Last Friday KFI (AM 640 Los Angeles) afternoon talker John Kobylt made the argument that one reason prop 8 was overturned is that proponents of prop 8 could not show that homosexual marriage actually creates any adverse effects or bad outcomes. I think that test is a little premature but I can think of bad outcomes. The point isn’t to debate the merits of prop 8 but rather to consider the effect of re-defining marriage and family.
One evidence that the culture regarding homosexuality has changed is the oft-noted generational chasm between younger people and older people on this issue. Those who are children and grandchildren of boomers are less likely to be opposed to homosexuality, to regard it as sin, or to oppose homosexual marriage. Why? They’ve been raised in a culture which not only tolerates homosexuality but celebrates it. Consider the contrast between the way homosexuality was regarded in popular culture in the first half of the 20th century. Liberace was openly effeminate and made only the thinnest of attempts to protest his heterosexuality. Homosexual movie stars regularly went out of their way to create a heterosexual image and especially when it was contrary to fact. Some movie studios had a policy requiring single male actors (e.g., Jimmy Stewart) to visit a studio-run bordello in order to demonstrate their heterosexuality.
In the second half of the 20th century the old conventions, which has lost their grounding in nature and creational law, were deconstructed. There is, in the entertainment business, now no stigma whatever to being homosexual and, arguably, being heterosexual is more of potential liability in some instances. Certainly it is impossible in the entertainment business (or in virtually any performing art) to criticize homosexuality as unnatural or as contrary to divine law. There has been a 180 degree change in the stance by the entertainment business toward homosexuality. The same is true in public education. Where, in earlier decades, effeminate or homosexual students might have been ostracized or worse, today homosexuality or multi-sexuality is openly encouraged and nurtured in public education. The criticism of homosexuality as contrary to nature or as contrary to divine law is a one-way ticket out of the public-school teaching profession at virtually every educational level.
All of this took decades but it happened. It’s a real change of culture, of attitude, of stance, of definition of what constitutes acceptable social and sexual behavior and norms. That’s a real change and not necessarily for the good. It’s a change in what is accepted as a “family” unit. Children are now being raised by homosexual “parents.” Of course those homosexuals did not produce that child themselves. Either the adopted a child or they obtained one through in vitro fertilization but in either case the office of “parent” has been redefined so that it simply means “adult supervisor” and perhaps “provider.” The ordinary natural bond between parent and child has been defined out of the word. Someone might object: “but that’s been true of infertile adoptive heterosexual parents all along.” Not quite. With heterosexual adoptive parents there was always the potential for procreation.
To overcome this natural barrier social elites (homosexual, multi-sexual, and heterosexual) now speak derisively of heterosexuals as “breeders.” If this way of speaking and thinking becomes normative we shall have entered and Orwellian world in which, instead of “two legs bad” it is not “heterosexual bad” with the caveat that, “oh, yes and by the way, can we borrow at least one of you to produce off-spring?”).
Not only is the term “parent” being re-defined but, of course, the basic natural definition of “family” is necessarily being re-defined to include homosexual marriages and homosexual parenting. This is not an insistence upon small nuclear families as a definition of marriage but it is an insistence that family and marriage have something to do with objective, natural reality. I understand that the way we often think of “family” as a small nuclear unit is the product of modern social forces and even of marketing and mass media but the older idea of family (including extended family and even, if we go back to the classical and biblical periods, of household servants) was grounded in the nature of things. The redefinition of “family” to include units that are contrary to the nature of things is much more an act of radical nominalism (we can call things anything because there’s no intrinsic connection between names and things) and voluntarism (the human will is ultimate) and a denial of the very existence of nature.
What’s the cost of normalizing homosexual marriage and homosexual-based “families”? It is considerable. It was interesting to hear the same talk show host indicate his distaste at seeing homosexual couples express affection publicly. He wants to be liberal enough to permit homosexual marriage (and the redefinition of the family) but he expressed open distaste for the outcome. How does he expect to have the one without the other? If homosexual relations are now normal, then howe can we tell them to keep their displays of affection in private? Isn’t that rank hypocrisy? Of course it is.
In fact, families have to live somewhere. Social spaces are inevitable and those social spaces have to be governed by some standard. Either that standard will be grounded in the created nature of things or it will be grounded in an arbitrary human will. If where one lives basic, creational norms are being turned on their head there will be a cost. If essential creational norms are denied, then what is safe? We understand by nature that we have a right to move about safely from point A to point B. If the very existence of any natural prohibition against molestation or violence is denied then it basic mobility will be impossible or at least greatly impeded.
“But,” one objects, “We recognize the obvious social good of preventing violence. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals have an interest in safe mobility” but on what ground? If the ground of social relations is pure utility then rules only exist as long as they regarded as useful to a sufficient number of people. Once more, the connection between justice, society, and nature has been severed. If that connection is allowed to remain severed any particular outcome is necessarily the product of the will. Whether it’s an individual’s will or a group’s will matters not. Nietzsche wins.
Another outcome is that any appeal to nature is disregarded as “mean-spirited.” One already sees this among the children and grandchildren of the boomers. The profligate, abortion-fueled, heterosexuality of the boomers has morphed, in their children and grandchildren, into profligate hetero- and multi-sexuality. Stories of grammar-school sexual encounters have become commonplace. Stories of sexual encounters between students and teachers have become commonplace. Young people are now so sexualized that they take it almost as a divine right the freedom to relate sexually with anyone at any time without consequences. What is really at stake, as I noted earlier, is the question of whether there is any such thing as a limit imposed by nature? Is creation endlessly malleable to our will or does it prevent us from doing some things? Evidently nature still limits us. It is still not possible to leap from a sufficiently high point and escape uninjured.
By analogy it is not possible to re-define the fundamental units of society without a cost. Consider any society. Assuming a certain degree of natural liberty and mobility, if people are living together in a defined space, those people have consented voluntarily to live together. They have made a society. What is the basic unit of that society? It cannot be the isolated individual if only because no mere individual is capable of forming a society or of perpetuating a society. There must be a basic social unit. Historically that social unit has been understood to be a heterosexual family, a father, mother, a grandfather, a grandmother and their children and grandchildren because it is grounded in the nature of things.
The larger social unit is the outgrowth of the family. A society is a way of regulating relationships between individuals and between families. When we agree to form a school we are implicitly agreeing with the community to pool our children and values together in a necessarily common educational enterprise. This social covenanting is everywhere and unavoidable. It governs traffic. It governs commerce. it governs governance. The people who enter into the community do so not first of all as individuals but as the products of a that private, natural society that pre-exists public society.
If the family unit from which citizens emerge is fundamentally contrary to the nature of things, it is a wholly artificial arrangement, inherently unstable and unsustainable (given that homosexual social units cannot reproduce and must borrow sexual and biological capital from “breeders”) what sort social product will we have? It cannot be good. As I keep pointing out if nature is no barrier to sexual identity and behavior then it is no barrier to sexual identity and behavior. Sodom and Gomorrah were not mythological. Those were real communities whose chief sin was not inhospitality (as the homosexual apologists would have us believe) but a defiance of nature and of nature’s God.
John Kobylt’s argument is superficial. No, it may not be possible to show immediately (in six months or a year) negative outcomes from homosexual marriage and the redefinition of the family but that’s not to say that negative outcomes, which should shock even the hardest and most cynical consciences, are not demonstrable over time. If homosexuality can move from being taboo to being celebrated within a few generations, why should we think that the boulder will stop half-way down the hill? On what rational basis should we think that the will to defy nature will stop at homosexuality? What happens if a generation of children grows up and has no clear notion that there is such a thing as a natural heterosexual family, that a homosexual “family” is inherently exceptional? What happens if, because reality as they experience it on the gaming screen or on their computers is apparently utterly fluid, they grow up without any clear sense that there is such a thing as nature? John thinks he can selectively defy nature and continue to live as if we all know what nature is, but I suggest that it’s not so easy. We all know what nature is but history shows that it’s possible to deny and defy and suppress it at least temporarily. Does Kobylt really want to live in that world? I don’t think so.
Thank you for this clear and reasoned stand against the cultural tide which is sweeping over us.
All will be made perfectly clear one day. Until that great and glorious day there is nothing for us to do but stand firmly on the Truth.
A related excerpt from a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Until very recently, same-sex marriage was unknown in human history, and it is opposed today by many progressive leaders, like Obama and Clinton. Can this be explained only by irrational prejudice or religious zeal? No. Only unions between men and women are capable of producing offspring, and every civilization has recognized that responsible procreation is critical to its survival. After the desire for self-preservation, sexual passion is probably the most powerful drive in human nature. Heterosexual intercourse naturally produces children, sometimes unintentionally and only after nine months.
Without marriage, men often would be uncertain about paternity or indifferent to it. If left unchecked, many men would have little incentive to invest in the rearing of their offspring, and the ensuing irresponsibility would have made the development of civilization impossible.
The fundamental purpose of marriage is to encourage biological parents, especially fathers, to take responsibility for their children. Because this institution responds to a phenomenon uniquely created by heterosexual intercourse, the meaning of marriage has always been inseparable from the problem it addresses.
Homosexual relationships (and lots of others as well), have nothing to do with the purpose of marriage, which is why marriage does not extend to them. Constitutional doctrine requires only one conceivable rational reason for a law, and the traditional definition of marriage easily meets that test.
Entire read here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/08/INEO1EOV73.DTL
Stanly Kurtz’s research of the same-sex marriage experiment in Sweden is a good study here: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp
He basically shows that where same-sex marriage is legalized traditional marriage begins to decline significantly. If marriage creates the fabric of any society, and it goes into decline, then it seems that the decline of that society is right around the corner.
Traditional marriage has been declining for years without the help of homosexuals. Given that gays make up anywhere between one and four percent of the population, and given that less than one percent of them would even go through a marriage ceremony, I would guess that legalized homosexual marriage would barely cause a blip on the cultural radar. IMHO, Reality TV, the narcissism of Teeter, Facebook, etc…these are shaping culture negatively much more than a few gays marrying ever could.
Haven’t you missed the point of the post? I think I argued that homosexual marriage is a symptom of a broader problem. The decline of heterosexual marriage, which I cited, is also a symptom but one is more obviously a transgression of natural relations than the other, is it not? Heterosexual infidelity, easy divorce, abortion etc have devastated the family. It’s one of the reasons and increasing number of young people are looking to homosexual relationships&mndash;because of the dysfunction of their heterosexual families! The culpability of heterosexuals doesn’t mean, however, that we can shrug our shoulders does it?
I was responding to John’s post which suggested that same-sex marriage would cause traditional marriage to decline significantly. I just think that once all the smoke clears, and very few gays even get married, it won’t have the impact everyone fears.
If homosexuality can move from marginalized cultural status to celebrated and even preferred (in some circles) then how could legalized homosexual marriage not have profound effects?
Sorry, meant to write Twitter
Unfortunately, the defense in the Prop 8 litigation did not do as effective a job as they could have in presenting evidence as to the rational basis that supports traditional marriage. (I doubt it would have made any difference with this judge anyway, but it might have helped on appellate review.) The defense made a strategy call to rely primarily upon the what they perceived as settled law. The law at the Supreme Court on a matter of controversy, however, is never settled. They were ungunned by two master litigators, and by an agenda-driven judge who tried to insulate the case from appellate review by so-called “findings of fact” (appellate courts usually have to accept findings of fact).
Candor requires us to admit, I believe, that the real foundation of heterosexual marriage and opposition to gay unions has been the moral sensibilities of the nation and not empirical studies. Huge swaths of law are passed and supported by moral sensibilities rather than empirical findings. Historically the government was thought to have the power to pass morals legislation supported by nothing more than the public’s desire to uphold a certain level and kind of morality. The courts accepted that. Since the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas overturning Texas’ anti-sodomy statute and rejecting the people’s moral sense as a basis to support it, the courts have held that morality is no longer a rational basis to support a law. You saw the judge in the Prop 8 case state that explicitly.
With morality no longer sufficient to uphold morals legislation, it will be increasingly difficult to maintain the pretense that those laws are supported by empirical social science research. They never rested on science. They restred on the community’s moral sensibilities (and revulsion). There are experts witnesses willing to say that they see no harm from polygamy, pedophilia, incest, etc.. If the tide of public opinion no longer feels revulsion against such behavior, the social science research that purports to support morals legislation will not be deemed pursuasive. Our hope, short of converting the nation to Christian faith, is, I believe, to convince the public by natural law arguments that there is value to traditional marriage and traditional laws banning sexual perversions, especially to protect children. And it seems our legal strategy should be to place on the Supreme Court justices who are sympathetic to finding morality a rational basis to support morals legislation.
The Christian community needs to come to a consensus about the best way to address the gay marriage phenomenon and to protect our legal rights to speak and hire without interference from the government. It’s a debate worth having, and soon.
“The Christian community needs to come to a consensus about the best way to address the gay marriage phenomenon and to protect our legal rights to speak and hire without interference from the government. It’s a debate worth having, and soon.”
This is one area where you and I are in 100% agreement. My question is how does this actually play out?
I’m wondering if you think it is fair to say that other transgressions against marriage in our society, primarily divorce on demand, also constitute a re-definition of marriage (if not as directly as gay marriage)? Often the debate is not put in those terms: gay marriage redefines marriage and the family (and that demands legislative action), while lax laws on divorce, no laws on pre-marital sex or adultery, are blemishes on marriage but not necessarily legislative issues for Christians or changes in the meaning of marriage, as I hear some of the commentary on these issues.
It strikes me that these more traditional problems, far more “normalized” now than gay marriage, are and have long been a greater threat to the stability of marriage and the family, and perhaps even to the meaning of marriage; and if that is the case, how should that influence legislation? Do you think Christians should promote legally prohibiting the marriage of the adulterous and the remarriage of the illegitimately divorced, as well as implementing a Christian understanding of legitimate grounds for divorce?
See my reply to Todd.
You said, “Heterosexual infidelity, easy divorce, abortion etc have devastated the family.” Right, but I’m wondering whether it is only gay marriage that changes the meaning of marriage and the family (the common complaint), or whether these other ills also have an effect on the very meaning of marriage as well. I find it curious that the language of “the meaning of marriage” is used with gay marriage, but not usually other problems in marriage, and I’m wondering if it is only choice of rhetoric.
I don’t see that heterosexual infidelity is contra-natural in the same way that sodomy is contra-natural. Even in heterosexual infidelity certain natural boundaries (which, this being a family blog, I cannot spell out) are being observed. In homosexuality even those boundaries are obliterated.
Note that dehumanizing language (viz. “breeders”) usually precedes ethnic or population cleansing.
As a tangential note, ironically I think that the same radio hosts mentioned in the original post frequently use similar dehumanizing language in reference to another population group. A group more and more decried as the primary source of most of our social problems at least in California (fiscal, health care, education, crime, traffic, you name it): “the illegals” and their offspring as “anchor babies”. Gives me the heebie jeebies.
Here’s the thing, RSC: proponents of gay marraige are 0/39 at the polls, but they always manage to squirm around the public’s will through the court system using “state interest” as a fig leaf for their leftist machinations. The public has voted this down in every state (and the Europeans did also) but they had it forced on them nonetheless. I don’t really see any political solutions…
My political views aside, I think that the whole notion of gay marriage begs an important question: Why? Even in the kindest political terms homosexuality is an “alternative lifestyle” that casts off traditional social norms. To be a self-identified homosexual is to be counter-cultural, why then would they want to return to the more traditional structures of marriage and family.
I am reminded of a conversation I had at my local pub during the 2008 election year with a younger gay couple. They were friendly acquaintances, and I asked them what they thought about the issues surrounding Prop. 8. Their response was enlightening : They thought that the issue of gays seeking to get married was a bit disingenuous, and by in large a concern of older gays (boomers, etc.). Part of their chosen lifestyle was an effort to free themselves of the traditional culture. They didn’t want to get married, and didn’t see why any gay couple would.
It is somewhat odd and disturbing that those who are so adamant in being counter-cultural are also adamant on assuming traditional cultural and creational structures.
I would also argue that the rise and prevalence of modern homosexuality is indicative of the prior erosion of the family. Somewhere along the line our culture stopped demanding men to be men and faithful husbands and active, loving fathers. The absence of the family and healthy male headship in particular has opened this hornet’s nest. Ask most gay men about their relationship with their fathers, you will hear heart-wrenching stories of absence, neglect, or domineering, a lack of healthy affection, and in many cases abuse and abandonment. The complicated social issues we face to day are symptomatic of yesterday’s failures.
Jed, my conversations are with close family members who are gay. Like your friends, mine are also a bit perplexed as to why fellow gays would want to marry. Interestingly though, they seem much more willing to tolerate one maintaining the immorality of their sexual expression if one isn’t also seeking their political or cultural disenfranchisement (punishment?). I realize it is complicated and not everyone would agree, but this is part of what makes me seriously wonder about Christians openly casting their lots with certain political projects instead of or alongside spiritual testifying. For my part, I’d rather they understood their problem is being outside the church instead of being married, and I think it is arguably to obscure the message of the gospel when we aren’t more clear and careful about just which problem we think they have.
Re the notion that homosexuality has some root in familial dysfunction, depsite all the studies, etc. many are wont to cite to this effect, my own experience has been that their fathers (and mothers) aren’t really any more or less dysfunctional than anybody else’s; my gay family members had siblings with the same flesh and blood parents and they turned out straight. I wonder if those who want social science on their side understand that they seem to play into the psycho-spiritual and therapeutic culture where homosexuality ends up a disease instead of sin. Wherever else that gets us, it seems to also suggest that sexuality is that one aspect of the human condition that got away from the fall and can be therapeuted back into shape. That just seems way more semi-Pelagian than Augustinian-Calvinist to me. I realize the disease view makes life seem easier than the sin view since it means maybe we can eradicate this particular sin, etc., but I just don’t see what interest Calvinists have in calling sin a disease.
Interesting that you have heard the same thing from some in the gay community. This might serve to underscore the fact that gays are not necessarily a monolithic cultural phenomenon.
To your point re: nature/nurture and homosexuality. I don’t think dealing with some of the common developmental issues that are common in homosexuality neccessarily detracts from the gross sinfulness of the lifestyle. The fact is that some do take it in this direction. Dealing with the complexity of human depravity and sinfulness sometimes forces us to ask why/how did this sinner get here. That process is always complicated. However, even if ‘therapy’ might be helpful in dealing with this issue, it is the ministry of the church that alone can offer true hope and transformation to gays along with any other variety of sinner.
