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Should We Learn from the 16th Century Lutherans’ Views of Church and State?

If a pastor says to kings and princes…. ‘Consider and fear God and keep his commandments’ he is not meddling in the affairs of secular authorities… — Luther (picture of the Apostle Paul before Agrippa)

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Did any kind of “separation of Church and State” exist for 16th-century Lutherans?

Is there anything that we can or even should learn from them today? This post seeks to intelligently start the conversation…

Undoubtedly, more and more these days, issues of church and state are on the minds of Christians.

Fellow Patheos blogger D.G. Hart has an interesting column about the dust-up surrounding Jerry Falwell Jr.’s fairly recent comments, and writing in The Week, Damon Linker talks about Christian cultural commentator Rod Dreher’s proposed book project exploring what an impending socialism might mean for Christianity:

Dreher is proposing to adapt and apply [the argument of Polish writer and former anti-Communist dissident Ryszard Legutko] to the United States, describing a country confronting what he calls the “Woke Menace” of a newly radicalized and emboldened left that aims to centralize power and stamp out all dissent. Those who believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage, who think that the free exercise of religion goes beyond worshipping in church and private homes, who therefore believe that devout Christians (and Jews and Muslims) should be free (in some instances) to discriminate against homosexuals and the transgendered, who consider abortion to be murder and abortion in the third trimester to be infanticide — Americans who hold these and similar views find themselves confronting the prospect of a party gaining power that considers every one of these positions not just erroneous but fundamentally illegitimate, beyond the moral pale, rooted in irrational animus and bigotry, and worthy of being excommunicated from public life.

And many will think (even if they don’t say it out loud quite yet): “Why not? Separation of church and state, right?”

“The modern world drove the church out of the state and into the soul.” — Scot McKnight (215, Kingdom Conspiracy)

Let’s explore all of this a bit more… look at the history.

Unlike the religions of Islam and Judaism–and basically every religion in world history for that matter–Christianity is unique in the big distinction it makes between God’s government and man’s government. Certainly, one of Jesus’ most well-known sayings – besides “love your enemies”! – is “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s”.

A little less known saying: “Then the children [of God] are exempt [from taxes]. But so that you do not cause offense… ” (see Matthew 17:24-27)

And just what, following up on St. Augustine’s distinction between the “City of God” and the “City of man,” is the nature and character of Martin Luther’s Reformation “doctrine of the two kingdoms”? Let’s now both introduce and seek to “problematize” the question.

Different answers have been given at different times, so it makes sense to revisit what the 1530 Augsburg Confession, the earliest Lutheran Confessional document and a document specifically responding to the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, has to say about the issue:

“[E]cclesiastical and civil power are not to be confused. The power of the church has its own commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. Let it not invade the other’s function, nor transfer the kingdoms of the world, nor abrogate the laws of civil rules, nor abolish lawful obedience, nor interfere with judgements concerning any civil ordinances or contracts, nor prescribe to civil rulers laws about the forms of government that should be established. Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world” [Jn. 18:36] and again, “Who made me a judge or divider over you?” [Lk. 12:14]. Paul also wrote in Phil. 3:20, “Our commonwealth is in heaven,” and in II Cor. 10:4,5, “The weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy arguments,” etc.

In this way our teachers distinguish the functions of the two powers, and they command that both be held in honor and acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God (see Tappert, p. 83, The Book of Concord, bold mine).

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” — Matthew 22:21

In many ways, this description of the two kingdoms sounds a lot like the modern American concept of “separation of church and state,” does it not?[i]

At the same time, how did persons look at this kind of thing in the past, particularly those whose nations had adopted Christianity, like the nations in the Middle East (before Muhammad begin to change that around the 7th c. A.D.) Rome, and many European nations as well?[ii] Particularly interesting here are the views of the Christian theologian Martin Chemnitz, who, many years after the rise of Christianity in general and Lutheranism in particular in his native Germany, wrote the following in his Loci Theologici (late 16th century) regarding the fourth commandment, “honor your father and your mother”.

It is fascinating reading from a day gone by….

At this point…we shall make only a brief explanation regarding the duties of government officials. The Decalog prescribes that they are to be the fathers of those who are subject to them, cf. 1 Peter 2:14; Rom. 13:3-4. These are general principles. The specifics can be very easily determined from the list which has been drawn up, as they are categorized in 1 Tim. 2:2;

[1.] The first duty of a ruler is to care for those who are subject to him, so that they may “live in godliness,” that is, this first concern must be for their religion, that they true doctrine may be taught to the people and they may be instructed in the true worship, kept from outward blasphemies and godless forms of worship and whatever else is a detriment to piety. In Judg. 17:5-6 the account of the idolatry of Micah is described when there was no king in Israel and “every man did what was right in his own eyes,” cf. Is. 49:23. For this reason it is the duty of government officials to be supportive of churches and schools, to provide for them and protect them, cf. Ps. 2:11-12; 47:9. Therefore the ruler must by his own confession be a good example to others. Here, note the examples of David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and others.

[2.] The duty of the ruler is to see that the people “live in honesty,” that is, they are to establish and defend external order and not tolerate anything in conflict with it. The ruler must establish discipline, as it is written in Deut. 17:18, “Let the king receive a copy of this book (Deuteronomy) and let him write a copy of it and read it all the days of his life,” that is, let him rule according to the Decalog. And I Peter 2:13, “Let him rule according to the ordinance of men,” that is, in keeping with laws which are favorable and which are keeping with the law of nature.

[3.] It is the duty of the ruler to see that the people “live a quiet life,” that is, he must be concerned about the physical welfare of his subjects, as Joseph was, and not burden them down, disturb them, or jeopardize their property but rather nurture them, love them, and shower them with all good things, I Peter 2:14; Rom. 13:3. They must not be a terror for those who are good.

[4.] It is the duty of rulers to see that the people lead “a peaceable life.” This refers to the fact that rulers are to defend the bodies and properties of their subjects against the violence and injustice and thus protect the peace.

[5.] The ruler is to “execute wrath upon evildoers,” Rom. 13:4, that is, he is to compel them with force and physical punishments to obey the laws and he is to chastise the stubborn by court judgments, legal penalties, or wars. For “he does not bear the sword in vain,” Rom. 13:4.

[6.] He is to execute judgement. There is a description of a good judge in Deut. 1:16-17; Exodus 23; and 2 Chronicles 19. (v. 2, 400-401, bold mine).

“A Church isn’t proclaiming the full biblical gospel unless it calls kings and nations to acknowledge and serve the king of kings.” — Peter Leithart, author of Defending Constantine.

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Later on, Chemnitz writes about the civil use of the law, or its first use.

Again, this is a different world. Since Chemnitz’s thoughts are so foreign even for devout Lutherans today, I am opting not to summarize, but quote in full:

“Properly the question is not whether the magistrate has the power to establish laws to which we must give obedience. But regarding the Decalog or the divine law the question is whether its teaching is to be set forth to those who are not truly repentant or whether it is useful to compel the unregenerate to obey or be forced under the doctrine of the divine law, so that they do not commit outward sins. The teaching of the civil law must be dealt with primarily to give an explanation to the very difficult argument which has arisen over the use of the Law over the unregenerate. This has caused a serious disturbance. For Scripture simply affirms, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Rom. 14:23; again, “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit,” Matt. 7:7. But because God does not will iniquity, therefore they seem to be doing wrong who do not want or force the unregenerate not to commit outward sins, for no person should be encouraged to sin and it is a sin to ignore discipline in the unregenerate. At this point voices are raised that it is more advisable that the unregenerate wallow around in every kind of crime rather than to some degree control their habits by any kind of morality, for “it is easier for the harlots and the publicans to enter into grace than for the Pharisees,” Matt. 21:31. It is correct to say this if we attach the concept of works righteousness to this discipline under the article on the remission of sins; but, on the other hand, it is certain that God earnestly demands obedience or discipline even from the unregenerate, so that even in this life He punishes the violation of His law with terrifying penalties and gives external rewards to those who live under His discipline, even the unregenerate.

