Attention Echo and Rube: Scott Clark on Grace, etc.

As we exchanged on another post, the sentiment, “The world would be a better place if there were more Christians in it” kept coming up. Echo and Rube seem to champion this idea as do most relational Po-Mo transformationalists who beckon sinful saints to change the world by making it more Christian. I find it completely at odds with Reformed confessionalism. Eventually, the discussion turned to grace and sanctification, as I think it naturally should.

Anyway, I would rather let Clark speak at length. As he does, an important aspect seems to stand out, as evidenced in a couple of statements:

“Many evangelicals are also influenced by this way of thinking. Their piety and theology revolve around the quest to deny or over come their humanity…. Nature generally may need to be renewed, but certainly human nature (it was humans who sinned and they who are redeemed) must be renewed by grace. Humanity, however, remains humanity even in a state of grace.”

It is not, as some seem to think, that I have no category for sanctification, obedient Christian living, a life of response, etc. (Indeed, what finally wooed me away from Lutheranism and to the Reformed tradition was the former’s relative lack of these categories and the latter’s robust, biblical articulation. And it should go without saying that it eclipses broad Evangelicalism’s categories of glorified moralism or legalism.)

It’s that when you unpack “more Xians, less sin” far enough, I think you have a theology that, as I like to put it, wants to “transcend its own humanity.” In this way, I discern more Evangelical thinking than Confessional. I hear more Anabaptist/Fanatic undertones in it that conceive of grace to overwhelm nature to the point that Christians transcend their standard-issue sin in their shared humanity, and out pops, “The world would be better if there were more of us around.” What, more sinners? It seems one thing to be a justified sinner, another to over-realize our justification and call it a doctrine of sanctification.

Like I have said before, I think part of the problem here is that some are not cognizant of what they may really be trying to say, namely, “If our ideals were more in place, the world would be better.” Well, who could argue with that? But our ideals are dependant upon us to become reality. This is Paul’s argument when he says that there is nothing at all wrong with the Law, but the wheels fall off when it is sinners who are the lynchpin. (Frankly, inasmuch as even false religions are functions of how we all have equal access to Law, the case could be made that the world would be a better place if Buddhist ideals were more in place. True enough, all false religions are, by definition, functions of self-justification. But is there anything all that arguable in the content of the virtues of the Eight-Fold Path? I think the world would be pretty good if all that was put into place!)

“More Christians, less sin” is actually bloated with narcissism, a deluded view of humanity that does not square one bit with true Calvinism. When I hear it, it comports with what I would expect from PREF circles.

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21 Responses to Attention Echo and Rube: Scott Clark on Grace, etc.

  1. RubeRad says:

    As we exchanged on another post, the sentiment, “The world would be a better place if there were more Christians in it” kept coming up. Echo and Rube seem to champion this idea as do most relational Po-Mo transformationalists who beckon sinful saints to change the world by making it more Christian.

    You keep (seeming) to equate these two sentiments, while I (and I assume Echo) see them as totally antithetical. To put too fine a point on it, “change the world by making it more Christian” is a non sequitur. The KoM cannot be at all Christian. The point is not at all for the set of Christians in the world to have a positive influence on the world around them, so that the “world becomes more Christian”. The point is to minimize the amount of the world which is non-Christian. Once (hypothetically) there are more Christians in the world, then instead of “making the world more Christian”, the task is “making Christians more Christian” so to speak — more Christ-like, more sanctified.

    “More Christians, less sin” is actually bloated with narcissism

    I don’t think I ever made a statement that direct; what I said was “more sanctification, less sin”. More Christians does not necessarily mean less sin. It could be God’s will to increase the number of Christians, while letting antinomianism also increase, so there is a worldwide net regress in sanctification (isn’t that where the Evangelical church has us today?).

    “If our ideals were more in place, the world would be better.” Well, who could argue with that?

    I see this expression as synonymous with what I am trying to express. “if our ideals were more in place” = “if we were more sanctified”.

    But our ideals are dependent upon us to become reality. This is Paul’s argument when he says that there is nothing at all wrong with the Law, but the wheels fall off when it is sinners who are the lynchpin.

