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Russell Moore:

 If your principles change based on whether it helps your “tribe,” then it’s your tribe you believe in, not your principles.

Christians who talk about religious liberty, for example, but are silent (or worse) when religious freedom is compromised for unpopular religious minorities, don’t really believe in religious freedom.

They believe, at best, in a majoritarian kind of special pleading.

They believe, at worst, in the identity politics of victimhood.

Principles stand regardless of the politics of the moment. If we stand up for the First Amendment when our side is harmed (and we should), then we should stand up for the First Amendment even when our side will be angry with us for doing so.

You can read the whole thing here, which is a meditation on three lessons the church can observe in the life of Antonin Scalia.

 


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39 thoughts on “How Not to Be a Christian Hack”

  1. Doug says:

    We must first define what “standing up for the 1st Amendment” means. It meant one thing as originally ratified, and quite another after the Civil War with ratification of the 14th Amendment. The original 1st Amendment was to prevent the National government from intervening with States in matters of religion—as defined by individual states. State churches were in operation at the time of ratification and continued many years after. The 1st was effectively nullified with ratification of the 14th.

  2. Doug Lundin says:

    Moore is not clear what he means by Religious Minority and “Religious Freedom.” It is inconceivable that the First Amendment provided an unlimited religious freedom. As the previous poster noted, the first Amendment was to keep the Federal Government from establishing a national church. Moore seems to give ammunition to those who could argue that we cannot ban any religious practice, but that is ridiculous. Can we not ban Female Genital mutilation? Can we not ban child sacrifice (oops – abortion.) Can we not ban suttee? The First Amendment presupposes a Christian environment and is not meant to authorize any possible religious practice.

    1. Doug says:

      Doug, I fully agree with what you say. The 1st in its original context was meant to guarantee states full freedom to regulate as they saw fit in matters of religion. The 14th—ratified without participation of the southern states—disabled state’s rights and imposed on them what originally applied only to the National government in regards to religious constraint.

  3. “Christians who talk about religious liberty, for example, but are silent (or worse) when religious freedom is compromised for unpopular religious minorities, don’t really believe in religious freedom.”

    What religious liberties are we talking about? The question of which religion is actually true isn’t irrelevant to this question. The public space is not neutral, and not to be treated as if Christ did not exist, or was not Lord. There is no generic, unbranded “religion”. This is an enlightenment Myth. Religions are concrete and distinct. To take an extreme example to prove the point… wWhen John Paton went to the South Sea islands and found people practising cannibalism, he wasn’t very interested in defending their “religious freedom” to do so…. and it’s not because he was either into special pleading, or victimhood. Unless by “special pleading” we mean the truth out that Christianity is special.

  4. Curt Day says:

    There are two lines that need to be challenged above. First, the line that talks disparanginly about victimhood. Realize that this nation was built on ethnic cleansing, race-based slavery and then segregation and now mass incarceration, labor exploitation, sexism, and economic classism, to name a few, and thus we have a plethora of victims. And that list doesn’t include the trials those from the LGBT community have had to endure. Now has that victimhood ever been exploited by some? Certainly. But that we have multiple groups that can legitimately lay claim to being vicitims to a significant degree in society is all too obvious.

    Second, the line that says:


    Christians who talk about religious liberty, for example, but are silent (or worse) when religious freedom is compromised for unpopular religious minorities, don’t really believe in religious freedom.

    this needs to be examined. As Moore correctly protested against the verbal proposals and attacks on Muslims, he is consistent with the statement. But when he opposes, or has opposed, the legalization of same-sex marriage in society for religious reasons, then he shows himself to be inconsistent with his statement (see https://www.russellmoore.com/2014/04/15/same-sex-marriage-and-the-future/ and https://erlc.com/article/erlc-president-russell-moore-responds-to-scotus-ruling-to-legalize-same-sex). It is at that time that there is an infringement on the religious liberties of those who wish to participate in same-sex marriage. And this infringement comes regardless of any religious convictions about same-sex marriage by the participants.