In opposition to this the scholastics say that it is a cruel idea found in the Master of the Sentences [Lombard] when he says, “The whole life of the unbeliever is sin.” They say that to the man who does the best that is in him, God always gives His grace. This argument greatly disturbed Erasmus, for he says: “Is it all the same whether Socrates lives an honorable life or gives his mother poison or dishonors his sister?” Again, “If discipline does not merit the remission of sins, at least it renders the mind more open to grace. Socrates will be better prepared and more suited to receive grace than Phalaris will.” There is no doubt that this is a difficult argument. It cannot be settled more simply, more correctly, and more easily than on the basis of the doctrine of the civil use of the Law. We must be careful that we do not apply the pedagogical use of the Law to this point, as if there is in the unregenerate a certain preparation of for grace; but the matter must remain within the boundaries of the civil use because in this way men can be taught about the Gospel, through which later on the Holy Spirit is efficacious. For the doctrine of the Word of God cannot be taught when crime rules. Likewise, because in those who try to govern their morals by honorable discipline, there are many shameful lapses and their hearts remain impure. Therefore outward discipline instructs us to find out where righteousness comes from. This can most correctly be discovered in I Timothy 1 and Romans 1 and 2. (v. 2; 439, 440, bold mine)

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“Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” – the Lord’s Apostle, Paul

Is this a massive confusion of spiritual and political powers on Chemnitz’s part? This was a different time, to be sure, even as one notes key phrases from Chemnitz that indicate the questions many in his own time had: “this has caused a serious disturbance”, “they seem to be doing wrong…” (we note the less than full-throated condemnation!).

In any case, one can see that Chemnitz’s own understanding of the role of Christianity in the “Kingdom of the left,” i.e. civil government, is worlds apart from that of most modern Lutherans, even conservative 20th century champions like Francis Pieper (see first footnote below), Kurt Marquart[iii], and Herman Sasse[iv] (see “The Social Doctrine of the Augsburg Confession” in The Lonely Way, v. 1). The duties of Christian clergy and secular rulers were certainly very distinct (note that secular here means “of the world” or “of the earth,” not “opposed to God”). Nevertheless, one is taken aback with how much religious duties – nay particularly Christian responsibilities – fall on the shoulders of the secular ruler.

“God intends the secular Regiment to be a model of… the kingdom of heaven” — Luther

Another relevant comment here, even though I doubt it will do much good for those determined to be upset at “Christians who seek dominance”: Please note that, strictly speaking, none of what Chemnitz says really fits the specific criteria for what we today call theonomy[v] or theocracy[vi] (see Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, v. 2, 347 ; also, people who want to bring up things like shellfish really need to read Acts 10-15, and, if they really want to dig deep, can read pp. 235-301 in John Gerhard’s early 17th c. work On the Law)

And…as I have argued, if the Western world is going to remain itself, if it is going to persist, it must regain wisdom (see series from five years ago here).

This means it is going to need to find ways to honestly come to grips with its Christian heritage in some way, shape, or form,[vii] and to give thanks to God–to Jesus Christ–for its true blessings (no, “Judeo-Christian values” will not cut it). Obviously, this is going to be more difficult to do–and yes, perhaps it is impossible to do–when Christian influence and true faith has waned as much as it has (see footnote 7 below).

“Aristotle… requires that a legislator pay careful attention to the situation and the people, because there is a remarkable dissimilarity among peoples and different temperaments for different places.” — John Gerhard, On the Law, 296) (pictured: Aristotle)

One more important note here: in my last post, I pointed out that Scot McKnight, insists that Christians attempting to influence government in a Christian direction (in order to back up the Christian voices, for example) necessarily means that Christians are giving final authority to the state (216-217, Kingdom Conspiracy). What really, does this mean (I did email McKnight and he replied but not with an answer to that question)?

On the contrary, God does expect today’s rulers to “Kiss the Son,” lest He be angry…

Even if a country like America had a government which explicitly acknowledged its Christian heritage… Even if it defended it and perhaps embraced it… Acts 5:29 would *still* apply to each individual believer.

Finally, for those who really want to dig deeply into this topic–in both a highly intelligent and very culturally aware way–I recommend the following no-nonsense lecture from Dr. Eric Phillips, The Responsibilities of the Christian Prince According to Augustine, Luther, and America, below:

FIN

 

Notes:

[i] Francis Pieper, the highly respected America Lutheran theologian writing in the early 20th century, certainly seems to have thought so:

“The principles of Christ’s rule over His Church are subverted by those who intermingle the secular realm with the Kingdom of Grace, that is, who intermingle Church and State. This includes (1) those who turn the Church into a worldly kingdom by attempting to build the Church with earthly, or worldly, means (external power, natural morality, culture, etc.). Instead of employing solely the Word of God, thus eo ipso destroying the distinctive character of the Church; (2) those who would make of the State a spiritual Kingdom by attempting to rule the State not by reason, but by the Word of God, by “Christian principles” (Christian Dogmatics II: 392-393).

[ii] Yes, we all know that the sword was used in this or that case by Christians, or those claiming Christ at least,g to “convert”. Let’s look at the less controversial situations though and take it from there: Once large groups of people begin moving from darkness to light, is assistance also not necessary to help cultures take active steps to transform themselves politically to accommodate the Christian way of life – whether we are talking more or less radical changes? After all, while not becoming radical Protestants who would consider rebellion against rulers not sufficiently Christian or friendly to Christianity, surely we can at least imagine saying that we must obey God rather than men in circumstances beyond simply the freedom to preach the simple message of Christ crucified and risen – and taking stands as we are called by our circumstances to do so.

[iii] Marquart writes in his essay “The Two Realms (Kingdoms) in the Lutheran Confessions“:

“When addressing non-Christians the church’s preachment of the law is bounded by her missionary commitment (Mt. 28:19-20), hence limited to the second (“theological”) use. While the Table of Duties (second and third uses) must be proclaimed to all Christians (including rules), governments and states as such are accountable to God not through the church but through all who have standing under Rom. 13:1-7 (ultimately even the general citizenry), and by way of natural reason and law (first use). (God and Caesar Revisited, Lutheran Academy Conference Papers, no. 1, 1995, p. 46).

[iv] Sasse, in his essay “The Social Doctrine of the Augsburg Confession” in The Lonely Way, v. 1:

“There is as little possibility of a Christian state as there is of Christian agriculture and Christian technology…. There is no Christian order for society, for that would be an attempt to make sin disappear in the world, that love would take the place of law, in other words, that the kingdom of God would have come in glory…. (93) The task of the church over against the governing authorities is an especially difficult responsibility. It must guard itself against any illusion of a “Christian state” and must limit itself” (99).

[v] From Wikipedia: “Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), is a hypothetical Christian form of government in which society is ruled by divine law.[1] Theonomists hold that divine law, including the judicial laws of the Old Testament, should be observed by modern societies” (italics mine).

[vi] One popular definition: “a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.”

[vii] Relevant quote from Luther to ponder. Luther’s talk about “rul[ing] it in [an] evangelical manner” being impossible means that people will not be effectively governed by the Gospel alone, without the use of force and coercion… (“To rule the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd putting wolves, lions, eagles and sheep all together in the same fold…. The sheep will indeed follow the way of peace, but not for long,” he said elsewhere).

“Certainly it is true that Christians, so far as they themselves are concerned, are subject neither to law nor sword, have need of either. But take heed and first fill the world with real Christians before you attempt to rule it in a Christian or evangelical manner.

This you will never accomplish; for the world and the masses are and always will be un-Christian, even if they are all baptized and Christian in name. Christians are few and far between (as they say is). Therefore, it is out of the question that there should be a common Christian government over the whole world, or indeed over a single country or any considerable body of the people, for the wicked always outnumber the good.” (Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed)

 

Images: Scot McKnight CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Announcement: A Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, May 8-10, 2019, in Bloomington, MN.

A Congress on the Lutheran Confessions

May 8 – 10, 2019

Crowne Plaza Aire*

Bloomington, Minnesota

 

THEME

ANTINOMIANISM New & Old:

The Return of Seminex theology in Light of the Lutheran Confessions

 

Presentation Topics:

– The Third Use of the Law: Seminex and Today

– The Atonement: When did Lutherans Start Denying It?

– Gerhard Forde and the Theology of Radical Lutheranism

– Hermeneutics & Textual Criticism: Seminex and Today

– The Death of the Word of God

– Lutheran Pastoral Practice: Avoiding Law-Gospel Reductionism

– Preaching Antinomianism (banquet)

– Gender Theology and the Splitting of the ELCA

– Drums, Saxophones & Bouncing Balls

– Trinity and the Amoral God / and Surviving the Storms

– Drums, Saxophones, and Bouncing Balls

 

Registration Fees:

ACL Member – $80.00 / spouse – $60.00

Banquet: $30.00 ea.

Non-ACL Member – $90.00 / spouse – $70.00

Banquet: $30.00 ea.

 

* The cut-off date for accepting reservations into the special Congress room block is Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The special room rate (single and double) is $125.00 per night (plus tax). To make room reservations, please call the hotel directly at 952-854-9000 or toll-free at 1-800-227-6963 and reference “Congress on the Lutheran Confessions.”

