Need a Cop in Dearborn?

Originally posted 22 June 2010. UPDATE 24 June 2010. The Thomas More Law Center is now representing those who were arrested (HT: Aquila Report)

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Those of us from the Midwest have long known that the government in Dearborn, Michigan is all but controlled by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (“ADC”), which makes it hard to share the Christian faith with the Muslims and Arabs in the city. 30,000 of the city’s 100,000 residents are Muslim, and the city is home to the largest mosque in the United States.

    For more information on the CAIR/ADC stranglehold on Dearborn politics and local government, check out

  2. The police conduct is clearly unconstitutional if the facts are as presented in this clip. It’s difficult to believe the police would be this ill informed and reckless. A federal judge would, if a complaint were filed, enjoin the police from harassing citizens and perhaps award damages for a violation of civil rights. This is a dangerous precedent to go unchallenged.

    My hope is that the victims would contact a Christian public intererst law firm to obtain free representation to address this.

  3. I can’t believe this!

    My advice: (1) get a lawyer; (2) show up with 100 people and start handing out stuff all across town; (3) praise God that you were considered worthy to be harrassed for the cause of Christ; (4) pray for a huge surge in mission and a revival in Dearborn; (5) pray that the police in Dearborn would all be born again!

  4. I understand the issue they are trying to point out. And I certainly agree that they ought to be allowed to pass their materials out on the street. It seems to me that they ought to be able to go inside the festival and talk to people (as one of their previous videos suggests they were prohibited from doing).

    However, I also wonder if this strategy of theirs is the most honoring to God and/or the best approach to speaking with the Muslims in that place. Perhaps friendships and relationships would do more over the long run than videos about what they can’t do. After all, the organization who puts out the videos is supposedly an apologetics organization, not a civil rights organization.

  5. He said at the end, “I just hope that Americans will start paying attention to what’s going on here in Dearborn, namely any city in the United States, where I could not stand on a public street, outside the festival, where I could not hand out information about my beliefs. You won’t find one(?). So I just hope you pay attention to what’s going on in America, cause something’s not right here.”

    Is the purpose of the video to get Americans (by which I suppose he means American “Christians”) to stand up for their rights as Americans? Judging by a couple comments above that seems to be the response it engenders. That’s not Christian.

    Ministers can and should preach the Gospel wherever they want. They just have to be willing to pay the price for it and not complain about it!

    • “That’s not Christian.”

      I suppose I should have said, “That’s not automatically Christian,” or “That’s not always (and perhaps not even the majority of the time) the appropriate Christian action.”

      But as stated below it did serve to prove the point that most American “Christians” operate as Americans first and foremost as evidenced by the adament opposition it received.

  6. wjhinson, I respectfully disagree with you. Christians are citizens of TWO kindgoms, not one, and in their capacity as citizens of the city of man/U.S., they have legal rights just as the apostle Paul had legal rights, which he exercised by appealing to Caesar. Your view is functional pacifism and is (I mean no disrespect) both profoundly foolish and unbiblical.

    • Unbiblical? If the Bible teaches us anything about how to conduct ourselves in this world, it teaches us to have wisdom. You think what is being advocated in the comments here is biblical (and wise)?

      In my opinion these people deserve what they got. It appears they were looking for trouble just as much as, if not more than, they were looking to proclaim Christ. And now they (and you) are being foolish enough to divert our attention from proclaiming Him to claiming our American rights.

      Does anyone ever stop to think that all the “Christians” whining about their American rights does more to harm the advancement of the Gospel than it does to help it? Wisdom would seem to indicate that it’s past time for Christians to SHUT UP about their rights as Americans and joyfully accept their persecution. That is if they’re are more concerned about the Gospel than they are their own rights.

      “There’s a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.”

      • The Bible also teaches us that Paul insisted on his rights as a Roman citizen. We are given rights as citizens of the United States (and not as “Christians”). The police in Dearborn appear to have violated those rights. There is nothing in Scripture that prohibits us as citizens (of this civil kingdom) from holding the authorities accountable for their actions.

          • For what it’s worth, I agree with you–when we are persecuted as Christians, we should accept it joyfully and in submission. However, here we are talking about the civil sphere where we live as citizens of the U.S., which includes Christians and those of other faiths and no faiths. We are given rights as U.S. citizens which the civil authorities have an obligation to observe–and which we may hold them accountable to.

            • It’s worth a lot, and it needs to be expressed more. There’s a problem when Christians stress their rights as Americans more vocally than they accept their privelege to suffer. It may be lawful, but it’s not always profitable, hence the call for wisdom. And for all this talk about Paul, he did that as a last resort to save his life, not as a first response.

            • wjhinson,

              I think you make points worth a bit more consideration than they are getting here. I find it quite unhelpful for such points to be dismissed as “profoundly foolish and unbiblical.” I understand the point about Paul appealing to his Roman citizenship, and that is worth considering. But it’s also worth noting that Jesus himself forfeited his rights and we are commanded to follow in his path. I think that runs up against a deeply seated modern notions of rights, etc.

              For those who think this point is foolish and unbiblical, I wonder what it means that Jesus both willingly laid down his rights and commanded us to follow in his path?

  7. The right to hand out materials on a public street is not a uniquely Christian one, so I’m a little confused about the criticism. Attorney VanDyke is surely right–as a two-kingdom issue, this is a right we enjoy as citizens of this particular civil kingdom. I almost hate to say this: someone call Jay Sekulow!

  8. I have left a message for the Chief of Police to obtain his side of the story here, and hope to hear back tomorrow. There may be extenuating circumstances that the PD may cite as purported justification for this apparent harassment, and if so I’d like to hear it. I have media clients whose news departments would be quite interested in this clip. If I don’t hear back from the Chief of Police, it seems to me that a media investigation and a Justice Department investigation is in order, and I’d be more than happy to get the ball rolling ….

    • Let us know what happens, please. I expect there are “extenuating circumstances,” however bogus. Glad you are on the case.

      • Richard, I recorded the phone call and spoke with a PD spokesman who stated that the Chief of Police has no comment and would not come on the line. A public information officer had no comment. I listed the questions that I had for the Chief, and so we have a record of the refusal to answer. I presented that recording and this video to one news media client who expressed interest in digging futher. This matter warrants further public scrutiny. I’m sure they will want to interview the Christians who were involved.

        • CVD,

          Are you going to answer my question below regarding possible extenuating circumstances?

          Also, have you investigated the people handing out the Gospels? Are the lawfully ordained ministers?

          • Don’t know whether there were extenuating circumstances. I want to hear both sides and so gave the PD an opportunity to state their side before the press reports this. But the PD declined to justify their behavior or make any statement. Usually, the legal inference when the PD refuses to offer a defense is that the PD has no defense. The assistant producers at the network will carry the investigation from here, and my role will be only to advise on the law. If I learn more that I can pass on will do so.

            • My question regarding the circumstances was a hypothetical one. Do you not answer those?

              What about my other question?

        • I’m wondering whether you shouldn’t contact an organization such as the The Rutherford Institute.

    • There may be extenuating circumstances that the PD may cite as purported justification for this apparent harassment, and if so I’d like to hear it.

      And if they say that there are extenuating circumstances and they are that the Muslims have asked for the freedom to go and come from their festivities in peace and have already complained that they are “harassed” by the handing out of the Gospels? Are you going to let it go? Or are you going to relegate the authorities to the role of parents of two little kids where neither one is big enough to respect the other’s wishes?

      If a minister is called to preach the Gospel to people in that context, then he should also be a big enough boy (since his is really a son of the living God and not the state) to accept the suffering he may receive at the hands of the earthly authorities and not sink to the level of the ones he is trying to save by crying to the authorities for his rights to be favored over theirs. I’m willing to bet however that these aren’t ministers that are called to what they are doing, in which case the authorities that you should be contact are the church authorities.

      • wjhinson, I come at this from a constitutional lawyer’s perspective since this is a city of man issue, not within the church. The fact that the Muslims don’t want Christians distributing Bibles in the vicinity of their festival is legally irrelevant. The First Amendment gives all persons the right to speak and distribute literature on a public street, and if Muslims (or any group) are irritataed and seek to stop it, under settled First Amendment doctrine the first duty of the police is to protect the right of the speakers (hear, the Christians). Under Brandenberg v. Ohio, a speaker in a public place (or one who passes out literature) has a right to speak even if his/her speech (or literature) provokes angry outbursts and riots. So long as the speaker’s words are not “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and highly likely to produce such action,” the police must protect the speaker and may not silence him or send him away. There is also a doctrine of “time, place and manner rules,” but that would have no application here, at least judging what I saw.

        I don’t know whether the speakers here were ordained ministers or lay persons, but legally it would make no difference, and biblically it would make no difference, since ministers have the same constitutional rights as lay persons.

        Now I don’t know that passing out Bibles on the street is the most effective witnessing tool for a minister, and we might agree that his time would be better served in the study and with his congregation, but that is a wisdom call for the pastor and not mine to judge. I rather suspect these were enhusiastic lay persons.

        • That you come at this from a constitutional lawyer’s perspective is my point exactly. The problem is that there is a confusion with this and the Christian perspective.

          As a constitutional lawyer you would have just as much responsibility to represent Muslim citizens if the situation was reversed. One just wonders if you would be so quick to jump on this if that were in fact the case. Answering that will reveal how much you have conflated the American ideal with the Christian one.

          • No, you’re confusing categories. The Christian issue from a two kingdoms perspective is to recognize that Christian citizens, qua citizens, have the same rights as non-Christians to speak and write. Nothing in the “Christian perspective” puts a gag order on Christians or tells us to refrain from exercising our legal rights to pass out the Gospel of John on a street corner if we choose to. We’re not citizens of only the Kingdom of God. We’re citizens of the city of man, here called the U.S. By saying the Christian should be pacifist and accept illegal government conduct that silences the gospel, you’re ignoring one of the kingdoms.

            You’re not understanding fundamental facts about the legal system, and it’s important you get this.. Yes, I’d represent a Muslim whose rights are being violated by the goverment. Why? Because Christians and all citizens are safer if the Muslim has his rights protected. That’s the way it works around here. The legal principle that protects the Muslim’s right to speak protects the Christian’s right to speak, to pass out the Gospel of John, and your right to worship in your church. As a Christian, I”m most concerned to protect gospel proclamation and worship. As a citizen, I’m most concerned to protect all citizens’ rights to speak in the city of man. That’s two kingdoms theology also: we work and live side by side with non-believers in the civil sphere. We respect their rights too. I help my fellow Muslim citizen, as a good neighbor, by helping the Christian protect his rights, and I help the Christian by helping the Muslim. That’s our system. Before firing off your breezy platitudes, understand how the system works and place your argument in the context of reality, not an invented reality of your imagination.

            • More words in my mouth. I didn’t say the Christian perspective demands a gag order or tells us to refrain from exercising our rights. My concern is the excessive whining about American rights to the detriment of the Gospel. You think free speech is a necessity to the furthering if the Gospel, I don’t as evidenced by the turning upside down of the apostles.

  9. Same thing is happening in the UK. There’s no way this would hold up in court (yet) – it’s all just intimidation tactics in hopes that they can get a legal precedent.

    On the other hand… praise God when we are called worthy to be reviled for the Name of Christ!

    • Yes praise God…lets recover the joy in being counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.

      But in regards to the legal issue, Paul beckons to the law more than once, in the midst of suffering. He asks if he should be beat without being fairly tried as a Roman citizen, he appeals to be heard by Caesar, so that he will escape the clutches of the Jewish mob wishes to kill him, and he calls attention to his Roman citizenship when he has been imprisoned in Philippi, and they want to dismiss Him quietly…in the latter case, He puts up a big stink, because He wants to hold the authorities accountable for imprisoning him falsely, and wrongly, as He was a citizen of Rome. Perhaps that sheds some light on appropriate action. Some would say that this is contrary to the practice of Christ, but the situations are different and so are the purposes of Christ. He came to die, His silence fulfilled scripture, He death fulfilled the prophecies of the OT that said he would die that way. For us, scripture says, if anyone wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus he will be persecuted. But that does not suggest that we just lay down, and become a doormat to our oppressors. The early church did not do that. There is a time for action. William Wilberforce, could have laid down and taken that in his day, people were not ready to accept the abolishment of slavery, but his conscience would not let him…so him and his friends use the law for their own means to bring about the end of slavery in England. In Acts 6, Stephen could have just stopped speaking in Acts, but in response to the false accusations brought against him, He gave one of the most pointed explanations of the gospel to the Jewish people of his day…he did not back away, He spoke…so too must we, regardless of the outcome…lives are at stake, eternity hangs in a balance…So yes we take suffering joyfully, but it does not mean we should shut our mouths and stop speaking. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? and how can they hear without someone preaching to them, and how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

      Grace and Peace

      • Jonathon,

        Points about Paul’s appeal have already been made. But you help make one of my points when you seem to conflate the plight of ending a perceived socio-political evil (St. Wilberforce) and bearing witness to Christ (St. Stephen). Some might say that’s precisely the sort of confusion that gives rise to the social gospel, or at least makes the world that much safer for it. This is the part where someone speculates that this sort of protest is “cruel,” maybe even racist (or otherwise sympathetic to the perceived social evil).

        But the point is that Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world. The (border-state) Kentucky Presbyterian pastor and scholar Stuart Robinson wanted to make this same point during the Civil War era, that the kingdom of Christ was fundamentally and categorically different from the kingdom of God, which meant that Christianity transcended the slavery-politics dividing the country. The same could be said about the politics of sex that currently divide.

        • Hold it, ZRim… are you saying that there is no mandatory Christian position on chattel slavery as practiced in the American South? I’ve been thinking all along that’s the logical conclusion of the Two Kingdoms theology, but you’re the first person who has said it outright.

          How else can I understand this statement by you: “The (border-state) Kentucky Presbyterian pastor and scholar Stuart Robinson wanted to make this same point during the Civil War era, that the kingdom of Christ was fundamentally and categorically different from the kingdom of God, which meant that Christianity transcended the slavery-politics dividing the country. The same could be said about the politics of sex that currently divide.”

          As you quite properly point out, “The same could be said about the politics of sex that currently divide.”

          The conservative Calvinists in Southern Presbyterianism who advocated for slavery were in almost the same category as modern liberals who advocate for gay marriage because they both advocate for gross public sin. Those in the South who advocated a “live and let live” position can be blamed just as much as modern evangelicals in places like Greenwich Village of San Francisco who think we should do nothing to stop gay marriage because speaking out against homosexuality will “harm our witness.” (By the way, my home church in Greenwich Village has numerous converted homosexuals in its membership, and has been attacked by homosexual mobs throwing stones and paint through the windows because of its relatively quiet stance for the Gospel of merely offering an ex-gay support group.)

          And yes, I do understand the conclusions of what I’m saying about Thornwell and Dabney. The only difference is Thornwell and Dabney had a couple hundred years of Southern culture on their side and better (though still bad) Bible proof texts. When people have believed something for an extremely long time, it’s a lot harder to persuade them that they are wrong. Also, homosexuality is regarded by the book of Romans as one of the very worst of all sins, one which is a sign that horrible wickedness has already come upon a society.

          If the sin of manstealing is not an example where the Scripture **REQUIRES** not just individual Christians but also the church as institute to speak out, I can’t think of anything else in modern history other than abortion or gay marriage where the contrast between the Christian position and the infidel position is more obvious.

          If you don’t agree, go spend some serious time researching the differences between Southern chattel slavery and Hebrew slavery, and especially how Southern slaves (often, unfortunately, transported by Northern shipowners and captains) were captured by kidnapping, horribly abused, and often died by the tens of thousands. Murdering African men, women, and children, raping the African women if they were pretty, and then selling people who (at best) were stolen property into permanent generational slavery where beatings, rapes and murders would continue for generation upon generation — that is most emphatically something the church must speak out against.

          • The above post should have said “Greenwich Village OR San Francisco,” not “of.”

            I’m well aware in what city my home church is located! I’ve lived in New York City, but I’ve never lived in San Francisco, though I have visited there.

          • Hold it, ZRim… are you saying that there is no mandatory Christian position on chattel slavery as practiced in the American South? I’ve been thinking all along that’s the logical conclusion of the Two Kingdoms theology, but you’re the first person who has said it outright.


            A big part of discussions like this has to do with the distinction between personal morality and public politics. As to personal morality, yes, it seems to me there are mandatory answers on whether a believer can participate in their own persons such things as man stealing (human trafficking), abortion or homosexual behavior, and that answer is obvious and is an unequivocal no.

            As to public politics, the answer is not so obvious. But suffice it to say that to my understanding there is no mandatory Christian position on what sort of political outlook or conclusion an individual believer should hold or promote, either privately or publicly.

            If the sin of manstealing is not an example where the Scripture **REQUIRES** not just individual Christians but also the church as institute to speak out, I can’t think of anything else in modern history other than abortion or gay marriage where the contrast between the Christian position and the infidel position is more obvious.

            The distinction I would draw is that between the institutional church and the individual believer. First, like I suggest above, it seems pretty clear to me that individual believers mayn’t steal human beings. But it isn’t clear to me that anyone “has to speak out against it.” I can be disciplined for kidnapping a person, but should I really be disciplined for not becoming a member of a political action group that wants to vanquish human trafficking from the earth? And I realize you think there is, but I see nothing in Scripture that “requires the institutional church to speak out” about any social, cultural or political phenomenon. In fact, I see the opposite, which is to say, that the church should mind her own affairs and not meddle either directly or indirectly. I understand that some have an individual conscience that requires them to do so one way or another, and that is fine, but it is not at all clear why those individual consciences must become the institutional conscience, especially when consciences seem to differ; for example, on abortion, I don’t want a federal outlawing, I want states’ rights restored—so which view should be the church’s “mandatory position”? Second, while it’s obvious to you, I am mystified as to why these two particular politics of sex are the only ones that play by a different set of rules such that they are allowed to violate the spirituality of the church.

            If you don’t agree, go spend some serious time researching the differences between Southern chattel slavery and Hebrew slavery, and especially how Southern slaves (often, unfortunately, transported by Northern shipowners and captains) were captured by kidnapping, horribly abused, and often died by the tens of thousands. Murdering African men, women, and children, raping the African women if they were pretty, and then selling people who (at best) were stolen property into permanent generational slavery where beatings, rapes and murders would continue for generation upon generation — that is most emphatically something the church must speak out against.

            Yes, I understand that human history can be brutal and ugly, but emotionalism and sensationalism don’t help this discussion.

          • Darrell,

            How do you distinguish Biblically between a sin and what should be outlawed by the state? Bestiality is a gross sin in the eyes of God but I don’t want the government involved in enforcing it. What about the legalization of drugs? So because homosexuality is a serious sin, we should instruct the state not to allow gays to marry; but Mormonism is a serious sin, yet we should not instruct the state to outlaw their gatherings and their right to proselytize. So how does your desire to instruct the state on certain laws not end up being Darrell’s (or whatever minister’s) personal politics? I think this is where the theonomist, though wrong, is more consistent than your position.

            • Todd,

              Speaking personally I share some of your libertarian convictions but here is a place where I think natural law can be most useful.

              Mormonism is a sin against the first table but bestiality is not only a sin against God and the second table it is also a sin against nature in a way that Mormonism isn’t. Society has an natural, creational interest in regulating sexual behavior that it does not have in regulating religion. The state is not well suited to diagnosing and preventing idolatry. Any cop, however, can tell bestiality when he sees it! He can stop it by the use of legitimate force.

              If we employ creation as a category we have a way to speak to sins against one’s neighbor without resorting to quasi-theocratic arguments.

            • Actually, bestiality is illegal in some states as a form of animal abuse — I’ve reported on some horrible cases involving parents taking and distributing photographs of their children having sex with animals — and using certain hallucinogenic drugs is already illegal, as it should be.

              If we were in Puritan New England with a formally adopted civil covenant with God, I’d argue that the extensive and detailed biblical footnotes in the original civil law code of Massachussetts were entirely appropriate. Since I’ve been bashing the South recently, I probably ought to say the same about what would have happened if the Confederate constitution had included the proposal by Thornwell to have Jesus acknowledged as Lord of the nations in the Confederate

              Apart from a formal acknowledgement in the civil constitution of the Westminster Confession’s views of the role of the Old Testament civil law, we have no grounds to state that our civil rulers are sinning by failing to require that all laws passed by the federal or state governments be in accord with Scripture. Ex-post-facto laws are both unbiblical and unconstitutional, and we can’t call people covenant breakers who have signed no covenant. However, especially in the case of gross violations of the Second Table, I believe not only Christians but also churches can and must do what we can to prevent civil law from endorsing or tolerating gross public sins such as murder or manstealing or homosexuality.

              Theonomy goes tremendously farther than this position, and while there may be some formal similarities, there are massive differences between theonomy and the practice of the Puritan commonwealths of New England or Scottish law under John Knox or the civil legislation of the Genevan Republic. I’d argue that theonomy violates the Westminster Standards, and unless I am wrong, I believe that Rousas Rushdoony attacked the Westminster Confession’s “general equity” view of the role of Scripture in Christian civil government.

