In the Sunlight of Our Deliverance

One of things we should notice about the drive for “social justice” is that the theory of the thing contains a soteriological contradiction right at the heart of it. This is what I mean.

In true evangelism, the unbeliever is being called from a state of condemnation into a state of no condemnation. This is why the message that accomplishes this is unambiguously good news — Jesus was crucified and is risen, and the sinner who believes in Him is set free. This is a true evangel.

But in the world of social justice, what is the task? What is the mission? It is precisely the reverse of this. It is to get the weak and oppressed from a condition where God identifies with them into a state where they come under His judgment. Advocates of missional social justice identify with the poor and they sneer at middle class values. But this is like a lifeguard identifying with the drowning and sneering at the beach.

We are supposed to minister to the poor, but what does that mean? Does it include actually helping them, so that they are no longer poor? But if we do that, we are moving them out of the realm of God’s favor. If we deliver them out of poverty, we are setting them up for a visiting speaker a generation from now who will come to their church and say that God identifies with the poor — and not with you. You used to have it good when you had it bad, but not any more.

I have noted before that the poor are a cash cow for those who want to have a steady income based on helping the poor. But there are other factors in play as well. The guilty white social worker needs the poor to remain poor for emotional reasons as well. If they stopped being poor, they would stop needing him, and he would have to stop being patronizing. Moreover, they would cease being his friends, for they would have become middle class, the kind of person he has been trained to hold in contempt. They would have been successfully “evangelized,” which means that they now lie under condemnation. Therefore there is no justification for those who are in . . . who, exactly?

But true mercy ministry is effective, which means that it actually shows mercy. It means that it works. It means that the grandchildren of the drug addict you helped out thirty years ago are now growing up in an intact home with two parents, are getting fed every day, are going to sleep warm every night, are receiving a good, Christian education, and so on. According to the theology of social justice, does God identify with them anymore? Nope — they were delivered . . . into condemnation.

If the poor are not to be rejected by God, then, we have to keep them right where they are. So we have created a ministry for the permanent underclass, and a theology to keep them that way. This gives the bureaucrat dispensing the favors of the state a steady job, and it gives sob sister Christians an emotional security blanket (made out of people), who must not be allowed to turn into the middle class enemy.

An entrepreneur who offers a poor man a job has more love in his little finger than the entire man has who creates a job for himself off of that same poor man. True capitalism — not crapitalism, mind you, not crony capitalism — is love. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we will grow up into love.

I say all this knowing that the Bible is very clear that God does identify with the weak. He uses weak and feeble instruments to accomplish great things. But we err seriously when we make weakness an end in itself, instead of understanding it for what it is — a left-handed way of getting to the victory.

Be strong in grace (2 Tim. 2:1). Be strong in the Lord (Eph. 6:10). Be men, be strong (1 Cor. 16:13). These verses should no more be pitted against the many passages on the glory of weakness than the passages on weakness should be pitted against these. For when I am weak, that is when I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10). The argument is not that weakness is ethically better, and too bad it always loses. It is that weakness conquers.

And when that weakness conquers, and the mighty have been thrown down from their high places, and the lowly have been lifted up, what then? When we were released from our captivity, we were like those who dream, and we stopped our mouths at the goodness of God. For the wicked were dispersed like smoke in a gale, and we lifted up our heads because of the redemption that came to us. And after we walked around in the sunlight of our deliverance for a few years, overflowing with gratitude, one day a man came to us, claiming to be a prophet. He said that we were deeply compromised, having accepted some gifts we had quite plainly accepted. How can we escape condemnation, living the way we were living?

Blessed are the poor, he said, for they shall stay like that.

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83 thoughts on “In the Sunlight of Our Deliverance

  1. Do you think its more ignorance with good intentions that drives the leftist welfare programs or a selfish need to have power over a whole group of people?

  2. The State increasingly uses the poor as justification for the expansionist agenda. The more poor, the more power the State has. “Get your food stamps here!”

    The problem is not in helping the truly needy. The problem is trying to do it through the institution that bears a sword, as minister of God’s wrath.

    The arms of mercy, and the hands of charity belong to the Church. Its storehouse is to be filled by means of our tribute offering to God. We are invited to test God in this promise.

    The State has completely usurped the role of the Church in our day. How much longer will it be before the State begins to tax the Church in order to pretend to perform the role that God gave to the Church in the first place? What did separation of Church and State ever mean, if it was not meant to prevent this?

  3. Yeah it seems like its inevitable now, the state will be involved in everything. My attitude now has been “eh, fallen world, not my concern”…do you think that’s the right way to go about this? This world seems too bad to “save”.