 

Association of Confessional Lutherans:  TheACL.org / TheACL@TheACL.org

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Does God Expect Rulers Today to “Kiss the Son, Lest He Be Angry”?

Byzantium icon of Christ, Pantocrator (ruler of the universe)

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

–Psalm 2

You know, just asking.

Looking at the approaches of most modern Christian theologians when it comes to the issue of religion and politics, one will find that they tend to quite neatly separate church and state.

And it seems these theologians are often holding one another in check. In a recent piece at Patheos, titled “Even a Liberal Theocracy is Still a Theocracy,” Reformed theologian D.G. Hart takes aim at persons on the evangelical Christian left (via his critique of Alan Cross), who, he says, do the same thing as the Christian right by trying to influence government with Christian principles (why, one might wonder, do people only tend to complain about “Christian nationalism” when it comes to the Christian right?)!

Its a smart essay, but the final impression left by Hart is that any legislation done by Christians not under the auspices of reason alone (perhaps by appealing to natural law arguments alone) is suspect and not really in line with “two kingdoms” theology. One reason such efforts are suspect, Hart says, is that Christians today are necessarily selective as they try to legislate God’s moral law (Mormons are in violation of the First Table of the Commandments, for example, but as regards responsibilities towards God, no Christian legislators are looking to strengthen blasphemy laws).

Another word for Hart’s “liberal theocracy” could be “Soft Constantinianism,” a term coined by the evangelical theologian Scot McKnight. This is the label he applies to the “Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern,” for example, actually signed in 1973 by evangelicals whose political orientations were across the spectrum (from Carl F. Henry to Vernon Grounds to Jim Wallis to John Howard Yoder).

I find it very interesting that McKnight says that the desire to influence the state in a Christian direction in order to back up the Christian voice necessarily means Christians give final authority to the state (217, Kingdom Conspiracy). What is he getting at?

Scot McKnight says that the desire to influence the state in a Christian direction in order to back up the Christian voice necessarily means Christians give final authority to the state.

Below is this 1973 statement. What do you think of the statement? McKnight’s take on it?

As evangelical Christians committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the full authority of the Word of God, we affirm that God lays total claim upon the lives of his people. We cannot, therefore, separate our lives from the situation in which God has placed us in the United States and the world.

We confess that we have not acknowledged the complete claim of God on our lives.

We acknowledge that God requires love. But we have not demonstrated the love of God to those suffering social abuses.

We acknowledge that God requires justice. But we have not proclaimed or demonstrated his justice to an unjust American society. Although the Lord calls us to defend the social and economic rights of the poor and oppressed, we have mostly remained silent. We deplore the historic involvement of the church in America with racism and the conspicuous responsibility of the evangelical community for perpetuating the personal attitudes and institutional structures that have divided the body of Christ along color lines. Further, we have failed to condemn the exploitation of racism at home and abroad by our economic system.

We affirm that God abounds in mercy and that he forgives all who repent and turn from their sins. So we call our fellow evangelical Christians to demonstrate repentance in a Christian discipleship that confronts the social and political injustice of our nation.

We must attack the materialism of our culture and the maldistribution of the nation’s wealth and services. We recognize that as a nation we play a crucial role in the imbalance and injustice of international trade and development. Before God and a billion hungry neighbors, we must rethink our values regarding our present standard of living and promote a more just acquisition and distribution of the world’s resources.

We acknowledge our Christian responsibilities of citizenship. Therefore, we must challenge the misplaced trust of the nation in economic and military might – a proud trust that promotes a national pathology of war and violence which victimizes our neighbors at home and abroad. We must resist the temptation to make the nation and its institutions objects of near-religious loyalty.

We acknowledge that we have encouraged men to prideful domination and women to irresponsible passivity. So we call both men and women to mutual submission and active discipleship.

We proclaim no new gospel, but the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, frees people from sin so that they might praise God through works of righteousness.

By this declaration, we endorse no political ideology or party, but call our nation’s leaders and people to that righteousness which exalts a nation.

We make this declaration in the biblical hope that Christ is coming to consummate the Kingdom and we accept his claim on our total discipleship until he comes.

November 25, 1973, Chicago, Illinois

McKnight’s main answer to political activism in his book Kingdom Conspiracy, by the way (whether of the kind from the Christian right or the left), is that generally speaking, Christians should primarily seek to do the will of the Lord among one another, in their local congregations, as opposed to the wider world.

Certainly, McKnight has a point in drawing our attention to this truth (see Galatians 6:10, for example, which he often quotes). And along those lines, here is a short article on “Justice and Poverty” from the Lutheran Study Bible, written by Concordia College New York (Bronxville) President John Nunes (found by looking up “Social Justice” in the index, another “hot topic” these days!):

“The OT contains more legal and prophetic material about the poor and the powerless than any other societal problems. In both narrative and prophetic texts, a strong relationship exists between righteousness — the cornerstone of the Christian doctrine of justification — and justice. In Hebrew and Greek, righteousness and justice share root words. As justified believers — made right with God entirely though Jesus Christ — our attitude toward and treatment of the poor is a fundamental justice question. Questions of justice inevitably flow from the faith of the justified ones. God says to his people, “Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land'” (Dt 15:11). When the weak are oppressed and the needs of the poor come to God’s attention, the psalmist writes that God “will now arise.. I will place him in the safety for which he longs” (Ps 12:5).

More than half of Jesus’ parables (17 or 29 in the Synoptic Gospels) concern money. These parables lay out the perils of misplace priorities; they are stories of the disordered, upside-down lives of people whose long term “investments” expire prematurely. Jesus urges his disciples to invest in the Kingdom, in God’s people, in those who are poor and needy in the eyes of the world. Followers of Jesus stock up on true righteousness and justice, rather than on riches that rust or fade away.

God’s Word addresses situations that sound similar to our modern context (cf Dt 15:7;24;14, 17)… In Ps 41:1, we hear a beatitude of brotherly love: “Blessed is the one who considers the poor!” In any society, there will be those who are too weak to “make it” — those who aren’t strong or resilient enough, who aren’t skilled or tough-willed, who lack the “right stuff” to make the right connections. Such individuals often are marginalized. We see, all too clearly, where they stand. The question is Where do we stand? Do we stand with them?

As God’s redeemed people, we have the calling — and opportunity — to be openhanded and tenderhearted toward those in need, not hard-hearted and tightfisted.”

Adapted from John Nunes, Voices from the City (St. Louis: Concordia, 1999), 34-36.

Anyone these days want to defend any kind of “Constantinianism”?

Is this kind of work, however, something that Lutherans like Nunes believe should only be done by the church, by local congregations, and not the secular (secular meaning “of the earth” or “of the world,” not in any anti-God sense) government?

In other words, are conservative Lutherans (Nunes is LC-MS) necessarily with Hart and McKnight? Today, that does tend to be the case…

That said, not in the past at least, says a friend of mine who knows these issues well. When it comes to the matters discussed by Nunes, for example, he points out how the materially poor and other “socially marginalized groups and their treatment” were core concerns of Martin Luther. And what did Luther suggest was the way to address the problem? The Reformer advised moral exhortation to both the rich and the poor, individual charity, collective / government financial support, and legislative reforms that both freely and reasonably drew from Old Testament examples. Luther, my friend pointed out, thought and wrote about these things before the modern “conservative” / “liberal” divide that so often equips us with blinders… resulting in a narrower set of approaches to what amounts to a big problem.

Luther’s Christian government programs for alleviating poverty?

Still, that was then, this is now, right? Things kept changing…

In America in the 17th century, the famous Rhode Island Baptist Roger Williams argued for “soul liberty” and the idea that the church and state should be very separate because the state was not competent to judge persons by the Scriptures (no promulgating and enforcing the First Table of the Ten Commandments because there were contradictory readings of Scripture).

And yes, even Martin Luther in the 16th century said “the distinction of true from false doctrine is per se no concern of the secular authorities”. Therefore, it seems reasonably to argue that Luther’s logic lead to saying, for example, that there is nothing Christian rulers can do to prevent Christian churches–surely an integral part of the culture they oversee!–from fracturing into pieces (as Constantine, and, perhaps ironically, German princes in the late 16th century appear to have done by making the theologians talk and work out their differences).

“Is Christ divided?” I  n his book Defending Constantine, Peter Leithart shares Constantine’s writings which express fear of God’s wrath if His One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church were to break apart.

More on the “First use of law” (i.e. the “political use of the law” — for Calvinists this is the “second use” of the law) in the “Kingdom of the Left” (no, that’s not the modern left and/or the Democrats!) in my next post here.

FIN

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Can Unbelievers Seek God? And What is the Best Reason for Them to Go to Church?

“I am the Lord your God…” “You belong to me…” Bad news or good news?

