Thursday, November 15, 2012

Politics and the Civil use of the Law: Responding to Steve Hays

The civil use of the law
The bold responses are my comments while the normal font belong to Steve.

I could not agree more. The educational institutions play a strategic role in the liberal indoctrination of our children and in my view, that is beyond dispute. I wish the church were as focused on our own indoctrination as the secular university is on their own.

Your position is incoherent. If you reject Christian political activism, then you have no effective means of opposing the secular education establishment.

With all due respect Steve, Either you do not understand my argument or your definition of incoherent is wrong. My argument is very cohesive. You assume that the only effective method for opposing something is political activism. That is sheer nonsense. I can speak out against it. I don’t have to attempt policy reform through political activism in order to be against something. If so, why and how?

We know the purpose of the law was to hold mirror up in front of the unrighteous to show them/us, their/our hopelessly sinful condition. It drives men to Christ.

You’re disregarding the three uses of the law in Reformed theology. Since you have a blog called Reformed Reasons, I shouldn’t have to remind you of that. For instance:

I am not a covenant theologian and reject their division of the law. It is based on an illegitimate hermeneutic in my view. I understand these three components of the law but reject that it does not stand or fall together. That is my point. Moreover, the Law was given to Jews. Romans 2:14-16 says without ambiguity that the Gentiles do not have the Law. This would preclude imposing your concept of the Law on Gentile cultures such as America. God's moral law is present on the conscience of the Gentile. Natural theology is the basis for civil law and order.

(2) Civil Use: The Law restrains evil through punishment. Though the law cannot change the heart, it can inhibit sin by threats of judgment, especially when backed by a civil code that administers punishment for proven offences (Deut 13:6-11; 19:16-21; Rom 13:3-4). Although obedience out of the love of God is the ideal for which every Christian should strive (1 John 4:18), society still benefits from this restraining use of the law.

The communities containing reprobates has little to do with my contention that the holy writings were directed to the holy community…

It has everything to do with your claim that “The Scriptures are given to the regenerate, to the church of Jesus Christ.”

My point stands Steve. The Scriptures are given for the purpose of transforming men into the image of Christ. They are given to make sinful men godly, not godless men morally good citizens.

Of course the unregenerate can engage in parsing, syntax, and even analyze a text. There are a number of them in the seminaries today who do that very thing. But that does not change the fact that true understanding involves appropriation and appropriation requires God’s Spirit.

Unbelievers can grasp the meaning of Scripture. And that makes their disobedience to Scripture all the more culpable. They are in a position to know better.

Even the basics of the gospel is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Light has shone into darkness and the darkness comprehended it not (Jn. 1:5) It isn’t the business of the church to judge outsiders and attempt to for them to be moral through political reform. We judge the church, God judges the world (1 Cor. 5:12-13) The preaching of the cross is “foolishness” to the unregenerate and a “scandal.” But to us, it is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:18). In Romans 1 God is said to have given the wicked over to depraved minds. Unbelievers do not rightly understand Scripture because they lack the ability to bring to it a sound hermeneutic. From the start, their presuppositions are rooted firmly against God and His truth.

The holy writings were not given to make a godless culture more moral.

Why not? Biblical law wasn’t given for just one purpose. The Mosaic law was, in part, a civil and criminal law code. Many Jews were impious. The law restrained them. It made them more moral in their behavior.

The Mosaic Law was given to the Jewish nation for a very specific purpose. To use the law to argue for American political activism is to use it unlawfully in my opinion Steve. You are not taking general principles and applying them to specific scenarios. You are having your cake and eat it too. I see no discipline in your method. You use of the law to inform American culture and legal reform would certainly go far beyond abortion and gay marriage. That, my friend, is a perfect example of incoherence. At best, you are advocating a theocracy, and on the other hand, and even worse, your application seems arbitrary and capricious if you don’t go all the way.

People can be outwardly moral in their conduct even if they lack a moral motive. The law rewards lawful behavior and punishes unlawful behavior.

The Law “rewarded” lawful behavior on the part of the Jews, but mostly it cursed them. This was foreseen even before the Law was given. Again, the Law was given to national Israel. It was not given to modern American culture.

There is nothing equivocal in my statement that political activism does not fall within the mission of the church.

I never said political activism falls within the “mission of the church.” That’s your reductionistic framework, not mine.

My framework is not reductionistic. Jason was disagreeing with my comments around the mission of the church and even forbade me from mentioning it again. That was comical.

The mission of the church includes a respectable work ethic in the broadest sense.

If you think the mission of the church in the “broadest sense” includes a work ethic, then you’ve defined the mission of the church so broadly that it can easily encompass political activism.

The broadest sense in terms that men are commanded to work with their hands to provide for their own. While that work is undefined, nevertheless, it means that we are to have a job. That concept falls safely within the Christian value system. If a man does not work, neither should he eat. If he does not work, he is worse than an unbeliever. That work might be a civil servant or something else. To say it carries so far as this political activism s a specious argument at best.

No one is suggesting that work ethic does not fall within the Christian ethic. There are specific commands given regarding work. You cannot make an exegetical case for broadening the scope of the church’s mission to political activism.

I’m not framing the issue in terms of “the church’s mission.” I’m discussing the social responsibilities of individual Christians.

If it was possible for the New Testament Church to be socially responsible, but not politically active, why is that not possible for the modern church? I think you are being anachronistic.

Yes, we are to provide for our children and our families. However, God instructs us specifically about how we are to do that. We are to work, to care for our own, etc.

Actually, it’s not specific. To say we’re supposed to “care for our own” doesn’t specify how we are supposed to care for them.

Having a duty to honor your parents doesn’t specify how you’re supposed to honor your parents. When Jesus says honoring your parents includes supporting them financially if they are too poor or enfeebled to support themselves, he’s not appealing to a specific command. Rather, he’s drawing a specific, common sense inference from a general command.

Fathers and husbands and children are given specific instructions on how to provide for their families to include their parents. Are we to think that the NT audience had no earthly idea what Jesus meant when He said this or when Paul said it? They knew full-well what Christ and Paul meant. It means to think honorably of them, and to provide for their basic needs if necessary. It does not mean cut the centurion’s throat and overthrow the government to make things better for them. Nor does it mean to engage in efforts to dethrone Caesar because his policies are oppressive to my family, my kids, and my parents.

Defending my family against a burglar is one thing. Defending it against a godless culture is entirely different.
No, it’s not entirely different.

Defending your kids against a godless culture can be achieved by pointing out the sin in that culture and how that culture engages in one God-hating behavior after another. It means indoctrinating your kids in the way of God. It means living God’s values at home so they can see the difference in the Christian group as opposed to the godless community at large.
Anyway, I wasn’t discussing how Christians (Christian Americans, to be specific) should defend their family against “a godless culture,” but how they should defend their family against the encroachments of government.

Submission to the civil government is the command of Paul. That government was far more encroached upon the NT Church than American government is. Paul said nothing about pushing them back. He offered no letures telling the church that the government needs to be pushed back so that we can have religious liberty and live in a nice moral culture in which to serve Christ.

If I may have to take the burglar’s life if he forces the matter. Should I do the same to a doctor who is about to commit an abortion? Should I do the same to a politician who is soft on pedophilia? You take a huge leap when you extend family protection to political activism.

That’s a wooden, irresponsible way of handling an argument from analogy. The analogy operates at the level of the basic principle: taking proactive measures to protect your family from harm.

It is no different than what you have done to some of the things I have said. In fact, I am just trying to determine the boundaries of your capricious reasoning. I don’t mean to be disrespectful. I use the term in its technical sense. I truly think you are capricious and arbitrary in your reasoning on this subject.

The specific means depend on the specific nature of the threat as well as the specific countermeasures at your disposal. Christian Americans have a variety of lawful, nonviolent means to defend their family against expansive, intrusive gov’t.

How about prayer? Paul told Timothy to pray to that end. Isn’t it possible that the vehicle God uses to accomplish this is prayer? Of course it must also be within His divine plan that we live in such a culture and this seems to be an unspoken assumption on your part and the part of all those American Christians who think we deserve religious liberty for some reason when most of our brothers and sisters live in dire circumstances.

We can vote. We can run for office. Some of us can become lawyers. Or teachers. The list is long.

Of course, if we don’t exercise our rights, we will lose our rights.

If we lose our rights, it is by divine decree. I don’t lose sleep over the possibility that Christianity may be underground in America in 50 years or even sooner. I know God is faithful. My hope is not in the American way of life. My hope is built on Christ.

To deny the trend toward secularism, toward social liberalism is essentially to bury one’s head in the sand with all due respect of course.

The trend is imposed from the top down by a tiny elite. It doesn’t come from the bottom up. The very fact that liberals so often resort to coercion rather than persuasion reflects the unpopularity of their secular policies.

I live and work in the real world where unbelievers are. I have friends who never darken the door of a church. I can testify that these people are far more liberal leaning today than they were even five years ago. The trend is witnessed everywhere we look and I see it in my own network of unbelievers. The sodomite marriage issue has caused some of these friends to shift so much that they no longer speak to me. I didn’t ram my view down their throat. I didn’t harass them with my position. They simply knew what I believed and the more the media talked about it, the more free they became to accept it and even become dogmatic about it. I do not deny the role of the elite. How the trend is taking it’s shape is not my point. That we have a clear trend is my point. And that was seen in this election.

I never argued that there was once a consistent ban on abortion in the past. What I stated was that the American legal system will never outlaw abortion again.

“Again” in contrast to what?

In contrast to the fact that abortion was once against the law even if he happened in the alley Steve. Against that.

Moreover, it’s possible to ban some types of abortions even if you can’t ban them all.

Furthermore, legally outlawing abortion isn’t the only way to drastically reduce abortion. Filing malpractice suits against “abortion providers” can make their insurance premiums unaffordable. That will drive them out of business.

Likewise, when “abortion providers” like Planned Parenthood break the law by refusing to report cases of statutory rape to the authorities, that leaves them vulnerable to prosecution.

One needs to exercise a little ingenuity.

I hate abortion, all abortion and think that all abortion is murder. I would love to see it abolished entirely. But I also hate all fornication, and murder, and homosexuality too. And I would love to see them abolished as well. I hate human trafficking and I would love to see that abolished. In fact, I hate all sin and I cannot wait until that blessed day when it will all be abolished. Because I know that God is faithful, that He is trustworthy, I also know that one day it will. Until then, I will focus on giving people the gospel of repentance, observing my elders baptize converts, continue with my discipleship efforts, and live the values of the Christian group as inherited from Christ by the Holy Spirit through His apostles as they gave us the holy Scriptures. As for Barak Obama and the rest of them, while I do vote, I will leave them to God and commit all of them to prayer that we might live a peaceful life, God willing.

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