The Function of the Church

This past Sunday we had a guest minister fill our pulpit at Trinity URC as part of a post-classis pulpit exchange. The Rev. James Admiraal from Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI preached a sermon called, From Useless to Useful from the book of Philemon. I have his permission to quote from his sermon. He asked:

Why didn’t Paul tell Philemon in no uncertain terms, “you shouldn’t even own slaves”?

He then talked about slave ownership in the Old and New Testaments and continued with this:

It is not the function of the Church to force that kind of change. The Church can and it must speak to the conscience of a nation and its citizens, but the church cannot and should not force such social, economic, even moral change on nations. Jesus never did that either. Jesus never said, “All slaves may now go free.” Christ was not a political revolutionary. Neither was Paul. Paul even wrote in Ephesians and Colossians that slaves should obey their masters, but then Paul also reminded masters to treat their slaves with kindness, remembering that they as owners were also under a master; the Lord Jesus Christ. And then Paul reminded Christians of something else; He said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Before Christ, the slave and the free man are equal.

This reminded me of a post Zrim wrote back when the Outhouse was just a hole in the ground (weeks ago) about civil war era Kentucky Presbyterian minister Stuart Robinson; Now That’s a Confessional Communion Rail. We’ve added a lot more readers since he posted it, so you may want to check it out.

Now if by, “speak to the conscience of a nation,” Admiraal meant by preaching nothing but the Word of God, and I think he did, I fully agree. The Church speaks to the conscience of the citizens of a nation that are gathered in corporate worship by preaching to them Christ and Him crucified. The Church is not an institution of political, social, economic, or moral revolution. The function of the Church is to preach the Word and administer the sacraments.

So, Do you think there has ever been a circumstance when a church or denomination should have spoken out or taken an ‘official stance’ against a political, social, economic or moral injustice in society? Is there such an issue today?

-It’s good to be confessional
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About Rick

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30 Responses to The Function of the Church

  1. Zrim says:

    1 Cor. 5.

    No and no.

    The Church has every right and duty to regulate Her individual members as to their own behaviors. But She has no right or duty to speak to anything going on around her. I know that irritates our largely moralist and activist piety, but there it is.

    If a member wants to march on Selma or protest 5 black students enrolling in the deep south, or volunteer at Planned Parenthood (or a women’s resource center), then go right ahead. Just don’t tell me that either you are doing God’s bidding or that the Church needs to speak per your convictions.

    And for any tempted to drag out that over-used template for evil called the Third Reich, yes, this means the Church has nothing to say to Adolf…which usually means, with dictators like him, that silence equals defiance, which means persecution. So if it is persecuation you want to see as a litmus test for righteousness, I am betting our silence will quickly earn it…perhaps even faster than explicit defiance.

  2. I see where you’re coming from. I do not permit “voter guides” or any political material to be distributed in our church. We preach Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and our goal should be mature Christians who make mature decisions based on Biblical principles when they find themselves in the voting booth.

    You realize, however, that you are swinging waaaay over to the other extreme here in your defense of standing on the sidelines while the dogs and hoses are unleashed on Black pastors as they march (non-violently) for the right to be treated as equals in America. I am deeply ashamed of all the white preachers who hid behind Philemon and hid in their offices like cowards when their participation could have made a lot of difference.

    One notable exception (and obviously no hero in your community), is Billy Graham, who refused to hold crusades in the South unless the choirs and leadership were integrated. God bless him.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to use Paul’s confrontation of Peter when he hypocritcally shunned the Gentiles when his fellow Jews showed up as a template for standing with Black preachers. Acts 10:34, probably not a favorite verse for the partial atonement crowd, says, “God does not show favoritism”.

    I hope I would have had the courage to link arms with my Black brothers when they needed me the most. But, sadly, most hid behind doctrine and did nothing as the dogs were loosed and the hoses sprayed.

    Shameful.

  3. Zrim says:

    Al:

    Speaking as one raised with a rather liberal set of cultural values and who has a majority morality about civil rights, etc., you seem to assume that God is on this side of them. And you read an ideology into Paul’s getting up in Peter’s face, you don’t let the natural theology flow from it. It has nothing to do with egalitarianism but everything to do with justification.

    Falwell hid behind what may have appeared to be a W2K view when he said that the Church has nothing to say about civil rights, what he meant was that “the current cultural status quo reflects my value system, thus I will lend stigma to those who are pushing against it as ‘radicals’ and ‘civil disobedients’ who don’t know their proper place as Christians.”

    It sounded very pious to invoke some version of the “separation of church and state.” But when the sixties came and reversed the status quo, his pious W2K line of argumentation crumbled as he erected the Moral Majority, revealing that he was just as careless about the two kingdoms as those he criticized; he believed you could have a social gospel, but it had to be his version. What he meant was that we should stay silent when we are comfortable and “speak out” (to use your sloganeering) when we our particular values are pushed around. If he really had W2K views, the Moral Majority would never have been conceived….nor Abolition years prior.

