlined in the previous thread, given me strong reason to believe the 2K proposition is right here: 2nd Table only for the civil magistrate.

(Reed DePace)

2K, 2nd Table ONLY, Biblical Based Inference

(Reed DePace)

The third “New Machen’s Warrior Children” thread is about to pass 500 comments so far. Simple observation (no criticism in view): this thread has focused itself more on theonomically informed opposition to 2K than it has understanding of the 2K position. All who want to continue to pursue those lines are encouraged to do so on that thread. (If/when it gets up to the 700-800 comment range, if folks want to keep that focus going, we’ll start a fourth thread for that.)

Here I want to shift to a different thread in the tapestry of the 2K argument. In my reading this morning I happened to be in Romans 13, a key passage for one’s understanding of the role of the civil magistrate, the civil authorities of the secular nations (one of the two kingdoms in the 2K position, the sacred, the Church being the other). Before engaging further with the argument I’m about to make, let me ask you to read Romans 13 so it will be fresh in your memory.

Note the basic pattern of the chapter:

  • Verses 1-4: the civil magistrate” role as God’s ordained minister to administer civil justice.
  • Verses 5-7: the Christian’s public-square response to the civil magistrate in his exercise of his authority.
  • Verses 8-10: the Christian’s interaction with others in the public square in light of the of the civil magistrate's exercise of his authority.
  • Verses 11-14: the Christian’s "private house" obedience to God in light of eschatological considerations.

Note specifically verse 9b-10. There the second great commandment provides the summary justification for why the Christian is submissive in the public square to the civil magistrate's authority. It is not because this authority inheres in the civil magistrate, but because it is from God. Submission to the second great commandment is part of the Christian life (no duh), and this finds explicit expression in how we submit to the civil magistrate.

I don't expect there is any disagreement between pro and anti-2K up to this point. But let me make one debatable observation. When Paul goes to apply, the exemplify his reference to the role of the civil magistrate note where he specifically goes – to the 2nd Table of the Mosaic law (commandment 5 through 10). Note what he does not mention, any law from the 1st Table of the Mosaic Law (commandments 1 through 4). He does not even make an application from the 1st Table. Nor are there any 1st Table inferences present in what Paul says.

Even when he gets into verses 11-14, where it could be argued his focus shifts from public square issues, to "private house" issues (i.e., how we live behind closed doors), Paul still does not make any reference or inference to 1st Table considerations. Again his examples are expressly 2nd Table considerations!

Now, it is admitted that this is an argument from silence, or better yet, an argument from absence. Absent from what Paul says is any reference to 1st Table considerations. This does not mean that the absence here means the absence elsewhere in Scripture.

Yet at least it is a strong argument leaning in the direction of the 2K position that the civil magistrate in the New Covenant era only has authority over 2nd Table issues. It is almost as if Paul is providing a commentary on Jesus' bifurcated render to caesar/God command (Mt 22:21; Mk 12:17; Lk 12:25). In the one place in his letters where Paul offers the fullest explanation of the gospel (comprehensively Romans is an explanation of the gospel), when it comes to a key application of the Christian life, when Paul expressly brings into view the Christian's public square relationship – it did not cross his mind to say anything about 1st Table issues.

This is a very, very strong biblically based inferential argument in support of the 2K position. The civil magistrate in the New Covenant era has no authority over 1st Table issues. These are not in Caesar's purview, but they are reserved exclusively to his Church, and her alone.