 

First question: “Can unbelievers seek God?”

Udo Middlemann, in his book The Innocence of God, says that many Christians give this impression to unbelievers: “their search [for God] is hopeless, they are unable even to seek; it is all a matter of predestination from God alone.” (63).

Is Middlemann correct?

After all, the Lord’s Apostles do say:

  • For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (I Cor. 1:18).
  • The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness… (I Cor. 2:14).
  • That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6).
  • All of us [Christians] also lived among [the unbelievers] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
  • No one understands; no one seeks for God (Rom. 3:11).

How can one change one’s very nature or essence? How can one even seek to changes one’s very nature or essence? Evidently, there is only so much those captive to the devil’s will (see 2 Tim. 2: 24-26) can do here!

Even if I am “dead in sin”? (Eph. 2:1)

 

That said, given that elsewhere the Apostle Paul encourages non-Christians to seek God (Acts 17:27), the real point is this: unbelievers do seek wrongly, but even wrong seeking can nevertheless be beneficial when it leads to hearing God’s Word!

Second question: “What is the best reason for them to go to church?”

To start to address this second question, let’s begin by asking the following:

“Is attending a worship service, for example, where the Scriptures are read and preached, better than not attending at all?”

The answer to this question is definitely yes! Strive to enter God’s Kingdom by the narrow gate – with all your wrong reasons in tow!

So, who, for example, attends a Christian worship service for the wrong reasons? Well, a number of persons do.

Remember from our first question above that the Lord’s apostles give the impression that unbelievers can’t even begin to read the Word of God or attend Christian worship for the right reasons – even if they want to do these things![i]

“…whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…” — the Apostle Paul

 

So what in the world is happening here? Well, all of the following—which is by no means an extensive list—might be one’s overriding reasons for reading the Bible or attending worship, and none of them should ever be the main reason:

  • To please a family member
  • Because you live in “Christendom,” and that is what the baptized citizen does (oops – wrong century!)
  • To be seen as a person who upholds traditional values (wrong century again?)
  • To get connected with the Big Sugar Daddy in the clouds
  • To get on the Big Man’s good side.
  • Assuming “knowledge is power,” to become a more well-informed and intelligent person
  • To make connections with those in a community
  • To join in acts of social justice with others from a community
  • To learn more about the topic ; to get information (for whatever reason)
  • Simple curiosity!
  • To confirm one’s biases against the faith and its followers
  • That one may boast of one’s extensive knowledge of the Scriptures ; to satisfy one’s own pride
  • To be a better person than my neighbor
  • To find support for one’s sectarian or heretical opinions
  • Because one likes to listen to the preacher, like Herod did John the Baptist, or St. Augustine did St. Ambrose
  • To find meaning, direction, and growth in life
  • The idea that one ought to do something like this in order to be a good person
  • Guilt, underlying fear of judgment and punishment
  • Terror of the possibility of the God who just might judge the world, as evidenced from His raising Jesus from the dead (see Acts 17:30-31)

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead….” — The Apostle Paul

 

A couple comments.

First of all, some of those reasons given above are not just about unbelievers but common to Christians as well! The fact of the matter is that while we are new creations we will struggle our whole life long with what the Bible calls our “old Adam” or nature (see Romans 7). This church thing is often not easy for Christians either!

Second, some of you may be wondering what is particularly wrong with those last four options?

It is because they have nothing to do with Christian faith per se.

 

Christians attend worship services because they have been incorporated into God’s people by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light!” (I Pet. 2:9) This in turn has caused in them a desire to trust, love, and revere and honor the Triune God. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which gives them forgiveness, life, and salvation, they are those who now give God their primary attention.

They, along with their brethren, come to sit at His feet and be blessed.[ii]

OK – but let’s get back to the person who comes for all the wrong reasons. If they come for those last three reasons in particular, might that be better than coming for the other reasons?

Yes.

In fact, if a person is an unbeliever, there is only one thing they can do in regards to God internally that is “salutary”… beneficial (its only “good” — note the quotes — in a fallen world)…

Be terrified.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. – Proverbs 9:10

 

Why?

Because then such a person might find himself in His Presence and really care to hear what He has to say to him.

And how can we hear what God has to say to us?

In these last days, by listening to His Son (Heb. 1:2), whom He not only raised from the dead to demand our attention, but that we might have new life.

Yes, 3 Trinity Baptist Church signs in a row. Nice work guys!

 

You’ll hear about Him in a faithful church — one that takes the Bible seriously. And, one hopes, where there is a great concern that His Word and Sacraments are administered in their truth and purity.

Go – and listen attentively. Seek the Lord while He may be found![iii]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation! — The Apostle Paul

 

If this doesn’t describe your current situation, I hope this link might prove helpful to you.

See you there!

Amen! “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin…”

 

+++

And, by the way, if you are a Christian reading this, I should add one more key reason people darken the door of a church: because you, their friend, their neighbor, their co-worker, invite them!

FIN

 

Notes

[i] Francis Pieper: “Calovius before others gives luminous and clear-cut expression to the truth that before a person’s conversion is accomplished for the first time, no spiritual motions can be ascribed to him. He says: “Though unconverted persons at times gladly hear the messengers of the Word, this is because of the outward talents of the latter, or from some other carnal desire (ob aliam quamvis cupiditatem carnalem), as in the case of Herod. [[Mark 6, 7 >> Mk 6.7]], and is not due to an inclination for the Word of God (ob affectum erga Dei verbam), since such inclination is a product of faith (e fide redandat), which originates only from hearing the Word, [[Rom. 10, 17 >> Rom 10.17]]. Before conversion there is no such spiritual desire (desiderium spirituale) nor any such inclination towards the divine Word, because the Word is foolishness to natural man, and meets with his resistance, [[1 Cor. 2, 14 >> 1 Cor 2.14]]; [[Rom. 8, 7 >> Rom 8.7]].”[i]) And again: “If in the unconverted man pious motions, holy thoughts, beginnings of faith, a struggle of the spirit against the flesh are imagined (finguntur), this involves a self-contradiction; for where such motions occur, man is awakened from death and already lives through spiritual life. …” p. 112, Conversion and Election, 1913.

[ii] Pastor Todd Wilken, in his article “Why Do You Go to Church?” has said that we go to church to get the forgiveness of sins.

I think his article can basically give us this important message: “This is where you can positively, definitively, find forgiveness of sins and peace with God! This is where He has promised to be, to chase out all your uncertainty!” Yes indeed! It is there, after all, that you can find the authoritative pronouncement of the same by ministers trained and authorized to carry out His commission and administer His “means of grace”.

On the other hand, I also think I go to church precisely because I’ve been taught that God’s mercy and compassion precedes my ongoing repentance. I’ve been taught—and I believe the Bible confirms—that God forgives those sins I’ve committed even without my awareness. Therefore, the forgiveness that happens in worship is really the very public (and authoritative!) “tip of the iceberg,” if you will. So I would also say, in general, we go to church to get forgiven because we are people who have been formed by Christ’s forgiveness by virtue of continually hearing His Word, the most important public example of this being the public worship service.

By the way, these worship services might be more or less “public” (the early Christians worshipped in the homes of wealthier believers). Nevertheless, Christians are told to continually gather with one another and do, for “no man is an island” – much less a man on an island with just His Bible!—and we are no doubt formed by others in Christian community. We also offer the “right hand of fellowship” to other believers. The more the merrier, even as at some point we might think either that we are getting to big or that it would not be a bad idea to split up and have more “cells” where others can also find and worship Jesus.

[iii] “Lucas Osiander, commenting on [[Is. 55, 6 >> Is 55.6]], says: Tum Dominus prope est et inveniri potest, cum per evangelii praedicationem nobis salutem offert. Cum autem verbum suum aufert, ut non amplius recte agnoscatur, tunc nec inveniri neque recte invocari potest. Quare grata mente occasionem, qua Dominus ad nos clementer accedit, arripiamus. That is to say: “The Lord is near and can be found when through the preaching of the Gospel He offers salvation to us. But when He takes away His Word, so that it no longer is correctly understood, He can be neither found nor properly worshiped. Let us, then, gratefully seize the opportunity by means of which the Lord in His grace approaches us.” This manner of speaking has found its way into our Confession, where we read: “Such calling through the preaching of the Word we ought not to regard as a delusion, but know that God thereby reveals His will, that He would, by means of the Word, work upon those whom He thus calls, that they might be enlightened, converted, and saved.”[iii]) The expressions, “possibility of conversion,” “opportunity” of conversion, “possibility of being converted,” should, then, be retained in this sense, viz., that the saving grace of God comprises all men, that the Holy Spirit operates in all hearers unto conversion, and that the cause of non-conversion is to be sought solely in man’s resistance.” (Pieper, 119, 120).