  4. Boy, oh boy, you lost me at the beginning. It wasn’t till I read “According to the theology of social justice, does God identify with them anymore? Nope.” That it made any sense! I don’t necessarily agree with your conclusions but at least you weren’t saying what I thought you were saying.

    I would prefer to help in a way that moves someone from poverty to a livable income. However, I can’t get around “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” And “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

    Jesus’ commands here are not opposed to giving a beggar $10 rather than finding him a job. It isn’t either/or. And I don’t think those who preach social justice are trying to make it either/or. Our government officials seem to be contend with handouts only because, as you said, it keeps people dependent upon them. Maybe I’m just not seeing the same social justice Christians you are.

  5. Tim,

    I think if you consult most of the often-quoted social justice proof texts (Matthew 25 being perhaps the most popular), you will find that they inevitably are talking within the context of the church, not general societal relief. Jesus specifies “to the least of these brothers of mine” – which is to say (and I expect that Pastor Wilson agrees) that there should be no-one hungry or homeless in your church unless everyone is hungry and homeless (that’s at a minimum – I haven’t thought through its implications on the international church). It addresses the strength of the church community as a family and kingdom, but doesn’t have any particular bearing on the church’s mission to society at large.

  6. Hi Joel, the parable of the Good Samaritan does not really leave room for the ‘our crowd’ theory: “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34). . .but no doubt that’s not going to stop you folks from keeping on trying.

  7. Katecho said:
    The problem is not in helping the truly needy. The problem is trying to do it through the institution that bears a sword, as minister of God’s wrath.

    I think you are being reductionistic in your description of the purpose of government. The law, which governed the nation Israel, specifically instructs the Jews to not glean the corners of their fields for the poor. As a result, I do not think it is wise to suggest that the government has no responsibility to force manditory giving. That being said, I am happy to lament the current state of affairs :)

  8. Pastor Wilson,

    I have to say I second Tim’s comments above. The issue isn’t either you give the beggar $10 *or* find him a job, or evangelize him. You can do – and ought to do – all of this. Ultimately, Christians would want to bring the beggar into the church, baptize him, and give him communion, as well as love them in Christian fellowship. I don’t think that any social justice advocates are saying that God ceases to love a person when they cease to become poor. I don’t even get the impression that that is what they are implying. What social justice advocates seem to be saying is that because Jesus identifies with the poor and oppressed, the church should prioritize helping the poor and oppressed.

    If they cease to be poor, that doesn’t mean that Jesus ceases to identify with them. It just means that Jesus ceases to be displeased with us for not helping them. We must take His commands seriously. We are Christians.

    To me, it seems that you are saying that either we must help deliver the poor from their sin, or deliver them from their poverty. This is a false dichotomy. Jesus wanted to deliver them from both; so should we.

    Pastor Wilson, just replace the word “poor” with “battered women” in your post, and I think you can see what I mean. Jesus doesn’t want saved or unsaved battered women to remain battered or unsaved. Bringing a battered woman into the nurturing life of the church entails delivering her from whomever is battering her. Deliverance from battery doesn’t mean Jesus loves her less, even though He still identifies with battered women/oppressed people/the poor in a special way.

  9. Tim M.
    And you are equivocating on “the law.” There is plenty of “law” in the sense of the revealed will of God, that is not intended to be law in the sense of that which the civil sphere is to enforce. God did require the children of Israel to allow their poor neighbors to glean their fields. But notice two important facts. First, the gleaner still had to be approved by the gleanee, and second, there is no civil penalty in the OT prescribed for the man who failed to keep the gleaning “laws.” In our own day it is the “law” of God that my children should obey me when I tell them to clean their room. That doesn’t mean that when they fail I call the sheriff, and they get 3 to 5 years.

  10. Tim M.

    I think that when the law spoke to that, it was also speaking to a theocracy, and one whose God was the Lord.

    Just as a thought experiment, I wonder what the response from social justice advocates would be if the quid pro quo for said social justice was for “all men everywhere to repent and believe, and to acknowledge Jesus Christ as King of kings to include all governments, ie, bowing their knees to theocratic rule by the Word of God.

  11. Michael, thanks for your comments. I quite agree that it isn’t an either/or situation. We should deliver them from both physical poverty and spiritual poverty. So no disagreement there. The point I was making, and perhaps I was overly subtle, is this. If I am in violation of Luke 14:33 for having a computer, a truck, a house, regular meals, and hot and cold running water, then what am I doing to a poor man if I obtain for him a computer, a truck, a house, regular meals, and hot and cold running water? Either it is possible to have that stuff, and not be in violation of the Lord’s charge, or I shouldn’t do that to this poor man, making him as much a son of hell as myself. That makes sense?