  10. Zrim,

    Maybe it was the sentence in my first comment that stated calling Americans to stand up for their rights isn’t Christian that drew such a reaction. My point was only to state the obvious to see just how tightly “Christians” cling to their rights as Americans, since what is American is usually considered ipso facto to be Christian and therefore stressed without regard for all that the Bible has to say about an issue. Shall we say case in point?

    One only needs to read 1 Peter to see a letter replete with exhortations on how to bear up under unjust suffering and to even to be told that Christ is our example. In the one case where it may be appropriate to ask what would Jesus do, it isn’t. Instead we have appeals to the one example of a Christian claiming his right as a Roman citizen and the ignoring of myriad of explicit commands about how to conduct ourselves in this world.

    I could be wrong, but I just think that we are Christians first, then Americans, and that this leads to a reversal of the responses we have in the comments here. Instead of first trying to right every wrong, we would be joyfully accepting (i.e. not complaining about) most of them for the sake of the Gospel. When my daughter whines about my treatment of her I don’t consider her to be counting it all joy. So can someone tell me how Christians are doing that when they complain about every mistreatment?

    • wjhinson,

      I think you’re right on (especially how the appeal to Paul’s appeal seems quite weak in light of the other, more overwhelming and compelling NT data).

      To be fair, it can be exceedingly difficult for those of us reared on a polity that derives from modern notions of individual rights, etc. to make sense out of the clear NT thrust to lay down the self. But I wonder if those who appeal to Paul’s appeal remember he also said God’s grace was sufficient in the midst of suffering, or prayed that he might diminish so that Christ might increase? Those don’t sound like the sentiments of a man worried about his individual rights as a citizen of this world.

      I love my country as much as the next American, but could it be that American polity is quite at odds with Christian piety? One wonders why we can suggest something critical about the Christian’s relation to certain aspects of his culture (notions of sexuality, work ethic, etc.), but when it comes to wondering about how its polity doesn’t seem to square with Christianity it is rendered “profoundly foolish and unbiblical”? Wouldn’t it be easier, and perhaps more charitable, to just admit that the Christian life is hard?

      • “But I wonder if those who appeal to Paul’s appeal remember he also said God’s grace was sufficient in the midst of suffering, or prayed that he might diminish so that Christ might increase?”

        Or if they’ve ever read Acts 4, where Peter and John said, ““Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And then they went to their friends and prayed that God would grant them, “to continue to speak [His] word with all boldness …” The result? “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

        But wait, there’s more. They eventually get arrested and when reminded that they were charged not to teach in Jesus’ name, they reply, “We must obey God rather than men.” What happens next? Oh, they’re beaten and charged again not to speak in the name of Jesus. Now do they complain? Nope they just rejoice and refuse to cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

        Keep reading. Stephen is stoned to death, James is killed with the sword, Peter is arrested again with intentions of killing him (but earnest petitions were made to the civil authorities God by the church so Peter’s sleep (not plans for a civil action lawsuit) was interrupted so that he could be rescued) and on and on the story goes.

  11. I live in murfreesboro tennessee which is just outside of nashville. A large mosque of fifty two thousand square feet has been aproved without any input from the people of murfreesboro. Now that news is out, there is a cry of public outrage , claiming that the city officals and planners pulled a fast one to say the least. And to add insult to injury, we have a locally owned free newspaper with classified ads along with local and national news. The owner has been writting a column on islam, their ideals and in general how dangerious their agenda really is. Because of these articles on islam the newspapers and their racks were removed from all of the kroger stores as well as all kfc chicken stores in the county. The reason that was given for the removal of this paper was due to hate speech that some individuals( muslim) claimed were being written.whats next?

  12. wjhinson, Zrim and I have posted extensively on this topic before on this blog site and another, and I won’t rehearse that exchange. Suffice to say that, in my view, your pacifist position is exegetically without warrant and logically erroneous. Your syllogism is: (1) Christians should count it joy when they suffer for the gospel; (2) a Christian is suffering for the gospel; (3) therefore the Christian should not seek to escape or alleviate the suffering. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. That Peter sought to encourage the suffering Christians who had no choice but to suffer does not warrant the conclusion that Peter was commanding the Christians not to take reasonable, lawful steps by exercising legal rights, if available to them, to avoid the suffering. The Christians in the first century to whom Peter was writing had no legal rights or lawful means by which to avoid the persecution, so they were called to accept the inevitable with grace. But your conclusion that Christians are called to accept avoidable persecution is not only unwarranted and illogical; it is not only foolish in the extreme; it is cruel and heartless. I say this with no disrespect becauase I know you are well meaning and consider your counsel pious, but, with respect, it is pious nonsense. If we had no other text than the apostle Paul’s appeal to Caesar in exercise of his legal rights as a Roman citizen, a fact that the Scripture reports approvingly, it would be sufficient to refute your suggestions to the contrary.

    Christians suffer in much of the world, some giving their lives. If they could, by the expedient of a call to a judge, save their lives and their children’s lives, they would do so in a hearbeat. But your diseased reasoning would command them to needlessly allow the eclipse of the gospel and the loss of their lives when it could easily be avoided. That is madness and evil.

    Nothing in Scripture commands such an evil result, and you cite to no Scripture that does, other than an inapposite citation to 1 Peter. Zrim usuallyappeals to the Sermon on the Mount, “turn the other cheek,” etc. I have elsewhere addressed those arguments and won’t repeat them.

    Finally, your reasoning represents a confusion of the kingdoms. In the kingdom of God, in the church, it is a violation of the spirituality of the church for the church to take up arms, coerce belief, or enforce its edicts by the state. The church should even refrain from opining on political matters. But the individual Christian is a citizen of the kingdom of man as well. And in that capacity, he/she has every right to appeal to the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion on an equal basis with every other citizen. I know noting in Scripture that holds that Christians, alone among all other citizens, must suffer a disabling restriction upon the exercise of their legal rights to advocate for their beliefs — especially the gospel.

    Your arguments to the contrary are the product of confused thinking, over-reaction against the Christian right, over-reaction against evangelical “take-back-America” programs, and, it would appear, an antipathy to the nation that gives you the freedom to proclaim the gospel. So you are also ungrateful. I pray that no church gives you an officer position or any position by which you can spread your ideas.

    • Whoa! This is pretty uncharitable, CVD. They are not claiming we don’t have rights as members of the civil kingdom–they are questioning, I think, whether this is a proper Christian witness and in keeping with principles of wisdom. I think it’s a legitimate question.

      • Richard, no they are claiming more than that. It’s a legitimate question in-hourse, among Christians, whether passing out tracts or, in this case, the Gospel of John, is good strategy or consistent with biblical and confessional notions of witness and evangelism. But they are contending that these Christians who are apparent victims of unconstituional action by the government under color of authority should be “accepted” without demurrer or resisted by the exercise of legal rights. And Zrim consistently argues that it is wiser to accept persecution, and not only persecution, but even improvident and mistaken state action, rather than to take legal action to exercise legal rights to avoid it. The first reaction of the anti-culture war warriors is to criticize the Christians who are trying to protect their rights rather than the government for eclipsing rights. That evidences confused thinking, but also dangerous naivete and unbiblical thinking.

    • Well, CVD, what does one say to another who construes his own views as “profoundly foolish, unbiblical, madness and evil” (and do I detect some suggestion of being “un-American” to boot)? Your method reminds me of the revivalists against the confessionalists, the former saying of the latter that they were “unconverted, etc.”

      But by your lights I still don’t understand what turning the other cheek might mean. Anabaptist radicals tend to think this means that when a madman mows down my daughter’s classroom I should ask the judge to suspend judgment on him. But I think that represents a profound confusion of law and gospel (I’d like to say “evil” but my need to allow my interlocuter’s the right to exist is stronger). I don’t want my judge doling out grace anymore than I want my pastor doling out law. So if turning the other cheek shouldn’t happen when we are legally persecuted when should it? When the stakes are way lower, like when rudely taunted on TV by the new atheists? Wouldn’t that be like saying obeying Caesar is about as profound as filing honest and timely tax returns? You know, “they were amazed” in Mark 12 for good reason, and it wasn’t because he was telling them something they already knew and assumed.

    • CVD,

      Quote me as saying Christians should not seek to escape or alleviate the suffering.

      • You should, on your principles, condemn and admonish the Afghan Christians who fled to India to avoid the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christ. They fled to India so they could alert the world to the plight of the Afghan Christians who are being persecuted and threatened, and their ability to declare the gospel shut down. They hoped and prayed the world would help alleviate their suffering and that of their children. But, on your argument they are wrong. They should have stayed and died with their families, and allowed the gospel to be silenced, and the world to never know. Further, Christians around the world are to be condemned and admonished if they take any tangbile, material steps to help the Afghan Christians “escape or alleviate the suffering” (your words). You’re a peach.

        • I’m sorry I didn’t see the quote, would you mind pointing it out for me again.

          Why can’t you see what Richard sees? That the point I’m making (and have stated plainly) is I think we should respond first as Christians, then maybe as a last straw (as Paul did) as a citizen of a particular country. Instead it is reversed. I said that we should joyfully accept most of the wrongs we suffer instead of trying to right every wrong.

          If the biblical motif of exile is a paradigm for the Christian in this world, it would seem that we have less “rights” than we imagine, unless of course as I have been saying we think of ourselves as American first and then, when it is convenient, “Christian”.

          • Your words: “Quote me as saying Christians should not seek to escape or alleviate the suffering.” Now you’re backpedaling and qualifying and equivocating.

            Let’s come down from the cloud of generalities and deal with concrete facts on the ground. The brothers on the street of Dearborn were witnessing for Christ. The police broke the law by stopping them. The gospel of John was no longer handed out. Now you may think that street evangelism is not worth salt. But these brothers do. And they have a legal right to do it.

            I don’t know what kind of “last resort” you would accept. How much silencing of Christian witness is enough before you call a lawyer? One block? Five blocks? The whole city? Your church being closed by the Marshall?

            You need to do your homework and understand how the law works in this country. Permitting the police to break the law and silence the gospel is not a good thing. For many reaons. Among them, it emboldens authorities to do more abuse. The price of liberty is constant vigilence. It’s a slippery slope because the law is built on precedent. Permit the police to stop street evangelism unlawfully, and in time they may stop your from worshipping at your Reformed church on Sunday morning. That’s the way it works here. Before you opine on things you don’t know anything about, have the intellectual honesty to find out how the law works outside of your little church and your little corner.

            I submit that your philosophy cannot be sustained exegetically. It may be your personal temperament, or a tenuous extrapolation from a theological construct like Christians in exile, or a personal opinion. But please don’t advise Christians that it’s “wiser” or more pious to suffer the loss of their rights to declare the gospel. That is not wisdom. It’s foolishness.

  13. Cvd,

    Qualifying? Perhaps, because you can’t seem to understand my point that there is a distinction between Christianity and American life.

    Backpedaling and equivocating? On what the words you keep putting in my mouth?

    My philosophy can’t be sustained exegetically? What that as a Christian there is a time to lose and cast off, that all things are lawful but not all are profitable, that just because Christians have rights as Americans they don’t always have to demand them? You have one example of Paul and therefore you are biblical? You are concerned about American law, I’m concerned about the Gospel! You tell me to do my homework – I will when I am speaking about American law. Until then I will maintain that the Bible doesn’t only teach that we demand our earthly rights as you keep insisting.

    • You’re not listening, brother. If in social interaction or on the job you want to relinquish a right because you think it’s pious, no problem. Christians often forego rights in social interaction and even in other legal contexts if a greater cause is served. That can be virtuous. That’s not the context of this video.

      Acquiescing to infringement of rights to free exercise of religion is different. Rights not protected are lost in our system. That’s the way it is. If you give the government a passs to trounce on protected expession in one case, you give rise to 100 more cases in a year. You have to pounce on each constitutinal violation as quickly as it happens and hold the authorities accountable. You do your neighbor no favor by acquiesing to a violation of your right to speak the gospel. A violation as egregious as the PD action in this video must be opposed.

      • For the last time. What may be appropriate action for constitutional violation isn’t always and in every case appropriate for the Christian witness.

        I hope you do a better in court understanding your opponent than you have done here on this blog understanding me.

        Good day.

    • Finally something that we agree on: It’s what you understand that is the problem.

  14. I don’t think the depiction of these Christians as “whining” is at all fair. The purpose of their video seems to be to bring attention to, not specifically the police infringing upon the free speech rights of citizens to hand out literature, gospel or otherwise, but rather that special protections that are being unlawfully exercised and enforced by the legal authorities for the benefit of a particular class of people in Dearborn, i.e. Muslims, by suppressing free speech and therefore to the detriment of law biding citizens.

    The action being taken by the police is not anti-Christian nor anti-gospel per se. Rather is only anti-Christian/gospel in Muslim areas, even though those areas a public and protected by the first amendment. The actions of the police are unlawfully pro-Muslim via enforcement of unlawful actions at the Muslim’s behest. The gospel is free to preach anywhere… just not there.

    I think this video’s purpose is to shed light onthe insidious development going on in this country and other western countries, and that is the establishment of Shiria law enclaves that prohibit all kinds of things besides the Gospel being disseminated. Things most everyone considers normal. And it is Shiria law that is ruling the roost in these enclaves not Constitutional law. That is a serious problem if we are to take seriously concerns of justice for our fellow man.

    Also a lot of Bible is being thrown around in this thread to support differing positions on this… let me just say that this effort by these Christians to expose this wrong can also fall under the “love your neighbor as yourself” requirement. Exposing and stopping this kind of “special protection” actually helps others that may find themselves similarly unlawfully harassed or arrested.

    • As long as we are clear about what is being fought for (i.e. the Constitution and not the Bible), I don’t have a problem. My constitutional lawyer friend keeps insisting that because Paul appealed to Caesar that Christians must fight for their constitutional rights. The reason therefore that “a lot of Bible is being thrown around” on my part is that there is a lot of Bible to support the right of a Christian to choose not to fight for his constitutional rights. CVD has a hard time swallowing that fact and appeals to what is at stake for Christians in America if they don’t fight. My point is that free speech is not required for the advance of the Gospel so quit telling me Christians must fight for it. Sometimes it might be best for the sake of the Gospel to just live out our calling as Christians and forget our calling as Americans, especially when there is confusion over the distinction between the American way versus the Christian way. Again, I’m not saying that the Bible requires that we don’t use our rights, I’m only saying that it’s not always the best route to take for the advance of the Gospel. And it seems to me that we may be in a situation where we should worry more about proper Gospel proclamation than the American way of life.

    • Mr. Miller, I think you’re exactly right. The problem of Sharia law is huge. I have a large school district client that is struggling with the Muslim community demanding more concessions for the right to do the Friday Islamic worship prayers, things that Christians are not permitted. Lot of intimidation going on. Christians upset that the Muslims are getting special favors.

      I think it’s perceptive to say that exposing and stopping special protections for Sharia law actually helps others. I was trying to say that above, but you said it well. There are, therefore, many reasons why Christians may want to enforce rights to distribute the Gospel of John in Dearborn in a Muslim enclave.

      • “… many reasons why Christians may want to enforce rights to distribute the Gospel of John in Dearborn in a Muslim enclave.”

        But one of them is not that the Bible requires them too and doesn’t give the liberty to choose otherwise. Agreed?

        • Mr. Hinson, I don’t think that’s the issue. Of course a Christian doesn’t sin if he doesn’t reach for the phone to call a lawyer. But the gist of our disagreement is your assumption that there is something unseemly about Christians taking legal action to protect their constitutional rights to spread the gospel. Instead, you have argued, that Christians (in your words) “should not seek to escape or alleviate the suffering.” In other words, where I suggested that the perseution/suffering could be easily alleviated by a quick conversation with a judge, you insisted that suffering was the “better way.” You have argued that it is better (sometimes you said “wiser” or more biblical, in keeping with a “exile motif” and “bearing our cross”) for Christians to acquiesce in the suppression of their legal rights to spread the gospel.

          I think you’ve been very clear. And I hope I have. I don’t agree that it is better for Christians to acquiesce in the suppression of their legal rights to spread the gospel than to exercise those rights by appropraite action (sometimes a letter from a lawyer or a phone call will do). I don’t think it’s better for the Afghan Christians to suffer martyrdom when a palliative is at hand. If God calls us to suffer persecution and there is no altenative, then suffer we must, and count it all joy. God may call us to endure unavoidable suffering. But I don’t think God calls us to endure avoidable suffering. He gave us a brain, and if he’s provided a way of escape, no virtue is found in the needless and avoidable suffering. It seems to me madness to suffer persecution unjustly when a phone call or a trip to a judge can end it. WHY is that better? It’s not better for the people deprived of hearing the gospel because of a magistrate’s unlawful action. Other than some biblical texts taken out of context, and very general ones at that, I get no carefully argued case for the virtue of this pacifism.

          The Christian pacifists, such as yourself, see godly virtue in enduring avoidable suffering and persecution because, for reasons none of you ever can articulate, it is just “better.” Because pursuing the legal route is unseemly. It just strikes me as more akin to masochism than piety. I have never been a pacifist, and believe that pacifism is deeply immoral in most cases. So we will have a fundamental disagreement on this point.

          • “you have argued, that Christians (in your words) ‘should not seek to escape or alleviate the suffering.'”

            In my words? Check the record. They are only my words in that you put them in my mouth when you first tried to sum up my position. I asked you to quote me as saying that, because you said:

            Suffice to say that, in my view, your pacifist position is exegetically without warrant and logically erroneous. Your syllogism is: (1) Christians should count it joy when they suffer for the gospel; (2) a Christian is suffering for the gospel; (3) therefore the Christian should not seek to escape or alleviate the suffering. The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

            This is why I should have stuck with my attempt to lay this discussion to rest – you aren’t interacting with me. You are interacting with the “pacifism of a peach, which is profoundly foolish, unbiblical, deeply immoral, pious nonsense that puts a gag order on Christians, is exegetically without warrant, logically erroneous, cruel and heartless, not to mention is an example of diseased reasoning, madness and evil, dangerous naivete, and masochism.” So you can stop looking for a carefully argued case for it’s virtue from me. Maybe then you will be able to hear me.

            My view is that there is a time to concern ourselves with our American rights and a time not to. “When?” you ask. When it is profitable for the Gospel. You think it is profitable for the Gospel now, I don’t. You think without our rights the Gospel will be silenced. I think all this clamoring over our American rights has already silenced the Gospel. I think “Christians” need to stop and think about their response to unjust treatment instead of reacting as Americans first, if their main concern really is the Gospel.

            All I’m saying is that our response as Christians hasn’t been determined beforehand just because we live in the good ole U.S. of A. You, on the other hand, act as if I don’t have a choice about how to respond if I care about the Gospel, because Paul appealed to Caesar.

  15. CVD,

    Can I pitch in? As a fellow attorney, I really think you should listen hard to some of the criticisms and critiques of other brothers in the faith who are non-attorneys when they criticize our all too willingness to resort to the legal system, instead of dismissing them as “pacifists” and telling them they are unqualified to hold church offices. As an attorney, I understand the need to be vigilant in asserting our rights in the civil sphere. Yet, also as an attorney and as a member of a Reformed church, I am wary of Christians who are more intent on getting involved in culture war issues than in thinking through how their actions accord with what Scripture requires for those who are also citizens of another kingdom. I lived in Europe for almost 20 years before finally settling in this part of southern Arizona. I am amazed at what wimps we Americans are when it comes to confrontations and how we are all too willing to run to an attorney to right any and all wrongs instead of first seeking a resolution, or, horror of horrors, “sucking it up” and getting on with life. Maybe we’ve bought too much into a “theology of glory” instead of a “theology of the Cross.” At least this is worth thinking about.

    • Richard,

      There is much wisdom in what you say. I’ve been around and around on this issue with others who hold Mr. Hinson’s view, and have always pointed out that I agree that we Americans are too quick to litigate. Much of my job is resolving issues amicably and persuading clients to resolve or let it go. As a lawyer who does a lot of civil rights work protecting Christian liberties on a pro bono basis, I’ve found that 9 out of ten times the magistrate’s actions were the product not of animus or hostility to Christians, but just “equal opportunity” mess ups. And often a phone call or letter can get them to withdraw the threat from the church or the Bible study group or whatever. Further, I think we should be careful always to be Christ-like in our confrontations with the culture.

      With that said, I don’t have the allergic reaction to “culture wars” per se that many anti-culture war warriors in the Reformed world do. Many of these men are my close friends, and they harbor a knee-jerk antipathy to the Christian right and its misguided disire to “take back America.” I quite agree that God probably never had America and doesn’t want it back. 🙂 But nonetheless, much good can and must be done by Christians in the culture and legal spheres on political and cultural issues, and some of that gets branded “culture war acitivty.This work is not redemptive, and its goal is not to transform the civil sphere into the cultic sphere. But its goal is to help humanity, to make the world a better and more just place, and a safer place for the gospel to be propogated. One has to be discerning, and careful about the issue and the cause and how to address it, and space doesn’t permit getting into that subject. I think there is a great deal of good that Christians can do in the civil sphere to improve the common lot, to make the civil sphere into a better platform for the spread of the gospel (as Kline wrote about), fostering justice and equal rights, mercy relief, environmental concerns, and ameliorating cultural decline. I encourage Christians to oppose same-sex marriage through the courts if necessary, and I’ve worked long, hard hours on those efforts.