What about polygamy? There are anywhere from a million to seven million Muslims in America, and polygamy is accepted in quite a few Islamic countries. How long will it be until some American Muslims begin arguing that polygamy is an essential part of their life? It’s hard to keep people off the tolerance train if they are really determined to climb aboard. The same essential arguments used to justify gay marriage can just as easily be used to justify polygamy (e.g., how does that affect your marriage specifically? Don’t we need to tolerate all lifestyles?).
Zrim: But there is plenty of anecdotal and scientific evidcence to support the notion that violent, absent and cruel fathers and do mineering, cold and cruel mothers do impact a child’s abilityto connect with the ‘opposite’ sex as well as the same sex. A child needs tosee his / her gender reflected by the same sex parent and needs to have their gender affirmed and responded to by the opposite sex parent to be fully nurtured. (Check out Dr. Robert Gagnon’s work).
Perhaps there are physiological causes for this ‘stunted’ emotional growth as well. This does NOT excuse sin…but why would you deny all the tools to help someone overcome such a difficult struggle?
For many reasons homosexuals do not seem able to naturally ‘connect’ and be attracted to the opposite sex. Homosexuality is asin and a dysfunction (inability to grow emotionally in a ‘normal’ way). Since sexual passion and emotional connection is so strong in humans, to try to address it as a dysfunction along with its spiritual dimension would seem proper. It ‘becomes’ a lifestyle, confirmed by the political and social elites and at its core, it is a confirmation of God’s judgment. But to continually call someone to repentance without providing comfort and support and some understanding, will simply champion their feelings that the Christian church ‘hates’ them and thinks they are inhuman.
Homosexuals need to learn how to properly relate to their own sex, even if attraction does not develop for the opposite sex.
WE NEED to desperately signal our love and care for the homosexual and the sexual struggles of gay, straight, bi, etc.
Leadership in the church need to be transparent with their sin struggles….and perhaps show a ‘friendlier’ face to those to whom we ‘preach’ the word.
I have counseled many a homosexual that I, as a single woman, am to live a chaste life, until, or if, the Lord provides a partner. Of course that is in the context of desiring to seek God and His will. However, I don’t pretend that there is not a possibility of deep damage (from abuse, neglect, ostracism, and ongoing hostility and rejection from family and society) and a sense of deep shame., being covered over by hubris in the modern lgbt person!
Yes, we tell them it is a sin — an abomination, and that is often ALL they hear; but we must also say that it is something that can be ‘helped’ and overcome in Christ and in time.
Also to be clear: I don’t accept that homosexuality is something we are born with. I am not born a murderer or thief, etc. but we are born sinners and all have our sins and proclivities–and burdens we carry.
On a completely different note from other replies: when did you start linking to Wikipedia as a reference? Besides your position as a professor/academic, isn’t Wikipedia founded on the same type of groundless philosophy, or rather extremely humanistic philosophy, that rejects natural law and displays itself in society in other areas like… gay marriage? I am rhetorically expressing my surprise at your choice to link to Wikipedia, and am curious if you have any comment on this.
I’ve been strongly critical of WP.
I can’t say everything in every post. I suppose I could put up a warning about the unreliability of WP disavowing any errors there. I have in the past but I didn’t this time.
The therapeutic thesis seems to demand that we simply shift blame onto parents. Sorry, but telling my Christian FIL his son is gay likely because of something he (or his wife) did or didn’t do seems pretty misguided. I understand the thesis wants to think of itself pursuant to a kinder, gentler approach to homosexuals, but, amongst other problems, it just seems to find someone else to blame instead of nurturing a sense of personal sin.
And to deny that sexuality was naturally marred in the fall might sound merciful, but it isn’t all that far from being similar to telling someone his autism is all in his head. My own opinion is that some of this is a function of being uncomfortable with discomfort. Some people are born homosexual, some are born autistic, and there really isn’t much we can do about it fundamentally; the best one can do is deal with it daily as best as possible. The therapeutic culture that tells us we can straighten out gays seems as silly as the woman on TV telling us her son was cured of his autism (and so can yours if you just buy her miracle program). It serves a false hope, and really seems to reflect more the discomfort on the part of some that they have to share the world with people that make them uncomfortable. I wish there were less fornication, but….
I have no issue with the fact that we are born in sin, and to some degree it is a pick your poison proposition, we all have sinful proclivities, they happen to vary. My problem is flatly stating someone is born gay. There may or may not be scientific evidence supporting this. The problem with this issue in particular is that geneticists are often driven by prior commitments. It’s hard to trust the data one way or the other.
Not all gays have developmental issues, but a lot do. The same can be said for heteros too, so development doesn’t necessary make someone gay, but it sure can tip the scales if there is a prior bent there. My sense, after writing a few undergrad reports on the issue, and in interacting to varying degrees with individuals (Christian or not) who struggle with homosexuality is that it can be very complicated. Does this take them off of the hook? No way, but it can help in understanding what you are dealing with in many gay individuals.
How you handle this with parents who all things being equal were fairly balanced in their parenting is another issue. These cases aren’t altogether rare, but they aren’t in the majority by any means.
Jed, I’m not much for flat statements either.
But, not that this is you, my guess has always been that most who reject the possibility that a person is born gay is that they anticipate an argument of reduced moral culpability (i.e. you can’t hold anyone morally accountable for a condition s/he was born with), so they reject the possibility because they don’t want that to happen and they are left with the disease view. But it seems to me that both the disease view and the reduced moral culpability view are functions of the same impulse we moderns seems to have: creaturely comfort and ease. So we say either, “You’re not really gay, you just think you are and we can make life easier for you by getting some therapy and a nice mate and then you can be like everyone else and fit in,” or, “I was born gay, therefore you can’t tell me anything is wrong , now leave me to my sexuality.” What both seem to want to do is whisk away the hard reality that homosexuality is real and not easily solved. The two ditches simply are ways to not have to deal honestly with hard realities.
While appreciating the above efforts to ground a position against homosexual marriage on natural law, I am afraid they more tend to illustrate the futility of arguing that way. What is really happening is that folks that are informed by biblical teaching on homosexuality are trying to take that teaching and set it on a foundation of empiricism, sociology, history, etc., resulting in arguments that are rarely going to be compelling (in Western culture, 2010) to anyone who does not have passages like Romans 1 and Genesis 9 in the back of his mind. I think a sharp proponent of homosexual marriage rightly argues that the Bible is the real ground of objections and natural law is an unsuccessful attempt to make the argument on alien grounds. Given a hypothetical world in which the Scriptures did not exist, I think the weakness of the above argumentation would be more evident.
In other words, if this conversation can be seen as a test case for the strength of natural law arguments in the public forum, it seems that the test has been failed despite the best efforts of well-meaning believers.
Michael, you make some interesting points here. Any (Reformed) NL proponent obviously has a priori commitments to Scripture as binding and normative on humanity throughout all history, even if there is disagreement with how law should be configured in the secular realm. I also agree that there are significant difficulties in taking an NL approach in the context of contemporary society.
The problem is, what are the alternatives, and do they create a civic environment that is amenable to a good society? There are more pragmatic and progressive approaches to the law, many of which abandon any notion of absolutes. Even in the most libertene forms of 2k theory would squirm at the legal/judicial pragmatism espoused by the likes of Richard Posner. As a libertarian who differ from Dr. Clark and many others here in how we approach the issue of homosexuality in society (marriage, military, etc.), I do share his discomfort with the prevailing legal environment that seems to ignore moral questions and hones in on laws/rulings that are most “efficient” for society within a morally relativistic framework.
I am less of a stickler for NL being the normative rubric for law in our society, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that certain NL axioms (such as the right to life) should be abandoned or dismissed off-hand in the public square. I do think that NL proponents seek a just and well ordered society that enjoys broad freedoms. As a libertarian I would flip these priorities by seeking 1) A free society that 2) is broadly well ordered and just. Either way, when we look at these issues we aren’t employing the kind of relativism that rules our society.
All of this to say, I understand your criticisms, but what are your alternatives? Do you bow to the relativism of the day? Do you remove yourself from the civic and/or churchly discussions of the issue? Honestly, I am curious.
You mean, Jed, that you want me to be constructive? That’s much harder.
Your argument here seems to be that we need NL arguments because we need to promote a “civic environment that is amenable to a good society.” This is very different from defending the authenticity of the NL arguments themselves, and that is my initial problem; as arguments they are artificial. Their premises are from the scriptures but then the next layer of argumentation consists of whatever is projected to be most influential upon the audience. Is it too harsh to call that rhetoric?
Really, I wish I could rest easy with NL methodology. It looks like a lot of fun and gives one a lot of intellectual elbow room to experiment with arguments that need not measure up theologically except in the very broadest sense. They just seem inauthentic as arguments. Think of a former philosophy major saying this, and you may see where I am coming from.
An appeal to “natural law” strikes me as very similar to an appeal to “common sense.” As long as everyone in the room agrees to the particular point, we are all settled. But as soon as one person says “prove it,” it’s not as easy as the labels suggest.
So, Jed, I suppose I am dealing with an issues that come, as it were, before deciding what to do about engaging alien thought-systems in the public square. Maybe NL is the way to go given the premise that we must engage in the public square, but I find it hard to argue by a method that I myself find unconvincing.
It is an appeal to universal knowledge. That’s what Paul did in Rom 1-2. We’re dealing with the civil, common sphere not the ecclesiastical sphere.
But, Dr. Clark, the universal knowledge in this context is a largely- suppressed knowledge of a sin, not the knowledge that, if this particular sin flourishes, certain societal repercussions will follow. Neither is the universal knowledge of Romans 1-2 an intutive knowledge of the correctness of the slippery slope argument. This is predominantly an ethical question, as opposed to the question of whether to pass a referendum on a civic center, and it is in this type of question that NL arguments struggle greatly IMO.
Are we trying to make authentic arguments or are we trying to persuade others to the ethically correct result regardless of method? That’s a real question: is this simply about choosing the most expedient argument to persuade others in the civil realm?
It’s difficult to see how your position doesn’t contradict the express teaching of Paul, that certain things are known about God from nature. Scripture teaches natural revelation and the Reformed faith therefore confesses natural revelation. That revelation is insufficient for salvation (it’s only law, not gospel!) but it does reveal the law, which, Calvin and the Reformed tradition held, teaches substantially the same law as contained in the decalogue. Yes, we do attempt to suppress it but like a beach ball pressed under water, it keeps popping back up.
Have you read Dave VanDrunen’s substantial work this?
Here’s an old piece I did on this:
Search “natural law” on the main HB page for a resource post I did some time back.
“Michael,” again props for “Miami Vice.”
Not to pile on, but I can’t but wonder if at least part of your concern is that you think NL won’t yield air-tight conclusions about something. You say, “I think a sharp proponent of homosexual marriage rightly argues that the Bible is the real ground of objections and natural law is an unsuccessful attempt to make the argument on alien grounds.” That makes me think maybe you think general revelation is insufficient for general tasks, and that special revelation must make up for its insufficiencies. If so, that impulse seems to be fueled by the fear that if we appeal to what is being called “universal knowledge” we’ll end up with disagreements.
But, first, you’ll never circumvent disagreements no matter what you appeal to. Second, consider the fact that even in Reformed Protestantism, where we confess that Scripture alone is the rule of faith and life, there are myriad disagreements about just what that means. If sola scritpura doesn’t cause all to be well and quiet in the realm it is alone ordained to rule, what would make anyone think appealing to it in the realm where it is not so ordained will help? That, plus appealing to the Bible to make the case against homosexual marriage when plenty around the table don’t subscribe to it seems a bit problematic, no?
Zrim: “Miami Vice” was prior to my conversion. I subsequently did a pilot for an evangelical series which was to be called “Miami Nice” but the test audience fell asleep. Likewise, as you point out, my new self just wants everyone to agree!
No, I think there are a great many tasks that can be carried on quite well without consulting a commentary first. My comments were largely about the structure of the arguments being made, perhaps inspired by the lingering fumes of my philosophy degree. If you don’t smell the fumes, I’ll just let it rest.
Michael, I get that you are squeamish with NL formulations, but you haven’t posited an alternative. Pragmatism? Common Sense? Consensus? I am trying to get to the point of how you would frame the discussion. I personally believe that NL can be a helpful framework, however there can be situations where other frameworks can help. To apply NL universally seems a bit problematic to me, however to deny its validity or its monumental place in our legal heritage is naive at best. It is hard to imagine a document like our Constitution without the contribution of NL.
Dr. Clark, I have read David’s book and thought he did a great job with it. I have also been through a number of philosphical works through the ages and folks like Dooyweerd, VanTil, and Plantinga so, no, I am not arguing in a vacuum.
Concerning our conversation here, I don’t really see you interacting with what I have said. This is not about whether there is a conscience per Romans 1 & 2 – that is admitted. This is not about whether the scriptures uniformly condemn homosexuality – that is admitted. If you cannot see my argument above, I will have to restate it later tonight, and try to respond to others as well.
I understand your argument and reject it.
Yes people do temporarily suppress the natural knowledge of God and of his law but they cannot succeed. It is revelation. It exists. It is written on their conscience.
We can appeal to that natural knowledge of God’s law as a basis for making public arguments.
This explains why we no where see anyone in the NT making theocratic or theonomic social arguments in the NT.
Paul assumes in Rom 13 that the magistrate knows what to do. Why? Because he knows the law by nature.
This isn’t complicated.
Jed, I appreciate your comments. If I seemed to be trying to overthrow all of NL in a blog comment then I didn’t express myself well. Your comment “To apply NL universally seems a bit problematic to me, however to deny its validity or its monumental place in our legal heritage is naive at best” makes me think we are in the same zip code. As a biographical matter, I have taken a step back from politics and activism and devoted more energy to the church. As a theoretical matter, I am working through a number of issues, hence my reading a blog such as this. Hope we can interact more in the future.
I also understood you to be trying to overthrow all NL in one fell swoop.
So Michael, if I am reading you correctly here, you aren’t writing NL off then? Could you be a bit more specific with your concerns. Where might you see NL arguments as useful? Where are they less than useful?
Michael, the appeal to natural law as condemning homsexuality seems to receive explicit support from Romans 1, does nit not? The apostle appeals to natural law in Romans 1:24-27. He contrasts “natural relations” to those that are “contrary to nature.” This is in the context of his universal condemnation of humanity who “knew God” but did not honor God but “became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.” He also speaks of God withholding a common grace restraint that allowed them to degenerate to contradict what nature itself told them was unnatural. Turretin: “Although the human understanding is very dark, yet there still remains in it some rays of natural light and certain first principles, the truth of which is unquestionable …” VanDrunen, quoting theologians from Acquinas to Calvin, grounds the biblical case for natural law on Rom. 1 and Rom. 2:14-15, among other passages.
One of the virtues of David VanDrunen’s “Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms is that it is not glib or polemic. He can say that there was an earlier time when natural law argumentation made “more sense” and that it is a greater challenge now than it was when there were shared presuppositions in Christendom (p. 432 in the paperback). He goes on to say “the biggest question that faces those wishing to revive the Reformed doctrine of natural law is how, concretely, Christians can make natural law arguments in the public square with theological integrity and some degree of persuasiveness to a religiously mixed audience…this promises to be a major task…” (p. 433)
With these words in mind, I think we do the endeavor a disservice when we neglect to work through its difficulties. When I am faced with an idea I poke it, knock on it, then pick it up and look at it from different angles. I have here offered an angle that I don’t think is particularly novel or shocking. And now I will try to articulate it more clearly. I don’t think anyone posting here first came to their opinion on gay marriage from any case study, anecdote or recent book on the subject. I think everyone here looked at the scriptures and determined that homosexuality is a sin. Then, with that scripture-based conviction, each one enters the public square with some kind of argument that is not explicitly scripture-based, hoping it will be influential. If the original argument does not seem to be persuasive, a different one is adopted. In a certain sense, that’s what politicians and advocacy groups do: find the approach that works best. Now, if such a person correctly understood the scriptures that inspired him, he is in a superior position to other groups in that the goal is not mere self-interest, etc., but there is a formal similarity between how the different groups are arguing: have your end game in mind, and find palatable arguments to get there. I think “we” get somewhat miffed when we discover that the stated argument of an advocacy group with whom we disagree is not the true compelling motivation for them; if we are entitled to point out those discrepancies, they are entitled to do the same to us.
We are not talking about the anatomy of a frog or, as I say, a referendum on whether to spend tax dollars on a civic center. You don’t need chapter and verse to make such arguments, and it is silly to make the attempt. As I said, I think this particular kind of issue – centrally ethical – is particularly difficult to defend by non-scriptural arguments.
Yes homosexuaity is sin but for the purposes of public policy it matters less that homosexuality (and homosexual marriage) is a sin than that it is a crime (among other crimes) against nature. That is is a sin matters more for church discipline or for the pedagogical use of the law. It matters in the the civil use of the law but only insofar as it belongs to the magistrate to restrain public behavior for public well being.
One need not appeal to Scripture, as I demonstrated in this post, to understand that homosexuality is a crime against nature. I agree with Carl Trueman, our arguments can’t be grounded in bigotry. They have to be grounded in principle. Natural law provides us with the principles on which to stand.
I’ve tried, briefly, to account in the previous post for the difficulty of making natural law arguments. My claim, however, is that it is superior to the alternatives of which I’m aware.
I’m not being glib. I’m trying to establish a basic point and build on it. What I find with, e.g., theocratic types is that the become practical Barthians in re natural law. They don’t really acknowledge it at all. They mock it. They misrepresent it and few of them seem remotely aware of its importance to Reformed ethics.
There are NO theocratic arguments in the NT. None. Not one. In the absence of such we are compelled to find an alternative. The Westminster Assembly used the word “expired’ to describe the Israelite civil law. So much for theonomy. Glib or not, I’m quite serious about that one. Theonomy is a non-starter. Theocracy is a non-starter. So what then? Why not universally known natural law which is substantially identical to the moral law revealed in the garden and at Sinai.
Yes, we live post-Christendom but that’s the attraction of natural law because it doesn’t depend on Christendom for its validity. Its validity is grounded in its having been revealed by God. Natural law is revelation. It comes from God. It’s not a human invention. It’s not a wholly subjective standard.
Yes, it does have to be understood and applied. That’s what I tried to do here: understand and apply natural law to a pressing social problem. That it has be understood and applied creates some ambiguity but I can live with that.
In paragraph 13 of your post you bring up Sodom and Gomorrah. To anyone in the public square that is an inherently Scriptural reference. It seems extraordinarily inconsistent to invoke Sodom and Gomorrah in which we really only know about via Scripture at least as to why they were destroyed. Even if there are non scriptural records of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of the cities of plain, only Scripture informs us as to why they were destroyed, anything else appears as moralistic interpretation of history. By mentioning Sodom and Gomorrah, in which only in the Scriptures we find out why they were destroyed, you fatally wound your own natural law argument, because you need to bolster it with Scripture. To those in the public square you are likely to come off as just a trickier version of a theocrat.