(Reed DePace)

The First Amendment

WordPress is glad that the first amendment is in place for our country. So am I. However, I wonder how much of the first amendment is left at the moment. Certain things are now said to be guaranteed under our supposed first amendment rights. Things like pornography, for example, although child pornography is still prohibited. Other things, like protesting abortion on public property, is not allowed in many parts of the country. I’ve long since felt that the first amendment is becoming a wax nose. It means whatever the people in power say it means. Now, I’m not one for identity of church and state. However, neither do I believe that a Christian has to leave his Christianity behind when he enters the public square. Otherwise, he becomes something of a schizophrenic. The first amendment, which was originally supposed to protect the right of religious free speech, is now being used in exactly the opposite way that it was intended to be used. If people want to change the constitution, then they should change it. But let’s stop pretending that we are now interpreting it the right way. Someone will no doubt answer to me that I am so, so arrogant in having the audacity to think that there is a right way to interpret the first amendment. However, the answer to this is the answer of history. History happens outside of us, and therefore there is an objective component to this history that does not depend on our interpretation. As a good Van Tillian, I do not believe that there are such things as “brute facts.” However, there is such a thing as what really happened and what did not really happen. And what really happened was that religious freedom was intended to be the purport of the first amendment. Words do not mean anything if the first amendment is now being used to curtail the religious freedoms of Christians in the US. I make can anything words mean, if depends meaning my on interpretation own. Black is white and white is black.

A Thesis On Gun Control

Premise one: gun control results in greater crime. Lack of control results in lesser crime. Requirements to own guns result in almost no crime.

Premise two: not all liberals are stupid.

Preliminary conclusion: liberals have the facts in hand and know these things.

Premise three: greater crime results in greater anarchy.

Premise four: the hoi polloi (the people) prefer tyranny to anarchy.

Conclusion: the liberals want anarchy so that tyranny can result with them in power.

Folks, I think the liberals have a much greater goal in mind than the simple elimination of guns. This is just a means to an end. By stirring up crime and anarchy, they will make the people so afraid of chaos that the people will flock to a tyrannical government. There is historical precedent for this in the time of Rome. According to Taylor Caldwell, Catiline was encouraged by the powers that be to commit acts of anarchy in order to make the people so afraid that the government could then disarm the people and seize complete control over everything.

Election Cycle 2008 and the Christian

Many people I know are moaning and groaning over Barack Obama, and they fear more than anything else that he would become president. Many people think that the McCain/Palin ticket is the savior of the United States. Both are wrong. Let’s take them one at a time.

If Obama wins, we will almost certainly lose some more of our freedoms. Who knows what freedoms we will lose, but we’ll probably lose the freedom to carry weapons. Is our reaction to losing this overdone, however? I wonder…Could it possibly be that God might choose to have Obama become elected so that the nominal Christian church might finally experience some purifying persecution? Can it possibly be that Obama getting elected would be something that would eventually work out to the good of those who love God? If you look at some people’s fears on this score, you might think it impossible. But if we really believe Romans 8, we will not be overly troubled if Obama wins. God is more powerful for good than Obama is for evil. And who knows, God may curb Obama’s career in evil, as He has done with so many people in the history of the Christian church (weren’t we all like that?). This is where Calvinism comes into its own: belief in the utter sovereignty of God can help us in a time of fear. We need only fear God, not man.

If McCain wins, the temptation will be to sit back with a collective sigh of relief and ignore our duties to evangelize the more than half of Americans who are completely unchurched. Yes, that’s right. More than half of Americans have never been churched. McCain might very well help America in some ways. But what ails America is sin, folks, not economic problems (unless one wants to make the plausible argument that economic problems stem from sin; but that is all very complicated). And the answer to America’s problems is the Gospel. Did I vote? Yes, I did. And I can tell you this: I did not vote for Obama. But, whichever outcome arises from this election, there is no need to cry about the sky falling, nor can we rejoice as if “God won” if McCain won. I will still watch with interest the election returns. But one can sit in the midst of great carnage and be placid and calm, if one believes that His Sovereign Father God has all things under His control.

I Didn’t Know He Had a Blog

But you should check out Voddie Baucham’s blog. He has gotten a fair bit of press lately for standing up for complementarian values in the face of a hostile media. He is Reformed Baptist, and seems to me a very sane voice in today’s world. He has a powerful message here on theodicy.

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