      My chief concern is helping my Reformed uber two-kingdoms friends to see that their antipathy to Jerry Falwell and the whole Christian right enterprise doesn’t warrant the over-reaction against all attempts to lobby for better legislation and to litigate in strategic impact litigation of the kind I do. The Lord has blessed our efforts and have held a lot of bad cultural sludge at bay and done a lot of positive good in the work that my extremist, pacifist Reformed friends condemn. I am very troubled, quite frankly, that this Reformed pacifism in the culture wars is influencing many impressionable young men into opposing Christians who are trying to do good rather than opposing the evil in the culture.

      Much more nuanced, critical thinking needs to be done by we Reformed. The knee-jerk antipathy to assertion of our rights is very, very dangerous to someone like me in the constitutional law practice. I see where the law is going, and where the left is going, and if it’s not opposed in the courts and in the academy and in the culture, it could well result in severe restrictions upon Christians’ rights to speak and act as Christians. So the kind of thing depicted in the video is exactly what must be legally challenged as we build up a storehouse of helpful precedents in the appellate courts. My two cents. Or may two dollars. Sorry for the long post.

      • Nothing to be sorry about. Our vocation as attorneys is an honorable one, in spite of all the lame lawyer jokes we have thrust upon us (I think I’ve heard them all, repeated at least ten times). I know there is a knee-jerk reaction of antipathy to the Christian right–and I’m probably one of the jerks because I’ve been around evangelicals who seem to be more interested in fighting for America’s kingdom than rejoicing in their heavenly citizenship; maybe I see too much of me in “them.” Having said that, loving your neighbor through carrying out your legitimate vocation as an attorney is a way that God works in the civil sphere–and we shouldn’t derogate that. As individual citizens in the civil sphere, though, I don’t think there is a distinctly “Christian” way of reacting when our rights are violated–this call for wisdom, considering a whole host of factors.

  16. Richard, thanks for your sane contribution here, I appreciate it, especially for pointing out that sometimes civilians to certain professions can bring a persepctive worth considering amongst those who share the same faith.


    1. I’m still curious as to what you think turn the other cheek means.

    2. You said, “I don’t think it’s better for the Afghan Christians to suffer martyrdom when a palliative is at hand. If God calls us to suffer persecution and there is no altenative, then suffer we must, and count it all joy. God may call us to endure unavoidable suffering. But I don’t think God calls us to endure avoidable suffering. He gave us a brain, and if he’s provided a way of escape, no virtue is found in the needless and avoidable suffering. It seems to me madness to suffer persecution unjustly when a phone call or a trip to a judge can end it.”

    Wow. Didn’t Jesus have an alternative, as in the ability to call legions of angels to alleviate his suffering? What about the alternative during his forty days of temptation in the wilderness? From the incarnation itself to hanging on the tree, it seems to me he had plenty of opportunities to either avoid in the first place or put an end to his unjust suffering. I find it odd that you construct caveats to Christian suffering when the pattern of Jesus (again, whom we are supposed to follow) is anything but. I am reminded of Peter suggesting to the Lord to avoid going up to Jerusalem because it was there that his supreme suffering would take place. His response, you’ll recall, was “Get behind me, Satan.” All along you have been quite explicit that this side of the table is profoundly evil, etc. Not that I want to return eye for an eye, but does it faze you at all that you sound a lot like Peter?

    • Zrim, you asked this, and I answered it, and we discussed it, ad nauseum, over at Old Life. But let me offer once more what I take to be the dominant Reformed interpretation of Matt. 5:38-42. Jesus was signaling that the time had dawned for the fulfillment of OT prophetic expectations of a new covenant and the dawning of the age to come. The prophets had foretold a time when there would be a change in heart among God’s people living under a new covenant. Not only would their sins be forgiven, but obedience would spring from the heart (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:27) as the eschatalogical age dawned. His teaching is largely about eschatology. In Jesus and the Kingdom, fulfillment of the OT promises about the Messianic age foretold, and the prophecies that curbed evil while pointing forward to the end of the age, are now superseded by the new age and the new hearts that it brings. Jesus gives four illustrations to make the point. So what did Jesus mean when he said “do not resist the evil doer, but to him that slaps you ….” etc.? When his words in vv. 39-42 are read in light of what follows right after (vv. 43-48), and when the parazllel in Lk. 6:29-30 is explained by what immediately comes before in vv. 27-28, it’s clear that the key passage is both Matt. and Lk. is “Love your enemies.” (Matt. 5:44; Lk. 6:27). In other words, the point of the passage is Jesus is condemning lovelessness, hatred, revenge, and saying “do not resist the evil doer with means that arise from an unloving, unforgiving, vindictive disposition” because the new covenant is dawning and the time for all that has passed. This is the age of the gospel going out to all persons.

      With this context, it becomes clear that “to turn the other cheek” means to have in the heart and to display in attitude, word, and action that one is filled with not the spirit of revenge and hatred but of love. Rom. 12:19-21 is in effect a commentary on this. I take this to be the dominant Reformed interpretation of the passage in context.

      Now it should be plain that Jesus was not laying down a law of passivity or pacifism, nor commanding that Christians should not, if it’s possible to do so, resist oppressors and persecutors who seek to silence the gospel. Rather, the point is about the disposition of the heart. When a Christian exercises his or her constitutinal rights to distribute the Gospel of John on a public street outside a Muslim festival, he is not necessarily motivated by hatred of Muslims; he may be motivated by a love for them and a desire to share the gospel with them. And in calling the lawyer he may be motivated by a desire to retain freedom to share the gospel, and a desire to, like a good neighbor, preseve freedom for all in the civil sphere to speak and act with liberty.

      Finally, you apparently argue that Christ’s passive obedience at the cross is normative for Christians to become pacifists, at least in not resisting governmental oppression of the gospel. This is, with respect, a major category confusion and exegetical fallacy. Christians are not called to imitate Christ in all he did. He quited the wind and the waves. We’re not commanded to do that. He went to the cross because his death was redemptive and was ordained before the foundation of the world. Yes, we take up our cross and complete the sufferings of Christ as unavoidable sufferings come our way, but there are plenty of sufferings that come our way without having to go looking for them or needlessly enduring sufferings that can easily be avoided. If I stick my finger in a flame by mistake, there is no virtue in my Stoically maintaining the finger there and enduring the flame out of some misguided notion that I should not avoid suffering. No useful purpose is served by allowing my finger to be burned, and God gave me the intelligence to withdraw from the suffering if it’s possible.

      Your argument that Christ’s passive obedience somehow mandates that the Christians in Dearborn suffer the eclipse of their civil rights to spread the gospel is, well, Zrim, about as looney an argument as I’ve ever heard.

  17. At the beginning of this thread, Rhett wrote this: “Those of us from the Midwest have long known that the government in Dearborn, Michigan is all but controlled by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (“ADC”), which makes it hard to share the Christian faith with the Muslims and Arabs in the city. 30,000 of the city’s 100,000 residents are Muslim, and the city is home to the largest mosque in the United States.”

    Will somebody PLEASE wake up here, stop talking this self-defeating “two kingdoms” stuff, realize that our rights as both Christians and as Americans are in serious danger, and start taking serious action to stop it?

    If the facts stated here are correct, and so far I’ve seen nobody dispute the basic facts but only how we should respond, a minority of less than a third of the population of a significant suburb of a major American city has apparently managed to take effective control of the governmental apparatus, and is using it to harass Christians in outright defiance of the United States Constitution. That should scare not only those with a conservative “original intent” interpretation of the Constitution, but also those who for the last seventy or eighty years have been advocating a liberal understanding of what the Constitution says about freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

    How many communities in the United States have a population that is one-third conservative evangelical Christians? How many communities in West Michigan, northwest Iowa, and certain parts of Canada have a population that is one-third or more of conservative Reformed Christians?

    It ought to be a rebuke to us as Christians and as Calvinists that Muslims, with an ideology that is utterly foreign to American history and constitutional law, have managed to do something like this from a minority position of the electorate. An evangelical Christian position is at least compatible with the American constitution and history, though I’d argue for considerably more than that, and if we as Christians don’t start acting to take back our culture we have only ourselves to blame for the consequences.

    Islam is a militant, aggressive, and violent faith. If it’s not stopped, we may rapidly find that the nation in which Edwards, Dabney, Thornwell, Machen and Van Til once lived has no more Christians than the North African cities in which Augustine once lived.

    We as Christians are supposed to believe in a “church militant” though we as Christians are not committed to violence as a means of spreading the gospel. Calvin and Luther were quite aware of the danger of Islam on their eastern frontiers in Hungary and what it was then doing to Constantinople and the Balkans, as well as what it had done centuries earlier to Christian communities in Egypt and North Africa. We’d better start realizing the danger Islam posed not just in the 900s or the 1500s but also today.

    • Darrell,

      Evidently you haven’t done the most elementary reading if you think that two-kingdoms is “self-defeating.” There’s nothing about a two-kingdoms analysis of Christ and culture that requires social passivity. Do some basic reading Darrell.

      You should know better.

      • Dr. Clark:

        This isn’t just a minor theoretical issue. At the very moment when Christians need to be aggressively organizing to fight a resurgent secular and religious liberalism in the political sphere, as well as an extraordinarily dangerous rise of worldwide fundamentalist Islam, I’m seeing at least a few pastors and professors in Reformed circles advocating views that are completely contrary to anything I’ve ever heard or seen in Dutch Reformed circles and seem to be disarming Christians who badly need to be fighting tooth-and-nail in the culture wars.

        It’s hard for me to know how influential this “two kingdoms” stuff is, given that I’m sitting in the Missouri Ozarks, and in a former URC congregation that really doesn’t have much of any connection to broader Dutch Reformed church life other than a few people with Dutch last names who have been away from the “colonie” for many years and sometimes decades. When I talk to my old colleagues in the URC, they generally say this is a tiny group of people in California who don’t reflect the rest of the URC, and some of them argue that it’s an internet phenomenon that has few if any roots in the church life of real “bricks and mortar” churches rather than cyberchats.

        However, I’ll stand by my position that the “two kingdoms” position, as I am seeing it worked out here and to some extent in similar blogs, is self-defeating.

        Here’s why.

        Among the reasons is that it leads to unfruitful questions such as those being asked here about whether we are required by the gospel to turn the other cheek when we are persecuted for being Christians rather than claiming our rights as citizens which even the 2K advocates admit that we could claim in any other context. And the situation described by CVanDyk in his consistory is virtually beyond belief — not just the conservatives but also the liberals in the Christian Reformed Church that I knew in the 1980s and 1990s were aggressively pushing for political activism and arguing about whether a politically conservative or a politically liberal view was a more faithful application of Abraham Kuyper’s position that not one square inch of creation is free from the crown rights of King Jesus. I don’t remember any Reformed person, in the entire time I lived in West Michigan, ever denying even once that the church has a political calling to speak out on moral issues.

        On the contrary, I remember how furious people in the CRC got in the early 1990s when I exposed the fact that some liberal CRC ministers thought it was legitimate to have differing opinions on abortion. Those articles caused not just traditional Reformed conservatives but also a number of moderates to seriously reconsider where the CRC was heading, including people who weren’t very Reformed but definitely didn’t want to be in a liberal church. If somebody back in the mid-1980s or the 1990s had tried to argue that conservative CRC congregations or the new URC churches should not take an aggressive position against abortion, I am quite confident anyone holding that view would have been run out of the conservative movement and branded with names like “baby-killer” or “phony conservative” or “even lukewarm Laodicean.”

        Furthermore, this “two kingdoms” position doesn’t appear to be a logical development from the old Southern Presbyterian doctrine of the “spirituality of the church.” If all that people want to do is to say that we need to be careful to count God’s enemies as our enemies rather than counting our political enemies as God’s enemies, that’s fine with me. I am the first one to say that Christians need to be very careful to be sure that when the church as institute gets involved in politics, that it is a clearcut moral issue like abortion or homosexuality, not an issue on which Christians can legitimately disagree. And furthermore, I fully agree that the fine points and details of how to do political strategy is the business of individual Christians, not the institutional church.

        But the 2K people seem to go far beyond that.

        I’ve spent nearly a decade now in the South, and until the last year or so I thought the “spirituality of the church” doctrine was completely dead and existed only in history books — it certainly isn’t being taught in Southern Baptist, Pentecostal or fundamentalist circles I see, and the PCA churches I see may or may not be very Reformed but they certainly are aggressively promoting a Christian conservative political view. Apart from one Reformed Baptist minister I know who quietly says the church as institute should preach the gospel and not take a stance on political issues, trusting the gospel’s power to change hearts of laypeople who will then be motivated to change the political system, I’ve never heard even one single Southern pastor of any denomination advocate anything close to the old “spirituality of the church” doctrine. And I probably should add that that Reformed Baptist minister keeps his views quiet since he knows his members do not agree and would misunderstand his views as liberalism if he advocated them publicly.

        Dr. Clark, you have a valid point that if I’m going to credibly criticize something from an academic perspective, I need to go back to the sources and do my reading. I recognize that it is very possible that advocates of a particular doctrine may understand it less well than the professors who formulated it. I am fully willing to acknowledge that we need to be careful about judging a doctrine true or false by the conduct of its followers rather than by the biblical and historical arguments of its theologians.

        However, just as we can say that the bad fruits of the Federal Vision theology show up in the church life of Federal Vision advocates and are a clue to a problem with the root theology, situations like what CVanDyk describes on his consistory and views such as what several people here are advocating should be a serious warning that either the followers of the Two Kingdoms doctrine have not understood their teachers or the teachers have some serious problems in their theology.

        Am I going to do that hard work? Yes, I probably will. I’m annoyed enough by what I’m reading that I think I need to take some serious time to interact with it so I can effectively respond. But frankly, while I probably will take the time, I’m not convinced it’s going to be a good use of my time. Other than the internet, I never see hide nor hair of this 2K theology in Reformed circles. I’m astounded and shocked to see what I’m reading, and I simply cannot see these views gaining much traction in the URC I knew a decade ago. As for gaining traction anywhere in the Southern evangelical environment where I live — it would be easier for a Muslim to start a mosque in Baptistland than for someone to advocate 2K views around here.

    • Darrell, as you can see from the above threads, I’m very sypathetic with your goal to preserve legal freedom to proclaim and gospel and to preserve the rule of law from the threats that come from Sharia law and extremism. But I also believe in two kingdoms theology, and they’re not mutually exclusive. Some extremists among two-kingdoms advocates misconstrue the doctrine to be a gag order or restraining on individual Christians acting in the civil sphere to to much of anything. They misapply the doctrine. But I would argue that two kingdoms theology, properly understood, is the corrective. It does not aim to “take back” our country as a Christian country (that confuses the two kingdoms), but rather aims to empower Christians in their individual capacity to be good citizens, to act for the common welfare, and to speak and act and persuade our fellow citizens about a better way, using the best arguments available.

      I do a lot of political work and legal advocacy in the public square, but never out of mistaken idea that I’m going to help redeem the culture or make America a “Christian nation.” My goals are more modest. I want to oppose Sharia law because it’s a threat to liberty of all citizens, not only Christians. I want to stand for the right of Christians and Muslims to speak and write because liberty is a good that has value to all, especially to Christians who want freedom to worship and speak about Christ. I want to oppose same-sex marriage because with legalized same sex marriage come in its train a network of legal restrictions upon Christians’ ability to speak and act as Christians, and because it is bad for children and bad for the culture. But I’m under no illusion that improving a wicked culture at the margins is going to convert America into God’s special nation. That’s my two cents.

      I really appreciate your comments and enthusiasm to stand against the cultural drift and the threats posed by Islaimic radicalism.

  18. I’ll offer my 2 cents here…

    As I understand it, a “two kingdoms” view generally seeks to preserve and build the purpose of the church as an institution that is solely tasked and equipped by God to administer word, sacraments and disciple. However, such a position doesn’t preclude individual Christians, or so-called “para-church” organizations from operating in the social and cultural realms. Personally, I happen to hold this view.

    Yet I must say that some of the commentary here seems to go beyond this, by suggesting that even individual Christians should more or less be passive when it comes to opposing social injustices done against them. Rather, we are told, we should simply rejoice in our persecution, even as it relates to our efforts to spread the gospel.

    My take is that individual Christians and para-church groups should vigorously engage in whatever lawful and peaceable recourse there may be to try and right these kinds of wrongs. Then, having done all, so to speak, we should joyfully accept whatever persecution still comes our way (as we see happening more and more) as we seek to obey God rather than man.

  19. Darrell,

    While you’re brushing up on the two-kingdoms in relation to “self-defeat” you might also dwell a little more on what it means to be militant. Try being a confessionalist here in Little (evangelical) GRusalem (Grand Rapids) instead of an evangelical in Little Mecca (Dearborn). Those are two very different forms of church militarism, but apparently, equally dangerous for the 2K confessionalist.


    Speaking as one of the local “pacifists,” let me put it this way: beyond Paul’s appeal, what other biblical warrant do individual believers have to “opposing social injustices done against them” and “vigorously engage in whatever lawful and peaceable recourse there may be to try and right these kinds of wrongs”? I understand that it’s easy to exegete warrants from American polity and general culture, but where are the NT warrants to fight for your Christian rights?

    But just to be clear, this side of the table doesn’t ignore Paul’s appeal the way some seem to ignore requests to explain what it means exactly to turn the other cheek or render Caesar his due submission. It is worthy of consideration, and there are certainly times when dignified appeals and disagreements are in perfectly good order. But the language of civilly appealing to the magistrate sure seems a lot different from the language of “vigorous opposition to right wrongs.”

    • Zrim,

      Thanks for your remarks. A lot of thoughts come to mind when reading them, but I’ll offer just a couple.

      Even “just one” NT example of asserting one’s rights of citizenship is adequate grounds to say that this is a biblical concept, exercised under the right circumstances of course. Other times it may be best to simply turn the other cheek. Since Scripture only addresses these issues in a fairly limited and “non-jointed” fashion, I think it’s probably inappropriate to be too dogmatic one way or the other. Each person must act according to their biblically and prayerfully informed conscience. Nor do I see the terms “vigorous” and “civilly” as necessarily being at odds with each other in such a context.

      In the end I suppose we’ll very likely have to (vigorously but civilly) agree to disagree on some of the particulars of this subject.

    • Zrim,

      You wrote:
      “Speaking as one of the local “pacifists,” let me put it this way: beyond Paul’s appeal, what other biblical warrant do individual believers have to “opposing social injustices done against them” and “vigorously engage in whatever lawful and peaceable recourse there may be to try and right these kinds of wrongs”?”

      Implicitly I think the case has been adequately made. To ask for specific Bible verses possibly leads in a direction that weakens the basis of understanding Scripture by its own teachings rather than specific verses (infant baptism for example). But since you asked, explicitly, Acts 16 perhaps?

      35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.
      36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
      37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
      38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
      39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
      40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

      Is there in Scripture a proscription against individual Christians exercising their rights as citizens in the kingdom of this world? And I would add, are we not to pray for the civil authorities to exercise justice in their rule? Are there no circumstances in which a Christian would actually act to further that end? Or is it just a “be blessed and be warmed” kind of thing?

      Finally, in this case of Dearborn. The “Authorities” are not the police, but the legal authority that reigns in this nation… i.e. the Constitution. If it is deemed, through the Courts, that Christians should not hand out Gospels of John in Muslim areas… then we bear it with joy. But that jury is still out.

      Just my two cents as one not as learned as most everyone who has posted here.

      best regards…

      My only point is that what you are suggesting seems to border on a legalism of sorts. I may be wrong in that assessment, but I think there needs to be room for the individual Christian in various civil circumstances to act in a way that, at times, exercises his citizenship in this world.

  20. About the two kingdoms…

    In the civil realm what is happening (has happened) is the formation of “Dearbornistan” on American soil.

    In the spiritual realm what we see is a very challenging mission field that has emerged in SE Michigan (one wonders how ‘Gospel Ecosystem’ could possibly be of use in this environment).

    Unfortunately the video mixes both of these points of view. The guy is handing out the Gospel of John while wearing a shirt with a slogan from Thomas Jefferson.

    Let the Tea Party folks and others decry the civil implications of “Dearbornistan.” Let the church get on its knees and figure out how to evangelize this population and plant churches in its midst.

    • The guy is handing out the Gospel of John while wearing a shirt with a slogan from Thomas Jefferson.”

      Thanks for pointing that out. I almost forgot.