    In the case of same-sex marriage, Moore and others have expressed legitimate concern for the ramifications that the Obergefell decision has for religiously conservative Christians because the Scriptures clearly teach against same-sex marriage. However, there is a lack of concern for the religious liberties of those who have wished to enjoy same-sex marriage. Thus, at this point, he shows a concern for the religious liberties of his own group, but not the other group.

    My belief is that the insistence of many of my fellow religiously conservative Christians that preaching against homosexuality be so strongly associated with opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage in society has caused not only liberal Christians to embrace homosexuality as a viable option, but have caused the young adults among religiously conservative Christians to question the clear biblical teachings on homosexuality. That belief is based on my observation of a relatively small sample of Christians. For such Christians are being forced to choose between one of two perceived sins: the sin of marginalizing a group of people due to their sexual orientation or the sin of accepting homosexuality as a biblically allowed sexual orientation.

    A similar inconsistency can arise from Scalia’s belief that government should be allowed to show a particular religion favoritism (see http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/01/02/heres-what-supreme-court-justice-scalia-just-said-about-religious-neutrality-the-constitution-and-why-god-has-been-good-to-america/ ). And yet, the quotes from Moore above come from an article praising Judge Scalia.

  5. Doug says:

    Curt,

    While your expressed concern for your fellow man is commendable, you must be careful not to confound your role as an individual with the unique role of Government. Nowhere does anyone receive the following warning about you, or me for that matter:

    “[I]f you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

    Romans 13 does specifically give this warning about Government. Government is explicitly established by God as a religious institution with an explicit “moral” mandate. It cannot be religiously neutral as you suggest without offending God. Recall that Christ on the cross had compassion on the thief by his side. Never once did he impugn the Roman government for placing him there.

  6. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    Government is a religious institution in what way? Is it answerable to the Church becaue the Church is suppose to be the keeper and guardian of the faith? And if it is answerable to the Church, which denomination? And after you answer that question, how can the freedom of religion part of the first amendment coexist with government being a religious institution? And what about the 2K contributions that come from the Lutheran and Reformed versions of that approach?

    If sin is evil, the question becomes whether government is to judge all sins or just certain kinds of sins? The answer to that question comes from a variety of places in the Scriptures including those on discipline. Take I Cor 5 for example. Paul doesn’t seem concerned about government punishing sexual sins of those who are not Christians. Rather, the punishment for unrepentant sexual sins according to Paul is not to be punished by the gov’t but, if the guilty part is a Christian, to be excommunicated and thus put inside society, but outside of the Church.

    To not mak e the distinction between evil and certain sins merges government and Church together. It led Martin Luther to call for both German society and government, he called on German princes too, to punish the Jews for their unbelief. It led Calvin to persecute and participate in the burning of heretics and witches at the stake. It led the Puritans to persecute and every kill Quakers. Should I go on?

    So what is it that you are advocating?

    1. Doug says:

      Curt,
      What is your take on Romans 13?

    2. Curt,

      Granted the important distinction between “evil” and “sin”, when we’re considering the role + work of civil government, this still leaves a number of problems I’m not sure that Moore’s position really grapples with.

      How did you or he know about this distinction, except through the Bible? How do you know how to apply it, except through the Bible? And – very importantly – the fact is, that the lines drawn by this distinction cut across Moore’s existing categories. They don’t leave “religion” untouched in a box. Practices of various “religions” (and again, I repeated that there is no generic, unbranded “religion” out there – that’s an enlightenment myth) are both sin and evil. There is no “religious freedom” that can be granted en masse to all “religions”, that does not deny some religions the ability to freely practice and promote their religion.

      What a Muslim who takes the Koran seriously considers the “freedom” to “practice his religion” would differ very much from what a Christian would think about that question. Again, you can’t divorce this whole issue from the question “which religion is actually *true*”, and its necessary answer “Christianity is true, and Jesus is Lord, and the Bible must guide us”.

      David

      1. Doug says:

        Well said, David. In the past a common argument leveled against “tolerance” as opposed to “religious freedom” was that tolerance assumed a superior religion, and all others inferior. Religious freedom assumes equality of religions which is counter to the exclusivity of Christ.