    But this is with respect to attempts to attain justification by law. We’re not talking about justification, we’re talking about sanctification. And the whole point is that, for a Christian, it is the fact of justification that makes sanctification possible through the work of the Holy Spirit; whereas the unjustified have to make their own efforts towards sanctification.

  2. Zrim says:

    “You keep (seeming) to equate these two sentiments, while I (and I assume Echo) see them as totally antithetical.”

    Now I am turned around.

    “I see this expression as synonymous with what I am trying to express. “if our ideals were more in place” = “if we were more sanctified”.”

    Again, I don’t understand what is to be gained by this “if” game. We never have been, nor are we ever going to be *that* sanctifed in this age. It is like saying, “If we were actually perfect, the world would be better.” Yeah…so? If I had Trump’s bank account, I’d be rich. Seems obvious, yet also missing the point…pursuing monetary security is different from actually expecting I will one day have Trump’s bank account. In other words, don’t we gain by more sober and realistic approaches to our sanctification?

    “The point is to minimize the amount of the world which is non-Christian.”

    No, the point is to hold out the Gospel, not swallow up the world of unbelief. (You may charge me with semantics, but that is exactly the point.) You are suggesting an effect of doing this, but the effect is the sovereign work of God alone. We are called to hold out the Gospel, that’s it and that’s all. We are not tasked with what we infer to be its effect.

    “the task is ‘making Christians more Christian’ so to speak — more Christ-like, more sanctified.”

    No, the task is to “make and maintain” believers by holding out the Gospel. God actually sanctifies, not us. Just as we simply hold out the Gospel to an unbelieving world, we hold it out to a believing (and often times doubting) church. It may sound quite defeatist, but we are to be maintained, not “made more sanctified.” Besides, making “Christians more Christian” seems to borrow from the Keswickian Higher Life playbook, where we have gradations between each other and within ourselves as individuals.

    I’d have an easier time if you were using these phrases and turn-of-phrases (sort of like how I might say “make and maintain” believers), if you were being figurative. But I can’t help but think you are using them literally, where the world of unbelief is expected to actually be swallowed up in this aeon. I mean, even Calvin said “we all die with an unbeliever in us.” My own unbelief and doubt has yet to be totally swallowed up. If that is the case, how can people like me ever be expected to “minimize the amount of the world which is non-Christian” when I myself am just barely more Christian than not?

  3. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    You said: “the case could be made that the world would be a better place if Buddhist ideals were more in place.”

    The Apostle Paul: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23)

    Echo: No, Buddhists have no righteousness at all. Only Christians who can act in faith have any righteousness at all.

    What I have never said, is that we need to try to make the world a better place. I have never said that.

    Let me say that again, because you seem to need me to. The mission of the church is not to make the world a better place.

    You said: “Echo and Rube seem to champion this idea as do most relational Po-Mo transformationalists who beckon sinful saints to change the world by making it more Christian.”

    Echo: I never said that we need to transform the world by making it more Christian.

    At no time have I ever said that we need to or ought to change the world to make it more Christian, and in this way make the world a better place.

    I have never said that.

    Try to find a place on this blog or some other blog where I said that. You won’t find it. You want to know why? Because I haven’t said it.

    Now, stop calling me a post modern transformationist.

    You think there are only two categories of people: people who agree with you, and Evangelical post-modern heretics interested in watering down the gospel and transforming the culture. Try to imagine that there might be another category into which someone might fit.

    I will own the statement that more Christians equals less sin. And the reason is because the ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE WORLD is that of Christians through sanctification. There IS no other righteousness, because this righteousness is an infusion of the righteousness of Christ, the only righteous man to ever live. Only that which is done in faith in Christ is NOT SIN, and that, only to a degree because it remains tainted with sin.

    But this is not the same as saying that the mission of the church is to make the world less sinful. It’s not. I haven’t said it is. I will not say it is. Try to find a place where I said so.

    The mission of the church is to make Christians. Not for the sake of the world, because who cares about the world? Rather, it’s for the sake of the elect, who need to hear the Word that the Spirit might regenerate them.

    Do I care about the world? No. But do I care about individual people? Yes. I want them to come to faith in Christ, because he is our only hope.

