Religious Freedom Watch: Deny the Faith or Get Out?

UPDATE 1 August 10

A federal court has dismissed a suit brought by an Eastern Michigan student who was dismissed from an academic program for refusing to counsel homosexuals.

26 July 10

Here’s a disturbing story from a public university in Georgia. Of course there may be more to the story than is reported (which seems to be a publicity release from the legal organization handling the case) but I’m minded to believe it because it resonates with my own experience in a state university. As a matter of civil justice everyone should be concerned about this sort of intolerant, illiberal, modernist-fundamentalist attitude. Where is diversity when it counts?


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  1. The only thing that surprises me is that you are surprised! This sort of thing is becoming the norm here in the UK. It’s quite correct to note the Marxist methods – the Christian needs ‘retraining’ in order to conform. We have all kinds of people sent for ‘retraining’ here – judges, police officers, local authority officials etc. etc. Anyone who lived through the Communist era would recognise it all instantly. What a delight it is to put it all aside and just contemplate the glories of our God.

  2. I know nothing about the case in Augusta, Ga., but I know more than I want to know about the case which the Alliance Defense Fund references when they say they “resolved a case at Missouri State University.” That happened in Springfield and led to major changes, most of which were positive.

    One good thing about public education is that when stories like this get widespread media attention in the South, citizens get very, very, very angry and demand that their elected officials force changes. Let’s just say trying to force Christian students to “tolerate” or “accept” homosexuality in a public tax-supported university does not go down well around here — even secular pagans tend to be pretty virulently anti-homosexual.

    For whatever it’s worth, what happened at Missouri State is an aberration. The secular public schools down here are far more Christian in actual practice and worldview of both students and faculty than what I’ve seen at the so-called “Christian” colleges and high schools associated with the Christian Reformed Church.

    • This case highlights what will be the central battleground for religious freedom in the coming years. I believe that nearly all of the law school faculty at the law school where I teach part time, including the con law profs, would opine that the university is within its rights to deny this Christian woman credentials because of her failure to hold to secular views of human nature and sexuality. And most of the academic law journals today would hold to the same view. Since the Supreme Court’s peyote case (the majority opinion of which was authored by Roman Catholic Justice Scalia, ironically), the Court has eviscerated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. After this case, a “law of general application” may constitutionally be applied to religious persons who may claim no exemption from the law on the basis of religious scruples. The collection of lower federal court cases around the nation are granting no exemptions to Christians or Christian organizations from such blatantly discriminatory laws of general applicaiton because they find that the laws are neutral on their face and do not single out religious belief. This state university simply requires that a counselor hold to certain normative, orthodox beliefs about human beings. If those beliefs leave Christians at the door, too bad for them.

      My Christian colleagues in legal academia believe that the Supreme Court’s peyote case, which overruled several decades of Free Exercise jurisprudence, opened the door to this kind of anti-Christian persecution. We’ve seen only the beginning. Stay tuned. Political pressure in the South may force a change here and there, but as the tide of secular opinion turns against orthodox Christian belief, look for much more of this kind of perverse reasoning. While political pressure may now protect churches from this kind of abuse, nothing in legal principle stands in the way of laws that would in effect mandage that churches comply with all the secular pagan pieties.

      I think this legal battle can still be won by Christian lawyers and judges making sound arguments that religious freedom, for all religions, requires that laws of general application, when applied to silence or punish religious expression or belief, be once again supported by a compelling state interest that cannot be achieved in any less burdensome fashion. In other words, argue for a return to the old Free Exercise standards that were swept away by Justice Scalia’s opinion.

      This requires that Christians be and support activist organizations that will make cooly rational arguments in the courts and legislatures. Unfortuantely, many extremist Reformed two-kingdoms radicals oppose this activity, preferring a cultural-wars pacifism. I respectfully submit that that kind of thinking is dangerously naive and, if it silences Christians from standing up for their rights as U.S. citizens, will lead to the loss of their freedoms to speak and worship like Christians.

  3. CVanDyke: I concur (with your last paragraph). We may, ironically, lose our freedom to worship and live freely in the US because of the pacifism of extreme 2K. My consolation is that it will be the Lord’s will and I believe there is still a bit of time left to enjoy what we now have before the likely ‘coming persecution’ ! It’s the loss of freedom for the covenant children that I mourn now.

    • Actually, Barbara, the irony is agreeing with making “cooly rational arguments” and then invoking a lot of fear-mongering language about those who might have another view about how to best go about things in the kingdom of man.

      CVD, never miss a chance, do you?

      • Zrim,

        I’ll bite: what is the other view(s) about how to best go about this particular case?

      • I knew it would not be long before RSC had an answer to the first part of his question.

  4. CVD,

    Interesting stuff. Why do you think Scalia was swayed in this direction and where can we find more information on this case?

    • I think Justice Scalia’s judicial philosophy calls for deference to states rights and government action generally. I believe he feared that if the Court continued down the compelling state intererest test standard of prior cases it would lead to too much litigation by individuals claiming that laws of general application unduly burden the exercise of their protected freedoms. And frankly, he was not sympathtic to peyote. There is a an old saying, “Hard cases make bad law.”

      • While I’m not surprised the Romanist Scalia ruled as he did I was disappointed that Rehnquist concurred. O’Connor was not a disappointment.

        Am I the only one that sees the irony. If 2K says let the pagans and their government to do as they wish the majority pagans get to set the law. The Christian “transformationalists” say allow all pagan’s their religious practices so we can enjoy ours and protect our rights.

        Which group better protects the sanctity of the church?

        • GAS,

          “Let and allow?”

          But just because statecraft isn’t going the way one thinks it should is no reason to violate the SOTC, especially when you guys can’t come up with a shred of NT evidence for transforming as opposed to participating (and submitting and obeying).

          • Zrim,

            What’s the SOTC?

            By definition, in a republic, part of participating means attempting to change, sway or influence statecraft.

            “you guys can’t come up with a shred of NT evidence” and here all this time I thought you were a paedobaptist.

            • Ken,

              SOTC = spirituality of the church.

              Re particpation, true enough, but one difference between a participator and a transformer is that the former can live with statecraft with which he disagrees (even strongly), while the latter seems unable to suffer living in a world where things don’t go his way. It’s the difference between patience and impatience. Transformers also seem unable to admit that they live like participants daily, as in there are lots of things in the world with which to disagree and yet they live with them. But participating in a republic can also mean one has the freedom to not be particularly political.

              Re NT evidence, I’m not entirely sure your implication, but you don’t seem to be making room for both the continuity and discontinuity between the OT and NT. The paedobaptist hermeneutic is a function of seeing continuity with the sign and seal of the OT, even as the sign has discontinued from circumcision to baptism (as well as including female children). Two kingdom theology is a function of seeing the new covenant, inter-advental age not as parallel to the theocratic eras in the OT but rather the exilic eras.

  5. CVD:

    With all due respect, I think you misread the Court’s opinion in the “peyote case.” Your account bypasses the first part of Scalia’s analysis. The first step for Scalia was to determine whether the free exercise claim was connected to communicative rights (i.e. speech or press) or parental rights. There was no such connection in the peyote case. If the court had found such a connection, it would have applied a bright-line rule and invalidated the statute. The opinion starts of with a list of obvious violation of the Free Exercise Clause:

    “The free exercise of religion means, first and foremost, the right to believe and profess whatever religious doctrine one desires. Thus, the First Amendment obviously excludes all governmental regulation of religious beliefs as such. The government may not compel affirmation of religious belief, punish the expression of religious doctrines it believes to be false, impose special disabilities on the basis of religious views or religious status, or lend its power to one or the other side in controversies over religious authority or dogma.” Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith , 494 US 872 at 876-877. [internal citations ommitted].

    Assuming that the school in question is a state actor (which it almost certainly is since it is a public university), it’s treatment of the plaintiff is clearly an unconstitutional attempt to regulate religious belief and impose special disabilities on the basis of religious views.

    You seem to detest the notion that “neutral laws of general application” don’t violate the Free Exercise Clause. What rule do you propose? Should citizens who simply believe that the current presidential administration is sinful (there seems to be many who do) be forced to pay taxes?

    Here’s a real life example. A NJ trial court held that a Muslim man did not commit criminal sexual assault against his wife even though he forced her to have sex with him several times against her will. The court reasoned that the man did not have the requisite criminal intent because of his religious belief that a wife must always submit to the husband:

    “This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”

    The NJ Court of Appeals reversed, but it had to rely on that dreaded rule announced by Justice Scalia: “Because it is doubtlessly true that the laws defining the crimes of sexual assault and criminal sexual contact are neutral laws of general application, and because defendant knowingly engaged in conduct that violated those laws, the judge erred when he refused to recognize those violations as a basis for a determination that defendant had committed acts of domestic violence.”

    • This just in …. a federal court has just upheld the dismissal of a Christian student from a counseling program in Ward v. Easter Michigan University, rejecting her free exercise claims. The basis of the ruling, accoridng to press reports (I haven’t yet read the district court’s opinion), is that the court applied the “rational basis” test rather than the “strict scrutiny” or “compelling state interest test.” This meant that the public university needed only to have any rational reason for its action, and the burden on free exercise rights was not considered. This may or may not have been the right ruling, but what is disturbing is that the reasoning gives enormous freedom to the government to punish religiously motivated behavior and speech.

  6. Rhett, I wish I misread it. This is an area I practice in and teach. Unfortuantely, the lower appellate courts and Congress agreed with me that ED v. Smith marked the eclipse of free exercise rights as a practical matter. The problem was not the result but the way the Court reached that result, namely, by rejecting the historic compelling state interest test as applied to a case where state law burdened the exercise of protected religlious action. Historically, since the seminal case of Sherbert v. Verner (1963), the Court has held that for a state law to prevail over an individual’s right to free exercise of his religion, the state had to rpove that the law was “essential” to acheiving a “comepelling state interest and that it was the least restrictive means’ to accomplishing that interest. This “compelling state interest test” sheilded free exercise from onerous regulation for more than 30 years. But in the 1990 ED v. Smith cse, the Court abandoned the compelling state interest test for free exercise cases, holding that in almost all cses, constitutional free exercise protection did not extend to generally applicable, neutral laws that imposed what it now called “incidental burdens.” In other words, unless a law directly attacks a religious belief or practice, Smith held that there is no constitutinal protection for religious objectors because the onerous burden is “incidental” to the law’s valid purpose.

    As one commentator writes: “The Smith decision reduced the protection of the Free Exercise Clause to little more than an anti-discrimination statute that provides virtually no substantive proteciton from burdensome laws of general application.” In response, in 1993 Congress responded to the dangerous Smith decision by enacting the federal Religious Freedom Restoraiton Act (“RFRA”). This Act restored the compelling state interest test in religious freedom cases where neutral laws of general application imposed substantial burdens on religious practice. (Unfortuantely, four years after RFRA was enacted, the part applying to the states, as opposed to the federal government, was struck down by the Supreme Court in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) on the ground that Congress had exceeded its power in passsing RFRA. In response, several states adopted statutory or constitutional religious freedom acts.(Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas). Ironically, religious freedom now receives more protection from these state statutes than it does from the First Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court.

