When Does Good Parochialism Go Bad?

I will be in Orlando next week for pleasure and in Ann Arbor the following week for business, likely unplugged during both. Maybe I will peak into the can if I get access to a computer somewhere. My wife can attest to my absolute inability at romance, but she knows right well just how hopelessly and sometimes embarrassingly sentimental I am. Some say such is a mark of a true conservative. That may be, but I tend to think I am just a nostalgic person. So while in Ann Arbor I plan on going to central campus, buying a pack of Djarums and taking a stroll down memory lane—otherwise known as Oakland Avenue, through the Law Library, through the Quad and up to the sixth floor stacks. While I am out, here are some thoughts about parochialism…

Under his post about WTS, I gave Darryl Hart high kudos for his point but then also asked him a question: already agreeing that narrow Reformed parochialism is not a four-letter phrase whatsoever, what might bad parochialism look like? It must exist, since every thing good seems to have a bad version. By the end of the exchange, he simply wanted to know just what I was complaining about. Either I wasn’t aware that I was complaining or we missed each other. Probably both, knowing human nature and what happens to it when cramming into a halo scan box.

To give him a break, my question really arises from a conversation I have had with a prospective candidate to fill our own pulpit (who has since been routed from the list of candidates). Randy Blacketer, it seems to me, is on the exact right side of the FOS issue. And during a conversation with him about it specifically, I had expressed to him generally the sentiment that I was glad not to be a parochial denominationalist since I am no fan of my own. His response was to reiterate the theme he had preached when candidating: stay in the boat. The sermon was really quite good. The point of his exegesis of Matthew 14:25-33 was that Peter showed little faith, not when he began to sink into the waters as is traditionally understood, but when he told the Lord to stay put while he came out to Him. Peter wanted to transcend his humanity and the experience everyone else in the boat has to endure. It was something a fully persuaded high-Church Calvinist with an organic view of the Church and a theology of the Cross could sink his teeth into. But his rather pointed, albeit not un-pastoral, response regarding my view of the CRC struck me as odd.

True enough, on the one hand, we institutional types have very little patience for the wide spread and deeply-seated anti-institutionalism in our cult and culture. I, for one, eschew even the slightest mistaking of high opinions for high views (which I think is one of the things belying this FOS issue in the CRC). It is not at all enough to see denomination as merely a polite and civil way of doing the Church’s business. It is not at all enough to view denomination as simply a flavor within the more general project of manifest-Christianity. It is altogether wrong, in these ways, to emphasize the Church triumphant and invisible over against Her being militant and visible. These views of the Church are parallels to Biblicist views of Scripture. That is, just as the confessional forms are ways of “doing the Bible,” our institutions of denomination are ways of “doing the Church.” (I might even comport denomination under the broader term “the Reformed expression,” insofar as these former agencies are ways of doing the latter expression which we all agree is the most faithful biblical witness on earth.) They are entirely necessary and good instruments for the visible church in this millennial age and ought not to be in any way begrudged. It should be clear that I don’t take my denominational affiliation lightly at all. In a word, it matters.

But that said, just as there is a difference between high, low and infallible views of the confessions, there seems a difference between a high view of denomination versus either a low (e.g. Broad Evangelical) or an infallible one (e.g. Romanist). “There is no salvation outside the Church,” and “my denomination, right or wrong” seem like aphorisms born of different stock. One seems more American than Christian. I can live with the Church right or wrong. Indeed, I think I must and can do no other. But, denomination? Really? What happens when a denomination begins to drift and shows no viable signs of return? What happens when, as I think seems the case with my CRC, amongst many other things, a lot of what fortifies its project is what fortifies the phenomenon of Christian day schooling: a way to perpetuate a particular cultural and ethnic endeavor under the auspices of religion?