  12. Fredericka – that’s one interpretation of the Good Samaritan, but it rests on the critical (and in my view rather naive) assumption that Jesus is actually answering the question “who is my neighbor?”. The verses preceding the fellow’s question make it clear that his ostensible inquiry is insincere: “and wishing to justify himself, he said…”. So if you want the parable to be about the definition of a neighbor, you have to ignore Jesus’ usual practice with his Jewish interlocutors – rarely (never?) does he play along with their self-interested attempts at dialogue. Usually he turns the question back on them and reveals their difficulty is not intellectual but volitional. “By what authority do I do these things? Let’s talk about John and how you refused to repent like he told you to.”

    So it is here. Jesus is telling the fellow not what neighbors are (the definition he pretended to want, and which he knew anyway from Deuteronomy) but what neighbors do (the sacrificial behavior which the lawyer was unwilling to imitate).

  13. To my responses:
    I’m only advancing one argument. It is not amoral for a government to impose some sort of restricted mandatory charity. If God’s law is holy, righteous, and good, then some limited imposed charity cannot be a moral evil or invalid purpose of government. This isn’t an argument for communism.

  14. …found my way here by means of a curious trail of straw. Oh, found the source: it’s falling out of the straw man you’ve been dragging up and down your gauntlet.

    For the sake of good rhetoric, can you cite some actual social justice theorists who condemn the middle class as strongly as you say they do?

  15. Rcjr,
    I do not recognize the trifold distinction of law. I’m also not a postmillennialist. I understand the Mosaic law as a unity. I like capitalism, I think it’s wise. I thinkthe forced distribution of wealth is stealing.

  16. Bill Buchanan wrote:

    Yeah it seems like its inevitable now, the state will be involved in everything. My attitude now has been “eh, fallen world, not my concern”…do you think that’s the right way to go about this? This world seems too bad to “save”.

    Since the culture refuses each day of repentance, a severe default and judgment does seem certain. However, this judgment will actually come because Christ is on His throne, ruling the nations, and because His intent is to inherit the nations and the world. Not by political games, or carnal weapons, but by shrewd ideological and cultural warfare, worship, and by the foolishness of the Gospel preached. Just because the solution is not political, it doesn’t mean we abandon solutions. Christ is Savior, not the State.

    The world is too far gone to save, if men are in charge of saving it. But what is impossible with men is not impossible for God. He has purposed to save the world through His Son, and it is His zeal that accomplishes it. It is His to win. The only question is whether we will be faithful and participate in that victory.

    When things look the worst, through human eyes, it means we are living in a time of real opportunity. Now isn’t the time to be culturally apathetic. The agenda of political solutions for man’s depravity has failed, but it’s far past time that we should have learned that lesson. Now it’s time to get busy rebuilding along the old paths (this entails a strong Church life). Encourage each other and pray that His Kingdom come, and that His will be done on earth.

  17. I am a white social worker, I was not trained to despise middle class values. I have no emotional interest in keeping poor people poor, I was poor for a long time, there is nothing glamorous about it . Social work can be a difficult job, the burnout rate is high, it is not insipid hand wringing rather it is working in difficult , situations with people . Unlike other professions social workers actively discourage their children from following in their footsteps as the job exacts a heavy toll . Taking pot shots at social workers is easy however I’m not sure if those who do so understand what social work entails.

  18. Michael LaFerriere wrote:

    “What social justice advocates seem to be saying is that because Jesus identifies with the poor and oppressed, the church should prioritize helping the poor and oppressed.”

    Would that this were actually the case, but as Doug Wilson has used the term “social justice”, he refers specifically to the “bureaucrat dispensing the favors of the state”. Doug is contrasting the Statist “ministry for the permanent underclass” from the proper activities of Church charity and basic freedom of markets: “An entrepreneur who offers a poor man a job has more love in his little finger than the entire man has who creates a job for himself off of that same poor man.”

    So, as Doug is using the terms here, let’s not confuse secular “social justice” agendas with Church-based charity. Doug has not spoken against Church charities at all, and his church is involved in several.

    Once again, the issue is not whether to help the poor. Of course we are called to help, but the question is by what means. Just as we have confusion of gender roles today, we have confusion between civic and Church roles. We have many (a majority now?) Christians who see no distinction between the Church and the bearer of the sword of God’s wrath. There is abdication and usurping of roles.

    If Christians loved the Church as much as they say they love the poor, then perhaps they would put their own money where their mouth is, and faithfully tithe as a tribute to God’s storehouse, over which the Church is given as rightful custodian. God promises to be faithful to this approach. God does not promise to help the poor through the secular “social justice” approach.