This is a fair criticism but does it matter how I invoked them? I was invoking a notorious historical example of defying nature.
On further reflection:
1. Theocratic would imply that I want the state to enforce a particular religion (e.g., the first table of the decalogue). I don’t. I don’t think I’m asking the state any more than to prevent murder. That is not theocratic. It can’t be that anything that coincides with a theocratic agenda is necessarily theocratic. Theocrats want some good things and some bad. Just because a theocrats wants something doesn’t make it inherently bad.
2. How does your argument not forbid appeals to all laws? The effect of laws is to say, “No, you can’t do that.” My argument is that homosexuality and homosexual marriage are contrary to the nature of things. It’s the state’s function to make laws which accord with the nature of things. I appeal to S & G as an example of a case where a society had so far run past natural boundaries that it engaged publicly in outrageous behavior. In earlier posts I appealed to Gay Pride parades in San Diego and Geneva. The appeal to S & G had the same function in my argument as the appeal to San Diego and Geneva. The appeal to a biblical example is not inherently theocratic. If I appeal to Jesus’ teaching on marriage, where he appeal to nature, does that make my argument theocratic? No. As a matter of fact, the S&G episode happened before the existence of the Israelite theocracy.
3. I think the most that can be said is that it was a rhetoric, political mistake. I can accept that. I thought about it and gave in to the temptation to try to make two points at once: the post-Boswell re-construction of S&G to be about hospitality AND to offer a counter-explanation.
First the bit about tricky theocrat is mostly tongue in cheek. 😉 I was primarily trying to point out the political and rhetorical mistake as you agree to in your third point.
Second, its OK to make the same argument from nature that Christ does, but you can’t mention that he also made it, because then it takes on the power of special revelation and ceases to be simply natural law and/or revelation. BTW, I think your definition of theocracy is far too narrow, if you really want to limit it to the state’s enforcement of the 1st table. That’s sort of ironic in a way as the original theonomists of the 1970’s and 1980s were mostly if not all quite notoriously idolaters, and wouldn’t enforce the 2nd commandment in the church let alone the church.
It may be true that you are asking for nothing more than the equivalent of the state prohibiting murder, but the state doesn’t prohibit murder. The state has violated natural law and not only condones but promotes the murder of unborn children, and brain damaged adults. A law that doesn’t protect everyone protects no one. The state also promotes theft in the form of security laws and the DMCA. It promotes lying by virtue of the fact that the Police may lie to suspects. It promotes coveting by means of the graduated income tax. Why care so much about the fact that the state is going to promote yet another crime against nature? Really, the discussion of whether or not to legalize homosexual marriage is arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Is homosexual marriage a problem? Sure, but this battle was lost over a century ago. Rampant homosexuality as exemplified in the idea of homosexual marriage is an end-game cultural decline. You can’t fix it, you can’t stop it. Fix the underlying issues that lead to it, and it will go away.
My argument is not about appealing to any law, but if you are going to appeal to law it has to be natural law, and it has to be done without an appeal to that natural law as described in scripture. But as you wrote yourself, people today are about removing all restraint and constraint, it’s not that I don’t think you can appeal to any law, it just that those to whom you are appealing don’t want any law constraints on them. They are a law unto themselves and they will do what is right in their own eyes. So appealing to any law (natural or otherwise) is just a waste of time.
Good food for thought, Dr. Clark. Thanks for taking the time.
I’m glad to see this discussion on a Christian response to homosexuality from people associated with WTS-CA, especially in light of the recent court decision on gay marriage.
Given some of the things I’ve been reading with horror on the Heidelblog during the last few months, I probably also need to add that I am pleasantly surprised **NOT** to be reading stuff arguing in support of the judge’s decision, or arguing that Christians should stay quiet out of fear of offending the apparently united front of the state’s most prominent Republican and Democratic elected officials in support of gay marriage.
A comment regarding a theme I’ve seen in a number of posts: I agree that many and perhaps most homosexuals will not choose to get married unless it’s for the tax benefits.
I’ve known “open and out” homosexuals, both male and female, for at least thirty years. It’s difficult to be in the news media without running into lots of homosexuals, both in and out of the closet. While I’ve known a number of lesbian couples who appear to be committed to each other, a consistent theme of many though certainly not all male homosexuals is a lack of commitment to monogamy as traditionally understood, and even many “faithful and committed” male homosexual relationships have a degree of tolerance for “extramarital” dalliances which, while perhaps not that unusual based on the current standards of heterosexual marriage, are definitely not a male-male version of a traditional one-flesh marriage.
So why the big push for marriage?
It’s not that most gays want to be married; it’s that they want the **RIGHT** to be married. Current marriage laws, even those who allow for domestic partnerships with all the legal benefits of marriage, put gays in a second-class status. As long as those laws remain in effect, homosexuals will continue to believe — correctly — that society is saying that their homosexuality carries a certain level of social stigma or opprobrium.
It’s somewhat like the women in office issue in the Christian Reformed Church. Under the leadership of former Westminster-West professors Dr. H. David Schuringa, the Christian Reformed synod allowed women to do everything a man could do, including “expounding the Word of God,” as long as it wasn’t called “preaching” and the women weren’t ordained. What was the response of the Committee for Women in the Christian Reformed Church? During the lunch break, they took over the floor of synod — literally, with a candlelight protest — sang “We Shall Overcome,” and attacked the decision as insulting and offensive to women because it didn’t give them the office of elder and minister, just gave them the ability to “use their gifts.”
Through my father’s career in the Republican Party, I am enough of an old-fashioned ward politician to believe that the “expounding” decision could have been used to get dozens of conservative Westminster and MARS-trained men into pulpits all over the CRC and perhaps it could have effectively destroyed the control of synod over the Christian Reformed pulpits, allowing churches to call pretty much whoever they wanted. Back in the 1990s, the result would have been to derail the synodically-driven liberal agenda and destroy the chokehold of Calvin Seminary on the churches. I understand why the conservatives chose to attack the “expounding” decision, and in fact Steve Schlissel was the only male “expounder” ever approved by a Christian Reformed consistory, and his church was almost immediately expelled from the CRC by a classis that didn’t want to consider the potential consequences of male expounders.
However, there is another lesson which needs to be learned from the reaction of Christian Reformed feminists to the “expounding” decision. The issue was **NEVER** about “letting women serve.” That was explicitly allowed by “expounding,” as a joint compromise between a Westminster-West professor and numerous Christian Reformed liberals.
What the feminists wanted in the 1990s, and what the homosexuals want today, is not being able to “serve” or the warmth and fuzziness of marriage. What they want is legitimization. Nothing short of full, unequivocal legitimization of homosexuality in the last two remaining government bastions of traditional morality — marriage and the military — will be acceptable.
Homosexuals can serve today in the military as long as they don’t talk about it and keep what happens in the bedroom between themselves. Homosexuals can have all the benefits of marriage today via wills, legal powers of attorney documents, and joint ownership of property and bank accounts.
It’s not enough — nothing but full legitimization will do.
It is precisely that legitimization against which the church must teach and against which Christians must fight.
I think that one of the difficulties in debating some of these issues with you and other political conservatives is over the political/spiritual divide. Your critiques over women in ministry in the CRC seem compelling to me, even if I was far from Reformed at the time of the debate. I think we are also in lock-step with how homosexuality and a whole host of other cultural sins ought to be dealt with in the church.
Where the disagreement comes in is how these issues should be addressed politically. Maybe you can clarify for me so that I don’t misrepresent you here: are you maintaining that the church should maintain specific, public positions on issues of sexual politics? If so, this is where I wish the church should remain officially silent. As for individual Christians, I do see room for legitimate differences of opinion, and each should be as active and/or inactive in the political process as his conscience allows.
I personally, as I have stuck my neck out on before, do not see this as an issue that I should be fighting. I would persuade others to at least consider why: the further we go in our quest to marginalize/minimize the social impact of homosexuality in the culture, the more plausible it becomes that we will bring (undue) retaliation and deprivation of our rights should we wind up on the loosing end of the culture war. It is quickly escalating into a zero-sum proposition where one side or the other will not be happy until the other is utterly silenced. I realize that not everyone who engages this issue has these sentiments, but public perception tends to ignore nuances and distinctions and hones in on the more extreme rhetoric of either side, and sees the extremism as normative. I am not for political concession or compromise because I am a quietist, I am for considering these as opposed to political combat because I see it as being in the best interest of freedom of expression and religion in the long-run. Law and order are far easier to preserve and enforce, but liberty is always tenuous, and many who on all accounts mean well don’t understand that when they seek to curtail liberty for one group, they threaten it for all.
In my estimation there are political liberals, conservatives, and libertarians that hold to some form of 2k theology. The vast majority however, are of a more conservative persuasion. What would be most disappointing is if we conflate our politics with our ecclesiology, and begin castigating brothers for opinions that rightly fall under freedom of conscience.
I am grateful that Dr. Clark has opened up these discussions because they are so important. My hope is that in these important, but ultimately secondary (or even further down the line) issues is that we can come to clearer points of agreement, and if we can’t agree, at least we can know specifically why.
Have you read VanDrunen yet? Listened to any of the several interviews conducted with him over the last 18 months? If you had you might not be so surprised.
You make a good point. It does seem to me that what political fights like this are mainly about is making a decision about morality one way or the other. It may not be specifically as much about marriage laws as it is generally a decision about what we think re a certain sexual expression. Anti-prop 8ers want homosexuality to be fully legitimated, while pro-prop 8ers want it illegimated. The device is marriage laws. In that sense, I think you rightly suggest that this is indeed a battlefront on the culture war.
That said, though, I’m still not clear on why “it is precisely that legitimization against which the church must teach and against which Christians must fight.” Why must the church take a side in a culture war? Isn’t casting our lot with a worldly care one way or another precisely what it means to obscure the gospel? How exactly is your call for the church to take a side in all this not like that classic liberal mantra that the world sets the church’s agenda? What do you think it means to keep the gospel unfettered from the traditions of men?
So, Christians actively opposing the modern homosexual agenda of redefining the institution of marriage for the first time in recorded history (and regardless if the issues involved are viewed in terms of NL or scripturally) = (essentially) succumbing to a tradition of men that will only fetter the gospel… Wow.
I have to say that as much as the so-called RR and some Christian culture warriors may dismay and/or scare me, I find certain extremist 2K views to be equally wrongheaded and distressing.
Phil, I agree that the irony is rich. I find the erros of the extremist 2k “quietists” more dangerous and toxic than the errors of the transformationalists/culture warriors. The transformationalist errors remain more etherial and academic. The erros of the quietist 2Kers would be tangible and real. They would result in Christians withdrawing from their role of being the preservative and light in a decaying culture, and result in enabling governmental oppression. In addition, they make it very difficult for the biblical doctrine of 2K to be taken seriously by thoughtful people because their distortions of it make it appear silly. They give it a bad name. Thank God that they are few in number and have little influence beyond a few obscure blog sites. They do mean well and are good and godly people, I grant, much like the pacifist Quakers and Amish, but confused. I respect their devotion. I wish it were channeled in a more biblical and productive direction.
Here I must dissent. The culture warriors and transformationalists have done a great lot of damage. I agree here with Zrim that the Falwells and the Robertsons and even the more enlightened and thoughtful transformational types have seriously injured our ability to engage the culture. Virtually anything any Christian says now is interpreted/heard through the lens the warriors have created.
It seems to me that a 2K analysis is just that: an analysis. People will disagree in their application of it. It allows for freedom in its application. It doesn’t counsel retreating from the culture but neither does it require a specific form of engagement.
I think it wants to be right smack between the transformationalists and those engaged in world-flight.
RSC, I agree that 2k analysis doesn’t require a specific form of engagement. But it leaves room for it, and as you’ve noted citizens cannot avoid engagement with the culture. All citizens engage in a way that is informed by their moral convictions and ideologies. Christian citizens’ views are informed by natural law, and therefore we engage based on natural law.
I am no fan of Falwell or Robertson or much of the extreme Christian right. They have created some image problems for Christians in some quarters, but I have not found, in my interactions with the hard Left, that their strident opposition to Christian faith and norms has anything to do with anything as ephemeral as an image problem. I spend long hours with these folk, I go to their cocktail parties, have beers with them, debate them, and know them from the inside. Most are motivated by a visceral hatred of all establishment norms and seek to dismantle all vestiges of Judeo Christian influence from law and culture in order to establish their vision of self autonomy. Their words, not mine. They are in open rebellion against God and all creation norms. The agenda goes further and deeper than merely being offended or frightened by the Christian right. It started before the Moral Majority or Falwell, and it will continue long after.
I distinguish between rhetoric and results. My colleague Jay Secula is not Reformed or 2k and has a theology I would not share. He confuses the kingdoms because he thinks he is “taking back America.” But he has done incalculable good for preserving Christian liberty and preserving laws that protect creation norms that the Left seeks to dismantle. His motivations are irrelevant to the good has acheived. I can disagree with his theology and motivation for acting but be grateful for and applaud his results.
We can disagree on who is the greater threat, but I have greater respect for my colleagues who do some good for mistaken reasons than for extremist 2Kers who oppose all efforts to engage the culture for their mistaken reasons. If their view prevailed, it would result in multiplying evil and the end of Christian liberty. I That’s a real and greater threat than Jay, IMO.
Zrim, granted the church qua church should stay out of the Prop 8 fight — but why does it “obscure the gospel” for individual Christians to denounce homosexuality? The imagery you invoke is that Christians should spend 24/7 speaking the gospel and speaking nothing else, leaving not five minutes to speak about moral issues, their jobs, or picking up bread from the store on the way home. I think there is time in the day to take a break from gospel speaking, as you do by blogging on web sites about many things other than the gospel. Christians can do more than one thing. If you mean that unregenerate sinners will not listen to our gospel speak because we offended them by our moral speak, aren’t you denying God’s sovereign grace to call sinners by His Spirit through the gospel? God calls us to speak the Law and Gospel to sinners, and both of them offend also. We dare not refrain from doing what God called us to do out of fear of giving offense. We should do Law speak and Gospel speak both. We can walk and chew gum.
At the end of the day, your argument that moral speak will “obscure” gospel speak is a red herring, isn’t it? I submit that your real objection to Christians opposing homosexuality is that confrontation of any kind doesn’t fit comfortably with your “quietist/pacifist” personal temperament, and it reminds you of Jerry Falwell, so it must be bad. If you want to be a quietist, fine. But can’t you refrain from criticizing those who are active?
It has been somewhat of a difficult process of getting to the fundamental reasons behind our disagreement. Sometimes it has been a little too heated, I can accept responsibility for my part of that problem. However, I have appreciated your willingness to engage this graciously for the most part. I especially appreciate that you have clarified that you are not calling our motives, or Christian devotion into question. Many have, so thank you for making that distinction. I am encouraged that we are moving more into the realm of how brothers ought to disagree over hotly contested issues.
With that said, I do want to make sure you understand I am no quietest, and even if I were, I am not so sure that this could rightly be called “dangerous”. I think that each of our perspectives are colored by our backgrounds and the circles we run in. If I were in your shoes as a practitioner of Constitutional Law with a great many connections in the political sphere, I might be more inclined to share your position. The fact that you encounter the hard left end with far more frequency, and that you are often confronted with their political agendas understandably influences your position. However, I think it is important to realize that the “hard left” is a political minority, powerful albeit. The majority of the left in this country is probably best categorized as “left center” and they are wary of the hard left agenda”. Factor that in with a sizable conservative and centrist constituency, and it does offer a counterbalance to the hard left agenda. I realize that the hard left alarmingly holds many positions of power, especially in the judicial branch with a great many activist judges. This is, as I understand, where you are fighting your battles, and by in large I am grateful for the work you do.
However, when we are approaching the legislative and electoral process I think we are talking about a different issue entirely. Here political power seems to ebb and flow for both sides. I would consider myself as active in this process as I do vote, and often open my big yap and vocalize my political opinions. However, I am no activist. Like I have said time and time again, my concern is the unilateral preservation of personal liberty. I realize that the notion of gay marriage is a new, and unfortunate cultural phenomenon. I also realize that “gay rights” is a sore subject among many on the right, as they see their culture being hijacked. However, in CA, we as a state have already abdicated nearly every moral vestige of marriage. With the advent of no-fault divorce in our state, there is little distinction between a civil union and marriage in the eyes of the state. The fact is that the battle over definitions is a meaningful cultural debate, however in terms of the legal debate we are dealing with near inconsequential semantics. In the eyes of the state marriage is fundamentally a property agreement between two consenting adults and little more. So from a legal perspective, we aren’t expanding the definition of marriage, rather there is an expansion of eligibility.
This actually creates an opportunity for the church to demonstrate the unique character of Christian marriage. Assuming we can do better in our own marriages. We do see moral and spiritual implications in marriage that the state simply does not. We can make a positive assertion and stand in the society at large that indicates the marriage union says as much about man’s redeemed state before God as is does to the actual relationship between husband and wife. We aren’t inviting homosexuals into this, because our marriages fundamentally stand apart from homosexual unions as well as run of the mill pagan hetero unions.
As for dealing with the leftist agenda in the judicial brance, that is why you have taken up your vocation. I do believe that those who seek to deprive the natural and Constitutional rights of US citizens should be fought against. But that goes both ways. I am not accusing you of this, however there are many of those who are on the right who care little for the rights of anyone who disagrees with them. This sort of stance, taken by many of the pro Prop. 8 crowd poses a threat to liberty, regardless of political persuasion. From a political standpoint, this is what I have a problem with. I have less of an issue with those who voted for Prop. 8 because their consciences led them to do so, but didn’t have an axe to grind so to speak with the gay community. Christians are free to engage the political process, and I have never argued otherwise. But, where there is disagreement, there ought to also be charity since some of us have held our views conscientiously and in good faith, not to be provocateurs or to unduly bring offense to those who disagree with us.
Jed, if I could prove to your satisfaction that the aggressive leftist attempts to silence Christian speech would continue unabated without any diminution even if all cultural conservatives immediately ceased and desisted from all opposition to gay marriage or other homosexual conduct, would that change your view that Christian citizens should not oppose gay marriage? In other words, your position that individual Christians should not poke a stick at the bear seems to rest on the premise that poking the stick makes the bear angrier, and if we could appease the bear, he’d leave us alone. Thus, your position seems to rest on a calculus of risk/reward that is a factual premise. What if the bear would come after us anyway? Just wondering.
CVD, only for you man… I definitely am open to views other than mine. Where I sit now I am less concerned with the liberal risk than you are, but I am all ears.
As to your bear metaphor, I figure if we are going to have the bear after us, lets just make sure it’s for the right reasons (gospel, not politics).