    It’s a shame, Zrim, that you have no way to distinguish the good works of the believer from the Buddhist. It’s a real shame.

    Oh well, just read Rom 14:23.

    Oh, and you might want to consider reading WCF 16.

    Though I have quoted it to you a thousand times, you still don’t care.

    Well, here it is, YET AGAIN:

    7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.

    What does it all mean? It means that what I am saying is in keeping with my confession, a confession that you do not hold to, but at least ought to respect.

  4. Echo_ohcE says:

    Let me be very, very clear.

    That more Christians in the world yields less sin in the world is a logical, necessary consequence of WCF 16.7.

    But I will never, ever say that the mission of the church is to make the world a better place. Do I care about the world? No.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see justice pursued in our country, of which I am a citizen. But as the world is distinct from the church, no, I don’t care about it. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. God has promised to put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. These are common sense matters.

    But we are still IN the world. And we are still citizens of the kingdom of man. Apathy toward the kingdom of man in which I live is unacceptable.

    I, unlike you, care whether there is justice in our country. But this is a matter of natural law, and this is as I am a citizen of the kingdom of man. This is how we are to behave in the realm of common grace. We are to pursue justice for all, even for Muslims. That’s common grace cooperation. “Give unto Caesar” and all that.

    And besides, if you pursue justice in our country, it’s because you want justice for the elect, and because this is how God has ordained states to be.

    Since we have a vote in this country, we have some say. That makes us responsible to an extent, for who is elected to uphold justice. God will hold us responsible for that, just as he will hold a governor responsible for how he governs. Voting is an exercise in governing. With your vote, you must uphold justice, because that is the function of the state, and when you vote, you are a part of the state.

    But that doesn’t mean I want to see the world become a “better place” or that I think this is the mission of the church. I don’t think that’s the church’s mission.

    I want to see justice pursued, upheld.

    And now comes the important part.

    Are you ready Zrim? This is important.

    Just a little bit more hype and I’ll be ready to say what I’m going to say. This is very important, pay careful attention and be sure to quote this and interact with it and attack THIS sentence:

    If justice is PERFECTLY upheld in our country, there will not be ANY more righteousness, because those outside the faith cannot be righteous at all, and justice brings no one to faith.

    More JUSTICE does NOT equal more righteousness.

    There it is. That was very important. That’s what I’m saying. Interact with that. Disagree with that. Make arguments against that. There it was, and it was important. I hope you paid careful attention, so that you don’t claim that I’m saying something OTHER than that.

    While it may be true that the sin appears to be lessened outwardly, there is still no change of heart, and so no decrease in sinfulness of anyone’s heart. Justice does not decrease sinfulness. It doesn’t make anyone less sinful, because outward justice doesn’t stand up to the law of God. Only faith can lay hold of the righteousness of Christ, which is the only righteousness that can withstand the judgment of God.

    If we define “better place” as more justice, then the mission of the state is to make the world a better place, while the mission of the church is not.

    If we define “better place” as less sin, then the mission of the state is not to make the world a better place, nor is it the mission of the church.

    The mission of the church is to bear witness AGAINST the world, and to nourish and shepherd those within the church. The church is mother to those inside, and witness for the prosecution to those outside.

    But we aren’t ONLY citizens of the church. We’re also PART of the state. We exercise governance every time we vote. And before God, we are charged, according to NATURAL LAW, to uphold justice.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Again, I don’t understand what is to be gained by this “if” game. We never have been, nor are we ever going to be *that* sanctifed in this age.

    I never said *how* sanctified we would get, and I certainly don’t bother hypothesizing what it would be like if we attained premature glorification. I’m just trying to use your preferred phrase, which is not “If our ideals were in place”, but “if our ideals were *more* in place”.

    we are to be maintained, not “made more sanctified.”

    Yes, that does sound quite defeatist. I don’t know whether this is a 3F/Westminster perspective issue, but I keep coming back to WSC 35: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, [yes, ultimately God’s work, not ours; and yet unlike justification and adoption, a progressive work, not an instantaneous act] whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, [i.e. like Christ] and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

    Do 3F not have a similar affirmation of definitive, objectively-observable progress in sanctification?