    Prior to Smith, I used to handily win many cases that now we cannot win because the standard is different. Fortunately, it was the vigilence of Christian activists and lobbyists that got the RFRA, RLUIPA, and the state statutes mentioned above passed. We were active in these efforts and assisted with drafting the statutes, and I’m very pleased with the freedom for religious exercise that was won in those states.

  7. Zrim,

    “Two kingdom theology is a function of seeing the new covenant, inter-advental age not as parallel to the theocratic eras in the OT but rather the exilic eras.”

    That doesn’t sound like Calvin’s two kingdom theology to me…and even if you were to pull a quote from the Institutes that mimicked your line verbatim, you and he would have radically different plans of execution of said theology. Which would seem to indicate that you should quit calling yourself an adherent of two-kingdom theology (much like RSC thinks FV proponents shouldn’t call themselves or be though of as confessional). And unless you divulge what your “other ways” are, it would seem that you fit more with the Anabaptist tradition than the Reformed (much as RSC says the FV fits more with the Arminians/Roman Catholics). And before you go off half-cocked, don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying your position is unconfessional; I’m saying calling yourself a “two-kingdom theology proponent” is simply not historically accurate. Which is not to say that from the 18th century forward that American presbyterians in particular haven’t modified their views of two-kingdom; they have – but they’ve modified them towards an Anabaptist position.

    I’m still waiting to hear what your “other views” are with regard to this particular case.

    • Ken, the “other views” to which Zrim alludes is his view, shared by many young 2K enthusiasts, that Christians, even in their private, individual capacity as citizens, should not defend their legal rights to proclaim the gospel, witness, or speak as Christians in the face of government action that represses those rights. While he does not like the term “pacifist,” I term this view a “culture war pacifist position.” Those who hold this view think it is wiser for Christians to suffer “persecution” without resort to the courts to protect their constituional rights as citizens. Typically these young men, most of them hard-core political leftists, are over-reacting to the excesses of the Christian right and its attempts to “Christianize” America. They purport to ground this view in two-kingdoms theology (aka “spirituality of the church”) and citation to such passages a “turn the other cheek,” etc.

      I am a two kingdoms advocate myself, but I believe these young men are misapplying two-kingdoms theology. Typically the SOTC doctrine insistst that the church, qua church, generally (except is extraordinary cases) should not take positions on political or cultural matters. It has not generally been thought to impose a gag order on individual Christians in their capacity as citizens, recognizing that Christians are also citizens of the city of man and have legal rights. Just as Paul exercised is rights as a Roman citizen to appeal to Ceasar to avoid persecution, Christians today, in my view, may exercise their rights as American citizens to avoid unjust persecution and hold the magistrate accountable. Chritians may also, in my view, engage in political activism to improve the cultural and moral order within the city of man, not to “Christianize” America, but rather to do good as salt and light and acheive proximate justice and marginal improvements. All of this is denied by the extreme 2K advocates, who are reflexively anti-culture war activity, but I would argue that they are outside the mainstream of Reformed thinking on this topic.

      Dr. VanDrunen’s book is an excellent, scholarly historical review of the 2K position from a Reformed perspective. It’s not a perfect book, but he is a much more careful and responsibile scholar. He is also not afflicted or biased by the kind of hard leftist political views that seem to motivate and skew the young radicals’ positions.

      • In order for one to impose a gag order on another, CVD, the former would have to hold power over the latter. As it is, 2kers like myself hold very little power in part because we aren’t particlularly dazzled by it, but also because those who have little actual use for the SOTC have power. You’re in the majority and likely will be for a long time. But it’s funny how you consistently conflate dissent with a will to silence. But nobody is trying to gag you, even as you (admittedly) pray folks like me are kept from church leadership.

      • Also, CVD, re all this hard-core political left business, like I’ve said, I am not particularly political, so I’m not sure how that sticks. You’ve butted heads with DGH at OldLife over 2K-SOTC who is clearly quite politically conservative. That leaves Stellman who is clearly politically progressive. But I think he pointed out recently how you may not understand 2K as well as you think you do, making one’s politics a litmus test for his 2K and all.

        • Zrim, I think the evidence is overwhelming that most extreme 2K proponents misuse 2K doctrine as a vehicle to express their politics. Most I know do. Stellman, who admittedly is a hard leftist, does. Most of the bloggers on his site share his views. Professor Hart is in a different category, Zrim. He has never expressed the kind of radical views you consistently express in the name of 2K about pacifist, non-resistance to government oppression, or strong antipathy to most forms of political or cultural engagement. Hart is far more thoughful and nuanced than that. As for you, Kim Riddlebarger called it right when he said you are simply a contrarian and that you relish the contrarian pose “a little too much.”

    • Ken, half-cocked, that’s funny. But I’d echo RSC in suggesting that you’d do well to read DVD on this point (both his monograph “A Biblical Case for Natural Law” and his most recent work). You might also pick up Stellman’s “Dual Citizens.”

      And I understand it’s popular to charge the modifications American P & R have made with slouching toward Muenster, but I stand with Kuyper when he says in his efforts to (successfully) revise Belgic 36, “We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians.”

      I’m still waiting to hear what your “other views” are with regard to this particular case.

      I don’t have any. The point was actually broader than that, which was to say that I dissent from CVD’s notion that every Christian must be a political activist about something (usually what he deems important, which is usually just something about homosexual marriage and religious liberty). But I generally think activism is more detrimental to the cultivation of society than helpful. I distinguish between being active and being activist.

      • Zrim,

        “I stand with Kuyper” – Good. Kuyper admits his view isn’t the traditionally acknowledged Reformed view. R2kers should be good enough to do the same.

        “I distinguish between being active and being activist.”

        This is distinction you make, but I’m not sure “they” do, and in a culture war it is perhaps a distinction without a difference. The young woman at the center of this case simply wanted to pass on counseling homosexuals. Nothing activist in her approach; yet she was punished by the university and the court. Like the apostle Paul, she appealed to the rights of her citizenship for redress…and lost. By all accounts, she is continuing her appeal through the available means while submitting to the judgment. Without knowing particulars regarding this woman, I’ll assume she’s living a quiet, peaceful life. The “activists” came after active.

        It could be that you simply advocate accepting a martyr’s role: say nothing and accept the punishment. Which while there are many examples from church history – and I wouldn’t argue that its an unbiblical position to take – of such responses, Paul didn’t respond that way to the unlawful beating he was about to receive.

        Which leads me to ask you about “other views.” There are very likely multiple, appropriate ways to react to tyranny, and the Reformed tradition in its first two hundred years generally applied some version of the doctrine of the lesser magistrate. As Reformed political power waned, Reformed theologians modified their theology to fit their reduced circumstances. I believe that R2k is simply a contemporary version of Reformed theologians attempting to craft theological positions that will allow us to exist within an increasingly pluralistic culture. But I think they (you) give away far too much in their/your zeal to distance yourself from the perceived theological errors of the theonomists, Reconstructionists, dominionists, etc.

        • Ken,

          When you read DVD’s book you’ll see that there are continuities and discontinuities between what DVD is doing and what the tradition did.

          The major difference is that the contemporary proponents of the 2K analysis are not theocratic but theocracy isn’t essential but accidental to the 2K analysis.

      • Zrim, you persistently and egregiously misrepresent what I have written. I have never written or implied that every Christian must be a political activist. On the contrary, I have stated that God calls all of us to different activities and roles and gives us different interests and temperaments. Most Christians have neither the time nor temperament to be “activists.’ As you should know if you had attended to what I have patiently explained over and over to you, my position is that the 2K analysis does not insist, suggest, or imply that it is “unwise” (your term), unbiblical, wrong, or non-salutary for Christians to be engaged in political and cultural activism, which I define to be trying to improve society and the culture. In other words, it is you and your crowd that condemns most forms of activism or what you derisively term “culture wars”, not I who have attacked your non-activism. I do maintain that much of the knee-jerk pacifism you advocate is foolish in the extreme — as when you argued that the San Diego pastor who protested the County’s unlawful order to halt home Bible studies was wrong/unwise/unbiblical to protest it, though a few letters from a lawyer sufficed to lift the ban. Your position that individual Christian citizens should not exercise their constitutional rights to resist unlawful oppression, even when it is merely a mistake by a lesser magistrate, finds no support from the doctrine of 2K, the Reformed tradition (including the lesser magistrates doctrine which I’ve quoted to you), Calvin or Luther, Paul, or any thoughtful Reformed commentator of whom I’m aware, and you have yet to cite to a single authority to support your position. You also have yet to offer any biblical, exegetical argument to support this pacifism. If this were simply your personal choice, if you told me you just prefer to sit in the backyard and grow turnips, I’d respect that. But that’s not your position. Rather, you have very clearly articulated a categorical moral imperative that in principle would bind all Christians — that “wisdom” calls for them to refrain from exercising their constitutional or other legal rights. And you have offered no support or argument for it.

        • I have never written or implied that every Christian must be a political activist.

          CVD, you said, “This requires that Christians be and support activist organizations that will make cooly rational arguments in the courts and legislatures.” I like the cool and rational part, I’m not so wild about the requirement part.

          As to the rest, I don’t want to keep going in circles. Suffice it say that I don’t have any problem with appealing to certain rights, etc. But I am very skeptical of saying that we only turn the other cheek when we have exhausted all efforts to fight for rights and it’s when we lose we stop. That’s not turning the other cheek, that’s fighting until you can’t any more and giving up. Turning the other cheek involves laying down rights when you still have rights, opportunity and power to protect yourself (as in calling legions of angels). I simply don’t see in your outlook where there is any room for that.

          • Zrim, one can lend verbal or monetary support for the cause but need not be personally on the front lines. I’ve repeatedly addressed your “turn the other cheek” argument. Suffice to say that you confuse the two kingdoms. A Christian is a citizen of the kingdom of man and the U.S. and not merely a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and your position does not recognize the force of that.

            • …one can lend verbal or monetary support for the cause but need not be personally on the front lines.

              Gee thanks. But, CVD, there is no difference between direct and indirect support of culture war. I categorically oppose it as more detrimental to society than helpful, so why would indirectly supporting causes like yours to politically marginalize homosexuals be an option? Or do you imagine that one can support terrorism by giving money to the schools Hamas runs instead of going on suicide missions?

              And I know you like to cast my view as one that hyper-reacts to the religious right, but I say the same things about the religious left. MLK was as much a problem as Falwell. And Wallis as much as Dobson. Like ex-liberal Thomas Oden said of Fundamentalism and Liberals, they both have more in common with each other than either would be willing to admit. They’re children of modernity.

              • Zrim,

                I’m in a touch spot as I sympathize with aspects of both your concerns and CVD’s. Nevertheless, I must ask: Is concern about the social/political agenda of homosexuals so illegitimate as you suggest? Why is it “marginalizing” them to say to society: “There are fixed moral norms which are objective, revealed and that apply to everyone (Christians and non-Christians, homosexuals and heterosexuals).