  4. RubeRad says:

    yes, this means the Church has nothing to say to Adolf

    Assuming (probably incorrectly) that Hitler was an accountable member of a confessing congregation, wouldn’t his elders have something to say to him? Are all of the churches of Germany exempt from responsibility for disciplining the public, unrepentant sins of Nazi leaders in their congregations (at least some of those guys must have been Lutherans)? How about the ruling elders of whatever “ordinary” citizens got caught up in the hysteria and smashed a few shop windows on Kristallnacht?

    I see that you allow that “The Church has every right and duty to regulate Her individual members as to their own behaviors.” But I am hearing that you are categorically denying the concept that “The Church can and it must speak to the conscience of a nation and its citizens.”

  5. Zrim says:

    I hate going across time and place with my 20/20 goggles like this…eh, it’s my own fault for opening the Third Reich can of worms…

    Church members, I would think, should be disciplined for breaking the laws (i.e. vandalism).

    Again, Rube, I am not all that clear on what is meant by “The Church can and it must speak to the conscience of a nation and its citizens.” So I stop short of “denying” such a statement. I have my suspicions, but I could be very wrong (are you listening, Echo?).

    I will say this: it one thing to discipline a member’s explicit behavior(s), another to tell him how to vote (either directly or indirectly), what party to join, what political ideology to hold, etc. He can’t go around vandalizing storefronts, that much seems clear.

    I know we like to play with this thing called the Third Reich, and we seem to have a “guilt by association” verdict on all those who wore a brownshirt and jackboots in Germany 65 years ago, but that is not enough to discipline someone. It is very 21st century American to say it is enough, but it isn’t Christian enough. I would want to know what someone actually did or directly perpetrated. In other words, it is a lot more complicated than going by a common sentimentality about Nazi’s.

  6. RubeRad says:

    Church members, I would think, should be disciplined for breaking the laws (i.e. vandalism).

    There are many things which it is nationally lawful to do, which are not churchly lawful to do. For instance, the profession of porn star.

    Or, more in the realm of reality (as I doubt many porn stars are under care of Reformed congregations), an unrepentant adulterer would be subject to church discipline, but faces no justice from the state. (Sadly I have a friend who is just about to get reamed by an unfaithful wife and CA’s no-fault divorce laws)

    Or to bring it back to the number one issue about which the our nation needs its conscience spoken to, abortion.

    There, I said it. This is of course what jumped to my mind in response to Rick’s question, and I’m sure the answer he was fishing for.

    And here’s the distinction. Although no-fault laws are unjust, I would not have my church preach for divorce law reform, or even have an “official stance” on divorce law. But absolutely they need to have an “official stance” on the common sins (in our culture) of divorce and adultery and how it will be disciplined in the church.

    Similarly, the church must have an official stance on abortion, to deal with the rare case when an abortion doctor turns up, or the common case when a pregnant girl turns up.

    Rick, you originally asserted “The function of the Church is to preach the Word and administer the sacraments,” but you forgot the third mark: to practice church discipline (and that explicit “three marks” delineation comes from your 3F tradition in BCF 29)

    How often that “official stance” comes up in preaching is a separate matter, but the need for disciplinary standards means that the “official stance” has to be there somewhere. Even if it’s only implicit, it becomes explicit once it turns up as a disciplinary issue.

  7. RubeRad says:

    See here for the OPC’s “official stance” on a host of issues…

    (Strangely, no paper for divorce)

  8. Rick says:

    Rube, for the record, I wasn’t fishing for the abortion issue. There are so many issues out there on both the political “liberal” and “conservative” side of things. One church might speak out against the war, another on warlords cutting off a food supply, another on sweat-shops….and others on abortion, sure.

    I omitted discipline because the post is more about the Church’s message (I suppose function was a poor title, put I got it from the sermon quote – I actually should have left out the mention of the sacraments)

    But sure, when it comes to internal disciplinary matters that are behind the scenes, Biblical counsel from a pastor or an elder should lead one to conclude that abortion is murder. But I’m going to leave that stuff behind the closed doors. This may look different from church to church.

    Now, from the pulpit. If the gospel is heard Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day it will have an impact on how the hearer lives his or her life. The hearer should be able to figure out that owning another human as property is wrong, that terminating a pregnacy is wrong…that sweat shops are wrong.

  9. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    Telling member Jane what she may or mayn’t do with that unwanted lump in her tummy is one thing, telling her how she should “vote” about Jill’s non/rights when she leaves the church’s four walls is another.

  10. Echo_ohcE says:

    The church has every right in the world to speak to its members about morality. It’s part of Scripture. God has something to say about how Christians participate in the civil realm, and that should be preached as it comes up in Scripture.

    We don’t, after all, ONLY preach the gospel, but also the law. And the law doesn’t only speak to how we act on Sunday, but how we act all the time.