  21. Guys, allow me to chime in with a paragraph from Dr. VanDrunen that I think provides a framework for analyzing this issue. I found it very helpful. It’s taken from his article Bearing Sword in the State, Turning Cheek in the Church: A Reformed Two-Kingdoms Interpretation of Matthew 5:38–42:

    “Finally, the legitimacy of self-defense depends upon the context: am I being assailed as just another citizen of the civil kingdom or as a disciple of Jesus and hence as a member of the church? If an individual Christian is threatened by a burglar who breaks into his home to steal his property, this is an ordinary civil matter, and the Christian (who, in this setting, just happens to be a Christian) is free (and perhaps even obligated?) to defend himself or seek coercive legal remedy. But if an individual Christian is threatened because of her Christian faith, because she is identified with Christ as a member of his church, then is non-retaliation perhaps the appropriate response? The context of Matt 5:38–42 suggests an affirmative answer. Jesus most likely envisions his disciples being slapped, stripped, and conscripted not in ordinary civil disputes but specifically as his disciples: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (5:10–11). The apostolic example suggests that Christians, in the face of state action, may peaceably appeal to the civil government to abide by its own laws (e.g., Acts 22:25–29). The apostles, however, never retaliated when government officials treated them unjustly and never pursued legal action against those who persecuted them. The disruption of the civil kingdom may be avenged by the sword but the persecution of the kingdom of heaven may not.” [Emphasis in the original.]

    Assuming for the sake of argument that the actions of the police were an abuse of authority (i.e. they deprived the protestors of a constitutional right), we have to ask whether the kids in the video were being abused as ordinary citizens of the civil kingdom or as members of the church. Though they were ostensibly attempting to advance the church’s mission by passing out Bibles, they were not the targets of abuse because of their faith. They were targeted because they were not Muslim. The cops would have treated the kids the same (or maybe even worse) if they were passing out copies of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses or Hitchens’s Portable Atheist.

    The problem in Dearborn isn’t that Muslims and cops are persecuting Christians. They’re not. The problem is that political power has been seized by lobbyists who wield it in a way that violates the law. So to me, this seems like one of those instances when Christians “may peaceably appeal to the civil government to abide by its own laws” without violating the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.

    I know this is a thorny issue, and I’m not 100% convinced of my own position at this point. I’m interested in hearing what everyone (especially Zrim and CVD) have to say. I’ve enjoyed the conversation so far.

    Here’s the link to VanDrunen’s Bearing Sword in the State, Turning Cheek in the Church: A Reformed Two-Kingdoms Interpretation of Matthew 5:38–42.

    • Rhett, I’m undecided on the two-kingdoms doctrine as VanDrunen presents it. So bear that in mind as I say this.

      It seems to me that the model that he’s presenting there is very difficult to do practically. How am I to know if someone in the middle of the night is attacking me because of my Christian witness or because he just wants my iPod?

      Regarding the specific situation under discussion, as I mentioned above, I’m not saying that they don’t have the right to address the issue with the authorities. I’m just saying I wonder if their approach (“let’s go get filmed so that everybody can see they won’t let us hand out the Gospel of John and then we’ll be arrested for it”) is the best one. Perhaps relationships would go a long way to actually reaching people, whereas such in-your-face tactics might not.

      • Joel, you wrote this: “Perhaps relationships would go a long way to actually reaching people, whereas such in-your-face tactics might not.”

        Under different circumstances, I would usually agree.

        I would also agree that’s a good approach with many individual Muslims, especially those who happen to be in the United States for study, who may for the first time in their lives have the opportunity to actually meet a real live evangelical Christian and learn that we aren’t the horrible Crusaders or the immoral Americans they’ve been taught.

        However, when dealing with Muslims in groups, or when dealing with the religion itself, a very hard line is needed.

        The Middle East is a part of the world where the gospel has been mostly unknown for more than a millenium. While meekness and niceness may still be valued in America because of a residual Christian culture, that simply is not the case in a Muslim country. Standing up for what you believe in and being willing to suffer and die for it may earn grudging respect from a Muslim, especially if the “infidel” is personally honest, courageous, and doesn’t partake in certain vices that Muslims believe characterize Westerners and therefore Christians.

        Those people handing out gospel pamphlets may actually get much more of a hearing than a Christian would have gotten who was perceived as being “weak” or “submissive” and therefore calling the level of his commitment into doubt in Muslim eyes.

    • Rhett,

      Thanks for citing to DVD and his outstanding work on the two kingdoms. Dr. VanDrunen is a first rate scholar, and I make a point to read nearly everything he writes. And his book is a cogent and well written exposition of the history of Christian thought as it bears on natural law and the 2K, so I commend it as must reading for all Christians.

      With that said, in my humble opinion, the book has a few weaknesses, and the quote you offer is one of them. I don’t believe his exegesis of Matt. 5:38-42 is sound. I believe the weight of Reformed exegetical opinion favors the interpretation I summarized in one of the replies above. Not all the professors at WSC, where Dr. VanDrunen teaches systematics and ethics, for example, agree with this interpretation of this passage. At least one of the biblical studies profs dissents from this view. That by itself doesn’t disprove DVD’s thesis, but it suggests that good Reformed men can reach a different view, and indeed I believe most do.

      In particular, I don’t accept that the burden of Christ’s teaching is a legalistic, hard-and-fast rule that Christians may not resiset persecution for their faith, where one can divine the subjective intent of the persecutor, where it is reasonably possible to avoid the persecution without compromising the faith or foresaking Christ. I think each case has to be judged on a fact-specific case. If the Taliban is threatening to kill me unless I renounce Christ, I must not avoid the martyrdom by denying Christ. But if they have me in jail and I can escape down the side in a basket and get away in the night, and so live another day to proclaim the gospel, no harm to the gospel is done and there is no impropriety in doing so. If the police are arresting me for passing out the Gospel of John, then regardless of their motivation, it is wiser and more consonant with the mandate of love and the Great Commission to sue the police and vindicate my rights — and not only mine, but the rights of all citizens. (See my interpretation of the passage above.)

      Finally, I would share the view of one of the posters above that DVD’s interpretation is unworkable in principle and in practice. It requires judging motives, and that is almost always impossible, even for the one doing the “persecuting.” In my own practice, where I deal with government bureaucrats who deny Christians their rights, I cannot possible discern, most of the time, whether their motivation is to oppress a Christian because he/she is a Christian or just a bureaucratic fowl up or overzelous, arrogant bureacrat. In fact most of the time I find out in discovery that the government agents harbored no anti-Christian animus; they just acted stupidly and arrogantly because they have power. They probably do the same to others. So how do I apply DVD’s ethic in the real world? I can’t. And in the case of the Dearborn PD, how do you know if one or more of the officers was a Christian hater or following the Mayor’s command or just trying to appease a hostile Muslim citizenry or some other reason? I don’t think you can, until you get into discovery in the case and take their depositions and get your hands on all their internal emails and memoranda, and even then you may not know because they can hide the paper trail. My two cents.

  22. Rhett,

    I am familiar with DVD’s quote that you provide, and, in a word, I think it’s precisely right. It’s the point I have tried to make here in response to those that charge “pacifism,” etc. I want my sheriff carrying out uncompromising law (not grace), and I want my pastor to dole out unfettered grace (not law). The point isn’t that one mayn’t defend himself as a citizen in this world. The point is that believers are dual citizens and seem to be in something of a precarious position as such. And when such dual citizens are being offended on the basis of their heavenly citizenship it just isn’t clear at all from Scripture that he is to unsheathe his sword (in fact, it’s clearly the opposite). But real pacifism doesn’t distinguish between the dual citizenship. It tells us to turn the other cheek even as citizens of this world. So when I get bullied on the playground for being short I am supposed to turn the other cheek. This is the Anabaptist view, not the Reformed view (I tell my covenant children to stick up for themselves as much as possible). If I am bullied on the playground because I say that Jesus is Lord I see no warrant from Scripture to do anything other than turn the other cheek (I tell my covenant children to ignore any taunts in this vein). I understand that some here think this supremely naive, but I fail to see how this doesn’t place them much closer to the persecutors than the persecuted.

    I don’t see the other side grappling very much with the precariousness of our dual citizenship. I see them giving a rather innocuous and uncostly tip of the hat to turning the other cheek. From what I can tell, this only happens when all other resistance has been thoroughly exhausted, it’s convenient and presents the least possible threat to the believer. I shudder to think how we sinners would have fared had the second Person of the Trinity took this view.

  23. One has to distinguish public affairs from interpersonal relations. It requires wisdom to be a dual citizen and to keep the kingdoms distinct. In interpersonal relations, I strive to turn the other cheek. But it’s a misapplication, and legalistic, to lay down a rule that Christians may not resort to legal processt to protect their right to proclaim the gospel in the same way and on the same terms as another citizen. It’s similarly a misapplicaiton and dangerous folly to turn Christians into culture war pacifists by saying, as many young Reformed uber-2K enthusiasts do, over-reacting to the Christian right, that Christians should refrain from politial and cultural engagement and content themselves with Sunday church. Nothing in ‘Scripture mandates this result, and the usual texts adduced in support are inapposite.

    As citizens of the cultural sphere, and a democratic republic, Christians have a unique opportunity to participate in public affairs as salt and light by involvement in democratic politics and public affairs. Not as the church, but as citizens of the city of man. We also have a unique opportunity, not shared by most Christians in the history of the church, to help shape the law and protect by lawful means our civil rights to speak and act as Christians. For this reason, analogies to the first century apostles furnish unhelpful examples about political engagement. The apostles did not have opporunity to vote for candidates or laws, and had no opportuity to resort to lawful means to help change laws or to exercise their rights, save for Paul as a Roman citizen. Accordingly, that the apostles did not engage in political action or file lawsuits to help shape the laws tells us nothing but that they had no opporunity. Significantly, where Paul he did have a legal right to appeal to Caesar to prevent an unjust verdict from being carried out in persecution of him as a Christian missionary and apostle, he did not hesitate to exerice that right rather than passively submit to unjust persecution and suffering.

    In fact, such a rule is a confusion of the two kingdoms.

    • CVD, I think your point about Christians operating within the social and legal system (and thus opportunities) that their historical situation affords them is a good one. While Paul didn’t have the cultural means to challenge the institution of slavery, Wilberforce did. And who but the most extremist among us would deny that in the light of the gospel slavery is morally indefensible, and was rightfully fought against within the British legal system?

      IMHO, for these brothers in Dearborn not to defend their constitutional right (or as the framers of that document termed it–their inalienable, God-given right) to speak freely of Christ would be to wrongly surrender to a few overzealous local “Seizers” that which our founding Ceasers determined does NOT rightly belong to the civil magistrate in our country.

      • Wilberforce is a good example of a Christian acting as salt and light to bring justice and mercy to the civil sphere as a result of his Christian convictions. He labored assiduously in the political sphere for years, making all manner of arguments against the slave trade, but as his own book showed, what motivated him was the doctrine of justificaiton by grace alone through faith alone. Great example, Phil.

    • Being a dual requires wisdom. Yes, I believe someone has been calling for that from the beginning.

      We shouldn’t lay down a rule that Christians may not take up legal process. Right.

      However neither should we lay down a rule that requires Christians to take up legal process, which is what you seem to want to do. That too is a confusion of the two kingdoms and denies the call for wisdom.

      • These “wisdom” debates obscure. Let’s not hide behind the wisdom screen. You and Zrim and other anti-culture war warriors have a wisdom-bias against activism, and I have a wisdom-bias in favor of it. You have a wisdom-bias against Christians resorting to legal process, and I have a wisdom-bias in favor of it. In looking at a set of facts, without knowing more, your default was to say the Christian activists were unwise, from which you segued into a rant against Christians being too quick to insist on rights. In looking at the same set of facts, without knowing more, my default was to say they were probably wise, and Christians should exercise their rights. I’d bet that nine times out of ten you’d say the Christians were unwise to exercise their rights, and nine times out of ten I’d say the opposite. Agreed?

        • Yeah I have a “wisdom-bias” against activism, especially when it subjugates the Gospel for its purposes as it was done here. The Bible seems to have a bias against it too. I mean where is the Scriptural warrant for activism anyway? Oh yeah, that’s right, Paul appealed Caesar, I almost forgot.

  24. With all the uproar surrounding the possible infringement upon American rights, no one has shown any concern for this:

    “A lot of people may not know David Wood was planning this for a while. He was looking for trouble,” the blogger said in a video reaction to the arrests. “His intention was to go there with his video camera, incite, provoke Muslims into inflammatory behavior so he could have his propaganda crew of video footage of Muslims behaving badly so he could feature this on his blog and get views. That’s all he wanted. He got his sensational video footage. It’s not the type of video footage he was after. Nevertheless, it’s sensational.”

    He accused them of being “insincere” and “not looking to preach the gospel.”

    “He did this under the guise of preaching the gospel,” the blogger said. “He was looking for trouble. He got his trouble.”

    He said before the 2010 event, Wood declared, “Muslims have threatened us with death if we return to the festival, so now we definitely have to show up,” and, “We hope the dialogues at the Arab festival are peaceful, but we need cameras in case Muslims decide to kick our heads in.”

    The man said Wood and his crew were “causing trouble” at the 2009 festival and were “choked out.”

    “So this time, they top it by getting arrested,” he said.

    He added, “Christians need to wise up and stop allowing people – insincere people – to exploit their naivete and innocence.”

    This is my point exactly, that American “Christians” care more about their American life than they do the Gospel, as demonstrated by the amount of attention given to our American rights and the lack given to these “Christians'” actions in the first place. You want to take steps to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of Christians (not to mention the glory of God), then spend more time promoting proper Gospel witness and discipleship.

    See full story here. Then ask yourself what incites you more, that Muslims are shouting “Allahu akbar!” on American soil as Christians get arrested, or that these Christians are so misguided.

    • I would refrain from judging motives and intent, about which you have no knowledge. It’s helpful to know something about how the system works. The brothers here were stopped by police before they had any cameras. According to reports, the suppression of Christians by this police department, acting at the behest of the Muslim leaders, had gone on for a considerable time. Based on that state of the record, without proof, they could not seek legal redress because the police deny what happened.

      To seek legal redress for this history of constitutinal violations, and anticipated future violations, they acted with intentionality and with video cameras to create a record. This is a customary and accepted method of challenging an illegal law in our country.

      In fact, in order to create a legally justiciable controversy that is ripe for adjudicaiton by a federal court as an Article III case or controversy, a citizen challenging an illegal law or illegal government action usually must first violate the law, get arrested, and appeal. Ultimately, the court decides that the law or government action was patently unconstituional and therefore didn’t exist for all intents and purposes. The brothers here acted in accord with established procedures that the law (the civil magistrate) mandates.

      As you’ll recall, our Westminster Standards distinguish between the magistrate’s power and the lawful exercise of the magistrate’s power. Government actors may be held accoutable for their own violation of law.

      • I’m not judging motives and intent. I’m judging their actions. You need cameras and a record if your purpose is to challenge illegal law but not if your purpose is preach the Gospel. Why do you think it is appropriate to preach the Gospel to get caught on film to get American rights?

  25. FYI, Further research reveals that, on June 17, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted an emergency motion on behalf of Pastor George Saieg, one of the men arrested and prevented from distributing Bibles, allowing him to distribute the Bibles and to talk about his faith to Muslims at the Muslim festival. By virtue of this decision, Pastor Saieg can distribute his literature during the festival while the case remains on appeal. The Court of Appeal stated: On June 17, a three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion on behalf of Pastor George Saieg, allowing him to distribute literature and talk about his faith to Muslims at the festival. The decision means Saieg can distribute his literature during the festival while the case remains on appeal. The court in its opinion stated: “The loss of a First Amendment right, ‘for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.'”

    The court’s ruling, while only temporary pending the outcome of the appeal, signalled that the judges believed it likely that Pastor Saieg’s rights had been violated and that he will prevail on the appeal.

    “While the extraordinary relief granted by the Sixth Circuit only applies to the upcoming festival, it is a good indication that we will ultimately prevail on appeal,” said the senior trial counsel for the appellant. The appellate judges, in their announcement, stated, “.'”

    • Oops, sorry for the tpos and doubling. I was triple-tasking while on a conference call. Getting too old to try to juggle that much.

  26. “It’s similarly a misapplicaiton and dangerous folly to turn Christians into culture war pacifists by saying, as many young Reformed uber-2K enthusiasts do, over-reacting to the Christian right, that Christians should refrain from politial and cultural engagement and content themselves with Sunday church. Nothing in ‘Scripture mandates this result, and the usual texts adduced in support are inapposite”


    You had me until this statement above, which now makes me wonder if you really understand the position you are criticizing. As an older “Reformed uber-2K enthusiast” I’ve never heard any 2ker suggest Christians should refrain from political and cultural involvement, or to be content with Sunday church, given they distinguish the kingdoms. Care to provide any evidence of such a thing above ever said or written?

    Thank you

  27. Todd, I don’t like to name names because of privacy concerns, and also it’s seems gossipy. I can give you some generic examples.

    When I was an elder in a Reformed church, several of my fellow elders were upset with me that I served on the board of a well-known Christian lobbying organization in Washington, D.C., attached to a fundamentalist radio ministry. Now being a 2K guy, I didn’t share the radio guy’s theology completely, but I felt that the lobbying arm (a separate entity) did good work and I wanted to suppor it. My elder friends told me I was “confusing the two kingdoms” by being on the board of a so-called Christian advocacy group that lobbied in Washington, and they thought that inappropriate for an elder and threatened to bring me up on charges if I didn’t resign from the lobbying board. The pastor was sympathetic to their argument. The belief was that activism, political coercion, and advocacy of political outcomes were worldly and confused the two kingdoms. Christians should “lead a quiet life,” attend to our callings, attend to the ordinary means of grace, and accept the civil realm the way it is. Eventually, with the intervention of Classis, the matter was smoothed over. And most of the elders changed their mind over time about the idea that I was unfit to serve due to my political activism, though they continue to hold to their view of 2k. We agree to disagree. Their pastor is well known and has written said similar things.

    There are other 2K advocates who have said similar things in their blogs and on the radio. Commenters on Reformed blogs write similar things. It is this failure to make a distinction between the church and the citizen that troubles me, perhaps more than most, because I make my living, in part, as a Christian activist. I receive no end of criticism from 2K enthusiasts who condemn the work I do as a “confusion of the kingdoms” and “unwise”.

    Personally I’m a strong 2K advocate, having debated and spoken on the subject. But I sharply distinguish the church quo church and the Christian citizen in his capacity as a Christian citizen.

  28. CVD,

    I’m not sure I understand the gossip concern if you’ve read this kind of thing on Reformed blogs. Can you simply point out the blogs – after all, they are public. Also, you wrote, “I served on the board of a well-known Christian lobbying organization in Washington.” As a 2k guy, I would have no problem with an elder serving on a lobbying board, but I would hesitate to call such a thing “Christian,” which I do think muddles the kingdoms, but even with the muddling concerns it would be none of my business as a minister to meddle in your affairs like you say those elders did, and charges for such a thing sound like a sure violation of 2k and an abuse of authority, assuming your side of the story of course.

  29. It’s similarly a misapplicaiton and dangerous folly to turn Christians into culture war pacifists by saying, as many young Reformed uber-2K enthusiasts do, over-reacting to the Christian right, that Christians should refrain from politial and cultural engagement and content themselves with Sunday church.


    We’ve been over this ad nauseum here and other places. I don’t know how many ways I can make this clear to you. My points have nothing to do with cultural and political withdrawal. That’s the Anabaptist ethic, not Reformed and is precisely the sort of world-flight ethic that spurned me to leave broad evangeliclaism for the world-embracing piety of Reformation.

    And there are diverse ways of being culturally and politically involved. You seem to think that in order for one to be culturally and politically engaged he has to be warriorizing, and if he’s not then he must be a pacifist. If you want to fight, go ahead. But some of us are just posing questions about the wisdom of culture war. (For my part, I’d rather have a personal conversation with my homosexual friends and represent Christian orthodoxy to them than impersonally lob cultural and political rocks at them. It may not be an efficient way to be culturally engaged or politically effective, but haven’t we seen enough problems when the desire is to be culturally efficient and politically relevant, etc.? Besides, since when was it a Reformed virtue to be efficient?)

    And, once more, I’m glad you detail your personal experience with some over-zealous fellows. As I have always said to you, and to echo Todd remarks, from what you convey it sounds like your liberty was trampled pretty badly. But you are confusing the likes of me with your misguided tormentors. Overreaction is an equal opportunity affliction, you know.

  30. Zrim, as I’ve said, though I disagree, I respect the “quietist” position you hold (your self-description over at Old Life). Many fine Reformed men I love and respect share it. But you’re the only one I know who runs from it by pretending that you’re “only asking questions.” Come on buddy …. you do more than “ask questions”; you clearly are critical of most Christian activism and think it unwise. Most who hold your views admit they want to discourage Christian activism of most kinds on the grounds it is unwise and motivated by confusion about the two kingdoms. If you want to say you don’t think it’s unwise, then we have no disagreement.

    As I’ve told you, Zrim, in my book you’re free to refrain from any political activism or cultural activism. I would never criticize your personal choice. I would just ask that you refrain from “asking questions” (read: criticizing) those of us who do try to improve the cultural realm by political and legal means. That doesn’t mean I agree with all the rhetoric of all the Christian activists. I don’t think we’re going to “take America back” etc. I don’t want to impose a Christian theocracy. But I can still support their work and applaud the good results.