Jed, you didn’t answer the question. If it were proved to you that the Left would seek to silence Christains even if they never opposed the gay movement, would you still say Christians should not oppose the gay movement?
CVD, I must have misunderstood the question. I thought you were going to show incontrovertible evidence that the Left is seeking to silence Christians in an effort to persuade me to your view. I replied in that vein, since I would hate to deny incontrovertible evidence regardless of where it leads.
My short answer is a qualified no, we shouldn’t so adamantly oppose the gay movement, at least not as the current opposition is practicing. I think Christians, and ministers specifically should be calling gays to repentance and faith through the proclamation of the Law and the Gospel. Beyond this, I personally think our interactions with gays should be no different than with any other brand of sinner: peaceable and respectful.
There are instances where gay activists might be seeking to deprive constitutional rights of certain Christians, and on the grounds of the constitution they should be opposed in my estimation. But I wouldn’t personally take it any further.
If the Left is seeking to silence Christians, which I seriously doubt your premise, inasmuch as the Left is a variegated bunch, and many would seek to protect the rights of freedom of religion and expression; I would certainly be not be thrilled as an American, but as a Christian, I would count it an honor to bear the reproach of Christ and I would pray for the strength to hold fast to my confession. In fact, I think our Master said something to this effect:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11)
They are already borrowing from ‘the breeder’. Haven’t you seen the ads in papers for young girls to give up their ‘eggs’ ova??
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Phil and CVD,
My point is about running the risk of aligning the gospel with one political conclusion or another (this goes for those Christians who would suggest we need to defend the homosexual right to marry. They exist, you know, and I’m equally concerned about that). Maybe that’s a risk you’re willing to run for the sake of holding fast to creational norms. But I don’t see why we can’t hold fast to creational norms without throwing our lot in with a particular political conclusion. Not only is that a bad choice, but more importantly it seems to me to risk obscuring the gospel to people who might have another political conclusion. Maybe you disagree, but don’t you think it’s at least worth contemplating? Obscuring the gospel seems pretty serious to me. Sometimes it’s done by explicitly confusing the categories of law and gospel to lesser or greater degrees, and sometimes it’s done by confusing temporal and eternal to the same extent.
And, CVD, I’m not sure why you want me to stop raising certain questions simply because you disagree with their implications. You keep telling me that Christians must participate in the civil realm the same way you do, but I don’t call for you to “sit down and shut up.” Odd for a civil rights champion. You also keep divining my zany motives to be something about the religious right, Jerry Falwell, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned any of that. But have you missed my pointing to Protestant liberals to make these points? The RR and Protestant liberalism are two sides of a skewed coin, and I’m suggesting that in all the contemporary brouhaha about gay marriage we’d better be careful not to fetter the gospel the way they did. And so far in this discussion I can’t say I see as much concern for that as I do about championing creational norms.
Don’t we have to maintain both the law AND the gospel? Doesn’t Paul do that in Acts 17? We can’t compromise on either one, can we? Paul went after the Athenian Philosophical Society were they were most vulnerable. The Stoics weren’t practicing homosexuality (because they understood nature on this point). The Epicureans probably didn’t care one way or the other. I should look into it further to see what, if anything, that tradition said about it. The root sin was idolatry so he went after that.
Now, I’m using the law here in the civil use but it’s still the law. It’s going to generate opposition and criticism. That’s what happens when we use/preach/point out the moral law. In any event, in the civil use it remains a preparation for the gospel.
I quite agree that we cannot identify the Christian message with any partisan political agenda. The church as such should be preaching the law and the gospel and should keep its nose out of politics. Christians, as such, however, can speak up for the natural/moral law as citizens. There is going to a culture around them. They have to engage that culture on some basis. The best basis is natural/creational law.
If we refuse to engage the culture aren’t we living up to the caricature of the “radical 2K” as painted by those who don’t know anything about it? Distinguishing between nature and grace and between two spheres of the administration of God’s sovereignty doesn’t call us to flee creation but to live in it fully, which includes speaking creational norms to creatures (including ourselves).
Zrim, first, no one by holding to traditional marriage or opposing homosexuality is “aligning the gospel with one political conclusion.” The Law and the Gospel is still preached each Lord’s Day morning at my church and, I hope, yours. I’ve not heard any opponent of gay marriage say that opposition to gay marriage constituted the “gospel.” No one I know is confusing Law and Gospel, except perhaps you. Second, when the “political” tramples God’s creation norms, it is more than a political movement; it is an anti-God movement, as Dr. Peter Jones has eloquently explained. It is not we who are “throwing our lot in with a “political conclusion,” but it is natural law and God’s Word. There is a Law above the law. Third, you have not demonstrated in any way how citizens taking a position on gay marriage or opposition to homosexuality “obscures” the gospel. I will consider that possibility when you explain how the gospel is obscured in any way, large or small. You have failed to address my explanation for why the gospel is not obscured.
I have never said Christians must “participate in the civil realm the way [I] do.” I do this for a living. Let me be clear again: not every Christian has to file lawsuits, lobby legislators, or be activists. But they can vote and speak and write and do the other things that being a good citizen mean. We are citizens of the city of man too, not just the heavenly city. I’ll repeat: if you said that you eschew activism because you are a shy and quiet person and prefer to sit on the sidelines, I have no problem with that. But you want to criticize Christians who participate in the political realm as “unwise” and “obscuring the gospel” and such. You want to argue that your quietism/pacifism is a product of 2k theology, pilgrim theology, thus flowing from God’s Word as normative for all Christians. Thus, it is you, the quietist, who is imposing a categorical moral imperative. You persist in pretending that you’re not critical of activists, when with every post you are critical of actists. I know you are a contrarian by nature, but this kind of disengenuous running from your own position is self-defeating to your argument and makes its not worthy of serious consideration.
Okay, it looks like I spoke too soon in assuming that in the face of a massive sodomite-led attack on Christian values in California, even the extremist 2K-ers would see the merits of at least staying quiet to avoid hurting their own position.
I have been horrified by the Heidelblog far too often in the last few months. Things are being said here that a few decades ago the most extreme liberals in the Christian Reformed Church would not have dared to say in public. Those things are mixed with some good solid questions, and also mixed with some academic arguments from men such as Dr. Clark and Dr. Hart that deserve careful evaluation and cannot be dismissed as nonsense.
@ Jed Paschall, you wrote: “Maybe you can clarify for me so that I don’t misrepresent you here: are you maintaining that the church should maintain specific, public positions on issues of sexual politics? If so, this is where I wish the church should remain officially silent. As for individual Christians, I do see room for legitimate differences of opinion, and each should be as active and/or inactive in the political process as his conscience allows.”
Jed, that’s a good question, and it is why I tried to be careful in what I wrote when I said that “It is precisely that legitimization (of homosexuality) against which the church must teach and against which Christians must fight.”
The church as institute has an obligation under God to teach that homosexual lusts and practices are sinful and lead to death, both eternally and temporally. I personally would go farther and say the church as institute should not only teach but also fight against gross and extreme wickedness, but at an absolute minimum the church must teach on the subject. In a democracy, however, Christian citizens have an obligation under God to stand up and fight against extreme wickedness. If we fail to do so, we’re going to leave a nation to our children and grandchildren that will look more like aggressively secularist and anti-Christian France than like the mdoern America of religious toleration.
@ ZRim: You asked me “What do you think it means to keep the gospel unfettered from the traditions of men?”
Phil Derksen and CVanDyke already responded with much of what I would have said. I’ll go farther, however: Ten years ago, if I saw a comment like yours in the Banner or Christian Courier or some other left-leaning Christian Reformed publication, I’d jump on it and widely publicize it on the pages of Christian Renewal as an example of how far the leftists have gone. If you think fighting sodomites is fettering the gospel with the traditions of men, we are farther apart than I had imagined. I’m glad that Dr. Clark saw the wisdom (and, frankly, given his position as a URC minister, the NECESSITY) of rebutting your argumentation on this point.
@ CVanDyke, you wrote: “The erros of the quietist 2Kers would be tangible and real. They would result in Christians withdrawing from their role of being the preservative and light in a decaying culture, and result in enabling governmental oppression. In addition, they make it very difficult for the biblical doctrine of 2K to be taken seriously by thoughtful people because their distortions of it make it appear silly. They give it a bad name. Thank God that they are few in number and have little influence beyond a few obscure blog sites.”
You’re dead right on the dangers of the “quietists.” Perhaps I am one of the people you are thinking of who read people like ZRim and believe they are giving 2Kers a “bad name.” I am still undecided on whether the 2Kers are, as a number of URCNA people have been telling me via private messages, part of a foreign influence flowing out of California who must be driven out of the URCNA because they raise the risk of causing major problems in the Dutch Reformed world, or whether they are a few blogging contrarians and cranks who can be ignored because they have little influence. I’ve made mistakes before in underestimating the influence of liberal academicians, and I have some serious alarm bells sounding on this one.
Finally, @ Dr. Clark, you wrote: “Have you read VanDrunen yet? Listened to any of the several interviews conducted with him over the last 18 months? If you had you might not be so surprised.”
First, a clarification: My surprise (which, sadly, now seems misplaced) was not that men like you and Dr. Van Drunen are doing what you have to do as Christian leaders in California by opposing homosexality in the civil sphere, but rather that extremists like ZRim were also staying quiet. The disaster in California is going to affect the entire nation because of the constitutional requirement that contracts made in one state, including marriage, be recognized nationwide. This is exactly what President Bush feared when he said the Defense of Marriage Act was important, but only a constitutional amendment would likely solve the problem. If Christian leaders living on the front lines in California stay quiet in the face of an attack like this on their home turf, I believe they can fairly be attacked for going AWOL when the going got tough.
But to respond to your specific question: I need to make a decision to fish or cut bait on this 2K-er issue. I have not yet made up my mind what to do.
I’ve seen enough things written on this blog and others to believe that 2K-er theology is already causing damage in the Dutch Reformed world. What I do not yet know is whether the problem is extremist followers like ZRim or whether the problem is inherent in the theology itself … and until I spend a lot of time doing a lot of reading of your books as well as those of Dr.Van Drunen and of the Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” tradition, it would be irresponsible of me to blame you, Dr. Van Drunen, or Westminster-West for being the root of the problems.
However, if you don’t already know, a lot of other people in the URCNA **ARE** blaming Westminster-West and are circulating stuff written on the Heidelblog as proof that dangerous theology is flowing out of California.
The question for me is this: Do I need to care what happens to the Dutch Reformed world since my church is no longer in the URCNA? In my ecclesiastical context in the Missouri Ozarks, 2Ker stuff simply is not an issue at all. Since my church has decided to apply to the Associate Reformed Presyterians, it would probably be helpful for me to learn a lot more about the Southern Presbyterian “spirituality of the church” tradition, so maybe there is a connection. I’m well aware that the ARP has its own problems, but as far as I know this 2Ker stuff is not among them — and it looks like the mess at Erskine College and Seminary will be solved by getting rid of most if not all of the problem professors.
Fair disclosure, Dr. Clark: if and when I make the decision to take serious time to study your theology and that of Dr. Van Drunen and other professors at Westminster-West, it will be because I’ve made the decision to aggressively attack the stuff coming out of Westminster. You are not likely to be happy with what I write, or with the amount of energy I will dedicate to the issue. I don’t get into battles without counting the cost, and I don’t get into battles unless I am first convinced I’m fighting the right target, unless I have the full intent to win, and unless I believe I have the resources to do so.
There are many seminaries over the years which have lost their way and deviated from the plans of their founders. I am hearing things out of Westminster-West that are not anywhere close to what the men who donated thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars expected would be done with their dollars and their devotion. Conservatives do not take kindly to seminaries that deviate from the intentions of their donors, and the consequences can be very dire.
Make no mistake here; I am not yet convinced the problem is the theology of the professors. It may very well be due to seminary students and to pew-sitters who have misunderstood that theology and taken it in wrongheaded directions. However, if that is the case, Dr. Clark, you have an obligation (as, to your credit, you are doing here) to speak up and clearly denounce people like ZRim who are taking your theology and giving it a bad name.
Darrell makes a compelling case for the need for schoalrs to repudiate publicly the extreme views that misrepresent 2k. This is not an academic concern. There is real damage being done to WSC. I am a major supporter of the seminary. I try to help in the development side of things and approach people all the time about supporting the seminary. But it’s very difficult to get people to keep an open mind when they read the blogoshere (Darryl Hart, Stellman, individuals who post to these sites, others) and get the impression that this extreme 2K view stems from WSC. This is hurting the seminary. Pehaps this needs to be brought to the attention of the board of trustees, but the seminary doesn’t need this kind of bad press. It would go a long way to help the seminary’s bad PR if the faculty would publicly distance themselves from the extreme views represented by some posters here.
You mean to publicly repudiate the views that are outside the jurisdiction of the Reformed confessions, and to call the consciences of those who hold different political positions into question? I would hope that WSC would stay out of these issues and focus on what they do best – train pastors. WSC is not a political institution, the fact that they have stood apart from these debates has protected their integrity and has served the mission of the seminary quite well.
Jed, you don’t read. Neither Darrel nor I suggested that WSC take a political position or bind the conscience. The suggestion is that the seminary clarify its view on 2K/SOTC, what it holds to and doesn’t, or at least have the faculty members publicly repudiate views they don’t hold. Yes, they should train pastors. But their views are being confused with your views.
No CVD, I do read. Those who can’t draw distinctions between the clear views of Dr. Clark, DVD, Stellman, Hart, or any of us blogger hacks are the ones who aren’t reading carefully. I honestly don’t get how you can move from sensible dialogue, which you graciously do engage, to attack mode so quickly.
You seem quick to malign my views as dangerous, but I honestly doubt your biblical warrant for doing this. If you, or better yet officers in my communion can demonstrate this I will gladly submit, and make public statements to demonstrate this. But so far, the cases you are making are political ones. I have gone out of my way to acknowledge the validity of your calling and the work you do. I am at a loss as to why you can’t extend at least the same understanding to those who have good reasons for disagreeing with you on this particular issue.
Jed, it’s nothing personal. Your views are your views, and you’re entitled to them. No one is or should accuse you of violating the confessions. The problem is that a lot of people who post to blogs are advocating views that are not the views of WSC, though those persons may have come from WSC. The overall impression left in the minds of readers from the sheer volume of “quietist” posts is that the “quietist” non-involvement, passivity position is derived from WSC. Since it’s not what most faculty at WSC believe or teach, that fact should be made clear in the interest of truth and clarity. And only they can distinguish themselves from the views erroneously attributed to them. That’s all.
Fair enough CVD. I am not sure if you read my prior response. I am no quietist. I have been hopping up and down over the Prop. 8 issue because I think it is indicative of a broader problem in our society: both the right and the left seem myopically concerned about their own rights, and have little problem in suppressing the opposition. I have as much of a problem with the “hard left” as you do, inasmuch as they would re-engineer society so s to eliminate the rights of their detractors. However there is a conservative flip-side to this as well, when the left, or specifically gays want to exercise rights they find repugnant, they have little problem in going to great ends to stop them.
Holding libertarian political views is to invite the outrage of both camps, and I accept that. However, my concerns politically speaking is for the broad freedoms of the individual. Obviously, I depart from the libertarian platform on abortion, because I think that in this case the right to life is trampled, which is on a higher order than the right to choose. However, the erosion of liberty is a huge problem in this society, and everyone is so concerned about being “right” and leveraging political power to impose their own wills to power. As an American, I hold my political freedom in high esteem. Sometimes that means tolerating views that I personally don’t like. But that is the nature of tolerance, and in my mind if we loose this, it won’t be long until we loose our freedoms that have come at such incredible cost.
I am not advocating compromise within our churches, because our faith is inherently intolerant. However in the secular sphere, I am advocating sitting down with the opposition and hammering out agreements that allow for freedom to flourish, rather than fighting a political and cultural war that will hurt everyone in the long run. Politics assumes certain measures of compromise, and that is the way of things in this fallen world. I would rather have livable circumstances, even if they are less than perfect than have categorically unlivable ones. If the day comes when our freedoms are taken away and persecution comes, I would hope it is because of an insistence of the exclusive superiority of the gospel, and not because of our politics. How is that quietist? How is that rolling over and handing my civic freedoms to those who would gladly take them?
Jed, I appreciate your more nuanced views. As I’ve said, my own are not too far from libertarian. I don’t fight any war that can be avoided by settlement or amicable resolution, so I agree. I never launch a fight proactively or preemptively, but, at least in the litigation side, simply defend rights that are already under attack. Best regards.
The sem, as such, doesn’t have a view. I speak only for myself here.
CVD, unlike the melange of George Washington, Geerhardus Vos, John Owen, and Martin Luther at some Westminsters, WSC would apparently be following the “quietism” of Machen. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Also in his favor from your perspective is that he came from a family of lawyers. Then again, he did defend the civil liberties of Roman Catholics, Communists, and drinkers. But you’re a libertarian. Who knew?
DGH, you gotta get out more, buddy, and talk to some WSC profs. Not one I know qualifies as a “quietist.” Can you name one who argues for the same prohibition on citizens as falls on churches? I’m with the political acitivist Machen, no quietist he,. And I also defend the civil liberties of RCs, Communists, drinkers, and even graduate school professors. I do it every day.
CVD, what are the extreme views of 2k and where is the book that sets the boundaries? I appreciate your support for WSC. But sometimes you make is seem as if people whose activities you know nothing about are leftists. In my case, that is laughable. I understand a lot of disagreement goes on about what constitutes conservatism. But it is approaching slander and definitely a misrepresentation to say that those who don’t share your analysis of our cultural moment or what the church’s responsibility should be are leftists and pacifists. Why, if you were in my presence I’d hit you. Would that help? (kidding about hitting.)
But what is really odd about your view is that you never seem to interact with the Bible and the circumstances in which the apostles operated. I am betting that the culture of the early church was as bad as ours. What did the apostles and Christ do? What did Paul, a citizen, do? Granted, you may say that he proclaimed the law in public. And I think the church should and does proclaim the law in public (i.e. corporate worship) every Sunday. But do you honestly think that the gates of hell will prevail against the church if your leftist cocktail pals get control.
And while you’re claiming bar cred, I too hang around secular academics, not exactly known for their conservatism or faith. Granted, they are not nearly as effective as attorneys in getting ‘er done. But I do listen and hang with them and I don’t think they want to silence the church. To use your imagery, they are a bear that has been provoked. And when bears get angry, you don’t look them in the eye, you don a pose of submission, and same warm, cooing words.
So what does it take to measure up to CVD’s conservative qualifications? Or Darrell if you’re listening? It’s the same old thing that Machen faced. Because he did not support the church’s support for Prohibition, then he was in favor of drunkenness. Come on, they teach better logic than that in law school, don’t they?