  7. Curt Day says:

    That gov’t has a role in controlling evil and encouraging good. But the evil being addressed here is the evil practiced in the public square. Jesus’ and Paul’s take on Church discipline gives the idea that society will be filled with both Christians and people who cannot be in good standing with the Church because of either beliefs or behavior

    1. Doug says:

      Yes, the gov’t has a critical role in preserving society.

      In 1 Cor 5 Paul asked a key question: “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” Great men like Jefferson have gotten the answer wrong. Paul is emphatic, “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.” Peter likewise warns us, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.”

      Evil in many ways mimics disease. God has ordained Gov’t to quarantine it, lest it infect and destroy whole nations. Government’s focus is not on the heart, but on the hand. Its purpose is to restrain socially harmful acts through fear of punishment. It is highly effective.

      The Gospel on the other hand has the power to change men’s hearts. Gov’t and the Gospel work in tandem to preserve nations.

      The highly contagious nature of evil can be seen in the area of sexual orientation today. Many former staunch opponents of homosexuality have since caved in opposition. They have even become active supporters, simply through association with a close friend or family member who is homosexual.

      “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.” This applies to all of society.

  8. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    And when Paul used the yeast analogy, was he talking about the Church or society?

    BTW, I don’t see any NT teaching or precedent that supports your assertion that the Gospel and government preserve nations. In fact, if you look at case studies, some of the worst societies are those where Christianity has a dominanjt role.

    Finally, take note of what Paul says in I Cor 5:12, 13. In addition, you might want to distinguish which coming of Jesus we should be following. For in His first coming, Jesus arrives and lives as a suffering servant. And He warns us against lording it over others.

  9. Doug says:

    Curt,
    Paul was speaking to the “early” church. It has application to all of society.

    Every society is at a different stage, the end design being Christianization. Dan 7:14, Matt 28:19. Every nation is under the principle, “To whom much is given, much is required.” God’s Word starts with the Church. It is to progressively affect all. As for preservation, that is what Christ meant by “you are the salt of the earth.” The U.S. has been given much in terms of divine revelation. We are not acting consistent. In such case Christ said the salt-less salt would be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. Needless to say, the plan of our Lord will progress on…with or without us.

    Btw, Can you give an example of a “Christian” nation that would be considered a “worst society?”

  10. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    Considering what Paul said in I Cor 5:12-13, it seems to me that he is zeroing on the Church and that he doesn’t care about sexual morality of society. That we could apply the passage in question to society is not the same issue as whether Paul was applying it to society and, if so, how.

    IN addition, I would like to see the Scripture verses that support your claim that the end of every society is to be a Christian society.

    1. Doug says:

      Paul doesn’t care about sexual morality of society? The apostles were sent out to call all men to repentance.

      Do you doubt the apostles had global conquest in mind? Is this not what Christ commissioned them for when He said “go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations?”

      Romans 1:5 Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name.

      Psalm 2:8 Ask me,and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,the ends of the earth as your personal property.

      Daniel 7:14 And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away;And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

  11. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    PLease deal with the text. of I Cor 5:12-13. It is there. you cannot deduce it to nonexistence.

    However, if you wish to say that it is the CHrch’s job to address immorality by preachging repentance, I agree. There is just no indication that gov’t is called on to enforce the sexual morality standards dealt with in I Cor 5.

    1. You’re setting up a false antithesis. There are other possible options than a choice between “the government must codify all Christian ethics into the law of the land” and “the church preaches general repentance, and has nothing to say to the law-maker”.

    2. Doug says:

      Curt,
      Perhaps you are looking at 1 Cor 5:12-13 in isolation, and coming to the conclusion that Paul trivializes civil government? The Church operating in a vacuum? Remember, Paul also wrote the Romans 13 treatise on civil government. Also, consider how Paul turned to civil government when he felt his life threatened in Acts 23:16-24.