Maybe I have to try and answer my own question. Here goes. It seems to me that bad parochialism is that which at once maintains some form of what good, theological and cultic parochialism it once had but really makes that which is social or cultural its whet stone, or mixes the two. It conflates denomination with Church the way one might confuse faith with a work. Like the committee that is just one too many, it exists and functions for its own sake. Begrudging genuine assessment of a denomination which may imply the contemplation of “divorcing her quietly,” bad parochialism seems either quick to keep members at virtually all costs or keep them from others in the same way.

If that seems too dicey and fraught maybe something simpler could help: it may be bad parochialism when it throws year-long one-hundred-fifty birthday parties for itself.

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18 Responses to When Does Good Parochialism Go Bad?

  1. Echo_ohcE says:


    I don’t understand your post. I guess I understand that you’re asking what bad parochialism would be, but I don’t know what you mean by parochialism, which undoubtedly will make me look ignorant, but whatever.

    Since I don’t understand what you mean by parochialism, I don’t understand what you mean by good parochialism, and what therefore bad parochialism might be or look like.

    But this is your broader question. And since I don’t understand it, I don’t understand what Peter coming out on the water has to do with it.

    The best sense I can make of it is that staying in the boat is akin to staying in a troubled denomination. So in other words, since Peter should have stayed in the boat, you should not leave the CRC. I know you said that you find that odd, but I’m wondering if that was the point that was made that you are recounting.

    The only thing that I can say is that perhaps the minister’s exegesis of Mat 14 can be questioned a bit. True enough, Peter’s request, “Lord, IF IT IS YOU, command me to come out..” seems to betray a lack of faith on his part, even putting the Lord to the test. “Lord, if it’s you, give me a sign.” The Word of the Lord should have been enough for him. “It is I.” Especially when this is the Greek, “I AM” (eigo eimi).

    Nonetheless, this is the Jewish mindset, and they had reasons for thinking this way. God always provided accompanying signs with his Word of self revelation.

    Furthermore, there are some reasons why we might not judge Peter so harshly. First and foremost is the fact that Jesus answers the request. Why would Jesus do that if his request had been borne of unbelief? Why would Jesus respond positively to unbelief?

    Second, Jesus isn’t afraid to rebuke unbelief. He does rebuke Peter for unbelief, but not until that unbelief was demonstrated in his sinking into the water. Jesus did not rebuke him for his request, but he only said, “Come”.

    Third, the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, thus not Jesus. Then Jesus reveals himself. And how does Peter address this water-walker? He doesn’t say, “If you are Jesus, command me to come out on the water.” No, he addresses him as “Lord”. He doesn’t say, “If you are the Lord,” but says, “Lord, if you are”, (ei su ei) balancing Jesus’ statement “I am” (ego eimi).

    The point is that Peter knew who he was, and asked for a sign as a demonstration of the validity of what he said.

    True, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for this sort of thing frequently, but he does not rebuke Peter here for it. In fact, in Isa 7:10-14, we read the story of Ahaz, who was commanded to ask for a sign, but refused, not wanting to put the Lord to the test. But he was highly rebuked for this by Isaiah. So simply asking for a sign is not inherently borne of unbelief in all cases, and the fact that Jesus says, “Come” signifies his approval of the request, because he didn’t say, “Your request betrays your doubt, it is a wicked generation that seeks for a sign.”

    Fourth, we must ask if there is another possibility of why Peter might have asked for this sign. The disciples all thought Jesus was a ghost and were terrified. It is often said that Peter takes a leadership role among the disciples, perhaps because he was possibly the oldest disciple. Maybe the disciples are terrified, but Peter wishes them to be assured. And so maybe he called out to Jesus, answering on behalf of the other disciples. And so Jesus told Peter to come, in order to also assure the others, not just Peter. So maybe Peter knows it’s Jesus, but is giving voice to the terror of the others.

    Fifth, Peter didn’t just jump out of the boat and go running out to Jesus. No, he asked Jesus to command him to come out. He was trusting in Jesus to make him stand on the water, and knew that it couldn’t happen apart from his Word declaring it so. So he asked Jesus to reveal himself even more.