DGH, I don’t know where you dropped in from or thought you read, but I have never said and don’t believe that everyone who disagrees with me is a leftist or that a Christian has to be a conservative. I’m award of your views. My own views are hard to classify. What I’ve written is that most of the extreme 2Kers I encounter are over-reacting to the RR because, as a matter of fact, they are mostly left leaning politically. Not all are. Some are just confused.
I believe the view that the doctrine of 2k/SOTC not only say that the church qua church should not involve itself in the politics of the day, but that individual Christian citizens should, as a matter of biblical principel, generally refrain from political or cultural engagement, refrain from exercising constitutional rights, avoid litigation to protect Christian liberty, do no lobbying, accept all persecution — generally called by bloggers on these sites “quietism,” a philosophy of passivity and noninvolvement, and articulated perhaps most eloquently in every Reformed blog I’ve found by Mr. Zrim and others. That view is extreme, out of the mainstream. While I have in many blogs offered abundant biblical support for the view that no biblcial principle supports this (even Paul appealed to Caesar), the burden of proof is on the one who wants to impose a categorical imperative that would put a gag order and restraining order on Christian citizens in their private, individual capacities — and I’ve yet to be offered any biblical exegesis or commentary support or historical support for this position. And you have not offered any.
I take it that you hold Machen to be the gold standard of 2k. I know you will correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t find anything in Machen’s life to even come close to the quietist, non-political paradigm held up by quietists. From “Christianity and Liberalism,” I recall Machen writing: “Instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, ore on the other hand withdrawing from the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism, let us go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the world subject to God.” Did not Machen actively oppose federal laws against alcohol on the ground of states’ rights? Was he not deeply involved in political affairs as an individual citizen? I thought he was stridently anti-big government, anti-federal. I thought he publicly opposed the 18th Amendment, the draft, the federal education bureaucracy, the New Deal legislation. I thought he made a rather libertarian-like argument in favor of liberty and for restraining the government’s hand. I thought he actively and publicly argued for the rights of mediating religious groups and local towns to educate their own children and fought against the Child-Labor Amendment. Did he not testify before Congress? You’re the expert on Machen, but is not the sum total of his life an eloquent brief against the kind of 2K quietist position advocated by 2K extremists?
I’d locate my own 2K views as pretty close to Machen’s so far as I can divine his. I also would argue against the church qua church taking political positions. I’d also argue against Prohibition on political grounds. I can’t imagine Machen, without contradicting much of what he wrote and much of what he did in his life, advocating the quietist view of political non-engagement by individual Christian citizens, or arguing that an elder who supported a lobbying organization was “c0nfusing the kingdoms” and should be brought up on charges.
I have not heard any theological or biblical argument to support the notion that Christian citizens, in their private capacity, should refrain from opposing gay marriage on natural law grounds or make natural law arguments against homosexuality. It strike me that the quietists are the ones confusing the two kingdoms disabling Christian citizens from full participation in the city of man as if they are solely citezens of the heavenly kingdom.
I believe the view that the doctrine of 2k/SOTC not only say that the church qua church should not involve itself in the politics of the day, but that individual Christian citizens should, as a matter of biblical principel, generally refrain from political or cultural engagement, refrain from exercising constitutional rights, avoid litigation to protect Christian liberty, do no lobbying, accept all persecution…
Who exactly are you talking about? But I know plenty of folks who have placed such a high premium on what politics can yield, realized that it never results in what they thought it would (as in maintaining creational norms or some other notion of civic righteousness) and then, naturally, exempt themselves from any political involvement whatsoever. Meanwhile, I continue to be a politically involved citizen because I don’t have mountain high expectations in the first place. And my overarching point here is that the sort of activism you seem so giddy for is precisely the sort of thing that fuels a myopic and over-realized notion of what politics can do. What’s so wrong about lowering the stakes of politics while maintaining its dignity?
I can’t imagine Machen…arguing that an elder who supported a lobbying organization was “c0nfusing the kingdoms” and should be brought up on charges.
Who said anything about bringing anybody up on charges for participating in the common realm the way his conscience demands? You keep conflating criticism with gagging.
CVD, you’ve got to get in more — inside your own head. You summarize Machen accurately. I too agree with Machen’s basic stance. And yet you write this:
“There is real damage being done to WSC. I am a major supporter of the seminary. I try to help in the development side of things and approach people all the time about supporting the seminary. But it’s very difficult to get people to keep an open mind when they read the blogoshere (Darryl Hart, Stellman, individuals who post to these sites, others) and get the impression that this extreme 2K view stems from WSC. This is hurting the seminary. Pehaps this needs to be brought to the attention of the board of trustees, but the seminary doesn’t need this kind of bad press. It would go a long way to help the seminary’s bad PR if the faculty would publicly distance themselves from the extreme views represented by some posters here.”
How do you think I am guilty of extremism? I’ve not said that Christians must not be engaged politically. I am opposed to Darrell’s insistence that all Christian must oppose the homosexual lobby. Some Christians actually are too young and still go to school, others need to change diapers, and others need to pay bills.
You may think that Zrim is guilty of such extremes (and I am not throwing him under the bus). But you are saying a lot about a lot of people who may have ties to WSC. Surely you can write more coherent briefs than blog responses.
We’ve had a board-faculty discussions about this issue. The board is aware of the issues.
We did an entire conference about this issue in Jan ’10. People can listen to the talks online.
Dr. Hart, you wrote: “I’ve not said that Christians must not be engaged politically. I am opposed to Darrell’s insistence that all Christian must oppose the homosexual lobby. Some Christians actually are too young and still go to school, others need to change diapers, and others need to pay bills.”
We may have a misunderstanding.
Yes, I do believe all Christian citizens must oppose the homosexual lobby, but there are hundreds of different ways to express one’s Christian convictions in the political process. For me personally, I have the ability to endorse and publicly argue for candidates. I happen to own the highest-readership newspaper in my county, one whose readership is expanding regularly and is trouncing my competitors who are all losing readers, and that gives me the ability to do things others cannot. I also can do things like getting campaign literature translated into Korean and Spanish for candidates I support. Most people can’t do that. But being “involved in the political process” can be as simple as talking to friends about why we plan to vote the way we do — and then calling to make sure our friends get to the polls.
However, I agree that some Christians can’t do that, even in America. To cite an obvious example, not all Christians are citizens and therefore not all Christians can follow the Apostle Paul in appealing to his rights as a citizen. Three of the five people who live in my home are not American citizens and they neither can nor should be involved in the American political process.
They can, however, pray for the success of Christian politicians. I have a mother-in-law who, unlike a lot of Koreans, is deeply appreciative of what America did to save Korea from Communism. She sees what is going on in the news, is horrified as she sees America moving farther and farther from its Christian roots, and asks me often how she can pray for the country in which she lives as a foreigner. That’s a good thing, but it is all she can or should be doing by way of political participation.
I cannot agree with many of your other examples, however.
You say that “Some Christians actually are too young and still go to school.” If you mean elementary, middle or high school, yes, they probably cannot vote. However, most schools I know about encourage volunteering during election years, and some even require it. From my own experience, an intelligent 15-year-old kid passing out campaign brochures is far more effective in getting neighbors to put up yard signs for a candidate than most adults. When I was that age, I was in charge of a precinct; when I was two years older, I was in charge of six precincts with numerous volunteers working under me. Just because somebody is young doesn’t mean they are useless — and in fact, they might be more useful than adults because of summer vacation during the primary election season.
You say that “others need to change diapers.” Surely you don’t mean that mothers are barred from the political process; we settled women’s suffrage nearly a century ago, and the Reformed Christians who argued that only men should vote were misreading their Bibles. In fact, one of the major handicaps in modern politics is the lack of stay-at-home mothers to volunteer on campaigns the way they did a generation or two ago. A stay-at-home mother is worth her weight in gold for the number of phone calls she can make and volunteering she can do from her home — and that’s one advantage Christian conservatives have over our secular opponents because a higher percentage of Christian women are still available to do volunteer work. (BTW, I do support women having a choice to work outside the home, so don’t misunderstand that comment — my wife has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology working mostly with soldiers’ families, and my niece will probably become an Army officer.)
You say that “others need to pay bills.” Unless you’re talking about people who are desperately trying to stave off bankruptcy by working two or more jobs, we can thank the liberals and the unions for giving us a 40-hour workweek. Now I personally work hundred-hour weeks and that’s the way I want it, and it’s why I’m writing this post at 2:30 a.m., but most people don’t. Just how many people are so consumed with their working hours that they cannot spend even a small amount of time volunteering on political campaigns?
Dr. Hart, I’m sure you can show me a struggling husband who is working two jobs to make ends meet and whose wife is a full-time mom who takes in additional children from neighbor families to help pay the bills, and simply has no time to do anything in the political realm beyond voting. If that husband and wife are immigrants with green cards who are not American citizens, they can’t do even that.
But apart from extreme cases like that, excuses for not getting involved at least to some extent in the political process are usually just that — excuses.
We are citizens of a democratic country that gives us the right to express our views and decide who will govern us. That is a great privilege. If we don’t use it in accord with our professed Christian convictions, we have only ourselves to blame if we lose that privilege.
DGH wrote: “So what does it take to measure up to CVD’s conservative qualifications? Or Darrell if you’re listening? It’s the same old thing that Machen faced. Because he did not support the church’s support for Prohibition, then he was in favor of drunkenness.”
I am talking to Dr. Daryl Hart here, right?
If so, the last time we met was at an ordination for a Korean graduate of Westminster-West. One of your colleagues at the time joked that I ought to find a nice female graduate of Westminster-West to marry, but perhaps I was unfortunate enough to marry a Korean female graduate of Calvin who also has degrees from Southwestern Baptist and Wheaton. So I’ve got a painted pair of cute little Dutch wooden shoes on our bedroom dresser and a shelf-full of Dutch Reformed theology on my wall, but other than that, I spend most of my time in the world of southern fundamentalism here in the Ozarks outside Fort Leonard Wood, where the only PCA or other Reformed church for more than an hour’s drive has a pastor who speaks no English and whose church was almost ready to join the CRC when Dr. John E. Kim led the Korean secession out of the Christian Reformed Church.
Bio aside, I don’t think “measuring up to (my) conservative qualifications” is that difficult. I read Dr. Kloosterman’s attack on you in the pages of Christian Renewal, but I’m not Dr. Kloosterman, and he and I are both well aware of our differences.
Yes, I’m a hard-right conservative, but I was converted to the Christian faith as an adult, my father was a Republican politician in Grand Rapids during the days of Gerald Ford’s role as the House Minority Leader, vice-president, and then president. and I understand the importance of seeking allies where we can find them. I know how to play both civil and synodical politics, and I think I’ve got a fairly good track record at both — and you don’t win by failing to keep your eyes on what it takes to get a 50 percent majority. Ideologically based attacks within one’s own political party or religious tradition are sometimes necessary, but they need to the last resort, not the first. I’m not a RINO-killer like some conservative Republicans; I think discussion usually works better.
Dr. Hart, here’s one thing (among others) that would satisfy me.
If all you want to do is to say the church as institute should avoid taking positions on civil issues apart from humble petitions in cases extraordinary, fine. You’ve got the Westminster Standards on your side, as well as virtually the entire Southern Presbyterian tradition until the modern PCA due to the influence of Kennedy and Schaeffer, and any Reformed Christian should be able to understand that even if you’re wrong, you’re within the bounds of the confessions on that point. I think you’ve already figured out that I might have more sympathies with the Westminster-East president’s view of a “Christian America” and I have a huge amount of sympathies with John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and the New England Puritan experiment, but I don’t doubt that the Southern Presbyterian tradition is Reformed — it’s just wrong.
But couple that, Dr. Hart, with saying — and saying LOUDLY — that as a Christian citizen though not as an ordained pastor, you have a moral obligation to speak out against the homosexual agenda.
We really do have a gathering storm of satanic armies marshaling their forces in California. They have to be fought, and fought hard, and fought knowing that the future of our country is at stake. We need to fight that agenda just as hard as Ronald Reagan fought the radical agenda of the 1960, and in many cases, it’s the same agenda in different dress without the undercurrent of Soviet propaganda. (Our universities have become better at teaching socialist economics and immorality — private property and private wives are not unlinked agendas — than the Soviet instigators were ever able to do in America.)
So write speak all you want, Dr. Hart, about how synods should speak slowly and seldom. That’s fine. But speak out as a Christian citizen, and speak loudly, or you will have only yourself to blame if in one to two generations the United States has exchanged religious toleration for an anti-Christian agenda comparable to modern France.
Darrell, your argument is exactly like Carl McIntire’s against those who would not speak out against Communism THE WAY he did.
Dr. Hart, where I live, comparing me to Rev. Carl McIntire would be a compliment. Sometimes he and Dr. D. James Kennedy are the only self-identified Reformed people who older fundamentalists have ever heard of when I try to explain what Calvinists believe. I’ve had cases where people scratch their heads and think I must be some sort of heretic until I start naming people who they like but who they didn’t know were Calvinists.
I’m not a Bible Presbyterian, though we do have former BPC people attending our church, so perhaps I’d better clarify that I realize you’re not intending your statement as a compliment, nor do I want to be identified with his movement. (Schaeffer and Buswell, maybe I could put up with, but not McIntire.)
So let me try to outline some examples of where I disagree with McIntire and perhaps we’ll find ourselves in closer agreement.
I assume you’ll agree with me (and with McIntire) that Communism is an aggressively evil system which combines political and economic theories with militarism; in that way it is far more dangerous than socialism. You may or may not agree that Communism has an eschatological perspective that gives it many of the characteristics of a secular postmillenial religion, but that’s not terribly relevant today since communism as a political movement is dead and we only have to deal with it in its socialist form.
Unlike McIntire, I’m not particularly interested in asking general assemblies of the church to issue statements condemning Communism, socialism, or their manifestations in American political life. To cite a modern example, how should the church respond to President Obama’s health care proposals? I happen to believe it is organized theft on a grand federal scale, and apparently more than 70 percent of Missouri voters agreed last week, so I don’t really care if the general assembly of a small denominational body goes on record opposing socialized medicine. Issues like that are complicated enough that a Christian position is not immediately obvious to the average evangelical reader of the Bible, so I don’t have a problem with saying that the church as institute would be better served by teaching what the Bible says about caring for the poor and the importance of a biblical work ethic. If churches are focusing on how to apply the gospel biblically in those areas, church members will see the problems with things like socialized medicine on their own and the church as institute won’t need to be pushing the point.
But on something like homosexulity, have evangelical Christians really become so grossly illiterate on the Bible that this is even a question? Just exactly why can the church as institute **NOT** teach that homosexuality is evil and must be opposed, and then support individual Christians when they decide to apply sanctified common sense in deciding how best to oppose the homosexual agenda in the political realm? The specifics can and should be left to individual Christians because we don’t necessarily have clear guidance from the Bible on whether a Defense of Marriage Act or a Defense of Marriage Amendment is best, but surely there should be no question about the church’s calling to oppose gay marriage, at least in a pluralistic democracy like ours. If we were living in an aggressively anti-Christian country like Mexico of the 1930s or modern France, I might say the church should stay quiet because it would do no good anyway, and in a non-democratic society the church may have no choice but to remain quiet, but that’s not the case (yet) in America.
Can we not at least agree on that?
DTM, we agree about homosexuality. Machen agreed with McIntire about drunkenness. But saying the church or Christians need to support a certain kind of political opposition, or need to join the ACCC is a different matter. And calling someone extreme — as CVD does (and you agree) — because we don’t agree on the means of opposition or the variety of ways in which Christians live as citizens is simply foolish. Not to mention that it binds consciences without a sufficient biblical warrant.
You mentioned Kloosterman’s “attack.” I’m glad you used that word. It was not a critique but an ad hominem attack because I simply differed in the way of applying commonly accepted truths. I oppose forms of education that get between the convictions of parents and their children. How to educate children properly, it seems to me, invites a variety of possible and responsible responses. But where you and K seem to see intellectual purity is for others a disagreement over means.
No offense, but that wreaks of the ideological purity the left seeks, which is why the rival sides in the culture wars were made for each other. They are two bears seeking to poke each other in the chest. I’d prefer some way for the bears to live together. That’s not because I approve of the gay bear. It’s because it’s not my call to institute Judgment Day. We are not there yet. When will you realize that? And when will you consider the example of the apostles?
Dr. Hart, we may be more in agreement than either of us think.
First off, you wrote: “DTM, we agree about homosexuality. Machen agreed with McIntire about drunkenness.”
I’m glad to hear that. With some of what I’ve been reading on the Heidelblog from commenters (not from you, or Dr. Clark) I think I can no longer take that agreement for granted and need to ask.
You wrote: “But saying the church or Christians need to support a certain kind of political opposition, or need to join the ACCC is a different matter.”
On that point we do agree. I am not a secondary separationist. I accept the label “fundamentalist” when applied to me by liberals who are using it as a term of attack, but I’m closer to what the Bob Jones University people call the “orthodox allies” of the fundamentalists. And I am completely in agreement that the specific political programs people will choose to fight gross public sin can and will differ. We have a clear mandate from the Bible to oppose homosexuality and gay marriage. The specifics of how to do that can and will differ based on political realities.
You wrote: “And calling someone extreme — as CVD does (and you agree) — because we don’t agree on the means of opposition or the variety of ways in which Christians live as citizens is simply foolish. Not to mention that it binds consciences without a sufficient biblical warrant.”
I’m using the word “extreme” with regard to ZRim because I’m trying to be polite. I am pretty sure I’ve not used it with regard to you, and I know I have not used it that way with regard to Dr. Clark.
In fact, I use the term to distinguish people like you from people like him.
I am not yet convinced that ZRim’s theology is a consistent application of 2Ker views. What I read from him is horrible. I may someday write an article titled something like “Horrors from the Heidelblog,” and if I ever do, he will be a case in point. But for now, I don’t think an article like that would be fair to Dr. Clark or to other thoughtful and intelligent advocates of the 2Ker theology.
You wrote: “You mentioned Kloosterman’s “attack.” I’m glad you used that word. It was not a critique but an ad hominem attack because I simply differed in the way of applying commonly accepted truths. I oppose forms of education that get between the convictions of parents and their children. How to educate children properly, it seems to me, invites a variety of possible and responsible responses. But where you and K seem to see intellectual purity is for others a disagreement over means.”