    Tod: I run into many Reformed men who oppose Christian activism on two kingdoms grounds. They savagely ridicule activists such as me and some fine attorneys like Jay Seculow. I don’t agree with Jay’s theology, but he is a fine litigator. Additionally, you may be aware of a book and essays by a well known Reformed theologian and author whose book of some years ago tried to discourage Christians from political activism and “culture wars” on, among other grounds, two kingdom grounds. The entire book was a condemnation of political activism by Christians on the political right. He also wrote an essay “How the Kingdom Comes.” He emphasizes that the kingdom comes by God’s power, not ours, and God today does not call us to destroy unbelief with the sword. Those who use power politics and the tools of the state to reform the state are confusing the church with civil society, he wrote. (A two kingdoms argument).

    As a Reformed person, I agree with many of these convictions but not his conclusion. I agree that the Kingdom advances by the Word and Spirit and not politics. I agree that we are not called like Joshua to destroy the pagan inhabitants of Canaan. I agree that many activists in the Moral Majority camp or elsewhere on the Christian right do confuse the two kingdoms. I agree that evangelicals have a misplaced trust in politics over the ordinary means of grace. But while I renounce the sword against unbelief, I can still seek to improve Canaan. While only the Word and Spirit will advance the Kingdom, I’m not trying to advance the kingdom by politics; only alleviate injustice and raise the moral tone, save the unborn, preserve marriage, and preserve liberty. I am not trying to transform the culture into the kingdom. But I”m told my efforts are “unwise” and that I’m confusing the kingdoms.

    Thus, all the two kingdoms arguments against political-cultural activism by individual Christians seem to miss the mark. In short, the critics’ assumption is false. The implicit assumption of critics like this otherwise wonderful Reformed scholar is that there are no rationales that can support political and cultural activism by Christians other than confusing the two kingdoms by trying to turn Canaan into Zion. But there are many rationales to support appropriate activism that are not motivated by a desire to transform the culture, that respect the distinction between the two kingdoms. (Indeed, I note that this scholar himself chided Christian activists for not being activist for causes he believes in.)

    I’m concerned that these well meaning brothers, in their call to Christians to return to a more churchly understanding of the kingdom, are over-reaching by calling Christians to cease and desist from appropriate political-cultural-social activism. I work hard to oppose this view because I’m concerned that if they succeed in persuading Christians to refrain from protecting individual civil rights to speak and act like Christians, that the Beast will encroach and make it more difficult to be the church. Sometimes my fellow lawyers at the ACLU will rise to the defense of Christian liberty, but Christians have an interest to defend and no one has a greater incentive. If Christians don’t defend their liberty to speak and act like Christians, no one else can be counted on to do so.

    • CVD, Ive agreed and disagreed with certain things that some on both sides of this issue have expressed here. But I will say that your overall thinking seems to mirror my own quite closely, and that you’ve articulated the issue much better than I would’ve been able to. So, thanks.

    • CVD,

      You said:

      I would never criticize your personal choice. I would just ask that you refrain from “asking questions” (read: criticizing) those of us who do try to improve the cultural realm by political and legal means.”

      What do you call the use of these terms to describe what you try to say is mine and Zrim’s choice:

      profoundly foolish
      deeply immoral
      pious nonsense
      is exegetically without warrant
      logically erroneous
      cruel and heartless
      diseased reasoning
      madness and evil
      dangerous naivete

      Plus saying you’re a peach putting a gag order on Christians.

      More importantly though, since you brought up asking questions, is the question I asked earlier, which you never answered (i.e. Why do you think it is appropriate to preach the Gospel to get caught on film to get American rights?)

      This is my whole contention with your activism, that it utilizes the Gospel not for advancing the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of Man. I haven’t accused you of “trying to advance the kingdom by politics.” I have accused you (when supporting people such as these in the video) of trying to advance America politically by improper use of the Gospel. I have accused you, and those such as in the video, of placing a higher value on American life than eternal life when you do so.

    • But CVD–I don’t see that people such as Mike Horton (to whom you are referring) or van Drunen would say your efforts in your vocation as an attorney are somehow “unwise ” or a confusion of the kingdoms. I’ve read Horton’s work “Culture Wars,” and I don’t see such a condemnation there. I sat through his recent lecture at WSC in January on vocation–and I didn’t see such a disagreement there either with what you and I are doing as attorneys. I think Zrim may be right–you are using your admittedly unpleasant experience with your church to color the way in which you view others in the Reformed faith. Our vocation as attorneys is an honorable one in serving our neighbor in the civil sphere. We DON’T believe we are advancing the Kingdom of God (contrary to what Jay Sekulow believes). But it IS a good in the civil or coomon sphere.

      • Richard, I long ago made peace with my brothers and have no ill will toward them. We fellowship together and laugh about our differences. I continue to receive criticism from Reformed folk over political activism as they insist I’m confusing the kingdoms; they can’t accept that there are reasons for engaging the political sphere other than transformationalism.

        I’d prefer to keep names out of it as the ideas are what matter not the personalities.

        But speaking generically, the book I had in mind was a broadside against culture war activity by Christians. The reviewers got that; the readers got that; the many Reformed critics who attack Christian activism got their views from that book, as well as other comments by the author. I’ve spoken with the author I have in mind and of course he acknowledges law as a proper vocation. My point is that the book is not nuanced and does not make careful distinctions. The intention and result of the book is to discourage Christians from engaging in “culture wars” and activism. He is quite against it. And the many persons who rightly respect him have picked that up and are not as nuanced as he is. He knows that the individual Christian may do what the church qua church may not do. But his young 2K disciples who assail me, and Jay, and others who do what we do paint with broader brushes. They don’t make the find distinction between church and individual Christian. Fundamentally, they don’t understand the doctrine of 2K.

  31. Mr. Hinson, your characterization of these brothers’ actions is unfair and false to the facts. I tried to patiently explain that my investigation, in talking to the lawyers involved, is that the brothers were street preaching and passing out Gospels of John for months, long before cameras were there. Because they were being systematically shut down by police, they needed to end the illegal harassment. To end the illegal harassment, you need it on camera for a judge. So they continued doing what they were already doing, but now with a camera. So no, it was not staged. It was not ‘using the Gospel” for the kingdom of man. It was to pass out Bibles and proclaim the Gospel…. and to save their rights to do so. If you think that is wrong, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I would not characterize this as a “misuse” of the gospel, nor an attempt by these brothers to “advance America politically.” That would be a perverse characterization, in my opinion.

    I don’t have a problem if you or Zrim decline to be politically motivated for whatever reason — maybe you have a quiet temperament or maybe you prefer to sit in your backyard and grow turnips. I’ve told Zrim that I recognize we all have different gifts and demands on us, and many persons don’t have the time or interest to be activists. They may be too busy earning a living and raising a family. My objection is when you or Zrim or the many in your court urge Christians to refrain from activism and contend it is wiser to allow our rights as citizens to be taken away. That is foolish.

    And when you or others call Christians to not take even the simplest step to avoid suffering and persecution that is visited on them for the gospel, I believe that is a type of pacifism that is not mandated by Scripture and is immoral. It’s your right to hold that view, but I find it repugnant to reason and cruel. I’ve tried to help you see the logical implicaitons of your advice, if offered to the Afghan Christians who fled Afghanistan for India in order to save their children’s lives and to win a hearing from the world about the plight of Afhan Christians. Sometimes we don’t like being forced to see the logical implications of our ideas, but sometimes it’s needed to give us a wake up call. I think your view is cruel, you think its godly. We’ll have to disagree. I’ve enjoyed the exchange, and hope you’ll at least give it some thought.

    • CVD,

      Sorry for the delay in responding, but, besides being very busy, I did want to give it some thought as you suggested. Plus, I know our exchange has ended. Nevertheless I wanted to provide a concluding comment or two.

      You say, “Because they were being systematically shut down by police, they needed to end the illegal harassment.” I think this is the fundamental difference between you and I. I don’t think they “needed” to end the illegal harassment. It might be nice to end it but not necessary. This is why I’ve been saying all along that the immediate reaction of “get a lawyer” or “contact a christian public interest law firm” from 2 of the first 3 comments (one of which is yours) is not automatically the appropriate Christian thing to do. Upon stating that however the assumption that I am a pacifist and the your argument against pacifism began.

      You say they needed to end the illegal harassment and have claimed that one reason to do so is to love your neighbor, even your Muslim neighbor, by standing up for freedom of speech. That may very well be appropriate, but so might continuing to preach the Gospel to them without regard for your rights. It might just be that they will see the glory of the message more clearly if the person preaching it isn’t concerned about anything else. Wouldn’t that be loving too?

      All I’m trying to say is that it seems to me that we’ve reached a point where the impression we give as Christians is that the Gospel is a good thing but it’s just one of many good things here in America, and we’ve also assumed the American way to be appropriate Christian way in all situations as indicated by the immediate call for lawyers in this situation. It’s fine to say that we can do both (i.e. litigate and pray), but it sure is strange that praying and trusting God to bring good out of evil in his own time and his own way is not the first thing stressed, if it is stressed at all.

      Also you say that it is cruel that I deny individual Christians there rights by confusing the church and the individual. I don’t want to deny individual Christians their rights. My problem is individual Christians acting as if it is a God-given right to be able to practice Christianity without recourse when the Bible is clear that the opposite is most often the case, which brings me to my last point.

      Individual Christians ought not be attempting to do evangelism and especially not “harassing” Muslims who desire to go and come from their festivities in peace. An ordained minister called to that ministry should. It’s hard to defend the people in the video, if they aren’t ordained ministers, when even if they are well-intentioned, shouldn’t be there in the first place. However if they are an ordained ministers, then they are representing the church and the line between individual and church is blurred. Then we would have to say they are doing their job, for which they should expect to suffer, and even though America supposedly permits free speech and freedom of religion, God doesn’t promise it in his word. So on what basis then do we argue for our rights to practice our religion without harassment? The constitution or the Bible? Obviously the former, and therefore we have to say it would be nice to end the harassment but not necessary. This then should lead to a more careful examination of any call to action other than prayer and brotherly love among the saints for one another.

  32. CVD,

    Your claim to “respect and love” my views seems a bit dubious given the sort of rhetoric wjhinson catalogues. Even so, you’re right that my “asking questions” is a way of suggesting critique. But using the form of questions is a way trying to be civil about it. I think it works better than baldly and explicitly suggesting that catalogue of evils against interlocutors. And you want to be unfettered as you try to improve the world, asking that nobody raises his hand? I understand the desire to work unquestioned, but I find that an odd thing for someone in your vocation to ask. I promise never to bring churchly charges against you simply because I disagree with your cultural and political engagement of choice, but you’ll understand I don’t take well to being told to simply sit down and shut up because you disagree with mine.

    You say this:

    I work hard to oppose this view because I’m concerned that if they succeed in persuading Christians to refrain from protecting individual civil rights to speak and act like Christians, that the Beast will encroach and make it more difficult to be the church.

    This is the sort of language, which I hear consistently from you, that concerns me. First, this is a good example of how statecraft is not only over-realized as the means to bring about exact temporal justice (instead of merely imperfectly ordering our public lives), it’s a good example of over-realizing just how heaven is done on earth. Satan is kept at bay through ordained officers doling out Word and sacrament. I see heads nodding at this idea often, but then I her something like this and I wonder how much those heads really believe that. I’m not disrespecting your vocation by saying that it is absolutely powerless to do only that which his church and officers have been ordained to do. Second, do you actually tell your pagan colleagues this?

  33. Also, CVD, nobody is suggesting that to flee persecution is wrong, or for believers to help other persecuted believers is wrong. That’s absurd. You might want to send them a crusading lawyer, but I see way more biblical precendent for sending them prayers and balm. Maybe you think that’s weak?

    • How about sending them a lawyer who prays? Prayer and legal action are not mutual opposites.

  34. Zrim, you misunderstand me. I don’t seek to use “statecraft” “overrealize” eschatology. I’ve told you I have no illusion that the political will advance the kingdom. But it can save some unborns’ lives. It can make the world marginally better. As for “temporal justice,” the state is ordained by God to promote order, or “temporal justice” at least imperfectly. It will always be imperfect, but the best shoudn’t be the enemy of the better. I only want to make the temperal justice marginally better until Jesus returns.

    Yes, I agree that the preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments tears down strongholds. And our battle is not against flesh and blood. All true. But if you mean that I can stay home and grow turnips and trust that my minister’s preaching will make the civil sphere more just and humane, then I’d suggest you’re confusing the two kindgoms. The civil sphere is not advanced by the preaching of the Word or administraiton of the Sacraments. Further, I suggest that you are committing the fallacy of pitting God’s sovereignty against human responsibility. God’s acting does not obviate my acting. God works through means, and sometimes the means he uses is your or my actions. Sometimes God sovereignly ordains improvements in the civil sphere through the actions of human agents working in the civil sphere. Wilberforce was instrumental in building support for abolition of the slave trade by his skilled political manuervers, but at the same time God was moving in the hearts of the people of Great Britain in the Evangelical Revivals to change hearts. So God’s sovereignty and human responsibility co-exist side by side.

    • CVD,

      What have you so against growing turnips? Is it that it smacks more of maintaining than transforming? What is wrong with maintaining? It’s what most of us actually do and people need vegetables, you know.

      But, no, I’m not suggesting preaching will improve the civil sphere. But, then, I don’t begin with the premise that improving the civil sphere is as important as cultivating it. Have you considered that raising a good family does much more for advancing society than litigating against its evils? Or is raising families as lowly as growing turnips?

      So God was on the side of abolition? You realize, don’t you, that he also ordained the slave trade? Don’t you think it’s better to make a sane argument against something you oppose than to suggest something akin to discerning the mind of providence?

      Yes, those are statements you see in all those questions.

      • False dichtomy fallace. Why can’t I raise a good family and litigate against society’s evil?

        OK, so I’m clear, you’re not sure that God was on the side of ending the Britich slave trade in the 18th century? (We’re not talking here about ancient slavery, or slavery as found in the first century, but the slave trade as practiced by Britain in the 18th century that John Newton wrote eloquently about and Wilberforce fought against….). Pleeeeeese….. Don’t tell me there is a greater moral chasm between us than I thought.

        • I hate to say it, but this could get really messy discussing the morality of the slave trade. I don’t know what ZRim thinks on that, but I deal with people from time to time who really do think the South should have won the war.

          I just got done spending several weeks helping encourage people in my local church to apply for admission to a Southern Presbyterian denomination (the ARPs) on the grounds that the denomination understands Southern culture in ways the OPC does not, but is much more Reformed than the PCA. This local church definitely needs to be in a culturally Southern denomination.

          However, in doing so, I am very much aware that there are strains in Southern conservative Christianity to which I am adamantly opposed, and among them is legitimization of slavery. As a lifelong Congregationalist who never formally transferred from the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference to the United Reformed Churches, it was easy to answer the pro-slavery nutcases in Southern Calvinism by handing people copies of the anti-slavery writings of Jonathan Edwards’ son and say to them, “Go ahead, call me a **** Yankee if you dare. We won the war, I salute the Stars and Stripes with pride, and if you don’t, go take your Confederate flags and get out of America!” (And it didn’t hurt that I could point out that Wyatt Earp came to Pella as a recruiter for the Union Army, and the Dutch Reformed were totally opposed to Southern slavery.)

          I’ll probably end up transferring my membership and actually joining the ARPs, but it’s going to be a lot harder to oppose slavery as a Southern Presbyterian than as a Yankee Congregationalist attending Dutch Reformed churches. There are some really, really bad strains in southern Calvinism that I don’t like at all.

          • Darrell, thanks for that post. I did not know it was that bad in the Southern church. I had heard strains of that from time to time during my visits to the
            South, almost always in jest … I thought. But you’ve found strains in Southern conservative Christianity that is still defending slavery? Amazing.

            From my reading about the British slave trade, it was in some ways worse than Southern American slavery of the 19th century. The transportation of the slaves in holds of ships was itself a horror chamber, where many died, and those who did not die wish they had. Truly a horror.

            Sad to think that conservative Christians would try to defend that.

            • It’s not common, CVanDyke, but there are defenders of the “peculiar institution” (slavery) still today in the South. It’s actually a fairly serious problem in some of the most conservative Reformed circles.

              Do not assume so quickly the Southerners you were speaking with were joking. It’s not a joking matter for most people down here — people are either totally opposed to it or they are defending its legitimacy or they consider it a bad part of ancient history that has nothing to do with modern life, but it’s not something funny. The people you talked with may very well have been making a lighthearted comment to see how you would react, and went quiet when they decided you’re a typical Northerner.

              And I probably need to add that the Southern “spirituality of the church” doctrine is closely linked with what I consider very wicked and evil efforts to say the church ought not to speak out against slavery and later against disenfranchisement of black voters because “that’s a political, not a spiritual issue, so the church should stay silent.”

              Do some Google searches about the number of conservative PCA people and Federal Visionists and theonomists involved with groups like the League of the South. Now just because somebody thinks the South should have won the “War of Northern Aggression” doesn’t mean they are a defender of slavery — those are related but distinct issues, and particularly in backwoods places like the Ozarks, lots of Confederates didn’t like wealthy slaveholding plantation owners from Virginia or Mississippi any more than they liked Yankees. But it’s very difficult for a Christian conservative to defend the Confederacy without having a theological argument of why slavery wasn’t all bad, and I hear the arguments all too often in Southern conservative Christian circles that slavery was a bad idea but it was not sinful. Ironically, one of the top leaders of the Ku Klux Klan makes a similar argument that slavery sapped the strength of white men and made the South weak by relying on non-white labor and corrupting the morals of young white men who bedded their attractive female slaves.

              Living outside an Army installation (Fort Leonard Wood) with a high percentage of successful and college-educated African Americans makes it much less of a problem around here. My city council member is African-American but he lives in the city’s most expensive subdivision and works in senior management of a major defense contractor. In the next city over, the mayor and one of the aldermen are both African-American and both retired with the rank of sergeant major in the Army.

              But twenty or thirty miles away … well … let’s just say I probably would not want to mention that I have an interracial marriage when visiting a conservative church, or if I did, I would need to note that my wife is Korean. And even my Korean wife could be expected to cause problems for people who sincerely believe “race mixing” is contrary to the Bible. But I can’t blame them too much — I’ve been called much worse racist names in Korea for marrying a Korean woman than my wife and I have ever experienced in the South.

            • If you want to see a live example of how racial separatism affects a denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America, here’s an article on a recent decision by the PCA’s standing judicial commission in a case involving a pastor who got into major trouble with one of his elders over the elder’s opposition to interracial marriage and his belief that certain races have low intelligence.


              One of the PCA’s most conservative presbyteries took what appears to be the right side on this mess.

              But note that Joel Belz of World Magazine, a former PCA moderator, was placed in the uncomfortable position of having to object to the racially bigoted heritage of Southern Presbyterianism, and the PCA’s founding stated clerk, Dr. Morton Smith, was accused of saying that “interracial marriage is wrong and that racial segregation is acceptable so long as it’s ‘separate but equal.'” I don’t know what Dr. Smith’s actual views on this may be so I hesitate to just assume the report is correct, but even if Dr. Smith does not hold those views, a lot of other solidly conservative Southern Presbyterians of an older generation did or still do hold those views.

              But before we cast too many stones at the Southern Presbyterian world, I need to re-emphasize that Korean Presbyterians far too often act much worse, and “if you aren’t Dutch, you aren’t much” is not yet a dead sentiment in the Dutch Reformed world.

              In other words, this isn’t a Southern problem; this is a sin problem that affects lots of ethnic groups.

        • CVD,

          You can raise and litigate. My point was that you seem have a dim view of those who only raise (the ongoing turnip growing slur) and are skeptical about how useful litigating is for the greater good of society. I happen to think litigiousness does more harm than good.

          Re abolitionism, I’m as 21st century Yank as the next guy. My point had more to do with your claiming heaven for a political and cultural outlook (which I share with you, BTW). God is no respector of persons or their worldly cares. He ordained both the slave trade and its abolition. Instead of trying to claim God for either phenomenon we ought to be silent where he is silent (Dt. 29:29 and Belgic 13)and make our cases for or against these things.

  35. CVD, I realize you’re addressing a different Todd, not me, but if Richard is correct that the theologian you’re referring to is Dr. Horton, he damaged himself years ago when he was first entering the Christian Reformed Church by coming to West Michigan and making comments that were critical of conservative Christians who were fighting or had fought against abortion and the ERA. People in that room listened politely, and then got really upset. Instead of confronting him directly, a number of them started making phone calls out to California to find out who this guy was who for some inexplicable reason was being called a conservative by the Westminster-West professors.

    The end result (and I was involved in some of that mess) was that a number of people out in California managed to convince angry or worried Dutchmen that Westminster-West hadn’t gone soft on the war against liberalism. The statement was made repeatedly that Dr. Horton was just getting out of the Reformed Episcopal Church where he had been fighting a running battle with the theonomists and Christian Reconstructionists, and he didn’t really mean what he appeared to be saying in his comments about Christian activism or his criticisms of Dr. D. James Kennedy.