 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Pearcey and Sigillito are Wrong: Toxic Masculinity Does Not Exist

 +++

Now that the storm has passed and it is safe, Nancy Pearcey and Serena Sigillito want us to know that the widely maligned Gillette ad wasn’t so bad. It can be redeemed.

In the American Thinker, Pearcey recently pays what I think she means to be a compliment to Christian men: “men who are theologically conservative fit the progressive ideal.”

Hmmm. The progressive ideal?

 

I don’t take that as a compliment, but rather an indication that something disturbing is amidst.

Christian men bow to no “progressive” agenda.

In like fashion, Serena Sigillito, the editor of the insightful and very worthwhile site Public Discourse, said the following.

It’s true that some who use the term seem to imply that most men, historically speaking, have been sexist pigs enabled by patriarchal systems of oppression. The website accompanying Gillette’s new ad describes men today as being “at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity.” But, of course, there’s really more to the story, as appealing as that simple narrative of social progress and enlightenment may be… (bold mine)

In truth, Sigillito does have many excellent things to say. The problem, however, is that for many there is not “more to the story”.

For them, things like patriarchy and toxic masculinity are synonyms.

Behold your oppressor… father.

 

In other words, toxic masculinity simply means that one operates as if one’s sex is the head–or even just thinks that it is without even putting the idea into practice due to fear of social reprobation.

Because they submit, even if inadvertently, to the use of the phrase “toxic masculinity,” this leads both Pearcey and Sigillitio to make other offensive and condescending statements:

Pearcey:

…But the #MeToo movement has revealed that many men are behaving worse – coarser, more sexually entitled – than in the past. Why is that?

One expects more of Pearcrey, the author of The Soul of Science. As a friend put it:

“Lies, damned lies (and statistics). Turning to #MeToo claimants to make the case that men are now behaving worse than in the past is the same as turning to car crash victims to make the case that drunk driving has become an epidemic. It’s a built-in sample bias which proves nothing more than that bad experiences with men are common in the subset of the population which claims a bad experience with men. Rigorously academic, it is not.”

“Men who are theologically conservative fit the progressive ideal.”

 

Let us, however, assume this is true. Surely their sexual behavior doesn’t change in a vacuum. Has anything happened to the behavior of the other sex during this time? Perhaps women’s sense of entitlement has also shifted? Are we allowed to broach those subjects?

America’s secular elites typically portray conservative churches as bastions of patriarchy – seedbeds of toxic masculinity.

Is patriarchy toxic? And would it be wrong or bad for churches to be bastions of patriarchy?

…it’s time to reassert the positive role that religion plays in overcoming toxic masculinity. It civilizes men.

I note: men, not man.

“Power (and the status that goes with it) is nothing if not the ability to secure yourself, your possessions, and your posterity. Fine by itself, but it comes with many abuses.” — Thomas Lemke, with some man-talk.

 

Sigillito:

Imagining themselves to be men’s champions, [some conservatives] are actually defending behavior, like sexual harassment and bullying, that a generation or two ago conservatives were the ones condemning.

Who, specifically, is defending these behaviors? In what manner? Name names please, so we can examine what they say together.

It’s also helped along by the psychological rewards of sharing our knee-jerk emotional reactions on social media, where our public displays of “virtue” can be immediately affirmed by our friends and followers.

Understatement of the year?: “…some who use the term seem to imply that most men, historically speaking, have been sexist pigs enabled by patriarchal systems of oppression…” — Serena Sigillito

 

No. There is virtue signaling, and there is saying “Amen!” when it needs to be said.

Too many young men have been taught (implicitly or explicitly, by the behavior of their fathers and peers or by more insidious influences, like pornography) a twisted, harmful version of masculinity.

But so many men are raised in daycare centers run by women, schools run by women, and households where mom either chose an unreliable father or kicked a reliable father to the curb. When women wield such great social power, perhaps a corresponding responsibility should be considered as well.

In a perhaps very related point, have you ever noticed how the same people concerned about “toxic masculinity” and men being overly aggressive and bold also openly lament how men are soft, weak, unambitious, failure to launch, etc.?

Whenever I read pieces like this, I am amazed at how easy it is for our culture to see the sins of men but how hard it is to see the sins of women. We need a much more well-rounded picture of the panolpy of human sin. We need more persons to write things like Peter Scaer does here:

We have got to get over the idea that women are a minority (they’re not), or that they’re always the victims. Whatever sin we can find on the male side, we can find one with the women. Indeed, we may very well sin in our own unique ways, thus testifying to the truth of the male-female binary. So, we can look at the divorce epidemic, and see that women are leading the way, walking out on husbands in droves. For good reason? Well, there’s always another side of the story, but then that’s the point. Men have strengths, but there are too many eunuchs. Women have strengths, but so often groups like the Women’s March denigrate their greatest strength and honor, namely motherhood.

All of this is to say, whenever we pit men against women, or women against men, everyone loses. We’re all in this together. And to deny the particular strength of men will mean that that very strength will be turned to ill, as we see in disintegrating and dangerous neighborhoods. A friend recently wrote that if you get rid of the patriarchy you replace it with a bad patriarchy. But not quite. If you get rid of the patriarchy, you end up with andrarchy, or at least the rule of an elite. A stable home, which requires men and women together, is the best bulwark against totalitarianism. Apart from male headship, we are not free, but instead are at the mercy of a government that cares not at all for our well being.[i]

If Ephesians 5:21-30 is the most despised passage of the Bible, as Matthew Cochran has suggested, then passages like Titus 2:5 cannot be far behind.

After all, when Scot McKnight writes that women should work slowly and relentlessly to “inform[] the church of what the New Testament teaches and what God is raising women up to do” (Kingdom Conspiracy, 122), that is not what he has in mind!

Besides Dr. Scaer, Rebecca Curtis, co-author of the book Ladylike, is another voice who speaks the forbidden words about women’s sin (and also listen to her talk about how to respond to those who speak against large families here).

A theological tour de force by two of the LC-MS’s most astute theologians.

 

I am not going to say that I don’t think Pearcey and Sigillito’s articles do not have good things to say, and are not worth seriously thinking about. Again, that is not true at all, as both articles contain many valuable pieces of information one will not typically find in mainstream media or our universities.

At the same time, however, I am going to insist that we do not let the Left control and drive the core conversation. While “toxic masculinity” could be a useful term if defined rightly, the point is that it is not going to be defined rightly by those most eager to place it on all of our lips.

What is abuse? See Matthew Cochran’s incisive post here.

 

It’s not “the other side” in quotes, as Sigillito puts it. There really is another side. And their ideas must be defeated in intellectual battle, not compromised with. 

And by the way, that “other side” is mixed in among us, undermining us from within.

It’s quite toxic, really.

“I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God…” — the Lord’s Apostle, Paul

 

And let’s get real practical: if you do not want to give full-throated support to people like Elizabeth Warren and Tucker Carlson in the fight against the “two-income trap” – noting that virtually no woman wants to marry a man who makes less than she does – how are you, in any way, helping matters?

FIN

 

Images:

Pearcey: https://www.nsa.edu/nancy-pearcey/ ; Stigillito: https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/about/serena-sigillito/

Notes:

[i] Scaer goes on to write:

“Now, this is all falling apart, as it must when natural law is not observed. Is being a woman just about wearing a dress and putting on lipstick? Of course not, until Bruce Jenner did it. Remember all the Vagina Monologues? Ah, feminism! But now banned, because, as we know, some women have male members. Remember those cute pussy hats? Oh, so avant garde. Well now they’re passe, even verboten, since again, not all women have them. Hail to our revolutionary leaders! No, maybe Father doesn’t always know best, but maybe we ought to start giving him his due.”

 

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Is Today’s Christianity Increasingly Filtered Through Marxist Categories?

Communism and Chrisitanity together?

 

Have you seen the video below or heard about it? Is it an overreaction? Grossly unfair? Or, maybe, just maybe, is there something important to it? (O’Sullivan’s First Law?)

 

This post is nothing other than a reflection not on that video per se, but rather on the title of this post, primarily with the help of a couple acquaintances from a Facebook group.

It, I think, is very meaty but also very digestible (understandable). I hope you find my report of this debate helpful.

Let us begin with the following statement. What should Christians think of it?:

“Power (and the status that goes with it) is nothing if not the ability to secure yourself, your possessions, and your posterity. Fine by itself, but it comes with many abuses.”