      It was not Paul’s ministry to judge those outside the church. This was clearly outside his appointed job description. Nevertheless, judging those outside the church was somebody’s job as Paul elaborates in Romans 13:4 regarding civil government: “if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

      Civil Authorities—ministers of God—are to punish evildoers. Evil is defined by God. Thus ministers have a critical role emphasizing God’s moral standards and powering civil government toward righteousness.

      1. Doug says:

        PS: There is much that is unknown about this particular case in 1 Cor 5. Lev 20:11 speaks specifically to this situation and Paul would’ve know it well:

        “If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

        Notice the man AND the woman are to be put to death. This is what the Lord considered just. Paul only refers to the man. Also, Paul stresses the gravity of the offense is, “of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans.”

        Is it not possible that given the low status of women before the permeation of the Church, that the Corinthian government had executed the woman?

        Paul took care of the man.

  12. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    I don’t see Paul trivializing civil gov’t there. Rather I see Paul, and Jesus too when talking about discipline, recognizing that the standards used to discipline people in the Church don’t always match the standards used to discipline people in society. Otherwise, we will, as Jesus warned us agaisnt, “lord it over” the gentiles and we will be imitating Jesus in His second coming, rather than His first coming.

    So Romans 13 does state that the gov’t should judge people outsid the Church. But if the gov’t is to use the same standards as the Church does, that would put the government under the Church and would add to the problems listed above.

    Plus, historical precedenbt shows the harm that happens when society becomes a supplemental disciplinary arm of the Church as would occur if the gov’t uised the standards the Church uses to dsicipline people. Luther’s treatment of the Jews and Calvin’s Geneva provided horrible examples of the Church doing more than just preaching to get people to repent.

    Finally, you have no NT precedent to support your contention about the gov’t using the Church’s standards to discipine people. Realize that the difference between Paul’s time and Leviticus is that no nation either in Paul’s times or today can call itself God’s people. No nation is ever meant to do that. Rather God’s people are in the Church and are scattered throughout the world.

    1. Curt, you say:

      Rather I see Paul, and Jesus too when talking about discipline, recognizing that the standards
      used to discipline people in the Church don’t always match the standards used to discipline people in society.

      Who claimed otherwise? As I said in a previous reply:

      You’re setting up a false antithesis. There are other possible options than a choice between “the government must codify all Christian ethics into the law of the land” and “the church preaches general repentance, and has nothing to say to the law-maker”

      1. Curt Day says:

        David,
        I apologize for calling you Doug. As for your question, Doug is providing the example I am addressing.

        As for your claim that I am setting up a false antithesis, it might sound like that because of my answers to Doug. But that is not my goal. I do believe that the Church has much to say regarding the making of secular laws. But here the Church must distinguish between pushing for laws that give the Church a privileged position in the laws that are passed from the Church pushing for equality.

        Nobody objected to Martin Luther King’s use of religion in pushing for civil rights. And that is because the laws he pushed for demanded that all were treated with equal respect. That is the public directiong that the Church should move in terms of determing wht laws should be passed.

        1. Hi Curt,

          To my mind, your categories and approach are uncritically taken over from the Western ‘Enlightenment’ movement. Whenever the intellectuals of the “Enlightenment” spoke of a “religion”, they did so out of their very limited experience. Their concept of a “religion” was “something that’s basically like Christianity”. However, in the real world, other “religions”, as actually encountered, are very different. You can only give “equal rights” to all religions if you try to squash other religions into a shape that insists that they behave something like Christianity. i.e. You formally deny the superiority of Christianity, but smuggle it in the back door. You operate with Biblical distinctions between the public and private squares, between church and government – distinctions which other religions emphatically deny. Once you’ve done that, you may as well just openly admit that the Bible is to instruct the law-maker. That isn’t to say that all laws for the church are also laws for the state. But, it is to admit that the idea that the public square is to have some other source of authority and instruction than God’s word is an ultimately unstable and untenable position. Even in defending that position, you keep appealing to the Bible and Biblical principles.

          Modern secular humanism holds that the woman’s right to kill her unborn child is an inviolable right. Christianity holds that that’s murder. Ultimately, there must be a source of law for the public square. If it won’t be Christianity, then it will be something else. It’s not possible to draw your principles from *nowhere*. When you do so, you actually just draw them from the Bible anyway, but cover it up with special pleading. That’s what the Enlightenment thinkers did. We shouldn’t be following them.