                I agree that homosexuals should be accorded basic human rights but if their lifestyle choices (even if one has a predisposition) transgress a fixed, revealed, natural law, should they receive civil protection for those contra-natural choices?

                What about beastility? I’m not being hyperbolic here. I really think that the NAMBLA guys and the Beastialists (is there such a word?) are next in line.

                Shouldn’t we challenge the Marxist/late modern move to reduce everything to power politics? I agree with you about the political right and left but not everything is politics is it? Not everything is economics. Not everything is a will to power is it? I understand that any claim to moral fixity is perceived as a claim to power but that doesn’t make it so, does it?

            • Zrim, by “categorically” opposing “culture war,” you promiscuously dump into the “culture war” bin too many things that are not rightly culture war, even on your own principles. You think too simplistically, too knee-jerk over-reaction. If you sprinkled a pinch of nuance onto your morning Wheaties, you would do better. For example, you opposed reflexively, before knowing any facts, the efforts of the San Diego pastor to maintain his home Bible study in the face of San Diego County offiicals who sought to impose ruinously expensive conditions upon him. The episode ended happily after a lawyer wrote a few letters and made some calls, revealing that an overzealous bureacrat had acted foolishly. Many times Christians engage in confrontations with government to protect their rights in the same way that non-Christians must confront government to protect their rights. As another example, a church rented worship facilities from a public school. The school district officials found a bottle of sacramental wine inadvertantly left from Sunday worship and took the position that any wine on school property was unlawful and terminated the church’s lease of the school property. I pointed out to County Counsel that a church has a constitutinal right to use sacramental wine for communion and that government cannot lawfully punish the church for using wine. I threatened a federal court action, and the school backed down. This kind of thing is not “culture war”; it is the protection of rights, and no good purpose is served by allowing the lesser magistrates to violate the law. Yet you categorically oppose all such efforts by Christians to hold government accountable, insisting that we should “suffer persecution” without resisting — when no anti-Christian “persecution” was even intended. Much litigation against school district to protect the rights of Christian students is in the same categort — foolish government officials acting foolishly.

              Sometimes there is an ideological agenda by government, as in the cases of the two Christian counseling students at state universities who are threatened with expulsion or were expelled because they refused to affirm that the homosexual lifestyle is morally acceptable. The state’s position should be ruled an unconstitutinal infringement of protected rights to free exercise of religion and free speech. Christians commit no violation of Scripture to oppose it, and do wisely oppose it, in my view. I would submit this is not “culture war” activity, but simply self-defense against a militant secular agenda that seeks to extirpate Christian ideas.

              Finally, all of this activity is city of man activity. Your view cannot accept that Christians are citizens of the city of man co-equally with their status as citizens of the Kingdom of God. You are the beneficiary of the tireless efforts of many vigilent Christian lawyers and lobbyists who have protected your rights to speak, worship, and blog. You “categorically oppose” their efforts, but without their efforts you may not have the liberty to sit at your keyboard and type out screeds against them. You said that society would be better without such “culture war” activity. But would it really be better — better for the church — to be silenced by government from the liberty to speak, act, and worship as Christians? Your position is yes, mine is no.

              You are the beneficiary of the efforts of man

            • Scott,

              I’ll put it the way I have before: if the question is, “Should homosexuality enjoy the sanction of marriage,” then my answer is an unequivocal no.

              But my point here is that in the contemporary American context that really isn’t the question. It’s swirling about in the exchange, to be sure, but the struggle seems to me to be more about who will gain ascendant cultural and political power. I wish everyone involved, on both sides, could be honest enough to admit that much and quit casting it in terms of who’s protecting righteousness against tyranny (and that cuts both ways, mind you). But that sort of framing of the discussion at high moralistic decibels seems quite American. I think Bork, in his argument for states’ rights, was onto it when he remarked about abortion, for example, that it’s a nearly impossible national conversation because the two predominant sides have only given us these sorts of categories to use. Other countries have local authorities decide on this one, and if you lose the day on the political question you simply come back next year to try and win instead of casting your opponent in such vitriolic terms. And maybe denying Utah into the union had at least as much to do with orthodox Protestants wanting to stick it to heterodox Mormons as it did wanting to protect natural marriage laws?

              So, I understand your point about not reducing everything to power politics, etc., and it’s a good one. But by the same token, I’d like to see some acknowledgement that these fights (especially the politics of sex) have to do with retaining or gaining cultural power. If I can admit that my view is vulnerable to reducing things to power then I’d like to see culture warriors admit they tend very much to reduce politics to morality and then confuse the two. If it’s true that our age moralizes politics and politicizes faith, and I’m convinced it does, then it has to start somewhere, doesn’t it? Perhaps it starts when we don’t distinguish more carefully between politics and morality?

              • Zrim,

                From what I’ve learned recently about Mormonism as it’s actually practiced in Utah (which is apparently much more widely tolerated and practiced than I understood heretofore) I might be inclined now to agree with those who wanted to resist Utah’s entry into the union! I would do it on the grounds of natural law that polygamy is a corruption of marriage in the nature of things and that it opens the door to other corruptions of marriage and family.

                I want to distinguish the defense of natural rights and laws from “the culture war” which I take to be a more politicized, partisan crusade. I don’t have any interest in harming anyone but I also don’t want the magistrate re-defining reality. The magistrate’s job is to see created reality for what it is and to rule accordingly.

                As a political matter, I might agree with Bork. Roe was terribly argued and passed on a silly, mythical basis. It should be a matter of state’s rights and those who believe in a creational order should argue vigorously at that level in defense of the life of humans. The state has a compelling interest in keeping citizens alive, even in utero. The fiscal impact alone of 30+ million abortions is incalculable.

                I’m not looking for cultural “power” unless that is defined to mean “insisting on natural justice.” In any given civil society not everyone can do everything he will. Behavior must be curbed by someone (the magistrate) on some basis (law; in this case natural law). The civil magistrate exercises power necessarily. I want as little interference from the magistrate as possible but when he exercises power I want that power to be restrained by creational law.

                I don’t read CVD arguing for a Kulturkampf. I don’t see him arguing for “Christian America” or cultural power. I see him defending the creational rights of a potentially oppressed minority. We may not seem like it in GR but in SoCal we certainly do!

            • Scott,

              So if denying Utah into the Union based on the corruptions of polygamy was a good idea then maybe kicking out New England states for legalizing gay marriage is a good one now? But, sorry, I think it is just this side of naive not to see that we have complex reasons for marginalizing certain groups; it can be about denying “the other” a stake in being a citizen just as much as it can be about defending “what’s right, true and good.” I have no problem with marginalizing per se (sometimes), but let’s be honest enough to admit that at least part of what we aim to do is marginalize. No, I don’t think homosexuality should enjoy the sanction of marriage. But I also don’t like what appears to me to be a will to, at best, marginalize a very particular set of sinners or, at worst, criminalize sin. So, I suppose I’m in that precarious place that doesn’t seem to have an immediate answer–perhaps another trait that drives certain people bonkers. Sue me.

              I understand CVD doesn’t seem to be explicitly arguing for a Christian America, and I’m glad for at least his rhetoric that is critical of it. But what remains unanswered from him is precisely what it means to turn the other cheek when believers are politically pressed. At least in the past he has seemed to define it thus: when all legal avenues and appeals have been thoroughly exhausted then we stop utilizing worldly weapons, and we don’t resort to violence, etc. Well, like I have said, that isn’t turning the other cheek. That is giving up in the face of defeat. Turning the other cheek is willingly laying down rights and forfeiting worldly weapons and power. So if I tell my daughters to remain silent on the playground when they are mocked for their faith instead of either hurling back insults/fists or peacefully appealing to their authorities, what message do I send to them when I pick up political weapons when bullied by bigger kids? I’m not sure that simply making a distinction between violent and peaceful weaponry is sufficient.

              • Zrim,

                I think an argument could be made that Mass violated or at least stretched the “good faith” clause of the constitution, but I’m not a constitutional scholar. I don’t know that Mass and Utah are exactly the same cases. The one was in the union and the other was being admitted. It’s a matter of civil, common law. I don’t think there’s a “Christian” view here. Personally, I think states ought to be able to leave a union but I suppose that argument ended in the mid-19th century!

                I don’t think CVD is arguing for a Christian America implicitly. I think you’re imputing motives and outcomes that aren’t there. His arguments seem consistent with a two-kingdoms analysis.

                Some sins, if they violate natural law and civil (and/or) common law ought to be sanctioned and people who commit them ought to be marginalized! We marginalize murderers regularly. We marginalize pedophiles regularly (though not harshly enough for this parent’s comfort). The magistrate is in the marginalizing business. The meter maid/man (or mad man in Escondido) marginalizes me every time she/he gets a chance.

                I agree with CVD that you seem to be confusing the two kingdoms when you apply the kingdom ethic for private persons to public/civic behavior. The magistrate is not to withhold wrath from criminals. He cannot turn the other cheek (Rom 13) and fulfill his divine, creational vocation. We Christians, in our capacity as private persons, do not have the power of the sword nor are we to exercise it (Peter, put up your sword). We’re neither papists (who gave the sword back to Peter) nor Anabaptists (who wouldn’t let the magistrate exercise the sword nor the Christian his common/civil vocation).

                The distinction is one of office. In a representative republic we hold two offices: citizen, with a voice in policy/law formation and member of the eternal kingdom. When I am representing the latter I may not strike out. When I am representing the former duty may require that I strike out. Jesus didn’t tell the centurion to quit his day job.

                It’s not easy to distinguish always but there are two equally valid kingdoms.

      • Perhaps it would, and I’m not opposed to it. I have read critiques, and so I’m familiar with the gist of his arguments – similar to my understanding of your interaction with Leithart.

        I’ll make you a deal: you read Leithart and I’ll read Van Drunen.

          • You may recall awhile back that I suggested “The Priesthood of the Plebs.”
            My understanding is that it is a reworked version of his doctoral thesis, and while not perfect, it will give a good insight into Leithart’s methods. “Against Christianity” is provocative and very quick read but not scholarly. Either one would suit me.

            • I do think there’s some difference between the way I’ve related to Leithart and the way you’re relating to VanDrunen.

              I don’t think I’ve made claims about the areas in which PL has done his academic work. You’re making claims about areas in which DVD has done academic work. My critique of PL (and perhaps it’s related to his academic work, I don’t know) is his manifest corruption of the Reformed doctrine of justification (and related areas) so this seems a little like apples and oranges.

  8. Zrim vs. CVanDyke…

    -from the peanut gallery-
    CVanDyke: game, set, match…. (with no disrespect to Zrim’s heartfelt position)
    … up next?

    blessings all,

      • Heheh…


        This is a valuable discussion, and the back and forth between you and CVanDyke has made it more so (not to ignore the others). I was only having a little fun. Thanks for your good natured response.