    I wouldn’t ever tell someone how to vote. They may vote their conscience. However, a pastor can and should tell them what is moral and what isn’t.

    While it is not the church’s place as the church to be activists against abortion, nonetheless, Christians, as individual citizens of the state with voting powers and responsibilities, SHOULD have participation here. Not as activists necessarily, but Christians ought to vote morally. We’re moral people. We do CARE about morality, though we aren’t moralists. Not being moralists doesn’t mean being antinomians, or being apathetic toward sin or the trampling of justice.

    I do not ask the church to say that laws should be changed. However, Christians, who have power as citizens of the kingdom of man should seek to uphold justice in their office of voter.

    So a pastor can and should preach a sermon that mentions abortion as being murder – if he feels that the passage he is preaching warrants it, and especially if he thinks anyone in the congregation needs to hear it. But if it’s not in the passage, he shouldn’t make an opportunity to preach on it.

    So for example, if he is preaching about how the Israelites cast their children into the fire as an act of worship to an idol, then the pastor should – SHOULD – mention that abortion in our day is the very same thing. That helps people understand the passage.

    However, a topical sermon on abortion is probably out of line. I am not in favor of topical sermons.

    But perhaps I can be a bit more concrete.

    Why didn’t Paul say that people shouldn’t own slaves?

    Because slavery is not inherently sinful. Paul said slaves should obey their masters, and that masters should treat their slaves with dignity and respect, as if they were – gulp – people. If these commands are followed, slavery is not immoral.

    The problem with black slavery in the south during the 1800’s is not that it was slavery. It is that it was race based, and it was that there was mistreatment going on, and that white people thought that they had a right to own black people in virtue of race. That’s the problem with it.

    But pastors should not have preached against slavery. They should have preached against prejudice. They should have preached against whippings or beatings and threatenings, as Paul did. They should have given equal status to blacks in the congregation. If they would have done that more inside the church, then the people of the church would have been equipped to exemplify Christ to the people outside of the church Monday through Saturday, and maybe slavery would have been changed or reversed…

    Oh wait a minute. It was changed. It was reversed. Sure it took a war, but that’s the state being the state.

    Should ministers have preached against fighting on the side of the south? No. Constitutionally, did the South have the right to leave the union or didn’t it? The church cannot say.

    That was the issue of the war. The south said they had the right to leave, the union said no.

    Was slavery part of it? Yes. But I have already said enough about that.

    E

  11. Rick says:

    Echo, sure, I don’t see the problem with a preacher mentioning pregnacy termination as murder as it may relate to a passage of scripture.

    But “abortion sermons” (or racism sermons,etc) are out of line. That means you’ve picked a political topic and have looked for passages to build your case.

    And I don’t think anyone here said churches shouldn’t speak or preach to its members on morality. They should speak on a morality that comes out of a true faith to its members, but the institutional Church (as the Church, not talking about individual members) should not impose (or force) moral change in the civil sphere.

    As for the OPC “official stances” – (I’ve only read the titles) – Most of them are Church and doctrine issues. The only one that really suprises me is the gays in the military one – I think that’s an example of what a denomination shouldn’t concern itself with. The dates of publication are pretty telling on some.

    How the church should deal or not deal with the abortion issue is still tough for me to figure out. It doesn’t seem tough – I mean, pretty much every Christian agrees that abortion is murder.

    I think I’m somewhere between Zrim and Rube on this, probably closer to Rube. I don’t think Churches should support political organizations like Right to Life, nor should they make an official statement against Roe V. Wade, but I do think there is a place for the church make it clear to her members that this is murder and it should not be tolerated (not that they couldn’t figure it out). But again, not in the form of an ‘abortion sermon.’

    But where does a denomination draw the line? If a church is willing to make an official statement on abortion, where is the official stance on child slave labor, corporate theft, money laundering, the Sudan, roadside bombs, ethnic cleansingetc…

  12. Echo_ohcE says:

    Yes, exactly.

    In the OPC’s statement on abortion, I think all of it is great and fine, except the following:

    “But we also call upon our society to return to the law of God, recognizing the Word of God that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).”

    I’m not entirely comfortable with this. There is a way to interpret this as not crossing a line, but there is also a way to interpret this as crossing the line.

    I choose, however, to believe that the church is calling people to repent, and not to do the thing they were about to do (it was passed in 1972, the year before the R v W decision.)

    I suppose what they mean here is that the state should pursue justice by keeping murder illegal. This is ok for the church to do, to say. They are not claiming authority over the state, but rather telling the state to submit to God’s standard of justice. There’s nothing wrong with that. They are not saying that their members should vote Republican or Democrat or anything of the kind. They are speaking to a moral issue.

    God is the one who gave the mandate for the state. To pursue justice is to submit to God’s common grace law, as (re)instituted in Gen 9 for all mankind, not just believers.