    In short, the “open” argument was that Dr. Horton was using a shotgun and doing unnecessary collateral damage when he needed to be using a laser-sighted sniper rifle to focus only on the target of theonomy. The “quiet” argument, which I also heard a lot, was that Dr. Horton is a young man who needs to grow up, so the men in West Michigan should just calm down and ignore some of his wilder comments while he matures and learns the fulness of Reformed theology including cultural engagement. That second argument made much more sense two decades ago than it does today; I thought it was patronizing back then, but it did work to calm down people who could have done Dr. Horton serious harm right as he was joining the conservative wing of the CRC.

    Those two arguments, between them, satisfied most of Dr. Horton’s critics and convinced them that Dr. Horton could be safely ignored and wasn’t a danger that needed to be run out of the conservative movement. But still today, decades later, I hear people in the URC in West Michigan and northwest Iowa who dismiss Dr. Horton as a “Reformed-lite” writer who can be safely ignored since they believe his books aren’t serious theology and are churned out, as one man put it, with the speed of comic books and not much more depth.

    That wasn’t my battle then, it isn’t my battle now, and what I’ve read of Dr. Horton indicates that his books are — at most — things I’d give to somebody brand new to the Reformed faith, not deep or serious items to study for somebody who wants to learn more than the basics of being Reformed.

    Dr. Horton may be doing a good job in helping broad evangelicals become Reformed. That’s what people tell me and they may be right. That’s fine, and if it works in his Southern California context where the culture is so far gone that a Christian conservative has virtually no hope of success at the ballot box and might as well give up and focus his energies on places where he can be more effective, good for him.

    However, it’s not going to score him any points in areas where being Reformed means far, far, far more than what you do inside the church doors, and where most Reformed people come from many generations of theological commitment to Calvinism and expect a Reformed leader to offer something quite a bit deeper than what I’ve seen from him.

    It’s also not going to work in an area like where I live, in which his antipathy toward political engagement would be viewed at best as a strange form of pacifism, or at worst, as a form of liberalism.

    I don’t think either of those charges against Dr. Horton are legitimate. However, they are reasons why, when an Arminian Baptist asks me how a Bible-believing Christian can possibly believe in predestination or other key doctrines of Calvinism, I’m much more likely to give that person a copy of the Heidelberg Catechism with proof texts at the bottom of the page than to give him something written by Dr. Horton to explain the Reformed faith.

    • Darrell, thanks. I’d prefer to keep personalities out of he discussion. I have enormous respect for Dr. Horton, personally. He is on the side of the angels, in my view, and I am much enriched by his books, teaching, and writing. None of us is perfect, and we all can do better, myself included. But on balance, at least in my view, Dr. Horton is a treasure and gift to the church.

      • I think we’re on the same page here about Dr. Horton.

        What I hear about him from people I respect is that he’s doing good work in his Southern California context. That’s fine. His fight is not my fight and that means his methods may need to be different in his context.

        On a personal note about Dr. Horton, I don’t know him very well beyond what I’ve read of his books, and you’re right that I’ve read mostly his older books, not what he’s written more recently. However, people who do know him very well and also used to know me as well or better than they knew Dr. Horton said back in the 1990s that they believed we were very much alike — two young conservative Reformed men who had become Calvinists through academic study and were effectively reaching people who understood their Bibles and valued serious study. A number of people tried to get me to spend more time with Dr. Horton; my schedule was total chaos back then and he was busy too, so that never worked out.

        Also, regarding Westminster-West: My comments were not meant to be critical. At one point in the mid-1990s there was a brief possibility for me of going to Westminster-West to finish my seminary education that I had begun at Calvin. I considered it again a few years ago. It turned out to be impossible both times, and in the long run, leaving my work at Christian Renewal back in the 1990s would have been a serious mistake by abandoning a much more important fight in the Christian Reformed Church for academic study to get a degree that wouldn’t have done me or anyone else much of any good. Going to WTS-CA a half-decade ago wouldn’t have run the same risk of sinfully abandoning a critical fight for the quiet cloisters of seminary life, but it was obvious by then that returning to seminary would be a devastating financial decision that would put me into debt for decades, and that kind of debt is not something Christians should be taking on based on other biblical principles.

    • Darrell, while this is not about Dr. Horton, let me also say that his more recent scholarly works are just outstanding works of scholarship. I think your Reformed friends would find that working through them would pay rich dividends. He’s a great thinker. I don’t think that people should be misled by the popular and accessible style of his popular works into thinking he is not a deep thinker and writer. The corpus of work he has put out is just amazingly high quality, in my view. His work on the radio and Modern Ref is one of the most important contributions to the church today. I give people copies of his works without hesitation. It may be that some of your Reformed friends are more transformationalists in the Kuyperian tradition. They would not appreciate the doctrine of 2K, which Dr. Horton and I are. As I say, this isn’t about personalities, but I couldn’t let this pass without rising to express my admiration and and respect for Dr. Horton and the work of all his colleageus at Westminster West. I don’t think there is a finer seminary in the world today.

  36. ZRim, I’ll go further than CVanDyke on this one. You said that about him that “Your claim to ‘respect and love’ my views seems a bit dubious given the sort of rhetoric wjhinson catalogues. Even so, you’re right that my ‘asking questions’ is a way of suggesting critique.”

    I have no love for your views and I’m not yet sure theyre deserving of respect, though I’m still trying to figure some of them out.

    But I will challenge you with this: If you are so convinced that people need to spend their time on the institutional church rather than civil society, what are you still doing in a well-known left-of-center Christian Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids? You’re criticizing Christian conservatives for trying to reform secular society according to biblical models. Okay, so what are you doing to reform your own local church?

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying everybody should get out of the CRC because it’s a false church, and I’m not even saying everybody should get out of a large liberal church in the CRC. God sometimes calls people to be in some very strange places and there are cases where horribly backslidden liberal churches have been brought back to the gospel by patient prayers of elderly ladies despite all the damage done by false shepherds in the eldership and pastorate. As long as you are not commanded to sin, staying in a large liberal church may be possible for a very long time because of liberal views of tolerating disagreement, in ways that staying in Rome was not possible at the time of the Reformation.

    So tell us, ZRim… what are you going about the problem in your own local church of women serving in office? What are you doing in your own local church about people being admitted to the sacraments without a clear prior profession of the Reformed faith? What are you doing in your own local church to maintain the three marks of the true church, which include church discipline? Are you working to support the elders when they say a teenage rebel against God and His Word needs to be disciplined, not just allowed to quietly leave the church? How about a wicked man who deserts his wife? What do you do when a Christian Reformed minister climbs into your pulpit and preaches doctrines contrary to the Bible and to the Reformed faith?

    In short, are you as active criticizing people in your own local church for deviations from the Reformed faith as you are in criticing people here on the internet?

    I realize you may actually be doing a lot of really good things like that in your own local church, things you cannot and should not discuss publicly on the internet.

    But if you are not working to fight the devil and his deeds in your own local church, which is affiliated with a denomination which most of the institutional Reformed world considers to be unfaithful to the Word of God as proven by being kicked out of NAPARC, then your problem is not just that you are advocating “Christian quietism” on “Two Kingdoms” grounds. Rather, your problem is that you are standing up and attacking others for trying to fight the devil in what may be the wrong way outside the church doors while failing to do anything in your own local church context.

    I have respect for people who fight hard in a battle to which they believe they’ve been called to fight. Even if it’s not my battle and even if I believe they are making serious mistakes, I’m not going to discourage them and hurt their morale as long as I think their target is one which is legitimate to fight.

    I have no respect for people who attack others for trying to do God’s work the wrong way while not lifting a finger to do much of anything themselves.

    Think really hard, ZRim, about whether you’ve adopted the methods and approach of the hypercalvinists without their theology: i.e., those who criticize others for evangelizing but do little or nothing themselves.

    I hope I’m wrong. I’ve seen that attitude before, and I sincerely hope it is not your attitude.

    • Darrell,

      I am a disgruntled member of the CRC looking for a quiet way out. Part of my staying is highly personal and I have decided never to discuss it openly on such a silly medium as the interweb.

      As I stay within I do what I can in my local church to bear a Reformational witness to her errors, but I also don’t fool myself that it will make much difference. I don’t sign petitions to shut down the local strip joints, but I do voice my opposition to witholding discipline to law-breakers under the guise of “pastoral counseling.” And I have been quite vocal in my opposition to the revision to the FOS. In my view, the CRC is a lost cause. That may be pessimistic, but I do make a distinction between a wayward denomination and a false church, something you (and plenty of others) don’t seem to do. The CRC hasn’t apostasized yet. So until an opening presents itself I try to walk a careful line in it all. I do not hold office any longer and have decided I will not in the future, since to hold office any more would be too burdensome in such a shambles of a denomination and seems to require tacit approval of too many errors.

      So, if it helps you, rest assured that mine is a very lonely position and it has been an agonizing time these years to say the least. Maybe you’ll think it weak, but I think it more prudent at this time to seek a quiet way out than to stay and fight losing battles.

      • ZRim, that’s fair enough. If you recognize the problems in the Christian Reformed Church and your local church (yes, I do make a distinction between the two) and are either trying to leave peaceably or trying to fight those problems, I can respect either choice in a private member.

        As an officebearer, you had no choice but to fight based on your vow in signing the Form of Subscription, but if you are no longer an officebearer, you have options as a private member that you did not have when serving on the consistory or diaconate.

        I’m a Grand Rapids native. I am well aware that you are in a city that is filled with Reformed churches of virtually every possible description, and you have choices available to you that I wish I had. I’m also well aware that there’s a lot of part-way steps on the slippery slope between a true church that preaches the gospel and an outright false church that persecutes it, and while your local church is far down the slippery slope, it is nowhere near as bad as many others in your denomination.

        Based on the Belgic Confession’s statements about the true and false church, I have no choice but to encourage you to unite yourself with another church where you could be encouraged and supported in the Reformed faith. (Suggestion: Seventh Reformed might be a good option since it is still very much culturally RCA and not secessionist in its attitudes despite recent history, but I’m well aware that Seventh has its own issues). However, I don’t know your personal issues and you, rather than outsiders, best know how to address them.

        Applying the principle is not something I or anyone else can do for you from a distance. But the principle is clear: Christians wither if they’re not in a solid church with solid preaching.

        You need to be in such a church.

  37. Hinson wrote: “Individual Christians ought not be attempting to do evangelism.”

    I have fairly good idea why you believe this based on a certain view of office and ordination. However, rather than guessing, let’s have you explain in your own words why nobody but ordained ministers should do evangelism. Also, please explain why only ordained ministers but not ordained elders should evangelize, if that is your belief, as it apepars to be from what you wrote above.

    • You’re a journalist. You tell me what makes for good news, the white house press secretary’s speech or your neighbor’s opinion?

  38. Interesting question, wjhinson. A lot depends on what the White House press secretary says. In general, reporters are trained to distrust **ANYTHING** coming from government officials, and even more, not just to distrust but to disregard comments from public relations people. Furthermore, interviewing the “random man on the street” for his opinions on various topics is an established part of journalism, one which I personally don’t find terribly helpful but which a lot of newspapers love.

    The White House press secretary is in a somewhat special position because he routinely speaks for an executive official, the President of the United States, who does not routinely make himself available to the media for comment. What the White House press secretary says needs to be considered more than what a typical PR flack says because he’s been briefed on things to say by the President, and can say things the President wants to communicate without being blamed for them. In other words, if the press secretary says “X” and lots of people get mad, the President can still plausibly deny that was his opinion and blame the messenger for mixing up the message.

    However, to cite a much more common situation, I’d be a lot more likely to believe what somebody tells me they saw at a crime scene who was actually there than to go with what an official police department spokesman said happened. If in doubt about what happened, yes, print the “official story,” but recognize that official sources have agendas which may or may not include telling everything they know. Police are trained observers and they’re more likely to get their observations right than an untrained eyewitness, but since I probably don’t have access to the actual police officers, I’m not going to discount eyewitness reports if they contradict what the police department’s press spokesman is telling me.

    I’m not quite sure what this has to do with office and ordination. Unlike a president’s press secretary or a police chief’s media spokesman, pastors aren’t supposed to be in the business of making their bosses look good.

    • The Reformed typically distinguish between evangelism proper (by ministers of the Word) and witness (by a lay person).

      • CVanDyke, if all that is meant is making the old distinction between “preaching” and “exhorting,” that’s fine. I don’t really care a lot what term somebody uses to describe a Christian’s efforts to witnessing to unbelievers, and I understand the reasons for limiting pulpit access in an organized church to men who have been called and approved by the churches, either by ordination or licensure.

        However, there are people in Reformed circles who believe nobody except ordained officebearers — sometimes ruling elders and pastors, but sometimes only pastors — have any right to conduct any form of Christian evangelistic or outreach activity.

        That’s what I’m trying to make sure that WJHinson is not saying.

  39. Darrell, I hear the same thing from some people in Reformed circles. I had a pastor in the URC who defined “evangelism” as the Lord’s Day worship and ordinary means of grace. That was the only form of evangelism that was proper. And yet, he ruled out of bounds the preacher speaking to unbelievers during the sermon on the ground that worship was a meeting of the covenant people with the Lord. To which one may rightly ask, “OK, tell me again about ‘evangelism?'” Many Reformed thus distinguish lay “witness” from evangelism, allowing lay persons to share the Gospel with their neighbor.

  40. CVD,

    That pastor sounds like he might belong in the hyper-Calvinist PRC instead of the URC. It certainly is curious, but it shouldn’t diminish the fact that stated Lord’s Day worship is indeed evangelistic.

    But it may be that wjhinson’s point has something to do with laity using what you rightly delineate as “witness” (as distinguished from “evangelism”) and appointing themselves evangelists, and then cutlural evangelists. My own conversion came at the hands of one immersed in that expression of every-member ministry known as “friendship evangelism.” He (mis)understood our place of employment and his own duties as only good for evangelizing.

    Another version of this is when folks conceive of their own vocations in evangelistic terms, thinking that their work itself is doing what only ordained ministry can do. Think MLK who employed a lot of redemptive language about his civil rights work (i.e. “And the mighty waters of justice shall roll down”). Or think of a lot of today’s pro-life movement or yesteryear’s abolitionists with regard to their work (is it any wonder the pro-lifers make all sorts of connections to abolitionism?). Beyond the problem of directly or indirectly claiming heaven being on one’s social, cultural, moral or political side so that nobody could possibly argue, this is what happens when we don’t properly distinguish between evangelism and witness. Mix that with also not properly distinguishing between the cultic and cultural and out pops something about one’s particular legal work with regard to religious liberty helping to keep “the Beast from encroaching and making it more difficult to be the church.” Voila, cultural evangelism.

  41. Darrell,

    The purpose of my question-answer was to point out that you know how things work. Instead of explaining my position (since you already know enough about it relevant to this discussion), I had hoped you would see for yourself that you already take it for granted. Why does the news cover the press secretary’s speech and not your neighbor’s? Because the press secretary has the right to speak on the president’s behalf since he has been appointed by the president to do so.

    But what’s the significance of the president appointing someone? Why doesn’t he just let whoever wants to speak for him do so? Why not let the White House cook or janitor or IT person address the media? I’m sure they may know things about the president that they would like to share. Hey, even your neighbor may know a lot about him. Perhaps he’s studied him and follows him very closely. And after all, we’re all Americans. Why not let your neighbor call the press conference one day? Why? Because that’s not the way things work. Important people have important messages that they want conveyed precisely.

    Now the Gospel is the most important message of all, from the most important person of all. Why then should every Tom, Dick, and Harry have the right to call for people to listen to his speech on the King’s behalf? He shouldn’t, and he doesn’t. Christ has appointed people in his church who have this right – some to preach/teach in the context of the local church and some to preach/teach outside that context. While the Gospel message may be simple, that doesn’t mean it isn’t profound, nor does it mean that any and every Christian has the right to be out on the streets preaching, teaching, evangelizing, witnessing, or whatever you want to call it.

    However, if your neighbor is living in such a manner that people take notice of his confidence in America’s future and ask him about it, then of course he should take the opportunity to give a defense for the hope that is in him. This an entirely different matter altogether. He hasn’t felt the need, since the president hasn’t allowed him to speak at the press conference, to appoint himself to speak for the president; because part of his confidence in the president consists in trusting him to appoint the appropriate people to say exactly what needs to be said, when and where it needs to be said. Nevertheless, he will always be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks since he does follow the president closely.

    For me, where I stand on this now, the difference is one of initiation and response. Only lawfully ordained office-bearers have the right to initiate whatever you want to call it (preaching, teaching, evangelizing, witnessing, etc.). The laity respond when asked by witnessing (if that’s what you want to call it).

    • Mr. Hinson, as you correctly state, I am not unaware of the views you appear to be advocating. Let me ask another question for clarification: Are you saying that laypeople may only answer questions when asked by an unbeliever and may not initiate discussions about Christ?

      • I don’t see unordained people in the Scripture taking the initiative to speak for Christ in public settings, nor commands for them to do so. However, I do see ordained people doing that, and commands for them to do so. And I do see unordained people giving testimony when asked, along with commands for them to do so. Of course that doesn’t mean that if one is in a conversation with another, he can’t speak of Christ unless directly asked. For example two friends be discussing college football and the unbeliever comment on how amazing it is that the believer knows so much about the game and his team, yet doesn’t act like most people who are so into it when his team wins or loses. At that point it might be appropriate for the believer to say something like, “At times I may still behave rather fanatically, but having realized that Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, well that kind of puts things in perspective.”

  42. “Society has an natural, creational interest in regulating sexual behavior that it does not have in regulating religion. The state is not well suited to diagnosing and preventing idolatry. Any cop, however, can tell bestiality when he sees it! He can stop it by the use of legitimate force.”


    Saying society has an interest in regulating sexual behavior, which I agree with, is not the same as saying the church has a responsibility in instructing the state which sexual sins to enforce and which not to enforce. That is my point. Agreed?

    • Todd,

      Well, the WCF restrains the visible church from speaking to the magistrate except in “cases extraordinary” (31.3). I doubt that these instances rise to that level.

      • Dr. Clark,

        I realize you’ve addressed this for me before, but could you please help me understand where Article 36 of the Belgic Confession finds Scriptural warrant for the emphasized portion below? I feel my understanding of Scripture’s few references to the role of civil government (post national Israel as covenant people) contradicts this. Thanks!

        Article 36
        The Civil Government
        We believe that
        because of the depravity of the human race
        our good God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers.
        He wants the world to be governed by laws and policies
        so that human lawlessness may be restrained
        and that everything may be conducted in good order
        among human beings.

        For that purpose he has placed the sword
        in the hands of the government,
        to punish evil people
        and protect the good.

        And being called in this manner
        to contribute to the advancement of a society
        that is pleasing to God,
        the civil rulers have the task,
        subject to God’s law,
        of removing every obstacle
        to the preaching of the gospel
        and to every aspect of divine worship.

        They should do this
        while completely refraining from every tendency
        toward exercising absolute authority,
        and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them,
        with the means belonging to them.

        They should do it in order that
        the Word of God may have free course;
        the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress;
        and every anti-Christian power may be resisted.

        • WJHinson,

          1. There are two versions of Belgic 36. See the Heidelcast on this.

          2. See the Kuyper’s comments on the necessity of the revision of the Belgic (which was done)

          3. The revised version, which is posted on the URCNA website makes clear that the warrant for civil protection of Christianity is grounded in Paul’s language “protection of them that do well.” The ministry of the church is understood to be among “them that do well.” In other words, it’s a part of the covenant of works between citizens and the magistrate that the magistrate should protect all those who keep the civil covenant of works (by doing well).

          This language has been read in a theocratic way but it isn’t necessarily read thus.

          We believe that our gracious God, because of the depravity of mankind, has appointed kings, princes, and magistrates; willing that the world should be governed by certain laws and policies; to the end that the dissoluteness of men might be restrained, and all things carried on among them with good order and decency. For this purpose He has invested the magistracy with the sword, for the punishment of evil doers and for the protection of them that do well.

          Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also to protect the sacred ministry,* that the kingdom of Christ may thus be promoted. They must therefore countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere, that God may be honored and worshipped by every one, as He commands in His Word.

          Moreover, it is the bounden duty of every one, of whatever state, quality, or condition he may be, to subject himself to the magistrates; to pay tribute, to show due honor and respect to them, and to obey them in all things which are not repugnant to the Word of God; to supplicate for them in their prayers that God may rule and guide them in all their ways, and that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.

          Wherefore we detest the Anabaptists and other seditious people, and in general all those who reject the higher powers and magistrates and would subvert justice, introduce community of goods, and confound that decency and good order which God has established among men.