          Can we agree that Jesus is Lord of the public square, and his rules should hold sway there, and that when we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, we don’t simply mean in our “private lives”, as defined by un-Christian Enlightenment thought?

          David

  13. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    You claimed otherwise when you defined gov’t’s job as that of punishing evil. And the context of that discussion were sexual ethics as you quoted Leviticus. Realize that the Leviticus passage, as well as the I Cor passage, were concerned with removing sin from the community of God’s people. Society is not the community of God’s people.. To say otherwise would merely make one a Christian counterpart to the Taliban or ISIS where the religous definitions for all evil is is forced on a community of people who hold to different religious beliefs and values.

    That Paul turned to the civil gov’t has no bearing on our discussion. That is because our discussion revolves around the different standards of evil that is to be punished inside the Church and outside the Church

  14. Doug says:

    Curt,
    We seem to disagree about the ultimate object of the Gospel. I conclude that holy writ emphatically declares it to be global Christianity:

    “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:27-28

    Christ describes the Kingdom of God as progressing from “mustard seed” to a huge plant whose branches the birds nest in. It must be recognized that ALL NT WRITINGS ARE IN THE MUSTARD SEED STAGE.

    Christ explicitly taught us by extension of his disciples to pray daily,

    “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”

    Would Christ implant this prayer in the forefront of our minds if it was not his intention to answer it? Is it not rather the case that the church in America has been diverted from this ambition?

    You use the example of Isis and the Taliban—false religions—to discredit rule by the Truth?

  15. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    We are not arguing over the global scope of the Gospel. Rather, we are arguing over whether there should be two distinct standards for righteousness. One is the standard applied to those in the Church and the other is the standard for those in the public square. My reference to ISIS and the Taliban were exactly right in that they too see no difference between the righteousness expected to be practiced by true believers from the righteousness expected by all n the public square

  16. Doug says:

    Curt,
    The purpose of law—biblically—is to restrain evil doing, not punish “lack of righteousness.” This restraint applies equally to all in society, Christian or not. Christian or not, it is wrong to murder. Christian or not it is wrong to steal. Christian or not it is wrong for a man to have sex with another man. The law is to punish and restrain these examples of evil doing as defined by God. Evil doing harms society. I may not have love for my neighbor. That does not concern the law. However, if my lack of love leads to harmful action against my neighbor, I have entered the domain of law. The law is not to “command” belief. It may however, restrain the spreading of clear Scriptural error.

  17. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    Actually, that is not the first purpoes of the law. The first purpose of the law is to make us aware of our sin. In other words, the law cannot be fulfilled. Thus, we have to realize what the Apostolic Church realized in Acts 15: 10, to not put a burden on people that neither the Apostles nor any of the Israelites could bear.

    Another purpose of the law is to restrain evil. But how is evil restrained than in the arrest of lawbreakers. But again, is we use the whole law, everyone would be facing sentencing in court. That is why the Apostles did not insist on the whole law be followed.

    Thus we have to make distinctions between laws should be enforced in society and which ones should not. Murder and theft should be prohibited. But do you really want to imprison everyone who has sex outside of a monogamous hetersexual marriage? And do you want to equate all instances of such sex with murder and theft?

    Also realize that to live the Christian life, neither Paul nor John appeal to the law. Why? Because nobody can be justified by the law. Rather, the law either makes us aware of our sins or quickens our own sin impulses.

    Idolatry breaks God’s law. But for the gov’t to prohibit idolatry it would have to do away with the freedom of religion. Is that what you are proposing?

  18. Doug says:

    Curt,
    You misconstrue what I say. No doubt much wisdom is required in formulating legislation, yet it must be acknowledged that the fear of the Lord is wisdom’s starting point. Civil law must be informed by Scripture. All men are already informed by God by the work of the law implanted in them by nature, their conscience bearing witness. Thus righteous law punishes what men already know to be wrong. Evil men, however, attempt to suppress this Truth. Civil law is meant to be a terror to evil doers. As such it assists in the work of the Gospel by illuminating the gravity of sin and encouraging men to Christ. It also assists the Gospel in social preservation—the Gospel affects men’s hearts, the law man’s outward actions.

