These Have Been Precious Moments: But What Hath 512 10th Street to do with Geneva?

precious_moments

The recent election cycle has been fodder for a great many things. It has given rise to topics ranging from race relations to economic theories. And in religious circles it has afforded an almost constant chatter about that quintessential question in modern culture war and legislative conundrum called abortion. Speaking for many of us in one way or another John McCain attempted to describe his personal feelings on the topic by saying it’s one of those subjects he wished “would just go away.” Such candid remarks, coupled with an official platform to return rights back to the states, didn’t win him any hearty endorsements by the NLRC. Sharing its sentiment that an administration should push back as hard as Roe shoved, that was to be his running mate’s pleasure.

I never thought I’d think as much as I have about this one in the last few months. Truth be told, from the very beginnings of Christian faith I’ve always been more than a little suspect of all this pro-life stuff. Maybe I’m just cynical. But it may also be that my suspicion is borne from a desire to understand the actual theory of the Atonement or how sin and grace interplayed but told to wait whilst my lax politics were shored up. As I moved out of broad funda-evangelicalism and into a narrower confessional-Calvinism I suppose I presumed this suspicion would be matched. After all, it was the obnoxious culture wars which caused me to search out a better country in the first place. But I can’t seem to shake off the fact that, even though they answered the questions of the Atonement and sin and grace with unparalleled acumen, where my fellow conservative Calvinists more or less get in line with the pro-life movement I still find only equal hesitation.

I simply cannot get past the inherent moralism and self-righteous nature that is part and parcel of any movement-ism in general. My own sense of liberty cannot swallow how this movement takes captive consciences and breeds legalism. It is a legalism of citizenship which seems unable to distinguish between voting for a candidate and having an opinion on one issue. One often hears that to endorse a candidate who happens to have choice politics is tantamount to being a “material participant in murder” or some variation thereof. Equally disturbing has been the relative absence of push back by those who would otherwise be champions of conscience and opponents of legalism. If this is any measure, it seems that many confessional Presbyterians appreciably understand legalism to be something merely about substance use. But Drambuie and Cubans are little comfort to a conscience politically bound, especially one not especially given to liquor anyway.

I suppose since nobody else is going to say it I might as well: To my lights the pro-life movement is the political-legislative version of the Christian-American-family-values rhetoric. One may be much more embodied than the other which hovers in the hearts of those who laud and honor home and hearth, but they are species of the same genus. But arguably, they are both testimonies to contemporary manifestations of—gird thy loins—idolatry. It is not that I personally have anything at all against children and families. After all, I have plenty of each and am really quite fond of them. I like to think I have a high view of creation and understand children and families to be one part of the created order which was pronounced “very good,” emphasis on very. And, granted, there is much to be said for the fact that it is fuzzy line between the perfectly legitimate, even vigorous, pursuit of that which is very good and idolatry. So I don’t use the a-word flippantly, as some can be in the habit of doing, thereby ruining a perfectly good soccer game or a rousing election year.

But we Americans have a regard for children that can brink on, well, just weird. Consider how we routinely speak of children “deserving a better life than their parents.” Deserve, really? Have children done something more than consumers who are told they “deserve a break today”? Or consider the silent rule that grandparents have the uncontested right to “spoil their grandchildren.” We dress children in head-to-toe crash gear to peddle all of half a block. We create a creepy cottage industry of figurines called “Precious Moments” which actually seems to capture well how we angelize tykes. We are increasingly extending the age of adolescence and dependency. Where European and Asian cultures have something more akin to the seen-but-not-heard ethic, Americans not only adore (my thesaurus includes “deify”) their youth but are unapologetic—nay proud—about it. It seems one thing to enjoy and want to do well by one’s children, another to think they are actually entitled to things other classes of human beings aren’t by virtue of being them, including heroic protection of life and limb.

Thus, I do not think it a reach to suggest our culture’s swooni-o-sity over children is subject to a biblical touchstone against idolatry, nor by extension to suggest that whatever else the pro-life movement is the case could be made it is a “material participant in natal-idolatry.” OK, that may be to overstate things for rhetorical effect. But given that to suggest our culture idolizes material wealth and sexuality draws nary a gasp, it may take a certain acidity to get the point over that children are really no different.

Most Reformed are rightly guarded and even critical of family values rhetoric for what appears to be this very reason. Yet Calvinists are still curiously found within the ranks and employing the language and posture of the pro-life movement. Why would Reformed be at once able to see the potential hazards resident within the former but not the latter? Why is one more guilty as a front in the culture war battles while the other enjoys a sort of hands-off policy where Methodists, Mormons and Roman Catholics are co-belligerents? Yes, the triadalism of a two-kingdom theology recognizes the massive common sphere where believers and pagans may work shoulder-to-shoulder on a plethora of projects from mundane to heady. But that still doesn’t go very far in explaining why Calvinists easily spy idolatry in the stuff of “Christian-America-family-values” but get in lock-step with a movement that includes everything from a parlance of “human innocence” to a virulent moral indignation.

One possibility is that Reformed and Presbyterian don’t see this turning on concerns of idolatry so much as those of high culture and low culture. Salivating over books entitled, “Do Hard Things” and being often characterized by a penchant for high mindedness, Presbyterians seem to have a natural disdain for things more pedestrian and pietist. The Christian-America-family-values rhetoric, by its nature, seems given to a kind of low brow folksiness complete with cheesy sweatshirts, Thomas Kincaid atrocity and chintzy patriotism. By contrast, the pro-life movement is given to loftier contemplations about the things that remain like life, law, morality and ethics.

With their under-critical loyalty to the pro-life movement in view, it could be that what repels Reformed from family values rhetoric has less to do with recognizing idolatry and more to do with an impulse against low culture and an embrace of that which is merely enduring. But to my mind, as legitimate a taxonomy as that may be and whatever gains may be made by it, idolatry versus faithfulness is still what should compel the Reformed believer. After all, perfectly Christ-hating pagans easily know the difference between a beggarly and an abiding culture. And in light of the fact that we are told to “hate our lives” and that even our marriages and families will be dissolved in the age to come, what is enduring is nevertheless also fading in this present evil age. (If nothing else, this distinction might free up arid Presbyterians to enjoy doing easy as much as hard things.)

Of course, the other possibility is that moralism is indeed a siren song. It is hard for the flesh, even Reformed flesh, to resist law and be found on the right side of questions of justice. Just as I have nothing against children and families, I have nothing at all against justice or morality. It would be hard to get from one day to the next without such things. But there is a difference between a noble morality and an ignoble moralism. I know that line can be as fuzzy as the one between the pursuit of creation and idolatry. So I realize there are plenty who would that a genuine concern for what is right, true and good is another possibility to explain the Reformed discrepancy. To be fair, I don’t doubt that there is a good measure of authenticity that abides the rank and file.

Even so, I can’t help but think that a better Calvinism would exercise a more realistic assessment of what it means to join the human race over against sunnier doctrines of human innocence and subsequent entitlements. To be made in the image and likeness of God is indeed a dignity with certain implications that no other creature enjoys. But to be human is also to suffer the indignities of life east of Eden. It seems to me that as high a view of creation as Calvinism has it is necessarily outpaced by its doctrine of sin. Otherwise, neither creation nor grace may fully erupt and come to bear as they ought. In other words, even on its good days, whatever the pro-life movement is about, Calvinism is about much more.

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43 Responses to These Have Been Precious Moments: But What Hath 512 10th Street to do with Geneva?

  1. kazooless says:

    If possible to put what everybody knows about my predispositions, I will ask a question or two.

    In the moral law, if our catechisms are correct regarding what is required of us in the 6th commandment, how could the effort to abolish abortion be idolotry?

    Can you please provide a definition of “moralism” explaining how you use it?

    Thanks,

    Kazooless

  2. sean says:

    Man, lots of thoughts. I guess the one that rings the most true for me is idolatry. As a single man, I’ve seen it terms of discrimination in churches. He doesn’t have a wife or kids, he’s not really the demographic we’re looking for. It gets even worse when the matchmakers can’t get you to bite on what they profer; now you’re a potential problem, beware, lock up your daughters. There’s something wrong with him. I’ve for years attributed this suspicion more to the feminization in our culture spilling over into the church. The broad acceptance of promise keepers within many reformed churches seemed to have buttressed that thought. While that intuition may have some merit, I’ve now come to believe it’s primarily idolatry of the family. With the recent, maybe not so recent, increase in interest in “family churches”, family friendly services, the statistical success of our mormon friends with their family first PR campaign, and the incredible growing acceptance within reconstructionist, patriarchal camps of an old-line RC version of family planning and contraception. I think the horse is out of the stall so to speak. Family is god. Everything else, “get in line and genuflect as you go by.”

  3. Zrim says:

    Kazoo,

    Re how the efforts to abolish abortion could be idolatry, have you read my post? I really hate being repetitve.

    Re a definition of moralism, let’s consult Merriam-Webster:

    “One who is unduly concerned with the morals of others; someone who criticizes other people for not doing what he or she thinks is morally correct.” More or less, this is how I am using the term. There are other definitions, but my point is that I see a vital difference between a moral person and a moralist, a concern for morality and moralism.

    Or try reading this:

    https://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/2007/11/15/theologies-of-glory-versus-theology-of-the-cross-part-two-moralism/

    Or try this:

    1. A focus on external behavior.
    2. A sense of moral superiority toward those who don’t meet their standards.
    3. A corresponding agenda of moral reformation in the lives of individuals and society.
    4. A ministry of condemnation – i.e. it is very important to the moralist/phraisee to denounce sin.
    5. A separatist mentality – “the world” as the moralist or pharisee sees it, is a source of corruption and defilement which they must avoid.

    Sean,

    Good points. Outsiders often have a sense of these things insiders don’t. Since I am married with kids I am an insider, but I am with you completely (obviously). The phenomenon of “family churches” is really weird to me. It’s as if they think the church has something against families and needs a corrective. It’s like a school that says, “We’re a spelling school; we just love spelling, spelling, spelling! We do everything we can do encourage spelling.” Well, I would hope you have a sense of spelling and how it is a building block to learning. But…

  4. kazooless says:

    Jib: No, I just got a word of knowledge from the spirit that you used the word idolatry wrt abortion in your post.

    Jab: I’ve got access to the same dictionaries, but wanted to be sure I knew how you used the word so that if I use it in your context I won’t be equivocating.

    Serious: I’ll read it a second time (since I could have had distractions today while I read it the first time), and then I’ll re-phrase the question. But for now, I guess my re-phrase could be: “Had you considered the strong emphasis on the protection and preservation of life that the moral law commands as a possible alternative to idolatry?”

    (I’m trying to be nice here, and just participate in the reflective musings you mention in the about tab)

    kazoo

  5. brmorris says:

    kazoo,

    To speak to Zrim’s point, I think there are a few ways to differentiate between idolatry and a better view of “pro-life” activism.

    1. Is the pro-life cause the main focus of your life to the point to which your neighbors know you for your speaking against abortion, but have never heard the gospel? (What is more important?)

    2. Do you look down upon/condemn Christians that vote for or are sympathetic with pro-choice candidates (e.g., PE Obama)? (Even if they have abortion reduction reasons.)

    3. Do you assign blame to Obama voters for killing babies?

    4. Do you think of your pro-life vote in the booth as so powerful and effective as to never volunteer at or give to a crisis pregnancy center, work to help the poor in your community, support adoption agencies?

    5. Do you condemn those bad girls that murder their babies without realizing that you yourself are a murderer, too? (Matthew 5:21-26)

    6. Because of the pro-life views of a certain party, do you believe that all other economic, foreign policy, social policy, tax views of that party are also “Christian?”

  6. RubeRad says:

    So you’re not anti-pro-life, you’re just anti- the Pro-Life movement, because you see so many agitating for the wrong reasons (to Christianize society, because Dobson said so, …) and with the wrong means (the pulpit, the institutional church, …). But it would seem that your biggest beef might actually be with the cheesy sweaters.

    Just because the pro-life movement is full of lowbrow transformationalists, doesn’t make pro-life wrong; and that’s probably the reason that, even though you have ascended to highbrow circles, you still find pro-life sentiment. Even among those rarefied few who are aware of Kingdom-conflation; most are not so offended that they are willing to ditch the baby of pro-life in order to rid themselves of the Movement bathwater. On the contrary, if you find that there is a movement in your baby’s bathwater, the appropriate response is concern for the well-being of the baby, not for the purity of the bathwater!

  7. RubeRad says:

    Your best stuff in here, however, is about our tendency towards the idolatry of children. Reminds me of an old-school parenting advice-columnist I used to read in the paper, who was always reminding that children’s lives should revolve around their parents, not the other way around.

    But as true as that may be, I don’t see the logical connection that focus against abortion is idolatrous. There’s a big difference between deifying the happiness of a child, and making sure the child is alive.

  8. Zrim says:

    But for now, I guess my re-phrase could be: “Had you considered the strong emphasis on the protection and preservation of life that the moral law commands as a possible alternative to idolatry?”

    Kazoo,

    I am not trying to be cheeky at all, but seriously, did you read the post? I made plenty of room for the fact that this is something of a mixed bag of noble morality and ignoble moralism. What I am trying to do is to point out that the pro-life movement isn’t as free of biblical criticism as most of us seem to assume. You may disagree with that. But instead of looking for an alternative to the possibility of idolatry, don’t you think any of what I am suggesting is at least possible? Why are we quick to applaud the suggestion that we idolize money and sex but think children and families, even life itself, are off limits? Aren’t we told to hate our lives, and aren’t those who want to bury their dead before following Jesus considered unworthy of the kingdom?

    Like I said, to be made in the image and likeness of God is indeed a dignity with certain implications that no other creature enjoys. But to be human is also to suffer the indignities of life east of Eden.

  9. Zrim says:

    Rube said,There’s a big difference between deifying the happiness of a child, and making sure the child is alive.

    I’ll see your point about deifying a child’s happiness and raise you the child. That is my point. If we make this about a child’s mere happiness instead of the child then the force of much of what I am trying to say about natalism may be lost. I am no different than anyone else; I want my kids to be alive, happy, healthy and whole. I am as idolatrous as the next person.

    Re movements and bath water, if only it were that easy. But legislatively speaking, the pro-life movement wants me to be unsatisfied with states’ rights. The point here is that while the letter of the pro-life movement may have its merits, I am suspect of its spirit. Isn’t that what we are supposed to take captive for Christ?

  10. RubeRad says:

    I’ll see your point about deifying a child’s happiness and raise you the child.

    I thought that’s what I did!

    But legislatively speaking, the pro-life movement wants me to be unsatisfied with states’ rights.

    I’m not politically sophisticated enough to resonate with states’ rights arguments. Maybe your point is, truly consistent pro-lifers would be just as concerned (and activist) about abortion in Canada and Mexico as they are about abortion in their own and their neighbor’s State?

  11. RubeRad says:

    BTW, what would I find if I went to 512 10th St? (In what city?)

  12. Zrim says:

    Rube,

    Re the distinction between the happiness of a child and a child, what do you mean “that is what you did”? You drew a distinction between a child’s happiness and making sure he is alive. I get that. But I was trying to up the ante by saying there is a difference between the implications of being made in the image and likeness of God (the dignities of life) and being human east of Eden (the indignities of sin and death).

    I think the better pro-lifers actually are internationally concerned and activist. I don’t think consistency helps against the abiding idolatry though. To the extent that free-market enterprisers idolize covetousness and pornographers idolize flesh here at home, the point about idolatry doesn’t evaporate simply because they want to export capitalism or smut.

    You would find the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C.

  13. sean says:

    Rube,

    If the church had to countenance kingdom-conflation in order to save baby’s lives, should they do it? Not that you’re arguing for it.

    In lutheran circles there’s has been just this sort of hand-wringing as it regards Bonhoeffer’s stand against Nazi anti-semitism during WWII, and his abandoning/suspending a gospel of grace for a gospel of activism to “motivate” his congregation to save the lives of Jews. It’s a terribly relevant question to my mind, because I see any number, in fact most church bodies, who would be more than amenable to just such actions. It’s certainly understandable, I understand the compulsion, but then I look at Paul’s ministry and all the potential activist causes he could’ve used his standing to champion; child slavery, child prostitution, killing of POW’s for sport, polygamy et al. Instead he pulls out meat sacrificed to idols and it’s potential for sullying the conscience of newbies( a particularly ecclesiastical concern-idolatry), widows and orphans, in the church first, the poor and those in need in the church-first. Other than that don’t be sullied by the world-obvious deeds of the flesh. Stop visiting the temple prostitutes(again ecclesiastical concern first-an idol’s temple), Corinth-don’t applaud incest in your midst-even the heathen know better. Pray for those in authority, mind your own business, work with your hands. But in relation to what he could’ve pointed out, all the excesses in society at large not to mention the atrocities commited by the emperor’s cult, we get almost nothing, other than if they did it to your savior, do you imagine you’ll escape such treatment?

    I endeavor to preach/know nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified. Paul was nothing if not single-minded in his ministerial focus-the gospel “unfettered” to the gentiles and “Peter don’t let me find you confusing the issue again.”

    Now, if Paul couldn’t bother himself with correcting all the injustices in roman and greek society, and the list is long, and he had some clout to trade on, what does the church imagine it’s obligation is? It’s my contention that once the pulpit/church is used for something other than the gospel, that “other” is all it’s good for, you’ve traded on your authority to champion “whatever” and in doing so lost your authority and place to declare the gospel unfettered. It’s now the gospel plus (at best), which is no longer the gospel.

    Just some thoughts.

  14. Chris Sherman says:

    “Now, if Paul couldn’t bother himself with correcting all the injustices in roman and greek society, …”

    Paul in Romans 13 specifically puts this responsibility in the hands of the authorities which he says are those whom God has instituted for that purpose.

    But, what is the responsibility of the Christian believer when the “authorities” are not acting justly within their ordained role?

    Is it loving our neighbor to remain silent when he or she is murdered before they are born?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Chris,

    I guess two things come to mind. As it regards authorities we are specifically commanded to submit to and pray for them. Secondly, as you have opportunity to do good (gal.6:10)- particularly to those of the household of faith. That’s as straightforward as I understand to answer the questions, without rehashing all the underlying 2k underpinnings that I’m going to assume you’re in agreement with.- That’s for all my english teachers, time well spent.

  16. sean says:

    Sorry, that’s me at home-anonymous

  17. RubeRad says:

    In lutheran circles there’s has been just this sort of hand-wringing as it regards Bonhoeffer’s stand against Nazi anti-semitism during WWII, and his abandoning/suspending a gospel of grace for a gospel of activism to “motivate” his congregation to save the lives of Jews.

    That does sound very analogous; also sounds like an excellent post for the Outhouse. Maybe you can find some quotes, jot down some analysis on the back of a Sears catalog, and tack it onto the wall?

    and he had some clout to trade on

    Did he? Maybe that’s the root question: should the church have any clout? Should it reject all clout?

  18. adam says:

    We’ve been around the block on this before, WSC Q 68 says the sixth commandment requires the Christian to pursue “all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.”

    It seems “all lawful endeavors” would include the activities associated with the pro-life movement.

    We could also reference WLC Q. 135. for an expanded list of what the sixth commandment requires of the Christian.

    Q. 135 What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?

    A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

  19. David Cronkhite says:

    I wonder if it would be the same if they were murdering for convenience intellectuals rather than very young babies. (Though I probably wouldn’t need to worry……)

  20. Zrim says:

    All,

    This post isn’t so much about the political-legislative issue of abortion as-we-know-it as it is contemplation on what drives a certain side in that discussion (i.e. the nature of human beings). I know it can easily pull in the direction of the former. But the post assumes certain jurisdictional questions/answers about W2K, assumptions that render Bonheoffer something of a fatal breach to the spirituality of the church. After all, conspiring to murder a certain leader instead of pray for and render to him his due may sooth our 21st century American sensibilities, but I see no such sentiment in the NT.

    So assuming we all agree that the institutional church ought not to mettle in worldly affairs either directly or indirectly, here’s a question: If Jesus, whose humanity was made in the image and likeness of God and who was the only innocent human being, had to endure what it means to be human east of Eden (death), why do other human beings who are also made in the image and likeness of God but who are sinners, entitled to not have to endure what it means to live east of Eden (vigorous protection against death)?

  21. Chris Sherman says:

    As I recall, Bonhoeffer,an avowed pacifist, considered his involvement in the assassination plot to be outside of his orthodoxy. He told his friends that it would make him unfit for the pulpit if he should he survive the war.

    Zrim, the last past of your question doesn’t make sense to me, grammatically that is. I think I know what you are asking, but I don’t want to make an assumption.

  22. Bruce S. says:

    the last past of your question doesn’t make sense to me

    Murphry’s law strikes again. I love Murphry’s law.

  23. Chris Sherman says:

    I thought is was the second law of thermodynamics- entropy or something like that.

  24. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    My history may be fuzzy, but I don’t think he was all that innocent. And such activity makes one unfit for both pulpit and pew before, during or after either peace or war.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

    Be more specific: which part of the last part doesn’t make sense? I’ll fix it.

  25. Chris Sherman says:

    zrim,

    “why do other human beings who are also made in the image and likeness of God but who are sinners, entitled to not have to endure what it means to live east of Eden (vigorous protection against death)?”

    “why do other human beings….entitled to…” Isn’t making sense to me.

    did you mean “why are”?

    or “why do human beings… think they are entitled to…”?

    Forgive me if my brain isn’t working- entropy at work.

  26. Chris Sherman says:

    more on Bonhoeffer.

    http://www.rps.psu.edu/0005/bonhoeffer.html

    -skip past the opera part.

  27. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    Ah! Got it. Your brain is working, mine isn’t. So how about:

    If Jesus, whose humanity was made in the image and likeness of God and who was the only innocent human being, had to endure what it means to be human east of Eden (death), why are other human beings, who are also made in the image and likeness of God but who are sinners, entitled to not have to endure what it means to live east of Eden (vigorous protection against death)?

    (Thanks for the Bonhoeffer link. I’ll take a look.)

  28. Zrim:

    I’m totally with you on the moralism argument. Just because most (but not necessarily all) uses of abortion are sin, does that mean that it’s our duty to make it impossible for people to sin? I think it’s much more our responsibility to keep sin out of our own lives and those of our families than it is to keep sin out of society in general. Of course, I’m including both natural and spiritual families in that last bit.

    Certainly, “preserving the health of the mother” is a rallying cry for pro-choice activists, even when it’s merely an excuse based on not-necessarily-valid medical opinion. But what if that’s really the case, unequivocally, and either the mother or the child will certainly perish due to complications? Whose life matters more then? Is the movement to ban abortions wholesale considering cases like that? What about victims of rape who become impregnated (a whole plethora of other issues)?

    Even if pro-life activists have an opinion in those cases, who’s to say that legislation needs to reflect those opinions? Again we come to the issue of moralism. Would all pro-lifers even agree about what to do in such situations?

    I’m certainly not an advocate of the trend toward abortions by those who feel entitled to rid themselves of perceived “inconveniences.” But if there’s any case in which there may legitimately be a case for abortion, or if there’s even a legitimate question whether it’s a valid course of action (on a case-by-case basis), is it right to make blanket statements in opposition? Even if there is, don’t forget the words of Jesus in Luke 6:41: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Do we get to make sin illegal, or are we merely called to flee from sin?

  29. Anonymous says:

    zrim,

    But instead of looking for an alternative to the possibility of idolatry, don’t you think any of what I am suggesting is at least possible?

    Yes. Sure. I think it is possible and that you bring up some good points to think about. I think there is unbalance on both sides.

    I know you’re not being cheeky. Thanks for the nice tone.

    Kazoo

  30. Chris Sherman says:

    Zrim,

    “…entitled to not have to endure what it means to live east of Eden.”

    Is that the same thing as saying, “right to life”?- What gives us sinful humans a right to life?

    I would say, only the grace of God.

    Aug,

    Called to flee from sin, yes, also called to make disciples and commanded to love our neighbor.

  31. Zrim says:

    Aug,

    Again, this post has less to do with the legislative issue. But at the same time, I hear what you are saying. It is my contention that what lies behind much of the PLM, insofar as it seems invariably coupled with a concern for homosexuality, is sexual ethics. Distinct from wanting to safeguard what is right, true and good, I think much of it is a desire to institutionally, culturally, morally and socially punish particular classes of sinners.

    Kazoo,

    Thanks. You’re welcome.

    Chris,

    I would say it means, “right to not have to be subject to the same pains and injuries of life the rest of humanity is, up to and including death.” My reading of Calvinism sees an accent placed on the doctrines of sin and grace, not a right to life (nor to choice, for that matter). Like I said, Calvinism certainly has a high doctrine of creation and life, but its doctrines of sin and grace necessarily outpace those. This is what puzzles me about the fact that I find Calvinists amongst the PLM claiming their Calvinism drives their right to life views.

    What gives humans a right to life isn’t grace but law. If Calvinism places an accent upon grace what hath the PLM to do with Calvinism?

  32. Chris Sherman says:

    Seems to me like law condemns us.

  33. Zrim says:

    Chris said, “Seems to me like law condemns us.”

    That is true. But I think we have to get our categories of creation and redemption right here. That “the law condemns us” is a redemptive argument (read: second use), not a creational one (read: first use).

    If one wants to argue the “right to life” he must argue from law, not gospel. If one wants to use the redemptive argument that the “law condemns us” for a creational argument then he actually works against himself and seems to make way for everyone to be systematically exterminated in the here and now. I don’t think that is what you want, and I know I sure don’t.

    If I am reading you right, I think what may be in play here is categorical confusion: law and gospel, creation and redemption. I want my sheriff to rely on law in his dealings with evil doers, not grace. Again, since Calvinism places its accent not on law but on grace, and since the PLM, a subset of the larger culture war, is necessarily a project in law, I don’t understand why Calvinists want to be found in the ranks. It makes as much sense to me as when Christians want judges to suspend punishment from those who have done them creational harm on the redemptive grounds that we are to forgive our enemies.

  34. Chris Sherman says:

    Oh, that law.

    Well it seems the unborn can’t depend on it.

    Are the categories always so neat and cleanly divided?

  35. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    No, they aren’t. That’s the point. We are naturally prone to collapsing kingdoms and categories.

  36. Chris Sherman says:

    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly.

  37. Zrim:

    Yes. Collapsing categories is exactly what I was getting at before. I realize that I got a bit too specific into the public-policy side of things, but my main point was to show that these issues can’t be neatly packaged into boxes that have clear, consistent definitions and prescriptions.

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  39. kazooless says:

    z,

    just catching up. I still don’t quite get it though. Sure, you’ve got crazy’s in all sorts of organizations. But I have to say that I don’t think that the PLM, as a whole, is guilty of idolatry. Now, if someone was in the PLM and readily condemned everyone who wasn’t *active* in the PLM, then I’d say that person crossed the boundary. To me, that would be like a pastor condemning every laymen for not being a pastor. He would then be idolizing ‘pastorhood.’ I think that we need to recognized that there are many callings that God has for His people. Many members, one body. I personally am not *called* to be very active in the coordinated effort and organization of the PLM. But that doesn’t mean to me that *nobody* should be. As a Christian, I support the efforts of the PLM in general, I pray for it and God’s guidance, and try to support it in other ways too (like the local crisis pregnancy centers, the way I vote, etc.). But I don’t think that being involved in the PLM *necessarily* makes them guilty of idolatry, or that the movement as a whole in general is an idolatrous movement. On the contrary, I think that some people are actually called by God to be active in this PLM full time. But, yes, sometimes even some of them can go overboard and be guilty of this ‘idolatry’ you are speaking about.

    You say:

    I want my sheriff to rely on law in his dealings with evil doers, not grace.

    And I just want to take that statement, go back to the 6th commandment keeping in mind what the W Divines taught about it, <u.and agree with you. “I want my sheriff to rely on law [the 6th commandment in this case] in his dealings with evil doers [abortionists, aborionees, in this case], not grace.”

    Augmented, you say:

    I think it’s much more our responsibility to keep sin out of our own lives and those of our families than it is to keep sin out of society in general.

    There is a *class* of sin that all men want to keep out of society in general. This *class* of sin is called *crime.* So, the questions that must be answered, whether you’re a 2K guy, or an original Reformed (theocrat) guy like me, is what is sin but not crime and what is sin AND crime? (since all crime is sin).

    Arguing from a natural law standpoint, all men know and can reason that murder is not only sin, but it is crime. The magistrate is given to mankind by God’s common grace to protect us from criminals, punish criminals, and try to restrain criminals from committing crime. But, the magistrate is *not* to restrain or punish *sin* that isn’t crime (e.g. forsaking the assembly of one another).

    Now, what’s funny is that as one walks around in the “kingdom of man,” and interacts with unbelievers, you’ll rarely find a couple that is ‘pregnant’ refer to the thing growing inside as “a fetus” or as a “thing.” They naturally know and speak of ‘it’ as their “baby.” But when one wants an abortion, all the sudden they suppress that truth in unrighteousness and start calling ‘it’ by a Latin word that they really don’t know the translation for: “fetus,” which is just Latin for “baby.”

    I have a lot of fun with unbelievers that I talk to, not even knowing if they’re pro or anti abortion. But I’ll ask people (in the right circumstances of course) if they know what the Latin word for baby is. Most of the time they say “no,” and then I’ll let them know. I’ll end it at that, but I’ll bet you anything it’s a lot harder for them to think of “fetus” the same way ever again when they think about this whole abortion thing.

    Anyway,

    Blessings to all,

    Kazoo

  40. Kazoo:

    Of course crime is sin, and of course crime prevention is an aspect of government. However, as I’m sure you’ve read from me recently, my definition of which sins the government should explicitly label crime are those which cause apparent harm to citizens or their property. Please don’t take my comments out of context here; of course I recognize that crime is sin.

    However, when I said “I think it’s much more our responsibility to keep sin out of our own lives and those of our families than it is to keep sin out of society in general” (which you quoted above), the “we” I meant was explicitly the church. The church has no power to exact punishment for crime, just as the state has no power to discipline non-criminal sin.

  41. kazooless says:

    The church has no power to exact punishment for crime, just as the state has no power to discipline non-criminal sin.

    To that statement, I can agree. And I think we can leave it at that. 🙂

    kazoo

  42. Zrim says:

    Kazoo,

    My point really doesn’t have much at all to do with what lawful thing someone should or should not be involved with. If I may be so bold, I think your language may be betraying your own set of categories that trample Christian liberty. If one feels compelled to sympathies for something like the PLM, fine. But my point is that the touchstone of biblical Christianity leaves no tradition of men free from criticism. The PLM is more cause for hesitation for me than it is for you.

    We agree that a “right to life” is grounded in law, not grace. However, since Calvinism puts its accent on grace, I am not sure what interest Calvinists as Calvinists have in a project grounded in law. Moreover, while I think we agree that the interests of life are grounded in law I would hazard that we depart from each other when it comes to the wisdom of hitching the gospel’s star to the wagon of any movement grounded in law.

  43. kazooless says:

    Z,

    Yes, it’s definitely that we hold a different paradigm with regards to the law/grace distinction.

    We are told to obey the gospel. How does that fit into your nice neat little categories of law and grace? Isn’t obedience law, and gospel grace?

    As an aside, the short amount of time I actually ‘did’ participate actively in the PLM on the street, I witnessed many people hearing the gospel. Many people are brought to Christ through the confrontation of ‘the law,’ with a realization of their sin and deep need for Christ. When someone is about to murder their baby, oftentimes God will use that to prick their conscience and make them alive to the wonderful gospel of our savior Jesus Christ.

    kazoo

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