  9. CVD, I wouldn’t say that I “opposed reflexively” the San Diego situation. I think you’re overstating things. My purpose, however poorly I execute it, is simply to offer another angle in all of this, namely to ask what does turning the other cheek mean? I know you think I have an evil hidden agenda here, but you seem pretty resistant (incapable?) to even contemplating the question. And I fail to understand why I need to be some sort of expert in the law generally or a case specifically before I may offer a Christian perspective on something without being dinged a hyper-reactionary.

    Like I said, appealing to one’s rights is fine as far as it goes. But my question is where does turning the other cheek fit, especially since that is THE NT ethic in contrast to fighting for one’s rights, which is THE American ethic? And it seems to me that it is only turning the other cheek if one has at his disposal rights, opportunity and power. So, is there ever a time in your mind when all of those things should be lain aside and willingly forfeited, or is it just a matter of giving up when you lose, because those are two different things?

    Jack, tennis analogies are the best, so job well done in having a little fun. Now excuse me while I go grab the banana Andy Roddick brought me.

    • Zrim, I would also add that I’ve many times acknowledged that people today are too litigious. A good lawyer spends much time talking people out of filing lawsuits. In interpersonal relations, there is ample room for turning the other cheek, abstaining from legal action, living and let live, forgiving, forgetting, getting on with one’s life, and so on and so forth. Not so with government infringement of legal rights and constitutional liberties. The way the world works, which you don’t know because you live in the sheltered climes of GR, is that if a government bureaucrat wins won violation, he will commit 1000 more in a week. And one precedent begets 20,000 more in a year. You have to shut governement down from the get go. Vigilence is the price of freedom. You dont’ keep government in check by “turning the other cheek.” The world doesn’t work that way, and Christ urged us to be harmless as doves but wise as serpents.

  10. Zrim, in my class you would get an “F” for trying to flutter out of specific cases by refuge to vague generalties, like “turn the other cheek” and changing the subject. Your knee-jerk reaction is to criticize, oppose, and question all efforts by Christians and Christian lawyers to hold the government accountable when it violates constitutional rights. You resist dealing in specific cases. Would you now like to withdraw your criticism of the San Diego pastor for not “turning the other cheek” when the County of San Diego tried to shut down his Bible study? Do you acknowledge now that good came from that lawyer’s effors, and not bad? Do you or do you not oppose the efforts of the two Christian counseling students who are in court to vindicate their right against the state to get a degree like all other students without having to betray their Christian convictions? If you oppose, please explain with particularity exactly what good comes from their having their right to believe and speak as Christians demolished? And please explain what bad comes from winning that right? Please explain what harm came from the Equal Access Act, passed at the urging of Christians, to vindicate their right
    to hold Bible study meetings during non-curricular time on campus on the same terms that the Gay and Lesbian Club, the chess club, the Young Atheists’ club, and other clubs can hold their meetings?

    I’ve twice answered your quesiton about “turn the other cheek.” I offered three full paragraphs (long for a blog) of biblical exegesis from a redemptive-historical perspective and summaries from Reformed commentators as to its meaning and scope of application. I would simply add to that discussion that the concept/passage has primary application to inter-personal relations and is inapposite to Christians protecting their legal rights against the government. The doctrine of lesser magistrates, part of the historic Reformed tradition, is on point. We hold the government accountable in our constitutional republic. that’s part of the compact between the governed and the governor. Indeed, it is a positive moral good to hold government accountable. It is a kindness to our fellow citizens because, under the doctrine of stare decisis, a legal ruling protecting one person protects all. I agree with Dr. Kim Riddlebarger that a good theological argument can be made that small government is best to avoid the rise of the Beast of Revelation. Kline reminded us that, while government is ordained by God, it has a natural tendency to become beastlike. It must be restrained, and God can use human means to do that — even Christians!

    • Fascinating discussion, gentlemen! Thanks to all.

      The doctrine of the lesser magistrate is something I only recently became aquainted with through reading articles by John Witte Jr. Obviously this is a concept lost to the contemporary mind. Maybe CVD and Clark could write a book called, “Recovering the doctrine of the lesser magistrate” (seriously).

      Now as I perceive it there is two competing Christian approaches to how the magistrate should rule. On the one hand, there are those who would have the magistrate rule based on creational ordinances and on the other hand those who would have the magistrate rule based upon only the moral law.

      Creational ordinances are broader in scope and would have the magistrate rule against such things as homosexuality, those things which are unnatural.

      The Moral law proponents would have the magistrate rule only on those things which do harm to others, not ruling against consensual activity.

      I fall on the moral law side. If God gives them over to these unnatural desires (Rom 1:24) why should I have any expectations that the magistrate will be able to cure these desires?

      • Fwiw,

        I don’t expect the magistrate to “cure” anyone, only punish & restrain.

        I don’t intend to distinguish between moral & creational law.

        • Thanks for your response, I suppose.

          While you may not intend to distinguish between moral and creational laws apparently God himself did when he suspended a creational law for the nation of Israel (Mt 19:8).

          If one wants the enforcement of creational laws by the magistrate in a secular kingdom how is that not a call for a theonomic state?

          • GAS,

            Theonomy is the enforcement of the Israelite civil code. That’s an aberration. Theocracy was (more or less) the old view that has been discarded by most confessionalists since the 18th century.

            The creational law applied in Israel. The decalogue was the creational law. It was augmented and temporarily set aside (e.g., polygamy) under Moses but that all ended at the cross. Jesus restored the creational order (“it was not so in the beginning”).

            A call for the magistrate is NOT theonomy. It is the antidote to theonomy.

            See David VanDrunen’s two books on this.

  11. Scott,

    Some sins, if they violate natural law and civil (and/or) common law ought to be sanctioned and people who commit them ought to be marginalized! We marginalize murderers regularly. We marginalize pedophiles regularly (though not harshly enough for this parent’s comfort). The magistrate is in the marginalizing business. The meter maid/man (or mad man in Escondido) marginalizes me every time she/he gets a chance.

    Yes, that is why I said I don’t have a problem with some forms of marginalizing, if by marginalizing we mean punishing, since to punish a murderer is necessarily to marginalize him. But I’m not so sure that those who seek to politically marginalize homosexuals don’t intend on going so far as to also civilly punish them. If you can suggest something as hyperbolic as “today it’s homosexuals, tomorrow it’ll be the pedophiles and beastialists,” then let me as well: it seems to me we have just as much interest in making sure the state doesn’t become “theonomic” as we do making sure it protects what is right, true and good re marriage laws. Could it be that today it’s Prop 8, tomorrow it’s Leviticus 20? If not, what keeps that from happening?

    I agree with CVD that you seem to be confusing the two kingdoms when you apply the kingdom ethic for private persons to public/civic behavior. The magistrate is not to withhold wrath from criminals. He cannot turn the other cheek (Rom 13) and fulfill his divine, creational vocation. We Christians, in our capacity as private persons, do not have the power of the sword nor are we to exercise it (Peter, put up your sword). We’re neither papists (who gave the sword back to Peter) nor Anabaptists (who wouldn’t let the magistrate exercise the sword nor the Christian his common/civil vocation).

    When Anabaptists implore a judge to suspend judgment on their daughter’s killer in the name of turning the other cheek I think this is a better example of confusing the kingdoms. I, like you, want my magistrate doling out justice and not grace (vice versa for my church). I’m not applying a KoG ethic when it comes to temporal trespasses against us in the KoM. I’m trying to say that it applies when it comes to eternal trespasses. That isn’t always easy to discern; often, like CVD has suggested, it can be a simple matter of confusion that can be cleared up with routine due process of law. But when does it move from simple misunderstanding to persecution? And when it becomes persecution are we really supposed to pick up worldly weapons and fight?

    One of the arguments CVD has made is to say that protecting our religious liberty makes it easier to fulfill the GC (and contrariwise, the points I make undermine the GC). But I don’t see where it is anywhere said to first make it easy for the gospel to go forth, then go forth. It just says go forth. Or do we imagine that missionaries first must go into hostile areas and make them friendly to the gospel, then bring the gospel?

    • Zrim,

      On hyperbole, I wish it were. Having seen gay pride parades in both San Diego and Geneva over the last two summers I am led to think that my concerns are not fantastic. The Geneva parade was more “over the top” than what I saw in San Diego but the latter was a substantial gathering (covering easily the space equivalent to all of downtown Escondido). It was impressive. What was once a closeted society of meeting furtively is now quite out of the closet literally and metaphorically. They have accumulated significant political influence themselves. The SD fire chief is an open lesbian. She used her power to try to build her political base in the GLBT community by ordering a fire company (of heterosexuals) to march in the parade. They were sexually harrassed! They sued (at risk to their careers) and won but the damage was done. The point is that in the last 40 years, since the Stonewall Riots the world has been flipped on its head.

      It was always wrong to deny basic human rights to homosexuals but now we’re at the place where it is almost impossible, even among Christians to criticize homosexuality or to name it as sin. If the world can change so radically in 40 years re homosexuality, why not in re pedophilia? If nature is no barrier to behavior then it is no barrier to behavior. If homosexuals may be artificially inseminated and raise children then how will there not develop a culture where it is impossible to criticize homosexual behavior? Witness the recent university case in IL where a prof was fired for answering a student’s question by surveying Romanist thought on homosexuality!

      My theory is that late modernity has been a war against nature and against boundaries. I’m not just aiming at homosexuals etc. I started thinking about it in re Brian McLaren actually. I wrote a piece a few years ago applying Baumann’s category of “liquid modernity” to BM and have begun applying it to others.

      I don’t agree with those who lazily trace it all back to late medieval nominalism (and hence to Protestantism) but I do think that our age is one of radical nominalism, which, in our context of the practical absence of belief in God, has devastating consequences.

      If there is no God and no transcendent norm of any kind there is no rational reason, nothing except perhaps instinct and natural fear and what’s left of the natural knowledge of God and natural/moral law, to restrain pedophiles (one of whom murdered two teen girls in the last 24 mos in our county).

      As to common/civil law/KoM work and the KoG, what do you make of the language of Synod Kalamazoo (1924) re common grace? We pray for the magistrate to restrain evil so that the gospel may be preached without hindrance. Is that problematic?

      • Zrim & Dr. Clark,

        I find myself caught between your arguments here. Zrim, I do see your point and agree that the church should be prepared to proclaim regardless of the receptivity of the culture at hand. However, Dr. Clark’s point that Christians can appropriately seek legal recourse where laws have been broken or Constitutional rights have been clearly violated seems reasonable, simply because they are lawful citizens. Might one rightly forgo these rights in service of the gospel? Sure, but here I do think there is latitude for conscience and the unique aspects of each situation. By in large however, whether it is over a religious issue or not, I think it’s a really bad idea to surrender to violations of the Constitution, or laws at any jurisdictional level (Fed, State, Local), simply because it damages the very underpinnings that keep our particular American society afloat.