This seems like it could be in some real tension with what fellow Patheos blogger Scott McKnight, concerned about the idolatry of “Constantinianism,” has said: “The kingdom story [of the Bible] counters the culture of politics as the solution to our problems… We are summoned… to challenge all idolatrous stories that seek to diminish the kingship of King Jesus” (Kingdom Conspiracy, 62,63).

To rule the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd putting wolves, lions, eagles and sheep all together in the same fold…. The sheep will indeed follow the way of peace, but not for long. — Martin Luther

 

As a Lutheran, I had always thought that Luther’s teaching of the “Two Kingdoms” told us that the “Kingdom of the Left,” that is civil government, really did provide a temporary yet not insignificant solution to some of the problems all human beings face on earth: the sword of justice.

So while you are wrestling with those thoughts in your Spirit-led mind, get a load of this punchy comment, made by Thomas Lemke in response to a tweet I had made:

I responded to this by saying “If this is the case, it appears that the Left as a whole is simply becoming more Marxist. And, as best I can tell, conservatism in American is still moving further left,” prompting a series of tweets from Thomas I took to be exceptionally thought-provoking. You can read them in his very short and accessible blog post titled “How Adopting Marxist Categories Leads to the Devil Made Me Do it Theology”.

And communists are “closet Christians”. — Pope Francis

 

Thomas’ main point is right there in the title of his article, but here are a few of his other points leading up to it:

  • Where all moral questions boil down to [an axis of] Power <–> oppression then it becomes tantamount to blasphemy to speak of God in terms of his power (as it puts him dangerously close to the “immoral” side of the continuum).
  • With a Marxist paradigm, “sinner=oppressed=’morally good’”. “His enemies can’t be his footstool — that would be oppression!”
  • With the real victimizer being sin and not the one who sins, Jesus is identified with the oppressed to the exclusion of His veiled power: “’Glory’ is something a conqueror has. But only one who is oppressed bears a cross.”
  • Jesus’ death was not to atone for unrighteousness, writ large, but only to show that God is on the side of Moral Good, in that he is oppressed too”

“Christ shares in our misery, but does not take our place under God’s wrath… Christ shares in our sin, not by imputation but by becoming one with us.” – David Scaer, on the Radical Lutheran heresy, p. 12

 

Being a serious Lutheran, I naturally thought of a particular group in our midst who call themselves “Radical Lutherans”[i] (my last post took on their biggest straw man) and posted Thomas’ short piece on a small Facebook group of thoughtful Lutheran acquaintances, asking if anyone had a good critique of the article. One of those participants, a man we’ll call Georgios Siopilos, shared what I thought were some very wise words in response. You can read all of them in the post that I named, as provocatively as I could, “Radical Lutheranism is Bad, but its Not Necessarily Communism”.

Related: “Postmodern, deconstructionism are the waters in which we swim in this day and time.” — “Radiolayman” Matthew Garnett, in his article “Deconstructing Law and Gospel: How Postmodern Deconstructionism has Taken the Central Doctrine of Lutheranism Unawares” (and this continues…).

 

In sum, Georgios is quite familiar with the effects of communist ideology, and so calling himself “an unhelpful purist,” wanted to make sure Thomas knew what real communist philosophy was/is: “Strictly speaking, capitalists, in Marxism, are not evil, or even oppressive, they too are ‘victims’ of the system, which itself is a necessary step to the next economic step in human civilization.”[ii]

Capitalism: necessary for destroying the traditional family, but overall, to be transcended. — Marx

 

Georgios then says that he thinks what Thomas is actually doing is “getting at the Adorno/Marcuse reworking of Marxism into, effectively, a political theology of power” (if you are getting lost at this point, Georgios is talking here about what some have called “cultural Marxism”. I came across a very helpful article about this topic a week ago called “Cultural Marxism is Real” here).

“Feminism, gender studies, critical race theory, post-colonialism, disability studies [are] guided by Marxism or adopt Marxist terms and concepts…” – Allen Mendenhall

.

“The Bible, as all of humanity before the US,” he says “has assumed that to possess power is good if good people possess it.” Americans, though, are taken in by this “Neo-Marxism” because “suspicion of power and hatred of those who concentrate it is deep in the American character.”[iii]

Thomas’ response to this post, another one of his own, was appreciative but at the same time basically came down to K.I.S.S. (“keep it simple stupid”): “I’m merely noting that certain (“Marxist”) presuppositions lead in certain directions; just as starting with a sugar base means you’re cooking something that will rot your teeth out”. In other words, most people don’t care about these subtle distinctions over things that have similar practical implications for real life, so there is no need for this kind of level of technical detail. Nor is this a bad thing: loss of precision, after all, also happens when the academic disciplines try to understand each other as well. Not only this, but such “[p]recision comes at the cost of time and attention; the latter two are in short supply, so sometimes ‘close enough’ has to be good enough.”

“Precision comes at the cost of time and attention; the latter two are in short supply, so sometimes ‘close enough’ has to be good enough” — Thomas Lemke

 

Some of the memorable zingers in his response are that “Before Marx, Radical Egalitarianism was an ideology. Since Marx, it’s become a religion,”[iv] “of course I’m not saying that the ‘Radical Lutherans’ all hide hammer-and-sickle necklaces under their collars,” and, the title of his blog post: “Ideas are Like GMO Corn”. What does that mean? Ideas are no more containable than genetically modified DNA is… they will spread, be adapted, interbreed, etc:[v]

So, sure, in the abstract world of ivory-tower thought, Marxism has nothing to do with power-oppression as an axis of morality. But as it seeped into the public it necessarily changed to adapt to the public’s categories, which caused the way it is articulated (and even subconsciously understood) to shift. Look at the Marxists of our day, such as Bernie Sanders and AOC, who are unmistakable moralists when it comes to the power-oppression axis.[vi]

“I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” — AOC

 

Georgios’s response to this was fascinating, and immediately won Thomas’ heartfelt approval. Noting his relative poverty, he said that his tower is not ivory but made of fibreboard painted “eggshell”. Noting his own purposes in writing, he stated that his definition of “technical Marxism” was indeed pointless to Thomas’ purposes, but not his own! His own powerful point is worth repeating:

[I]t was Marxism, the actual technical thing, that caused nearly everyone not born in the Western hemisphere to have at least one relative either put to death or consigned to life in the gulag or re-education camps, and not the modern American metaphor on Marxism, which really is nothing but envy given the title of Marxism to create the illusion that a vice has become a philosophy.[vii]

Are the ideas of “post-modernism” and “Marxism” really a lot closer to home for all of us than we might imagine?

Georgios aims at our hearts and strikes:

There are indeed actual Marxists, as there are actual post-modernists, and I dislike them both intensely. But if the question is ‘what is the average American that expresses the ideas that we associate with post modernism and Marxism actually thinking?’ The answer is, in my opinion, surprisingly non-radical (this is, of course, excluding college students, and other uneducated people). Why are you post-modernist? ‘Well its not good to judge people.’ Why are you Marxist? ‘Its not fair that a bunch of powerful jackasses should have all this power and money when I work hard and have barely enough to pay rent.’

I hate to say it, but both of those ‘values’ are things you can find in Capra’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and the Andy Griffith Show. They are American values: minding your own business, and despising the haughty. They are values I approve of. But, like all values, they can be exploited (bold mine).

Andy Griffith… American Marxist?

 

With that, he lays down the final boom. Our nation, he says, has indeed changed:

I would just say that the problem is not that people have converted to some distant and wicked ideology, but rather that, apart from any conversion, a distant and wicked ideology has found a way to twist normal, decent, American and Christian convictions in such a way that in the end they look almost nothing like how they did in the beginning.

“Communism is not simply another form of government. It is very much like the cosa nostra, the society of gangsters.” — Kurt Marquart

 

Is this true? If so, what does this mean for theology? Our teaching of God’s law and his gospel?

I will let Georgios, channeling C.S. Lewis’ description of Aslan, give us the final word.

Not safe.

 

God is powerful. God is also not safe. He makes rivers of blood and breaks nations with the rod of his mouth. The Hebrew word of a god, ‘el’ literally just means ‘a power’, hence why older translators rendered the term ‘elohim’ as ‘the Almighty’, that is, he who has all mights, all powers.

If power is to be condemned, it is difficult to understand why our hymns demand we ascribe to the Lord ‘All glory, honor and dominion’, and why nearly every Christmas carol declares the greatness of the coming of ‘the king’, and why God ‘holds the nations in derision’.

Rightly does it say we should ‘rejoice with trembling’, for God is terrifying. Only when one understands the terror of God can one understand the pathos of the phrase ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’, and why children and adults both sing ‘I love thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky.’ It is the very reality of the dread power of God taking the form of the dear mercy of Christ that makes fear and love unite, and causes ‘justice and mercy to kiss one another.’