    Though this could have been worded perhaps a little differently, the spirit of what they did is fine.

    No, I’m not a theonomist, yes I recognize that these comments could be interpreted as theonomy friendly. I choose not to interpret them that way. I think you have to choose to interpret them that way if you want to accuse the OPC of theonomic leanings.

    It’s no secret that there have been some theonomists in the OPC. Some have been very concerned about this. But it’s not a concern now. Abortion isn’t ONLY a political issue. It’s a moral one.

    We should be careful not to let the W2K become a central dogma, controlling everything we think about everything. The Reformed have no central dogma.

  13. Zrim says:

    Echo said, “So a pastor can and should preach a sermon that mentions abortion as being murder – if he feels that the passage he is preaching warrants it, and especially if he thinks anyone in the congregation needs to hear it.”

    Call me over-senstive (I call it an appropriate set of feelers in response to just how inappropriately overcharged this whole debate is in our time), but I read this as just another way to hedge on the abortion debate, another way to get a political statement in under the wire under the auspices of “preaching Law properly.”

    Frankly, I get a snicker out of these kinds of hypotheticals, because our circles more often than not do find find themselves with “people who need to hear it.” So if we do, these are very unusual situations with equally odd circumstances; and chances may be that you only know about it through rumor. As such, do you seriously think the pulpit is the place for such “admonition”?

    I’d hate to be in Echo’s congregation in need of this particular pastoral care. Seems to me that most women in real life situations might need less chastizement from a bully-pulpit (and a gentle bully-pulpit is still a bully-pulpit) and more genuine care behind the scenes. But, then again, I also have never understood why this issue is so important that we sacrifice real pastoral care for bully-pulpiteering and thinly-veiled politicking-light. I fear it is an indicator of just how led around by the nose we have been by the whole frenzied debate in our culture and have really demonstrated how easily distracted we can be from our tasking of the Gospel alone; we seem to have a pathetic need to keep up with the Religious Right Jones’s and prove what we believe about a certain social issue that is no more relevant than any other, all at the risk of becoming bully-pulpiteers, sacrificing genuine pastoral care (while real discipline also goes by the wayside), and being distracted from our simple and sole task. Is it really worth it?

  14. Zrim says:

    Why are the issues surrounding “abortion” so much more important than any other host of issues? The world is chock full of things to get morally concerned over. Why is this one so important that denominations have “position papers”?

    And why do these position papers always look oddly like the narrow band of cultural concerns from the conservative sub-culture? For all the talk of political correctness and how certain denominations have “bent the knee” to more “progressive” concerns, it sure seems suspicious to me that nobody notices how something like the OPC seems to take the cues of the other perpetrators of politcal correctness, red-state style. What in the world does women in combat, gays in the military, and abortion (did I get them all for you, Dr. Dobson?) have to do with the task of the Gospel that supercede what Jim Wallis cares about?

  15. Rick says:

    That’s what I was getting at with my last paragraph in my last comment above, Zrim.

    Where is the line drawn?

    Should denominations respond to Enron?

  16. Zrim says:

    Yes, exactly.

    I mean, the world I live in is absolutely teeming with with things shot through with moral and ethical dimensions. Why we seem to simply shove out mitts into the pile and select only certain ones is telling to me. It really seems to point out just how confused we are. We moralize the political realm, and we make sacred politics. And we don’t seem to notice the problem in doing so.

    It’s funny how we think of America as some sort of deployment base for evangelism, when such utter confusions seem to mark how much we are in need of evangelizing.

  17. Zrim says:

    Why do none of Sojourner-type concerns show up in OPC position papers?

    This is why I tune out the large majority of both “conservative” and “progressive” American religion when it comes to politics, etc. Both love to think they are not slaves to political correctness while the other guy is. What they both mean is that the other guy doesn’t share the others’ cultural values, and that, moreover, doesn’t properly make God an idol for his own the way he does.

    It is in the bastion of politics that I actually take the cues of my secular rearing, which seems to naturally have a correct grasp on the nature and endeavor of statecraft. (scroll down to my post, “stevez”). Much as I deny vehemently whatever propositional truths it either affirms or denies about about the Gospel, it knows how to properly order society without getting out of control.

    True enough, in America even secularists can be heard very often lending heavenly weight to temporal endeavor; this is due to the skewed influences of our religious history. But, by and large, secularists are heads and shoulders beyond most American religionists (including bodies like the OPC), even when they get red-faced about it. They at least let the other guy exist and don’t issue glorified fatwas (as if they could anyway) that imply impiety simply because one disagrees over a disputable issue.

    This seems to be the implication of what it means to be a “Christian secularist.”

  18. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    You said: “I read this as just another way to hedge on the abortion debate, another way to get a political statement in under the wire under the auspices of “preaching Law properly.”

    Echo: I’m sorry you feel the law has nothing to say about politics. I disagree.