  6. RubeRad says:

    Echo, what Zrim and I are focusing on is the following concept:

    Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others

    There is no question whether any person’s obedience attains for them “more justification”. There is no question that the point of gospel, the point of Christianity, is NOT to cause such good works. But to the extent that works are “of good use both to themselves and others,” the doing of them “makes the world a better place.”

    Zrim asserts that in this arena, Christians and non- are on level ground; he thinks that to admit to Christians any advantage is to have already slipped down the slippery slope of moralism.

    Contrariwise, I assert that “more sanctification=less sinnin”, combined with “the Holy Spirit sanctifies all whom he has regenerated”, result in a trivial corollary of “more Christians (who are necessarily being sanctified)==>(less sin)==>world a better place.”

    To go the lengths Z does to vilify the possibility that special grace may have any earthly benefit, seems to me to be unnecessarily gnostic.

  7. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rube, point well taken.

    But you’ll notice my distinction above of various meanings of “better place”. Do we mean more justice or less sin? Because the state is to uphold justice, making the world a “better place”, but doesn’t decrease sin, though the manifestations of sin are more pleasant, if you will.

    But there is a sense in which our salvation is TEMPORALLY the means to performing certain works which God would have us perform, as it says in Eph 2:10. These works bear witness against the world, and testify of the age to come, and of the goodness of Christ, because they exemplify the righteousness of Christ at work in us.

    Zrim keeps saying stuff that lead me to believe that he has been somewhat influenced by Lutheran theology, which I think he said is one of the things he has come from.

    But there may also be some 3f vs WCF stuff going on here too. There is a difference between the two with regard to assurance. I think the 3 Forms would point us only to Christ for assurance, but the WCF is more balanced, saying that our good works are evidence (not conclusive proof of course) of the Spirit being at work in us. Thus, when we see of ourselves that we love our brothers, we ought to be encouraged at the Spirit’s work in us. And I think 1 John 3 bears this out, a passage I have pointed Zrim to, but he repeatedly has declined to even discuss it.

  8. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rube, PS You referred to the Holy Spirit as “it” above. I hereby protest.

  9. RubeRad says:

    Corrected to “he”. (Tangent: what ever happened to the convention of capitalizing pronouns for the divine?)

    Do we mean more justice or less sin? Because the state is to uphold justice, making the world a “better place”, but doesn’t decrease sin

    Well, there’s “less sin” and there’s “less sin”. Given an infinite pool of sin, including undetectable quantities of hidden and inner sin, a finite reduction in outward sin results in still infinite sin. But a decrease in outward sin can be quantified, and increased justice can have a deterrent effect.

    It is interesting to note that, in analogous ways, it is neither the purpose of the church nor the state to promote good. It is the duty of the church to preach the gospel and administer the ordinary means of grace, one happy side-effect of which is that Christians grow in their sanctification. It is the duty of the state to punish and restrain evil, one happy side effect of which is to passively increase good behavior.

  10. RubeRad says:

    (And now I see that Rick has a new post titled “The Function of the Church” — what a segue!)

  11. Zrim says:

    Have either of you read Clark’s piece I linked in this post?

    I have already conceded that our sanctification is a reality that is not present in the unbeliever.

    What I don’t understand (sorry, Echo, but as you pointed out elsewhere, I have a very limited intellectual capacity, so bear with me) is what is to be gained by focusing on this reality to the point of saying, “more sanctification, less sin.” Yes, that is ostensibly true enough. But, again, it is like saying, “more money, less poverty.” What is the point? Am I to pursue more money to avoid poverty, or am I to have a saner and more sober approach to financial security? Seems like “more sanctification, less sin” is another version of “Christianity makes (bad people good and) good people better.” Are you both saying that it makes good people better? I hear more glorified self-improvement than doctrine of sanctification going on when I hear, “We have an advantage over unbelievers.” Yeah, ok, again, true enough, but sure seems to be a very rough edged way of saying something.

  12. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I don’t understand what you just said.