If one denies either the power of God, or the love of God, one has denied the God we worship.

“It is the very reality of the dread power of God taking the form of the dear mercy of Christ that makes fear and love unite, and causes ‘justice and mercy to kiss one another.” – Georgios Siopilos.

FIN

 

Images:

Mendenall pic: https://allenmendenhall.com/photo-gallery/ ; Andy Griffith: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Griffith ; Aslan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aslan

Notes:

[i] In sum like “Radical Lutheranism,” overlaps a bit theologically with the hyper/radical grace movement among evangelical Christians, which, as best as I can tell, was more prominent in online discussions and elsewhere a few years ago.

[ii] Note: this was also very briefly touched on in the latest post at my blog: “The Hi-Jacking of Tucker Carlson’s Concerns: Is There a “Gynocentric” Agenda?”: “If the father of a mother’s children does not look to provide for, treasure, and protect for his own, they must look to man. And yes, I literally mean man. Men. Usually “the man” though, meaning those with political power… Basically everyone knows this, but all either suppress it or don’t talk about it, or talk around it endlessly. Marx certainly understood this. He saw capitalism destroying all the traditional bonds of society, particularly the natural family. There were definitely things about captialism that upset him, but this, to be sure, wasn’t one of them.”

[iii] I’d note that many Marxists also, while suspicious of power, also believe that it is good when good people possess it. We should note here that most all Marxists believe that human nature is intrinsically good, and not sinful.

[iv] Cue Adam Proctor and other socialists ; note this fascinating, God-haunted conversation by these young and restless red souls.

[v] More:

“Philosophers like to pretend that their ideas can be held and perpetually maintained in a just-so way, but this is no more true than genetically modified DNA can, once sown in a field of crops, be contained in its own little plot. It will spread, and it will be adapted in an endless chain of interbreeding.”

[vi] He goes on: “You can ascribe another name to it (such as “the Adorno/Marcuse reworking of Marxism”), and that may be a useful distinction in an academic sense. But at some point these names get out of hand and, for our purposes in the public, it’s a distinction without a difference….”

[vii] More complete quote: “When Mussolini gave speeches pitching Fascism, he didn’t just say ‘We’ll be racist, and then I’ll be authoritarian.’ It was a system thought out to the specifics, and ultimately, it is that system, with all its specifics, and not our cartoon metaphor of it, that plunged the earth into the most violent war in history. Similarly, it was Marxism, the actual technical thing, that caused nearly everyone not born in the Western hemisphere to have at least one relative either put to death or consigned to life in the gulag or re-education camps, and not the modern American metaphor on Marxism, which really is nothing but envy given the title of Marxism to create the illusion that a vice has become a philosophy.”

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

The Hi-Jacking of Tucker Carlson’s Concerns: Is There a “Gynocentric” Agenda?

What do you think about this? Good stuff for Christians? Good stuff for everyone? Anything in there to cause concern?:

 

Isn’t it good when “conservative” men will cheer for and click on and up vote pro-life feminists vs. those bad feminists?

I don’t think so. I said I would talk about the influence of feminism again at some point, and so here we go….

I see feminism as largely responsible for the fraying of the most precious bonds that hold us together — and I’m not just talking about the radical feminists.

What did you think about all of the hubbub caused by Tucker Carlson recently? He doesn’t tweet much. Here are his last 3:

1/3, 2/3, 3/3. I wonder if he could be trying to tell us something? Get something across? Communicate with us as other human beings?

Anyway, what I thought is what he thought.

So I’ve been a little bit more vocal about this kind of stuff on my Twitter feed recently.

Why?

Well, I’ve got a got a couple theses going on here. First:

If the father of a mother’s children does not look to provide for, treasure, and protect for his own, they must look to man.

And yes, I literally mean man. Men. Usually “the man” though, meaning those with political power.

Second: Basically everyone knows this, but all either suppress it or don’t talk about it, or talk around it endlessly. Marx certainly understood this. He saw capitalism destroying all the traditional bonds of society, particularly the natural family. There were definitely things about captialism that upset him, but this, to be sure, wasn’t one of them.

I wonder why?

I think I Cor. 11:3 is one of those “elephant in the room” passages that nobody wants to deal with. By the way, I thought it odd that even most of the modern translations are almost the same as the very literal NASB, while basically only the conservative ESV (based on the NRSV, from the original RSV) reads “…head of a wife is her husband…”

What does this mean?

I thought I’d take the plunge the other morning to see what the free old commentaries on Bible hub had to say about the passage.

People get ready. Lots of free old stuff.

Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things I found on this passage only from the main page (anyone who wants to find out where they are from can go to the page and press “control f” to find the phrases). Of course, I’ve deliberately chosen those quotes most offensive to our modern ears that I could find. Feel free to sample just a few and scroll down to what follows… :

  • To feel bound to assert your liberty in every detail of social and political life is to cease to be free—the very liberty becomes a bondage.
  • [he] lay[s] down the principles which are opposed to the principle of that absolute and essential equality…
  • …As there is a subordination of the whole body to Christ, so there is in that body a subordination of woman to man.
  • As the Head of the Church—e., as the man Christ Jesus—Christ is subordinate to the Father, and, indeed, perhaps the idea is carried farther into the mystery of the divine nature itself, as consisting of three Persons co-eternal and co-equal, yet being designated with an unvarying sequence as “first,” and “second,” and “third.”
  • The woman was made subject to man, because made for his help and comfort.
  • The Christian religion sanctions national customs wherever these are not against the great principles of truth and holiness.
  • The word “head,” in the Scriptures, is designed often to denote “master, ruler, chief.” … In the New Testament the word is used in the sense of Lord, ruler, chief…
  • Every Christian should recollect the relation in which he stands to him, as one that is suited to produce the strictest decorum, and a steady sense of subordination.
  • …in her demeanor, her dress, her conversation, in public and in the family circle – should recognize her subordination to him.[i]
  • their subjection in point of order, modesty, and seemliness, is to be maintained.[ii]
  • “Jesus, therefore, must be of the same essence as God: for, since the man is the head of the woman, and since the head is of the same essence as the body, and God is the head of the Son, it follows the Son is of the same essence as the Father” [Chrysostom].
  • “The woman is of the essence of the man, and not made by the man; so, too, the Son is not made by the Father, but of the essence of the Father” [Theodoret, t. 3, p. 171].
  • …the woman in religious services ought to behave herself as a person in subjection to her husband, and accordingly to use such a gesture, as, according to the guise and custom of that country, testified such a subjection…
  • the man is called the head of the woman, because by God’s ordinance he is to rule over her, Genesis 3:16; he hath an excellency above the woman, and a power over her.
  • … God is the Head of Christ, not in respect of his essence and Divine nature, but in respect of his office as Mediator; as the man is the head of the woman, not in respect of a different and more excellent essence and nature, (for they are both of the same nature), but in respect of office and place, as God hath set him over the woman…
  • Christ is the Head of his church, and every one that is a member of it; and man is the head of the woman, he to whom the woman ought to be subject.
  • …he is also an economical head, or in such sense an head as an husband is the head of his wife, and as a parent is the head of his family, and as a master is the head of his servants; for all these relations Christ sustains
  • And the head of the woman is the man, The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief…[iii]
  • … he declares that the woman is one degree beneath the man by the ordinance of God, and that the man is so subject to Christ, that the glory of God ought to appear in him for the preeminence of the sex.
  • Such persons are here reminded that according to God’s word (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:13) woman was designed to be in subjection, both in society and in the family.
  • The relation indicated by ΚΕΦ. is that of organic subordination, even in the last clause: He to whom Christ is subordinate is God…
  • … The indecorum in question offends against a foundation principle, viz., that of subordination under the Divine government; this the Cor[1598], with all their knowledge, cannot “know,” or they would not have allowed their women to throw off the ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς (1 Corinthians 11:10)….
  • In the sight of God all men are equal; yet without distinctions of rank and office society could not exist. But equality and order are reconciled by the revelation of God in Christ.
  • … Cf. Ephesians 5:23. “It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Galatians 3:28) gave occasion….[iv]

One of the passages I found most intriguing was the following one (maybe its because I am an LC-MS Lutheran, which is a rather congregationalist church body):

And the head of Christ is God – Christ, as Mediator, has consented to assume a subordinate rank, and to recognize God the Father as superior in office. Hence, he was obedient in all things as a Son; he submitted to the arrangement required in redemption; he always recognized his subordinate rank as Mediator, and always regarded God as the supreme Ruler, even in the matter of redemption. The sense is, that Christ, throughout his entire work, regarded himself as occupying a subordinate station to the Father; and that it was proper from his example to recognize the propriety of rank and station everywhere.[v]

In any case, what to do with this Word of God thing? As my pastor likes to say in Bible class, “Well, mark it out of your Bibles.”