        I do wonder though, in the case of gay activism, if conservatives of any stripe (Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, Reformed) haven’t partially created the monster that they now fight. In the case of gays, there has been a consistent, and I will concede understandable effort to suppress their influence on the broader society. As a result, there have been many efforts to deny certain rights to gays that would not be denied to any other group. I don’t doubt for a second that in some of these cases that are cited on this blog, that there isn’t an element of payback from gay activists in positions of power simply because they see these professors/student as emblematic of those that are quick to deny them what they see as their rights as US citizens. I don’t see this culture war going away anytime soon.

        To be certain, to maintain that homosexuality is a sin in today’s culture comes at a real cost, especially for those of us who live in or near major urban centers, or on the coasts (blue states). Where the church has ceased to maintain that homosexuality is a grave sin, and acquiesced to the culture at large, she has lost her witness and in many cases has ceased to be the church. However, in dealing with the civic reality of homosexuality, I do think that church leaders should be very careful and discerning with how they speak to the issue. For example, the church’s involvement in Prop. 8 out here in CA has not come without real cost, it has further galvanized and entrenched the gay community in this culture war, and blowback like some of these cases will in my opinion only become more and more frequent. I think that church leaders must really ask themselves if the costs of engaging in the culture war are worth it before they jump into the political fray. In some cases the answer might be “yes” but I fear that many jump to this conclusion far too early.

        It isn’t hard to foresee an outcome in this culture war where the gay activists win, just like they have in much of Europe. The reality is that they could be not a little punitive if they are able to maintain the upper hand. In which case I can’t help but wonder if the proximate cause of the church’s persecution are over political issues peripheral to the proclamation of the gospel. In any case, I do believe that the church’s influence on the culture is in fact waning, and that there will be a day in our society when there is a real cost to live openly as a confessing Christian. Then we will be in a situation where Zrim’s insistence on turning the other cheek will be the norm.

        • Jed, I would distinguish between the church qua church and individual Christian believers. I don’t call for local Sessions, presbyteries, or GAs or equivalent bodies in other communions to take positions on legal issues or ballot measures, e.g., Prop 8. It is appropraite under 2K analysis for individual Christians to do so.

          As wth many 2K proponents, you appear to believe that Christian activists who oppose the gay legal agenda are stirring up a hornet’s nest or proking greater backlash or opposition. I don’t believe the facts support that speculation.

          From the prespective of one who is on the front lines and talks to gay and leftist advocacy groups, leftist legal lobbyists, and leftist public-interest lawyers who push the gay legal agenda, I can attest that if all Protestants “turned the other cheek” and said or did nothing in response, they would not be one less aggressive in their agenda. Let me be clear what they say their agenda is. I sit down across the table from these folk, I read their stuff, I go to their meetings, I debate them, I read read their briefs. They gay rights advocacy groups are part of a network of leftist advocacy groups whose agenda is to dismantle every vestige of what they call “Judeo-Chritian heritage” from our law and culture. We would say they seek to extirpate from our culture and law all legal support for creational ordinances. In addition, they seek to silence all Christian (and Mormon and other Western religions) influence and right to speak. The positions they take on the First Amendment represents an inverstion of historic protection for religious freedom in this country.

          Many 2K advocates are fine with letting the civil sphere deteriorate morally. I am not ok with it. But to the degree your arguments are founded on the notion that those of us who fight in the courts are making matters worse, you are mistaken. The left is the aggressor seeking to dismantle significant cultural and creational norms that have existed in culture and law for millenia. Many of us on the front lines simply want to push back. To oppose s is like arguing that it’s unwise for the homeowner to fight against the burgler who breaks into the house and starts taking out every piece of furniture and jewlery, on the ground that we will “provoke” him to more hostile behavior. We should sit on the couch and watch him work.

  12. Sheesh. How did I miss this battle?

    Here’s a couple of other ways of making Jed’s point. Why are Christians so alarmed at gays when there are lots of other sins out there, like gambling (have we heard of lotteries), and if you’re particularly opposed to sexual sin what about porn, and divorce? The point being that gays have been singled out, or so it seems. Now, I think one could argue that families and child rearing are important matters for the state and its citizens to consider, and that prohibitions on gay marriage could make perfect sense even from a non-believer’s perspective. But then why not also alarm over porn and divorce? It’s not like those are helping the family. In which case, if gays are singled out, they are fighting back.

    In this particular case, why couldn’t this student have enrolled at any number of the biblical counseling programs that exist across this great land? I mean, wasn’t she wanting it both ways — wanting secular credentialing while also using sacred norms? And why haven’t Christians turned on her for bad faith? (Please pardon me for blaming the victim, especially since I know so few particulars.)

    Activist Protestants play right into the other side’s hands when they bring religion into the public square. The 1960s was supposed to be the end of Protestant America. And now Protestants want a Protestant America back. They need to rethink what America they want on grounds other than Protestant. Or then need to kick all the non-Protestants out.

    • Thanks for your points Dr. Hart.

      Your comment: “Activist Protestants play right into the other side’s hands when they bring religion into the public square” really gets to the “heart” of the matter. Whether marriage, abortion, free speech, freedom of religion, support for Israel, or any other hot-button issues, the Christian does well to make his governmental policy arguments in the public square on the ground of natural law and reason (though informed by his Christian faith)… that which is accessible to both believer and unbeliever. Ramesh Ponnuru, a Roman Catholic, does just that in his book, The Party of Death, in which he argues one of the strongest cases made against abortion without ever bringing special revelation/religion insights into the debate.

    • DGH, the state has a monopoly on dispensing counseling licenses. A biblical counseling program that does not meet government licensing standards will not satisfy the credentialing requirements of the state. The gravaman of the state university’s case is that the secular licensing requirements require affirmation of the moral legitimacy of homosexuality, and any person who reserves moral or biblical scruples against the legitimacy of the gay lifestyle does not satisfy either the university’s academic program or the state licensing requirements. The licensing requireents incorporate the same professional-counseling norms, which require relinquishing of moral objections to the gay lifestyle. The reason that the lawyers (and I’m involved in this kind of litigation also) for the counseling student are fighting hard to protect her rights is that, as the university knows, if she loses the right to get her secular counseling degree, she loses the right to get a license also. The upshot is that Christians would be shut out from the ability to be licensed marriage, family and child counselors and clinical psychologists.

      I disagree with your characterization of Protestant activists bringing religion into the public square in this case. It is rather the state that is seeking to expunge the right to private religious scruple from the public square. The state is saying that all persons must hold to the politically approved thought and moral philosophy as the price of practicing a certain learned profession. If you don’t affirm the right moral philosophy, we will punish you for your private beliefs. The beliefs the state now wants to punish are the beliefs of historic Western culures. It is the state that is the aggressor, not the Christian. These Christian counselors are simply seeking to defend what until recent years was a well-established constitutional right to private religious conviction and the right to express those convictions without pain of government sanction.

  13. Jed, thanks. The points you are making help make one of mine, namely that there are layers of complexity to what something like Prop 8 represents. Another point you are helping me make is that there are costs to political and cultural activism and war, costs which are either unaccounted for or flat denied for the sake of one ideal or another. Per Bork, that’s what happens when we divvy up the camps between those who are (more or less) on the right side of righteousness and those who are (more or less) on the side of evil instead of it simply being a matter of political dis/agreement.

    dgh, the standard issue retort is that the gays started it. I’ve never been very impressed by my own children who pull that on each other, and I’m not sure what the difference is here. The other is that “it’s too late when it comes to laws concerning fornication and adultery.” I don’t know what that means exactly. When it comes to sexual sin fornication personally grinds me the most, but I’d be even more suspicious of a guy calling me at dinnertime frothing about the need to single out and politically marginalize and perhaps even civilly punish fornicators. Call me under-realized, but I’m pleased with just mocking the adolescence of fornication usually depicted on TV, etc.

    • Zrim, it’s all in the layers man. Do I like gay marriage? Absolutely not, I think it is morally repugnant. Am I okay if gays marry so long as they don’t try to in my denomination? Well, uncomfortable but okay.

      When I approach the issue, I do ask myself what is the other side looking for here, and can I live with it? Now there are gay activists who will stop at nothing short of 100% endorsement of their lifestyle and political demands by the whole darn country. They want all churches to marry gays, hire gays, to stop calling homosexuality a sin essentially. I maintain that this represents a very vocal and belligerent minority. My line of work puts me in professional acquaintance with a fair amount of gays, and for the most part they want similar things that we want, to live their lives freely without major gov’t intervention, and for conservatives to leave them be (kind of like conservatives hate falling victim to liberal agendas). They aren’t out to take over our churches, or overtly trying to gay-ify all of society. They might want to get married, but not by a minister who would find their union repugnant.

      I realize my pluralist leanings with respect to the secular kingdom and NL sympathies seem somewhat conviluded, but I am, at least politically speaking more concerned about living in a free society than I am about getting into to much of a tussle over the politics of sex. My hope in this issue is that religious conservatives and gay activists could put down their big guns for just a simple conversation of what each side is really looking for, and what each side can live with since both have to exist in the same society, and come to an agreement that respects each others distinctives, and stop all the shouting. I just think that if we want to be part of this emerging pluralist society with any rights to speak of, we need to begin to contemplate the human element of why certain groups want what they want. Maybe this means conceding certain things that we don’t like, but it might serve a higher goal of maintaining freedoms that we hold dear without the other side trying to snatch those away simply because we fought so hard to deny them theirs. I realize that this could make me the 2k version of a peace lovin’ hippie, but from where I now stand that is how I see things. I am willing to change and modify my views, but not over off hand dismissals, if someone who has an eye for the nuances, complexity, and long-term consequences of this political situation, I am all ears.

      • Jed, to the extent that this debate is shaping up like the ill-fated abortion debate, I wouldn’t hold my pluralist breath (there goes my realism again). One benefit, though, is that it has remained a relatively local consideration and hasn’t escalated to the Supreme Court where activists tend to look in order to federally mandate their morality. Yet, that hasn’t stopped anyone from continuing the good ol’ American way of framing the debate in terms of righteousness and evil. Sigh.

        If you’re the peace loving hippie then I guess that makes me the radical Anabaptist. Double sigh.

  14. CVD,

    I’m a bit late to the conversation here, so it took me a while to plow through your comments. I’d like to preface my comments/questions by saying that by in large I am grateful for the work you do, upholding religious freedom is important work, and important to our country, even to those who don’t share our faith. That said, you and I are likely to disagree on a great many things politically. I’ll save that discussion for another day maybe, but I have some thoughts on these two cases:

    Correct me if I am wrong here but there seems to be somewhat of a difference between the GA and the MI cases, with the GA case seeming more egregious simply because of all of the re-orientation curriculum forced on the student did seem like reverse-discrimination. In the MI case case it seems to me that this student was pursuing secular degree, presumably to practice in a more secular setting than a biblical counseling field. If this is the case it might be a bit more balanced to say that she may not discriminate in who she councils, however she may maintain her religiously-influenced beliefs and even state them to whomever she might be counseling. In which case, the prospective counselee might opt to be referred elsewhere where they might find counseling more in line with their homosexual orientation. Since this was all taking place within the counseling program, maybe that wouldn’t be practical. It does seem to me that if this student want to work in the secular field, she will have to be very careful about discrimination, and a policy of “I don’t council gay’s” seems a bit discriminatory in the therapy field. There may be times when a homosexual might need suicide intervention counseling, or some other emergency treatment where such a policy would be more flatly discriminatory. Whereas, if a homosexual is looking for council on how to accept their lifestyle, come out, etc, it would be more appropriate for a Christian in the secular field to recuse herself and refer to a therapist who would be more helpful. Maybe that isn’t exactly pertinent to these cases, however, like Dr. Hart has noted above, if these students want secular degrees and practices in the future, they might want to be more nuanced in how they approach the issue. I am sure due to my lack of familiarity with these cases beyond the links provided that I am fudging on the details here, but do you get the gist of where I am coming from here?

