A Crucial Question: Westminster on Bonhoeffer

Indeed, what part of Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2 implies that civil disobedience, to say nothing of conspiracy to assassinate a magistrate, is a Christian virtue? The Valiant for Truth wonders:

Here’s a crucial question: should “minister of the gospel” and words such as “deception,” “conspiracy,” and “assassination,” appear in the same sentence (370, 380-93, 423-27)? These are the same words that are used to described the tools of the Nazi government. And make no mistake about it, Bonhoeffer was executed, not for his preaching of the gospel, but for his involvement in the assassination plot; the order for Bonhoeffer’s execution was likely given by Hitler himself (529). So what does this all mean?

The Scriptures are clear, that as ministers, the weapons of our warfare are not of this world (2 Cor. 10:4). Ministers wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God—they herald the gospel of Christ. To be sure, there were scores of Confessing Church ministers who were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for preaching the gospel. When a minister, therefore, is taken to the gallows, should it be because he has a Bible or a sword in his hand? Some might think that preaching means nothing in the face of violent evil, but the gospel is the aroma of life for those leading to life and the aroma of death for those leading to death—it is double-edged—it brings either salvation or condemnation (2 Cor. 2:14-15; Heb. 4:12).

To the outside world, it may seem like the preaching of the gospel is resignation to evil. Instead, we should recognize that, yes, to the natural man the gospel is foolishness—such is the cruciform wisdom of God. When in the face of evil ministers herald the gospel, they follow Christ in the Via Dolorosa and take up their crosses. This means that ministers who do this will likely suffer for their fidelity to Christ. As tempting as it might be, ministers should never trade the sword of the Spirit for the sword of steel.

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111 Responses to A Crucial Question: Westminster on Bonhoeffer

  1. RubeRad says:

    If it is clear that the Nazi government didn’t execute Bonhoeffer as a pastor but as a traitor, is it possible to evaluate his involvement in the assassination plot not as a pastor but as a citizen seeking to redress evil?

  2. dr p says:

    Thanks for breaking the ice, RR; a parallel with Phinehas in Numbers 25 immediately comes to mind. Just a question: without judging Rev B’s actions vis-a-vis appropriate or no, is a minister in an established church also a magistrate? If so, then both clerics acted IAW interposition. Please advise.

  3. Zrim says:

    But he’d still be a Christian citizen. So does the Bible make room for Christian citizens to plot murder? That seems like a violation of liberty, as in “And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.”

  4. RubeRad says:

    Obviously, a lot (including the American (and Confederate) Rebellions) hang on “lawful power”. I know, I know, Nero.

    Dr P, thx for Phineas — I actually didn’t even know that was in there! Very interesting. I’m mulling over how his position as a Levite in a Theocracy might have bearing on the Church within/from/among the nations.

    And no, a minister is not also a magistrate. Although when you say “established” you mean a state church? I’d still say no, no more than a letter carrier is a magistrate. There’s a difference between a vocation in civil service and The Magistracy.

    But the question is still raised; given that not every pastor is able to feed his family based only on income from his church; are there bi-vocations that pastors are not allowed, even though they are not otherwise forbidden to lay Christians? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?

  5. dr p says:

    @RR:If it were not for the fact that the Scriptural record shows God’s approbation of Phinehas’ actions, I’d be in your camp; since the entire question perplexes me, I’m not yet in any camp.

    As for the dual diagnosis of cleric and magistrate, priests in Israel had judicial authority as well as public health and weights and measures involvement, so I’m not sure that the lines were as clear then as they are now. Even now, in countries with established churches ministers are considered officials rather than worker drones; even in America, when a minister marries a couple he is acting both as a minister (solemnising a marriage) and a justice of the peace (legally establishing a union). My jury remains out; your thoughts?

  6. Zrim says:

    Rube, we chose “The Descendants” last week over “TTSS.”

    But your question makes me think of that scene in “The Patriot” when the pastor rips off his clerical collar in order to aid the American resistance. It seems to me the question that raises isn’t so much whether there are bi-vocations pastors are disallowed but laity are so much as how that other vocation may cause the pastor to neglect his called duties. I recall some Reformed applauding the pastor’s toss down of his collar as a way to make a point about the non-pacifism of Reformed piety and dual citizenship, but I hedged since it seemed to me his flock was being abandoned.

  7. Zrim says:

    DP, isn’t a marrying minister actually acting insofar as the power of the state is invested in him? His magisterial authority seems by proxy, while his ministerial authority isn’t conditioned upon the state’s prior powers. On other words, the state actually established legal union.

  8. dr p says:

    I agree; the question becomes, though, whether or not there is a power invested in a person to oust a tyrant. Another Scriptural example which comes to mind is that of Jehoiada in 2 Kings 12, who overthrew Athaliah and ordered her execution. Perhaps this is another parallel with Bonhoeffer.

  9. RubeRad says:

    My point about the theocracy is, perhaps the proper application to draw from Phineas and Jehoiada is concerning the purity of the church rather than the purity of the nation (1 Cor 5:9-12)

  10. dr p says:

    @RR: please clarify, as the only true theocracy in history makes fine distinction rather difficult.

  11. RubeRad says:

    My point is that, Israel being the only true theocracy in history, fine distinction is rather difficult, so it may be indavisable to apply lessons from what Phineas and Jehoiada did within their religious nation, to what we might should do within our Christian nation (the church) that is spread among all secular nations of the world.

  12. dr p says:

    Agreed; perhaps analogous would have been a better choice than parallel, or even merely similar (vs same). Then again, if we can’t laud Bonhoeffer’s choice, neither can we condemn it.

  13. Zrim says:

    DP, what I think Rube may be getting at is that reaching back into theocracy doesn’t make much sense from a 2k point of view since 2k says we live in the exilic age (anticipating the final theocratic age to come). And in the exilic age the ethic is submission to civil authorities. And it is hard to see how Bonhoeffer’s actions comport with any notion whatever of submission. And so I just don’t see how anybody can read the NT and be latitudinarian about Bonhoeffer’s choice.

  14. dr p says:

    @Zrim: such is the difference between “similar” and “same,” which IMNSHO was Knox’s biggest problem. We certainly have no right as individuals to revolt; magistrates may via interposition. The questions then become: is a minister in a state-run church a magistrate; may a minister serve as a magistrate (ie, is it kingdom confusion); to which level of magistracy does interposition apply? My personal bias is no, no, jury out.

  15. dr p says:

    Another question: similar or same, it’s still God’s Word preserved providentially for us; therefore what aspects of the OT scriptures mentioned above are still in force today? I’m not at all comfortable about simply dropping them – smacks of dispensationalism.

  16. Zrim says:

    DP, I don’t think any charitable reading of the 2k point about theocratic/exilic eras is about “dropping the OT.” It’s actually Reformed hermeneutics 101, as in the NT interprets the OT. Is it really Dispensational-ish to say that the sacrifices of the OT are fulfilled and are no longer in force? Or is that pretty basic Christianity?

  17. dr p says:

    Neither; the question is one of general equity. I need a better reason than “because that was then and this is now” to determine what does and doesn’t carry over from NT to OT, and how it carries over if indeed it does. One needn’t be a Covenanter or a theonomist to question those who condemn Bonhoeffer’s actions; I just need the hermeneutic spellt out a bit more clearly. As for “Reformed hermeneutics 101″, I’m also not ready to jump on Knox and his latter-day adherents for being un-Reformed; ie there are a lot of solid historical Reformed folk who would take issue with 2K of any stripe…and that does not make them un-Reformed, as if the Reformed world were some monolith. The fact that I’m 2K and others aren’t doesn’t make me more (or less) Reformed than, say the Covenanters.

    Per hermeneutics, yes the sacrifieces are fulfulled in Christ, but you’ve not established how or if OT regicides apply to our era. Please elaborate.

  18. dr p says:

    erratum: “from NT to TO” should read “from OT to NT.”

  19. RubeRad says:

    As I think I have suggested, the go-to 2K position on OT theocratic elements is not simply to *drop* them, but to seek continuity within the N.T. Theocratic Kingdom known as The Church.

  20. Zrim says:

    DP, my point isn’t to jump on anybody or declare anybody un-Reformed. Actually, at the risk of being pegged a Biblicist, it’s to wonder how anything resembling Bonhoeffer’s choice can possibly comport with the NT data. America was borne out of civil disobedience, and so Americans have it in our DNA that civil disobedience is more a virtue than a vice. One can appeal to Knox and the doctrine of lesser magistrates and on and on, but when I read the NT it sure seems to be the other way around. So the question for me is, Where is there even one shred on NT data that props up the sort of civil disobedience we see in Bonhoeffer?

  21. dr p says:

    Gentlemen: are you suggesting that there is absolutely no carryover from OT to NT re civil disobedience, and that nothing is to be learned from the examples of Phinehas, Jehoiada, Jehu, etc, other than kirk government? I’m no fan of Cromwell given my weakness for Celts, but his having relieved Charles I’s shoulders of their swollen burden is not a black mark in my book. Did residents of the South sin in following their governors into the Confederacy? What is your view of the relationship between lesser and greater magistrates vis-a-vis interposition, or is it clicking heals and “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full” all the way up the chain? Is there any room for interposition in your variety of 2K? At the risk of being called a Biblicist as well, have you any Scriptural warrant for your beliefs? Just asking.

  22. Chris Hansen says:

    Excellent conversation, these very questions have been on my mind a lot lately, especially in regards to both the Revolutionary and Civil wars, both of which had Reformed ministers being rather instrumental figures for the causes and giving marching orders to their congregations. It does seem like the NT ethic doesn’t allow a great deal of “wiggle room” for civil disobedience in cases outside infringement upon our duty to worship God, minister or not, however. Although the worst was yet to come, it wasn’t a government particularly friendly to Christians or interested in protecting the freedom and dignity of the people that Paul wrote was instituted by God and commanded believers to submit to.

    Presbyterian pastor Charles Cummings, for instance, writing to the Second Continental Congress, wrote

    “We by no means desire to shake off our duty or allegiance to our lawful sovereign, but on the contrary, shall ever glory in being the loyal subjects of a Protestant prince descended from such illustrious progenitors, so long as we can enjoy the free exercise of our religion as Protestants and our liberties and properties as British subjects. But if no pacific measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies will attempt to dragoon us out of those inestimable privileges which we are entitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to slavery, we declare that we are deliberately and resolutely determined never to surrender them to any power upon earth, but at the expense of our lives.””

    It sounds all well and good, but still Paul, Peter, and Jesus’s teachings don’t seem to be “submit to authorities unless they start taking away some of your privileges”. Is there a point, where, in concern for our fellow man, we should break our allegiance to the magistrates God has placed above us?

  23. Zrim says:

    DP, again, the point isn’t “absolutely no carryover from OT to NT re civil disobedience.” Rather it’s to make a distinction between the theocratic and exilic eras of the OT and say that our present NT era is like that of the exilic. Think Joseph and Daniel. Both actually found favor in their magistrate’s eyes and became second hand men to them, which is quite different from plotting their overthrow and murder. Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar weren’t exactly what moderns would consider worthy of honor and submission, especially Christian moderns. I know it’s provocative, but imagine instead of plotting against a tyrant becoming his favored man. Dare to be a Daniel indeed.

    For a good discussion of this pick up VanDrunen’s “A Biblical Case for Natural Law.”

  24. Zrim says:

    Chris, Bingo. But while I don’t think it solves all the conundrums of living as a pilgrim, it seems to me our allegiance end when our magistrate demands we personally trespass God’s moral law and/or cease the Great Commission.

  25. dr p says:

    Point well taken, but still leaving me with a few questions. First of all, which power? I’m not that old, but old enough to remember when most people referred to our country as “these United States” rather than “the United States;” so I ask again, is it rebellion to follow the governor of one’s state against against the federal power? It’s still submission to lawful authority, and, given that the NT was written prior to the advent of the modern nation-state, I’m not convinced that we need to get bogged down in the finer points of US constitutional law in order to derive a principle from Scripture.

    Second, there’s the intersection with just war theory; ie winnability: if a rebellion does not have a significant chance of success, it can bring catastrophe on people therefore it is not to be undertaken. Even though the CSA could have capitalised after First Manassas, the question of meeting just war criteria is still rather dodgy. Even so, the volunteer and conscripted soldiers were obeying the law…or should they have disobeyed, as the CSA was an unlawful entity?

    Third, there remains the hermeneutical issue of general equity. Yes, the verse in Romans reads against rebellion, but that’s only when it stands alone. I see interposition as the general equity, and have yet to hear a good reason why I shouldn’t. In fact, to insist on making a doctrine on one verse is proof-texting and stands on shaky ground.

    Fourth, we’re not talking about some little revolutionary cabal deciding to take over the government, but rather with magisterial action. The differences between the two are legion; even Jeroboam I was right to confront Rehoboam.

    If I’m wrong, I stand open to correction – but it must be correct correction.

  26. John Yeazel says:

    I don’t know why David VanDrunen’s section on Resistance Theory in his book NATURAL LAW AND THE TWO KINGDOMS has not been appealed to; pages 119-148 speak all about it. Even Calvin thought that tyrant tendencies were to be watched for diligently in magistrates, in a republic, by members of the senate and congress. It was their responsibility to guard a nation against tyranical governors.