    E

  13. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rube,

    1. Divine pronoun: in seminary, we have been told not to do this, because it’s only a matter of piety, and there is no law of God demanding this, so it’s a rule made by men. That said, we CAN do it in our papers, but we don’t need to, and most of the profs would prefer that we don’t. So I’ve just gotten out of the habit, which I used to do as a matter of piety, and now I don’t do – as a matter of piety. DOH! I’m such a sinner.

    2. “Less sin” vs. “less sin”: no, I don’t see any distinction. 🙂 Seriously though, we must not suppose that anything the unbeliever does is righteous in any degree. So while they may act justly, even appearing to do good, the condition of their heart is such that they have not done good at all. WCF 16.7 says as much. I would prefer to speak of a decrease in the outward APPEARANCE of sin, if you will, rather than the decrease of outward sin. I say appearance in order to emphasize that there is not really a decrease in actual sin. No one becomes less sinful. They remain just as sinful, because sinfulness is a condition of the heart. I am distinguishing here between sinful acts and the sinfulness of the heart. What we will ultimately be judged for is the condition of our hearts, thus thoughts and intentions will be taken into account. Sinful acts will be brought forward as evidence of what’s going on in the heart. Thus when believers are judged, their good works will be brought forward as evidence of their being in Christ. That and of course Jesus’ testimony. But a careful distinction needs to be made here. We will not be judged on the basis of works, but on the basis of grace as believers. Nonetheless, because judgment will be before the whole world – as Paul says, don’t you know that we will judge angels? And as Jesus says to the disciples that they will sit on thrones and judge the tribes of Israel – so here we see that our judgment will not just be before God who looks on the heart, but also before men. This before men business is what James has in mind. This is not to say that in any way we are judged on the basis of works, as if we are judged such that if we are good enough we will be judged righteous. No, rather our works will serve to prove that we are in Christ. That’s what they say anyway. It’s all a bit confusing to me at the moment, as you can undoubtedly tell. What was I saying?

    Oh yes, only believers have any righteousness. So what little righteousness we have thanks to the Spirit, is part of the point of our being saved.

    But we must recognize that this is the temporal point, not the eternal point.

    This is why we are saved not at the last minute on our death bed, as the thief on the cross, but rather earlier in life, that we might bear witness to Christ. This is part of our function as Christians in this life, to bear witness to Christ, partly through what we say, but also through what we do. As our “good” works gain the respect of those around us, which it usually does, though they at the same time often hate us for it, a bizarre paradox to be sure, nonetheless in so doing we improve Christ’s reputation on earth among men. This is part of the reason why we are saved. Not the whole reason, but part of the reason.

    Because it is not just the preaching of the gospel that bears witness to Christ. It is also the reality of sanctification in us that bears witness to Christ. This witness bearing is the function of the church more broadly, and of Christians individually. So while we may not all be street evangelists in the conventional sense, yet we are evangelists through our good works, which bear witness to the work of Christ in us.

    So this is part of what is meant by James’ use of justification by works in James 2. We are vindicated, shown to be justified, before men. Men can see that we don’t hate God and our neighbor, and it confuses them, because they can see that we are children of God. They don’t get it, and they are at once drawn to it and repulsed by it. They know we are justified – they can see that – but they yet hate us for it ultimately. So our works justify us before men.

    So I don’t know, do with that as you will.

    I don’t hold very tightly to the notion of our works being brought forward as evidence of our being in Christ on the day of judgment, but it does make sense of those passages which say…well, just that, that we will be judged based on works.

    I guess that would push us to think that we will not stand alone before Jesus, but rather, we should picture a courtroom, with lots of people looking on, indeed, a heavenly council in session.

    This is something that people keep talking about here.

    But this does not undermine justification by faith alone, because these works are only serving as evidence to others that we are in Christ.

    Consider Jesus talking about how people on that day will say, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this and that in your name?” And Jesus will say, “Depart from me I never knew you.” So there are just a lot of places where our works are mentioned in connection with the day of judgment.

    But I don’t think any of this is at all crystal clear in Scripture, and I have lots more thinking and studying to do in these matters.

    My point is only this. A change in the appearance of sinfulness is not a change in actual sinfulness.

  14. Zrim says:

    It has occured to me that what is missing from this discussion is the cult/culture distinction. It seems that when we get busy trying to discern how different we are supposed to be from the unbeliever we forget that it really comes down to our worship…that is, if we really believe that worship is that principle and primary good work of the Christian individual and the Church.

    Not only do we tend to engage in translating what we understand as our ideals in terms of our covenant keeping into actual reality (i.e. we are the ones that turn the other cheek and we don’t steal and we own up to our sin…really? I see plenty of unbelievers do those things), but we forget that our worship is what really divides us. This seems to follow from the notion of the “radical intolerance of cultic truth, the radical tolerance in the cultural relam.”

    Our covenant-keeping is not a means to distinguish us from them, but is rather to be an obedient response to God for its own sake. It seems to me that if we really have it mind to be obediently responding to God, we get less and less caught up in trying to point out how different we are from unbelievers in our sanctification, thereby staving off inclinations to being less than humble and arrogant.

  15. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    Keeping exactly what covenant do you have in mind? Do we keep the covenant of works? Because if that’s what you have in mind, I say, yes, by faith alone we lay hold of the merits of Christ who keeps the covenant of works for us.

    Do we keep the covenant of grace? If you mean by keeping the covenant of grace you mean having faith the size of a mustard seed, implanted through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, in conjunction with the work of the Spirit, then amen once again.

    But if you mean that some work we do keeps some covenant, why, I’d have to strongly disagree.

    Also, you said: “we are the ones that turn the other cheek and we don’t steal and we own up to our sin…really? I see plenty of unbelievers do those things”

    Echo: so when the unbeliever doesn’t steal, is he keeping a covenant? What covenant is he keeping? Is he keeping the covenant of works? No, that won’t work, because to fail in just one part of the law is to fail in all of it. Is he keeping the covenant of grace? By not stealing? Surely not!

    Well, I am at a loss. I am unfamiliar with these strange and unusual categories you are using. I find no categories in the Reformed confessions in which to place your comments. I’m terribly confused. Perhaps you can help.

  16. Kazooless says:

    Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo…..

    This is really off topic, but I don’t know where else I can ask you about this. Maybe you can write a post on it to discuss.

    Earlier in this thread you say:

    Since we have a vote in this country, we have some say. That makes us responsible to an extent, for who is elected to uphold justice. God will hold us responsible for that, just as he will hold a governor responsible for how he governs. Voting is an exercise in governing. With your vote, you must uphold justice, because that is the function of the state, and when you vote, you are a part of the state.

    Now, you know me and where I come from on this type of issue. But I guess I don’t fully know you in this area, and I’d like to know more. So, I fully agree with your statement about God holding the governor responsible for how he governs. What surprises me is that YOU agree with that statement. I see that a little further down the thread you mention NATURAL LAW as a standard. So, tell me, BY WHAT STANDARD does God measure a governor’s way of governing? And if you want to say, by “natural law,” then please define “natural law” and tell me how a governor can discover these standards so that he can be justly measured against them.

    This is not a quip, but a sincere question.

    Thanks much,

    Kazooless

  17. RubeRad says:

    In other words, how can Echo say what he did, and not be a Theonomist?

    Try this…

  18. Kazooless says:

    I’m not going to get into a debate with you (Rube) over this particular scripture or natural law right now or here. I will say that (obviously) I believe the scripture you reference supports my position and NOT yours.

    In regards to your comment about Echo, not really. There are other views that are not theonomic, embrace what Echo says, but are not natural law theory either.

    Kazoo

  19. Zrim says:

    Echo asked me, “But if you mean that some work we do keeps some covenant, why, I’d have to strongly disagree.”

    Good, I am not saying that. Maybe you’ve been caught up in too many FV discussions.

    You are making this too complicated, Echo. When I say we are (imperfect) covenant keepers I am simply making reference to being obedient to the Law in light of the Gospel, standard-issue Reformed stuff (you know, guilt, grace, gratitude, third use of the Law, all that).

  20. Echo_ohcE says:

    Kazoo,

    The clearest way for me to explain my position on heads of state and how they relate to God is through the 82nd Psalm. There, God brings a charge against the rulers of nations, saying that they have judged in favor of wicked oppressors, rather than protecting the oppressed and rescuing them and providing justice for all. The same exact indictment is made of the shepherds of Israel in Ez 34.