    As for religious freedom, I am for acknowledging the Sovereignty of Christ in civil government, not the promotion of religious equality, which is to dishonor God. See my blog post on Jefferson’s fallacy: http://christcommonwealth.org/2016/02/23/stick-and-stones/

  19. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    In a nation based on religious freedom, acknowledging the necessity of the fear of the Lord for wisdom and having civil law informed by the Scriptures are antithetical. And such an approach requires a privileged position for Christianinty in society and, again, that goes against the 1st Amendment.

    What you take away with one hand, you give back with the other. You seem to appear not to want Christian rule over society, but your position demands that. So you’re not theonomic, you still require that Christian laws be the law of the land. And in sexual matters, you quote Levitucs. At the same time, I Cor 5 makes it clear that Paul does not share your concern over society following Scritural guidelines for sexual consensual sexual behavior.

    See, you do lall of this by your use of the term ‘evil doers.’ And what you fail to distinguish is some of what is evil in the Church is not to be counted as evil in the public square. Certainly those who would lead others to the worship of other gods or the denial of the Scriptures should be excommunicated in the Church. And in the context of the Gospel, we could call such people evil. However, the 1st Amendment protects such people from gov’t prosecution.

    It is your failure to distinguish what is evil in context of being a Christian from what is evil in the public square that is at the root of our disagreement. THat is what is evident in your blogpost. And what you call for is either a similar system that Calvin’s Geneva employed in terms of what was prosecuted, not necessarily in the severity of the punishment.

    1. “I Cor 5 makes it clear that Paul does not share your concern over society following Scritural guidelines for sexual consensual sexual behavior.”

      In the verses you quote, Paul states that it is not his direct concern, as an apostle, to apply sanctions to people outside the churches for sexual immorality.

      You cannot mutate that, as you keep doing, into a blanket and universal statement that the Bible gives no direction to the law-maker. That seriously violates the context of the statement.

      You also keep setting forth the false dichotomy – one I’ve attempted to repeatedly call your attention to – between the two alleged options of having identical sanctions applied by the church and state, and on the other hand the Bible not informing the civil magistrate. Do you understand that these are not the only two possible options?

      Thirdly, I’ve also repeatedly drawn your attention to the point that you keep insisting upon the Enlightenment framework of “religions” as your basic understanding of the relationship between church and state, Christianity and culture. Do you acknowledge that this is a) not the only possible understanding, and that therefore you need to present an argument for it instead of simply assuming it, and b) that the Enlightenment framework and how it presents the concepts of secular/sacred and private/public contradicts Scripture on important points?

      David

      1. Curt Day says:

        David,
        You can say that my blanket statement has problems, but you have not support from the New Testament in saying that gov’ts should be concerned with certain personal morality issues. In fact, I never made the blanket statement you say I made. I never said that the Bible has nothing to say to those in government regarding how to govern a country. After all, Martin Luther King pushed government to adopt certain actions, in part, becuase of his beliefs from the Scriptures. So here, just because I am saying thata certain personal moral issues regarding sex is not the perogative of the gov’t doesn’t mean that you are correct in representing me as making a blanket statement about gov’t making laws regarding a person’s sexual morality.

        What I’ve said about the Bible and gov’t is that it is ok to base laws on the Scriptures so long as such laws do not put Christians in a privileged position in society. The First Amendment at least suggests, if not implies, that. And there are plenty of issues on which we can use the Bible to inform gov’t such as on racism, economic classism, war and militarism, and the environment. Those are some of the issues we can use the Scriptures on provided that using the Scriptures does not put Christians in some kind of privileged position in making laws.