Since it’s been a decade since I worked for Christian Renewal, you may not realize that Dr. Kloosterman and I have fundamentally different visions for the future of the church. That’s public knowledge, and we’ve had public disagreements in the past, as well as numerous disagreements that were less public. Dr. Kloosterman’s vision won out in the early days of the URC, and that was one of many reasons I left the Dutch Reformed world. I’ve got better things to do than fight fellow Reformed brethren who are confessional and conservative, especially when it is they who are being consistent with their denominational tradition and when they can paint me, quite correctly, as an outsider who is a foreign influence on the Dutch Reformed.
Now don’t misunderstand me, Dr. Kloosterman never put things quite so bluntly, and we actually got along pretty well because I understand that he is being faithful to his tradition, and he understood that I know that and that the burden of proof was on me, not him, when I advocated changes. But I would not have wanted to try to pass a theological examination in any classis where he was a delegate — we got along much better as colleagues with membership in different churches than we ever could as officebearers in the same church.
You wrote: “No offense, but that wreaks of the ideological purity the left seeks, which is why the rival sides in the culture wars were made for each other. They are two bears seeking to poke each other in the chest. I’d prefer some way for the bears to live together. That’s not because I approve of the gay bear. It’s because it’s not my call to institute Judgment Day. We are not there yet. When will you realize that? And when will you consider the example of the apostles?”
This is your only point where I really cannot agree. The left and right may be two bears poking at each other, and they may both be wrong, but the solution to which the example of the apostles points is not to try to live together in disagreement but rather to decide who is right and who is wrong.
My personal view is that with all of its problems, the Religious Right of American fundamentalism is composed mostly of well-meaning people who are trying to be faithful to Christ. The religious and secular left are both composed mostly of people who are virulent opponents of the Gospel. We don’t live in the Netherlands of the 1800s where we can be “confessionalists” and join a Reformed Christian political party, so we have to put up with less than ideal choices.
I’d much rather have a Baptist who disagrees with me on some issues making my laws than try to live under an infidel making my laws who passionately hates what I believe.
Darrell, I appreciate and share your concerns. I find in my personal travels that it is very difficult to get a hearing for 2K theology, or for WSC, when it is associated with this quietist/pacifist wing. In addition, these extremists have personally attacked me in my own calling in the name of 2k.
With that said, I, as a 2K advocate, would emphasize to you that you should not judge WSC or 2K from the view of a few extremists because it is, I believe, a biblical doctrine with a rich Reformed tradition. I know that this extreme view is not one shared by most of the faculty of WSC. The professors there are solid, balanced, nauanced, and very mainstream in their view of 2K and SOTC. Further, not all the faculty share the same ways of applying 2K/SOTC. Some hold views that you and I would be very comfortable with. Dr. Clark is a very balanced scholar who takes a biblical approach to these things. Some of the posters on his blog take things in a toxic direction, but that doesn’t mean he shares their views. I think you would enjoy and appreciate Dr. VanDrunen’s book. In my judgment, WSC is the finest seminary in America today. I’d urge you and all others not to allow its name and fine reputation to be tarnished by a few extremists who do not represent the teaching of the faculty. My two cents. Blessings on you.
I’m with Darryl. It is lazy to label positions different from yours “extremist.” Anybody can do that. How about a little more Scripture to support your views.
I just saw the guy in the cottage across the road here in my quietist community actually light his lantern with a match rather than making fire by rubbing two sticks together for six hours.
OK, gotta get back to not objecting to things.
What a jerk. He probably grows his own turnips, too.
Been there, done that.
“I believe the view that the doctrine of 2k/SOTC not only say that the church qua church should not involve itself in the politics of the day, but that individual Christian citizens should, as a matter of biblical principel, generally refrain from political or cultural engagement, refrain from exercising constitutional rights, avoid litigation to protect Christian liberty, do no lobbying, accept all persecution — generally called by bloggers on these sites “quietism,” a philosophy of passivity and noninvolvement, and articulated perhaps most eloquently in every Reformed blog I’ve found by Mr. Zrim and others.”
I haven’t seen Zrim say this. Can you show us where he said individual Christians should refrain from political engagement?
tbprdpow, they are scattered over several blogs. I’ve been ’round and ’round with him and his blockers on these points, ad nauseum. They’re there for the reading. If you don’t see it, the people I talk to see it and are highly disturbed. He’s not alone. I personally have spoken to numerous young 2k enthusiasts who, by my understanding of 2k/SOTC, simply misunderstand it or appropriate it in the service of their agenda.
Anyway, I would think one example would be fairly easy to find.
I guess I’m not taking my own alleged advice, what with all that voting I do. But I suppose I fall somewhere between my wife who has unfortunately exempted herself due to the over-realized and under-yielding politics of her fundie upbringing and the guy calling me on the phone at dinner time to beg and plead with me to keep Adam and Steve permanantly single.
ZRim, you **DO** believe Adam and Steve should be permanently single, unless they repent and find women to marry, don’t you?
Please tell me you don’t support gay marriage or gay civil unions. Even the Christian Reformed Church hasn’t gone that far, yet.
Darrell, I believe that homosexuality is contrary to nature, is an illegitimate and immoral sexual expression and should not enjoy the sanction of marriage.
But, as I suggested to you above, I also believe that efforts to ban gay marriage are about much more than making that statement or its counter-statement (i.e. homosexuality isn’t contrary to nature, etc.). They are about cultural and political power, and I am personally skeptical about bids to cultural and political power. Both sides of these sorts of fights want to claim they are fighting to preserve the right, true and good in society. But I think these sorts of fights are actually counter-productive to the nurturing of such things. I think we should learn another lesson, for example, from the last power bid circa 1973. All that did was help polarize, entrench and divide society. I think way more is lost in these things than gained, no matter who wins in particular. Despite warriors of all stripes and differing conclusions telling us that the other side’s victory means the collapse of everything good as we understand it, I want to suggest that the collective belligerance is what is causing societal harm. I know, I know, more zany crackpot unbiblical extremism…
ZRim, when you mean 1973, please tell me you don’t mean Roe v. Wade, that detestable and legally indefensible ruling that has led to the United States allowing the killing of more people than Hitler or Stalin.
If you think the church cannot speak out against baby-killers and sodomites, I’m simply aghast. I realize you are a member of the Christian Reformed Church and that means I cannot hold you to the standards of historic Reformed orthodoxy. But even the CRC still affirms biblical teaching on those issues, though synod will probably apostatize on those issues sooner rather than later.
If that happens, ZRim, it will be in large measure because of people like you who refused to stand up and fight where God called you to fight. If it doesn’t, it will be because God decided to raise up tiny remnants to fight when pastors, elders and deacons in prominent Grand Rapids churches like yours refused to do so.
I try to choose my words carefully, ZRim, and I don’t like blasting people via the internet since I think it’s usually less than effective. But since I can’t talk to you personally, I need to say this publicly: Repent, please. Saying that your silence may lead to having the blood of babies on your hands is not too strong of a statement to make.
Darrell, thank your for your clarion call and for your passion. I have been ’round and ’round with Zrim and others who think as he does. It’s important, I think, to know that Zrim is not alone. (I don’t mean to pick on him. He is merely the most frequent 2K blogger on virtually every blog site, and he is an eloquent spokesperson for his point of view). But he is the tip of the iceberg of extreme 2k people. While his views are not representative of WSC, they are very prevalent among younger 2K enthusiasts I personally , especially young seminary grads and young pastors.
I found, for example, much of the Dutch Reformed world rampant with this point of view. At my old large Reformed church, I had fellow elders on the consistory angry that I was on the board of a well-known Christian lobbying organization, and that I personally engaged in political lobbying, impact litigation, and what they pejoratively termed “activism.” They threatened to bring me up on charges on the ground that I was “confusing the two kingsoms” and not qualified to be an office holder. I never used the rhetoric of “taking back America” and in fact am quite careful to clarify that I do not have any illusion of Christianizing America or that this or any nation is God’s Kingdom. I ground my advocacy in sound non-biblical arguments, natural law, creation norms, and the llike. But for the extreme 2kers, that makes no difference. They seem to see all such activity through the lens of Jerry Falwell and the RR and pejoritively term it “culture wars.” For example, I represented a church that was trying preserve the legal right to use sacramental wine during worship against a school district from whom they rented space on Sunday mornings. I had to file a suit in federal court and got an injunction restraining the school from violating their Free Exercise First Amendment rights. But my 2K friends were appaalled and called this “culture war” activity and thought it was unwise and a “confusion of the kingdoms” to litigate on behalf of a church. Even though my fellow elders ultimately backed down, through the mediation of a couple good men (and we remain good friends to this day but agree to disagree), I resigned and left the URC because my family and I decided that we were not a good fit and couldn’t be a part of a culture of such extreme 2K views. BTW, full disclosure: I’m assured by other URC folk that this was abberational and that extreme 2Kism is not the norm in that federation.
I mention the story to illustate the extent of the problem that the Reformed churches have with this extremism among some 2K advocates. I don’t think they are a majority, but it’s a problem. I try to work hard at correcting this misunderstanding by explaining that the doctrine of 2K/SOTC does not put a gag order on invidicual Christians from full-throated participation in the political and cultural realms, including advocacy of public policies that would uphold creation norms (opposition to gay marriage), save lives (attempts to reverse Roe v. Wade and institute restrictions on abortion), etc. At bottom is a “quietist” or ‘pacifist” view that not only the church institutionally, but individual Christians should refrain from being politically involved to any significant extent, beyond the bare minimum (voting and speaking privately). I was also criticized by my 2K friends for working hard for the passage of Prop 8, working to obtain restricitons on abortions, suing abortion providers for violations of state regulations, litigating on behalf of Prop 8 supporters who were targeted by gay advocacy groups for attacks, filing suits on behalf of Christian students who seek to exercise thier legal rights under the Equal Access Act to form Bible study clubs and to meet during non-instructional hours on school property (we win), representing churches against zoning offiicals at municipal and county levels who seek to impose onerous parking restricitions that would effectively shut down the churches, litigating on behalf of churches that want to build a church in a city but two Counties imposed ordinances against building any churches within a 450 mile radius, etc. All this is dismissed as “culture war activity,” a confusion of the two kingdoms, and I’m told that Christians should not resist “persecution” but these churches and Christians should just accept bullying and governmental interference because that is “wiser.” I try to point out to Zrim and others that much of this government interference is not necessarily “persecution,” but just mistakes or arrogance by a bureacrat. I see no biblical reason why it must be endured when Christians are citizens of a nation that grants constitutional rights to all, even to Christians.
I respect the 2k extemists for their piety and for what they see as an attempt to be biblical, but I not only disagree, I think this 2K extremism is dangerous in its implications for Christian liberty and for the future of our nation. It also gives 2K a bad name. I believe it’s a biblical doctrine, but I think Reformed seminaries like WSC (which I support and love) can do a better job of helping young men think more biblically and soundly about how to apply this doctrine in more biblically sound ways and with more nuance and common sense.
As we’ve discussed I sympathize with your ecclesiastical difficulty. I’m being made more sensitive to the problem of Christian liberty myself and, going by your report, those who tried to infringe on your Christian liberty to engage the culture are arguably extremists. They attempted to use ecclesiastical power to make you conform to their views.
I doubt, however, that it’s helpful to describe Zrim and those who agree with him as “extremist.” They aren’t trying to infringe on your liberty. That’s a big difference isn’t it? For my part I think the 2K analysis frees me from all forms of extremism (whether quietism or theocracy/theonomy).
It seems to me that some of the differences stem from different reactions to different situations. You’re reacting to an apparently intolerant version of the 2K analysis (which causes me to question whether it’s legitimately classed as being a 2k analysis) and Zrim is reacting to an intolerant and even triumphalist version of transformationalism. Todd may be reacting to theocatic and theonomic views, I don’t know.
Some of the differences may be theological (e.g., how to account for nature in Reformed theology). Some of the differences, however, maybe situational and generational. I perceive that my students are less troubled by homosexuality than I am. I also perceive that they tend be more subjectivist than I am. We’ll have to work on that.
I suspect that you’ll get farther with Zrim and others here if you don’t label them (and if they don’t label you) with polarizing, prejudicial labels. It may be that there is no way to resolve the disagreement. If so, fine, but I suspect that there’s more substantial agreement than might seem be the case.
CVD, have you considered that your “full-throated” and “passionate” approach might be the problem? Have you also considered that your apparent take-no-prisoner approach (leaving a Bible believing and preaching Reformed church because of this case doesn’t exactly seem to be characteristic of waiting on the Lord, but I know, I’m a pacifist) is what puts people off. Believe it or not, 2k is not legion. There are more Rabbi Brets, Brothers Bayly, and Nelson Kloostermans than there are VanDrunens or Clarks. For that reason, I find it very hard to believe that a URC work was guilty of extreme 2kism (and if your beef is with a URC congregation, why do you keep dinging WSC and its alums?) In the world of Dutch-American Calvinism, scratch a devout church member and you draw Kuyperian blood.
My sense is that you are flailing at anyone who brings back the bad memories or your church experience. I understand that. I have some wounds myself. But for the sake of winning an argument, your flailing doesn’t help. I can’t imagine it works with judges, gay or straight.
And I’m still curious about your NT basis for your behavior. I cannot imagine Paul counseling this church to sue the school district just because they couldn’t use sacramental wine. Would it be evidence of Christian humility for me to sue the city of Philadelphia for forbidding me from smoking in my favorite bar?
RE: “I doubt, however, that it’s helpful to describe Zrim and those who agree with him as “extremist.” They aren’t trying to infringe on your liberty. That’s a big difference isn’t it? For my part I think the 2K analysis frees me from all forms of extremism (whether quietism or theocracy/theonomy).”
But Zrim has indeed described himself as a “quietist” – which is described here as being a form of “extremism.”
I took that to be sarcasm and not genuine, but I’ll let Z speak for himself.
Phil, I did at one time accept the term “quietist,” but it was only as an alternative to “activist.” I’m certainly no activist. If that makes me a “quietist,” ok, but I don’t think the term really captures my own outlook at all. It smacks of the very world-flight piety I rejected in my broad evangelical days and exchanged for the world-affirming piety of Reformation Christianity. The way I choose to participate in the wider world, as opposed to withdrawal from it and into religio-ghetto or transfrom it, I like to characterize as being active as opposed to being activist. Maybe you think that’s a tortured distinction, but I think it’s the same sort of distinction one can make between believing and living in light of the gospel as opposed to living the gospel, or the difference between being a moral man and a moralist.
Darrell, I hold states’ rights view on abortion (yes, that was my reference). The problem with Roe was that it took rights away from states to decide how to govern themselves on this one. And, more germane to the issue at hand, I’m with Bork when he says:
“I oppose abortion. But an amazing number of people thought that I would outlaw abortion. They didn’t understand that not only did I have no desire to do that, but I had no power to do it. If you overrule Roe v. Wade, abortion does not become illegal. State legislatures take on the subject. The abortion issue has produced divisions and bitterness in our politics that countries don’t have where abortion is decided by legislatures. And both sides go home, after a compromise, and attempt to try again next year. And as a result, it’s not nearly the explosive issue as it is here where the court has grabbed it and taken it away from the voters.”
In otheer words, another problem was that it helped escalate the vitriol to screed level to the point that abortion politics cannot be discussed without insanity. To wit, your forthing to me about repentance and blood. Don’t look now, but you’re helping me make my point.
Oh, and by the way, in case you’ve forgotten, it was my work arranging for a translation of Dutch-language article written by a visiting Calvin Seminary professor from the GKN who was supporting gay civil unions that got Dr. James A. DeJong, at that time president of Calvin Seminary, to terminate the professor. By GKN standards, he was a conservative, and he was a really nice guy who I personally liked and with whom I spent a fair amount of time discussing theology in the library, but his views were outside the level of tolerability for the CRC.
Surely, as a member of the Christian Reformed Church, you want to at least hold to the standards upheld by your own seminary.
Thanks for your post. It is helpful to describe Zrim’s view and that of other marginal 2K advocates as “extremist” because it’s accurate and it serves to distinguish sound 2K analysis (of the kind that WSC offers) from that which is both erroneous and outside the mainstream and Reformed tradition. My concern is not so much to persuade Zrim or those in his camp (I think they are beyond persuading) but to persuade others not to confuse it with legitimate 2K analysis or with WSC. It helps with the development efforts if people don’t misattribute it to the seminary.
I appreciate your sympathy for my ‘pain,’ but it’s misplaced. I long ago reconciled with my brothers who misapplied 2K. We are fine and agree to disagree. I don’t “ding” WSC, but rather support it. What is the NT passage that would preclude a Reformed church corporation from availing itself of clear First Amendment case law that says it has the constitutional right to use sacramental wine and holding an errant government accountable when it errs? (Your analogy to smoking in Philadelphia is inapposite because you have no constitutional right to smoke in public, and any suit would be worse than arrogant; it would be frivolous.)
DGH, I should have added that the church officers were in jeopardy of being charged with a misdemeanor for bringing alcohol on public school property. Our case established the precedent for the state that that statute could not constitutinally be applied to a religious body in its use of sacramental wine as part of a religious ceremony on property rented from a government entity under the Civic Center Act. By virtue of that precedent, churches throughout the jurisiction that rent from schools or other government bodies were assured of the right to hold the Lord’s Supper in the manner that they believed was appropriate under their confessional standards and biblical interpretation. The district court judge sternly rebuked the superintendent and County Counsel for taking such an absurd position as to deny a church the right to hold Communion. In short, a great deal of good came from this exercise.
In light of this, I’d be curious to know why you think this was wrong? Was this represenation a violaiton of 2K? Unwise? Why or why not?
CVD, I don’t necessarily think your involvement in this case is wrong. I simply would not have pursued. If I were on the session or consistory of the congregation, I’d have advised, “let’s use grape juice, finish the term of our lease, and find somewhere else to rent.” I don’t know what your particular justifications were to the folks involved, but in other comments here you make it seem as if we are in a culture war where the stakes are of eschatological significance. And given how you continue to invoke this experience, it seems like you were very invested in it. But I don’t see how big a deal using grape juice instead of wine is for the sake of using a facility when another is not available. But from a culture war model, I guess I could see how some might dig in their heels.
As for NT texts, Paul seems to recommend humility and suffering as the way of Christian life in Phil. 2. And almost every epistle by Peter or Paul includes a brief for submitting to the authorities. Those sure would seem to be passages that could justify abiding the state’s decision and not going to court.
DGH, well, you would not have persued it, but the Reformed pastor of this church did. He and his Session sought my legal counsel, and I obliged. I had no personal scruple against helping them.
Not being an attorney, you are not aware of the way lawyers, judges, and the legal system thinks and operates. You look at a factual situation and evaluate only the facts before you. Why not grape juice? Let me put it to you this way. A doctore sees a small nodule on your lymph node. It’s cancerous, but it’s smaller than a marble. What’s the big deal about a tiny node? Is the doctor obscessive? Maybe he’s just over-invested in knives and loves cutting? No. Because the small nodule can grow and kill the body. So he gets rid of it while it’s small before it grows.
Just wine? Why fight about it? Because a wrong had been done by the magsitrate in violation of a constitutional principle. The issue before courts and lawyers is always bigger than the case at hand. The principle is bigger than the case at hand. The culture of constitutional law is to see one violation as giving birth to a thousand more if the magistrate is not stopped, and so constitutional lawyers, mindful of the effect of precedent, believe in being ever vigilent and pouncing on even trivial violations in order to prevent larger ones. The deeper issue was more important than the wine v. grape juice, but the freedom to practice religion as the religious adherent sees fit. If the government can dictate how to do Communion, the government can dictate whom to worship or who may worship. So we go hammer and tong against the small violation so it doesn’t become a big violation. That principle, when vindicated, will protect not only Reformed churches, but even synogogues and mosques, even atheists.
I see that as doing a neighborly, charitable thing, for the whole body politic. And not incidentally, helping a Reformed church practice Communion the way they have a right to.
Yes, submit to the authorities, but when the lesser magistrates don’t submit to the authorities, the lesser magisrate has no authority. In law his order is a nullity and need not be obeyed. It can be opposed, and should be to keep the magistrate in line. Enough suffering comes the Christian’s way without submitting to injustice by a magisrtate acting unlawfully.
Would you say African-Americans were wrong to oppose racial injustice in the South during the 1960s? Were Christians wrong to work to rectify that? Should they have just sumbitted? Was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a mistake — it was crafted by, lobbied for by, and driven by Christians. Are Christians wrong to oppose apartied?
If Christians in tyrannical regimes have no legal rights to avail, of course they should submit. They did not live in a constitutional republic. But where they did have rights, did not they take them? Was Paul wrong to appeal to Caesar? Perhaps he should have re-read Phil. 2? I dont’ mean to be flip, but I think your exegesis is assuming and reading into the text a lot more freight than those texts were intended to carry.
CVD, are you kidding that only attorneys see the long term implications of small policies? Why some of us can even see the long term implications of federal governments telling states what to do (like the Civil Rights Act) or sending federal troops into states to enforce said policy). And you call yourself a libertarian.
And what kind of discernment likens the absence of wine in the Lord’s Supper to Jim Crow? Frankly, I do think that worship is more important than voting in the overall scheme of things. What you seem to miss is that pastor and his church were worshiping. Christians in Eritrea don’t. And I need to get out more?
DGH, so we’ve established that you oppose the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that granted equality before the law for African-Americans and all citizens. Do you also oppose state laws that do the same?
As I understand your scorn at Christian Prop 8 advocates, however, you oppose Prop 8 and efforts by Christians to withhold equal marriage rights to gays to marry, and thus effectively favor equal marriage rights for gays before the law. (I assume you personally oppose homosexuality as a confessionally Reformed person, but do not want to enshrine that confessional conviction into the force of law. Correct?). On what basis, then, do you oppose legislation guaranteeing equal rights for African-Americans but favor laws guaranteeing equal rights for gays? Help me out here.
I am curious, on what authority are you calling Zrim, or any other 2ker an extremist? Is this simply your opinion, or are there others that would corroborate your claims. I am honestly asking, not just trying to needle you here. As I understand it, 2k as WSC, and other authors/theologians are articulating the views broadly labeled as 2k, there hasn’t yet been a determination of what is extreme and what isn’t.
From where I sit, it sure seems like you are making this incredibly personal. We obviously are open to your scrutiny since we are putting our views out there and attaching our names to it, and that’s part of the game. But in the case of Zrim, you seem to be going out of your way to paint him as an extremist. Now I am glad that you aren’t attacking his piety, or his confessional standing (which IMO is how we should be making substantive analysis of our brothers); but the “extremist, dangerous, etc” rhetoric looks a lot like a personal attack on his character. I really don’t get it.
I have combed through our interactions, and those that you and Z and DGH have had, and I haven’t seen them go after you in this way. Maybe I am wrong here, and you can point that out to me. I am not sure we are ever going to agree on this specific issue, but the “extreme” label that you are throwing out seems to be a bit premature, what I see are profound differences of opinion and conscience. Honestly, where do we go from here?
I can’t speak for CVD, but I’ll explain why I’m using that word.
I have picked up on CVD’s term of “extremist” to differentiate ZRim from men like Dr. Clark, Dr. Hart, and others. I’m honestly surprised to see people here objecting to calling ZRim an “extremist.”
Has ZRim taken the 2Ker theology of Clark, Hart, et al, to extreme conclusions, or not? That’s a very important question for me.
So far, I’ve been regarding ZRim as a former officebearer of a flagship left-of-center Christian Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids, and have tried to carefully avoid blaming Dr. Clark and others for the things ZRim writes. I have to wade through enough garbage that gets posted on a secular news discussion site I help administer as part of my business to know that I don’t want to be blamed for every comment out there. That’s the nature of the modern internet; unlike traditional letters to the editor in newspapers and magazines, people expect free-ranging discussion and it’s not fair to blame a website owner for the people who post comments. Unfortunately, in my world I have to deal with stuff that is not just doctrinally aberrant but potentially libelous, and I run the daily risk of getting sued because of someone posting nastygrams on my news articles if I don’t catch and stop it quickly.
On the other hand, if ZRim is not an extremist, and if the stuff he is writing is a fair representation of what multiple ordained ministers who teach at Westminster and other institutions believe but choose not to say in public, we have a very different problem.
Some here know about CRC-Voices, a wildly left-wing discussion group on which the worst wackos of the CRC started spouting their stuff in the early 1990s. I was a CRC-Voices member for years, and probably still am though I have not checked my account for at least half a decade. There are things being said on the Heidelblog that if they had been posted on CRC-Voices two decades ago, would have gotten the person posting in a lot of trouble. ZRim is a CRC member and is outside any effective form of church discipline. Most of the Heidelblog posters are members of NAPARC denominations, and many are officebearers. The men here who have signed the Form of Subscription or equivalent OPC/PCA documents probably need to give some serious thought to the fact that people read this blog who are far from supportive of what is being posted here, and it’s already causing problems.
There is a difference from people having a problem with Zrim’s opinions, and Zrim’s opinions causing problems. I am curious as to what problems Zrim is causing. Is he causing people to stumble into sin?
What I don’t see you differentiating is a man’s freedom of conscience on non-confessional issues and true violations of our confessions. If you read anything Zrim writes on the Reformed Confessions on his blog or on the blogs he frequents, you’ll find out quite quickly that Zrim takes subscription quite seriously.
The fact that you and CVD are throwing extreme around without some sort of ecclesiastical warrant is alarming. CVD should know better since he has faced it from the other side. I frankly don’t agree with all of Zrim’s analysis, but I don’t begrudge him for it. I find him to be one of the most thought provoking Reformed bloggers out there and I appreciate his willingness to put his name to his ideas even when it costs him. So far I am seeing a committee of exactly two who are leveling serious accusations against a confessing believer. If Zrim’s views are in violation of the confessions in any area, show me. Otherwise your accusations are baseless and borderline slanderous. The problem here is that no one is maligning you personally for your views Darrell, even if they disagree. I realize that this discussion in particular is bound to be spirited, but some of the rhetoric here is the stuff of schoolyard bullying.
This line of dialogue is getting ridiculous. This is a blog. This is not an ecclesiastical document, nor is this a church court nor is this a sessional inquiry. This isn’t even over a confessed article of belief (homosexual marriage pro or con) This is nothing but overwrought angst looking for some legitimacy in a combox on the internet. Homosexual marriage in this conversation is nothing more than a hot button political issue, and more red meat for political conservatives to wring their hands over and apparently threaten possible negative financial and ecclesiastical consequences if you don’t bend the knee to their particular brand of political activism . Ridiculous. Relax and have a beer and a smoke.
Sean wrote: “This isn’t even over a confessed article of belief (homosexual marriage pro or con) This is nothing but overwrought angst looking for some legitimacy in a combox on the internet.”
You cannot possibly be serious; you must be trying to get me angry. Am I really reading on the blog of a Westminster professor that homosexual marriage is not a confessional issue?
I heard that kind of talk twenty years ago in the Christian Reformed Church by a couple of ordained ministers who drew a parallel between women in office and homosexuality and argued that both issues were nonconfessional matters on which people could legitimately disagree. That was shot down rapidly by Calvin Seminary’s leadership who argued that the extreme views of some members of the Christian Reformed Church advocating gay marriage were not a consistent application of the hermeneutic that allowed for the ordination of women.
Dr. Clark, I’ve seen nothing you’ve written to even remotely cause me to believe that you don’t believe homosexual marriage is a confessional matter. But I hope you can understand why I get very unhappy when I read things like this from people who profess to be advocates of a “two kingdoms” theology. They may very well be extremists who have misunderstood your theology, but they are causing real problems and leading to serious confusion — not just by me but also by others.
Are you holding me responsible for every comment? Do you realize that there are 18,000 comments here?
Jed, I thought I had made clear I wasn’t singling out Zrim, and certainly not personally. I don’t make personal attacks. It’s the teaching that he exemplifies that is at issue. I’m prepared to assume he’s a great guy and godly man. That’s not the issue. The teaching is the issue. It’s not at all personal. When I leave this vauge, posters want an exemple. So I paid Zrim the compliment of offering him as the most eloquent and frequent commentator on this point of view, but of course, I run across many in the Reformed world. They are harshly critical of the work I do as violative of the 2K principle, indeed of most of the professional work I do, from my lobbying to my litigation to my advising of clients. I hear it all the time. I would cite them but I want to respect their privacy and you wouldn’t know who they are anyway. Zrim is already out there. If that offends Zrim or you, I didn’t mean to and would be happy to leave it anonymous if all will stipulate not to demand specifics. It is the teaching that is dangerous because if it were accepted — and I assume its advocates hope to persuade — it would be hazardous to liberty, to the culture, to have Christians disabled from opposing the magistrate when he errs, from opposing evil in the culture, from helping alleviate injustice, and helping preserve liberty for all, even for those with whom we disagree. I feel strongly about constitutinal freedoms we enjoy in this culture, and I see a teaching that says don’t protect those freedoms as toxic.
But please know I respect the piety of those with whom I disagree. Litigators tend to write and speak with strong prose, but after a debate we shake hands and enjoy a beer together. I’d love to do that with Zrim, whomever he is. And with you. Bless you for caring enough.
“you have a moral obligation to speak out against the homosexual agenda…
We really do have a gathering storm of satanic armies marshaling their forces in California. They have to be fought, and fought hard, and fought knowing that the future of our country is at stake…and speak loudly, or you will have only yourself to blame if in one to two generations the United States has exchanged religious toleration for an anti-Christian agenda comparable to modern France”
“Homosexual agenda” is stereotyping. There is no Black agenda, Jewish agenda, etc…Homosexuals are not homogeneous on their political views. Some are against gay marriage, some only for civil sex unions, many are not into politics, and most are quiet about their sexuality, not marching in silly parades.
As for calling them satanic armies we must oppose, I think Paul said something about our enemies not being flesh and blood. As a minister I only worry about how to reach homosexuals with the gospel, not how to oppose them politically.
There is a reason most gays in this country think we hate them; it is rhetoric like yours that speak of them as enemies. I don’t see the Lord doing this in the gospels. Now Pharisees – that’s another matter.
The culture *war* is about angry people in love of this world fighting over whose vision of heaven on earth wins out – both hating the other side. Christians should be very careful not to throw their lot emotionally with one side or another – left or right, even while agreeing with and getting involved in certain causes if they choose.
As for worrying about our rights being taken away, as Christians we are already rich; we have everything in Christ. And the Word of God cannot be chained. Unbelievers are under condemnation and face eternal judgment. Why should I worry about the few brief years of life, that unbelievers have more political rights than me? That would be like me, being healthy, complaining about my neighbor who has terminal cancer and two months to live, that he is stepping over my flowers every day on his walk. It seems Christ-like this age that is passing away, to care more about unbelievers’ rights and concerns than our own.
Rev. Bordow, I don’t know you or your church so I don’t want to make assumptions about your past experiences ministering to homosexuals.
My home church is in Greenwich Village, and for many years was the only evangelical church in the area. The church’s membership has numerous converted homosexuals. Also, I work in the news media where I’ve dealt with homosexuals — both the “out-and-in-your-face” and the “mostly-in-the-closet” versions — for most of my adult life.
That means I might know more than a little bit about how to stay friends with people who fundamentally disagree with me on virtually everything. The media is not exactly friendly to evangelicals, which means that for some of my homosexual friends, I have been the only evangelical Christian they’ve ever known beyond casual acquaintances. Talking to a man who has just been “dumped” by his boyfriend because he thinks I’m the only friend who will listen to him without “hitting on” him is an interesting experience. I should not say more publicly on the internet but I just might perhaps have a lot more experience than the average evangelical in dealing with homosexuals because of my work and the places where I’ve previously lived.
One thing that does not work is compromising the gospel to be “nice.” We live in America, not Azerbaijan, and virtually everybody knows what evangelical doctrine teaches about homosexuality. All that will be accomplished by failing to be clear about that is causing homosexuals to believe we’re being dishonest or that we’re actually liberals.
Glad to hear you are befriending homosexuals. But who said anything about not being clear about whether homosexuality is sinful? That is not the issue. That doesn’t mean I must oppose them when they want political rights. Same with Mormons, atheists, etc… But they are not our enemies. And we would gain a better hearing for the gospel with them if we did not consider them enemies. Albiet there are always those who have a thought-through long-term political agenda for everything, the fight for gay marriage for many gays is simply a desire for intimacy. They see the committed relationship that marriage can be and want that for themselves. That is a God-given desire. It would help if we recognized this, even if you want to try humbly to convice them and others it is a bad idea for society. But Darryl is right – it is simply legalism (and all legalism is done in the name of God, holiness, the Law, etc…) to expect all Christians to be on your side on this political issue, or any other political issue.
Rev. Bordow: I can see myself under certain circumstances telling a practicing homosexual that his desire for marriage is something placed in his heart by God, but he’s going about it the wrong way and that he’s going to destroy himself and others by acting in ways that are contrary to God’s “owner’s manual” for our lives.
In most cases, what I’ve seen from male homosexuals has been rampant and extreme promiscuity, and my problem has been that most of the heterosexual men in the newsroom were just as promiscuous in seeking female targets for their affections, and that many of the women (especially the more attractive women) were quite willing to become bedhoppers. There have been times I’ve wondered if I walked into an episode of “Sex and the City.”
At least with our young people, I’m not convinced that the institution of marriage is going to survive much longer as an expectation of something to look forward to. If it weren’t for tax advantages, which often don’t apply to high-earning two-income couples, I’m not sure how many people would be getting married in today’s secular elite environments.
We may be confronted with such tremendous immorality in the heterosexual world that gay marriage becomes an irrelevant issue.
If you do not want to say that people who advocate living that way are enemies of the cross of Christ, that’s your choice if it is merely a matter of terminology. Often we gain more by honey than by vinegar. But the Bible is not mild in its terms for such people, and we **ARE** called to hate those who God hates, and who are open enemies of the Cross.
“But the Bible is not mild in its terms for such people, and we **ARE** called to hate those who God hates, and who are open enemies of the Cross”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5)
Maybe you need a better biblical theology.
Rev. Bordow wrote, “Maybe you need a better biblical theology,”
… after quoting my statement that “But the Bible is not mild in its terms for such people, and we **ARE** called to hate those who God hates, and who are open enemies of the Cross” and citing Matt. 5:43-45.
Okay, Rev. Bordow. When I write in a Reformed publication for a Reformed audience on Reformed theological topics, I typically presume a certain level of commonality in theology. I’ve been assuming that you are a Reformed pastor of a Reformed church, but I don’t know that to be true, and perhaps I’m wrong.
So let’s backtrack a little bit, the way I would expect to do things in my dispensational and fundamentalist community, where confusion about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments is typical, and where the concept of God hating and calling us to hate not just sin but sinners is novel due to a low view of the Law.
I certainly affirm Matt 5:43-45 and its call, using the words of Christ Himself, to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” But I am also required to affirm the inerrant and infallible Word of God in Psalm 139:20-22, which reads: “21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”
So what is the difference? Did God change His mind between the Old and New Testaments? Are we in some intermediate period where we are called to actions of love which were prohibited by the Old Testament and will be prohibited in the days of the Second Coming of Christ? Does God dispense his grace in radically different ways at different times, i.e., dispensationalism?
Unless your answers to those questions are “yes” — and again, I’m assuming I’m talking to a Reformed man, so the answer has to be “no,” since you as a Reformed pastor believe God is unchanging and His Word abides forever — the difference between Psalm 139 and Matt. 5 is that while we are called to love our personal enemies and to forgive wrongdoing against us, we are still called to hate those who God hates.
This is not a minor point of the Bible, or just a single verse taken out of context.
God hates the wicked, as seen in Deut. 7:9-10, and will not be slow in destroying them: “9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.”
Also, God promises eternal punishment and cringing to those who hate Him, as seen in Psalm 81:15: “Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.”
It is not just that God hates the wicked, but also that He calls us to hate the wicked.
God rebukes those who fail to hate the wicked and love and help them instead, as seen in II Chron 19:1-3: “1 When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, 2 Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD ? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you.'”
God calls us to sing praises to him declaring that we hate those who worship him falsely, as seen in Psalm 31:6: “I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD.”
God promises blessings to those who hate wickedness, Psalm 45:7: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
If you want to say I need a better theology, that’s fine. We all need to go back to the Bible and prove our positions from what He says, not what we say. So please, interact with these passages of God’s inerrant and infallible Word.
If you are Reformed, your theological tradition has very good explanations of the relationship between the Old and the New Testament, and how we are to love God’s law and hate sin. If you are not Reformed, I realize these passages may be unfamiliar to you, but they’re part of the Bible and you have to believe them if you want to be a Christian.
And for my Reformed readers who are probably wondering why I’m doing this — I have to do it regularly down here in the Ozarks, where a light view of sin and of the law causes major problems in the churches and lots of people who think they’re Christians based solely on having walked the aisle twenty years ago in an altar call. I pass out copies of the Heidelberg Catechism fairly often to friends who are not Reformed. Unfortunately, I think what I’m doing is creating Calvinist charismatics and Calvinist baptists and Calvinist campbellites because I don’t have any confessionally Reformed church anywhere in this area to which I can send people who get excited about something they’ve never seen before in the biblical relationship between the Old and New Testaments and the biblical relationship between sin and grace. Maybe someday God will decide to do something around this area to start a confessionally Reformed church, but for now, all I can do is point people to what the Bible says, hand them a catechism, and tell them that if they want to drive an hour and a half with me to church, they’re welcome to do so. Not surprisingly, most don’t.
“I’ve been assuming that you are a Reformed pastor of a Reformed church, but I don’t know that to be true, and perhaps I’m wrong.”
I am an OPC pastor, but don’t let that throw you.
You wrote, “I certainly affirm Matt 5:43-45 and its call, using the words of Christ Himself, to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” But I am also required to affirm the inerrant and infallible Word of God in Psalm 139:20-22, which reads: “21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” “So what is the difference? Did God change His mind between the Old and New Testaments? Are we in some intermediate period where we are called to actions of love which were prohibited by the Old Testament and will be prohibited in the days of the Second Coming of Christ?”
Great questions, and basically, the answer to these questions is yes; though I would not quite state the questions as you have.
The kingdom of Israel was one of typology. Israel typified the church. Canaan typified the New Heavens and Earth. The ethics belonging to Israel in regard to their enemies typified final judgment. So for example, Israel was called to love their own (Lev 19:17&18), and they were called to love the foreigner who resided with them in Israel (19:33&34), but when it came to Israel’s national enemies, especially the Canaanites in the Land, a different ethic guided Israel, an ethic of no mercy and hatred. The hatred verses you quoted apply here. The Israelites were to completely destroy the tribes in the Land and show them “no mercy” (Deut 7:2). So hatred for certain categories of people were proper under the Old Covenant where Canaan typified heaven and nations had typological significance.
In the New Covenant, that call to hate has been suspended until final judgment. Jesus changed this OT ethic in Matt 5. Our Lord on the cross prayed for his enemies, he did not ask God to curse them. In the New Covenant, there are no categories of people we are to love and show mercy to, and others we are to hate and not show mercy to, like in the Old.
In the Old, the Gentile nations against Israel were treated with wrath by God’s people picturing final judgment; the Israelites were God’s agents of judgment. In the New, now that the types have passed, were are reminded (Eph 6) that our enemies are not flesh and blood. And as Christians we are to love all and do good to all (Gal 10), have mercy on all (Romans 9:3,11:12), follwing God’s heart and plan for this age, and God at final judgment will punish with holy hatred, hatred pictured in the conquest of Canaan, hatred suspended in this new covenant age of gospel expansion and grace.
Pastor Bordow, excellent and concise summary of the redemptive-historical principle of periodicity. Also gracious and inspiring. Thanks.
Rev. Bordow, since you are an Orthodox Presbyterian minister, I’m going to bow out of this discussion about the role of the Old Testament.
What you said the first time sounded like what I typically hear from non-Reformed people who simply do not understand the abiding wrath of God on the wicked or the continuing validity of the Old Testament in the “church age.”
Your followup explanation helps a lot, and I appreciate it.
More importantly, I trust the OPC to ensure the confessional integrity of its ministers. While I would use different terminology than what you chose, largely because of the tremendous damage done by dispensationalism in the American evangelical church, I’m quite sure that if we hashed this out, we’d find we agree on the concepts though perhaps differ on the terms we use to express them. An OPC man did not get into the ministry without a very intensive examination into what he believes and teaches. Further discussion on this issue would likely sidetrack us into paths that would imply that I’m calling your confessional integrity into question, when I have no intention of doing anything of the sort.
Thanks for the response. I think that these distinctions are easily lost here. For the moment I will set aside your constitutional advocacy, because I broadly agree with you that our constitution should be rightly upheld and applied – I personally have no axe to grind with you here even if we might have some minor disagreements on some details.
I certainly am not seeking to violate the confidentiality that you might have with your clients, or with those whom you lobby on behalf of. However, I do wonder if their prior political commitments might also play into their concern over Zrim’s positions here, or mine, if they are concerned with these as well, I suspect this might be the case where you are working as a lobbyist. If those you are assisting and/or representing are promoting politically conservative views like an affirmative on Prop 8, obviously they are going to be alarmed at Zrim’s unwillingness to join the crusade or affirm its validity. I suppose if I were of this persuasion I might be alarmed as well.
However, the problem is, Zrim’s brand of quietism (sorry Z, for lacking a better definition) has at least some warrant in the NT. He is building a case based on a broad absence of political activism in the apostolic period in the church, by her leaders in particular. He is advocating a submission to our fallen magistrate that is akin to the apostle’s insistence that Christian’s submit to Caesar and his regime. Mind you the regime that stained the earth with the blood of the martyrs. I don’t see him making blanket statement debunking all activism, even if he does question the motivation behind it.
I don’t necessarily share all of Zrim’s views as far as how this all plays out, just like you and I don’t see eye to eye on Prop. 8. The problem I see with pigeon-holing his views as extreme is that it gives the impression that those of a more conservative political persuasion are unquestionably right. The conflation of the 2ks is a real problem. Even where you maintain distinctions, and can balance political activism with a robust ecclesiology, there are so many who don’t. It’s as if it is in the air we breathe. Too often political conservatives (mind you I am also generally pretty conservative) get a pass, as if their views are legitimated by some sort of divine right. The problem is when you search the scriptures, it is hard to uncover incontrovertible warrant for this. The net effect is that dissension is squashed and the “extremist” flag get’s raised. Maybe Zrim’s minority opinions are valuable because they bring angles to the discussion that others might miss.
One of the things I appreciate most about 2k Theo is that it doesn’t prescribe a monolithic political position, it is a respecter of individual conscience and does not unduly deprive this. There is room for divergent views of politics and civil involvement while maintaining an ecclesiology that promotes unity on the basis of a common confession. I do see a great danger for the 2k movement when others are so easily marginalized for their politics. And let’s be realistic, most 2k-ers are fairly conservative in general, and I seriously doubt they will simply shift left or decide to disengage the political process without serious and careful thought. It’s not as if any of us are out to dupe anyone here.
Anyhow, I am up later than I’d like to be so I am going to nod off. But I have appreciated the conversation CVD, disagreements notwithstanding.
The appeal to the idol of “equality” or “equal rights” in order to establish the marriage of sodomites and lesbians is fallacious. One might as well prosecute the NBA for having an inadequate percentage of whites represented on the team rosters or the the NFL because there are no female linebackers.
More to the point, while marriage traditionally, historically, religiously and legally has been between a man and a woman, that does not mean that a male may marry his mother, sister or daughter, never mind at the same time, much more a prepubescent girl, not to mention a dog, bicycle, or TV even before we start talking about a man or a boy.
IOW the homosexuals are trying to cut the line and want special rights/privileges and woe be unto the “homophobes” who dare to object. No more, no less. That is one bad outcome of the overturning of Prop. 8.
I hit “reply” to the wrong post. I guess that’s what happens when I try to write a few hours after midnight. 😉
Here’s a link to what I meant to say here, along with the first section of my post:
Dr. Clark wrote: “Are you holding me responsible for every comment? Do you realize that there are 18,000 comments here?”
The short answer is no, definitely not.
However, the short answer isn’t enough. You’ve raised a really, really important question.
This is a broader issue than just gay marriage, and it goes to the heart of the nature of such issues as what academic freedom means in a Christian college, university or seminary, as well as what it means to be a Christian in the publishing world who takes biblical authority and confessional integrity seriously.
CVD, I oppose the way the federal government ended Jim Crow. I opposed the way the federal government started prohibition. Neither of those positions makes me support segregation or drunkenness. I’m surprised that an attorney cannot distinguish between the means and the end of particular policy. But, since you equate the use of sacramental wine with equal rights for African-Americans, I should swallow some of my surprise. Is there something in the genetic code of the Dutch that causes this problem? Kloosterman makes the same mistake.
Also, while we are clarifying things, I believe in the rights of citizens of states to craft laws and to enforce them. So I appreciate what California did (though I don’t like the Progressive tradition of referenda) on gay marriage and what Arizona did on illegal immigration. What I disagree with is the notion that overturning Prop 8 means the sky if falling. It’s not a good decision or a good cultural moment. It is not Armageddan.
Dutch people being genetically predisposed to be “stijfkoppen?”
Nah, it couldn’t possibly be…
Dr. Hart, at least I can agree with you on one point… the Dutch are stubborn in their convictions once they’re convinced they’re right. That can be a good or bad thing depending on whether they actually are right.
BTW, for those who are not “ware Gereformeerden” (i.e., “truly Reformed”), “stijfkoppen” can be translated as “stiff heads” or “stubborn mules” depending on context.
DGH, you mischaracterize what I wrote, and you didn’t answer the question.
CVD, WRONG. I answered it’s just not the answer that either agrees with you and Kloosterman or that condemns me to sheol. I expected better from an attorney. Your culture war underwear is showing.
DGH, I know an evasive witness when I see one. I expected more candor.
I know I’m usually more of bomb thrower than peacemaker but I’m a little frustrated by the way this discussion has gone.
CVD calls Zrim et al radical and pacifist etc.
DGH et al call CVD a culture warrior
CVD replies by calling DGH “evasive.”
Maybe it’s time to take a break?
At least this discussion should illustrate that there are a variety of views and approaches to the “Christ and culture” problem that find themselves under the umbrella “2K.”
CVD, right, and we now see someone who turns a conversation into a cross-examination. Swell.
Scott, you forgot to add that DGH calls RSC a weenie.
CVD calls Zrim et al radical and pacifist etc. DGH et al call CVD a culture warrior.
Not to over-extend the love fest, but let’s not forget CVD’s other adverbial adjectives: “profoundly foolish, unbiblical, deeply immoral, pious nonsense, exegetically without warrant, logically erroneous, cruel and heartless, diseased reasoning, madness and evil and dangerous naïveté.” Paging CVD (and DTM?), Gilbert and William Tennent on line one.
And I’m not sure suggesting “culture warrior” is tantamount to these abuses. Besides that, I’m not sure what other term to use when so much of the reasoning seems so similar to culture warriorism: there’s a culture to be preserved, and legislation is the key to its preservation. Is it only bad when evangelicals do it but ok when Reformed do, as in they can’t do it because they’re them but we can because we’re us? I don’t know, sounds like a variant of Reformed narcissism.
As one who is in the middle here, weenie that I am, once again I think that all the parties to refrain from rhetorical flourishes. It will help the discussion.
As to whether there is a culture to preserve, wouldn’t that fall under “common grace”? Isn’t that part of the 3rd point of Synod Kalamazoo? God is restraining evil, in this interim age and part of that restraint of evil is the preservation of a civil culture of some kind, isn’t it?
Culture, as Ken Myers reminds us, is inevitable. We create culture(s). The question isn’t whether but which and of what sort.
I was privileged to be in the Escondido OPC last night where Zach Keele preached a terrific sermon from Acts 25 (which I hope to publish in the not-too-distant future) noting that Paul was both appellant in a civil case AND a willing martyr for the gospel.
Paul was a two-kingdoms/two ages man! He exercised his civil rights, forcing the authorities to send him to Rome. He understood the politics of what was happening. The new magistrate in Jerusalem wanted to get rid of the problem and essentially murder him. He was willing to be martyred but he wasn’t foolhardy. He had a call to go to Rome and he did but in a jail cell! Not exactly what he may have had in mind.
Paul didn’t invest his hopes entirely in this age/world/kingdom but he did live in it and he did exercise his (natural) rights. He insisted that the magistrate act justly (it’s a covenant of works) but he was also ready to die when the time came. Like Jesus, he didn’t call down judgment from heaven. He exercised his citizenship in both kingdoms. He wasn’t trying to transform the civil kingdom into the kingdom of God but he did expect it to conform to divinely created justice revealed in nature and in the conscience.
It seems as if Paul struck a balanced, Christ-like pattern for us to follow.
ZRim wrote: “Paging CVD (and DTM?), Gilbert and William Tennent on line one.”
If that’s a reference to the Tennent’s attack on unconverted ministers, I have not made that accusation about anyone in this discussion. Perhaps CVD has made that accusation somewhere I haven’t read, but I have not done that here about anyone — even you, ZRim.
I am from the Edwardsean theological tradition, and yes, I do believe there is a time and a place to attack false shepherds as unconverted devourers of sheep. I will do that on rare occasions with men (or women) pastors and professors who are spouting damnable heresies, but I’m extremely hesitant to do that even with regard to most ministers I know in the mainline denominations unless I know they are not only teaching heretical doctrine but clearly understand the heresy and teach it anyway. I cannot remotely imagine me making that accusation with regard to any minister I know in the OPC or URC, and with regard to OPC and URC ministers I don’t know, I trust the ecclesiastical assemblies of both denominations to carefully examine people’s doctrine and life.
I’m also being careful to distinguish between the views of Dr. Hart and Dr. Clark and the views of some of the people commenting on this blog. I have multiple reasons for that, but one huge factor is that I have a high level of respect for the scholarship of Westminster, and if I have serious problems with the views of a Westminster professor or former professor, one of my first questions ought to be whether I have understood him correctly.
If there’s someone making accusations that someone posting here is unconverted, it most assuredly is not me.
Thanks Ref, err Dr. Clark for stepping in here. I also appreciate your willingness to open up a forum to discuss this important issue.
It seems like the lines are pretty clearly drawn in this discussion as to how Christians should be involved in the political/civic sphere both individually and as the church. One thing I would like to highlight in your example of the apostle Paul is that his political involvement and calculations were all part of his apostolic ministry and he leveraged his rights as a Roman citizen for the sake of his ministry and for the advance of the gospel. As I read his accounts I am struck by his silence on Roman policy, he used the laws to serve the purposed of his ministry and not as an impetus to transform Roman politics.
I know that the use of WCF 31.4 is directly related to this discussion. I think that Paul and the apostles political involvements should be instructive in how the corporate church speaks to the magistrate in “cases extraordinary”. As I see it, the main question in addressing the magistrate in these extraordinary circumstances is how does this directly bear of the ministry of the gospel? Will the church’s official involvement help or hinder the advance of the gospel? In the apostolic era petitions weren’t made to the magistrate even to uphold basic rights such as the freedom of assembly and worship. Persecution was a given, and there wasn’t political push back from the church.
I am not saying that we should not involve ourselves in the political process or seek to maintain our contemporary rights, however, it is very difficult to find an NT warrant for official activism. I am challenging the notion that activism is the duty of the church and her officers, especially since activism is in the DNA of the American church for both liberals and conservatives. Have our official stances on Prop. 8 or “don’t ask don’t tell” demonstrably advanced the gospel or have they hindered it? In the case of some of the quasi-official statements like the Manhattan Declaration, aside from the woeful blurring of ecclesiastical lines, has the church inhibited her witness to the world by involving herself in contemporary politics? It is one thing to call sin what it is, it is another to seek the legislation of morality in an official capacity. This leaves me wondering why we expect pagans to live as if they are regenerate. Legislation won’t bring about repentance, if anything the former would preclude the latter.
I wouldn’t conclude from Paul’s example that the ONLY circumstance in which one could invoke one’s natural, civil rights is in the advance of the gospel.
It seems to me that such a position seems to call into question the very existence of “creation” as a category. It seems to allow eschatology to swallow up nature.
We live in both realms simultaneously, don’t we? Nature and grace?
Forgive me if I was unclear, Paul was obviously unique as an apostle, and as such he was not a “private” citizen in the way other believers were. I am not saying that we shouldn’t invoke natural rights, especially as private citizens. In fact I think that the failure to do so in some cases is bad citizenship. What I am trying to get at is that the officers of the church, like the apostles are truly unique in their calling. Like Paul, it isn’t always inappropriate for officers to invoke civil rights, or in some extraordinary cases engage the politics of the day. However, I am suggesting that official engagement by the church or her officers, as opposed to private engagement by individual Christians, should be very careful so as not to conflate politics and the gospel. I think this happens far too often.
I know that the politics of sex, right to life (euthanasia, abortion, etc.) are hot issues, and private Christians can conscientiously choose how they will or will not engage these. But I have real reservations with official engagement. If it is deemed necessary, I would like to see why engagement is somehow vital to the ministry of the church. The point I was trying to make, poorly as I may have, is I think the church needs to exercise extreme caution with her political involvements.
I agree that Christians generally and church officers specifically must be very careful about invoking their natural, civil rights. I think we also agree that the church as church and church officers must not, by political involvement, compromise their ministry of the gospel and their testimony to the spiritual kingdom.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the church as church get involved in the prop 8 discussion or advocate policy etc. That’s not the vocation of the visible church.
In the case of the URC action re the chaplaincy I think that, were they to say anything, synod would have done better simply to petition for religious freedom.
In this discussion I’ve simply been trying to persuade Christians and anyone else who will listen that there is such a thing as nature and that its existence has consequences for behavior. I really trying to persuade late modern Christians, who are greatly tempted to religious and ethical subjectivism, that creation exists, that natural revelation exists, that it witnesses to certain basic realities and truths and that revelation and those truths have consequences for all cultures in all times and places. I hope some Christians, in their capacity as citizens of the civil kingdom will take advantage of the natural revelation and natural law in their discourse about these issues and even, if they choose, in policy debates.
Jed and RSC,
I think RSC summarized the prevailing 2K position and the biblical position, as I’ve understood it. I’ve been very impressed with Dr. Peter Jones’ arguments, which are substantially in line with what Dr. Clark wrote here, that individual Christians would do well to contend for maintaining creation norms. At a minimim I think we can say Christians may do so, and I’d venture to say with Dr. Jones that doing so is part of Christians’ ethical duties to do so to the extent means and opportunity arises. Those opportunties arise in everyday discourse and in public policy debates. We certainly are called to proclaim the Law (and the Gospel). It seems to me that Christians have a great opportunity to use the discussions about gay marriage to segue into Law and Gospel, explaining that we too are sinners and are saved only by grace.
Jed, my comments were not by way of suggesting that the institutional church be involved in policy debates. But you raise WCF 31.4. In my understanding it applies to the institutional church and could not apply to individuals. But on that topic, “cases extraordinary” appears to be worded broadly enought to leave to the church’s consecrated wisdom ferreting out when a case extraordinary arises. As the state’s laws intrude into areas of moral law it seems the case for finding an extraordinary case is greater. At one extreme, the church of 1939 Germany could have concluded that such a case arose as to call for official condenation of state-ordered murder and genocide because state-ordered murder contravenes natural law and revealed law, and because no public policy rationale could save that policy from any construction but that it was state-ordered murder. That is, in such a case there is a complete confluence of state policy and natural law violation. No possible policy rationale could be construed as neutral, fairly debatable policy prescriptions within the domain of the civil authorities. It is pure murder. I’m not making comparisons between the Holocost and anything else since it is unique. Nonetheless it would seem to illustrate an example where a case extraordinary arises warranting church proclamation; if it doesn’t arise there where might it? Other cases would need be addressed on a case by case basis, but it illustrates perhaps the clear case for church proclamation.