          *In the original text this sentence read as follows: “Their office is not only to have regard unto and watch for the welfare of the civil state, but also that they protect the sacred ministry, and thus may remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship, that the kingdom of antichrist may be thus destroyed and the kingdom of Christ promoted.” The Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1910, recognizing the unbiblical teaching, contained in this sentence, concerning the freedom of religion and concerning the duty of the state to suppress false religion, saw fit to add an explanatory footnote. The Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1938, agreeing with the Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1910 as to the unbiblical character of the teaching referred to, but recognizing a conflict between the objectionable clauses in the Article and its footnote, decided to eliminate the footnote and to make the change in the text of the Article which appears above, corresponding to the change adopted in 1905 by the General Synod of the “Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland.” (See Christian Reformed Church Acts of Synod, 1910, pp.9,104-105; also Christian Reformed Church Acts of Synod, 1938, p. 17.). The Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1958 approved the following substitute statement which has been referred to other Reformed Churches accepting the Belgic Confession as their creed for evaluation and reaction: “And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, in subjection to the law of God, while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them and with the means belonging to them, to remove every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship, in order that the Word of God may have free course, the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress, and every anti-christian power may be resisted.”

  43. “However, especially in the case of gross violations of the Second Table, I believe not only Christians but also churches can and must do what we can to prevent civil law from endorsing or tolerating gross public sins such as murder or manstealing or homosexuality”


    Does that include fornication? What should be the penalties? Churches should instruct the state to outlaw homosexuality? How should it be enforced? Should adulterers be arrested? Locked up? What about disobedience to parents? What about gambling? You see, if the OT penal code is not for states today, as theonomists argue they should be, then we end up under the Darrell code.
    (The Puritan experiment failed quickly for a reason.)

    • Actually, on the issues to which I’m referring, the Puritans simply followed the practice of English common law in making many biblical offenses into crimes against the state. The Puritans added proof texts to their colonial civil law code but most of the things prohibited in Massachussetts statute law were already prohibited in England.

      The Puritan experiment failed, but so did Calvin’s Geneva, Knox’s Scotland, and in more recent days, Kuyper’s Anti-Revolutionary Party and his network of Christian voluntary organizations in the Netherlands. I don’t think that’s the fault of the Puritans but rather an example of the reality of total depravity. We need to constantly make sure the faith is transmitted to a new generation, and the consequences will be dire if we don’t.

      You ask whether fornication, adultery, homosexuality and similar offenses should be crimes against the state. Few would have disagreed just two or three generations ago.

      Examples: It was only a few years ago that the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot prohibit gay sex acts. Adultery is still today a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice on the grounds that a soldier, whose reliability in life-and-death situations is critical, cannot be trusted to obey orders if he’s breaking his marriage vows. Organized gambling was illegal in most places outside Nevada and Atlantic City until the middle of the 1900s, apart from occasional experiments such as the Louisiana lottery in the 1800s which was eventually shut down by federal law regulating interstate commerce which made it financially unsustainable once people outside Louisiana couldn’t buy tickets. On parental disobedience, the concept of sending an “incorrigible” adolescent to reform school is still not gone from our civil practice, but the “incorrigible” term was still in use as late as the 1950s.

      As for the details and the penalties, that’s what the Westminster Confession means by the “general equity” of the Mosaic civil law being a model for modern governments. Neither individuals nor civil governments have a right to call “good” what God calls wicked, but the details of the penalties are legitimately left up to civil rulers based on the Westminster Confession.

      However, I’m afraid that your question shows just how far America has deteriorated in its civic morality. A hundred years ago, even ecclesiastical liberals would have said most if not all of the things you cite should be crimes against the state because they are destructive to public morality. I consider it seriously sad that conservative and confessionally Reformed men are taking positions that even the Unitarians would have rejected in the 1800s.

  44. I saw watched the video and only skimmed the comments.

    I will say that my husband and I along with our children have attended the Arab festival in Dearbron, Michigan, in 2008 in fact. We have also attended the Arab Festival in Garden, Ca for the past two years, 2008 and 2009.

    At both festivals in both states INSIDE the festival were tables/ booths, alongside vendor tables/ booths, with the same Arabic/ English translations of the book of John, as well as numerous other tracks.

    Let me repeat, INSIDE the Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan when we attended there was at least one table/ booth with Christian missionaries handing out Christian literature in Arabic and English to festival goers. We stopped and talked to these missionaries, in fact if my memory serves me correctly there were two different missionary tables from different Christian organizations.

    Now taking this into account, perhaps we should find out whether this was also the case when this film was taped? I agree that the people filming have freedom of speech protected under the constitution to share their faith on public property.

    On the other hand, if there are tables/ booths that other Christians are using as a means to share the gospel and share Christian literature what was the purpose of this video? The video clearly wants you to believe that the police and Arab Festival support Shari?a law, note that immediately after the title page another page appears stating “FACT: Under Sharia law, non-Muslims are not allowed to proclaim their beliefs to Muslims, and Muslims are not allowed to leave Islam.”

    Again, I believe people should be able to share the gospel freely I also think that we should get all the facts before invoking the images of Dearborn Police enforcing Sharia Law.

    If in fact there were tables/ booths with Christian literature allowed inside the festival wouldn’t the conclusion be that the whole purpose of this video is disingenuous?

    **** I would like to add that I have met George Saieg (one of the men photographed in the blog that this video advertises) at the Garden Grove, CA Arab Festival as well as the Palestine Picnic 2009 in Irvine, CA, in neither location was there police issues similar to this to my knowledge.

    All this is to say that MY experience in the USA at these events contradicts this video’s claim about Sharia law.

    It does make for good sensational, Glenn Beckie, Fox News kind of paranoia though! But that’s not my cup of tea.


    • Rana, I agree we should get the facts straight. Here are the facts as related to me by the attorneys for the Christians.

      The Christian group, which includes a couple pastors, elders, and lay persons, witness to Muslims. They had been attempting to talk to people near the festival about Christ and pass out Gospels of John. The Police ordered them away from the festival. They moved down the sidewalk. The Police ordered them further down the sidewalk. This continued daily for some time. They protested to the city and the police that they felt the Police were violating their rights as citizens. The actions by the Police were denied by the Police, but the behavior continued. In order to document their claims, they continued passing out Gospels of John, but this time with a video camera. The rest you see on the video, except the portions that were not filmed because the Police confiscated the video camera.

      They were arrested and hired a lawyer. The federal court of appeals ruled that their constitutional rights had been violated and issues an emergency order that entitlted them to continue their speaking to people about Christ and passing out Bibles in the vicinity of the fair. The case is still pending, but the ruling presages the likely outcome in favor of the Christians.

    • Hi Rana,

      This is helpful. It would be good to know what was the case inside the festival. There are Arab Christians (many!) and so it seems possible.

      On the other hand, the images of the cops shutting down this peaceful distribution of literature (and confiscating the camera etc) were disturbing.

      If there’s more to the story, we should hear it.

  45. Thank you to Rana, CVanDyke and Dr. Clark for bringing this discussion back to the orginal topic.

    After asking enough questions to learn that apparently the Two Kingdoms people believe the church ought not to be preaching about what the state should do, even on such extreme matters as chattel slavery, bestiality, gay marriage, and abortion, I think I’m fairly clear now on where the Two Kingdoms theology will lead. That most definitely is not someplace I want to go.

    However, I am very glad to see that Dr. Clark continues to believe it’s a bad thing for American police to stop people from proclaiming the Gospel on a public street at an Arab festival. We don’t yet know everything that happened at this festival, but if things are as they appear, basic free speech principles were violated and I certainly hope the courts follow through with the direction they’ve taken in the preliminary injunction. Just as homosexual activists had the right under American law to peaceably protest outside Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church because of Dr. D. James Kennedy’s statements on homosexuality, Christians ought to have the right to proclaim the Gospel on public streets.

    • Darrell,

      I realize this is off topic, but I take it I’ve clarified my view enough for you now? No comments? What about my last response, which was an attempt at the further clarification you asked for? Nothing? I thought for sure you were going somewhere with you’re questioning.

      I take it you still disagree, based on your comment:

      “Christians ought to have the right to proclaim the Gospel on public streets.”

      But may I ask for clarification now? Is that any and every Christian? If so, why? Is it because the Constitution provides for this right or the Bible? If it’s the Constitution, when did it begin to norm the Christian’s life? If it is the Bible would you please explain? Thanks!

      • I did not mean to ignore you, Mr. Hinson. You’re correct that I was asking my questions for a reason and was “going somewhere,” and also correct in guessing that I was concerned this discussion had moved off-topic and I didn’t want to push an issue that might be of interest only to us and was only tangentially related to the main point.

        ZRim is correct that your view on the role of laypeople in evangelism sounds more Protestant Reformed than United Reformed, and I’m not even sure it’s PR from what the professors at the PR Seminary have told me when I’ve asked them for clarification on their views.

        If I understand you correctly, you’re not just saying that only pastors proclaim the gospel with the authority of office or that only what pastors do can be called “evangelism.” Those are terminology differences and it doesn’t particularly bother me if a Reformed man says that only pastors preach and evangelize, but laypeople can witness. As long as laypeople are actively telling unbelievers about Christ and the Reformed faith, I really don’t care what words we use to describe what they’re doing.

        You’re going beyond that and saying that laypeople must remain passive and can only answer questions about why they believe in Christ if an unbeliever initiates questions to them based on their personal conduct (presumably always being ready to answer those who ask them the reason for their hope, to paraphrase Scripture).

        There are things I could say on this issue, but I’d like to defer to our resident expert, Dr. Clark, who on another thread of this blog has commented on problems with the Evangelism Explosion methodology and its “every member an evangelist” model. Those comments are here:

        Any comments on the role of unordained laypeople in evangelistic work, Dr. Clark?

        • “If I understand you correctly, you’re not just saying that only pastors proclaim the gospel with the authority of office or that only what pastors do can be called “evangelism.” Those are terminology differences and it doesn’t particularly bother me if a Reformed man says that only pastors preach and evangelize, but laypeople can witness. As long as laypeople are actively telling unbelievers about Christ and the Reformed faith, I really don’t care what words we use to describe what they’re doing.”

          The only time those terminology differences bother me is when they have no practical differences. What does it mean to say a pastor can “evangelize” and a layperson can “witness”? Are they the same activities given different names based on the one doing it, or are they given different names because they are inherently different activities? If they are inherently different, how so?

          I stated above what I believed to be the difference, but will restate it here and ask for someone to point out how I err (please note however, that I didn’t say, “laypeople must remain passive and can only answer questions about why they believe in Christ if an unbeliever initiates questions to them based on their personal conduct,” as Darrell stated above, at least not in all settings. My position not only makes a distinction in the person performing the activity but also the setting in which it is performed.)

          I don’t see unordained people in the Scripture taking the initiative to speak for Christ in public settings, nor commands for them to do so. However, I do see ordained people doing that, and commands for them to do so. And I do see unordained people giving testimony when asked, along with commands for them to do so. Of course that doesn’t mean that if one is in a conversation with another, he can’t speak of Christ unless directly asked. For example two friends be discussing college football and the unbeliever comment on how amazing it is that the believer knows so much about the game and his team, yet doesn’t act like most people who are so into it when his team wins or loses. At that point it might be appropriate for the believer to say something like, “At times I may still behave rather fanatically, but having realized that Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, well that kind of puts things in perspective.”

    • Darrell,

      If you don’t want to go where 2K-SOTC takes you then are you willing to go where Protestant liberalism goes? After all, it was liberalism that said “the world sets the church’s agenda.” It sounds like maybe you don’t think that’s too bad an idea.

  46. Finally read through most of the comments. Wish I had the time to comment.

    Yes, Dr. Clark there are many Arab(ic speaking) Christians. Our metro area LA/ OC/ IE has 53 Arabic churches!

  47. I think Christians better serve their neighbors and communities by getting out of their cars and houses and actually getting to know “those Arabs” who “want Sharia Law” and loving them.

    You’ll discover that the vast majority of Arabs in America are at least historically if not practicing Christian, 63% are Christian according to the Arab American Institute and only 24% are Muslim. Since the vast majority of Arab-Americans are at least historically CHRISTIAN and NOT Muslim, why on earth would WE the majority of Arab-Americans want Sharia Law and NOT want the gospel to be heard?

    The church would better serve everyone if Christians stuck to praying and loving our neighbors. I can honestly say that in my own family there has never been discussion or desire for Sharia Law. Contrary to that my family often spends hours at a time after Sunday meals together discussing how to build the church they attend, teach their children the bible, etc.

    We don’t sit around plotting to kill our neighbors and in my VAST opportunities of Muslim friends that were like family spending hours and nights in their homes in Cairo, Gaza and Baghdad no one EVER brings up their desire for Sharia Law. If they wanted that they could move to KSA instead my Muslim friends, half of whom were devout, spoke of visiting family in Palestine, will the border be open to Gaza, generators for electricity shortages in Gaza, water filters for drinking water in Gaza, who is getting married, pregnant, parties planned, work, looking for work, travel abroad, education, business plans to open new stores, friends, make-up, clothes, food, coffee, television shows, politics, the media, health issues/ Dr. Oz, etc.

    We’re not the bogeyman the media and certain think tanks want you to believe.

    Let’s temper some of this Sharia Law propaganda with facts, sanity and love.

  48. Rana, thanks for your wisdom about approaching Arab Americans and Muslims. Getting to know them and loving them is good, biblical advice.

    A separate and distinct issue is the ersosion of the legal rights of Americans (including but not limited to Christians) to provide non-Muslim information to practicing Muslims. It’s distrubing when a Muslim group effectively dominates and controls the city and police department such that they enlist the aid of the police to shut down Christian witnessing. That is troubling at many levels. Nonetheless, your point is well taken that Christians need to love Muslims and, I would add, witness to them, as these brothers in Dearborn were doing.

  49. Loving includes sharing the gospel with them, but culturally this approach will only reap suspicion of the “evangelists”.

    I have been reading up on this group that passes out the tracts which calls itself Arabic Christian Perspective which looks like it is funded at least in part by Calvary Chapels in So Cal. If you’re familiar with Calvary Chapels’ pejorative view of the Muslim/ Arab vis a vis their staunch Christian Zionism you’d know that CC is clearly not an Arab or Muslim friendly organization. And yes I attended So Cal CCs 5 days a week for years so I speak from experience, what I heard/ was told in sermons and in times with leadership.

    We need to look at all of this with fresh non-political eyes that will listen to the Arab/ Muslim experience and meet them where they are rather than use God or politics as a means to the other. Otherwise Christians end up looking like Mujahideens of whatever political idea they are serving.

  50. Rana, I think we have to distinguish different issues. As a Christian, we want to use the best methods to witness to Muslims and don’t want to needlessly offend. We want to listen and understand them as a means of being friends and witnessing to them.

    As a citizen, the inappropriate domination of city government and police officials by Muslims intent on silencing gospel witness is inappropriate, and it is unlawful. All citizens have a moral duty, as citizens, to oppose the attempt by CAIR and the ADC to dominate and intimidate in an unlawful fashion. When citizens are unlawfully arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” without just cause simply for exercising their right of free speech, a federal court will enjoin the unlawful activity. The citizens arrested also have a claim under federal law for damages against the city and police department, and probably CAIR and the ADC. The Christian group may well decide that pursuing permanent injunctive relief and a damages award against the City and CAIR is the last resort to end this unconstitutional pattern and practice of harassment and intimidation.

    So our duties as Christians are to love the Muslims, but sometimes our duties as citizens in the kingdom of man are to stop abusive behavior for the good of our neighbors in the body politic.

    • “So our duties as Christians are to love the Muslims, but sometimes our duties as citizens in the kingdom of man are to stop abusive behavior for the good of our neighbors in the body politic.”

      Unfortunately though, some think our duty as Christians to love Muslims = our duty as citizens to stop abusive behavior for the good of our neighbors.

    • I wouldn’t say “equal,” but on the contrary there are different standards and duties in each kingdom. By analogy, Dr. Clark, as a Christian has a duty as a Christian to be kind and gracious and forgiving. But as a seminary professor, he has a duty to dispense grades to seminary students accoding to merit and their compliance with the standards and announced expectations of the seminary and the professor. The former is a “covenant of grace,” the latter a “covenant of works.” Even though he loves the brothers whom he teaches, he has a right to hold them to the standards of the course and the seminary — and to give them an “F” if they earned an “F.” He would be guilty of category confusion if he sentimentally awarded an “A” out of a mistaken belief that his Christian duty to Christian students is to be kind and charitable.

      The same kind of distinctions hold in the distiction between the city of man and the kingdom of God. The law in the civil spere is a covenant of works. We all are responsible to the law as citizens of the kingdom of man, and we have legal and moral duties as citizens to respect the law. It’s a confusion of the kingdoms to apply kingdom categories in the city of man as if it’s unloving to hold citizens or magistrates accountable for breaking the law.

      • I meant to say .. “He would be guilty of category confusion if he sentimentally awarded and “A” to a student who earned an “F” out of a mistaken belief that his Christian duty to be kind and charitable mandated overlooking the student’s failures to comply with the standards.

        • Your Dr. Clark analogy is backwards. We are discussing the response of the one under authority who is being mistreated, not what the actions should be of the one in authority.

          The proper analogy would be the one that considers the response of WSC students to unfair treatment. For example, say Dr. Clark would not let Reformed students speak in class, because the Baptist students didn’t want to hear about infant baptism. What should be the response of the Reformed student? As a student, yes he has the right to complain to other Faculty, to the President, to the Board Members, etc. But let’s say it was already known that there was a possibility that Dr. Clark might do this, even though he is not supposed to and that others had been complaining about it for years. Now what should the Reformed student do? Should he become a living example of Einstein’s definition of insanity and keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results? I guess he has the right to do so as a student if he desires. But perhaps this is another reason why Dr. Clark prohibits the Reformed students from speaking in class sometimes. He also thinks they are insane. And why should he think any other way? They keep on reenforcing his assessment of them each time they respond so predictably.

          So, might the Reformed student take another route? Might he say, “You know what, I don’t care if Dr. Clark tells me he’s going to give me a zero for every day I talk in class. If I am convinced that something needs to be said so that my fellow classmates will be able to make sense of the subject matter and pass the class, then I will say it.” Would that be the cruel pacifism of a peach? Or, would it be the self-sacrificing love of a neighbor?

          I know, I know. He could complain about it and speak in class, but perhaps he’s pressed for time. He may really need to think long and hard about what to say and when to say it, if he is going to be of any benefit to his fellow classmates. He may also have other responsibilities, like a family and a job. And given the track record of the complaints, he knows he can make a better use of his time. After all, his ultimate goal is not that Reformed students have their right to speak in class honored, but that he be of some value during his time in class.

          Now imagine he resigned to approach the problem this way. Maybe nothing would happen. Maybe he would barely pass, the same number of students would fail, and Dr. Clark would continue his unfair treatment of the Reformed students, perhaps even get worse. Or maybe he would barely pass, and a few others that wouldn’t have, would also pass, and Dr. Clark would continue to behave in the same manner. But maybe, just maybe, Dr. Clark would see that this Reformed student is not insane and start letting him speak, then perhaps he would begin to let the others speak as well, and perhaps many more would start passing the class. Who knows WSC might end up so transformed that the IRBS ceases to exist, because everyone agrees that the Bible really does teach infant baptism.

          Wow, imagine that! This Reformed student didn’t insist on his rights as a student and he rid the world of “Reformed” Baptists! Maybe that was what the other Reformed students were hoping would happen once they were able to speak in class, but it never happened even though they were being “responsible” in their duty as students.

          But regardless of the outcome, the Reformed student didn’t concern himself with it. For out of the fear of the Lord he had wisdom and understanding. Therefore he knew there was more than one way to be “responsible” in his duty as a student and to do good to his neighbor. He knew he couldn’t instantly prescribe the appropriate action others should take when they face seemingly similar situations as Reformed students. He knew there were not certain steps one must take because of “the way things work.” He knew even if he couldn’t explain how it would work, or if it would work, that his God was able to whatever he pleased, whenever he pleased, however he pleased, and even not to if he pleased. So he would be “responsible” the best way he knew how – by trusting the God who uses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, and what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. You might call him naive … or worse; however you might want to consider your calling.

  51. there is a lot more to this group. yes in the civil realm the people behind the video have a case but it is apparent that their aim is to be provocative.

    how many people defending these guys civil liberties would do the same if the tables were turned in such a way that the guys video taping and provoking were Muslim men and women at an Israeli Festival? Or how many here have heard about Israeli Ambassador to the USA Michael Oren’s disrupted speech by the Muslim students at University of California Irvine, how many here who are defending the constitutional rights of Acts 17 have also or would defend the constitutional rights of the Muslim students to disrupt Amb Oren?

    Acts 17 and crew/ Ministering to Muslims are provoking these reactions for the sake of what appears to me as sensationalism and political gain.

    Christians would better spend their time in sincere relationships and conversation without a camera in one’s face, using culturally appropriate (read: sensitive and respectful) methods.

    If anyone wants more information I would be glad to share my knowledge and experience, I have spoken in churches about these issues.

    And I don’t blame people for NOT wanting to be on video, I would hope if I asked someone to turn off a video camera in front of my face they were honor and respect my request.

    These guys are looking for trouble and want to blame everything on Sharia Law and the people at the Arab Festival rather than taking some responsibility for their provocative behavior.