    The basic requirement of the magistrate is to uphold justice. That’s it. That’s what you see in Ps 82. That’s what you see in God’s institution of the state in Gen 4, when God made his declaration over Cain, which is repeated in Gen 9 when God reaffirmed this covenant of common grace with Noah.

    Gen 9:6 is sort of the sublime summary of the God-given mandate of the state, a common grace institution, even a common grace, restraining-the-curse vehicle. There, God says that whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, because man was made in God’s image.

    Man being an image bearer therefore supports what God declared in two ways. First, it is wrong to kill a man, because he bears the image of God. To kill a man is to manifest hostile hatred toward God. Second, man being an image bearer means that he has the ability to be a judge, to execute judgment.

    So in Gen 9:6, we have the mandate of the state to uphold justice, to provide a deterrent against murder by putting murderers to death.

    We know however that this is pregnant with meaning. For the summary of the law is to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what the law points us to. And the NT makes this explicitly clear. Loving our neighbor is how we manifest the love of God, by the way, because we can’t see God, but we can see our brother, as John says in his first epistle.

    So while the law is the law of love, the state provides a deterrent against the manifestation of hatred. So the state is a restrainer of wickedness, given by God to brunt the effects of the fall on mankind.

    This is simply me regurgitating Kline’s analysis in Kingdom Prologue.

    So the job of the state is to provide a deterrent against the manifestation of fallen tendencies BY upholding justice.

    The civil magistrate can understand what justice is through general revelation and the use of reason.

    For example, Kant proved that such a thing was possible in his system of ethics. He said that no one should do anything that could not be made into a universal norm. So for example, murder, if made into a universal norm, would destroy the entire human race. Therefore, murder should not be committed, because, according to Kant, human beings are objective ends in themselves.

    Or for another example, a lie should not be told. What if what everyone always said was a lie? No one would believe anything anyone said, and so saying anything would be meaningless. Therefore no one should ever tell a lie.

    Kant was not a Christian, even though he claimed to be and people claim he was. He wasn’t. In fact, you can probably thank him for the entire liberalism movement. He wrote a book called Religion Within The Limits of Reason Alone.

    Here was a man focused solely on General Revelation and the magisterial use of reason. Reason for him IS God. Or rather, God is Reason. So our ability to reason means we have a bit of divinity in us. He is really a gnostic when you get right down to it.

    But anyway, he understood justice just fine through merely the use of reason and General Revelation. And many today have picked up on his standard of ethics.

    So it is quite possible that human beings are capable of understanding justice, and are capable of upholding justice.

    And those who have some position of authority are accountable to God to use that authority to further the cause of justice within the state.

    Authority in the church is of course different, though the government of the church also upholds a certain sense of justice, a certain deterrence against sin by having the power of discipline. If a man abandons his wife, the church will discipline him. But of course, this is radically different from the power of life and death that the state wields.

    More importantly, while the state exclusively upholds justice, the church focuses primarily in the nurturing of its members, specifically focusing on preaching the Word and administering the sacraments in order to nourish the flock in its faith. The state builds and upholds justice, while the church builds and upholds faith.

    So the state’s job is to uphold justice, and they will be accountable to God for that task, as Ps 82 makes abundantly clear.

    I hope that answers your questions…

  21. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    When I turn the other cheek and when an unbeliever turns the other cheek, two radically different events take place.

    The former is a manifestation of love for God, a manifestation of submission to God’s law.

    The latter is a manifestation of rebellion and hatred toward God, because every motive of the unbelieving heart is always evil continually.

    “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:7 ESV)

    It is impossible for the unbeliever to submit to the law of God AT ALL. They do not submit to the law of God a little bit, they do not submit at ALL.

    Believers are different. They submit to the law a little bit. Why? Because while they still have a sinful nature, a wicked tendency to hate God, yet they also have a Spiritual nature, according to which they love God and seek to submit to him.

    “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:9-10 ESV)

    Ok, so there’s a fundamental difference between believers and unbelievers in that way. The former is capable of some measure of obedience, the latter is not.

    E

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