  15. My wife is a clinical psychologist in private practice. Let’s just say I know all too well that she and I are in two of the most virulently anti-Christian professions in modern America.

    I haven’t yet decided whether the version of tw0-kingdoms theology being advocated here is an extreme view not rooted in the basic assumptions of the theology, or whether it is a logical outgrowth of the theology. Dr. Clark is quite correct when he tells me I need to do some serious reading, but what I’m seeing here on this board, in discussions like this one, indicates that at the very least a number of two-kingdoms followers have gone off on a very seriously wrong path.

    What I do know is that CVanDyke is dead right when it comes to the gay agenda, and also the cultural agenda of the leftists in many other areas. These people do not operate out of a worldview that encourages meekness or niceness, though in many cases they use to their advantage the boorish, rude, and “uneducated backwoods” atttitudes of too many Christians, and gain support by convincing the “muddled middle” that Christians are on some sort of violent crusade to burn heretics and hack off women’s heads.

    To pretend that being nice will make the hard-core leftists give up their agenda is to make the same mistake that pacifists make. Evil must be met with steely determination to fight back, though in many cases the fight will be using cool reason rather than fiery rhetoric.

    In most cases, I don’t really care whether the church as institute is doing the fighting, or whether it is individual Christians. If all the two-kingdoms people want to say is that the fight belongs to Christians as individuals and not to the church as institute, to me that is mostly a question of semantics — Christians usually fight better in the civil realm when we’re not encumbered by slow-moving ecclesiastical bureaucracies.

    But to fail to recognize that we are in a fight in Western society for the very survival of our right to practice and proclaim our Christian faith is either ignorance or wilfully going AWOL in the fight. There are things being said on this board that I would expect to find in circles very different from those of conservative Protestantism, and I’m getting more and more alarmed by what I am reading. If this is a serious movement in conservative Reformed circles, something needs to be done to stop it, and sooner rather than later.

  16. CVD, it’s not as if I can only go to state-credentialed counselors for counsel. You may have heard of Biblical Counseling and CCEF? These people are everywhere, or so it seems that most students at WTS are going into counseling. Plus, don’t forget that I can go to an Internist for anti-depressants and by-pass the entire counseling profession. So while the state credentials some forms of counseling, it is not a monopoly the way it is for medicine (unless you want to go to an accupuncturist). In which case, this woman had other options.

    Darrell, if the church is engaged in the sort of war that you say, then is the best strategy to fight in a knock-down, drag-out contest, winner takes all? Or might there be some wisdom in looking for ways that we can maintain the practices that we have. Right now our churches have remarkable freedom (does anyone think we are in Eritrea?). So do you want to be so pushy that you risk losing your freedoms? Or do you look for less visible ways to confront the enemy?

    People throw around the word “strategic.” But what is the strategy in beating down the gays? Might it not be strategic to lose in the short run to win in the long term?

    • Dr. Hart, you’re asking valid questions about strategy, and the answer depends upon context.

      If Christians are under Western-style persecution (France, early 1900s Mexico, or the environment of a lot of left-wing secular universities), it may be entirely appropriate to pick and choose our battles. I know of one far-right Reformed pastor who is anything but a 2K advocate who quietly agreed to a requirement by his liberal private school that his Christian organization ministering to graduate students had to have a non-discriminatory policy toward homosexuals for membership and leadership, quietly disclosed that to his financial supporters so they would know what was going on and wouldn’t feel they’d been misled, and then prayed diligently that no homosexual would ever “test the waters” by trying to join or seek leadership. He made a choice I would not have made, but I’m hard-pressed to say the a ban on preaching against homosexuality at a private once-Christian college is the same thing as outright persecution by the state. The only way for him to minister on that campus was to have his organization adopt a nondiscriminatory policy and he voluntarily chose to pay that price.

      Likewise, it goes without saying that there are cases where Christians have no choice at all except to suffer. if we’re in the context of being slaves or non-citiens of the Roman Empire, or for that matter comparable states such as the Japanese Empire or Maoist China, we have to obey orders whenever we can or quietly refuse to obey, and then understand the potential consequences, namely, accepting martyrdom as a result. There is no hope under such circumstances of using “civil rights” to advocate for toleration of a Christian minority. The most we might possibly be able to do was what Esther Ahn did in the Japanese Diet, publicly warning the Japanese rulers in the full view of all the media of the 1930s in Japan that their nation would be destroyed if they did not stop persecuting the Korean Christians. She expected to die as a result, and in fact years later after nearly going blind in prison, she was sentenced to be executed on the same day that the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, leading to such chaos that the Japanese decided not to kill her while awaiting orders from Tokyo that never came. She ended up surviving and becoming a Christian hero of the Korean independence movement.

      However, do any of us want to let America get to that point, or even to the state that France is in today?

      When we’re dealing with the American civil government where precedents are criticial, every time Christians back down in the face of unconstitutional harassment, we don’t make things easier for ourselves but rather set a precedent allowing further abuse. Making things worse for future Christians because we backed down is the last thing we ought to be doing.

    • DGH, I have taken courses in biblical counseling with the best and I know its merits and its limits. Nouthetic counseling, in its many forms, has some value for garden-variety neurotics and maladjustments. But I at least am far from convinced that it can address serious mental illness or serious clinical depression. In short, I believe there is a place for the mental health professions. We don’t do Christians any favor by ceding this territory to pagans and shutting out Christians from these professions.

      I know many persons who have been helped by Christian clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. They would not have been helped by pagan therapists, many of whom try to “cure” their patients of their Christian disorder.

      This is an area where Christians need to fight to hold onto their constitutional rights to freely exercise their religion and not willingly relinquish those rights to bully bureaucrats pushing a leftist agenda. By my calculus, more harm is done by the pacifist approach here than by standing our ground and retaining our rights to think and act like Christians.

      Darrell, I share your anger at the kinds of posts your readng here from some. The surrender, pacifist outlook is odd at best and terribly corrosive. I feel very torn because I share the 2K assumptions of their basic outlook, and I would like to see more Christians share 2K theology because I believe it’s biblical. But many of its exponents carry this pacifist baggage with them that is a betrayal of the 2K theology they espouse. By not allowing the citizen-Christian the full exercise of his/her status as a citizen of the city of man, they in effect confust the two kingdoms and turn everything into a City of God issue. Maybe its over-realized eschatology, or maybe just a function of their temperament or politics bleeding into and distorting their theology. In any case, I’d commend reading up on the 2K theology and giving it fair consideration. Don’t let some of the extreme commenters turn you off to it. My 2 cents.

      • DGH, I meant to mention that the legal implications of losing this fight regarding counseling degrees are disturbing because the precedent would be used well beyond Christian students seeking psychology degrees or counseling licenses. If the rational-basis test suffices to support the application of any non-discrimination law to Christians, why could the state not apply non-discrimination laws to churches and require them to hire gay pastors and elders? A church that refused to comply could be enjoined by court order, or made to pay ruinous damages awards. Are you willing to pay that price for your theory that Christians should sit on the couch with arms folded while their legal rights are being eclipsed?

      • CVD,

        Let me get this straight, unless 2k-ers share your politically conservative agenda, along with your pro-military leanings, and desire/willingness to engage, even as private Christians, in the cultural war their views are at best defective, and at worst dangerous? I am glad to see the constitutional work you do. However, when you start getting into how we should posture ourselves towards other groups, you loose your authoritative base, it is an opinion that must be argued and held or not based on its own merits.

        I’ve got a real issue if you are impugning those of us who don’t see much value in involving ourselves too terribly in opposing political liberalism of a defective theology. Liberalism in the church? Great lets draw swords together. In the world? You have a lot of convincing to do to get me hot and bothered enough to get out into the political arena and fight. Maybe we see value in engaging the process differently, or maybe for good reason there are even those who see no value in engaging the issues at all. What is fundamentally at stake to me in these discussion is not what individual Christian does politically with his own time and resources. The fundamental issues undergirding 2k and SOTC is the primacy of the gospel and the ministry of the church in the like of the believer. The fact is, that however important, and genuinely debatable these issues are, they are truly secondary to what we as believers are about – a pilgrim people on this earth, who will always have at best a tenuous relationship with the world we currently live in.

        • Jed, I have no problem with you or anyone if you personally are not inclined to politics or to oppose the encroachment of the state or engage the cultural movements of the day. If you want to be disengaged, fine. My wife is not particulalry politically incluned, and any are not. What I have an objection to is when you or others seek to impose a categorical moral imperative, that all Christians should refrain from opposing the evils of the day. And I have a problem when you misrepresent 2K theology or SOTC by assertng that it mandates cultural/political pacifism. I only criticize the positions of others who criticize all political/cultural engagement by individual Christian citizens. Yes, I think you’re a threat to the degree that you confuse others into your positions.

          Your arguments offer the fallacy of the false dichotomy: either pilgrim people or cultural warriors. That is not only fallacious, but simplistic thinking. I heartily believe that Christians are pilgrim people, that our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom. But I also believe that God cares deeply about this world, and cares that we be salt and light in a dark and decaying culture — not to hasten the Kingdom, but to preserve a stable moral order and platform in which God’s primary purposes of building his Kingdom may unfold, to alleviate suffering and injustice, and to do good to all. If you disagree, you’d have to take your sizzors and excise whole swaths of Scripture. A “tenuous” relationship with this world? Perhaps tenuous, but not disengaged. Your ethic and those of the 2k extremists with whom you traffic have more in comon with the Quakers and Amish than the Reformed tradition.

          • CVD, Jed is more than capable of speaking for himself, but as a third party to your exchange, I think you really over read Jed’s comments. I see nothing there about mandating what you choose to do in your calling. What I do see is a disagreement about what may be at stake in this case. If Jed is a tad bullish on his point, it could be that 2kers are constantly kvetched for being immoral, secular, liberal, and antinomian when from a different perspective they are trying to preserve the gospel. It is always going to be a judgment call about how best to proceed in this world against the forces of darkness. Some trust their own strategies, some the outward and ordinary means.