    Sixth, and this is the most important, the point of the passage is not to teach a moral lesson to “stay in the boat”. This would be moralistic allegorizing of a liberal sort. The point of the passage is not to teach a moral point, what we must do. No, the point of the passage is to reveal Jesus for who he is, namely the one who has mastery over the sea. Eat your heart out Posiden! The point of the passage comes in v.33, when the disciples worship him in response to his self-revelation.

    The point of the passage is not what WE must do, but WHO Jesus is.

    This fact completely rules out the possible legitimacy of applying this passage by an exhortation to “stay in the boat”. That’s not the point of the passage, so this is an illegitimate application.

    A more legitimate application of this passage would be, “This is who Jesus is: water walker, sea master, wind calmer. In short, he is our Creator and our God. Therefore let us trust in him, and respond as the disciples did by worshiping him, knowing that he truly is the Son of God.” Something like that is an appropriate application of this text, in keeping with the point of the passage.

    You said: “But his rather pointed, albeit not un-pastoral, response regarding my view of the CRC struck me as odd.”

    So I have tried to show that you are right to think it odd. It’s not just odd, but, if I have understood his point, downright illegitimate.

    But I really don’t know what that says to the rest of your post. I suspect it might put me in agreement with your post, but I can’t be sure of that.


  2. Echo_ohcE says:


    Well, forgive me. I read your post without reading DGH’s post, and that’s the reason why I didn’t get the point. (I almost never click on hyperlinks in a blog post like this, thinking that the post should just speak for itself.)

    Well, you said: “already agreeing that narrow Reformed parochialism is not a four-letter phrase whatsoever, what might bad parochialism look like?”

    I think bad parochialism, perhaps, might involve saying something like this: “Outside the narrowly reformed and presbyterian churches (denominations), there is no salvation.”

    To put it more succinctly, bad parochialism would be to say that NAPARC = the True Church.

    The corollary to this kind of thinking would be to posit that it is therefore unlawful to remain in the CRC, and as such it is inherently a sin to remain in the CRC. (I am trying to bring the issue to bear on your situation.)

    You probably think that this is my view. I have probably never given you any reason to think otherwise. But if I may, I would distinguish between law and wisdom. I find this is very often a helpful distinction.

    So then, while I think remaining in the CRC is unwise, I don’t think it’s sinful. I hope that makes sense. So please consider any of my arguments of the past as saying that you should leave the CRC (and others in your position) as arguing from the standpoint of what I think the wise thing to do is, not from the standpoint of what I think the law of God says.

    But note this, and note it well. I am in the OPC, as you know, and there are some OPC’s that I’d recommend people leave. I won’t name any names or issues, but not all of them represent churches that exhibit the three marks of the church. It’s a real shame.

    So the question is, if a church, or a denomination, isn’t exhibiting the three marks of the church, should someone stay in it and fight, or should someone leave?

    I think decent arguments can be made on both sides, but I think that the side that argues for leaving makes the better argument.

    Most people who want to stay say that they would feel like they’re abandoning many people by leaving. They don’t want to give up on these people. They think there’s a certain selfishness involved in leaving that says, “Me and my family’s nurturing comes first and foremost, let those people go to hell, I don’t care.” I find this very compelling, especially for men who are officers in the church and have a real opportunity to have a voice for a return to the previous way of doing things.

    But on the side of leaving, there are better arguments, in my opinion. For one thing, momentum in a negative direction must be considered. In my opinion, the CRC made a fatal mistake against the rule of Scripture when they voted to ordain women, and that has only continued to bear bad fruit. I’m sure you have read the so called exegetical arguments in favor of ordaining women. Those arguments all twist Scripture and explain it away, so that it no longer says what it says. When people begin to accept those arguments, the rule of Scripture is done away with, and anarchy ensues. And I think that is being seen not just in the CRC, but in the PCUSA as well.

    You cannot have a rejection of the authority of Scripture at the denominational level without it having an effect on the churches at the local level. The ordination of women is no small matter. And to stay under the authority of that denomination, no matter what exactly that authority looks like (and there are some very deep differences here between the Dutch tradition and the Presbyterian tradition), necessarily involves some compromise of the authority of Scripture at the local level.

    The results in the CRC are becoming more and more clear. The Form of Subscription debate and the debate over charismatic gifts and baby dedication are examples of this. This signals a momentum in the direction of anarchy and a rejection of the rule of the Word of God. If the momentum is not stopped and reversed, it will just keep getting worse. The momentum shows no signs of slowing down, but rather it seems to be accelerating. This cannot fail to have an effect at the local level.

    Pardon me for being blunt, but the sermon you heard on Matt 14 is an example of the effect this has. The point of the passage was missed. The view of the Word of God has been affected. Until that is reversed, positive change cannot begin to happen.

    If the URC had not split off, and those voices had remained in the CRC, there might perhaps have been more hope for the CRC’s future. But since those people have left, the liberal side was greatly strengthened, and there is little hope that they’ll ever come around and do an about face. The few conservative voices that are left are quieter and more cowed as a result, and their testimony is weakened.

    There may be some hope for the CRC much later down the road, but I see little reason for such hope. So the question is, can you remain in such a denomination, given the direction it’s heading, and still be faithful to your duties as the head of your household? While it may not be the worst thing for you to stay and fight, what is the effect on your family? Don’t answer that, because it’s a personal decision, but I would argue that that’s the thing you must wrestle with. Is it good for your wife and children for your family to be at odds with the denomination? Is it good for your children to grow up with feelings of cynicism towards the church, and a mistrust toward the church?

    Maybe some would say that this is healthy, and produces good Berean adults when children grow up this way. But I grew up in a household in which Sunday afternoons were spent with our Dad explaining to us how this or that was wrong or disagreeable or even of the devil. I can tell you that the effect it had on me was detrimental. After moving out to go to college, I spent about 9 years in skepticism toward the church, and as such didn’t go. It was quite unhealthy.

    In my opinion, it is better to have your family in a church where Sunday is a day of resting in the Lord, and trusting him to nourish you through the church, through the preaching of the Word and right administration of Sacraments, and the right administration of discipline. To grow up in such an environment gives children a trust in the church that God would have us cultivate in our children. In my opinion, this is the biggest concern.

    Does this mean that I would give up on the people in the CRC for the sake of my wife and children (if I had them)? Yes, absolutely. I would grieve the CRC and its people, and I do even now. But my responsibility is not to the church first and my family second, but to my family first. Because before I am an elder, a deacon, or even a minister, I am a husband and will be a father, Lord willing. The role of husband and father must come first before all others.

    But still, I contend that this is a matter of wisdom, not law. To remain in the CRC is not inherently sinful. It depend on the reasons for which you are remaining. And children can grow up to trust the church, even in such an environment with the proper instruction at home. What I’m arguing for, however, is that the best way to train your children to trust the church is to raise them in a church they can trust.

    Remember, influences that you are immune to can have a huge effect on children. My parents raised me in a church that taught a works based salvation. My parents probably disagreed with this, but had no idea how that would be a part of my thinking growing up. It didn’t affect them, but it affected us greatly. My brothers and I have had a lot of work to untie those knots. It has been a long, hard road.

    One could argue that that long, hard road was good for me, and gave me a greater appreciation for the gospel. I recognize that as valid. But is this the best way to give your children an appreciation for the gospel, for the truth, for the church? I don’t think so.

    And yet, at the same time, I see countless reformed people who grew up reformed who have little appreciation for how good they have it. Sad, really.

    There are no easy answers. But at some point a decision has to be made. Not making the decision is making a decision.

    By the way, what do you mean by saying that the OPC makes the social and cultural its whet stone?


  3. Zrim says:


    What I mean is that it seems quite misguided for a church to issue statements on women in combat, abortion policy and homosexuals in the military. I find this to be an indication of rightist cultural influences the way there are leftist cultural influences (and rightist) in the CRC. It appears the CRC is not the only denomination ill-influenced by broad evangelicalism and one form or another of Constantinianism.

  4. Echo_ohcE says:

    Well, I have to agree on women in combat and gays in the military. But I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the church to make a statement about abortion, if not for the sake of influencing the state, at least for the sake of directing its members.

  5. Rick says:

    Djarums are the worse thing you can put in your body. And they smell bad.

  6. Zrim says:


    I have no idea what your beef is with theonomy or transformationalism.


    But they conjure up so many good memories. What’s a sentimentalist to do?

  7. Whiskeyjack says:


    Are you willing to be apart of the ever increasing marginalized confessionalits in a sea of confusion that calls itself the CRC forever. I can understand the desire to stay and see what can be salvaged is noble, but when a denomination as a whole begins jettisoning that which makes it both true and confessional, I think that they have broken your vows and no loyalty is owed them, only loyalty to the Gospel.

    Just my perspective though.

  8. Echo_ohcE says:


    My beef with theonomy is that it undermines the gospel. Same with transformationism. They think that by improving outward morality that they make progress for the kingdom of God. It’s nonsense.

    I have no idea why you have to be a theonomist or transformationalist to think that the murder of babies being legal in our country is a bad thing. This continues to result in my incredulity.

    Babies should not be murdered by their parents. There is no institution that is not entitled to acknowledge this.

    The OPC is not about trying to improve the culture as the church. It is well aware that that is not its mission. Theonomists and transformationalists are seeking to better the culture, as if that is the work of the kingdom. There are perhaps some in the OPC that are theonomists/transformationalists, but the bulk of the OPC is not, certainly the bulk of its ministers are not.

    But just because we don’t see the improvement of the culture as the mission of the church, doesn’t mean we can’t say that babies shouldn’t be murdered.

    Abortion is not a political issue only.

    There is a gigantic difference between saying that babies shouldn’t be murdered, and calling for transformation of the culture as the mission of the church.

    I do not cherish any dreams of abortion being made illegal and it bringing about the eschaton. I just don’t want to see babies murdered.

    The mandate for the state comes from God. The state is under God. God invented the state, as a common grace institution. The church, meanwhile, is the expert on what God says. Why shouldn’t the church be able to periodically advise the state on what its obligations are?

    God ordained the state to administer justice. “He who sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” God invented the state. The state exists only because of God’s mandate. Can’t the church remind the state of its mandate to uphold justice? The church should not be pressuring the state to make Sabbath laws or something, but the murder of babies? Why should the church be silent?

    The Bible doesn’t only speak to the people of God. Much of it does speak to the people of God, and most of it speaks only to the people of God. But the Bible also has something to say to those outside the church. For example, Ps 82. Periodically, the prophets of the OT would go outside Israel. Even Christ told the apostles that they would testify before kings.

    This doesn’t mean that I want the church to rule over the state. But the church can certainly advise the state at the church’s disgression. Not on all matters, not on matters on which the Bible is silent. But in the matter of the murder of babies, the Bible very clearly has something to say, and the church’s job is, in part, to bear witness to what God says. Sure, it’s job is to nurture its own, but it’s also to bear witness to the world. Salt and light and all that, right?

    So the OPC, when speaking about abortion, is not telling the state who they should appoint as ambassador to the UN. They were pleading with the state not to allow mothers to murder their babies.

    I’m just astonished at your having any problem with this. It wasn’t only theonomists and transformationalists that voted for it. There were plenty of solid, 2 kingdom ministers that voted for it.

    Why don’t you ask Scott Clark for his opinion, or Godfrey or Vandrunen on what Lee Irons said? See what they say. See if they agree if 2 kingdoms means that you don’t care about abortion. I’ve talked to them. Godfrey even said in class that a reformed minister once said that he didn’t care about abortion, because most of the aborted kids were reprobate anyway. Godfrey thought this was profoundly misguided. And I’ve quoted Vandrunen in Ordained Servant as saying that he’d much rather people become Christians, but that even if they don’t, he’d still prefer that they don’t kill their children. So why don’t you ask around a little bit, and see if Lee Irons isn’t in a minority on this opinion among W2K’s. Ask Clark what he thinks about it. He loves you, so I’m sure he’d tell you. Ask around and see if you can find some people that aren’t appalled by what Irons said.


  9. Zrim says:


    It’s complicated. I am sure a quiet divorce on our parts is looming and inevitable. So, “forever” is overstated, if you ask me. I do have to finish my term of office before contemplating drastic actions. I like what Father Jape at DRC once said:
    “One should contemplate leaving his church the way he should leaving his spouse, with great care and sobriety.”

  10. Zrim says:


    Sure seems like what you mean to say is that the Gospel ought to be relevant. Seems like the rules that deny things like theonomy and “the doctrines of relevancy” get dropped like hot potatoes when it comes to particular issues. Why is “relevance” another story when it comes to social and political policy? You seem to think the Gospel still implies certain things, but I say it transcends all man deems as relevant, from how to be happy to how to govern.

    I have never said I don’t care. What it seems like you mean to say is that if I don’t care the way you or others do that I don’t care. I don’t get that, but then again, I am not an activist.

  11. Whiskeyjack says:


    True, “forever” is something of an overstatement, though I am sure at times it might feel like, or at least it would to me. But I wonder about the binding nature of vows to a true Church who then ceases to display one or more of the three marks. Of course this would have to be taken on a church by church basis, in the way it must be taken in places like the PCA. My personal concern is how hard it must be for someone who is committed to reformed confessionalism to watch his denomination cast it aside so cavalierly.

    But it is complicated, I don’t deny that.

  12. Echo_ohcE says:


    Your views put you in a very strange place where there are few that agree with you. You seem to have made W2K into a central dogma. You draw inferences from it that aren’t warranted.

    CRC: while I wouldn’t see you take your vows of ordination as a deacon lightly, isn’t that a lifetime ordination, so aren’t you breaking that vow when you leave regardless of whether you’re actively serving or not? And anyway, with the new FOS, wouldn’t your vow in some way become invalid, since those currently being ordained no longer take the same vow? How could it be that you who are an ordained deacon could remain ordained if the requirements for ordination are changed?

    Maybe the ordination of women isn’t enough to push you away, but certainly the FOS issue is a good opportunity to part company.


  13. Zrim says:


    It is hard and frustrating and angering and confusing and saddening and all the things that come along with what it means to be complicated.


    So far you seem to be the only one who disagrees. I am not sure what hounding the gentleman you suggest above would achieve, since I am not much of a hound. Plus, even if they disagree, then it would seem… they’d disagree. Speaking of central dogma, I would say your represent a view that only helps make my point that the strangle hold of the religious right afflicts even the best of Reformed confessionalists, that is, the social and political issues surrounding abortion are some sort of very odd litmust test of orthodoxy.

    The FOS thing is only being proposed at the moment, so much of your questioning seems sort of moot. But your “lifetime” understanding seems to get to part of my point about conflating denom with church: I am willing to break my vows if it is to a denom that

  14. Zrim says:

    Ughh…I am on a foreign laptop…

    …is drifting from the broader Reformed tradition. Your question seems to assume some of that which I am criticizing, that it is impossible to leave a denomination. As members of a Dutch Reformed church, we took vows to the 3 forms of unity, etc., not the CRC. My point about serving in office is simply that I see myself as having a duty to carry out. Once a regular member again, I don’t perceive that I am somehow unable to leave without thinking I have broken an unbreakable vow.

  15. Echo_ohcE says:


    I was trying to make the case, apparently unsuccessfully, that leaving now or leaving after your term amounts to the same thing. I was trying to communicate that I view it that way because I view ordinations as inherently lifetime ordinations. In other words, even when your term is up, in my opinion, you still hold the office. That was my point. Not a big deal. I was just attempting to help you feel less…trapped.

    Now, about this abortion business. I get that you think that my opinionated stance on abortion is due to the influence of fundamentalists and dispensationalists and theonomists and transformationalists, even if I am unaware of those influences.

    But I’d like to argue that my position does not stem from their influence.

    Consider the typical Pentecostal who believes that justification is somehow by faith and works. Now, Rome is highly influential, and has been around a long time. Should we then necessarily conclude that the Pentecostal believes in faith and works for justification because of Rome’s influence? Maybe, but not necessarily. I think that’d be giving Rome too much credit. Why not credit the Jewish influence going back all the way to the first century? After all, I distinctly remember as a child growing up Pentecostal that the Pharisees had gotten Judaism RIGHT, and Jesus came along and told them that they were stupid anyway. I secretly thought Jesus had been sort of hard on them. I couldn’t figure out why he was berating them for what they believe, when that was what God had told them to believe. I was apparently the worst kind of Scofield dispensationalist.

    Or maybe it’s not the influence of the Jews either or the Pharisees I should say, who misunderstood Judaism.

    Maybe, just maybe, there’s something inherent in man, something about being made in the image of God, that drives us to find a way to earn our salvation. Maybe the law (covenant of works) written on our hearts drives us to like what we hear when people tell us we can earn our own salvation, regardless of whose mouth it is that speaks it.

    So maybe if we say that the Pentecostal believes in faith and works for justification that it’s because of Rome, then we are giving Rome far more credit than they deserve. Maybe Rome is just a manifestation of those things we intuitively understand as creatures made in the image of God to imitate God, and maybe that understanding is the natural thing to believe if you don’t believe the gospel, or if you’ve never heard it.

    And lo and behold, we look at Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and all sorts of other -isms, and it turns out that they all believe in earning your salvation by works. So maybe Rome just appears influential because what they’re saying is the same thing the devil’s been saying from the beginning, that you can earn your own salvation, when he began to say, “Go ahead, eat the fruit, and it’ll make you like God.”

    My analogy only serves to make the point that perhaps you give the so called religious right too much credit. Maybe there’s some law written on our hearts that gives rise to a natural tendency to speak out against abortion as such an abomination against the natural law, against justice, that one cannot be silent.

    I do not care if every single baby that is murdered by his mother is a reprobate and destined for hell anyway. That makes no difference. I really don’t care about the increase in irresponsible sex in our society that much. It’s a shame, but that’s the world for ya. But making murder legal, that’s a real sorry state of affairs. The basic principles of justice have been thrown out.

    Look, the difference between me and the religious right is stark. They want to go to rallies. I’ve never been and am not interested in going. They see it as a moral obligation to go to rallies, I don’t. They think that if abortion is outlawed, progress will be made toward the return of Christ, I don’t. They think it’s the church’s job to transform culture, I think it’s the church’s job to be separate from the culture. They want to see the church rule over the state, I want to see their powers remain distinct.

    My point has always been, and remains, a reaction against you saying that as a Christian going to the polls that it doesn’t matter if a candidate is pro-abortion. It is irrelevant, you say. I say it’s self contradictory to elect a man to uphold and administer justice when that man fundamentally misunderstands justice. My point is a VERY reasonable one, and not even distinctly Christian. It’s an argument from natural law.

    The OPC’s statement to the state, its plea to keep abortion illegal is debatable. I don’t think the OPC was obligated to do that. I think it was her prerogative. For the most part, I agree with you. I don’t support the church telling the state that they should keep women out of combat or gays out of the military. My stance on those issues is irrelevant. The church shouldn’t be talking about those things.

    But what makes abortion unique is that it is such a monstrous abomination of justice. It is utterly contrary to the mandate of the state. Some mishandlings of matters of justice can be overlooked, but this one, in my opinion, is so vast and so horrible, that I think that the church can speak up. Well, the OPC spoke. It does not go on speaking, it does not pass an annual plea. It said it once, it did it once, and that’s it.

    Now, I’d be a fool if I said that transformationalist/theonomist tendencies didn’t have a role to play in getting that passed through the General Assembly. But it did pass, even though the OPC is not made up of transformationalists. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now. Is our denomination perfect? No, far from it. Has it gotten better since then? Yes, there has been vast improvement. Look at the justification report. What a great victory for the gospel! There’s still a long way to go in some key places, but the OPC by and large is not a postmill, transforming, theonomic denomination. And there are plenty of people in the W2K camp who admit that there can possibly come a time when it is appropriate for the church to plea with or speak to the state. When that time comes is certainly a matter of debate and of wisdom, but I personally believe in this the OPC did not err. But I’ve already said that in the other issues, it did.

    That is, however, a completely different issue than the point that originally spawned our discussion on the matter. The point that I’m really trying to advocate is that no, I see no way for a Christian in good conscience to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. It just makes no sense to me. I mean, don’t we, as Christians, have an obligation to be good citizens? Certainly, when we pursue justice in the civil realm, we don’t do so according to different rules than non-believers, right? But as Christians, aren’t we committed to the rules, since they’ve been given by God? Don’t we, as Christian participants in the state want to see the state uphold justice?

    My desire for the state to uphold justice is not a transformationalist desire. If there were a candidate from the religious right that wanted to make Islam illegal, I’d have just as much to say about that as well. I’d be arguing that a Christian cannot in good conscience vote for such a man, because his ideas are inherently unjust. Certainly it’s not transformationalist ideas that would make me say that, right? But I think that is consistent with my position on abortion, isn’t it?

    I only want justice in the civil sphere: blood for blood, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

    That entails that I’m just as pro-death penalty as I am anti-abortion. In fact, I think the death penalty ought to be assigned to abortion. Blood for blood, just like Gen 9 says, the common grace institution with Noah.

    Kline’s Kingdom Prologue, I think, is advocating the same principles I’m advocating here. You don’t get much more W2K than that, do you?

    E is for Enough.

  16. Zrim says:


    Ordination: OK.

    The rest: the problem as I see it is fairly simple. Your argument is really one that comports under the category of law (creation, etc.) Yet you blur the lines and force it under that category of gospel. You seem to think the gospel implies something specific about this particular issue. You don’t seem to allow that there are various answers to that which happens in the cultural realm. What about labor laws? What about international trade policy? Are these things somehow less obvious or less important than the issue of reproductive non/rights? Where are the church issued fatwas on worker compensation or trade embargo’s?

    The OPC comports under “church,” which itself comports under gospel. The church is an agent of gospel. Therefore, it has no business at all dispensing any sort of views on anything that is taken care of by the category of law. Jesus is sovereign over both spheres but rules over both differently: one by law, one by gospel. Agents of law have no business dispensing with grace, and agents of gospel have no business dispensing with law. Why is that so complicated?

    Another problem is that you seem to assume that only believers know how to do law right. But there are plenty of unbelievers who think about this social and political issue called abortion the same way you do. And there are believers who disagree with you. Yet you seem unable to compute either of those realities. Why are you so quick to say what a “Christian in good conscience can or cannot vote for”?

    “But I grew up in a household in which Sunday afternoons were spent with our Dad explaining to us how this or that was wrong or disagreeable or even of the devil. I can tell you that the effect it had on me was detrimental.”

    I think this actually explains a lot, Echo. It seems you come by much of your disposition and views fairly honestly. This must be why I always feel like I am spending all Sunday afternoon being told how this or that is wrong or of the devil or why the “disagreeable” factor is through the roof with you. When I say you are a Fundamentalist learning to be Presbyterian, now I know why that vibe was spot on. And now I know why that can be so frustrating for you.

  17. Echo_ohcE says:


    The church administers both law and gospel.

    Also I said that my view on abortion was not distinctively Christian.

    I also explained the difference between abortion and “labor laws”. On the latter, Scripture is silent.

    Believers who think that abortion can be legal apparently either don’t understand the law, our law, God’s law, or are antinomian for some reason or other.

    I have plenty of room for unbelievers that are against abortion. I said it’s about natural law.

    Natural law.

    General revelation.


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