    You said: “I’d hate to be in Echo’s congregation in need of this particular pastoral care. Seems to me that most women in real life situations might need less chastizement from a bully-pulpit (and a gentle bully-pulpit is still a bully-pulpit) and more genuine care behind the scenes.”

    Echo: you’re right. People hate hearing the law. Maybe when I’m a minister someday, I’ll just tell people that they can do whatever they please, and whatever might be considered sin, it’s covered by the blood of Christ, so there’s really nothing to worry about. You’re right. The law is such a bad thing to expound from the pulpit. And clearly, CLEARLY I meant for this to be to the exclusion of pastoral counseling. Yeah, I’ve had to rethink my whole program of law and gospel. Thanks Zrim! That’s so helpful.

    You said: “I also have never understood why this issue is so important that we sacrifice real pastoral care for bully-pulpiteering and thinly-veiled politicking-light.”

    Echo: what a great point! You’re of course correct, as I said, that I had intended to say that I would only preach the law from the pulpit and be inaccessible to talk to people one on one. I guess that sure was a mistake. Thanks for showing me the error of my pathetic, evangelical and obviously non-biblical ideas.

    You said: “I fear it is an indicator of just how led around by the nose we have been by the whole frenzied debate in our culture and have really demonstrated how easily distracted we can be from our tasking of the Gospel alone;”

    Echo: right again! It’s the politics of the day that make me say we should preach both law and gospel, keeping each distinct, upholding both. Yeah, it’s politics that drives me to this conclusion, not something like a couple hundred years of reformed tradition. Way to go Zrim! Right on target.

    You said: “while real discipline also goes by the wayside”

    Echo: Zrim, you’re on fire! How could you tell from that post that I was against conducting church discipline! I am amazed at your perceptive ability, you eagle eyed perceiver you.

    You said: “Why are the issues surrounding “abortion” so much more important than any other host of issues? The world is chock full of things to get morally concerned over. Why is this one so important that denominations have “position papers”?”

    Echo: What do people have that is worth more than their life, other than their eternal salvation? Murder has been legalized, and placed into the hands of teenage mothers. Would you care to argue that something else is a greater breach of justice? I’m all ears.

    You said: “What in the world does women in combat, gays in the military, and abortion (did I get them all for you, Dr. Dobson?) have to do with the task of the Gospel”

    Echo: nothing, nothing, and once again, nothing. Women in combat has nothing to do with the gospel. Of course, what God says in general revelation has something to say about this, and the church is the expert on what God says. But don’t worry, I’m sure the world has continued to spin on its axis nonetheless. Not that you’ve ever been to combat, because if you had, you wouldn’t doubt for a second that girls don’t belong there. And you wouldn’t doubt for a second that girls in the church need the church’s guidance on these matters, because general revelation makes it clear that women don’t belong there, and the church has every right, even the duty, to make sure that its members interpret general revelation correctly. But you wouldn’t know, would you, having never been to combat.

    And since you’ve never been to combat, you don’t know why gays don’t belong in the military. What the church has to say on this is beyond me though. So give yourself a gold star, Zrim, the OPC made a rare mistake. Bravo. You’ve managed to attack yet another ally.

    And I’ve said enough about abortion. Remember, the General Assembly isn’t just speaking to the leaders of the world – but also to the members of her churches. Do you think the General Assembly needs to address controversial issues of morality when it comes up, or should they just not care when people in their churches are calling sin good?

    You said: “It really seems to point out just how confused we are. We moralize the political realm, and we make sacred politics.”

    Echo: You’re right. Everyone is completely confused but you. Maybe we should elect you to be the new Pope of the new, reformed, Christendom. May Zrim be praised.

    You said: “by and large, secularists are heads and shoulders beyond most American religionists (including bodies like the OPC), even when they get red-faced about it. They at least let the other guy exist and don’t issue glorified fatwas (as if they could anyway) that imply impiety simply because one disagrees over a disputable issue.”

    Echo: Your wisdom astounds me. You’re quite right, the OPC actually does want to deny opposing views the right to exist. I thought that was a secret among those who were ministers or in training to be ministers. I just found out myself. How’d you get ahold of our unpublished, secret documents? It’s not fair!

    You’re right Zrim. From now on, I’m going to pretend that I’m an atheist when I talk politics or when I consider morality. What a great idea! I’m sure it’ll have great results, and your indifference to abortion is just the beginning. I wonder what else I can shrug my shoulders at. What fun to stop caring about anything!

  19. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    What exactly do you have against the Religious Right, when you sound so much like them? Is it mere tribalism, that is, “they” can’t do what they do but “we” can do what they do?

    Are you ascribing to me apathy because I don’t care in the same way that you do about particular matters?

  20. Echo_ohcE says:

    No you ascribed apathy to yourself. You are the one who said abortion was irrelevant and that you didn’t care. That’s apathy.

    The problem with the Religious Right is that they have blurred the line between church and state. They have lost the ability to distinguish between the church and the Republican party.

    But in swinging the pendulum in the other direction, you seem to have forgotten that you remain a member of the kingdom of man, and according to natural law, read: law of God to which Christians ought to submit, we are to pursue justice in the civil realm, just the same as any unbeliever.

    It is not only Christians who should be against abortion and murder, but everyone. Anyone that thinks abortion should be legal has no comprehension of justice whatsoever, and is not fit to hold public office, the duty of which is the administration of justice. This is not a distinctly Christian belief, this is a natural law truth. It’s common sense. It’s rational, reasonable, logical.

    But you have said that since the church shouldn’t be involved in telling people how to vote, since the church should be separate from the state, and since you are a proud, card carrying member of the Westminster 2 Kingdom view (a view you have named after MY seminary where I am attending), you have declared that you simply don’t care about abortion any more.

    I recognize that the reason why you say you don’t care about abortion anymore is that no one can really stop it. Even if it was made a matter of states’ choice, only half the states would make it illegal, which does no good, because abortions will just be performed in the other states. So you have resigned to the fact that abortion will remain legal, and therefore you feel that voting for someone who is pro-abortion is fine, because this fact alone doesn’t render them unfit for office.

    But you have also argued that abortion isn’t a religious issue. If it’s not a religious issue, then it is a justice issue. If religious beliefs have nothing to do with whether or not you believe abortion should be legal, then it is a matter of natural law, one way or the other.

    If it is a matter of natural law, then everyone should be able to figure out what the right answer is, and it shouldn’t be in doubt. You don’t need religion, after all, to discern natural law. Natural law is more or less a matter of common sense.

    And yet we say that abortion is something that is so confusing, we can’t hold it against someone if they come up with the wrong answer, because we aren’t so sure it’s wrong anyway.

    Well, no. It’s not confusing. It’s not hard to figure out. Even women that have had it done will tell you, almost without exception, that they regret having done it. They often have deep emotional problems and guilt the rest of their lives as a result of doing it. My wife works in a labor and delivery unit, and women who come in trying to have a baby who have had abortions in the past are always, without exception, a complete basket case, worried sick that they’re going to lose their baby because of what they’ve done to their body.

    It doesn’t take a high IQ to understand natural law. It’s something everybody understands. It’s not confusing. It’s not murky. It’s not a grey area. It’s MURDER. Everyone knows it.

    You know it too.

    Anyone, any human being who actively believes that abortion should be legal is either too dimwitted to recognize that abortion is murder, or they are too wicked to care that it is murder. (And I mean wicked in the sense of opposite of natural law). Such people are not on the side of justice. They are either too stupid to uphold justice, or they actually don’t even want to uphold justice.

    So I’ve got an idea: let’s elect such people to public office, where their job will be to uphold justice for all! Yay!

    This is like putting the guy in the office who doesn’t like coffee in charge of buying the office coffee. This is like making a person who doesn’t like to eat good food a chef. This is like asking someone who doesn’t like babies to be your babysitter. This is like putting a 70 year old man with arthritis on the pitcher’s mound in the last inning of game 7 of the World Series. It defies common sense.

    If a person is not interested in upholding justice, it’s contrary to common sense to elect them to a job where their whole function is to uphold justice. This just defies logic.

    This is my only point. That’s it.

    Unbelievers – well, I can understand why they would be so clouded and deceived in their thinking that they might not understand that abortion is wrong. They have been programmed with decades of feminism after all.

    But believers have less of an excuse. Believers see more clearly, or ought to. They can even understand natural law better than unbelievers, simply because they are more interested in it. Therefore, it is particularly alarming for a believer to shrug their shoulders at abortion. Well – you need not be a believer to be able to exercise common sense, but it helps. It really does.

    So again, you have ascribed apathy to yourself. You ought to be able to clearly see that the murder of little babies is contrary to justice. Since you have said you don’t care about that, I can only conclude that you don’t care about justice. This is alarming and appalling coming from anyone, but particularly so coming from a professing Christian.

    I think you and Irons have swung the pendulum way too far in the opposite direction, having made what YOU call W2K a central dogma.

    But be sure of this: none of the professors would possibly agree with Irons’ statement. None of them. Not one. Why not put that claim to the test and email them and ask? Go ahead. I’m not scared for you to do so. I have already talked to one of them about it. I know the answer already. So ask away, Zrim, ask away.

  21. RubeRad says:

    You are the one who said abortion was irrelevant and that you didn’t care.

    That seems a bit of an overstatement; there’s a difference between whether it is irrelevant, and whether someone cares.

    Practically speaking, the question of whether you or I vote for a pro-choice or pro-life candidate is irrelevant, because no matter what you and I and all the pro-lifers in CA do, our state’s giant bucket of electoral votes will go to a pro-choice Democrat.