            • “Trying to preserve the gospel.” Christians who fight in the courts for the right to believe and to speak the gospel are trying to preserve the gospel. But extremist 2Kers see that fight as a threat to the gospel. They can reach such a perverse conclusion only because they are not dealing in specific cases. They are over-reacting to the Christian right’s excesses and taking the overbroad, simplistic view that, “if the Christian right is activist, I must be anit-activist.” Thats like saying, “If Jerry Falwell brushed his teeth, I must knock mine out.”

              Isn’t there room in the 2K playbook for recognizing that the Moral Majority confused the two kingdoms, but also fighting for constitutinal rights in a given case? Can’t they think in concrete cases rather than broad generalities? Is the gospel really in jeopardy because a Christian counseling student filed a lawsuit for the right to articulate Christian convictions?

          • Over reading Jed’s points might be this side of generous. CVD has in the past rendered similar points as “pacifistic, profoundly foolish, unbiblical, deeply immoral, pious nonsense, exegetically without warrant, logically erroneous, cruel and heartless, diseased reasoning, madness and evil and dangerous naivete.” That sort of rhetoric sounds pretty close to how the revivalists impugned the motives of the confessionalists.

            What I have an objection to is when you or others seek to impose a categorical moral imperative, that all Christians should refrain from opposing the evils of the day.

            For the umpteenth time, CVD, nobody is saying that anyone has to refrain from anything or is imposing any categorical moral imperatives. All we’re saying is that there are some worthwhile points to consider. The long and short of your point seems to be that if anyone suggests those points he’s pick-any-of-the-above-adjectives.

            But I also believe that God cares deeply about this world, and cares that we be salt and light in a dark and decaying culture — not to hasten the Kingdom, but to preserve a stable moral order and platform in which God’s primary purposes of building his Kingdom may unfold, to alleviate suffering and injustice, and to do good to all.

            To be salt and light is to hold out the unfettered gospel in the midst of either a flourishing or decaying culture, not to promote a flourishing culture and fight a decaying one. The Great Commission only commands that the gospel go forth. It says nothing about making sure the stage upon which the gospel goes is stable, or free of suffering or injustice, etc. I’m sure there will be plenty of howling on this, but it is very hard to see how your comment here couldn’t easily be one found amongst the Protestant liberals who wanted to use the Great Commission to get over their cultural agenda.

            • Zrim, you’ve already shown your hand. You previously stated that you “caterogorically oppose” activism by Christians. That is a categorical imperative. Your pose that you are simply raising questions or offering ideas to consider has long been exposed as disingenuous. As long as you attack Christians who stand against the cultural decay and fight for your constitutional rights to proclaim the gospel and think and act like Christians, expect push back.

            • No, CVD, I said I categorically oppose (culture warrior) activism for me, not for other Christians. It is my own conscience that opposes it, because I think it does more harm than good, etc. This is key and is what you keep failing to understand. You may point out the failings of quietism, and I may point out those of activism, but neither of us may assign a “thus saith the Lord” about how we choose to participate in the KoM.

            • Zrim, you’re not being intellectually honest. It is clear from your comments you meant cateogical opposition to activism by Christians, period. The masked slipped for a moment. You have reflexively criticized the actions of numerous Christians who resort to the courts or legislature. You’re not credible. Indeed, it’s inherent in your position that you are critical of activism for more than you. Your pretending otherwise is a LOL moment.

              • Hi All,

                This is generally a helpful discussion but let’s watch the tone. I understand that there are strong feelings here and that these are important issues but…..

            • CVD, when it comes to the whole issue of gay rights I am skeptical of the cultural war activism that surrounds it no matter who is involved, believer or unbeliever. The same is true of pro-life activism, be it religious or secular pro-lifery. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the issue shouldn’t be politically solved, just that I don’t think American-styled activism helps it very much at all (in fact, I think it retards finding solution). My being skeptical or critical of the social worth of activism is not the same as saying it is somehow morally, absolutely and universally wrong. I don’t understand why you can’t see this difference.

              It does seem to me, however, that it is a shared assumption of any culture warrior that activism is fundamentally more good than bad, and to question its social worth is to question a very deeply seated ideology. And it is then interesting to note that the visceral response you exhibit here is no different from the pro-gay or pro-choice activist when I suggest the same things, because you both, in your shared modernity, agree that virtue and morality depend not so much on being nurtured in the home as being legislated by the state. And when someone dissents to those assumptions, out pops all kinds of screeds.

          • CVD,

            I get the sense from your responses that you are glancing over my statements with a great many preconceived notions and not interacting with them before drawing some rather troublesome conclusions. It might be helpful for me to back-up and draw a couple of distinctions so that you are at least aware of what you are labeling as “dangerous, etc.”

            1. There is a distinction between making constitutional arguments for religious rights and cultural warriorism. I do not make a prima facie assumption that your work in constitutional law is tanamount to being a cultural warrior. Like I have said countless times before, I do see this as good work, and necessary to the health of our Republic and to her constituent states. My libertarian views are only possible with a strong constitution that is properly interpreted and applied for all lawful citizens.

            2. There is an entire strata between Radical Cultural Warrior and Quietist, I haven’t presented a false dichotomy here. There are many who are active in the culture and political process who aren’t properly activists, or warriors; we vote, we express political opinions. X-ian cultural warriors are inclined to conflate the two-kingdoms, and qietists are inclined to draw and irrevocable distinction between the two. I admittedly land somewhere in-between.

            3. My political libertarian views with respect to gays in the society at large has very intentional motivations. I believe that our constitution guarantees equal rights under the law to all lawful citizens. In CA, homosexuality is a lawful lifestyle, and as such they should enjoy equal political rights. This does overlap some of my more churchly concerns – I do believe that the church, and individual believers have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel to anyone of LGBT persuasion, and when you are perceived as a group that is already seeking to deny them political rights, you almost instantly loose any credibility in their eyes. The church, where she has spoken officially to this situation, has failed to see the ministerial consequences of this posture. However, I have found sadly that most Reformed Christians are far more inclined to look on gays with open disgust and derision rather than pity and prayer that God would move in the hearts of these truly broken sinners. The reason why I have held and insisted upon my position on issues such as prop. 8 is precisely because I do think the ministry of the church comes into play. Given the millions of dollars drummed up on sundays and the stadium filled evangelical prayer conferences all employed to stop prop. 8; the christian community at large sent a loud and clear message to the gay community: “We are absolutely against you, and we will go to great ends to stop you.” I believe that as soon as the church officially became involved, she did great damage to her calling in this world to minister the gospel of peace to a world at war with God.

            4. When a christian minister, or denominational body speaks to these issues, they are seen as the de facto voice of the church. When Tim Keller signs the Manhattan Declaration, he is seen as speaking for Presbyterians. This simply isn’t the case. There are those of us like me who want our ministers concerns to be ministerial. I cut my eye-teeth in an evangelical tradition that valued certain brands of activism in the world at large while the parishioners died of spiritual starvation in the pews. Ordained ministers are to be God’s contemporary voice to his people, yet it is too often they confuse their roles and think they have the same voice to the politics of the day. In fact the only infallible message that the church and her ministers have to the outside world is the gospel. So when a Christian leader makes public statements on public policy, they use the power vested to them by God for purposes that God hasn’t ordained.

            I have absolutely no issue with your cultural work. More often than not, I might even agree with the legal cases you bring before the courts. I am not here to subvert the function of the very state I am a beneficiary of. However, I am deeply concerned with the notion that those of us like myself, who see viable alternatives to a bare-knuckled brawl with the culture at large are impugned as dangerous, unbiblical, or unconcerned with the current passing world we live in. A peaceful and free society is also a tenuous reality, when the rights of one group is so easily dismissed, I become concerned that my conservative friends are only concerned with their rights and care little if the other guys rights are snatched away. If we are so adamantly concerned about our rights, why aren’t we concerned when others are deprived of theirs?

            • Jed, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I will address each item in turn.
              1. We are in agreement here. My concern with the extreme wing of 2Ks is that they are so reflexively opposed to anything that looks or smells remotely like Jerry Falwell et al. that their mind shuts down and they push the OPPOSE button. They fail to make careful distinctions between types of lobbying/litigation, some of which can be characterized as “culture war” and some of which cannot. Most of them that I know personally, or have read theri blogs, are driven by their hatred of the Christian right because they are politically to the left themselves. Whether they are driven by leftist politics or just confusion, it is, I submit, naive to fail to appreciate that all citizens — not merely Christians — should hold the government responsible to respect the law, and wherre government oversteps, legal or political action must be taken.

              2. I understand and agree to your No. 2. I am personally a center right person, but have been characterized by some conservatives as more centrist or liberal on some positions, at last as to protecting liberty and small government. I would share many of your libertarian sympathies. One area where I part company with liberatarianism, is I do see a role for the state to maintain creational norms and what the law traditionally upheld as the “police power of the state” to maintain the fundamental moral order. Thus, I believe the state has a rational basis for restricting marriage to one man, one woman. My libertarian friends disagree, and you appear to as well.

              I agree that some culture warriors on the right confuse the two kingdoms (e.g., Glenn Beck, and some constitutional lawyers I agree with). But I do not care what their theological motivations are if the result is just. My friend Jay Seculow, a fine constitutional litigator, is not Reformed or 2K. He conflates the two kingdoms. Nonetheless, his work is first rate and the results he acheives in winning justice, correcting abuse, and preserving civil rights is first rate. I’d urge you to distinguish the motives and rationales that motivate some persons and the kind of work they do.

              3. I understand your position. I agree that the church qua church should not take a position on political issues, ballot issues, candidates, etc., except in “cases extraordinary.” I also agree that pastors generally should be a-political publicly for the good of their flock and to avoid creating offense that could jeopardize their getting a hearing for the gospel. But individual Christians, as citizens of the city of man, have a responsibility to participate in the a democratic republic as good citizens, and have the right to be activists if they choose. I whole-heartedly agree that Christians must love gay people and proclaim the law and the gospel to them. At nonetheless believe that the state cannot permit gay marriage without doing grave offense to the creational order and introducing profound harm to the cultural and moral order. I agree with Dr. Peter Jones of Westminster California that violation of creational norms are worse order travesty than other forms of sinful rebellion that cannot be tolerated by a nation without risking severe divine sanction.

              When you say gays “have legal rights,” you are begging the question and assuming what is at issue. Gays already have civil rights and human rights to be treated fairly. They may not suffer any form of abuse, and their rights to equal treatment are guaranteed by federal and civil law. What they do not have the legal or moral right to, however, is changing the definition of marriage in a way that would violate a creational norm. We will see if the Suprene Cour ultimately agrees that our constitution guarantees them the right to gay marriage. I prefer to be optisimistic and believe Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, will not go that far.

              4. I agree Christian pastors should be a-political PUBLICLY. They do have a right to vote. My extremist 2K friends think that pastors and even lay Christians should refrain from voting, campaigning, and making political contributions because that confuses the two kingdoms, though some allow Christians to vote as long as they don’t tell anyone about it or discuss it publicly. I think that they are the ones confusing the two kingdoms by trying to take Christians out of the kingdom of man.

              I am very concerned when the rights of others, including non-Christians, are snatched away. I represent many non-Christians in fighting for their civil rights. I think we Christians should help non-Christians by working for their justice, mercy, liberty, and help improve life for them. That’s just being good neighbors and showing love and mercy to all.

              I appreciate your thoughtful distinctions, Jed.

  17. Mr Hart:

    Will you tip your hand regarding Biblical Counseling and CCEF? I’m curious as to your thoughts. I know you don’t buy the “all sin as idolatry model” but do you think their mission of restoring counseling to the church is a biblical one?



  18. CVD, I’ll sit on my hands the way the apostles did. The churches must continue to proclaim God’s word. If they are persecuted for that, then we follow the example of the apostles as well. We may also take a lesson from Paul and claim our rights as citizens, and petition the govt. not to take away freedom of religion and speech for what we proclaim. But I’m not sure yelling at and scolding the other side for their offensive conduct is really a good reason to get up off the couch.

    Kate, what CVD said about the limits of biblical counseling. Plenty of psychological, emotional, and physical woes need more than what Christian counselors can give. In which case, the psych-lite version of biblical counseling seems to usurp the proper role of pastors, elders, friends, and family members in a believer’s life. In other words, I’d go to my pastor for help in understanding God’s word before I’d go to a Christian counselor and pay for advice someone I don’t know.

    • DGH, do you think filing a civil complaint requesting an order precluding the state from taking away your civil right to hold to Christian orthodoxy is ” and act like a Christian is “yelling at and scolding the other side for their offensive conduct”? I read the complaint by the two Christian counseling students and the memorandum of points and authorities, and I didn’t detect any yelling and scolding. I did notice a lot of yelling and scolding from the secular academic officials at the state university about how unfit a Christian is to be a counselor.

      • CVD, is this really what the student was doing? Asking the state for the right to hold to her faith? Or was she trying to change the standards, already in place, to allow her to counsel one group according to her convictions? (Why is it that gays keep getting singled out? Would this woman accept state standards when counseling someone having an affair and looking for a divorce? As if, biblical standards only come up against the state’s counseling play book on homosexuality.)

        It may not be scolding, but it does seem analogous to my signing a contract with the Phillies and then telling them I can’t play or travel on Sundays. When they balk I claim my religious rights. Why did I sign the contract? Was I not aware that a lot of games take place on the Lord’s Day?

        • Darryl,

          Everyone counsels in light of their ultimate commitments, don’t they? Doesn’t the Freudian counsel in light of his commitment to a certain anthropology and in light of a certain theology? Hasn’t the academic establishment betrayed its rhetoric on diversity by picking sides in a what is really a theological battle? My interest here is in genuine neutrality, especially in state-funded institutions. If private institutions want to pick sides and kick out people who disagree, that’s fine, but the state can’t do that. It’s none of their business.

          MLB is not directly state funded. If they want to play on the sabbath, that’s their business and you’re right, a ball player knows that and has to make a decision which master he will serve, God or mammon but a counseling student isn’t necessarily faced with the same choice, is she?

          I quite agree that, when it comes to penultimate matters there is more room to maneuver and more things are penultimate than the transformationalists will admit or understand but counseling seems to be one of those things that moves beyond the penultimate and touches directly on religious convictions. I’m more apt to see a role for place for skilled non-Christian therapists and for medical treatment than some of my nouthetic friends. Those are areas where I’ve come to doubt the nouthetic approach or at least some rhetoric by advocates of nouthetic counseling but it’s hard to think of a school of psychology or psychotherapy that doesn’t have fairly strong religious overtones.

          • Scott,

            I’m not sure the state-private distinction works since both public and private schools need to conform to professional standards. It’s not as if the history dept. at Wheaton uses providentialist history because that is what some Christians think about the best way to interpret the past. No, Wheaton folks likely try to play by the rules of the American Historical Association (not overly onerous, I concede). The same would seem to apply in this case. Some counseling body, the American Psychiatric Association, has standards that govern programs like this. I imagine the print, however fine, is there for all students who enroll to see.

            • Darryl,

              It’s not just the public/private distinction but also the ultimate/penultimate distinction. Historians, good ones anyway, are working in the penultimate. The “providentialist” approach is more theology than it is history (something I learned from you!). A historian doesn’t have to appeal to providence to tell the penultimate, historical truth about the Thirty-Years War.

              It’s more difficult, however, for the therapist to avoid working out of an implicitly and explicitly theological framework. Counseling, when it’s not medical, is essentially pastoral work. The APA has implicitly and explicitly theological standards. They aren’t Christian but they are theological. I don’t think the standards of the AHA are of the same quality.

            • DGH, the state-private distinction is key because the state is bound to respect constitutional rights while private bodies, such as private univerisites and MLB, are not. (Some states such as California impose constitutional standards on private universities and colleges as a matter of statute.) As the counselor’s attorneys argued in their brief, the state university is not constitutionally free to impose standards that infringe the student’s rights to hold to and to express core religious convictions, and the state is not free under settled law to require a student, as a condition to matriculation or graduation, to espouse convictions she does not hold or that violate her right to free exercise of her religion.

              Under current law, I believe the court erred and should be overturned. Courts have long struck down state laws and regulations that withhold benefis unless the speaker esouses certain convictions touching upon religious convictin. That has been settled First Amendment doctrine for fifty years. However, as I have written elsewhere, what is troubling is that the legal tide is shifting against the right to free exercise of religion. These kinds of cases must be evaluated not only on the merits of the facts at issue, but considered for their implications for application to other fact patterns. Under stare decisis cases are precedents for other cases. An accretion of disturbing rulings like this becomes a legal basis for declaring the state’s right to punish or silence the speech of Christians as settled law. If the court’s ruling that Christian speech may be silenced or punished on the basis of the mere rational-basis test, without any showing that the burden on First Amendment rights is supported by a compelling state interest that cannot be achieved in any less onerous fashion, then the way is open to the state to regulate Christian speech and action in your local OPC church. It may not happen today or the next day, but it will happen if these cases are not fought and won. Twenty years ago, when I was a young lawyer, I would never have dreamed that a state university could legally turn away a Christian conseling student becaue of her Christian convictions. This trend should be disturbing to Christians. That a Christian can be ordered to surrender her religious convictions as a condition to graduation is disturbing to even non-Christian constitutiona lawyers. My faculty con law colleageus are not Christians, but they are appalled at these rulings and this trend. My ACLU friends are appalled. Christian lawyers and non-Christian lawyers such as the ACLU who care about preserving civil rights fight in the courts fight against each “little” violation because so much is at stake. It’s ironic that non-Christian ACLU lawyers see this and urge Christians to fight, and you apparently urge Christians to acquiese.

            • But Scott, not to sound Van Tillian and all, historians deal with theology also even if only implicitly. Questions about knowledge, the nature of reality, the uniformity of the past, all of these are questions that do go to ultimate questions. I think it is possible to bracket out some of those, take them as given and not needing to be specified, and get on with the work of history. But the philosophically inclined historians will admit that they borrow a lot of Christian capital.

              So I think it possible for a Christian counselor to bracket out certain ultimate questions. Homosexuality would not be one of them. In that case, you don’t train to be a secular psychologist. (BTW, doesn’t it make some difference whether the gay person seeking counsel is there because of sexual identity issues or is simply having trouble coping with anger.)

              CVD, whatever your legal cronies think, I know lots of paleo-conservatives who don’t like free speech arguments applied to college campuses. A host of “coercive” activities take place at universities — from assigned texts and courses to rules of conduct — that students do not have the liberty from. And plenty of university departments follow methodological or even ideological reasons for hiring. These seem well within the expectations of higher education. After all, a student can’t just write anything on a paper and go to court if they don’t get an A.

              • Darryl,

                Good historians mind their own business, don’t they? It’s not a historian’s business to decide the ultimate theological meaning of the Thirty Years War is it? Isn’t that the theologian’s job?

                It’s the historian’s business to explain what it was, when it happened, and the proximate (sub-eschatological) reasons why (political, social, economic, and religious tensions and pressures etc).

                Just as the Christian historian is tedious when he makes special appeal to providence either to vindicate his pet view (since everything happens according to the providence of God) so the Marxist historian is tedious when he ignores the facts (e.g., religious motivations) in favor of his eschatology.

                When historians confuse history and theology or use history to score theological points (e.g., the way the Barthian historical theologians have mischaracterized Reformed orthodoxy in order to vindicate Barth) they aren’t really doing history, are they?

                The modern history of psychology seems to be that an ecclesiastical function devolved into a parallel anti-Christian, Enlightenment theory and practice. I was impressed by this fact at Wheaton, when I taught a course in theological anthropology to the grad students (and to some department members!). Most of them had a “secular” orientation to counseling and several of them were decidedly and intentionally Pelagian in their theology. The psychology department was like a parallel theology dept (one floor down, as I recall). The spatial parallels seemed an apt metaphor for the theological relations.

        • DGH, you have the facts backward. Historically state univerisities and state licensure boards have long refrained from interpeting their counseling standards in such a way as to require religious persons to advocate views that violate their religiously informed conscience. They have not articualted standards that bar Christians from being licensed counselors or therapists. For example, they have allowed therapists to believe and to counsel that adultery is wrong, that homosexuality is not healthy or can be reversed, etc. The reason was that they believed that the First Amendment and due deference to religious conviction required it. These universities at issue changed the rules of the game in violation of constitutional law. These Christian counseling students are seeking to hold the universities to the applicable legal standard.

    • As someone who graduated from a Masters program in biblical counseling that was accredited… and considered the path of getting licensed by the state, I deferred. I think the answers to what ails man (aside from organic disorders), the church is uniquely qualified to address. Therefore I chose to not submit to cultural and lifestyle classes required by the state in order to be licensed. Since Freud the church has yielded its position of the reservoir of “curing truth” for fallen man. The gospel can and does speak to the most depraved conditions of man. We do not need to submit to the state in order to fulfill that role… though we may not be able to earn a living as certified therapists via insurance payments.

      Just my two cents…

      • So THAT’s how one well-known Reformed leader concedes a point to another…I always wondered what that might look like (never having seen it done before…).


    I commend the above link to an essay by Timothy Dalrymple entitled “Three Options for Social Conservatives” in reference to Prop 8 and the gay marriage issue. Dalrymple thoughtfully analyzes the options available to Christians and social conservatives generally in the wake of the gay rights movement, and the pros and cons of each. He also makes the point that legal analysts are very concerned about the coming encroachment upon the freedom of churches in preaching and hiring.

    • CVD,

      While Dalrymple gave the cons to 1 & 2, there is no mistaking that he believes 3 is the answer and hardly a con to be seen.

      And even though he makes some good points in 3 he trips over himself when he states:

      It was never the case that social conservatives cared only about abortion and sexuality, but we can do a better job today of locating our concern for the institution of marriage within a broader vision of the good and just society.</i?

      One only need read the general viewpoint of most conservative Romanists and their moral theology, which they believe saves, to know this statement is false.

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