    • Rana,

      It’s a little chilling, however, when the guy who doesn’t want to be taped is wearing a cop’s uniform and carrying a gun. When he’s in uniform, he’s not a private person.

      As to the intentions of Arabs re the USA. It’s a little more complicated don’t you think? It wasn’t Swedish secularists who flew planes into buildings.

      Yes, we ought to be concerned if the same thing happens to Muslims.

  52. i meant to add this video link to show that there is more to this story and that the group has a history at the Arab Festival:

    • Rana,

      Isn’t the reason that the cops (and apparently private security) want to quarantine Christians 5 blocks from the festival because they afraid of what Muslims will do? It’s the implicit threat of violence from Muslims that is the issue isn’t it?

  53. Dr. Clark, I sincerely don’t understand why this would be the case when there are Christian missionaries working tables/ booths inside the festival grounds. I think this particular group is provoking people at the festival by hanging around the periphery with tracts, which again is their civil liberty, and by sticking video cameras in their face.

    Rather it is my understanding that the Acts 17 has a history of acting as a public nuisance at the Festival.

    Perhaps you don’t understand the nature of these Festivals, there are carnival rides, food booths, wellness booths, book booths, religious booths, business booths, etc. Anyone, to my knowledge may buy a booth, in fact I know people who do every year and I help them. The FBI and CIA are the events’ largest sponsors with large, elaborate booths. Army recruiters, as well as CIA and FBI recruiters are all over the place.

    I never sensed that there was an “implicit threat of violence from Muslims” even when guys like acts 17 showed up at the Garden Grove, CA Festival with 20 feet signs about Muslims burning in hell right at the entrance of the Festival. These events are family events for people from all walks of life to enjoy our culture, not meant for confrontation and debate (which is obviously what Acts 17 wants to turn the Festival into).

    Again, I believe there is NOT an “implicit threat of violence from Muslims” at the Festival, for you to even suggest that bewilders me.

    I believe these brothers at Acts 17 have Good News to share, unfortunately their method is staining the message.

    I think we Reformed believers have Good News to share as well, Great News, if you will, one that is not stained by the baggage and bigotry of Dispensational Theology. Reformed Christians also have many churches and organizations in the center(s) of two of the largest Arabic American communities.

    Lord willing we’ll rid ourselves of any political baggage and bigotry that keeps us from stepping up to the plate and loving our neighbor with the Good News that the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes them. The time is now.

    • Rana,

      My point is that it seems that the cops pushed these folks five blocks away to avoid a feared confrontation. Why? Because they fear violence. From whom?

      I don’t know about the history of Acts 17 but the video you linked, of the fellow holding a Muslim tract, didn’t flatter the private security firm.

      I agree entirely that we have to be gracious, respectful, and civil in our conduct. That is clear from Scripture but I also think it’s worth noting that resurgent Islam as we have experienced since the late 70s is aggressive and violent. It is combined with social and racial tensions in the middle east and elsewhere to form a powerful and fearsome socio-political force with has caused civil authorities all over the globe to react in fear. This is evident in Europe. There is some push-back in some places because the initial reaction of appeasement of violent Muslim extremists failed. I think Theo Van Gogh is a sufficient example.

    • Rana, I don’t understand why your default position is to criticize the Christians who want to pass out Bibles rather than the police department or the Muslim groups that are importuning the City and the Police to silence Christians. While the evidence doesn’t support your charge that the Christians were being “provocative,” even if they were they are within their rights and the Police and Muslims were not. I happen to agree with you that the Christians’ street-witnessing is perhaps not the most effective witnssing strategy, but that’s beside the point. These are brothers who think it is, whatever their motive, and they have a right to do it.

      My sympathies, both as a Christian and as a citizen, are with the group that is being unlawfully silenced. I don’t know why yours are not.

      We’re told that violent Muslims are a tiny minority. Yet it’s troubling to me that more Arabs and Muslims do not more vigorously condemn the violent minority. It seems they are either silent or pleading that we should “understand” the Muslims.

      This matter

  54. CVanDyke,

    you didn’t think that the video I posted on Acts 17 Apologetics these guys were provoking or looking for trouble? i guess we’ll have to agree to disagree then. that piece was pointed out to me by a Reformed pastor who “those guys were looking for trouble”. some people see it and some don’t I guess.

    i defend their civil liberties. i also question their motives behind posting the video and making claims about Sharia Law when others, in my experience, freely share literature and the gospel inside the Festival.

  55. Rana, I don’t know about the Acts 17 Apologetics group, but I saw no evidence in the video that they were doing anything illegal. I’ll add that not all the Christians in the first video posted by Dr. Clark are members of Acts 17, according to counsel for the Christians who were arrested. So it’s not fair or accurate to tar all of the Christians involved based on whatever antipathy you hold to the Acts 17 group.

    Second, I stipulate that street witnessing is not my preferred strategy from a Christian standpoint. But you can’t seem to get past your feeling that some of these Christians were being provocative, and that’s the whole ballgame for you. I think that’s a minor issue. The larger issue is suppression of the freedom of citizens, who happen to be Christians, at the behest of a powerful Muslim faction that controls the city.

    The brothers may or may not have been “provocative.” But it’s legally irrelevant. You need to understand that under our system of law, the FIRST DUTY of government (the police) is to protect the speaker and his right to speak and pass out literature among and to a hostile audience, with the narrow exception of active incitement to imminent lawless action. The speaker has to intend to incite violence and actively use words that call for violence. The mere fact that his words are hated by the audience doesn’t justify suppressing the speech. Our First Amendment protects the right to be provocative. The police are required to stop and arrest the persons trying to silence the speaker. The mere fact that the police or security fear Muslim violence does not entitle the police or security to silence, move, shut down, or arrest the Christian speakers, no matter whether you characterize their motivations as “provocative” or not.

    The spectre of police confiscating cameras and silencing Christians ought to provoke anger and fear in an American citizen. If your first reaction is to condemn the Christians, there is something wrong somewhere.

    • But you can’t seem to get past your feeling that some of these Christians were being provocative, and that’s the whole ballgame for you. I think that’s a minor issue. The larger issue is suppression of the freedom of citizens, who happen to be Christians, at the behest of a powerful Muslim faction that controls the city.

      Your backwardness reveals itself again. As a Christian the larger issue isn’t the suppression of the freedom but rather the conduct of this who call themselves Christians.

      Our first amendment protects the right to be “provocative”? Does it protect the right to be stupid? I don’t see it.

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      Must be your interpretation. The cops are in a no win situation here. Both sides can appeal to the 1st amendment, you know the right to “peaceably assemble”?

      For a Christian, you think too highly of American laws and liberties and your understanding of them. Common sense should tell you that people ought not have the right to act foolish. The cops were doing the people a favor by keeping them from needless persecution. And isn’t that what you want? Your main canon seems to be the Constitution and not the Bible, because you keep making it the bigger issue and what determines the Christian’s response a priori.

      Again I’m not saying that what you’re advocating isn’t a good thing, just that your priorities out of order.

        • CVD,

          What maketh thee of this:

          “Here is a trickier example: if your legal right to practice your faith is in danger of being compromised, what should you do? If you Google the phrase `law firms protecting Christians’ rights,’ you’ll get myriad matches, and there’s no rule that prohibits you from taking to court anyone who infringes your right to pray or read Scripture wherever you want (within reason, of course). There is something inconsistent, however, about Christians fighting for their faith by means of the sword of the U.S. justice system. Would it not be far more Christ-like to patiently endure when we are wronged, as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear?

          But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (10:32-35).”

          The thing is that we are all hyphenated Christians. The American part of the American-Christian can easily find ground in secular texts for fighting for his individual rights, but to what sacred text does his Christian part appeal to—you know, that ultimate part of his dual nature that is supposed be different from the penultimate? But it’s just really hard to imagine the writer to the Hebrews taking warmly to the notion that standing up for Christian rights would outpace the command to willingly lay them down.

          • Zrim, I think we’ve covered the waterfront on these issues and there is not a lot more to say.

            Rev. Stellman’s book is a fine book, but I strongly disagree with most of the conclusion. What is remarkable is how confidently culture war pacifists deduce your conclusions from texts that are totally inapposite. Nor can these dubious conclusions be derived by good and necessary consequence. The Hebrews 10:32-35 passage says not a word about whether Christians are ethically compelled (or that it is “wise” or godly or Christ-like) to endure persecution or deprivation of rights even when they are citizens of a democratic society that affords constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process of law, even for Christians.

            If the apostle Paul had legal recourse to prevent his persecution and imminent martyrdom, I bet he would have taken it. And if he did, that would lay to rest the argument that it is “unwise” for Christians to resist persecution through legal means. O wait, he did have those rights, and he did avail himself of them. Here is the one clear case on point that we have in the Bible. Biblical exegetes rely on a hermeutical principle that the specific texts control over the general. Well, here is a specific text that controls over general passages like Heb. 10:32ff, or the Sermon on the Mount, or “turn the other cheek,” or any of the other general notions that culture war pacifists pluck out of context. That specific text trumps the general. Accordingly, Christians have an unquestionable and clear biblical right to to what the apostle Paul did, to avail themselves of lawful process to prevent the eclipse of their rights.

            If you personally want to be a pacifist in the public arena and surrender your rights, that’s is your business. But to urge your position upon all Christians without a shred of textual support is irresponsible, wrong and dangerous.

            I don’t think there is any more to be said in a blog post on this that hasn’t already been said.

            • CVD,

              I understand you think everything has been said, but I’m still waiting to hear what your thoughts are about what it means politically to turn the other cheek. Do you think there is a political application to this ethic?

        • You disagree? What that’s it? Is wisdom dictating that you cease from exercising your right to fight to convince me? You pacifist!

  56. CVD, now I see why other posters have said you put words into their mouth. My first reaction is not to condemn the Christians as you say and I have reiterated my support for their free speech.

    My concern is for the damage these videos and lawsuit will do to the faithful churches and people who are bringing Good News through culturally appropriate methods, which is relationship building.

    I don’t see how condemning Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans lays the foundation for good relations.

  57. Rana, I’m suggesting that your stress on the “provocative” Christians, rather than the oppression visited upon them, is to put the emphasis in the wrong place. I doubt that the videos and defense by the Christians of their arrest will do “damage” to relationship building by Christians except among Muslims who are already pre-disposed to hate. The more important point, I believe, is to protect the civil liberties of citizens to speak, and in too many places Muslims are activly subverting those rights. One of my partners won a $750,000 judgment against a Muslim advocacy group for just this sort of behavior on behalf of a group of private citizens. The effect of that judgment was to stop the suppression of speech by the group and their alllies. Now, two years later, with the Muslim advocacy group disgraced and out of the picture, no longer fomenting hatred and stirring up Muslims to inappropriate action, the Christians in the community are finally able to build bridges to the Muslims. Some have converted. The toxic effect of these Muslim advocacy groups like CAIR and ADR cannot be overstated, and the sooner they are silenced and sobered by big fat damage awards and court orders, the better relations will be. That at least has been what I have witnessed.

  58. CVD said:

    “The toxic effect of these Muslim advocacy groups like CAIR and ADR cannot be overstated, and the sooner they are silenced and sobered by big fat damage awards and court orders, the better relations will be. ”

    I am not familiar with the toxic effects of CAIR I am not a CAIR watchdog, but I find it ironic that you want to silence them given your arguments in support of civil liberties.

    Thank you pointing out what the TRUE intention of these lawsuits are to silence groups like CAIR and ADR. That speaks for itself.

  59. Rana, you misstate the facts. First, the brothers in Dearborn did not file a lawsuit. They were illegally arrested at the behest and urging of a Muslim faction that dominates the city, and the brothers raised the legal defense of the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals agreed with the Christians thus far, judghing from the interim order.

    Second, I did not say I want to silence CAIR or ADR, but rather to hold them accountable for violations of law. Holding them accountable does not violate their civil rights since there is no right to break the law. While you may have no experience with the toxic effects of Muslim advocacy groups, I do have first-hand experience. I have spent considerable time meeting them, negotiating with them across a table, debating them in the media, and litigating with them in court. I have witnessed the corrosive impact they have in stirrimng up dissension between Muslims and non-Muslims. When they break the law and violate the civil rights of citizens, they must be help accountable, and the salutary effect of discrediting them publicly has borne positive fruit.

  60. @Rana:

    I don’t know your background or even your denominational affiliation, though I believe you have implied that you are a Calvinist. If so, I’m glad to see that. I’m well aware that numerous RCA ministers in the 1800s were laboring faithfully, diligently, and with very little fruit to preach the Gospel in the Middle East back when that was a very poor and largely irrelevant part of the world, and their hard work resulted in a number of small indigenous Reformed churches. If that is your background, those of us in the West need to praise God for your faithfulness under terrible trials the likes of which few of us can understand.

    But having said that, is it possible that your perception that these people were being “provocative” is informed by your Middle Eastern background where Christian need to be very careful not to offend Muslims, at the risk of inciting major persecution? If so, remember that this is the United States. Boldness and bluntness are defended by our Constitution and history has shown that people who do not defend their rights quickly lose them not only for themselves but also for others.


    I am becoming more and more upset with what I see from your keyboard.

    First, as to the Constitution: If you do not understand that the First Amendment **DOES** defend your right to say stupid and self-damaging things in public, and **REQUIRES** the police to protect that right, you fail to understand the entire point of the Bill of Rights. The police were **NOT** doing these protestors a favor by confiscating their cameras and literature and arresting them when they refused to comply; they were violating the Constitution they were sworn to uphold, though quite possibly following the orders by their chain of command.

    Do you not remember from your basic high school American government classes that we have a Bill of Rights to protect unpopular minority opinions and the right of unpopular minorities to voice those opinions, and perhaps in a democracy become the majority once others are convinced by what they hear?

    From a Christian perspective, be a pacifist in the public sphere if you like, capitulating to threats of Jihadists, atheists, or anyone else who doesn’t approve of what you say or do. That’s your choice. If you think you have no calling from Christ to tell others about your faith, then don’t.

    But if that’s your choice, then please stay out of the way of other Christians who are trying to defend the rights that you choose not to exercise. We’re confronted with a militant and very dangerous form of Islam in today’s world, along with the older militant atheism which also attacks the church and even older humanistic liberalism which is corrosive to the church while appearing not to attack it. If neither you nor anyone else stands up to defend the right to proclaim the Gospel in America, we may before too long face some of the same harassment and outright persecution experienced by Christians in Muslim countries.

    • Darrell,

      Are you becoming more and more upset with what you see from my keyboard because it’s un-American or because it is un-Biblical? Or is there no difference between the two?

      That’s my concern here, that people like you and CVD think you know a priori the appropriate way for a Christian to respond in situations like these each and every time, because you know “how things work” in America. If America is the end all be all for a Christian, then yes you just might know, but there is a higher and more ultimate calling for the Christian, and maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t coincide with the American one every single time. You two only reenforce my concern with your adamant opposition and constant refusal to see what I’m saying as anything other than pacifism.

      You should know that I’m not a pacifist since I refuse to “stay out of the way of other Christians who are trying to defend the rights [I] choose not to exercise,” when they appear to me to be doing damage to the cause of Christ in their fight for America by blurring the distinction between American and Christian responsibilities and placing the American ones on a higher pedestal than the Christian ones, when they do make a distinction.

      “If neither you nor anyone else stands up to defend the right to proclaim the Gospel in America, we may before too long face some of the same harassment and outright persecution experienced by Christians in Muslim countries.

      And you already know that would be the demise of the church, uh, as evidence by her history? Oh sorry, I forgot you’re fighting for America right now. However, I bet you still can’t see the difference between that and fighting for the church, can you, since you know “how things work”?

      How is it that it could never be appropriate for American Christians in the present to choose to do other than what you two advocate without being called so many names?

      And one last thing, could you please stop with the caricatures? While I don’t have a calling from Christ to tell others about my faith. I never said I don’t have a calling from Christ to tell others about HIM, and I think that’s what you’re trying to say.

    • Darrell, thanks for your thoughtful post. The mindset of some of the posters baffles me. I know many Reformed young men who also hold this culture-war pacificsm views like this, even a couple Reformed pastors. Over the years, I’ve spent hours talking with them about why they hold these views, asking questions, listening hard, and dialogueing, and I still don’t understand the thinking. I encourage them to make a biblical or theological case for their public square pacifism , and they never do. Instead of arguments, I hear bare assertions — as if the case is so obviously “wise” it doesn’t need defending. I hear texts taken out of context, general vague principles, but never an exegetical argument. I participate in posts on a couple of blogs to try to get inside their minds and undersand the thinking better, but I still don’t hear a coherant argument or exegesis.

      After years of this, I’m more strongly convinced than ever that the etymology of this mindset lies in a couple things. First, and primarily, I believe this point of view is all about an over-reaction to the rhetoric and methods of the Christian Right, the bluring of church and state, and the fusing of politics and religion. Quite frankly, I think most are still fighting the bogeyman of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, of D. James Kennedy, and the like. If these men advocated political and cultural activism, than it must all be wrong and we’ll march in the opposite direction and hunker down in the catacombs. Second, many are refexive followers of a a couple of Reformed chic gurus, and they more or less parrot the talking points of these men.

      In time, some of my Reformed acquaintances and friends who hail from this more extreme “two kingdoms” point of view, having acquired some age, maturity, and wisdom, have grown out of this sophomoric, reactionary mode. They’re now capable of more nuanced, critical thinking. But some forever remain mired in their despising of Jerry Falwell.

      One of the better books to come that is a more safe and sane and balanced presentation of the two kingdoms view is that of Dr. David Van Drunen. If you haven’t picked up his work, anything by him is excellent. (I don’t agree with every application or conclusion, but he avoids the fever-swamp 2K mindset.) Dr. Clark’s works are also excellent, I believe.

  61. I encourage them to make a biblical or theological case for their public square pacifism , and they never do. Instead of arguments, I hear bare assertions — as if the case is so obviously “wise” it doesn’t need defending. I hear texts taken out of context, general vague principles, but never an exegetical argument. I participate in posts on a couple of blogs to try to get inside their minds and undersand the thinking better, but I still don’t hear a coherant argument or exegesis.

    And you offer what? Paul appealed to Caesar? You want a biblical or theological case or an exegetical argument outlining the Christian’s possibility to choose to do other than what you advocate, then why haven’t you stated your case that way? We might just get into that kind of discussion then. Instead you tell me to do my homework on the “way things work” in America and attempt to educate me on America.

    I do recall someone earlier saying that there was a lot of Bible being thrown around, but you dismiss everything with bare assertions, such as in your this last comment.

    • Rana,

      No I hadn’t seen this. Thanks for sharing it. It’s pretty condemning of Mr. Wood. I wonder if CVD would still hold to his comment that, “[he] would not characterize this as a “misuse” of the gospel…”?

      Thanks again!

      • I’ve watched the video. It appears to show that Josh McDowell was able to pass out Christian literature inside the Arab Festival. It also shows that an older woman with a heavy Southern accent said she was afraid to go inside the festival but later found that the Arabs present were nice and friendly people.

        Well, great. The video shows that a Southern woman decided Arabs are nice people after all. The video shows nice family-friendly pictures of women in traditional Islamic headcoverings, in some cases riding down slides with their children. I assume Osama bin Laden’s mom loved him, and I assume even Osama loves his multiple wives. That doesn’t change the fact that Osama bin Laden and lots of other Islamic fundamentalists, based on the Koran, want to kill every infidel who doesn’t become a Muslim.

        More important, what does any of that have to do with free exercise of religion and freedom of speech in a public place in an American city? What right do the police in an American city have to arrest American citizens for distributing religious literature on a public street?

        With the sole possible exception of the comments by Josh McDowell, nothing I saw on the tape has any legal relevance whatsoever, let alone being “pretty condemning of Mr. Wood.”

        Yes, I see people talking about how friendly the Muslims were. But what were they saying (or not saying) to cause the Muslims to be friendly? Lots of people will be friendly with me until I start saying something that offends them. Certain key tenets of Christianity are highly offensive, and even with Josh McDowell, I didn’t see a clear statement of exactly what he said at the Arab Festival — though I’d prefer to assume that he didn’t water down the gospel to get permission to come inside the Arab Festival.

        We do not live in a nation that has a religious covenant or test for citizenship or for office (or for that matter, unlike France, an anti-religious secular understanding of nationhood). That means, among other things, that the police have absolutely no right to arrest anyone for expressing religious or anti-religious views in a public place. Virtually the only exception to that would be incitement to riot — if someone said their religious beliefs called them to “kill all Muslims in a crusade” perhaps the police could act.

        But incitement to violence is much more likely from a Muslim fundamentalist than from a Christian fundamentalist, and even that didn’t happen, because as far as I know the observant Muslims at this Arab festivals weren’t calling for Jihad against Mr. Wood.

        • Did you read the statements in the video or did you continue to keep your eyes closed and just hear what you wanted?

      • wjhinson,
        there also is evidence online that the identities and testimonies of people involved in Acts 17 are tweaked to up the anty on the subculture of fear toward Muslims/ Arabs. i am not going to get into it here. if you want to share your email i can pass on that information.


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