  22. Echo_ohcE says:

    That our vote doesn’t count is a different argument. Maybe our vote doesn’t count. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vote, or that it doesn’t matter how we vote.

    And when you say that my charge of “not caring” is an overstatement, I submit to you Zrim’s comments on another thread:

    As one who has a conventionally conservative morality and politics (are you listening, John Kerry?) and considers his politics even more conservative than the current Administration, I would answer your question, “Do you care?” by saying, no. That’s the point of the post. But consider that a piece of figurative language, a turn of phrase, meant to make a point, so don’t take me literally. (It’s sort of like when I say, “I love NYC and wouldn’t change a thing” to Keller’s entreat to transform it.) I “don’t care.” That is what is meant when someone deems something irrelevant. While I care on some level, I don’t care at another. But I place more of a stake in state’s rights conversations, not the sexier micro-conversation of “may she or mayn’t she?” But, not many people are interested in that stodgy, boring conversation.

    Echo: I don’t think my statement is a misinterpretation of Zrim’s statement, even if it isn’t as qualified.

    My point is that if we are to be responsible voters, we should vote for the person who is most qualified and capable for the job. What is the job? Upholding justice is the job. That is the function of the state in common grace, upholding justice. We Christians have special revelation to make that point – which is contained in general revelation – explicitly clear in Gen 9. The POINT of the state is to uphold justice. That’s its function in the context of common grace according to natural law, according to general revelation, which our special revelation only confirms more clearly and explicitly.

    My point is that the job is upholding justice. Therefore, someone who is pro-abortion is not qualified for the job. This is not a distinctly Christian belief, though Christianity helps support it. This is revealed in general revelation.

    Don’t we all want to vote for the person best qualified for the job, whether they’ll win or not? Isn’t that our responsibility as voters?

  23. Echo_ohcE says:

    My argument in miniature:

    The job of the state is to uphold justice.

    We are therefore to elect officials who are most interested in and capable of upholding justice.

    Someone who is pro-abortion is openly in favor of unjust laws, and is therefore not interested in or capable of upholding justice.

    Therefore, it makes no sense to vote for anyone who is pro-abortion, because they are not qualified for the office to which they aspire.

  24. Echo_ohcE says:

    This is a PURELY natural law, general revelation argument. This argument need not be Christian in any way. This argument should be compelling to atheist and Christian alike.

    Can anyone argue that the state’s function is other than upholding justice?

    Can anyone argue that abortion is just?

    Can anyone argue that we shouldn’t vote for the person most qualified for the office?

  25. Zrim says:

    Hi Echo,

    It seems you want affirmation of the fact that you are making a natural law argument. I can give you that much easier now that you seem to have rooted out any scriptural references (since those are properly used to make the general case for common grace/providence and not for any specific one about non/reproductive rights).

    You charge apathy. You are half right and half wrong. What I don’t care about, so to speak, is the micro-discussion that most moralists want to have, namely, may she or mayn’t she. The question isn’t really one about may she or mayn’t she (though I do have a decided opinion about that as well), it is who gets to decide. The problem with Roe is that it took that power away from the states to decide for themselves, because the political-moralists opposite you wanted to foist their morality at a federal level. So do you. You and the “pro-choicers” have more in common with each other than you think. I don’t find a seat at your table. But, even as much as I think the problem is a state’s rights issue, I like to think I can overlook that and still say it’s irrelevant, since nobody wants to talk that way anytime real soon, and, more to the point, it just isn’t as important as more pressing issues. Political-moralist-activists choke on that assertion—some want to make sure the federal government maintains Jane’s rights, others want to take it away. I say to both activists, it is irrelevant.

    You have a very curious definition of apathy. But it is because you are a political-moralist. Apparently, if I don’t care in the same way you do, then I don’t care. But this is like the person close to me who is something of a health nut. Just because I don’t adopt his exercise routine and diet I evidently “don’t care about my health.” Well, OK. I rather think I do, but just because I don’t drink goat’s milk, run 8 miles twice a day and fret about one health-related thing or another doesn’t mean that I don’t. (My grandfather was a MD who drank and smoked and sedentary-lifestyled his way to an early grave. I could say he didn’t care about his health and I would feel the charge is more accurate of him.) You talk like the political version of my health-nut friend. Honestly, I don’t register with this Americanism that seems to dictate that unless everyone sees it the way I do, unless the world shakes out the way I want it to (sounds so childish, really), they and it should be placed on the rack. Huh? But, then again, I really hate all forms of moralism.

    You know, if, by the way you write, you aren’t an example of Sean Lucas’s “Fundamentalists learning to be Presbyterian,” I really don’t know who he is talking about.

  26. Zrim says:

    “Unbelievers – well, I can understand why they would be so clouded and deceived in their thinking that they might not understand that abortion is wrong. They have been programmed with decades of feminism after all…Well – you need not be a believer to be able to exercise common sense, but it helps. It really does.”

    Man! I wish I had converted in grade 8, when I was having so much trouble in Algebra. My felt need to master mathematics might have been met and spared me years of struggle.

    Oh! I am so glad to be a believer now…everything makes sense! Maybe I will call Mrs. Post up and see if she wouldn’t mind giving me a unit test over…bet I could pass now! After all, I have the right conclusions about may/mayn’t she (she mayn’t)…what’s to say I am not a mathematical whiz?

    Seems maybe that sanctification is ill-at-work in Echo, as he doesn’t see that the issue is state’s rights, not may/mayn’t she. See, those of us in the gnosis of the Spirit easily recognize this. There are very few of us, but we have managed to yield to the Spirit enough to figure out the dimensions of statecraft properly. Statecraft, as we all know, can only be figured out properly by those who have captured and tuned in to the Spirit against those anti-federal-moralists who think non/reproductive rights is a may/mayn’t she issue. Unbelievers do well to simply ape us until they get the chutzpa to prayer a prayer and get in, but after that, the Spirit will surely open their eyes, that is, if they are properly tuned in. After all, you don’t need to be a believer to figure this piece of statecraft out, but, boy, it sure helps, it really, really does. Let’s pray.

    Seriously, there is a difference between the genuine effect of sanctification and group-think, Echo. I would contend that “it helps to be a believer to figure this dimension of statecraft out” tends to, more or less, be a function of the latter. Group-think, by definition, is very easy to go along with. But don’t mistake group-think for the workings of the Spirit. Besides, how would anyone who can’t recall never believing the Gospel (read: covenant child) know that belief helps figure earth out, since un/belief is, existentially speaking, a very hard line to discern? That is, how do you know “it helps”? That is like a sighted person saying life is better with sight than without…how does he know? At one time, all of us were physically, literally blind. Some of us stayed that way. But if you have no discernible template anymore for what it is like to be blind, how do you know being sighted “is better”? Faith-wise, some of us went deliberately from unbelief to belief. And I can tell you this much, faith has not enabled me to figure out earth much better.

    Maybe I am just defeated and un-victorious, but this whole suggestion that faith enables one to figure earth out (from sophomoric concerns like happy relationships to high-brow questions of statecraft) sounds a lot like it comes from the laboratory of “meeting felt needs.” Sounds like faith has met Echo’s felt need to conclude on statecraft. His criticisms of Osteen-esque Evangelicalism seem wanting at best, hypocritical at worst. He seems just as vulnerable to the doctrines of relevancy as poor Joel…”he really does.”

  27. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    There is a huge difference between mocking someone’s views and arguing against them.

    You have failed to honestly deal with what I have said, but have instead inflated everything I have said to a straw man, even having the sheer gall and arrogance to associate me with Joel Osteen, and condescendingly refer to me as a wanna-be Presbyterian. I can’t believe your nerve, since you don’t even go to a Presbyterian Church.

    Your blathering is no critique at all, but only mocking rhetoric, and a complete waste of my time.

    Grow up, then we’ll talk like men.

    E

  28. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I am in the wrong here. There can be no excuse for how I have talked to you. I’m sorry.

    E

  29. efwake says:

    Albino,

    I’m genuinely impressed by your passionate defense of what you believe is right. As a matter of fact, I would tend to agree with much of what you said.

    That is, the role of the Church is to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was born, lived righteously, was crucified, dead, and was buried and descended into hell, rising on the third day victorious over sin, allowing us forgiveness of our sins and the righteousness accounted to Him in His perfect fulfillment of the Law. You seem to have your ducks in a row.

    The problem comes in with certain ambiguity concerning what you’d have liked those pastors to do. What do you mean by “hid behind their doctrine”? If you mean that they didn’t bring the members of their congregation who were going out at night and lighting crosses in front yards of African-Americans, I’d agree with you. If you mean that they didn’t excommunicate those police officers who beat people, those men who murdered, mamed and spread fear to those in the black community, I’d agree.

    Is this what you mean, or are you suggesting that a more active “speaking out” would have been appropriate? Ought they have stepped from behind the pulpit, Lord’s table, and baptismal font and carried a picket sign, being beat down along side those who were suffering outside?

    God does not show favoritism no doubt about it; not upon the basis of race or sex or sexual orientation, I believe that. We’re all sinners in the sight of God and in need of the blood of Christ to wash us clean. However the most bold “speaking out” that a minister of the Gospel can do is to preach the Gospel of reconciliation to his sheep, reminding them of the price at which they have been purchased. There is nothing more powerful, nothing more appropriate for the minister, no calling higher… in times of trouble or in times of prosperity, times of war or peace, times of mourning or joy, etc, that a minister could possibly do to thwart the evil one than this.

  30. efwake says:

    Echo,

    Just to set the record straight: The CRC is as Presbyterian as our dearly beloved OPC is Reformed.

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