In all seriousness, no. So how to start thinking about it? I am not entirely sure, given that there really do seem to be few models out there, at least when it comes to men who are both vocal and winsome (is that even possible?) on this issue.

This brings me to an email rant that I got the other day from one of the readers of my blog. This man is highly intelligent and socially conservative and his note is so “out of the box”–and yet, I think, so shockingly insightful–that I thought I should share it. I do so keeping this reader anonymous and changing some details with his blessing (its lengthy so if you want to skim see the parts I bold):

I made the mistake of checking social media and I see this making the rounds among the patriarchs of the LCMS: ‘Tucker Carlson Is Right About America’s Elites And Working Class’

Just for starters, the picture used as the header is literally two women jogging. And the author even uses the word “chivalrous” to describe how elites should conduct themselves [Nathan’s note: see here].

So a conversation that started out talking about MEN in America, the uncomfortable truth that women don’t want men who earn less than they do, all the pathologies and challenges facing (especially, but not only) poor, working and middle class men… that gets turned into… something about women jogging??? You go grrrrl! Win the race!

This is how ‘The Federalist’ is gonna lead the way and help [Christian leaders] and all the rest restore the family?

And if you read the piece you’ll see the author arguing against welfare that penalizes marriage! He claims to be about encouraging family formation. So what’s his proposal? More money for daycare. So women who get married (thereby increasing their household income) won’t lose out on subsidies for paying other women to care for their children while they go out and serve the market. Remember, this guy is one of the people arguing the market isn’t god. And supposedly standing up for social conservatism and against libertarianism and those who put the market above all. And his big idea, is to help families by giving women more money to make it easier to go work for the market.

And the women who take care of their own kids while their husband supports the family, what do they get? Shut up! We’re busy fighting against those evil elites who idolize capitalism. We don’t have time for questions like that. 

Fake News, circa 2003?

Carlson started off denouncing the clowns at “overfunded think tanks”. He started off talking about “MEN in America”. He started off talking about how social conservatives have betrayed their supposed principles and priorities and beliefs. He started off challenging the system and opening the door to an important conversation. And this is what it turns into. More government money for daycare.

This is how the author, Willis Krumholz, holder of advanced degrees who works in financial services, thinks we should go about helping his struggling brothers he allegedly cares so much about. He’s a moral, caring, godly, Christian elitist. And that’s why he wants to give women more. That’s the way to help blue collar and middle class men! This fake populist, Dudley Do-Right, product of D.C. conservatism is showing how they never stop. They will twist anything. This is what these people do. And they will pat themselves on the back, and congratulate each other for serving the Kingdom.

Mr Krumholz also works with Defense Priorities, an outfit supposedly dedicated to foreign policy realism. So I guess I can assume the return of realism is another recent positive development on the Right that will be corrupted and twisted and used to sell B.S. 

Nobody cares Jennifer.

None of this is new.

Brad Wilcox and Robert George and the gang at AEI and all these other people who work for and hand around and were ushered into “Conservatism” by those “overfunded think tanks” Carlson denounced, all those out of touch, uncaring, unChristian, cosmopolitan elites that JD Vance and Rod Dreher and the gang are supposedly against… they’ve been working on this for years.

Don’t means test welfare. That’s it.

Not cut welfare so husbands become a necessity. Not support one-income families. Not disincentivize unwed motherhood. Not helping boys become providers, directing them toward the form of higher education they’re suited for, eliminating subsidies for B.S. degrees, calling out the absurd practice of educating and training women for important jobs just so they can drop out of the workforce (or work fewer hours than a man would have) once they get what they really wanted which was marrying a man with that level of education, not establishing a different “success sequence” for the two sexes.

Nope. Just stop means testing government subsidies for daycare. This is the populist, chivalrous, anti market idolization, Christian, super conservative, moral and caring response to the problems of the forgotten man. They care about real people more than market, you see!

God bless America. How ’bout some real home economics?

It’s infuriating because this is so close to the truth. Arguing against libertarian utopianism. Great! Seeing real human beings instead of economic automatons. Fantastic! Seeing the role technological advancement has played and grappling how that interacts with our laws, our biology, and the institutions of civil society. How all these things interact, Wonderful! But it’s all a scam. It’s all the same people, the same phony “conservatives” coming up with new language, new talking points, new packaging, new manipulation to go about advancing their same gynocentric agenda.

Fake News circa 2006? Or what the cruel culture of Molech really does?

Just like they manipulate the abortion issue to promote Republican feminists in a fake battle against Democrat feminists. And turn what should be genuine outrage and immediate action into money and jobs for the pro-life industry. But maybe when Ginsburg goes we’ll get Amy Coney Barrett to save us all. So we can… um… regulate abortion and give more money to women. Or something…

This is what these people do. This is what the system does. If you think the men of the LCMS can be about something else, start with convincing all the men around you who eat this garbage up, who are part of promoting it, who think this is some brilliant new way to save the family, and who jump at the chance to share this stuff but only post [Matthew] Cochran when he’s writing about immigration. Because they see the other stuff [that he writes, dealing with the problems of feminism and such,] as simply manipulation to draw in suckers like me. Have some personal conversations with your brothers and convince them.

Buy a copy or two or three. Worth your investment.

I don’t think this reader is about to turn to Islam or something. At the same time, like it or not, he has a point. You can ignore him and crucify him if you like, but human nature is not going to go away. And Christianity means to get that human nature on the right track, not to abolish it completely.

By the way, when he says “they see the other stuff as simply manipulation to draw in suckers like me,” he is clearly talking about giving lip-service to doctrines while not putting them into practice in senses that are meaningful or significant. I got a similar reaction from a [not LC-MS] Lutheran after my article critical of Gerhard Forde in the new Concordia Theological Quarterly:

It surprises me that CTQ published it, as so many are Forde fans. I have an idea why though.

Sort of like when we talked about feminism being so pervasive in the LCMS, you can feel better about it or justify it by pointing out the gross error of the ELCA in the matter.

I wonder if pointing out Forde himself, gross Fordism, as error allows some self-justification of Forde-light. “At least we’re not that” so to speak.

This man, no doubt, is highly skeptical of the LC-MS and its internal going-ons (related — see the newest from Tom Lemke). Just like my friend above basically asking “do these folks really mean what they say?” This other non-LCMS Lutheran went on to say this:

“….if you have something to say or criticize, you should be prepared to say it to all and not in secret.”

Yes indeed.

None of this is easy.

I remember one of the most difficult questions my wife and I had before getting married centered around these very issues. I remember a very painful conversation, lasting for several hours into the morning. There are only one or two times before we got married when I wondered whether or not things could really work out between us, but that long conversation was definitely one of those times.

It is hard to have these difficult conversations. Especially when our culture has largely given up on the Bible as being the Word of God. Especially when our culture thinks it has little to nothing to learn from the ancients, or even our immediate ancestors for that matter.

“The nearly universal teaching of all of mainstream culture is… that female rebellion is a virtue and that men must always submit to women with whom they are involved. #feminism” — Matthew Cochran

FIN

 

Notes: portions of the above edited for clarity at 7:30am day of the post.

[i] It goes on: “The danger was, that those who were under the influence of inspiration would regard themselves as freed from the necessity of recognising that, and would lay aside the “veil,” the usual and appropriate symbol of their occupying a rank inferior to the man. This was often done in the temples of the pagan deities by the priestesses, and it would appear also that it had been done by Christian females in the churches.”

[ii] It goes on “Paul reproves here their unseemliness as to dress: in 1Co 14:34, as to the retiring modesty in public which becomes them. He grounds his reproof here on the subjection of woman to man in the order of creation.”

[iii] It goes on “as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries.”

[iv] It goes on: “Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over-hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head.”—De Wette

[v] A different commentary appears to have an opposing view: “The relation indicated by ΚΕΦ. is that of organic subordination, even in the last clause: He to whom Christ is subordinate is God (comp 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 15:28, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15; Romans 9:5; and see Kahnis, Dogm. III. p. 208 ff.), where the dogmatic explanation resorted to, that Christ in His human nature only is meant (Theodoret, Estius, Calovius, al[1757]), is un-Pauline. Neither, again, is His voluntary subjection referred to (Billroth), but—which is exactly what the argument demands, and what the two first clauses give us—the objective and, notwithstanding His essential equality with God (Php 2:6), necessary subordination of the Son to the Father in the divine economy of redemption.[1758] Much polemic discussion as to the misuse of this passage by the Arians and others may be found in Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact.”

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized