Kingdoms & Cows

 
sacred cows
 

A recent broadcast of the White Horse Inn took up the subject that warms the heart of any two-kingdom believer: religion and politics. While the gateway drug out of broad evangelicalism to Reformed theology for most seems to be matters of soteriology, mine was the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Granted, I was pleased to find that about two feet into Reformed theology I ran into that which helped solve my own soteriological conundrums (and then ecclesiology and eschatology and worship); it was two kingdoms that made sure the smoldering wick did not snuff out entirely as I stood at the trailheads of Rome. And so, when I found out this was the topic at hand I felt I had every right to bow out of my Sunday night bed-time duties and tune in. I know where they dug up Darryl. But how did they find a Dem strategist and former Republican Attorney General that conversant in the two kingdoms? I need the WHI producers to help me comb beaches for gold, and there are some haystacks of mine that need needling.

The first and second broadcasts were all good stuff to be sure. In the second Horton finally got around to trying to make things more concrete and applicable by addressing that sacred cow in the living room: abortion. How does any of this come to bear on this issue? Is there anything the church has to say? If so, what and how? If anyone thinks this issue isn’t the queen mother-sow that puts two-kingdom theology to the test it might be worth noting that it was almost as if Horton’s other example, torture, was never uttered, so to speak.

The responses were varied and interesting and involved a lot of language about “caution and slippery slopes,” etc. But part of Hart’s response was to point out the crucial matter of jurisdiction. He made reference to his own OPC’s efforts in issuing statements on abortion. The church may and should really only make certain stipulations for those over whom she is ordained. The upshot here is that if a member of the church either has or performs such a procedure the idea would be that she or he could be subject to discipline, which got me thinking in another direction not necessarily intended by the discussion but one I have wondered about before.

The point of jurisdiction is absolutely crucial to any two-kingdom theology and is thus well taken. But while there is place for the matter of jurisdiction, I still have my own set of hesitations as to the wisdom of such official statements as those against abortion. Is what is going on in these formulations really about jurisdiction or a clever way to join in the fray of cultural influence?

Bear with me. I have a prescription to medication for eczema. Part of the instructions includes exhortations not to put the stuff into my eyes. Now, I can only presume that such an odd instruction has found its way to the printed litany of warnings only because enough people out there have mistakenly put this stuff into their eyes for whatever reasons. There are no warnings to not stuff into my ears, though it is entirely possible I might since I also have hay fever which causes itching in my ears and throat, which may lead dimmer bulbs to try and relieve their irritation with it. I reveal this sort of unsavory information only to make a point. It would seem to me that any organization, sacred or secular, puts forth specific rules about conduct only insofar as it perceives that conduct to really be more probable than possible. Otherwise, there is no end to exhortations. Are there really enough members of the OPC who are contemplating either performing or having an abortion to warrant the resources it takes to issue such statements? Given what I know generally about persons of both religious conviction and access to means and resources, I bet I would be hard-pressed to find a lot of members of the OPC honestly wrestling with these behaviors.

Generally speaking, much of the anti-abortion culture relies on a good dose of caricature as to what precipitates abortion. For lack of a better term, I call it the “sorority syndrome,” because it seems to lean on the idea that most abortions are the result of a sort of morning-after whim employed to cover one’s tracks; the people having abortions are not so much those without resources and means who find themselves in a complex situation as it is the hung over sorority girl who needs to fix her mistake tooth sweet. This is convenient reasoning in order to stigmatize the counter arguments. After all, if it can be established that what precipitates most abortions is something that offends the decency of most people regardless of their particular politics instead of a more difficult and involved set of circumstances the battle is much easier. To be fair, those with femme-politics tend to do this same thing, characterizing those with fetus-politics as liable in the “oppression of women,” something that equally offends the decency of most people. But casting the debate as between those who want to kill babies/those who want to save babies or those who want to liberate women/those who want to oppress women really only serves as moralist tactics to easily locate the good guys and bad guys.

For better or worse, I would tend to believe that most situations in which termination is contemplated are the result of sexual misconduct, like fornication and adultery. And so another aspect to this issue I rarely find conservative religionists considering is that the Bible actually has a lot more to say about sexual ethics than it does about particular legislation concerning reproductive non/rights, Psalm 139 notwithstanding. Moreover, I realize the politico-sensationalism which attends this issue is much more exciting to entertain for everyone. But in the real world most inhabit a person who finds herself in the sort of situation that includes this possibility most likely isn’t proudly roaring about her individual rights but has come to the predictable end of a series of bad decisions and not a little dysfunction. And so, if the argument has something to do with discipline, which itself has a lot more to do with restoration, statements like these project about zero spiritual care and convey more a tone of moral vitriol and punishment. A concern for our own might actually result more in a silence in the midst of brouhaha than in joining the cacophony of pundits. Or do we seriously imagine that one of our own who indeed messed up would actually seek the comfort and balm of a church that carries on more like a pundit than a pastor?

Also, intermingling with more proper religious concerns, the statements against abortion co-exist with statements about women in combat and homosexuals in the military. Again, is there a plethora of homosexuals in the OPC who are demanding they be allowed to serve in the armed forces which needs to be beat back? Something tells me that there probably even less homosexuals railing for military rights in the OPC than there are religious women of means who have committed either fornication or adultery scattering left and right to obtain abortions. And if the reasoning for the abortion statement is to convey that discipline will result for those who participate, are we seriously to understand that any OPC females who fly fighter jets over Iraq will face the same sanction?

Well, at the risk of having to find a corner in the Outhouse, and while it would be nice to believe, it seems pretty plain to me that what is really going on with these sorts of statements is something more than exercising the implications of a proper jurisdiction. If we were really so concerned about the possibility that someone might do something morally questionable yet legal one has to wonder where all the statements against lending bad mortgages are. While they may be forthcoming, I suspect we won’t finally see any.

To be blunt, ecclesiastical statements against abortion seem more a way to circumvent the spirituality of the church than wisely govern one’s own. In every doctrine there is both a letter and spirit. Pastors may very well not be reading prescribed sermons from Operation Rescue or the Family Research Council, thereby innocent of not violating the letter of the law. But since the wisdom of such statements seems quite wanting, I can only conclude that these are creative ways to engage in the so-called culture wars without actually doing it. Lest it appears I am picking on the OPC I have long suspected that my own CRC is held fairly captive by the siren song of cultural progressivism. And what I have learned as I inhabit the CRC and watch encyclicals issued forth by the OPC is that across the board even Reformed and Presbyterian enclaves would rather be found standing up for one conception or another of justice than holding out the gospel, all the while murmuring something about salt and light. Like sin itself, it seems the desire to be culturally influential is an equal opportunity affliction.

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55 Responses to Kingdoms & Cows

  1. Matt Yonke says:

    It seems like there’s some cultural issues clouding the way you’re thinking about abortion.

    Let’s start at the very basic start. Is abortion homicide? Is it the murdering of a human being? If it is, then it does not exist on the same moral, legal or any other plane as bad lending practices.

    If you had two people in your Church, one a murderer (let me state for the record that abortionists are murderers, women who obtain abortions are not, but this is, of course, a whole other conversation) and one a crafty lender, skimming a bit off the top from the unsuspecting poor, both are sinners in need of rebuke and restoration.

    But there are two very different levels of wickedness going on here and, let’s be frank, we need to triage.

    When there is a mass murderer loose in an area who may strike again at any time, it is unlikely you will find police spending much time weeding out that guy with three unpaid parking tickets. There is a grave and dangerous evil at large that must be stopped.

    So it is with abortion and other social ills. Sure, the guy with the parking tickets needs to be brought to justice. We’ve got to maintain order here. But people’s lives are at stake.

    This moral wrangling about complex situations and people with few options just doesn’t enter into it. I’m loathe to take up the WWII analogy, but if Hitler had agreed to reduce the number of Jews he was killing, or work to make the situations such that Jews wouldn’t be such a nuisance so he wouldn’t have to kill quite as many, no one would have brokered a deal.

    The only way to separate the analogy from the reality of abortion is to deny the humanity of the unborn child.

    Also, I would caution you against the hubris with which you assume that women in your communities are not procuring abortions.

    There are plenty of fine upstanding businessmen who have no interest in undergoing the public scandal of a teenage daughter with a child out of wedlock, and you’d better believe the Presbyterian communities have them just like everyone else.

    That’s to say nothing of the large number of people who would rather undergo a safe, simple and private medical procedure that no one ever need know about than risk their nice retirement on having another child at this stage in the game.

    The lurking problem of abortion in upstanding communities is almost akin to the lurking porn problem in those same communities. No one talks about it, no one preaches about it, cause, hey, we all know that’s wrong. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it.

    Shoot, isn’t that why we preach? We all know what’s right and wrong, the ministry of the word exists to be that constant thorn in our side that will not let us shove it to the back of our minds.

  2. Zrim says:

    Matt,

    You seem to be starting with the assumption that all killing is equal and no distinction can be made from an abortion to shoving people into ovens. Yes, I’d rather have my bank account drained than my daughter murdered because they are two very different things, but my ex vitro daughter murdered on the street at the hands of a thug is very different from my in vitro grand-daughter dying in clinic at the hands of my ex vitro daughter and her doctor.

    But the basic effect of your argument is this: “do you want to side with baby-killers or not? If you disagree with me then you are making the world safe for nothing short of holocausting.” You start at decibel 10 and suggest that if someone claims the music is too loud he’s got a hearing problem and probably hates music.

    And I’m not saying abortions aren’t happening in our midst, rather that I’m not sold they are happening at fantastic levels. I know your cause relies on the idea that it’s ubiquitous in every circle and by-passing certain realities that would suggest it’s higher in one place than in another (’cause we just gotta stop this thing). But this only seems to be an extension of the refusal to distinguish between kinds of killing. In fact, it sounds a lot like choicers I know who want to make the case that conservative Republican lawmakers are hypocrites because they’re all sneaking their daughters off to clinics while pushing anti-abortion laws. Sounds great, and I’m sure this happens, but I don’t buy this inflation of reality in order to sell the “their hypocrites, therefore we’re right” thing. I guess you both think I’m naive.

  3. Matt Yonke says:

    but my ex vitro daughter murdered on the street at the hands of a thug is very different from my in vitro grand-daughter dying in clinic at the hands of my ex vitro daughter and her doctor.

    Good, I’m glad we have finally gotten to the heart of the matter. I feel like we’ve been dancing around it for a while now.

    What, exactly, is the difference between your fully human, DNA and all, fully made in the image of God, granddaughter dying at the hands of the abortionist and your daughter dying at the hands of anyone?

    This is the absolute crux of the issue and I’m glad you raised it.

  4. Matt Yonke says:

    Blerg, I meant to add the following:

    I do absolutely acknowledge differences between different kinds of killing. Killing without intent, or in a just war, or within the confines of lawful capital punishment are all provided for within the teachings of the Church.

    Killing a human being who is not a soldier, or an accidental killing, or a cognizant human who has knowingly and with premeditation killed another is a completely different situation than killing a human being because they are inconvenient, which is without question what all elective abortions are doing.

  5. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    Do you know exactly when the OPC’s General Assembly made its statements on abortion, gays in the military, etc? I mean what year did these things take place?

    One might be tempted to think that it was just last year, and that these things were passed with no debate.

    I am not competent to analyze the entirety of the OPC, where it’s come from, where it’s going, but from where I’m sitting, the OPC has been doing a lot more maturing these days, and the future keeps looking brighter, theologically speaking, for the OPC all the time in my opinion.

    No, the OPC isn’t perfect, but I suspect these statements wouldn’t or even couldn’t be passed today.

    However, I would just add that perhaps voting members of the GA might have voted in favor of something like this as the lesser of two evils when compared with voting against it. Consider the consequences of the OPC’s GA voting AGAINST a statement against abortion. The OPC’s reputation would be dragged through the mud all over the place. They probably should have just not voted at all. But seriously, I feel very strongly about the two kingdoms, and I would definitely rather vote in favor than against something like that, IF I absolutely had to vote one way or the other.

    All I’m saying is, the OPC passing something like these things doesn’t mean the OPC is a bunch of theonomists, as MANY TO THIS DAY ALLEGE.

    Not that you alleged that, but it’s a very common allegation these days, and I just thought I’d mitigate against that here.

    Now, because I don’t agree with you on certain things, I’m far less concerned about the statement on abortion. I am concerned, however, about the statement on gays in the military. But when was this published? 1993. I think the OPC has changed significantly since then, thanks in large part to the efforts of men like Kline, Hart, Horton, DVD, etc.

    I’m not just whislin’ dixee. I think the creation report and the justification report are clear signs of maturation in the denomination. And there are other signs that point to the same thing, namely a movement away from fundamentalism. Let’s be honest: the OPC was formed as a reactionary church against the liberalism of the Presbyterian mainline. That it might be plagued with fundamentalism shouldn’t be surprising. But what I’m saying is that that was not the original essence of the OPC, and more and more people are realizing that.

    Anyway, just thought I’d add that in there.

  6. Wayne says:

    Zrim,

    For the life of me I can’t seem to find the broadcast to which you refer. Can you help me out on this one? Thank You!

  7. Zrim says:

    Wayne,

    This post is actuallya re-post from the fall. The link was to the September 21 & 28, 2008 broadcasts. It looks like their available archives stop at Nov. 2008. SOrry. You might contact WHI directly and see about getting it.

  8. RubeRad says:

    Are there really enough members of the OPC who are contemplating either performing or having an abortion to warrant the resources it takes to issue such statements? Given what I know generally about persons of both religious conviction and access to means and resources, I bet I would be hard-pressed to find a lot of members of the OPC honestly wrestling with these behaviors.

    As long as there are OPC churches with teenage girls, there will be OPC members who have to wrestle with the temptation to go solve a problem quietly.

    I agree with you (and Echo) that the statements on women & gays in the military seem ridiculously out of place. Maybe you can do some homework for the rest of us and scan those reports to see how/whether they attempt to justify their own existence. Also, I’d be interested to know whether the abortion report is aimed at scolding congress, or training OPC shepherds in how to take care of sheep.

  9. Zrim says:

    Matt,

    I’m not sure what “exactly” the difference is. Maybe it’s the same one that causes most people to celebrate a birthday based upon the literal birthday and not the moment of conception? But it seems to me that if your assumptions are right then I should tell my two daughters, who just celebrated their 7th and 11th birthdays, they are really closer to 8 and 12? I suppose in some sense that’s true, but I’ll stick with conventional wisdom about all this.

  10. Zrim says:

    As long as there are OPC churches with teenage girls, there will be OPC members who have to wrestle with the temptation to go solve a problem quietly.

    Actually, my point in all this is that the real problem is the sexual behavior that result in considering the option. I think we miss biblical forests for worldly trees when we think certain surgical procedures (as weighty as those are) outweigh NT ethics that seem replete with sexual ethics.

    I’d be interested to know whether the abortion report is aimed at scolding congress, or training OPC shepherds in how to take care of sheep.

    If taking care of the fold is the point where are statements on plenty of other social phenomenon that sheep are just as vulnerable to? Stealing and coveting are just as much a commandments as killing, so how about a statement on writing or taking bad mortgages? My guess is that because it’s absent the aspect of sex we won’t see anyone get too worked up. Sex gets people riled.

  11. Todd says:

    Echo,

    While I agree the OPC is not a bunch of theonomist/funamentalists, I am not quite as optimistic as you that Kline/Horton have much influence in the OPC. The report on women in the military was not that long ago, and it passed fairly easily.

    I don’t think the abortion report should have been written. I think Zrim is correct, it seems to be a way of saying, see, we care about cultural issues, look at the abortion report, while still trying to maintain some semblence of spirituality of the church. Have you read Paul Whooley’s minority report against the OPC abortion report? Great stuff.

  12. Echo_ohcE says:

    Good grief. If you guys would just click the link to the OPC reports that Zrim provided, you would see that the reports on Abortion came out in 1971 and in 1972. Roe V. Wade was in 1973. The point: the country was debating on this at the time. Wise observers could probably see that it was only a matter of time before the murder of unborn children became legal. It is no violation of the 2 kingdoms for the church to plea with the state not to violate justice in this way. If the state wanted to outlaw Christianity, would the church have to remain silent in order to keep from violating the separation of 2 kingdoms? Abortion is not just a cultural issue. It’s a moral issue, and one that is unambiguously answered in Scripture: “Thou shalt not kill.” The Church administers the law and the gospel. If the State wanted to legalize stealing, can’t the church remind the state that that would be wrong?

    In the case of gays in the military, everyone agrees that this shouldn’t have been discussed. But honestly, 1993 is a LONG time ago. A LOT has changed since then. Again, I doubt that a similar report would pass today. The thing you should remember though is that the OPC has chaplains who serve in the military. Undoubtedly this passed mostly as a way of supporting them. And in those days the theonomists had more influence. They have a LOT less influence now.

    When it comes to women in the military, while still unwise, there is a pastoral element to it. The young women in our churches ought to be advised not to join the military. If the Lord wills and I become a pastor, if any young woman asks me if she should join the military I’ll say no, she shouldn’t. Why? Because I’ve been in the military, and I know how girls are treated and what happens to them. I know the many indignities they are subjected to. The military is no place for a woman.

    But at the same time, I’d have to remind her that joining the military is not a sin; it violates no law. And I would tell her that if her heart was really set on it, she should join the Air Force, and definitely not the Army or the Navy, and I would literally beg her not to become a Marine.

    Nonetheless, these reports on the military shouldn’t have been passed. There was no need for them. Like I said, it is probably chaplains who pleaded with the Assembly to pass them, in order to lend them support or some such thing.

    The OPC has never been theonomist in its bent, but there has always been some who leaned that way and others who didn’t always understand why and how that was wrong. Zrim, remember the quotes I posted about Van Til’s view of Christian Education. Two Kingdoms theology has just not been on the radar screen in the OPC for most of its history. Only since Kline really has it gotten a lot of face time with the ministers of the OPC. But if Kline brought it to the attention of the OPC, DVD is really increasing awareness of it. And more will come.

    But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that DVD’s stuff on natural law, only now starting to show up in print, is a necessary corrective to some misunderstandings about Van Til. There are people who raise Van Til’s apologetics to the level of a central dogma. The antithesis he taught has been elevated to one of the single most important things in all theology by more than just a few. I thought that way for a long time. Then I came to seminary and realized that it was a whole lot less important than I thought. But there are a lot of guys who spend all their time reading about it, thinking about it, and talking about it.

    Well, we can see what Van Til’s own views on education were. He elevated his antithesis to a central dogma, and where he ended up was a sort of proto-theonomy. Bahnsen himself, perhaps one of the biggest proponents of theonomy, was one of Van Til’s most devoted students. In fact, many people say that if there was no Van Til, there’d be no theonomy in the OPC.

    Natural law, in all this, was lost, but now is found. Lots of very smart, very wise ministers are still wondering if DVD’s take on natural law can be reconciled to Van Til’s antithesis. DVD is even now on sabbatical, working on a book on natural law, among other things. This will be a question that he’ll need to answer thoroughly and convincingly. And when he does, theonomy will be even further marginalized than it already is.

    You see, the theonomists suffered what they consider to be a great defeat in the passing of the creation report. Theonomists also tend to be fundamentalists who insist on a 6 – 24 view of creation. Theonomists also tend to confuse the lines between law and gospel – thus when the justification report was passed, those theonomists friendly to FV or NPP were dealt a strong blow. Don’t forget that Norm Shepherd, a big name in the FV movement, was an OPC minister at one time, and was the Systematic Theology professor at Westminster Philly for an entire generation of OPC pastors, with VERY few exceptions. Thus many of the older pastors in our denomination were quite soft on Shepherd for that reason. And because Van Til has been so hailed for what he has done, a lot of them have been soft of theonomy. But these recent events of the last decade or so, the creation report and the justification report, among other things, have demonstrated a shift in the OPC for the good. There is a lot of reason for optimism.

    Kline is very influential. While there is a minority of people in the OPC who have some hard feelings about Kline, for the most part people agree with him. Old dogs are learning new tricks.

    But DVD is nothing short of teflon. I was there when the study committee on justification was erected. Almost every single commissioner voted him onto that committee. He got I think 138 votes out of like 145-150 commissioners. He’s teflon because no charge sticks to him. Everybody, both small and great, theonomist and die-hard law/gospel advocate, all the way to the radical redemptive-historical folks – all of them speak well of DVD. His influence is enormous. People listen to him. Who else could have CHAIRED a study committee on justification in the OPC that had Dick Gaffin on it? Dick Gaffin, the darling of the OPC, professor to probably more than half the ministers now serving in the OPC, he was elected to the committee, but not made the chairman. Who else but DVD could have written a report on justification, with Gaffin as a co-author, that really didn’t have much of Gaffin’s distinctives? Where’s the hyper-emphasis on union with Christ? Where’s the emphasis on an already-not yet understanding of justification? Where’s the emphasis on the resurrection of Christ as being the entirety of the ordo salutis?

    In fact, Gaffin’s distinct ideas are so absent from the report that one person stood up at the General Assembly and tried to call Gaffin out on it. But Gaffin stood his ground – quite passionately I might add. I was there too, when the justification report was passed. Gaffin stood up and vociferously owned the justification report as his own.

    I don’t know how DVD did it. I don’t doubt the other men on the committee also helped. And of course, all the glory goes to God for what he has done. But the fact is, the new and novel things, such as Gaffin’s hyper-emphasis on union with Christ, the theonomy which we got from Van Til (kind of) and the nonsensical understanding of covenant theology that we got from Murray – all these things are getting corrected, and it has been taking place only in about the last decade or so.

    Furthermore, WSCAL is putting out more OPC pastors these days than Westminster Philly. The old school reformation theology of Turretin and Witsius is taking over in the OPC, thanks in large part to DVD and others like him. But once upon a time, in the OPC it was only Kline who stood opposed to Murray. It was because he took his stand that DVD now stands, and he is not alone. Many are standing, and the church is being purified.

    So you can all be skeptical and talk about 15 year old reports that have other explanations and insist that the OPC is simply full of theonomists if you want, but such thinking is not in keeping with the pulse and mood of the OPC. The OPC is waking up from its slumber. It is maturing. Many have been humbled and are softening towards those who disagree with them.

    And seriously, if you don’t think Horton has much influence in the OPC, just go up to any member of the OPC at random and ask them if they know who Michael Horton is. I’d bet they do know who he is, that they’ve read at least one of his books and loved it, and that they have listened to at least a few episodes of the White Horse Inn. Many are IN the OPC because of coming into contact with Horton.

    Does that mean Horton can go and make a speech at the General Assembly, and simply based on his reputation alone, the GA would vote in favor of whatever he says? No. But the number of ministers who had Horton as a professor is growing steadily, and the number of laymen – and elders – who are reading and listening to Horton is also growing steadily. With every day that passes, with every book he writes, every issue of Modern Reformation that comes out, every episode of the White Horse Inn that is broadcast on the radio and the internet – every day his influence only grows.

    But as I said, I’m not really qualified to analyze the mood and pulse of the OPC. I probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

  13. Todd says:

    “Good grief.”

    Echo, you seem to be writing with a lot of passion, which I rarely do on blogs, so I’m not sure how you’ll take my words, but here goes.

    “It is no violation of the 2 kingdoms for the church to plea with the state not to violate justice in this way.”

    I think it is. I know abortion is always the test case when demonstrating the instance where the church can confront the state on how to enforece law, but I am going to be consistent as I can and say abortion law is not an exception to the 2k position. Why one commandment and not the other? Why “do not kill” but no word to the state on “do not steal”

    And the state is not putting anyone to death. If you want to confront the sin of abortion, when you come into contact with an abortion doctor, and you are sharing the gospel, or with a woman getting an abortion, why not tell them what the Bible says about it? I cannot go beyond that as a minister.

    “If the state wanted to outlaw Christianity, would the church have to remain silent in order to keep from violating the separation of 2 kingdoms?”

    The church might plead with the state to reconsider, as Calvin did to the king of France, but that is different than telling the sstate how to govern. But in your example the church is seeking to protect the gospel, which is her calling.

    “Abortion is not just a cultural issue. It’s a moral issue, and one that is unambiguously answered in Scripture: “Thou shalt not kill.””

    The legality or legal enforcement against any crime is more than a moral issue, it is a legal issue for the state, not the church. Hinduism is as serious a sin as abortion, but that has nothing to do with whether it should be legal or not. (Yes, I disagree with the “only enforce Second table approach” also.)

    “The Church administers the law and the gospel. If the State wanted to legalize stealing, can’t the church remind the state that that would be wrong?”

    The Law the church administers is the law that drives all people to Christ, not laws of states.

    “When it comes to women in the military, while still unwise, there is a pastoral element to it.”

    No one denies that there are no good pastoral impulses driving any of these reports.

    “The young women in our churches ought to be advised not to join the military. If the Lord wills and I become a pastor, if any young woman asks me if she should join the military I’ll say no, she shouldn’t.”

    That would be a violation of your calling. Yes, use your experience to warn her of possible difficulties, but saying “no”; only if you can put “Thus says the Lord” behind it.

    “The military is no place for a woman.”

    I know young Christian women doing very well in the military. I respect your opinion, as long as you remember it is only opinion.

    “But at the same time, I’d have to remind her that joining the military is not a sin; it violates no law.”

    Then why tell her “no?” as stated above?

    ” Nonetheless, these reports on the military shouldn’t have been passed. There was no need for them. Like I said, it is probably chaplains who pleaded with the Assembly to pass them, in order to lend them support or some such thing.”

    Yes, you are correct on this.

    “The OPC has never been theonomist in its bent,”

    We never claimed it was.

    “But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that DVD’s stuff on natural law, only now starting to show up in print, is a necessary corrective to some misunderstandings about Van Til.”

    I’m not a rocket scientist, I only play one in the pulpit, but Van Til still rules the day in the OPC. But DVD’s writings are refreshing and helpful.

    ” There are people who raise Van Til’s apologetics to the level of a central dogma. The antithesis he taught has been elevated to one of the single most important things in all theology by more than just a few.”

    Preaching to the choir now. Amen

    “There is a lot of reason for optimism.”

    Yes, we never argued that the OPC was Shepherdite or weak on justification. You seem to be taking an all or nothing approach. For example, you write, “you can all be skeptical and talk about 15 year old reports that have other explanations and insist that the OPC is simply full of theonomists if you want, but such thinking is not in keeping with the pulse and mood of the OPC…”

    Who said the OPC is full of theonomists? Your zeal may be causing you to overreact here. I think some good things are happening in the OPC also, though I wouldn’t go so far as waking up from slumber, etc…. The post was on the GA reports and if they are consistant with 2k. I don’t think things have changed so dramatically that the women in military report would fail today. I’m an a-mil – I can’t be too optimistic about anything!

    “But as I said, I’m not really qualified to analyze the mood and pulse of the OPC. I probably have no idea what I’m talking about.”

    You sure wrote a lot for someone who has no idea what he is talking about! Seriously, I wonder if your view is colored by being in the seminary community, as my view is by being outside of it.

  14. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    Please see if you can arrange a pastoral internship with Todd. Something tells me his Jewish background might be a very helpful corrective for your Pentecostal one (c’mon, that was funny).

    Who knows, maybe you can get him turned around on weekly communion. But you’re both good on the final 2K frontier known as education.

    P.S, Echo, try imagining telling that young woman her vocational choice is none of your bees wax, so long as it is lawful. Don’t you want to be able to tell someone, “That’s not my jurisdiction or pay grade. Leave me alone, I have work to do”? You really don’t have to be all things to all men…or women.

  15. Echo_ohcE says:

    Todd,

    Note that I don’t think the OPC should have spoken on abortion. But I also don’t think they violated their place in the world by doing so. I haven’t read the report (I’m not interested), but it is obviously intended to persuade the state not to make murder legal. Unwise because possibly setting a bad precedent? Perhaps. Unlawful violation of the two kingdoms doctrine taught in Scripture, undermining the spirituality of the church? No. Legalizing murder is a spiritual issue, and the Bible speaks to it.

    The Bible speaks of the foundation of the state in Gen 4. God instituted the state as an institution of common grace, revealed at the very beginning to Cain, as Kline argues, and reiterated to Noah. As the keepers of special revelation, the church has some very limited warrant to speak to the state, reminding it of what God said at its institution (as recorded in Scripture). Legalizing murder is the very opposite of the divine intention of the state. The state exists to punish murderers by putting them to death, as Scripture says. To legalize murder is for the state to no longer be the state anymore. I just don’t see how it’s outrageous for the church to speak up here.

    Nonetheless, I’m not arguing that the OPC should have passed the report, nor am I arguing that it is wise, but only that it is permissible.

    Telling the state not to have gays in the military or women in combat is in a completely different class and has absolutely no warrant whatsoever. These do very much violate the 2K doctrine taught in Scripture, and I find it regrettable.

    As for what I would tell a young woman considering the military, note that I did not say, “No, you CANNOT join”, but my “no” response would be in response to the question, “should I join?” To that question I would say no. And I would discourage any young woman from joining the military.

    But note what I also said. My “no” response is not a matter of law or gospel. I made it clear that it’s not a sin for a woman to join the military. So why speak to it at all as a hypothetical pastor? Because while I agree with the sentiment that a pastor shouldn’t go around micromanaging the lives of his congregation, while I agree that his job is to administer the law and the gospel, I don’t agree that, especially when asked, he cannot speak to wisdom issues.

    Why would I discourage a woman from joining the military? There are spiritual reasons. Women are often put in VERY compromising situations, situations that any Christian woman should want to avoid (if she knew she were getting into them). For example, sometimes there’s no toilet, and you just have to drop trou and sit on an ammo can in front of God and everybody.

    Furthermore, as much as the politically correct would try to have it otherwise, the military for women is one experience of intense sexual harassment after another, especially in the Navy and the Marines, because they are sealed up in a floating tin can for months at a time. It’s a dangerous environment for a woman of good character. Most of the women, I found, who started out in the military with good character soon threw that to the wind.

    Being convinced of this, I would reiterate that a woman putting herself in such an environment, while not sinning, is most unwise. It’s asking for trouble. It’s seeking temptation, or at least disregarding it. The military is full of morally compromising situations for both men and women, but especially for women.

    Being a Christian in the military is very difficult, very lonely, and very painful, not to mention the fact that more than likely you won’t have access to anything like a true church for the duration of your time in the military.

    I can see why you’re charging me with an “all or nothing” mentality. What I was trying to say was that the fundamentalists and the theonomists are more or less the same people. They are the ones who don’t like natural law, 2K, non-literal views of creation – and justification by faith alone, the covenant of works and the covenant of redemption, republication of the CoW under Moses, etc. I’m saying that for the most part, these are all the same people. And it is these people who have been dealt one defeat after another in recent years in the creation report and justification report.

    My point is that the old guard is losing influence, and Kline/DVD/Horton are gaining influence. And I was citing more recent reports as evidence. The example of Gaffin surely shows as much. Just look at Hart & Meuther’s blog about Gaffin today.

  16. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I hope I answered your question as well in my response to Todd. If not to your satisfaction, say so.

    E

  17. Todd says:

    E,

    If you don’t think the report violated the two kingdoms doctrine taught in Scripture, why do you think it was unwise to have such a report?

    “As the keepers of special revelation, the church has some very limited warrant to speak to the state, reminding it of what God said at its institution (as recorded in Scripture).”

    You’d have to prove this from Scripture. Did the Apsotles ever do such a thing? Why not – plenty of opportunity and reason.

    “To legalize murder is for the state to no longer be the state anymore. I just don’t see how it’s outrageous for the church to speak up here.”

    I’m one of those guys who thinks the abortion issue is not as clear-cut as most like to believe. I don’t think it is the same as the state saying – you are allowed to kill whoever you want and the police will not do a thing – no law against murder. In that case there would be no government at all. Not the case here.

    “As for what I would tell a young woman considering the military, note that I did not say, “No, you CANNOT join”, but my “no” response would be in response to the question, “should I join?” To that question I would say no. And I would discourage any young woman from joining the military.”

    I understand the distinction you are trying to make, but it still is not for me as a pastor to say, you should not do something, if Scripture does not forbid it. It would be like smoking cigerettes. I cannot say, you should not smoke, but I can warn of the risks if asked.

    “I don’t agree that, especially when asked, he cannot speak to wisdom issues.”

    He can speak to any issue, but outside Scripture he speaks with no more authority than Joe Blow across the street. I wonder if your parishoner would be aware of this when hearing your advice?

    “Being convinced of this, I would reiterate that a woman putting herself in such an environment, while not sinning, is most unwise. It’s asking for trouble. It’s seeking temptation, or at least disregarding it. ”

    Now it sounds like you are moving beyond opinion and judging her spiritual maturity by her discision which Scripture allows her freely to make. I could not go there.

    “Being a Christian in the military is very difficult, very lonely, and very painful, not to mention the fact that more than likely you won’t have access to anything like a true church for the duration of your time in the military.”

    Yes, some good things to point out as you allow her to make her free decision before God according to her own conscience.

    “My point is that the old guard is losing influence, and Kline/DVD/Horton are gaining influence.”

    I am always suspicious of influence. It tends to corrupt. Not directed at anyone in particular, just experience. And actually, I don’t think the old guard was that bad. I think the theonomist influence does not represent the old guard in the OPC. The old school OPC Westminster Philly guys are the guys I tend to respect the most. And I mean the guys from the 40’s and 50’s. But we may be saying the same thing using different historical references.

  18. Echo_ohcE says:

    Todd,

    The guys who went to seminary in the 40’s and 50’s, are they still serving as ministers? I don’t think so – perhaps a small few. By old guard I am referring to those who hold to Murray’s confused covenant theology as mediated by Norm Shepherd. I don’t want to get any more specific than that, but let’s just say that there has been, in the past, a tendency toward moralism in the OPC, and there remains a large number of ministers that lean in that direction. But I don’t want to make it personal. These are good men, men whom I respect a great deal for the most part, and certainly they are ministers in good standing in my denomination, and so whether I like it or not I owe them my respect.

    Nonetheless, what I’m talking about is the decline of moralism in our denomination, specifically because of the influence of WSCAL, etc.

    Why the report on abortion is unwise: because, again I haven’t read the report, more than likely it’s not nuanced in the way that I have justified it. In other words, it’s too easy for someone to look at it and say that it represents a blurring of the line between church and state. That makes it pastorally unwise, because now the people in the pew might get the wrong impression. And frankly, given the likely spirit of the report, that impression wouldn’t have been wrong.

    My point is, just because I have said that speaking against the impending decision to legalize abortion is permissible for the church, doesn’t mean they should. It has its pros and cons. The pros are a very short list. Perhaps there were people in our churches who needed to understand that it is in fact considered murder and those who practice it will be subject to discipline. But I’m sure that’s not what the report was published for. After all, it was published while it was still illegal.

    Arguably, there are not any significant pros to passing the report. There are a number of cons. For one, the report is highly unlikely to persuade anyone in power. The OPC doesn’t have much influence. (And good thing too, else you’d be suspicious of it. 🙂

    For another, as I said, it is likely to teach poor theology to the people in the pews, that this is how we are salt and light, by making this kind of statement to the state. And obviously, it bore that fruit as evidenced by the other reports we’ve been discussing.

    I suppose more cons could be conceived of. As I said, though I have justified it as not violating, at least not inherently, the 2K doctrine of Scripture, nonetheless, it’s not wise, and there doesn’t seem to be any tangible benefit to doing so.

    So you asked if the Apostles ever spoke to the state in a similar way.

    Well, Jesus did predict that the Apostles would testify to kings. And Paul did just that, testifying before Caesar. In Israel, you also had Stephen testifying to the Sanhedrin, but their authority was (almost entirely?) ecclesiastical.

    At any rate, Jesus’ prediction seems to me to be definitive, that the church CAN speak to the state. Just what it can or should say to the state and when it should say it is certainly a matter of debate, but WHETHER the church can speak to the state should not be an issue.

    Now, the context makes clear that the Apostles speaking to these kings would be a matter of defending themselves (Mat 10:17-18) of necessity. Thus perhaps one could argue that the church should never voluntarily speak to the state.

    However, Jesus’ words seem to indicate that it was God’s intention for the gospel to be proclaimed to kings, at least this one time. The question is why? Why did God intend this?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, and I’m not even sure it’s all that interesting – but it might be. But it at least demonstrates that God wanted to testimony of the church to be brought before the state.

    And in the OT, arguably Ps 82 is addressing not just the state of Israel, but the State (capital S) in general, meaning all states.

    And I agree that when and if I should ever become a pastor, and when and if I should ever have the opportunity to advise a young woman not to join the military, it will not be with any ecclesiastical authority behind it. Nonetheless, it will be with the God given pastoral wisdom that pastors gain with experience and with their pastor’s-eye view of things, coupled with my actual experience of wartime military service in the Marines and exposure to the Navy, Army and Air Force during that time. So when and if that day comes, while I won’t speak from the pulpit, nonetheless, my word should rightly carry more weight than that of some random guy off the street.

    But that’s because a woman in the military is in an inherently compromised situation, a situation that is almost certain to harm her spiritual well being. As a pastor, I would not want to see one of my flock voluntarily going into that inherently harmful situation. I would probably have similar things to say to a young man as well.

    But of course, I’d be more worried about some young men than others. Some men are more or less vulnerable than others. I’ve seen one young man join the Marines and it was good for him, and another and it has not been good for him. The one grew up, the one turned further inward.

    Call me old fashioned, but I see women as being weak and vulnerable and in need of protection. A young woman joins the military as a sheep among wolves, wolves who never tire, and who constantly harass the sheep, wearing down her defenses with all the patience in the world.

    But the lack of solid ecclesiastical fellowship that comes with joining the military is perhaps the biggest drawback.

    I could be wrong, but I think the church not only has the right to discourage someone from voluntarily going into a situation where they will be missing a lot of church, but perhaps a minister even has a duty to discourage such a thing.

    And here’s the thing. An 18 year old boy or girl, whatever the case may be – they have no idea what they’re getting into. Yes, they have the freedom to join the military. But they’re making a choice they cannot possibly understand. Ask ANYONE who joined the military if they truly understood what they were getting into, and I’d bet big money that you’ll never hear someone say yes, I knew what I was getting into. No one does. It’s way harder, way more lonely, way more difficult than anyone ever imagines. And for the Christian, it’s hardest of all. Thus the Christian who joins the military goes into a spiritually very difficult situation. The tragedy is that they usually don’t know it.

    Perhaps worst of all, many young people who join the military do so for the wrong reasons, often for self redemption. That’s why I joined, and many others I knew.

    But then again, pain and suffering isn’t always all bad.

  19. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    As I have said to you elsewhere, the only way to justify the church speaking formally or informally to a political issue like abortion is to fudge on 2K or behave as if the last 35+ years of political history (i.e. Roe) hasn’t really happened. When you say the word “abortion” in 21st century America you are trafficking in politics, whether you like it or not. The rules don’t change just because one feels strongly about a certain issue. (In fact, one’s 2K mettle is actually tested. There are staunch pro-lifers–although I am not one of them–who are pretty staunch and consistent 2Kers, so it is quite possible.)

    In a word, I don’t think you’re making much 2K sense at all when it comes to all this abortion business. It’s not wise, but “legalizing murder” is a spiritual issue, the OPC should never have spoken on abortion, yet the Bible speaks to it. I can’t tell if you’re coming or going.

    The only woman you may tell (directly or indirectly) ought not join the military is one you have a creational, rather than redemptive, jurisdiction over: your wife or daughter. But even then, there is also the danger of lording it over another, just as in redemptive jurisdictions. Think less marine, Echo, and more husband and dad.

  20. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    Even as a pastor, I wouldn’t tell a young woman that she CANNOT join the military. Read my comments again and you’ll see that clearly stated more than once.

    Also, what I said about the OPC’s abortion report is very clear in my mind. I have distinguished between law and wisdom. It violates no law for the OPC to publish a statement designed to persuade the state not to do something clearly (biblically) evil, i.e., legalize murder. What the OPC did was not a sin by publishing the report. They did not exceed their authority, or at least speaking to the state when it is considering legalizing abortion, pleading with it not to do so, this is not inherently sinful by violating the 2K doctrine of Scripture.

    So the OPC violated no law of God when they published the report. Do you agree or disagree?

    Nonetheless, I do think it unwise. Similarly, smoking cigarettes everyday violates no law of God – but it is extremely unwise. It’s permissible, but a bad idea. Or, if you like, a young woman joining the military, while not a violation of law, is most unwise – like smoking. Perhaps even more unwise than that.

    I’ll stop there. Let’s straighten out this law/wisdom distinction before we move on. What do you think of the distinction? Why or why not is it helpful here?

    E

  21. Echo_ohcE says:

    By the way, as a husband or father, I have every right in the world to legislate wisdom in my own household. My home is not the church. It runs on principles of justice, mercy, wisdom, whatever, at my discretion, according to which I am answerable to God, as long as I don’t violate the law of God or the law of the state.

    In other words, I have every right in the world to forbid my wife from joining the military if I so choose, even though both the church and the state have given her freedom in this area. I have every right in the world to bind her conscience this way. When it comes to a daughter, well, I can do so, but at 18 she can choose to absent herself from my household, so the point is moot.

    But I have a super-high view of the authority of the husband/father.

  22. Todd says:

    “But I have a super-high view of the authority of the husband/father.”

    Yes, I see that, a little too high, actually. You have the right to bind your wife’s conscience? Are you sure your principles of headship are coming from Jesus and informed by the cross?

  23. Echo_ohcE says:

    Perhaps “right” is the wrong word. Authority is a better one.

    What I mean is this. Say a father tells his son not to stick his finger in the electrical outlet. Now it is a sin for the son to put his finger in the socket, whereas absent the command from his father, it would not be a sin. Ergo, the father has the authority to bind his son’s conscience.

    So a husband can do the same thing. Say my wife has a former boyfriend, for example, and she’s been sending him emails everyday. Nothing too steamy, but I’m uncomfortable with it. She’s not sinning, but I don’t like it. So I say, “I don’t want you emailing him anymore.” Do I not have that right as a husband? I do. And if someone disagrees, that’s fine. Nonetheless, I think I clearly do have that right, and if my wife disobeys me on it, she’s sinning, because the Bible says she’s supposed to submit to me.

    Now of course, I’m obligated by the law of God to love my wife, to put her first, to lay down my life for her, etc. One could argue that if I simply say, “You can’t be friends with him anymore or email him anymore,” that I’m being unloving. You can argue it, but that’s a separate issue. Whether I’m being loving or not, she is still sinning if she doesn’t cut off the emails. The Bible doesn’t say, “Submit to your husbands insofar as he’s loving about it”. (Though it does say essentially insofar as is appropriate in the Lord – Col 3:18, which means that if I tell her to murder someone, she’s not sinning by disobeying, but that’s obviously different.)

    So – my answer is yes, I’m quite certain that my view of my headship over my wife is informed by the cross and coming from Jesus, and I’m fully convinced that my view is in keeping with Scripture.

    What about your view?

  24. Chris Donato says:

    Echo_ohcE:

    Forgive my intrusion here, but surely you’re not suggesting that your spoken words create or establish law (whether inside the family or outside) in any meaningful sense?

    Your second analogy seems to be saying that because you said “No” that then your wife is sinning if she fails to get in line. But this scenario, albeit all-too-realistic with respect to how husbands attempt to dictate things to their wives, is dunderheaded and far from the position of servant-leadership that husbandry and headship is supposed to take, and thus will only heap sin upon sin.

    Not to mention that if one’s wife is constantly conversing with an old fling (extraordinary circumstance notwithstanding), then there’s other issues there, and they most likely have to do with the husband’s sin first, namely, not fulfilling the needs of the wife as a servant-leader, which then serves as an impetus for her seeking some kind of relationship with that old fling.

    Remember, the beauty of headship is that the head is responsible for just about everything.

  25. Todd says:

    Echo,

    Yes, Chris has it right. First, note that the Bible never says for husbands to ensure their wives submit to them, but calls upon wives to voluntarily submit to their husbands – important distinction.

    And we should never speak about authority over wives the same way we speak about our authority over children; our wives are full fledged adults before God and are to be treated as such.

    As Paul appeals to the church as fellow brothers, we appeal to our wives, not ordering them to obey. We have no right or authority to bind their consciences before God; they are fellow brethren in the Lord. I sometimes tell the men in my congregation – if you need to remind your wive you are the head – you probably aren’t exhibiting good Christian headship. Christian headship exalts the other – treats them as more important – serves them.

    The principle that applies to secular goverment, that we are to submit to them unless they command us to sin, is not the principle for Christian leadership. Commanding your wife to have the dinner prepared exactly at 5:00pm every night, and expecting her to obey because you are not comanding her to sin, is not Christian headship, it is how the Gentiles lord it over those who they have authroity over.

    Echo, I like you, fellow Westminster West bro and all that, but as someone who has been married for 22 years – trust me, if you want a happy marriage, you might consider getting over this authority thing.

    Oh-oh, now my wife wants to see what I wrote here – hope it passes muster!

  26. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    Forgive the pile-on, but if you can’t secure a pastoral internship with Todd, see if Chris has some time.

    Nicely said, guys.

  27. Echo_ohcE says:

    Look, my wife doesn’t talk with old flings, it was just an example I made up, and I sure as heck wouldn’t use my authority for some stupid thing like ordering dinner be made at precisely 5 pm!!!

    The Bible says a wife should obey. Therefore, if she disobeys, she is sinning. Simple. If anything, this ought to make a man tremble when he considers what he says to his wife.

    If you asked my wife, she’d tell you that her marriage to me of 3 years has been wonderful. I do NOT order her around like a child, and nothing I said implied as much. You guys are jumping to conclusions.

    I did NOT say that I can or should bully her or be unloving to her. In fact, I said that was a separate issue from her obedience. The Bible does not say that she should only obey me if my words are reasonable and loving. She has to obey me regardless – that’s HER responsibility.

    MY responsibility, on the other hand, is greater, because I AM responsible to be kind and loving and gracious and merciful.

    Neither should be compromised.

    It’s amazing how you guys are almost trying to misunderstand what I said. You’re focusing exclusively on how it’s a husband’s duty to be kind and not lord it over his wife – none of which contradicts a single word I said. So you’re right, that is a husband’s duty, he should not lord it over his wife or treat her like a child.

    But that’s a separate issue. The wife is to obey, plain and simple. The Bible says as much. So if she disobeys, she is sinning. Even if her husband IS lording it over her, she still has to obey – even though it’s unjust and her life sucks. That’s the deal. That’s marriage. That’s what the Bible says, “Wives, submit to your husbands in everything”. Not just if he brings her flowers regularly, not just if he’s nice and loving, but in everything.

    This implies that a husband ought to take his authority VERY seriously and never compromise it, and always use it only for good. Because he has the authority to bind her conscience, he had better be VERY sure not to be cruel or oppressive, just like you guys are saying.

    This has worked nothing short of beautifully in my own home. My wife and I both understand who is in charge. I am very careful about what I say to her, realizing that what I say matters. And she appreciates it greatly. She only feels sorry for other women who constantly complain about their tyrannical husbands or their husbands who don’t care about them. My wife cannot relate to that.

    I am not boasting, only answering your objections.

  28. Michael says:

    Echo,

    Out of curiosity (and to use a previous example), would your wife be sinning if she didn’t have dinner ready at 5 after you have “commanded” her to do so?

    Just wondering.

  29. Michael says:

    NM.

    The rest of your post answered my question:

    “…Because he has the authority to bind her conscience…”

    My fault for not reading the whole way through. All I can say is wow, You must have a very patient wife. I wonder how this understanding of headship/duty relates to the marriage bed (not to be crass, but this is an outhouse afterall)…

  30. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    Believe it or not, I do understand the points you are trying to make.

    But I really don’t think you appreciate how wooden you coming off as. Yes, “it is a wife’s obligation to obey her husband.” And, yes, “it’s a husband’s call to love his wife.” But too often we really seem to come at these things from a worldly posture where the former formulation is applied in Stepford Wives ways, and the latter gets highly romaticized.

    I dunno, Echo, sure sounds like you’re reading from the book instead of speaking from experience. In lots of ways.

    How’d we get from the subject of the post proper to wives? I’d make a crack about cows but my wife would have my head.

  31. Echo_ohcE says:

    You’re right Zrim, I just got married yesterday – no, better yet, I’m not even married.

  32. Echo_ohcE says:

    Michael,

    Yes. That’s why any God honoring husband wouldn’t make such a ridiculous, foolish and yes, sinful use of his authority.

    If the wife says in her heart, “I don’t care what my husband says, I’m not making dinner at 5,” then yup, she’s sinning. If for some reason she is UNABLE to make dinner at 5, then, no, of course not. But if she just blows her husband off, then yes, she’s sinning.

    But again, that’s why the husband shouldn’t issue such directives, because they bind the conscience.

  33. Echo_ohcE says:

    You know, it does NOT necessarily follow that just because a husband views his authority as uncompromisable that he necessarily then uses it as an excuse to lord it over his wife.

    In fact, a proper, biblical understanding of authority, such as I have articulated it here, actually prevents a husband from lording it over his wife, bossing her around, because it helps him to remember how serious his words to his wife are. Thus he guards his words carefully, and reminds his wife how much he loves her, is quick as lightning to forgive her, etc, etc, etc.

  34. Michael says:

    “You know, it does NOT necessarily follow that just because a husband views his authority as uncompromisable that he necessarily then uses it as an excuse to lord it over his wife.”

    Of course it doesn’t; I understand that. I just find it strange to view any husband’s authority as “uncompromisable.” If the family unit is a mircocosm of the local church, how do we regard the authority of our session? Is it “uncompromisable” too? If there is liberty in things adiaphora in the church where members have taken a vow to submit to the elders “as in the Lord”, why not in a marriage? Am I missing a distinction here?

    “In fact, a proper, biblical understanding of authority, such as I have articulated it here, actually prevents a husband from lording it over his wife, bossing her around, because it helps him to remember how serious his words to his wife are. Thus he guards his words carefully, and reminds his wife how much he loves her, is quick as lightning to forgive her, etc, etc, etc.”

    Again, I agree (sort of). But husbands should never “Lord” anything over their wives NOT because of how “serious his words to his wife are” but rather because he is limited in what he can demand as a husband/head. Her submission to you is “in the Lord” (to quote the apostle) not bc you ARE her Lord.

    I can’t say that your actually doing this and from your perspective it appears that your marriage is healthy. I just don’t like your “proper, biblical understanding of authority” because it lives far too much room for tyranny.

  35. Echo_ohcE says:

    Yes, it leaves lots of room for tyranny. Are you saying that if a husband is tyrannical his wife has a God given right to disobey him and blow him off?

    To be sure, the tyrant is sinning. That ought to be crystal clearly my view from what I’ve said above. But a husband’s authority doesn’t become illegitimate the very second he abuses it.

    So with the session. You take a vow to submit to them, but we rightly recognize that they cannot or at least should not bind consciences where Scripture does not bind, i.e., adiaphora.

    But isn’t the classic example of adiaphora the time that worship is set for? Let’s say the session sets the time for worship at 10am. If you show up at noon, have you obeyed the session that has called you to worship? No. But I thought what TIME you worship is a matter of freedom!? Well, it ceases to be a matter of freedom once the session designates the time.

    Sessions don’t HAVE to call an evening worship service. They have the freedom to call one or not. But if they call one, can the congregants just not show up because, “Well, I went this morning, and I don’t feel like it”? Is that righteous or sinful? Or is it a matter of freedom?

    No, the authority of the session can neither be compromised. The authority of the session is binding, unless overturned by a higher authority, such as the presbytery or the General Assembly.

    That’s why the session can demand your repentance, which is why they can discipline you and even excommunicate you. If you have done something that you don’t think is sin, but the session says it is, and that you must repent, you have two choices: either submit and repent or appeal to the higher authority. Neither one of those options compromises the authority of the session.

    I don’t understand what the problem is with all of this. I know our culture is allergic to authority but…

    Now of course, an abusive husband is different. So if a husband beats his wife or whatever, I think it’s reasonable grounds for divorce, especially if the man refuses to repent. So with adultery. But in these situations, the wife is free to leave her husband or not. She doesn’t HAVE to leave him. If she doesn’t leave him, she is to be commended. But that doesn’t imply that if she does leave him that she has done anything wrong.

    Look, all I’m saying is this: a man does not have the right to give his authority to his wife. And the analogy for husband and wife in the Bible is not laymen to session, but Church to Christ. The church is to obey Christ in everything. Can Christ’s authority over the Church be compromised? I don’t see how. Isn’t Christ’s authority over the Church uncompromisable? The Church submits to Christ willingly in everything. So a wife ought to submit to her imperfect, sinful earthly husband in everything, even as the Church submits to Christ.

    That’s ONE SIDE of the coin, and one side only.

    The other side, EQUALLY if not MORE important, is that a husband ought to love his wife as Christ loved the church. And I see no reason to further defend whether or not I exhibit that love to my wife. That’s far too personal. But I think I do, insofar as I am able, and I think my wife would agree with no hesitation. She says so all the time.

    But that’s not the point. The love that the husband is supposed to show to his wife IN NO WAY changes or undermines the fact that he has authority over her that cannot be compromised (by the husband or the wife) without sinning. Authority and love are NOT contradictory, and in fact work in perfect harmony, as seen in Christ, and that’s why Paul points to him as our example.

    Too often, thanks to the feminizing, democratizing nature of our American, worldly culture, we think “authority” is a byword. We are afraid of it as men. We are afraid to claim it. Women often shrink in fear from it. We are taught to think of 19th century slave owners when we think of authority. We are taught to think of men who sit on the couch and smack their wife sitting next to them saying, “Hey, go gimmie a beer,” or “time to do your wifely duty, let’s go.” We’re taught to think of cave men and clubbing a woman over the head and dragging her to our cave and having our way with her. We’re told that authority in the church is bad. We’re taught as young children to rebel against authority in any and all its forms, starting at a very early age in school – the more rebellious you are, the cooler and more popular you are – and we never forget those lessons. And then we come to Scripture and find something radically different from what the world says, so we water it down, twist it and change it and distort what it says. And why? Because we’ve swallowed the lies of the world that authority and love are contradictory; that the extent to which you exhibit the one, you ruin the other. Well, it’s a crock!

    Don’t believe the lies of the world brothers. Love and authority are VERY compatible. In fact, they work together in perfect harmony. In fact, the home in which a loving husband’s authority is not compromised, a home in which a loving husband uses his authority for his WIFE’S benefit to his own hurt on a regular basis, the home in which the loving husband uses his authority to bestow love and care on his wife, while sacrificing the good for himself – THIS is the home that Paul has in mind in Eph 5. Read the passage. Just read it. That’s what Paul is describing. He’s not describing a master-slave relationship, or even a parent-child relationship. The relationship between man and wife is very different, very intimate, very personal, very loving, where the wife longs to submit to the husband, because she trusts him, because he has always put HER first and used his authority to do so. She trusts him to look out for her best interests above his own, and thus she longs to submit to him, and because she longs to submit to him, he longs to show his love for her, and bestow his love on her, putting her first, sacrificing the good for himself. He longs to do that for her, to put her first, and she longs to submit to him. There is the happy Christian home that mirrors the love between Christ and the church.

  36. Echo_ohcE says:

    One more thing. A tyrant is not defined by the extent or compromisability, or lack thereof, of his authority. A tyrant is defined by how he exercises his authority.

    To use Aristotle’s distinction: a tyrant rules for the sake of the ruler, while the benevolent ruler rules for the sake of the ruled.

    The distinction is not in how MUCH authority, but in how it is exercised, to what ends it is bent.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Echo,

    There is way too much in what you’ve written for me to unpack. I’m a busy dude and you probably are too (isn’t it finals time right around now?).

    But one last question regarding this topic since (as Zrim has pointed out) we’ve gone off on a rabbit trail: Do we continue to submit to our church elders when they go beyond the limits of their authority?

    If your answer is, “yes.” Then fine. I disagree, but at least you’re being consistent. However, if you say “no”, I would like to know why we have the right to not submit in this situation when a wife apparently cannot under any circumstance in a marriage.

    BTW. I like authority. But I only like it when it’s legitimate.

    Sorry if this is a bit scattered brained, I’m of to open-house at school!

  38. Echo_ohcE says:

    The short answer is YES.

    But the longer answer is that you HAVE to, until and unless the presbytery or GA overturns what the session has said.

    Jesus told the people to obey the Pharisees because they sat in Moses’ seat – but he also proclaimed to the Pharisees a 7-fold woe and cursed them, and put on them the guilt of the blood of ALL the prophets from Abel to Zechariah.

    What does that imply about Jesus’ view of authority? Jesus obeyed his Father even when he was unjustly put to death. Jesus obeyed in a VERY unjust situation, in fact, the MOST unjust situation. What does that say about his view of authority?

    What makes authority legitimate? Is it those UNDER the authority that grant the authority to the one in authority? Does my wife grant me my authority over her? Where does the Bible say authority comes from if not from God? Why does Paul say, “slaves obey your masters”, even though he also had to tell masters not to beat their slaves?

  39. Zrim says:

    Echo,

    I think we have to be careful to distinguish between a high view of ecclesiastical authority and an infallible one. It has always seemed to me that you might have a tendency toward a more authoritarian view of ecclesial authority than a Presbyterian one.

    I tend to think, though, that when it comes to civil authority Scripture suggests a non-Presbyterian view, one that comports with what you are saying about Jesus’ view of authority and submission, as in Mark 12 when he tells us to render unto Caesar or when Paul describes in Romans that Caesar was given to us for our own good and to disobey him is to disobey God.

    I don’t see much room for us to question our civil authorities as we can our ecclesial authorities. This flies in the face of American notions of polity where we are encouraged and even rewarded for dissent. Confessional Protestantism and American polity seem more at odds than on friendly terms, despite the popular press to the contrary. Could it be that our civil polity is less a blessing from God and more an affront to our spiritual piety?

  40. anon says:

    I am glad this topic came up. I am struggling to find a way to submit to my ecclesial authority, even whilst this authority is abusive. Do we stay, do we go, what do we do? It’s like walking on eggshells. You never know what will set him off. I respect his knowledge of the Bible, but being a pastor is not his gift.

  41. Echo_ohcE says:

    anon,

    Your pastor is not the only ecclesiastical authority over you.

    E

  42. anon says:

    who else?

  43. Echo_ohcE says:

    Elders, presbytery, General Assembly – if you’re presbyterian.

    The pastor is always himself under some authority.

    If that’s not the case, then perhaps it’s time to consider whether or not you’re attending a true church.

    The three marks of the true church are Word, Sacraments and discipline. If you pastor is not under anyone’s authority, if there are no elders, if there is no higher authority to appeal to when you feel you’ve been treated unjustly – then there simply is no third mark of the church.

    If one of the three marks of the church is missing, it is not a true church of Jesus Christ; it is not a true Christian Church.

    In such a case, in my opinion, you are not only free to leave, but I think leaving is imperative: you ought to leave and become a part of the true Church.

  44. Echo_ohcE says:

    Zrim,

    I don’t understand why you think I have an infallible view of the session or of any authority. You’ll notice my emphasis here on the need for there to be a higher authority to appeal to.

    If there MUST be such a thing as a presbytery in order for there to be a true particular church, then I necessarily cannot have an infallible view of the authority of the session.

    What I have is an unwillingness to compromise God given authority in whatever form it exists.

    E

  45. Echo_ohcE says:

    Read Ps 82: “I said, ‘You are gods'”. Then think about how Jesus quotes it and what he means.

  46. Echo_ohcE says:

    Not to try to restart this tired old thread or anything, but I didn’t know where else to put this…

    The chaplain committee once again tried to get the OPC to make another statement on homosexuals in the military, this time not to President Clinton, but to President Obama. The motion failed.

    Now you can argue that another statement about this issue shouldn’t have been necessary anyway, but it at least supports my argument that the OPC wouldn’t have passed the gays in the military statement today.

    E

  47. Zrim says:

    Not to try to restart this tired old thread or anything, but I didn’t know where else to put this…

    Outhouses get that a lot.

    The chaplain committee once again tried to get the OPC to make another statement on homosexuals in the military, this time not to President Clinton, but to President Obama.

    I’m glad they didn’t appeal to someone who isn’t President anymore. That would look really bad, almost as bad as trying to get the church to speak out of her jurisdiction.

    Now you can argue that another statement about this issue shouldn’t have been necessary anyway, but it at least supports my argument that the OPC wouldn’t have passed the gays in the military statement today.

    I guess I am bit turned around. What do you mean “they wouldn’t have today”? They didn’t, apparently.

  48. Todd says:

    Echo,

    I understood the initial vote found a majority in favor, just barely, but then an amendment added to postpone. I think the majority in favor, if the report i heard from a commissioner is accurate, challenges your view that the OPC wouldn’t pass it.

  49. Echo_ohcE says:

    Well, what I mean is that you could argue that another statement would have been redundant. I mentioned Clinton because it looks like the chaplain committee seems to want to make these statements to Presidents of the Democratic party.

  50. Echo_ohcE says:

    Huh. That’s not what I heard.

    If a majority was in favor of it, why didn’t it get passed?

  51. Todd says:

    Echo,

    I was wrong, it was referred back to committee to be pefected. We might see it again next summer – I guess we’ll have to wait to see.

  52. Bruce S says:

    Properly, the argument centered on this:

    Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate. WCF 31.4

    This desire to make a humble petition (coming from the Committee on Chaplaincy) arises only because of the existence of OPC chaplains doing their job in the military. In my view, absent OPC chaplains, this sort of move wouldn’t appear.

    Now, as for the arguments relating to 31.4, the prevailing view was that this is not a case extraordinary. Some, however, argued that it was a case extraordinary on the grounds that Obama’s move constitutes an encroaching of the civil magistrate on the affairs of the church directly, in that such a move will prohibit the church (i.e. chaplains) from preaching the whole counsel of God.

    No one was able to connect enough dots to go from chaplains doing their job to chaplains are doing church to satisfy me.

  53. Zrim says:

    Thanks, Bruce. It’s good to have a perspective from someone who was there instead of abiding mere conjecture. Sounds to me like the right thing came to pass.

    Sorry we missed each other.

  54. Bruce S says:

    Sorry we missed each other.

    Ditto. It all came down to not having a car and not having much free time. Calvin CRC not holding the stated worship service sealed the deal.

  55. Echo_ohcE says:

    Well, that’s just it Bruce. Chaplains don’t really do church. They do some preaching when they’re deployed, but they don’t really do church.

    They ought to petition the military to stop forcing OPC chaplains to conduct Roman masses. That’s a far bigger compromise, but no one mentions that.

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