        Finally, if part of what I am saying agrees with the enlightenment, that is not a concern of mine. What is a concern is that we Christians share society with others as equals. History is replete with failed counterexamples. whether they be Luther’s call to bother German Society and its Princes to punish the Jews for their disbelief to Calvin’s Geneva and its persecution to the death of heretics and witches to the Puritans and their persecution of Quakers, resulting in the martyrdom of 4, as well as the part they played in the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the land.

        This emphasis of sharing society with others as equals comes from my understanding of Jesus’ injunction not to lord it over others as the Gentiles do, to imitate Jesus in His first coming, and to follow the Great Commission that tells us to persuade people by preaching, not by legislating.

        For Christians to use the privilege of making laws to rule over nonChristians in society, by experience, brings dishonor to the Gospel as well as unnecessary persecution to the Church. When we seek to rule over nonChristians in society, we put them into a position of seeing us as personal threats. Thus we have automatically put stumbling blocks in the way of them listening to us preach. And if what I am saying finds agreement with enlightenment principles, that is inconsequential to me since my focus is on evangelism and fairness.

        1. Almost every government, everywhere, has, until the 1960s sexual revolution in the decadent and degenerate West, concerned itself with what you pejoratively label as “certain personal moral issues regarding sex”. It has been well understood through history, even by complete unbelievers, that a stable society depends upon stable family relationships, and that therefore government has a strong and legitimate interest in regulating marriage and the boundaries of marriage. Marriage commitment are a public covenant. This has been obvious to complete pagans from nature of the creation of human sexuality itself. Hence even Job, in a day when he had no written Scriptures at all, was able to say, concerning adultery, “For that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges;” – Job 31:11. It’s truly shocking when someone, with the light of the gospel, instead follows the lead and adopts the categories of the sexual revolution and secularist Enlightenment to claim that such things are personal/private matters, of no interest to government.

          You also continually rely on the mythical idea that it’s possible to have neutral laws and a neutral government. That there can be laws that favour no philosophy or ideology, and treat everyone equally. However, whether Jesus Christ is physically risen from the world into this physical creation, and if he, as a true human being, is actually the one with all authority over all heaven and all earth, is not an irrelevant fact for the government. It is public fact number one. He did not rise invisibly and immaterially to rule over an invisible spiritual realm. He rose bodily, and commands us to pray that his will should be done on earth as it is in heaven. You keep mutating this into the straw-man idea that the laws of the state should be identical with the laws of the church, or that the church should run the state, etc.

          Here’s an example of a straw-man statement: “to follow the Great Commission that tells us to persuade people by preaching, not by legislating”. You have a number of category confusions here. Romans 13 teaches clearly that the duty of the state is to punish evil and reward good. Persuasion concerning Christian truth is nothing to do with it. Christian legislators applying God’s truth in their calling in life are not trying to do evangelism by stealth. They are trying to be Christian legislators. God owns all of creation. The Great Commission tells us to obey all things Jesus commanded, in all areas of life – because he is Lord of all. It does not say “only evangelism matters – if what you’re doing isn’t front-line evangelism, then I have no laws or principles for you; those parts of life are neutral and you can do what you please”. A Christian businessman, school teacher, legislator, husband, etc., is not meant to look at the Great Commission and say “hey, my work isn’t evangelism, so, this part of life is neutral and personal/private, so Jesus has no laws here”.

          Again, talking about “persecuting heretics to death” is a complete straw-man. Are you able to grasp, as a mental concept, the idea that there is a huge amount of room in between the your position that Jesus’ Lordship has no practical effect on the public square – the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of other religions has no impact upon the laws favoured by a would-be Christian legislator and the straw-man alternative of “those who aren’t Christians ought to die” ?

  20. Curt Day says:

    David,
    But nowhere in the NT is the evil that gov’t is to punish specified. So is gov’t suppose to enforce the decalogue? If so, throw out the 1st Amendment. Make the gov’t answerable to the Church in terms of defining what is evil. And then witness the repeat of past mistakes/atrocities to be repeataed by the Church. And while you are at it, throw out I Cor 5:12-13 while instituting a Christian form of Taliban rule

    When we look at the passages regarding Church discipline, it is evident that certain sins will be prevalent in society that cannot be tolerated in the Church. Thus Society consists of 2 main subsets: those who belong to the Church and those who don’t. And no where in the NT are we told to rule over those who are not in the Church. Rather, we are told to imitate the suffering servant who came and died for us and to avoid the example of the Gentiles who lord it over others. Rather, we are told to teach people to be Jesus’ disciples. And if people refuse to believe, as Paul saw when he preached, then their blood is on their heads.