  27. dr p says:

    @JY: IOW doctrine of interposition.

  28. Zrim says:

    DP, who’s proof-texting or making a doctrine out of one verse? The specific textual appeal has been to passages like Romans 13 1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-25 and the larger argument is about the NT era mirroring the exilic eras of the OT. But isn’t the onus on those who want to make a biblical case for civil disobedience to show us where in the NT there is any hint of doctrine that would support Bonhoeffer? I have yet to hear it. That might be because there isn’t any.

  29. Zrim says:

    John Y., appeal to DVD’s NL2K with regard to civil disobedience has been made elsewhere around here.

  30. dr p says:

    @Zrim: true, but you and DVD are not the first to have read them. Having read the link you sent to JY, I think we can agree that rebellion for the private person is a no-go. My hang-ups are whether or not Bonheoffer was a private person, and, in his following the leaders who were involved in the plot (von Stauffenberg, a colonel and noble; Gens Beck etc Adm Canaris, etc) was he not a part of a Biblicallly lawful rebellion? To repeat, I’m not comfortable with ministers serving as magistrates at all (look where it got intertestamental Israel), whether or not a government recognises the church as an estate. For such reasons I depart from the original intent of Westminster in opposing establishment of any church. However, the church did operate as an estate under the Old Covenant, and I admit to being at odds with much of orthodox Presbyterianism in my belief. Being an original intent guy in both civil and ecclesiastical realms, I’m not entirely comfortable with my position.

    To come back to the original question, by gut reaction to Bonhoeffer is to disagree with his choice, more so because of his office of minister than any other factor. Nonetheless I’m open to arguments either way.

  31. Zrim says:

    DP, even if we grant that DB was not a private person but a lesser magistrate, and thus per Calvin fit to depose a tyrant, my hang up is that I still don’t see any biblical warrant for plotting his assassination. My guess is that you’d agree. And my own opinion is that, despite whatever ceremonial concessions that his plotting was a no-no, DB is mostly hailed as a hero because his plotting disobedience resonates deeply with our inner allied American. After all, DB’s is a Christian household name. Does anyone know the name of any Nazi-era European ministers who were executed for preaching the unfettered gospel and refusing to bring it directly to bear one way or another on the political cares of this world?

  32. dr p says:

    @Zrim: as I’ve already posted, my gut says he should have chosen differently, but as a recovering theonomic reconstructionist I haven’t yet brought the gavel down. The Barmen Declaration didn’t endear the Confessing Church to the Nazis, which is part of the reason there was a special area for ministers and priests at Dachau; so yes, ministers died for the proclamation of the Gospel. Of course, as good Germans who roll over, play dead, and fetch the slippers of officialdom, even the conservative churches obediently turned over the names of Jewish converts in their congregations to the Nazis, and so I’ve more time for Rev B than for those. Both parties should have chosen differently, I’d say.

  33. Jed Paschall says:

    Chris,
    I agree, this is an interesting conversation indeed. But as a counterbalance to the assertions that you and Zrim have made here, I think it’s important to underscore that for a Christian to be involved politically (in a this-world sense, even without the righteous transformation shtick) may entail civil-disobedience. A Christian needs to understand that when engaging in civil disobedience that they act as political creatures and must be willing to accept all responsibility for their actions. What you and Z are advocating here is functionally isolationist, and that is fine, as there is a good argument to be made for it. But there is a flip side to this, and that is political activity will at times entail revolution and change, and as long as those involved understand that God isn’t necessarily “picking sides”, and that they may end up on the loosing end of history, there can be a case for this kind of political dissent – but never in Christ’s name.

    However, in defense of civil disobedience, there is a sense in which under the laws of the American Republic, revolt is the responsibility of the people when Governments become tyrannical. These arguments are based off of a certain understanding of Natural Law. I have less of a problem with Bonhoeffer engaging in political rebellion, up to and including an act of war against a leader (ie attempted assassination), and more of a problem that he did so while being a rather public pastor in Germany, which is a clear confusion of kingdoms. There may be many instances where political dissent and rebellion are defensible under NL arguments, and I think that needs to be explored in these debates.

  34. dr p says:

    I’m with you; part of this discussion has to to with which particular take on natural law and which particular 2K model one adheres to.

  35. Zrim says:

    Jed, you make a fair point of course. But as you know, 2k is constantly criticized for being a form of public square antinomianism. And it’s usually the anti-2kers, and even some 2kers, who see more virtue than vice in DB’s legacy. My point is how to biblically justify an ethic that the Bible clearly condemns. In other words, if theonomists want the Bible to inform our political behavior then why are those who seek to bring down magistrates a la DB held up?

    But speaking of flipped coins, I also wonder if those who make more room for civil disobedience consider that what animates it is also what seems to animate religious revivalism. Both seem to have an instrinsic problem with authority and privilege working outside the contours of established order before working within it.

  36. Jed Paschall says:

    Zrim,

    At the end of the day I do see this question boiling down to a matter of conscience – so I am not going to knock the quietest who submits to an oppressive regime in any area where they are not required to personally engage in sinful activity. I am more inclined to see DB as a product of his own times who should have clarified that his anti-Nazism had nothing to do with his pastoral responsibilities – which is something that most anti-Nazi pastors and theologians failed to do (including Barmen signers). Warfare is a messy prospect for all parties involved, but I do think there are instances where declarations/acts of war against the state can be warranted. The trouble comes when there is some sort of Divine warrant sought or articulated. If I were DB, I would have been more inclined to cite a broken social contract, or war on the grounds of NL, but the neo-orthodox in Germany were not exactly amenable to anything smacking of NL or Natural Theology at the time.

    As to the idea that civil disobedience smacking of relativism, I can’t entirely share your sentiments here. Typically these sorts of actions are of the last resort, when working within the system is no longer meaningfully possible. Of course, I tend to prefer non-violent forms of dissent, modeling revolt after Ghandi, as opposed to the American Revolution. But the fact is The Powers That Be (TPTB) tend to ruthlessly retain control until the very end, and any true political change to the status quo necessitates revolt, and unfortunately this may entail violent revolutions. The key weakness in violent revolts is they end up playing out like the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror more than they end up in the relatively stable politics after the American Revolution.

    The advantage that the quietest has is that they are more likely to end up alive at the end of the day, and the revolutionary more likely to end up dead or imprisoned. If however, the revolutionary a) has sound political justification for their action (such as moral high ground) and b) is willing to live with the consequences if his revolt fails, I can see many eventualities where his actions are in fact justifiable. However, when seeking biblical justification for any of the above action, I think that all parties are at a marked disadvantage since I don’t think Scripture privileges any particular contemporary political position. But remember, the Christian quietest in the Roman Empire committed acts of revolt when refusing to participate in the imperial cult, even if they had no particular political strategy beyond refusal to participate – so there does come a point where political revolt is inevitable. At this point one must make the decision whether it is preferable to not love one’s own life and accept martyrdom or political repression, or to seek a new and more preferable political equilibrium. And frankly, from a spiritual standpoint, martyrdom is often the best policy, and the true cost of discipleship

    In instances where political repression is absent of religious persecution (which is usually rare), I think there is room for dissent in the church for how each individual chooses to act or not. But, I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all theological position on political dissent or revolution – each situation requires thoughtful response, and we may see the day when we must make the same sorts of decisions that our fore-bearers did, but hopefully not.

  37. Zrim says:

    Jed, just to be clear, my aim isn’t so much to criticize DB as it is to challenge the tendency to prop his actions up as more admirable than not.

    The advantage that the quietest has is that they are more likely to end up alive at the end of the day, and the revolutionary more likely to end up dead or imprisoned…But remember, the Christian quietest in the Roman Empire committed acts of revolt when refusing to participate in the imperial cult, even if they had no particular political strategy beyond refusal to participate – so there does come a point where political revolt is inevitable.

    I’m not so sure the quietist is any better positioned than the activist. I’ve made the point before that it seems to me most tyrants mix cult and culture and will demand at some point one form or another of religious allegiance and endorsement. The quietist won’t civilly oppose him the way an activist would but neither will he religiously endorse him, which actually has the potential to end up just as fatal as it can for the activist. So it’s also not as clear to me that quietism knows nothing of opposition or disobedience, it’s just that it is understood differently. Again, I think of Joseph and Daniel who were civilly obedient but cultically disobedient. Their obedience earned them as high of favor as their disobedience earned them serious disdain.

    And I’m all for liberty of conscience. But it’s hard when the activists amongst us say things like, “To not actively oppose is to implicitly endorse.” That just seems like fundamentalist thinking, black and white with no alternate category.

  38. RubeRad says:

    These arguments are based off of a certain understanding of Natural Law

    IMO, this qualifies as An Important Point. Z, why you always be tryin to find reasons in the Bible, when Natural Law’s got it covered?

  39. Jed Paschall says:

    Zrim,

    Sorry for the delayed response, I was at Disneyland celebrating my son’s 4th b’day the last day and a half – you know, priorities.

    Again, I think of Joseph and Daniel who were civilly obedient but cultically disobedient. Their obedience earned them as high of favor as their disobedience earned them serious disdain

    I get it Zrim, but to Pharaoh or Darius there was no distinction between cult and civics, they were one in the same, as it was for Romans as well. Ancients made no distinction between sacred and secular, and “religion” as a concept contra-distinct from didn’t evolve until the Greek period. Even then, it wasn’t exactly implemented in Imperial Rome (pagan or Constantinian). So to say that Roman X-ians refusal to participate in the imperial cult was merely a cultic decision, and not a political one is anachronistic – at the very least in the eyes of their magistrates, even if you and I might see it differently today. In the eyes of the Roman authorities the Christians were engaged in political, not merely religious rebellion, and this rebellion threatened to upend the socioeconomic structure of the cultural centers, especially with respect to the trade-guilds which relied so heavily on the economic scalability that ensued from the cults of their patron deities. The whole scene in Acts 16 and a few of the Revelation epistles describes this sort scenario quite well.

    This is why I don’t think we can model our activities off of the early church, or say that they weren’t being political in any way – because, even if the grounds of their rebellion was cultic (which we both agree upon), this was most certainly not how it was percieved by Roman authorities. So, ironically, I think you are trying to claim that you are modelling your political non-action in all matters non-cultic after Scripture, when historically speaking their situation was quite different than ours (e.g. we have theories of the separation of religion and civic life), when as NL2kers we champion our political involvement or non-involvement not on Scripture, but on the basis of NL. I know you don’t think that Scripture is a political manual, and that your appeal to Scripture as the model for civic involvement probably ends here, but I frankly don’t think there is warrant, since we are always called to uphold the 1st-4th commandments with respect to cult.

    So, while the doctrine of non-violence/non-intervention must be upheld within the church qua church, this isn’t always the case with respect to Christian individuals who must weigh political action/non-action on the basis of wisdom and NL categories (and calling in the case of ministers, which is where Bonhoeffer failed) within the matrix of their own conscience. So I would draw up a passable scenario for political dissent or rebellion(*which is different than personal dissent and rebellion as follows*):

    1) NL makes certain demands on those being governed and the magistrate alike, this basically consists of the social contract that the two engage in in the formation of a political body and works broadly along the lines of generally recognized principles of fair play.

    2) If the governed do not live up to their end of the bargin, they are liable to discipline from the magistrate, on the basis of offenses against the state (or similar political body).

    3) If the magistrate does not live up to his or their end of the bargin, the governed have the right, if they choose to exercise it to seek all appropriate means to restore the social contract. This would entail appropriate and proportionate reaction to the state authorities – under which they are held to just war doctrine in the same manner as the magistrate – meaning all nonviolent options must be exercised amongst those who take political action before war can be declared or enacted.

    3′) Christians, as human political creatures just like pagans, have no insight into how God providentially governs the world’s affairs, so if they are inclined within the strictures of their own consciences to engage in political dissent, they are free to do so, but cannot claim Divine sanction. All they can do is formulate rational NL arguments to the illegitimacy of political actions taken against them which necessitates their actions, and the willingness to live with the consequences of their decisions come what may, understanding God is on his own side in history, and no-one beside his.

    *** When Christians undergo direct persecution on the basis of their biblical obligations as Christians (e.g. confession of faith, worship, or official assembly), they then have the obligation to endure under persecution and not take up the sword or dissent that is not allowed for within the prevailing political framework.

    4) Those Christians inclined to political action must do so with the expressed intent to restore the social contract under acceptable NL guidelines that would return the political function of the state (or other political entity) to a state of fair play – which would rule out radicalism and anti-authoritarianism.

    What undergirds my own current position, which I do not believe must be held as essential, is the notion that Christians like everyone else are political creatures by nature, and as such have some interest in how the world around them is governed. As such, Christians enjoy the same freedoms to be political in the inter-advental age so long as they understand the proximate nature of the political good they seek. Reasonably fair and equitable political structures are sufficiently good that they are worth pursuing by those so inclined, first by any and all means provided for within the system (e.g. internal reform), and thereafter from outside the system at only the uttermost and obviously justifiable means when need necessitates such action. I simply cannot claim that a conscientious Christian doesn’t have some stake in the establishment of these sort of systems even if they are imperfect and passing.

  40. Jed Paschall says:

    And I’m all for liberty of conscience. But it’s hard when the activists amongst us say things like, “To not actively oppose is to implicitly endorse.” That just seems like fundamentalist thinking, black and white with no alternate category.

    I realize that this is the position of many in the Reformed camp, theonomist, transformationalist, and otherwise. But the room I leave for political activism is more grounded in 1) the freedom of the Christian’s conscience to be involved however much he chooses; and 2) the conviction that NL is the best guide for civic affairs, since the accounts in Scripture are also situationally specific, and hard to draw firm analogies into current issues and events or even historical ones. This essentially means that there are a range of appropriate responses to various political issues that arise, but since we do have a robust view of NL, we also believe as 2ker-ers, that there are certain issues where we can have a clearer sense of right and wrong, even if we don’t know how God is using both to work his plan in history.

  41. Jed Paschall says:

    *** Paragraph 3 should read: and “religion” as a concept contra-distinct from the “secular” didn’t evolve until the Greek period

  42. Zrim says:

    This is why I don’t think we can model our activities off of the early church, or say that they weren’t being political in any way – because, even if the grounds of their rebellion was cultic (which we both agree upon), this was most certainly not how it was percieved by Roman authorities. So, ironically, I think you are trying to claim that you are modelling your political non-action in all matters non-cultic after Scripture, when historically speaking their situation was quite different than ours (e.g. we have theories of the separation of religion and civic life), when as NL2kers we champion our political involvement or non-involvement not on Scripture, but on the basis of NL. I know you don’t think that Scripture is a political manual, and that your appeal to Scripture as the model for civic involvement probably ends here, but I frankly don’t think there is warrant, since we are always called to uphold the 1st-4th commandments with respect to cult.

    Jed, I understand that for Daniel his cultic actions were also political, and for the early Christians to say that “Jesus is Lord” was a political statement. But that’s because their magistrates made it so. Ours do not. So I understand there isn’t a one-to-one correspondence here, but I don’t think that means we have nothing to learn from the early church (or the exilic era of Daniel, for that matter), and I also take exception to the idea that our political behavior isn’t informed by Scripture. Sure, natural law is what is ordained for civil life, but I don’t see how that means we can’t employ the Bible in terms of our civil ethics.

    And I am not making a case for “political non-action in all matters non-cultic.” I am making a point about submission to authority. I think it’s possible to be quite involved, even disagreeable toward our civil magistrates, but still obedient and submissive. There is a difference between being disagreeable and disobedient, and I just don’t see any biblical warrant for the latter.

    I realize that this is the position of many in the Reformed camp, theonomist, transformationalist, and otherwise. But the room I leave for political activism is more grounded in 1) the freedom of the Christian’s conscience to be involved however much he chooses; and 2) the conviction that NL is the best guide for civic affairs, since the accounts in Scripture are also situationally specific, and hard to draw firm analogies into current issues and events or even historical ones. This essentially means that there are a range of appropriate responses to various political issues that arise, but since we do have a robust view of NL, we also believe as 2ker-ers, that there are certain issues where we can have a clearer sense of right and wrong, even if we don’t know how God is using both to work his plan in history.

    Not all political activism is civil disobedience. But I do think there is a difference between being active and activism, and I think activism makes room for civil disobedience, which again, I just don’t see biblical warrant for. I recall our friend the civil rights attorney, CVD, getting quite upset with me when I suggested that sitting at lunch counters when the law forbade it was civil disobedience and thus hard to see in keeping with biblical virtue. His claim was that to break a specific law was the only way to change a broader policy (that we both don’t like). I get that that’s what our particular civil arrangement says. What I don’t get is how being civilly disobedient squares with biblical ethics.

  43. Jed Paschall says:

    Zrim,

    What I don’t get is how being civilly disobedient squares with biblical ethics.

    Inasmuch as you hold to this, you are using Scripture to norm your civic activity with respect to laws that you would otherwise find either disagreeable, unethical, or unconscionable. The fact is since human legislative bodies are bound to err, they misuse, misinterpret, or blatantly disregard the one source they have for equitable rule, which is NL. Now, I am not going to persuade you that you are somehow wrong for a principled stance against civil disobedience, but, in the end I don’t think that there is enough biblical evidence to support a Christian can only be political inasmuch as he does so within existing political structures, when historically change within political structures has usually been preceded by pressure and activity done outside the political order. It just seems to me that you are upending your NL2K arguments here by saying that in various areas (politics of sex, education, etc.) Scripture shouldn’t be used to norm political order, but with respect to civil disobedience, it does. The problem with your position is that you are basically saying that Christians are biblically constrained to live within the bounds of a government that disregards human rights upheld via NL, which assigns nearly absolute power to the magistrate to act however he will, leaving the Christian only the option of non-participation in matters of personal sin. I think that NL clearly allows for measures of civil disobedience, and even outright revolution if the political situation has sufficiently deteriorated. Since I don’t think that NL and Scripture are at all at odds with one another, I think we need to have a reasonable view on what Romans 13 entails and does not entail.

    Christians, so far as their earthly citizenship gives them stake in the affairs and working of the world also are able to play a part in it’s political shaping, and have done so historically for good and for bad. If we hold to an NL doctrine for political governance, then there are times when the government and/or magistrate operate out of accord with the NL, and as such, since all people are guaranteed certain rights under NL (personal liberties, and property), they have the right to reform or alter their government as part of a collective body in such a way that those rights are protected. In the long run, we are only aiming for the proximate good of the preservation of cultural and civic order, under which we are afforded freedoms that also allow the church to flourish. And don’t forget, we enjoy our constitutional and limited form of government due to revolts dating back to the drafting of the Magna Carta, and these freedoms among others have allowed us to worship without fear of political repression, or blab on on these blogs without fearing a skull-cracking because we said something that a political official didn’t like.

    On a side note, historically I think we see that Christians are not trying to upend the political order in Rome because aside from pressures to cultic conformity, they benefited from the social cohesion and stability in the empire. Historically the persecutions were not monolithic, but sporadic and geographically diverse – and so for a good deal of Roman history submitting to the magistrate (cf. Rom 13) was highly beneficial – as they indeed were ministers for earthly good. However, if there was a widespread breakdown in the rule of law, in which Christians and pagans alike suffered, all inclined to see the situation change would have reasonable stake in seeing it restored equitably.

  44. dr p says:

    I’m noting discussion points including the idea that ted church is living under “exilic” conditions; ie that Divine punishment meted out to Israel for covenant infidelity, which still provided for the reconstitution of the theocracy. What I don’t see is how this applies to the church, which I understand to fill the earth without reference to a particular piece of real estate. Please illuminate.

  45. Zrim says:

    Inasmuch as you hold to this, you are using Scripture to norm your civic activity with respect to laws that you would otherwise find either disagreeable, unethical, or unconscionable. The fact is since human legislative bodies are bound to err, they misuse, misinterpret, or blatantly disregard the one source they have for equitable rule, which is NL. Now, I am not going to persuade you that you are somehow wrong for a principled stance against civil disobedience, but, in the end I don’t think that there is enough biblical evidence to support a Christian can only be political inasmuch as he does so within existing political structures, when historically change within political structures has usually been preceded by pressure and activity done outside the political order.
    Jed, first, I guess I’m not clear on why using Scripture to norm my civic activity is a problem. But, like you, I also don’t think general and special revelation are at odds, and it does seem to me that general revelation reveals that civil disobedience does more harm than help to cultural/social/political harmony. Second, our existing political structure considers civil disobedience to be necessary to its good health, so to be civilly disobedience is to act within the existing political structure. But what if both SR and GR teach against civil disobedience, full stop? Let me try an analogy. I think we’d agree that both GR and SR teach that adultery is harmful to individual human relationships, even when a spouse encourages it. Could it be that when our magistrate encourages us to be disobedient, and says that this is how a healthy republic operates, that it is the political version of a husband encouraging his wife to step out because that is how a healthy marriage operates?

    It just seems to me that you are upending your NL2K arguments here by saying that in various areas (politics of sex, education, etc.) Scripture shouldn’t be used to norm political order, but with respect to civil disobedience, it does.

    I make a distinction between spheres and individuals. The civil sphere isn’t Christian (because it can’t be by the nature of it), but some individuals in it are (because only they can be). This is why I fail to see why saying the Bible should norm OUR public behavior is such a problem. The Bible wasn’t ordained to norm secular civil life, but it was ordained to norm spiritual peoples’ lives. And since PEOPLE can be either obedient or disobedient, the Bible does govern our political behavior.

    The problem with your position is that you are basically saying that Christians are biblically constrained to live within the bounds of a government that disregards human rights upheld via NL, which assigns nearly absolute power to the magistrate to act however he will, leaving the Christian only the option of non-participation in matters of personal sin. I think that NL clearly allows for measures of civil disobedience, and even outright revolution if the political situation has sufficiently deteriorated. Since I don’t think that NL and Scripture are at all at odds with one another, I think we need to have a reasonable view on what Romans 13 entails and does not entail.

    This is where we have a fundamental disagreement. I think GR clearly reveals that civil disobedience tears at social fabric, even when the magistrate is tyrannical. I agree that it teaches that tyrannical rule also tears at it, but how is adding disobedience on top of tyranny finally good for a society? I think this is more western and American thought, namely that revolt and uprise against tyranny is always a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, raised a 20th century Yank, I get the default setting. I’ve just come to deeply question what I have been taught are universal truths about these things. I thought Christianity was supposed to make us question the traditions of men, which seems to me includes political traditions? But what I hear you saying is that western, modern thought is always unquestionable because, well, look at all that we have here in the 21st century. Again, I get it, I like what our arrangement affords us as much as the next guy, but something about that just seems more jingoist than biblical.

  46. Zrim says:

    DP, if the church isn’t assigned to a particular piece of real estate then how can it be anything other than exilic? But Rome has a zip code, which hardly seems pilgrim-like.

  47. RubeRad says:

    I instinctively go to Heb 11, esp. v8-10,39. Abraham (and Moses, and Joshua…) did not receive the promise, but were looking forward to what? This earth being taken over by Christianity? No, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Is that not the New Heavens & Earth, which we also look forward to? In which case, do we not also “live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents”?

  48. dr p says:

    Israel was assigned to a particulzar piece of real estate, but spent time in the penalty box for bad behaviour and afterwards returned. Contra the church, which has been assigned the entire world.

  49. Jed Paschall says:

    Zrim,

    Jed, first, I guess I’m not clear on why using Scripture to norm my civic activity is a problem.

    If you are championing a 2k perspective, yet at the same time saying that Scripture norms civic activity for you there is inconsistency. For example, we have had debates on whether or not voting for pro-abortion policy in a direct vote (not necessarily for a pro-choice candidate) was a violation of the 6th commandment or not, you argue no on the basis of Christian liberty and the fact that a vote doesn’t equal abortion, I say yes on the basis of both NL and the general equity of the 6th extending to public behavior. But when we come to the question of the propriety of civil disobedience, I argue affirmative based on NL, you say no on the basis of Scripture. This is what I find confusing, not the personal decision for political quietism. If it were a personal choice, I’d be inclined to say tmo-ay-to where you say tom-ah-to, but your argument is that principled civil disobedience based on NL arguments is wrong because it is contrary to the Scriptural commands that we submit to governmental authority.

    Let me try an analogy. I think we’d agree that both GR and SR teach that adultery is harmful to individual human relationships, even when a spouse encourages it. Could it be that when our magistrate encourages us to be disobedient, and says that this is how a healthy republic operates, that it is the political version of a husband encouraging his wife to step out because that is how a healthy marriage operates?

    The analogy doesn’t account for the fact that the structure of legitimate rule is based on the adjudication of legitimate law, under which the magistrate is also bound. The health of societies is dependent on a mutual relationship of submission – the people to the lawful rule of their government, and the government to the fair and equitable rule of law. This is the social contract, and when it is broken by the government people have a right to see it restored, or when broken by the people the government has the right to use the sword to restore it likewise. This sort of political theory is what gave rise to the American Revolution, and for all of it’s complexity, it was built on sound NL theory – unless you want to dispute this maybe in further discussion. British Rule in the colonies was illegitimate because full British citizens in the colonies were not afforded rights that British citizens were entitled to on the aisles. Protests were made to restore balance and equity to the system, but this was overruled by the Crown, and so Americans declared independence from the crown, fought for it on the field of battle, and instituted a reasonably fair and equitable system under the US Constitution, and this has endured for 2 1/2 centuries.

    Likewise, the civil war was fought on 2 key issues, state rights and slavery; the south wanted greater rights accorded to the states to govern their own affairs apart from the interference of the federal government, and they wanted to continue to own slaves as a means of economic production. When disallowed from doing so, they ceded and fought for independence from the Union. But they lost, and had to face the consequences for the loss, which meant power rested primarily with the federal government, and they could no longer own slaves. While there was a move to punish the Confederate states and those who fought for them, Lincoln and wise and thoughtful union rulers saw that they had exercised their right to dissent and revolt anticipated in our founding documents, and as such did not punish them but re-assimilated them in the union. The real process and history was messier than this obviously, but confederate soldiers were not wrong to take up arms, they simply needed to understand what was at stake if they lost their bid for independence, which was a strong Federal government and weak, less independent states. Now there is an argument to be had that it could have been handled in a way that did not necessitate a civil war, but the fact of the matter is the tides of history were moving in that direction and we can only deal with what has happened not what should have.

  50. dr p says:

    Another example of the difference between similar and same: in both instances believers are to pray and work for the peace of their earthly city, but Israel went home whilst the church remains diffused. Whilst our eyes are to be set upon the Jerusalem above, we are to be about the being the ark of salvation. Whilst job 1 is not to redeem or transform culture (per your Scripture quotes, we’re not to become distracted by the things of this world), just by following marching orders Christians have made cultural impact; it’s sort of like that faux motivational poster ending with remembering that one’s purpose is to drain the swamp as we stand in alligators up to our corporate caboose..

  51. Jed Paschall says:

    This is where we have a fundamental disagreement. I think GR clearly reveals that civil disobedience tears at social fabric, even when the magistrate is tyrannical. I agree that it teaches that tyrannical rule also tears at it, but how is adding disobedience on top of tyranny finally good for a society?

    Zrim, where does GR clearly reveal this? NL begins with certain axioms such as basic human rights to freedom and protection of property, all of which are contemplated in our founding documents. When tyranny reigns the whole of the social contract is broken and needs a reset, and this has historically been achieved through revolt, even if many revolts fail. This is an inevitability of human history, that if people are oppressed long enough they will rise up and seek to shake off the bonds of their oppressors, and the political equilibrium that follows may or may not be an improvement on what political order preceded it. Christians are in the world, but not of it, and obviously our ideas about what human existence should ultimately look like are bound up in eschatological consummation, but in holding citizenship in this world we also have an interest in what happens here so that we can go about living our lives free from the brutality of unjust rule inasmuch as this is possible, and we choose to exercise this right. There is also the issue of political evil that should be opposed on the same grounds, not because we are fashioning a Christian state or ushering in the eschaton, but because we are part of this world and we should be concerned with its welfare and prosperity (Jer. 29: 5-7).

    I thought Christianity was supposed to make us question the traditions of men, which seems to me includes political traditions?

    Most 2k-ers would argue for the virtues of the state, that it is instituted by God to keep order so that his plan to bring redemption through the church can take place in the context of relatively functioning societies. When society breaks down this usually isn’t good for the church, and God sustains it in spite of adverse conditions, not because of them. But take the church under the lands where Islam conquered – they no longer exist because Christians who did not convert were killed or fled, so widespread persistent conflict ends churches in some cases. This is why the Christians have an interest in the broad, even if imperfect function of society, because in it we can lead quiet lives that attest to our eternal hope. So, I wouldn’t say that Christianity causes us to question the tradition of human politics to the degree that we throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that Christians cannot take extraordinary measures at times to seek a better political order to be something that Scripture out-and-out condemns. Quietism on the basis of principle is certainly an acceptable response, but what I am arguing is that social disobedience and political dissent can be as well.

    Bonhoeffer gets a lot of run these days, and is fuel for some interesting debate for sure, but even in his own time, there were Germans who modeled disent in ways that were far more productive. Jesse’s Cafe Americain is a site for social and economic commentary, and he claims to be a Christian humanist, and today he writes about Sophie Scholl and the Munich Student Movement, which was a non-violent uprising against the Nazi’s. Sholl bests Bonhoffer because of her refusal to violently rebel, and she still paid with her life – the video he links to from a 2005 Documentary about the movement particularly illustrates what I see as not only valid, but laudable, and even necessary political dissent. Here’s the link:

    <a href="http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-70th-anniversary-of-die-weie-rose.html"In Honor of the 70th Anniversary of the Munich Student Movement – Die Weise Rose – 2nd Leaflet

  52. RubeRad says:

    Israel went home whilst the church remains diffused

    We’re going to go home too. To the city whose designer and builder is God. So doesn’t the fact that the church is yet diffused prove (or at least support) that she is in exile?

    And Israel also made a cultural impact while in exile (see Daniel, Joseph, Mordecai+Esther).

  53. dr p says:

    @RR: yes Israel did, and so are we to via godly engagement with the culture; eg obedience to lawful authority, and defending one’s neighbour against enemies foreign and domestic. What I’m not seeing – and neither, apparently, is JP – where NL or Scripture gives civil government which fails to uphold its end of the social contract sacrosanct status. I posted on the Second War of Independence earlier, and JP just did; taken with JP’s example of the First War of Independence we see lawful revolt via interposition of magistrates against tyranny. Yes, the powers that be are ordained by God, and that includes lower magistrates. If we’re going to be situational about this issue, it should be noted that neither exiled Israel nor the early Christians in any position to mount armed resistance; the winnability clause in just war theory would have forbade them to do so. There are plenty of places today where Christians are in similar straits, but that is not always and everywhere the case.

  54. Zrim says:

    Jed, not to be repetitive, but with regard to your suggestion that I am contradicting my 2k self, did you miss my distinctions between spheres and people? I still don’t see why it is controversial to say that the Bible norms our personal lives. I am willing to say it doesn’t tell us how to vote, but it does tell us how to live (e.g. what Christian Jane does in the voting booth is one thing, but what she does with that unwanted lump in her belly is quite another). And I see all sorts of historical and political arguments for it, and I understand them, but I’m still waiting for the biblical case for civil disobedience or how the biblical demands to obey civil authority squares with any argument to disobey civil authorities. Believe it or not, there are some of us 2kers who aren’t so sure something like the American Revolution was without downside for those who take seriously biblical commands to obey our magistrates. This isn’t a case for Anabaptist-ish pacifism against violence—it’s the point that maybe obedience counts even when being mistreated. As in, what credit is there for obeying those who love you? Maybe a better obedience is one that is exercised in the face of mistreatment. Or maybe you find that naïve and too idealistic?

  55. dr p says:

    @Zrim: in light of 1 Cor 10.31, please explain how its not cricket to murder the “unwanted lump,” but is if one votes for a candidate who wishes to make abortion universally available and taxpayer funded? Sounds like our voter is an accessory, no? Dooyeweerd and Kuyper wrote much about love of neighbour; how is your idea of voting in keeping with that? Again, you fail to answer how political behaviour is adiaphoric, or distinguish between Christian liberty (confessionally understood) and personal autonomy. Syllogism: God is lord of all of life; voting is part of life; therefore God is lord of voting.

    Please also address, as both JP and I have brought up, how a magisterial revolt inhibits taking “seriously biblical commands to obey our magistrates?” This is self-refuting. Rugged frontier individualism seems to fit your bill better in looking for a culprit for the American inner rebel.

  56. Zrim says:

    DP, re 1 Cor 10.31, I thought you opposed proof-texting or making a doctrine from one verse? But I have not failed to answer how political behavior is liberty while personal behavior is binding. I have failed to persuade you. Then again, my point has been more to explain my view than to persuade you to adopt it.

    Still, how does your all-of-life reasoning work when it comes to making idolatry and blasphemy legal? That is, let’s go back in time to Massachusetts Bay and if I vote for a candidate who thinks Catholics should be free to practice the idolatry of the Mass then am I an accessory to idolatry? Or am I guilty of idolatry when I participate in the Mass?

    That revolting against one’s magistrate doesn’t do much for taking biblical imperatives to obey one’s magistrate seriously seems self-explanatory. Since when did obey mean disobey? So what you and Jed haven’t shown yet is what the biblical imperatives mean to obey. So far, Jed has come close by suggesting we obey when we are treated well, but we should disobey when trampled. But if God loves those who hate him, and if we are to model ourselves after God, then it seems a better and godly obedience is to actually obey those who trample. I know, easier said than done, but isn’t Christian living supposed to be hard?

  57. dr p says:

    Actually, Christian living is bloody murder (at least I’m finding it so). Anyway, I fail to see how my position means that I don’t have to obey the magistrate of a pluralistic society, especially seeing that we agree that the state is not our minder or pastor. Yet we do agree that elective abortion is a violation of the Sixth Commandment; where we part, I think, is where your W2K says that I can’t make that argument in the public sphere whereas H(historical)2K would have no problem with doing so; ie Second Table of the Law.

    I believe we also agree that the proper role of government is to protect you from me, me from you, us from them, and them from us (eg, adventuresome foreign policy) – not you from you, me from me, or them from themselves. If a person wishes to commit idolatry by going to mass, a mosque, synagogue, Sikh temple, or wherever, that’s his problem, and the state need not worry itself over it. If a woman wants to off her unborn baby, the state is obligated to not only stop her, but shut down the whole machine. So far, so good. How, then, is oiling the machine with my vote (which I can freely give or withold, vs my tax dollars) adiaphoric? Christ Himself ordered us to pay our taxes; where did He even hint – let alone, say – vote how you please without any regard to the Moral Law?

    As for the thorny issue of civil disobedience, magisterial revolt is part and parcel of the duties of a magistrate as a secular elder. One might even say that a lesser magistrate is derelict if he doesn’t interpose for his charges, as did Luther’s protector before the emperor. Indeed, had there been no magistrates so inclined, there would hagve been no successful Reformation (hence term “magisterial reformation”). As a parallel, kirk regimen is such that lower courts are to interpose against higher courts if/when acting in a tyrannical or unscriptural manner. If only they would…

    Finally – for now – lest you think me a revert to my old Baptist ways (been out for 28 years), add Psalm 78.70-72 and any prooftext from WCF 23.1: “God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.”

  58. Zrim says:

    Yet we do agree that elective abortion is a violation of the Sixth Commandment; where we part, I think, is where your W2K says that I can’t make that argument in the public sphere whereas H(historical)2K would have no problem with doing so; ie Second Table of the Law.

    DP, that elective abortion is a violation of the sixth can certainly be made in the public square. I’ll even throw the second greatest as publicly viable. I don’t know what makes you think to do so is against 2k principles. (Maybe it’s the same thing that makes Jed think the Bible doesn’t norm our public life as individuals?) Maybe you confuse Christina secularism with legal secularism, which seems to happen a lot. Where I part company is with something like the right-to-life movement, which wants to frame things in terms of individual rights, a concept no where found in the Bible. I’d rather frame it in terms of responsibility to others, and the sixth and second greatest are pretty good for that, since everybody has equal access those truths in general revelation.

    I believe we also agree that the proper role of government is to protect you from me, me from you, us from them, and them from us (eg, adventuresome foreign policy) – not you from you, me from me, or them from themselves. If a person wishes to commit idolatry by going to mass, a mosque, synagogue, Sikh temple, or wherever, that’s his problem, and the state need not worry itself over it. If a woman wants to off her unborn baby, the state is obligated to not only stop her, but shut down the whole machine. So far, so good. How, then, is oiling the machine with my vote (which I can freely give or withold, vs my tax dollars) adiaphoric? Christ Himself ordered us to pay our taxes; where did He even hint – let alone, say – vote how you please without any regard to the Moral Law?

    I think we’ve been over this ground. But your reasoning doesn’t make much sense to me. If it’s a problem to oil the machinery that has the result of allowing a certain segment of the human population to take the life of another segment at will or whim then why is it not a problem to oil the machinery that has the result of allowing people to commit idolatry? Why can’t you say, “If a person wishes to commit murder by going to an abortion clinic or wherever, that’s her problem, and the state need not worry itself over it? Christ Himself ordered us to pay our taxes; where did He even hint – let alone, say – vote how you please without any regard to the first and second commandments”? Look, I’ll vote with you to outlaw abortion, but when another believer votes to legalize it I can’t bring myself to say s/he is guilty of murder any more than when you and I vote for religious freedom we’re guilty of idolatry. Again, I’m ready to politically oppose another believer who wants to legalize abortion, but I will not spiritually oppose him/her.

    As for the thorny issue of civil disobedience, magisterial revolt is part and parcel of the duties of a magistrate as a secular elder. One might even say that a lesser magistrate is derelict if he doesn’t interpose for his charges, as did Luther’s protector before the emperor. Indeed, had there been no magistrates so inclined, there would hagve been no successful Reformation (hence term “magisterial reformation”). As a parallel, kirk regimen is such that lower courts are to interpose against higher courts if/when acting in a tyrannical or unscriptural manner. If only they would…

    To the extent that the Protestant Reformation was an ecclesiastical recovery of biblical religion and not a civil one, I hedge when you suggest biblical religion depends upon civil help. Paul’s magistrate opposed biblical religion and Christianity was successful. But maybe this turns on your idea of success. Maybe you think big numbers and cultural influence. I don’t. I think ecclesiastical fidelity and obedience.

  59. dr p says:

    “Where I part company is with something like the right-to-life movement, which wants to frame things in terms of individual rights, a concept no where found in the Bible.” Howsabout man as imago Dei? From a natural law perspective, that’s a great place to start re: individual rights. Just as defacing currency or rolling the royal coat of arms down the streets of Philadelphia was as an attack on the king, so is abusing a man as an attack upon God. This does not conflict with loving our neighbours as ourselves.

    “If it’s a problem to oil the machinery that has the result of allowing a certain segment of the human population to take the life of another segment at will or whim then why is it not a problem to oil the machinery that has the result of allowing people to commit idolatry?” Because I have neither Scriptural nor NL basis to expect the magistrate to uphold both tables of the Law.

    “Why can’t you say, ‘If a person wishes to commit murder by going to an abortion clinic or wherever, that’s her problem, and the state need not worry itself over it? Christ Himself ordered us to pay our taxes; where did He even hint – let alone, say – vote how you please without any regard to the first and second commandments’?” Because, out of love for my antenatal neighbour as summarised in the Sixth Commandment, I am obligated to vote against abortion; to vote for it is antinomian because there is never a time when I’m not required to act as a citizen of heaven. “Again, I’m ready to politically oppose another believer who wants to legalize abortion, but I will not spiritually oppose him/her.” That’s compartmentalisation par excellence.

    “I hedge when you suggest biblical religion depends upon civil help.” I never even suggested that, but pointed out that that was just as much a part of how God brought the Reformation about as the Reformers themselves; it’s bad history and logic when we praise Luther and Calvin without remembering Prokop the Bald and Gustavus Adolphus.

    “Maybe you think big numbers and cultural influence. I don’t. I think ecclesiastical fidelity and obedience.” No, Zrim, I think of ecclesiastical fidelity and obedience as well as its peace and safety. The closest most of us will come to persecution for the faith (DV) will be being flipped off by a Planned Parenthood flunkie or militant poofter; let us refrain from speaking glibly about autos da fe.

  60. Zrim says:

    DP, I’d still rather frame defacing currency or whatever else that concerns human co-existence in terms of the second greatest, which is to say obligations to the other. I see the doctrine of rights as a modern construct that is very different from the doctrine of obligation. I should think this might please even a former theonomist since it seems like a biblical ethic versus a worldly one.

    From where I sit, while the magistrate is not obligated to uphold the first, he is obligated to uphold the second table.

    Because, out of love for my antenatal neighbour as summarised in the Sixth Commandment, I am obligated to vote against abortion; to vote for it is antinomian because there is never a time when I’m not required to act as a citizen of heaven.

    But our political opponents believe they are voting with our other neighbor in mind, a woman. They aren’t really voting to end our other neighbor’s life, the unborn, even if that’s the upshot. I know our side loves to forget that. But they are also trying to watch out for their neighbor. I think they are misguided and flat wrong in the end, since obligation to others trump rights. But as long as you make this all about rights it’s only an ongoing fight about which neighbor’s rights win.

    What you call compartmentalization I call distinction. But if you want to spiritually oppose something political then I really don’t see where you can draw the line and make virtually everything political spiritual. And then I don’t know how you can possibly oppose the Protestant liberals who do the exact same thing only in the other direction and thus avoid saying that there is such a thing as social gospel as long as it’s a rightist one.

    The closest most of us will come to persecution for the faith (DV) will be being flipped off by a Planned Parenthood flunkie or militant poofter; let us refrain from speaking glibly about autos da fe.

    That’s what you get from cultural Christianity. Which bring us back to the point of the post. Being slain because you hold a gun instead of the gospel is a mark that you have seriously mis-calculated things, which is not very different from thinking crude gestures from the other side of the culture war could even come close to any biblical conception of persecution.

  61. dr p says:

    “I see the doctrine of rights as a modern construct that is very different from the doctrine of obligation.” I can’t agree with you, as the line between rights and obligations is artificial at best; eg if the Fifth commandment spells out my duties to superiors, peers, and inferiors, it’s not a leap of logic to state that those persons have a right to be so treated by me. Also, any discussion of rights is meaningless without reference to the crown and covenant rights of Christ as mediatorial king over the nations, as well as man as imago Dei.

    “From where I sit, while the magistrate is not obligated to uphold the first, he is obligated to uphold the second table.” No argument here, but know that this puts both of us on the outs with much of historic Presbyterianism (I can live with that, even if this is supposed to be a confessional outhouse).

    “But our political opponents believe they are voting with our other neighbor in mind, a woman. ..” This is a gross oversimplification, because the libtards only see one party; ie they deny the personhood of the unborn child, and so there is no conflict of rights because there is only one person involved. This is more than a “mere” squabble over rights, but on of the state playing God by bestowing personhood according to its whim – “I’d like to help ya son but you’re too young to vote.” It is God alone Who determines personhood. “But as long as you make this all about rights it’s only an ongoing fight about which neighbor’s rights win” is irrelevant given the above; you can’t make a case of obligation if there is not another person to be obligated to.

    “What you call compartmentalization I call distinction;” what you call distinction I call rationalisation, as you seem to imagine that spiritual and political are two hermetically sealed compartments. I see this again as a denial of Christ’s crown and covenant rights and your obligation to Him as your king…talk about a private person rebelling against a magistrate! In your legitimate revolt against the Christian Right, you inadvertently rebel against Christ.

    “And then I don’t know how you can possibly oppose the Protestant liberals who do the exact same thing only in the other direction and thus avoid saying that there is such a thing as social gospel as long as it’s a rightist one.” The difference is a s clear as that between the Fox and the priest of Ungit, the latter being correct. Libtards use the political sphere according to their messianic statist beliefs, which is really a sort of left-wingedy post-millennialism. I have no such belief, but realise that both the Kingdom of the Left Hand and that of the Right Hand are both under God’s rule, meaning that I have both a right and obligation to influence the agora and senate to respect and obey Christ’s crown and covenant rights. That hardly sounds like doing what the libtards do.

    “Being slain because you hold a gun instead of the gospel is a mark that you have seriously mis-calculated things” – true for a gospel minister like DB, but less clear for General Beck and Graf Klaus von Stauffenberg.

    “(It) is not very different from thinking crude gestures from the other side of the culture war could even come close to any biblical conception of persecution” is also wide of the mark, as the flipped-off are being flipped-off for Christ’s sake. To denominate such off-flipping as persecution is perhaps more grandiosity than kulturkampf. Frankly, I’ve gotten much worse from the Christian Right for being a classical liberal and openly opining that public school prayers to a generic, no-frills god led by a woman ascend no higher than the ceiling.

  62. Zrim says:

    I have both a right and obligation to influence the agora and senate to respect and obey Christ’s crown and covenant rights. That hardly sounds like doing what the libtards do.

    No, you’re right, it sounds like what the theonomists and theocrats do. But that’s a distinction without much difference. Are you sure you’ve shaken off all the reconstructionism? But if you and the liberal Prots think Christianity must be politically applied I’m still wondering what the NT precedent is. Where oh where do Jesus and the apostles appear obligated to influence the agora and senate to respect and obey Christ’s crown and covenant rights?

  63. dr p says:

    “No, you’re right, it sounds like what the theonomists and theocrats do.” I would hardly call Lutheran 2K theocratic, as there is a world of difference between good citizenship and doing good out of love of neighbour than to believe one to be building a chiliastic kingdom. Both models – let’s also include liberalism – include political activity, and so the undiscerning eye (the same one that sees your behaviour as antinomian, autonomous, or even anabaptistic) would hardly be expected to make the distinction (you like distinctions, remember?).

    “Are you sure you’ve shaken off all the reconstructionism?” Yes; see above. I’m far more concerned with helping my neighbour climb aboard the ark of salvation than pondering how I’ll deprive him of his franchise and compel him to attend church once we take over. I’m not sure, though, that I’m totally free of Lutheranism, but I don’t perceive that to be a problem.

    “But if you and the liberal Prots think Christianity must be politically applied I’m still wondering what the NT precedent is.” That will depend upon your definition of “must:” if you mean that I’m required to be an activist, then it’s irrelevant because I don’t believe us to be compelled to activism. There is the sort of soft power used by the early church (eg adopting discarded infants, care of widows and orphans) which shamed the pagans into civic righteousness, but I may choose activism IAW good citizenship. On the other hand, if “must” means that there is no way that one justified and being sanctified can avoid bringing his convictions with him everywhere in life, then I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Now for this hermeneutical issue between us: I hold to general equity, so I’m less interested in a specific NT example than I would be to see a NT change; ie I hold to “maintained unless modified” contra your apparent “repealed unless repeated.” Please note Jer 29.7; the word rendered “pray” is the “avodah,” which is Hebrew for both pray and work. There are other OT verses as you well know (let’s eschew the “proof text” ad hominem), but I see no NT requirement for quietism, which one still may choose. You’ve still not provided any text anywhere to support voting as a neutral behaviour. Thus I would place the burden of proof on you to provide such.

  64. Lily says:

    Jed.

    Re: DB as a product of his own times who should have clarified that his anti-Nazism had nothing to do with his pastoral responsibilities.

    He couldn’t. And neither could any of the other confessional pastors. Germans who were Jews or had partial Jewish ancestry were being barred from not only church membership but being removed from church membership.

    Re: DB being a pastor when this happened.

    It is my understanding that he had been barred from preaching by the Nazis and he was working for a governmental agency. Thus he had no flock to pastor and was involved in the resistance movement.

    The confessional pastors were writing and speaking out against Nazism from the early thirties on. It was a very complicated situation and like most real life situations, not clear cut into black and white. DB knew almost from the beginning about the slaughter of the Jewish population. He was in a tough situation under a totalitarian government. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Do you collude in the assassination of man who is slaughtering millions of people or have their blood on your hands because you did nothing when the opportunity presented itself? He agonized over what to do.

    It may be a good question to ask if submission to a government trumps your stopping your neighbors from being slaughtered.

  65. Pingback: The Bible is Not Off Limits But Only Settles So Much

  66. jedpaschall says:

    Lilly,

    Thanks for the clarifications here on DB, I am a bit fuzzy on all of the history surrounding him since I haven’t read him or much about him for over 10 years now. When it came to the German confessionalists, they were too wrapped up in dialectic theology to recognize that their best arguments against the Nazis would come from NL, so they ended up in one form or another conflating the biblical faith with political activism.

    The fact is that the Nazi regime was a political abomination, and should have been opposed on those grounds alone, and it was in the interests of all parties involved to see and end to Hitlers rule. The crux of the argument between Zrim and I on this matter is whether or not German Christians had any legitimate right to oppose Hitler. I say yes, he says no. But in terms of the actual history on the ground in Nazi Germany, it was a complete mess, and I am inclined to neither lionize the dissenters like DB, who could’ve used wiser means of opposition, nor blame them too much for errors in judgment since I am not sure how I would’ve reacted in this situation.

  67. jedpaschall says:

    Zrim,

    I’m still waiting for the biblical case for civil disobedience or how the biblical demands to obey civil authority squares with any argument to disobey civil authorities.

    If I am correct here, you are arguing for an iron-clad reading of Rom. 13 that renders any and all dissent, besides religious, contrary to biblical ethics. But, even on the grounds of a biblical ethic, we must prioritize ethical demands. For example in the 2nd great command, to love one’s neighbor as yourself, you are placed in the horns of a dilemma if the state is carting off your neighbors for slaughter, and possibly knocking on your door to ask if any of your neighbors are hiding in your home. What do you do here – send your neighbor to certain death in order to maintain proper submission to the state; or do you dissent and rebel against the claims of the state upon the lives of your neighbors.

    We see similar wartime ethics being employed by Rahab as she aided and abetted Israelite spies, and carried out acts of deception against her native state, Jericho. Clearly, if she were placed under a strict reading of Rom. 13, she would not have been submitting to the state. The way I see it, in extraordinary cases, such as 1930-40’s Germany, or the American Revolution, we don’t have sufficient biblical data to tell us how to act politically, as there are competing scriptural demands that we must weigh in these cases. The essence of what I am trying to argue is that it is conceivable in these situations for Christians to land on both sides of the issue, and that we aren’t going to sort out what “the” biblical position is on the matter.

  68. Lily says:

    Jed.

    I believe I am correct on the issue of the Jewish converts church membership being revoked by the Nazi and the confessional pastors responding to that assault since it was a church matter. I think these things happened prior to Bonhoeffer leaving for America and was still a pastor theologian, but I’m not positive. Like you, I’m rusty on this subject.

    I found an article that helps clarify Bonhoeffer’s situation. It’s a short article on Bonhoeffer through Lutheran eyes, courtesy of Uwe Siemon-Netto (respected journalist and author – also an LCMS member). Bonhoeffer was acting solely in his vocation as a citizen while he was working in the resistance movement:

    “The martyrdom of Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was murdered by the Nazis, is still misunderstood. He died for his religion, but in the first place, as a citizen resisting tyranny.

    Seldom has an author been so misrepresented by his commentators and translators,” wrote U.S. theologian Paul Lehmann about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was born exactly a century ago. Bonhoeffer, perhaps the most quoted Protestant thinker of the 20th century, was hanged at age 39 not because of the way he proclaimed the Gospel in Nazi Germany, although he was persecuted for that as well. He was executed because he fought as a conscientious citizen against a criminal regime. He was a worldly martyr, albeit one whose actions were deeply rooted in his Lutheran faith.”

    Read the rest here:

    http://www.atlantic-times.com/archive_detail.php?recordID=435

    Few know of Hermann Sasse (Lutheran theologian) who was one of the first to write against the Nazis in the early 30’s. If I remember correctly, he was arguing against the Nazi from NL. Sasse and Bonhoeffer were author’s of the Bethel Confession (includes NL argument), Sasse along with Bonhoeffer and Barth were authors of the Barmen Declaration, Sasse withdrew from the Barmen declaration on the grounds of 2k confusion by Barth (again, if I remember correctly). Sasse has been overshadowed by Bonhoeffer, but martyrs tend to do that.

  69. Zrim says:

    Jed, I’m not really looking for ways to reach back into time and place and solve the extraordinary (and, sorry, but just way so overplayed) experience of Jews in attics. And great as Romans 13 is, I actually have my mind more on something like 1 Peter 2:13-18, particularly verse 18 which says to be subject not only to the good and gentle master but also the unjust one. You have made the case that unjust magistrates give us the green light to disobey and revolt. But Peter says otherwise. So, I am wondering how you harmonize Peter with any argument that believers are to obey the good and gentle but not the unjust ones. If you’re right, what the heck is Peter talking about?

  70. Lily says:

    Dear Zrim,

    I don’t think you can take one passage and neglect the other. I do think the whole counsel of God needs to be considered.

    As much as the Nazi regime has been used like a wax nose, kinda like Bonhoeffer and Lincoln, it’s still history to be learned from. I think we neglect history to our peril. I would vote for considering the best historians as worthwhile advisors. Ya thank?

  71. Zrim says:

    Lily, what passage am I neglecting here?

  72. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    For some reason, I was thinking you were wanting to focus on Peter and let go of Paul (And great as Romans 13 is, I actually have my mind more on something like 1 Peter 2:13-18, particularly verse 18) Careless reading on my part – sorry.

    Still, even if we look at both of those passages, we are still neglecting the whole counsel of God – an aspect that both Jed and I have raised: What about our neighbor? What about the least among us who cannot protect or care for themselves? I think this is the sticky question raised when a totalitarian government is targeting a section of the citizenry like the Nazi did.

  73. jedpaschall says:

    Zrim,

    See my comment over at OldLife to your similar question, I think that sums up my opinion well. I will add, what is being talked about here is ethical reasoning that must weigh competing ethical claims – such as seeking the good of a neighbor or obedience to the state; violating the 9th to obey the 6th, etc. These dilemmas were common in Nazi Germany. In more ordinary situations, where there is political repression, not all instances of repression demand response from the Christian, but there are certain to be situations that arise where the Christian’s duty to God, his neighbor, and his conscience demand casting off at least a measure of loyalty to the state. BTW, remember, protest as means of political dissent hadn’t really developed conceptually during the time of the NT, at least not in its current modern form, so that is probably one reason why we don’t see it in the NT – it may not have been on the conceptual radar of NT or OT authors, neither was the internet.

  74. Zrim says:

    Lily, I think the Christian life is hard and we have to balance our duties to love our neighbors with our obligations to obey our authorities. I get that this balance can be quite perplexing for mere creatures, but I also think if we’re being honest there just isn’t any biblical room for disobeying, no more than there is room for hating our neighbor. I understand it’s an American tick in considerations about authority and submission to automatically carve out territory where we can disobey, but the Bible just doesn’t read like that.

  75. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    I appreciate your thoughts. A few days ago, our synod president released a statement on where our church stands on this matter. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s not any different that what I’ve been trying to offer to you. When push comes to shove, we obey God not men.

    Excerpt:

    I encourage the members of the LCMS to join with me in supporting efforts to preserve our essential right to exercise our religious beliefs. This action by HHS will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law and operating within the framework of their religious tenets. We add our voice to the long list of those championing for the continued ability to act according to the dictates of their faith, and provide compassionate care and clear Christian witness to society’s most vulnerable, without being discriminated against by government.

    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a church body of sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus, has affected the lives of millions of people with care, aid, housing, health care, spiritual care and much more. We have been a force for good in this nation, promoting education (the nation’s largest Protestant school system), marriage and giving people the tools and assistance to be good citizens. We live and breathe Romans 13:3–7. The governing authorities are “God’s servant for good.” We pray constantly for our President and those in authority. We have sent our sons and daughters to fight for this country. We have provided military chaplains, elected officials, officers, including some who have held the highest military offices and other appointed positions in this country. Our people have and are serving as congressmen and women and senators.

    Increasingly we are suffering overzealous government intrusions into what is the realm of traditional and biblical Christian conscience. We believe this is a violation of our First Amendment rights. We will stand, to the best of our ability, with all religious and other concerned citizens, against this erosion of our civil liberty. Come what may, we shall do everything we can, by God’s grace, to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

  76. Zrim says:

    Lily, it may be a little given to overstatement, but I don’t see anything unbecoming here.

  77. dr p says:

    @Zrim: how can you say that, given the “we shall do everything we can?” This implies approbation of political activity, and discouragement of those who think that voting has no spiritual consequences. Please clarify.

  78. Zrim says:

    DP, funny, I don’t feel discouraged from distinguishing the political from the spiritual when I read it.

  79. John Yeazel says:

    It seems you Calvinists sit on high and look down on those sinners who betray any kind of reservation of submission to authority that has blatantly betrayed the trust of those whom they are supposed to be serving. If you maybe sprinkled in a bit of talk of grace in providing the power and means of submission to this authority that has betrayed the trust of the majority it might be a bit easier to stomach. Perhaps it is my sinful nature that makes me want to react in a negative way to authority that is abused but it seems to be a universal revulsion that is prominently on display in everyday conversations in families and the cultural institutions we are involved with on a daily basis.

  80. Whoa, JY, Calvinists are arrogant for favoring humility and submission? And you’re more humble for not being arrogant about submission? I’m calling a technical foul for passive-agressivity on that one.
    But if this is truly a Calvinist / Lutheran distnctive (which it’s not, because there’s plenty of rebel Calvinists in history), then it would seem that the Lutheran side tries to just take freedom from the spiritual column and put it over in the common kingdom column as well. At least that’s my read of Lily. And I’m sure she’ll tell me if I misread!

  81. Lily says:

    Awww…. MM. It’s not either/or but both/and. Liberty is fundamental for Christ hath set us free to fear, love, and trust him, and to serve our neighbors through our vocations. We live in liberty as we live out our lives in the left-hand kingdom through our vocations. And since it’s a messy world, we need oodles of grace since none of us is half as smart as we think we are. Not to mention that bondage of the will problem we all face.

    Luther probably puts the paradox best: “A Christian is a free master over all things and subject to no one” and “a Christian is a servant of all and subject to all.”

    I think there are differences between the Lutherans and the Reformed. A few examples: Ya’ll emphasize discipline and obedience, while we emphasize confession and absolution (we even repent of our good deeds). Ya’ll see church government as right-hand kingdom while we see it as left-hand. We are vocation minded in living out our temporal lives while this seems to be a foreign concept to many Reformed.

    I think what often gets lost in the discussion is that we have freedom in evaluating a number of things in the left-hand kingdom. Obedience isn’t wooden or static for every situation. We need wisdom and discernment.

    In the government debate, our dear friend, Zrim, seems to see it as static with no biblical exceptions even though they are clearly there in the bible (eg: obey God not man). We seem like polar opposites in the debate when I would guess we are a lot closer to each other in real life than we look like online. I’m an obedient rascal even paying my taxes without grumbling! ;)

    Lastly, I would offer that we can try to reason out how to apply scripture in ways that puts us in straight-jackets when we shouldn’t. This morning I cracked up when a Lutheran pastor addressed the problems we can cause ourselves. His example was hilarious. Our logic can make itself the master of God’s Word instead of it’s servant.

    Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/82mw94v

  82. Lily, I ain’t buying. I will grant that Lutherans can sometimes be clearer on the gospel/law distinction, but here – despite your appeals to strait-jackets and over-reasoning – we just have a better understanding of the 5th commandment. You are spiritually free, but as a child you were subject to your parents, as a church member you are subject to your minister/church and as a citizen you are subject to the magistrate. Then, that subjection is not a minimal one that gives only minimal obedience but also honor to parent, minister, and magistrate. Ultimately, defiance is defiance of the One who put you under them.

    If you are correct, then a believing minor is free from the authority of parents. What does a parent say if her child says what you say about obedience? That it’s a Reformed strait-jacket? Somehow I doubt you would handle it that way.

  83. Zrim says:

    In the government debate, our dear friend, Zrim, seems to see it as static with no biblical exceptions even though they are clearly there in the bible (eg: obey God not man).

    Oy vey, if I had a dime for every time. John Frame on line two.

    Lily, nobody is saying there aren’t exceptions. You cite Acts 5:28-29, which is really about disobeying the command to stop preaching the resurrection of Jesus. That must be disobeyed. Maybe you want to retain the worldy weapons of a lawyer to make sure you are allowed to keep preaching when Caesar says stop. But I say resist worldly weapons and just keep preaching. Who’s got the corner on disobedience now?

  84. Lily says:

    MM: Lily, I ain’t buying.

    Lily: I ain’t sellin’ – it’s free (couldn’t resist – I’m in a silly mood today). ;)

    MM: I will grant that Lutherans can sometimes be clearer on the gospel/law distinction, but here – despite your appeals to strait-jackets and over-reasoning – we just have a better understanding of the 5th commandment.

    Lily: I beg to differ. Besides it’s the 4th not 5th. Ya’ll never did learn to parse the commandments right. ;)

    MM: You are spiritually free, but as a child you were subject to your parents, as a church member you are subject to your minister/church and as a citizen you are subject to the magistrate. Then, that subjection is not a minimal one that gives only minimal obedience but also honor to parent, minister, and magistrate. Ultimately, defiance is defiance of the One who put you under them.

    Lily: Yep, we’se subject alright, but that doesn’t mean a child is subject to attempted homicide or incest. He is free to flee and report his parents to the authorities. Similarly, it doesn’t mean we are subject to a minister preaching false doctrine. We are free to seek a new church home. Lastly, the hated example of hiding Jews. Call it defiance if you like, but I think we have liberty for wisdom and discernment in our obedience to all temporal authorities.

    MM: If you are correct, then a believing minor is free from the authority of parents. What does a parent say if her child says what you say about obedience? That it’s a Reformed strait-jacket? Somehow I doubt you would handle it that way.

    Lily: Nope, I’d guess there is a logic problem. We are servants of the Word. We obey God not men when push comes to shove over serious sin. Otherwise, we obey the authorities. Remember, it’s law/gospel not law/gospel/law.

  85. Lily says:

    Lily: Oy vey indeed! Please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water because the argument reminds you of JF!

    Zrim: Lily, nobody is saying there aren’t exceptions.

    Lily: Doggone it, Zrim. Everytime you agree there are exceptions, then you go all static on me.

    Zrim: You cite Acts 5:28-29, which is really about disobeying the command to stop preaching the resurrection of Jesus. That must be disobeyed.

    Lily: I really ought to shoot you for this one. Since when was it required to not understand the simple meaning? The magistrate wants me to sleep with him. Who do I obey? God or man? You know we aren’t free to sin while we serve under others.

    Zrim: Maybe you want to retain the worldy weapons of a lawyer to make sure you are allowed to keep preaching when Caesar says stop. But I say resist worldly weapons and just keep preaching. Who’s got the corner on disobedience now?

    Lily: Now you’ve done gone stupid on me. Why on earth shouldn’t Christians seek to appeal a bad law? For example: the one violating Catholic consciences? Why on earth should we submissively say “okay, we’ll kill babies because the bible says to obey magistrates.” No, we appeal. We’re Christians with vocations as citizens. It’s wisdom and discernment at work here and it is definitely obedient to God to try to settle disputes and live peaceably with all men. Sigh… I really need to shoot you (southern joke for those we love, who do/say things we think are haywire).

  86. Lily, I see some progress – you have changed your argument. You have dropped your argument that Christ has set us free from obedience to authorities. Now your obedience-exceptions are when we are required to sin (which no one is contesting), and then things like incest, which is against criminal law. Yes, you speak of more, but let’s have a moment of concord.
    But what does plain old honor look like? I don’t think you’ve answered that here or there. What ongoing attitude and decorum are owed to authorities? If Dad has a drinking problem, does a child have an ongoing right to call him “The Drunk?” If a President has a big-government problem and liberal views on rights, do we have an ongoing right to vilify him? Is there any principle at all that abates or ameliorates the vilification? Or maybe you march with the Politico-Evangelicals.

  87. Lily says:

    Now I need to shoot you, MM. ;)

    Re: you have changed your argument. You have dropped your argument that Christ has set us free from obedience to authorities.

    No, I haven’t changed my argument. You misunderstood. I never said we were free from obedience to authorities. It’s a paradox of both freedom and service.

    Re: Now your obedience-exceptions are when we are required to sin (which no one is contesting),

    I’ve made the same arguments previously, dear MM. I haven’t changed my position, I’m still trying to clear up the static.

    Re: Yes, you speak of more, but let’s have a moment of concord.

    Aww… MM. I’m wondering if you think I’m angry? Nope. I hope you aren’t? I guess I thought this was a friendly debate. I hope my joking/teasing is not giving the wrong impression?

    Re: But what does plain old honor look like? I don’t think you’ve answered that here or there. What ongoing attitude and decorum are owed to authorities? If Dad has a drinking problem, does a child have an ongoing right to call him “The Drunk?” If a President has a big-government problem and liberal views on rights, do we have an ongoing right to vilify him? Is there any principle at all that abates or ameliorates the vilification? Or maybe you march with the Politico-Evangelicals.

    I’m going to hit this hard and keep hitting it until ya’ll get it. It’s law/gospel not law/gospel/law. I say law/gospel and ya’ll want to add law. That’s no law/gospel. Yes, I am free to disagree with the President and yes, it can be done respectfully. Freedom to say no and/or freedom to recognize sin in a drunk father doesn’t equal freedom to be a snot about it. I’m wondering if you are confusing how someone given the right to be respected (authority) is treated, with a blind yes maam servility.

    I don’t read Politico – please explain.

  88. John Yeazel says:

    MM,

    My main point was that some Calvinist’s tone in the debate over obeying “unjust” authority, or authority figures that abuse their authority, is one of just shut up and obey. It the argument was tempered with this can be very difficult in many circumstances and could require much counsel from others and help with the means of grace it might cause the person to listen more intently without reacting in a negative way. I’m not sure how you accused me of passive/aggressive on that one. I certainly will not lose any sleep over it.

  89. mikelmann says:

    Lily
    “Re: Yes, you speak of more, but let’s have a moment of concord.
    Aww… MM. I’m wondering if you think I’m angry? Nope. I hope you aren’t? I guess I thought this was a friendly debate. I hope my joking/teasing is not giving the wrong impression? ”

    Aren’t you under the Book of Concord? A little play on words and a transition, that’s all. Yeah, I explain my jokes a lot. Anyway, these conversations virtually never make me mad, and how could I get mad at you anyway?

  90. Lily says:

    I’m very sorry I missed the joke, MM. Durn, I can be slow on the uptake, but on second thought… concord between the Reformed and Lutherans. Isn’t that a little like cats and dogs? :) On a serious note, I’m glad I don’t make you mad.

    Zrim and MM,

    Since we are discussing how we obey/respect magistrates, here is a link to the video of the keynote speaker, Eric Metaxas (wrote a Bonhoeffer biography so it’s almost relevant to your post(!) Zrim), speaking the truth with love to magistrates at the National Prayer Breakfast. He managed to pull off addressing abortion along with some other hot buttons. Please check it out and let me know if you think he succeeded in respectfully disagreeing with authority. Reminds me a little of Esther:

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/NationalPrayerBreak

  91. Lily says:

    Here’s another link ya’ll may enjoy. It’s Eric Metaxas speaking about his biography of Bonhoeffer. It’s been awhile since I watched it, but I remember it as being fun and interesting:

    Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

  92. dr p says:

    …for which you seem to have no other touchstone than what floats your boat; I’m still waiting for Scriptural warrant to declare politcal behaviour geistrein – as if some part of life actually were (bifurcation fallacy). On a tangential note, would you or another insider spell out the rationale for your disdain vis-a-vis John Frame?

  93. Zrim says:

    Lily, I am not sure how you got that Christians shouldn’t seek to appeal a bad law. But it could be that when a bad law is in the works to keep us from preaching the gospel that we could be using that time and resources to actually preach the gospel.

    Why on earth should we submissively say “okay, we’ll kill babies because the bible says to obey magistrates.”

    What on earth are you talking about? I’m being serious, Lily. John Frame’s got nothing on you.

  94. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    Re: I am not sure how you got that Christians shouldn’t seek to appeal a bad law.

    I’m responding to your comment:”Maybe you want to retain the worldy weapons of a lawyer to make sure you are allowed to keep preaching when Caesar says stop.” and giving you a beaut of a time about it not being worldly to go the legal route! We appeal to the left-hand kingdom – that’s simple wisdom and discernment before we accept man’s consequences for obeying God.

    Re: But it could be that when a bad law is in the works to keep us from preaching the gospel that we could be using that time and resources to actually preach the gospel.

    Natch, but that’s not what’s up for stake here. It’s about conscience, the unborn, and retaining the historic religious liberty of our nation. The first two are non-negotiable. Losing the third point would push us towards obeying God and not man. Winning the third point is what we can continue to pass on the future generations. We have a duty to preserve what we can so our faith can be passed on freely and offered to our neighbors.

    Re: Why on earth should we submissively say “okay, we’ll kill babies because the bible says to obey magistrates.” What on earth are you talking about?

    Zrim, have you been keeping up on the issue? The law includes providing abortifacients. Some of us are dead serious on this subject since they cause the abortion of babies.

    I’m being serious, Lily. John Frame’s got nothing on you.

    Seriously, Zrim, I can’t accept the comparison without laughing. Perhaps, JF isn’t a complete nut? I dunno… haven’t read his work and there are differences between Reformed and Lutheran 2k. Perhaps that plays a role.

  95. Lily says:

    Ok… gonna try to make it even plainer, Zrim.

    Look at:

    ”Maybe you want to retain the worldy weapons of a lawyer to make sure you are allowed to keep preaching when Caesar says stop … we could be using that time and resources to actually preach the gospel.”

    That was the full section (forgot the last part in the last comment) of what I responded to. It looked like you went from freedom to bondage without a whimper. It looks absolutely nuts. Static. Wooden. It fails the sniff test for wisdom and discernment or concern for preventative prudent acts on our part to fulfill our obligations to others. It bypassed history 101. And it forgot the vocation of citizen.

  96. Zrim says:

    Lily, it looks to me like you want to make a point about some sensational political news headlines lately. But nothing I’m saying has anything to do with abortifacients. Is that a shoehorn in your pocket, or…?

  97. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    Re: it looks to me like you want to make a point about some sensational political news headlines lately. But nothing I’m saying has anything to do with abortifacients. Is that a shoehorn in your pocket, or…?

    It looks like there is a failure in me to communicate well. The example is a real-life challenge to the practice of our faith, not a hypothetical. I thought the discussion was supposed to be about whether there were any reasons for Christians to exercise civil disobedience in the face of evil. The health mandate’s demand for abortifacients violates specific beliefs about the sanctity of life (for Catholics add contraceptives). It’s similar to the kind of evil Bonhoeffer faced in the sense that there is an ongoing genocide against a specific group of citizenry in our nation: the unborn.

    There is a cumulative effect at work because there are also the issues of marriage and homosexuality working against the church. It’s not inconceivable that it could progress towards mandates against the truth about sin being preached and thus the gospel for sinners. Consider that there was freedom in Germany prior to Hitler and the Nazis turned that nation into a totalitarian state piece by piece. The criticism of German Christians was that they did nothing to stop it. I’m arguing for Christians to address our situation in our vocations as citizens and would argue that it is important to stand now. Here we may see a direct correlation to Bonhoeffer since he addressed an evil state in his vocation as a citizen.

    Many of us are aware that there is a growing hostility towards and growing encroachment upon the first amendment’s protection of religious liberty. The health mandate is so narrow, it would widen the door for more dictates from the state to the church. These are real concerns, not sensationalism. Not to mention, many of us are dead serious in our opposition to the church being mandated to provide abortifacients upon request. It is not the state’s business to define sin for the church. It is not the state’s lawful business to demand that the church sin.

    I’m also arguing with you over a wooden/static view of the law in face of the encroachments of evil. I would still argue that wisdom and discernment are needed. In buckets. The vast majority of demands do not put us in a position of necessary disobedience to authority, but we need to be aware when threats need to be addressed. We do need to be equipped with a good understanding of state versus church so we can navigate the land mines. And we currently have a number of land mines in our landscape. We do need to be able to speak the truth in love and be prepared to accept the consequences.

    P.S. Would you please update your picture so we can see how your baby has grown?

  98. Zrim says:

    Lily, thanks. First, let me say that I do agree that in the current political wrangling over making religious organizations violate their consciences the complaints are warranted; I side with those who say this is bad policy and needs to be corrected. But, secondly, I equally fail to see how this has anything to do with civil disobedience. This is simply pushing back through the established order of things. It is not working outside the law or being disobedient. Disagreement is not disobedience. Third, I take great exception to comparing our present issues to be comparable to the Third Reich and find comparisons to it unbecoming to say the least. I know it’s very popular and attention getting, and so it will be unpopular to say this, but I think that is exactly why it’s more a hinderance than a help; I actually think the push back project is greatly harmed by making such vitriolic comparisons. Progressives made the same hyperventilating accusations about the previous administration trending America toward fascism because of the Patriot Act, but give me a friggin-frackin break, everybody. Fourth, I agree that wisdom and discernment are needed, but I fail to see the wisdom and discernment in conflating disagreement with disobedience. My kids disagree with me all the time but I don’t consider it being disobedient.

    P.S. my picture is my father at my age. I doubt he’d want his current image strewn about the interwebs.

  99. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    Re: First, let me say that I do agree that in the current political wrangling over making religious organizations violate their consciences the complaints are warranted; I side with those who say this is bad policy and needs to be corrected.

    Yep, I figured we were in agreement here, but the problem is my poor communication skills. ;)

    Re: But, secondly, I equally fail to see how this has anything to do with civil disobedience. This is simply pushing back through the established order of things. It is not working outside the law or being disobedient. Disagreement is not disobedience.

    Here is where I would point out that if the detrimental edicts are not repealed, then it can/will lead to civil disobedience. The RC is not going to budge, and thankfully so. Neither will my denomination. We have formal statements opposing abortion. I would guess the EO will be placed in that position as well a number of other conservative denominations.

    Re: Third, I take great exception to comparing our present issues to be comparable to the Third Reich and find comparisons to it unbecoming to say the least. I know it’s very popular and attention getting, and so it will be unpopular to say this, but I think that is exactly why it’s more a hinderance than a help; I actually think the push back project is greatly harmed by making such vitriolic comparisons. Progressives made the same hyperventilating accusations about the previous administration trending America toward fascism because of the Patriot Act, but give me a friggin-frackin break, everybody.

    I suppose this is where we may have to disagree. I appreciate that it has been misused. I didn’t use the comparison for any purpose other than the value than it’s historical lessons. It’s the clearest example I know of when it comes handling extremely difficult church/state relations with much to be learned from it. I don’t find it offensive since anything can be misused. I do think it’s fair to compare abortion to genocide. Planned parenthood alone slaughters 330,000+ children per year. We all have their blood on our hands. How I long for the day when it is repealed.

    Should I tease you about making me place an X-rated warning on a comment if I use Germany examples again?

    Re: Fourth, I agree that wisdom and discernment are needed, but I fail to see the wisdom and discernment in conflating disagreement with disobedience. My kids disagree with me all the time but I don’t consider it being disobedient. P.S. my picture is my father at my age. I doubt he’d want his current image strewn about the interwebs.

    Like you, I don’t equate disagreement with disobedience – do teens speak any other language – lol? As I tried to explain above, some things are non-negotiable when it comes sinning and if it cannot be settled then it can/will lead to disobedience. That’s what I’m concerned about. Plus the persistent increasing encroachments of the state upon the church are not good. It would be easy to list numerous story links, but offer one from this morning. Check out Cranach’s report on the insanity at Vanderbilt: http://tinyurl.com/7q3mxb7 The world has gone mad, I say, MAD! I’ve never seen such brain-dead logic!

    Thanks for explaining the photo. I thought it was you with one of your children. Phooey, you just bust my bubble. I thought it would be great to have an updated family photo to admire. No such luck. Durn.

  100. Zrim says:

    Lily, the hard thing for me is to square the moral indignation of believers over the perceived encroachments of the state on churches with apostolic witness. Does anybody seriously believe their state didn’t encroach? And yet, where is the indignation? All we see are commands to obey.

  101. Lily says:

    I’m sorry, Zrim. I’m not following. Who were these churches and what were the perceived encroachments?

  102. Zrim says:

    As I tried to explain above, some things are non-negotiable when it comes sinning and if it cannot be settled then it can/will lead to disobedience. That’s what I’m concerned about. Plus the persistent increasing encroachments of the state upon the church are not good…The world has gone mad, I say, MAD!

    So my point was that when I hear believers speak this way I wonder why I never hear the apostles do it. I mean, they had encroaching states, didn’t they? Actually, moderns on this side of history would probably faint at how the apostles’ states encroached. And yet, no scriptural version of modern indignation.

  103. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    Re: So my point was that when I hear believers speak this way I wonder why I never hear the apostles do it.

    Does John the Baptist rebuking Herod count?

    Does Jesus rebuking the Pharisees count?

    Does Jesus calling Herod a fox count?

    Does the wisdom literature count? “Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.”

    Why leave out the OT? The apostles certainly weren’t allergic to it and the prophets used to rebuke the kings.

    You know these examples as well as other ones about defending and protecting others and loving others as we love ourselves. You also know that to express exasperation is not necessarily sin and in fact, it is fathers (authority) who are told not to exasperate their children.

    Re: I mean, they had encroaching states, didn’t they? Actually, moderns on this side of history would probably faint at how the apostles’ states encroached.

    There is the example of Paul appealing to Caesar given to us. There are also the differences between Rome and the US. We have much greater responsibilities as US citizens than Paul did as a Roman citizen. We have greater duties in self-governance, elections, and so forth. To see a man abuse his position and abuse constitutional protections as in the link I offered can be exasperating. It is a legal issue and left-hand kingdom – hence go to the wisdom literature for the left-hand kingdom. “Open you mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.”

    Re: And yet, no scriptural version of modern indignation.

    You really make this subject much harder than it is. It’s all there if you would open your bible. The bible is the master of your confessions not vice versa. I would charge you with laziness and passivity in your God given duties as a citizen and care for neighbor through your vocation as citizen.

    We’re back to obeying the magistrates and yet holding them accountable when they break the laws of our land. Democracy. It is God’s gift to us so let’s not despise the freedom and responsibilities in a democracy.

    Sigh.. which round are we in? I’m going to bed.

  104. Zrim says:

    Lily, if I had a dime for every time I’ve been called lazy this week I’d have, like, a few dimes. Seriously, though, and speaking of endless rounds, do I really seem lazy to you? Have you considered what kind of work it takes to stick up for submission against those who privilege activism? But maybe you could refrain from throwing your indignation at me. After all, save your energy—don’t you have a President to undermine?

    My point wasn’t that indignation wasn’t part of apostolic affect. My point was where it is to be found in relation to the state encroaching upon the church as understood by moderns. And how is Paul appealing to his rights as a Roman citizen anything like railing against the state?

    You also say that, “We have much greater responsibilities as US citizens than Paul did as a Roman citizen.” I take that to mean our political arrangement and philosophy demands that we hold our magistrates accountable, etc. I get that. But despite your suggestion, Lily, I really do crack my Bible, and what I find there is a virtue different from what a modern liberal democracy dictates. Instead of a virtue to hold my magistrate accountable, I find one about showing him honor and submission. Those seem to me to be two very different virtues.

  105. Lily says:

    Yikes, Zrim, I was joshing you and definitely not indignant. I know you’re incorrigible not lazy – lol. I do apologize for not making that clear. Seemed only fitting to dish some trouble back ‘atcha since you compared me to JF! I do apologize and thank you for asking.

    Re: don’t you have a President to undermine?

    Nope. Just an awareness of the times we are living in. I found it interesting that the RC bishops were able to respond so quickly because they’ve seen this coming and having been preparing for it (about 7 months). They have oodles of experience with totalitarian states (think John Paul and Poland). It’s a fascinating history and I’m thankful God chose them to take the brunt of the heat and burden of leading the resistance against losing our freedom of religion.

    Re: My point wasn’t that indignation wasn’t part of apostolic affect. My point was where it is to be found in relation to the state encroaching upon the church as understood by moderns. And how is Paul appealing to his rights as a Roman citizen anything like railing against the state?

    I’m not sure where you are thinking I’m railing against the state? We have constitutionally protected freedoms that are being undermined and can/will continue if not sequestered. It’s a matter of recognizing what is happening and taking the legal steps to protect them. Congress has yet to act, but I suspect they will be involved legislating to stop the out-of-control executive branch sometime soon. Anywho, Paul took legal steps as a citizen to appeal his case – that’s the comparison. If he took the legal steps that were available to him as a citizen, why aren’t we free as citizens to do the same (with the obligatory caveat that there is no sin) when duty calls?

    Re: You also say that, “We have much greater responsibilities as US citizens than Paul did as a Roman citizen.” I take that to mean our political arrangement and philosophy demands that we hold our magistrates accountable, etc. I get that.

    I figured you did, but you sure don’t sound like it online. You end up sounding wooden/static. It’d be fun to talk about it over coffee. I’m thinkin’ it’d probably last about 5-10 minutes and then we could go on to the fun stuff and talk about your kids. ;)

    Re: But despite your suggestion, Lily, I really do crack my Bible, and what I find there is a virtue different from what a modern liberal democracy dictates. Instead of a virtue to hold my magistrate accountable, I find one about showing him honor and submission. Those seem to me to be two very different virtues.

    Again, I apologize. My joshing wasn’t clear. In person, you’d see the twinkle in my eye and see the tongue in cheek. I wish I could rewrite it so the teasing was clear. Sometimes, it’s hard to resist goofing around. You did post from your confession on your post and…. well, again, one of those joshing around things that didn’t come off right. But the part about the wisdom literature and so forth was from a serious thought about the subject.

    As far as the differences between the ancient, reformation, and modern eras of governance, there are differences and adjustments in our vocational duties as citizens that need to be made. We do have an amazing style of governance that includes a great deal of citizen participation that was not there prior to recent times. We actually have the opportunity and duty to be involved in our own governance and to participate in protecting our nation from despotic magistrates who seek to undermine the type of governance we live under. We are so incredibly blessed to not live in China, Venezuela, or Cuba and so forth.

    I still don’t understand why you see these things as two different virtues. Honor and submit is what is the vast majority of what we do. To be aware and hold a magistrate accountable for gross violations is part of our vocation as citizens. Paradox? You know Lutherans love paradox and live quite happy with them, but I think it may drive ya’ll nuts at times. ;)

  106. Zrim says:

    Lily, such are the limitations of cyberdom. No worries, it’s been a cranky week for me. Like the man said, “Try to see it my way, do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on? Think of what you’re saying, you can get it wrong and still you think that it’s all right. Think of what I’m saying, we can work it out and get it straight or say good night. We can work it out.”

    I’m not saying we aren’t free to take the same steps as Paul did. At the risk of making things harder than they have to be, I’m only contending for a little more reflection on all the angles involved. You know, as in all things are lawful but not everything is profitable. Does appealing to rights ever become litigious and unbecoming of peaceable people? What about the danger of becoming just another whiny special interest group clamoring for rights? Do you consider that the present brouhaha about contraceptives, etc. has at least as much to do with political campaigning as it does ordinary questions of church and state? Could we be unwittingly used as political pawns by the secular rightists? Or doesn’t that matter, because to be rightist is the same as being godly? Do you see cultural Christianity crouching at the door?

    And so, Lily, while I agree with you that our modern style of governance has its upsides and vast benefits, what I don’t detect in you is any sense of its downsides and dangers. It’s almost as if you don’t think political arrangement can’t possible have any affect on our spirituality. I’m willing to bet you think TV and pop culture do, but is it at all possible that a polity that invites and even rewards disobedience is at odds with a biblical piety that is all about obedience and an honoring spirit and disposition? Again, this has nothing to do with saying we cannot participate in our polity per its rules, it’s to suggest that if we are serious about being counter-cultural as believers then maybe the rules of governance aren’t to be accepted blindly as dropping straight out of heaven and without pitfalls. You say you are confused about my point over dueling virtues. It’s really pretty simple: the Bible says submit to your governing authorities, but our modern arrangement says hold him accountable. Or try a familial analogy. The Bible tells children to submit to their parents, but another philosophy says children should hold their parents accountable. You’re a parent, like me. How does it strike you the idea of your kids holding you accountable? Does that really do much for nurturing a sense of obedience?

  107. Lily says:

    Zrim,

    I’m sorry you’ve had a rough week. I hope you have a marvelous weekend and an even better week ahead.

    Re: Think of what I’m saying — I’m not saying we aren’t free to take the same steps as Paul did. At the risk of making things harder than they have to be, I’m only contending for a little more reflection on all the angles involved. You know, as in all things are lawful but not everything is profitable. Does appealing to rights ever become litigious and unbecoming of peaceable people? What about the danger of becoming just another whiny special interest group clamoring for rights?

    I am with you all the way here. These are important considerations and I am disgusted as anyone else by all the inane “rights” clamoring in our culture. The vast majority is hogwash. Yet, as long as man is fallen, there will be challenges to our constitutional government that are serious and will require a lawful response. Emphasis on lawful, please – both God’s and man’s. We may have a duty to uphold our government instead of letting it be usurped.

    Re: What about the danger of becoming just another whiny special interest group clamoring for rights? Do you consider that the present brouhaha about contraceptives, etc. has at least as much to do with political campaigning as it does ordinary questions of church and state? Could we be unwittingly used as political pawns by the secular rightists? Or doesn’t that matter, because to be rightist is the same as being godly? Do you see cultural Christianity crouching at the door?

    Very valid concerns and I do not blow them off. I very much respect conscientious objectors. Yet, I still think we need to say “no” and stand firm. It feels like something much greater is afoot than just being used as pawns. I sense a real threat to our lawful liberty that needs to be addressed. It’s one of those gut level things that I dare not ignore. I don’t want to call it women’s intuition, but I don’t want to call it a premonition either. The sense of danger began six months before the 2008 election when I did my research on the candidates and it’s still there. It has been confirmed over the last few years on a larger scale than I could ever have imagined.

    I can’t give the next generation the kind of liberty I enjoyed when I was a kid, but I can try to help preserve what we have now. When it comes right down to it, I am more concerned with preserving the freedom to preach the gospel unhindered than cultural Christianity. In some ways, I would very much like to bring back the safe environment that cultural Christianity offered families.

    Life is messy and there will be a spectrum of behavior from the noble to the ignoble in resisting this threat to our liberty. But with congress and the growing numbers of citizens who want to preserve constitutional rule, the assault can be rebuffed. We are living in extraordinary times. Even perilous. I don’t think there will be easy answers and I doubt that we will ever prevent all of the encroachments.

    Re: what I don’t detect in you is any sense of its downsides and dangers. It’s almost as if you don’t think political arrangement can’t possible have any affect on our spirituality.

    I appreciate the warnings. Please believe me, I think I might be more aware of the dangers and pitfalls than you might imagine. I lived through the 60’s and have watched the fallout ever since then. It’s ugly. I’ve also lived through numerous family tragedies. One can learn more than one wishes in this estate and yet, I certainly don’t have the answers. I can only hope and pray to remain kept in faith to the end, and granted the wisdom and strength for each day.

    Re: is it at all possible that a polity that invites and even rewards disobedience is at odds with a biblical piety that is all about obedience and an honoring spirit and disposition? Again, this has nothing to do with saying we cannot participate in our polity per its rules, it’s to suggest that if we are serious about being counter-cultural as believers then maybe the rules of governance aren’t to be accepted blindly as dropping straight out of heaven and without pitfalls.

    Absolutely. I think this is true no matter the government. I would remind that Christians can be magistrates, policemen, soldiers and so forth. Christians are called to these vocations to serve honorably and justly. We are all called to serve as citizens, but I don’t believe that means clone-ish behavior or equal participation. We are free to not participate or to participate as much as we are able in our nation – at least for now.

    Re: it’s really pretty simple: the Bible says submit to your governing authorities, but our modern arrangement says hold him accountable. Or try a familial analogy. The Bible tells children to submit to their parents, but another philosophy says children should hold their parents accountable. You’re a parent, like me. How does it strike you the idea of your kids holding you accountable? Does that really do much for nurturing a sense of obedience?

    I dunno. It never bothered me to have my kids expect me to honor them or keep my word or fulfill my obligations. There were times I blew it and had to apologize. I enjoyed the teen years and wasn’t particularly concerned about it. My son had a strong sense of love and compassion for others – he obeyed out of those kinds of convictions. He was a budding wanna-be attorney with a darn good mind. He took great delight that he could bait me and get me mad, and then have me cracking up in less than 5 minutes. Sometimes I didn’t know whether to hug him or slug him! Always a hug – how could I resist such a warped sense of humor? Poor kid got it from me. He also had some good serious arguments where I had to agree he was right and I was wrong. It was a friendly two-way street, except when he scrambled eggs and didn’t wash the pan (stuck-on egg – grrr!) and so forth… I didn’t have alot of problems with him. Of course all of my dead family members have been elevated to saint-hood now so I can’t remember anything bad. I like to tease husbands that if they want to become perfect in the wife’s eyes, all they have to do is die = instant sainthood. Amazing how much perspective that brings to both wives and husbands.

  108. Lily says:

    P.S. Perhaps this would be a good example? If a false teacher was trying to usurp control of our church, I would think we would do well to do what we could to stop him. Similarly, if a magistrate is trying to usurp our laws in order to gain control of our nation, I think we would do well to do what we could to stop it.

    I greatly appreciate Bonhoeffer’s struggles facing the times he lived in because he agonized, grieved, and prayed over how to handle his duel citizenship. I think there is room for the same in our times. I’m wondering if that is the key thing. How many of us take the time to wrestle these things out? In practice, I think most of us pray and do what we believe is best each day. In perilous times I wonder if we need to be like Bonhoeffer’s agony of soul before we forge ahead? Which I think may be your point?

  109. Zrim says:

    Lily, I think that’s part of my point. yes. Some of us work through these things and come out less convinced of the virtues of civil disobedience for principled reasons. It’s nice to get a fair hearing by those who come out more convinced. So thanks.

  110. Lily says:

    Thanks right back ‘atcha, Zrim. When it comes to looking at the twists and turns in history (eg: Magna Carta) that have helped lead to our current situation, I think you’ll appreciate the link below to a post written today. I think it may illustrate some of your other concerns? Que?

    American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil

    http://ricochet.com/main-feed/American-Catholicism-s-Pact-With-the-Devil

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