    Finally, history and antiquity do not imply being right. That many societies that preceded us had passed laws that prohibited certain sexual practices and relationships does not imply that it was right. Talk to those from the LGBT community and see how Christians’ past treatment of them either directly or through a proxy gov’t makes them want to listen to the Gospel. What you are advocating is that we should urge gov’t to lay down stumblingblocks for the LGBT community that would interfere with them listening to the Gospel.

    1. Doug says:

      Curt,
      In response to your earlier comment questioning the preservative nature of government, it is incapsulated in this single verse:

      Ecclesiastes 8:11 “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”

      Social acceptance of something that was once considered anathema by all—commonly called social progress— is many times testimony to the contaminating effect of sin. Government has been established by God to impede this social rot. The decimation that took place in West Africa as a result of Ebola is analogous to sin’s contagious nature. A primary contributor to the spread of the highly contagious Ebola virus was social interaction. A West African ritual required the laying of bare hands on the dead by all who attended an Ebola victim’s funeral. Consequently, the virus would contaminate those at the funeral, who then would go and further spread the disease and later die. The scenario would repeat over and over. Ebola was virtually eradicated after quarantine was instituted and enforced.

      Swift justice is the social form of quarantine. It is the primary function of government as established by God. It is proper that those who do evil “fear” the civil government. They should view it as a terror. This fear of punishment is what restrains. Consequently, governments that fail in gross form to carry out this mandate of God, are soon replaced by others that will. Franklin said it well, “Either you’ll be governed by God, or by God you’ll be governed.” Impeding sin is the function of government, not promoting religious freedom.

      That said, it is a careless and harmful practice to take verses clearly directed to individual Christ-followers, and apply them to Government.

    2. “while instituting a Christian form of Taliban rule”

      You seem to be unable to carry on this discussion without continually resorting to the same absurd strawman. Why should you be having so much difficulty realisingthat there is a *huge amount of space in between the two poles of radical secularism, and a “Christian Taliban”? This shouldn’t be hard; it’s not as if the world began with the sexual revolution, is it?

      You’ve also betrayed that the “equality under the law” you argue for can’t be carried out. Different groups have different agendas and claims. Their purported “rights” clash, and the claim has to be resolved in favour of one or the other. So, you settle those claims in favour of people who, by a Biblical (i.e. *true* !) standard, have an agenda to normalise extreme sexual depravity. You embrace the radically anti-Christian philosophy of privileged victim groups.

      Overall, your approach appears to be to deny that the Bible has anything relevant to say, and then to use that to bring in a radically anti-Christian approach into the alleged vacuum. But, the Bible actually has plenty to say concerning human sexuality, I quote from Job, which you’ve ignored. Paul, in Romans 1, makes plain that homosexual activity is an obvious evil, and that its evil nature is clear from the order of creation, quite irrespective of knowledge of the gospel. So, Paul contradicts you very fundamentally.

  21. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    I’m sorry but the purpose you state for gov’t just isn’t in the scriptures. whereas that society will be a mix of the Church and those outside the Church is.

    And again, you have failed to define evil so that every sin committed by man could be included in the definition of evil and thus you seem to suggest a tehocratic gov’t

    And you haven’t addressed what Jesus said about how we are to represent him in the world. We are not here to lord it over people, rather we are here to imitate Jesus in His first coming.

    Al of this comes from your failure to distinguish the evil that gov’t is to subdue from all the evil that the Church is to resist. Your examples show your istruggle to make necessary distinctions. And they seem not to account for society as pictured by the NT when dealing with discipline.

    There are some sins that are to be challenged by both the Church and the state and some that are to be challenged that are to be challenged exclusively by the Church

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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