    We live in a day where the average Christian gives less than 2.5% of their income to the Church (and those are the ones who even bother to go to church). It is easier to let government “care” for the poor using money that doesn’t even exist, and is now being borrowed from the future, from someone else’s children and grandchildren. Do we think God is going to honor this? We are living the result of this folly.

    Michael doesn’t seem to be advocating secularism or Statism, but here is the challenge to the do-good-er “social justice” Christians: If you really care about the poor, are you obeying God’s means of providing for them? Are you tithing to your Church? Does your charity dollar go elsewhere, further eroding the Church? Are you simply abdicating this duty to let the State care for the poor with someone else’s money? Are you campaigning to morph the State into a minister of charity that it was never authorized to be?

  19. katecho,

    I do not intend to be or want to seem obsequious, but I invariably come away from reading your posts and thinking “gee, that’s what I think, now if I could only learn to say it that clearly”.

    You sir are an encouragement!

    It seems to me that except for “small pockets of resistance” (which in reality is probably many more than a 7,000 man “MIKE Force” who have not bowed to Baal), that a broad and large cross section of American Christianity is ignorant of the church, who she is, and our history.

  20. Gleaning: picking grain by hand after the reapers have gone through. I’ve paid a begger a wee bit to pick cigarette butts off the parking lot. George Grant in Bringing in the Sheaves (book) tells of having a church he served do similar things, with evangelism and prosperity in mind. That gives out hard work, not plain money. If–IF–we want to take an example for modern laws, maybe order businesses to leave 1% (?) of their income to pay people to do such things?

  21. Andrew,
    I like the application, my only point is to suggest that such a thoughtful application like that, CANNOT be morally evil.
    Tim

  22. “So if you want the parable to be about the definition of a neighbor. . .”
    Hi Joel. There actually is a second ‘is’ or more precisely ‘is become:’ “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was [gegonenai] neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36). So, on its face, it seems like Jesus is the one who wants the parable to be about the definition of an neighbor.

  23. Oliver Fugate wrote, “For the sake of good rhetoric, can you cite some actual social justice theorists who condemn the middle class as strongly as you say they do?”

    Needless to say, no one has ever said ‘I am helping the poor to stay poor;’ Mr. Wilson’s claim to the contrary is no more than animadversion. The funny thing is, you should hear the wailing, the caterwauling, the indignant protest, when anyone summarizes Mr. Wilson’s views in a way which is perfectly apt and fair, but which he dislikes or finds presently inconvenient: “Now here is a simple Golden Rule question. Would anyone who had not read our booklet, but who had read McKenzie’s article about it, gotten this impression of what we really believe (and plainly said) about such things?” (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 1223; the missing ‘have’ is missing from the original). A Golden Rule question indeed; he is not a practitioner.

  24. Thanks, RFB. There are probably more who think like us than we’d guess. It’s not as though we are adequately or fairly represented in the media. That’s for sure. But we should speak up from time to time, as God gives us the occasion. Encouragement works in all directions. I’m encouraged that someone is encouraged. :)

  25. My neighbor is the generation yet to be born, which (apart from a default) has now inherited poverty through many trillions of dollars of debt because of the social-justice agenda of Statists. This robbery succeeded, in large part, because they weren’t even around to scream their objection. Where is the love for these neighbors?

  26. Katecho,

    I wasn’t advocating statism at all – I am talking about the church helping the poor. One of the problems when we get into these arguments is that we always think of solving the problem of the poor in terms of statism and not the church of Jesus.

    I also should have clarified my comment – I am unaware of serious orthodox advocates of social justice within the church that advocate that all you need to do is make a poor man rich and not bring him into church life. There certainly are advocates of social justice that don’t care about bringing the poor into the church. That being said, that doesn’t make the project of the church of helping the poor wrongheaded or sinful. For Christians, that is the issue. Think outside the categories of the state.

    Pastor Wilson, how do we take the command of Jesus seriously in Luke 14? Would you view anyone who gave away their possessions with suspicion? How can the command be taken seriously in your view?

  27. I should resist being as snide as I wish to be; for this post has made me very angry indeed. Mr. Wilson, do you actually mean cast social workers as devourers of widows’ houses? And do you agree with the idea that Christian charity is for Christians alone rather than by Christians? A clarification is in order here.

  28. Mr. Joel, your interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan is exactly why the Bible should not be read without the Spirit’s active aid. It leads to gross and self-serving manipulation of God’s message. Christians have always been known for their acts of mercy and generosity towards ALL their neighbours. Please cite great Christian teachers who agree with your tight-fisted innovation.

  29. Vishwanath, happy to clarify. No, I was not talking about about each and every social worker. I was talking about guilty, white ones, and that was as an e.g. I am sure there have been many fine social workers. But I do believe that there are many in the poverty industry who are the equivalent of those who devoured widows’ houses. That is true too. As far as the second question is concerned, I believe that our priority should be within the household of believers, but that we are to do good to all men (Gal. 6:10).

  30. Once again, Pastor Wilson, you’re just using straw men and false dichotomies to avoid the question of how you actually try to follow Luke 14:33. Or 12:33. Or Luke 3:11, 6:24, 6:30, 18:22, 18:25, 18:28-30; Mark 10:21, 10:25, 10:28-31; Matthew 5:42, 19:21, 19:24, 19:27-29; Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-34; 2 Corinthians 8:14-15; James 1:10-11, 5:1-6; 1 John 3:17-18, and many, many others.

    If certain other self-interested Christians just whisked away a few Biblical lines about sexuality (or baptism, or any number of other issues) as carelessly as you try to avoid applying these commands to yourself, you would have a field day with them. The Bible indeed says “blessed are the poor.” And it indeed says “woe to the rich”. And while it’s true that you and many others are rich, and that a few billion people are poor, those aren’t the only two options.

  31. Mr. Wilson, thank you for the clarification. I would like you to consider the following: If I, who am your brother in Christ, am driven to the point of fury by your recent posts, what effect do you think they will have on an unbeliever?

  32. I think a good “side point” here is that it’s very easy for an industry to spring up around the marginalization of certain people, and when that happens, there is a perverse incentive for that group to stay marginalized, or at least for the public perception of their marginalization to continue. If you think about it, one thing that World Witness (my denomination’s missions agency, the NAACP, and the Anti-Defamation league should all have in common is a desire to be able to close up shop. To be able to say “the whole world has heard the gospel” or “Black people are no longer discriminated”, and pack it in, giving thanks to God. While they would probably never admit it, even to themselves, there is a certain industry of NGO’s, politicians, and others who profit not only in money but also in reflected glory, fame, and influence from there being an underclass, and there’s a not inconsiderable interest in that underclass remaining, so they can continue to profit from it.

  33. Iohannes wrote, “the Good Samaritan rescued someone from a violent attack. . .”

    Hi Iohannes, I agree, the Good Samaritan helped a robbery victim. I do not think, however, that when the Lord says to go and do likewise, He meant to limit it to an identical case, as if, had the man suffered a coronary instead, it would have been all right to step right over him. What they are talking about is Moses’ law, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18). That is rather broad. The words for ‘neighbor’ (‘rea’ and ‘amyith’) occur in the law but are not defined therein. Some people said, rather counter-intuitively, that it has no reference to propinquity, but only means ‘fellow-Jew,’ so that even if a Samaritan were living in the other half of your duplex, he could never be a ‘neighbor.’ Jesus plainly does not endorse that interpretation, so it is not available to the Christian.

  34. rcjr wrote, “that is not intended to be law in the sense of that which the civil sphere is to enforce”

    rcjr, it would be really helpful if someone could point to the Bible verse which says that the civil government should NOT help the poor. It seems to be missing from my edition. Pagans governments, for millenia, have given financial assistance to the poor; with the Roman government it was bread and circuses. They do this in the interests of social harmony and social unity. And it says they should not, in the Bible, just where exactly. . ?

  35. Something odd is going on here. Something is not being stated plainly. Jonathan (and perhaps Vishwanath) seems eager to repeat the implication that Wilson is somehow against personal giving to actually help the poor. The problem is that Jonathan never showed that Wilson is opposed to helping the poor. Jonathan seems to have skipped that step completely.

    If he can acknowledge that Wilson fully supports helping the needy, then what has made Jonathan so adamant? What is really the problem? Is it that Wilson refuses to use Luke 14:33 to apply middle-class guilt manipulation regarding the poor? Is it that Wilson rejects the engine of Statist social-justice bureaucracy that uses poor people for grease? Let’s get Jonathan on record. Does Jonathan embrace guilt-manipulation as a proper methodology to extract funds from the middle and upper class? Yes, or no? Does Jonathan endorse Statist bureaucracies as the God-given means of helping the poor, or has the Church been given this role and responsibility? Let’s clear the table of these watershed issues and get to the real beef that Jonathan has with Wilson. Is it that Jonathan has judged Wilson, personally, to be over the line in terms of wealth, and therefore inexcusably guilty?

    Wilson has critiqued certain failed methods of helping the poor which actually devour them, and create more of them. But there is also an inverted heart attitude behind the scenes. Wilson wrote:

    Advocates of missional social justice identify with the poor and they sneer at middle class values. But this is like a lifeguard identifying with the drowning and sneering at the beach.

    Jonathan appears to want to be Exhibit A for this behavior. He seems to want to sneer at Wilson for not abandoning the beach, for not following and applying Luke 14:33. Wilson wrote:

    “If I am in violation of Luke 14:33 for having a computer, a truck, a house, regular meals, and hot and cold running water, then what am I doing to a poor man if I obtain for him a computer, a truck, a house, regular meals, and hot and cold running water? Either it is possible to have that stuff, and not be in violation of the Lord’s charge, or I shouldn’t do that to this poor man, making him as much a son of hell as myself.”

    Does Jonathan still have a computer, regular meals, and hot and cold running water? Does Jonathan draw the line just above the wealth that he possesses? It seems the more pressing question is: how does Jonathan apply Luke 14:33? How does Jonathan avoid the guilt that he projects on Wilson with that verse? This is the elephant in the room. Does he give 10%, 30%, 80%? What is the principle Jonathan uses to ease his conscience, but still hold Wilson culpable?

    It is not as though God has set unreasonable giving requirements on His people. We should be honored to give God tribute as our King, but God only sets 10% as the amount that He will use to satisfy the needs. He invites us to test Him in this promise of provision. If we give 10% of our time and money, as a faithful starting point, who is going to bring a charge against us? God isn’t. Application and freedom from guilt in this area is simple: start tithing to your local church. The storehouses will overflow because God blesses this kind of heart. He promises to do so.

  36. Quoth Fredericka: “Aren’t those white people irritating sometimes”

    When they’re denigrating their own race and culture, or accusing poor whites of automacially being “privileged”: a resounding *yes*.

  37. Fredericka wrote:

    rcjr, it would be really helpful if someone could point to the Bible verse which says that the civil government should NOT help the poor. It seems to be missing from my edition. Pagans governments, for millenia, have given financial assistance to the poor; with the Roman government it was bread and circuses. They do this in the interests of social harmony and social unity. And it says they should not, in the Bible, just where exactly. . ?

    Fredericka seems to hold the hermeneutic that the civil government may do whatever is not expressly prohibited of it to do. This is the opposite of the hermeneutic that the civil government may do only what is expressly prescribed for it to do. Fredericka seems oblivious to the long history of abuses and corruptions of power perpetrated by States and Churches who used the same hermeneutic she is advocating here. Continuing, Fredericka cites the pagan governments of history as examples for us to emulate. The ancient hebrews also cited the pagan governments in order to subjugate themselves to kings to rule over them. We need to learn from this history of emulating pagan governments.

    This is a big subject but we should note from the start that the church’s door is not the first recourse for the poor. The family of a poor person has the first obligation and duty of sharing and lending. Then neighbors. The Church comes in at a later point, and the circumstances of the needy person are to be evaluated carefully at that stage. In regard to the Church’s role, let’s start with the Old Testament:

    DEUTERONOMY 14:28-29 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

    MALACHI 3:8-10 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

    Notice that the tithe is God’s tribute, which is to be brought into the storehouse of God’s House. The priestly Levite tribe administrated in God’s House. How have we robbed God in our day by seeking other means of providing for the poor, while leaving God’s House out of the picture? We are reaping the fruit of this robbery (see vs 9 and 11). Those who think they will be generous to the poor while simultaneously disobeying God’s instruction concerning the tithe to His House have robbed God, and have brought a curse on our land.

    The general instruction given to the civil magistrate and judges in the Old Testament consists in commands not to stumble the poor, or to show them partiality. It is a policy of not interfering with the poor. They are prohibited from taking up the cause of the poor with partiality (Lev 19:15).

    In the New Testament, Paul gives detailed instructions on the contributions and care of widows and orphans and poor, by the Church. The Church is pictured as the instrument of God’s mercy, as a Mother. There is no such instruction regarding the civic magistrate as a charity organization. Instead Paul describes the role of the civic magistrate as the judge and minister of God’s wrath, and bearing the sword of His wrath (see Romans 13:3-5).

    It would require a very twisted argument to strip the Church of her explicit role of mercy and give it to the State instead, knowing that the State bears the sword of God’s wrath. This agenda reveals a certain contempt for God’s order, and a low view of the Church itself, which is too common in our day.

    The excesses and bankruptcy of the current Statist “charity” programs are manifest enough, and are collapsing under their own weight. Nothing should need to be said there, as the system testifies against itself even apart from the wisdom of Scripture.

  38. Joel,
    While I’d stop short of denouncing your reading as a “tight-fisted innovation,” you certainly have missed something vital. Yes, Jesus has a habit of answering the questioner instead of the self-serving question. And yes again, He acts true to form here. But look at how He does it. The feller asked Him, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ counter-question is, “Which of these three was a neighbor to him that fell among thieves?” Do you see the inversion? Jesus is not simply saying that your neighbor is anybody you meet that needs help. Jesus is saying, “Stop worrying about whether someone meets the qualifications to be your neighbor. You go qualify yourself to be his neighbor.”

    Of course, the latter implies the former — but much more besides.

  39. katecho wrote, “It would require a very twisted argument to strip the Church of her explicit role of mercy and give it to the State instead. . .”

    Hi katecho. You remind me of those alarming citizens who stride the streets of our nation’s great cities. Gazing into the middle distance, they shout ominous sermons while the passers-by scurry past. Their eyes may rest for a moment on a member of their audience, but it’s only a pause before the next random eye movement, because they are not really talking TO anyone, though there are people around. Who is trying to strip the church of its calling to assist the poor? Certainly the people of God should be assisting the poor, Jesus commanded it. And for some cases, such as when poverty is behaviorally self-inflicted, the church brings unique resources to the mission. But usually when people are trying to achieve some task, they are delighted when others come by to help. If your vehicle veered into a ditch and you were straining to push it out, wouldn’t you be happy to see others stop by to help? Why would you order them to get away, or you’ll shoot? Don’t you want the vehicle out of the ditch?

    You are insisting that no one but the church can help the poor. Why not? One would almost suspect you don’t want to see the poor helped, you don’t want to see the task accomplished — many hands make short work — but rather you want to be seen performing the task.

    a.) Are you seriously offering Romans 13 as an exhaustive list of the things the civil government may do? Kindly note, there is nothing in there about providing for the national defense. I sincerely hope the red Chinese don’t invade on your watch. Whenever the police go on strike, people can see the wisdom of Paul’s instructions in Romans 13; life would be chancy without law enforcement. But who could seriously suggest that the things not mentioned there, like trash pickup, are things the government MUST NOT do? There is a sect, the followers of Alexander Campbell, who restrict their religious worship to those elements specifically mentioned in the New Testament, considering that those not mentioned, like musical instruments, are forbidden. I never heard, however, of a sect that considers those functions of government not explicitly mentioned in Romans 13 to be forbidden. Can you point out to me where these people live, because I am curious to know, if the government is not allowed to perform its many functions which are not directly related to law enforcement, like crash-testing motor vehicles, or establishing quarantine during public health emergencies, who possibly could perform those functions?

    b.) Did you know there are three tithes, not one, in the Mosaic law?

    c.) Certainly we can all look forward to the day when the church’s effort to lift up the poor meets with such success that the state structure erected for this purpose withers away. It hasn’t happened yet, however. If the church is commissioned to help the poor, but the poor are observed living in Hoovervilles without help, what is supposed to prevent conscientious people from arranging alternatives? Why accuse those people of evil intent? I suspect you don’t actually want to see the RESULT God wants to see: that the poor are helped; you want something else instead, perhaps for the poor to show up as walk-on characters in your church pageant.

  40. Timothy M.
    Does that mean you are comfortable with me calling the sheriff on my children for not cleaning their room? Or that the state should have sanctions against coveting? One need not embrace the three-fold division of the law (and while I believe in it I do understand our Bible’s don’t come color coded telling us which fits in what category always) but one need only notice that God, in establishing His commonwealth gives no civil sanction for this sin or that. As such I would argue that in fact it is immoral for the state to impose sanctions against those who violate God’s morals when God has not called the state to do so. Hope that helps.

  41. B Palmer wrote, “Quoth Fredericka: “Aren’t those white people irritating sometimes” When they’re denigrating their own race and culture, or accusing poor whites of automacially being “privileged”: a resounding *yes*.”

    Hi B. Oh. So when black social workers do that, it’s all good? (Your name reminds me that my blood type, B Positive, is the only blood type that can constructively be adopted as a motto.)

  42. Hey rcjr,
    I appreciate the question. I would respond in this way:
    I am not so much arguing for what should happen as I am arguing that we cannot call something evil which God declares good. When we look at the Mosaic law, it is declared to be holy and good. What nation has statutes that are so wise as Israel? The law was intended to be obeyed and intended to be an example of a wise government.

    So yes if your child is stubborn and rebellious, you will never hear me say that it would be evil to call the city elders and take him to the city hate and stone him.

    In a theonomy yes there would be civil punishments for moral transgression.

    My point is that I refuse to say that a theonomy is morally evil and secularism is morally good.

    One can have a wise discussion about what government is wisest in this age without throwing God’s government under the bus.

  43. “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you will say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ – Malachi 3:8

    On cue Fredericka asks:

    Who is trying to strip the church of its calling to assist the poor?

    Those who have abdicated and acquiesced to the State, and no longer give tribute to God and to His House, the Church. Those who say, “let the State take care of the poor”. These have robbed from God and God’s House. Why are we surprised that the Church is so impotent today? Perhaps it is because many Christians want it precisely that way. The Church’s role is distinct from the State, but it is at least of equal cultural importance. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the Church today in comparison to the bloated State.

    So this is how we got here. The State showed up to “help”, and now the State has 47 million people on its food stamp programs. With that kind of help, who needs enemies? We even see churches sending needy folks to the State, since the church today is so easily overwhelmed and unequipped. Fredericka continues:

    But usually when people are trying to achieve some task, they are delighted when others come by to help. If your vehicle veered into a ditch and you were straining to push it out, wouldn’t you be happy to see others stop by to help?

    Fredericka paints a wonderful picture of a generous neighbor showing up to help from out of his own resources. But this is a false image. The State has no resources of its own. It uses other people’s resources, through taxation, or by borrowing it from future generations to the tune of trillions of dollars. How many generations will be born as debt-slaves as a result? How is that helping?

    The “can’t-we-all-get-along” approach to let the State “help” the Church has not worked in practice. We can’t remain ignorant of what has occurred today. The secular State has completely usurped the role of the Church. It does not come to help, but to compete directly. As the warning goes, when you hear someone say “We’re the government. We’re here to help.” watch your wallet.

    Ironically, Fredericka then says:

    Why would you order them to get away, or you’ll shoot?

    I’m not sure how the image of violence got formed in Fredericka’s mind, but the Church doesn’t bear the sword (or the gun). The State does. When the secular State comes to tax the Church in order to do the Church’s rightful role, there may be some shooting. The State does not like being told “no”.

  44. Fredericka continues:

    You are insisting that no one but the church can help the poor.

    This is simply false. I specifically said that the Church is not even the first line of help for the needy. First is family, then friends and neighbors, and finally the Church, as last safety net.

    One would almost suspect you don’t want to see the poor helped, you don’t want to see the task accomplished — many hands make short work –

    If one was not reading what I wrote, they might suspect that. However, I’ve repeatedly said that the issue is not whether to help the poor, the issue is how we are to go about it. We don’t want to end up with another Detroit.

    but rather you want to be seen performing the task.

    Not quite. However, I do want God’s Church to be seen as the House of mercy and compassion and charity. I want God to get the full credit and glory for His kind provision for the needy, from His storehouse. The secular State cannot bring God’s name glory through their handouts. They intentionally blot out God’s name from public discourse and from their dealings. When some Christians neglect the tithe and instead give to secular organizations, it is another way of robbing God of the glory due to His name.

  45. Fredericka continues:

    a.) Are you seriously offering Romans 13 as an exhaustive list of the things the civil government may do? Kindly note, there is nothing in there about providing for the national defense.

    I don’t recall saying that Romans 13 is exhaustive, however it does clearly put forward the framework of the State’s God-given role. The State is God’s sword-bearer. Several things naturally fall under enforcement by the sword, including the judicial and legal system, and national defense. We have lots of other passages that fill in the details around this framework. No one here is disputing the role of the State in bearing its sword as minister of God’s wrath, but history has shown that it is very dangerous to give the State free run to invent its own roles.

    There is a sect, the followers of Alexander Campbell, who restrict their religious worship to those elements specifically mentioned in the New Testament, considering that those not mentioned, like musical instruments, are forbidden. I never heard, however, of a sect that considers those functions of government not explicitly mentioned in Romans 13 to be forbidden.

    I belong to the sect that uses both the Old and New Testament.

    Fredericka mentions several things that she apparently thinks can only be performed by the government (trash collection, crash-testing motor vehicles, and establishing quarantine during public health emergencies). However, none of these examples require the creation of government jobs to perform. Private companies are quite capable, and perhaps more capable, of actually doing the work. Where bloodguilt may be involved, the State does have a legitimate role in specifying requirements and compliance related to public safety and injury, such as crash test standards. Scripture sets a precedent here, with passages like this one:

    DEUTERONOMY 22:8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.

    However, this does not mean that the government needs to create a Department Of Roof Parapets (DORP) to build and install parapets.

  46. Fredericka continues:

    c.) Certainly we can all look forward to the day when the church’s effort to lift up the poor meets with such success that the state structure erected for this purpose withers away. It hasn’t happened yet, however.

    I hope that we both truly look forward to this. Indeed, the Church today is simply not equipped to take on the carnage of poverty and entitlement expectations inflicted by the State. It will be some time before the Church has recuperated from the betrayal. So no one is advocating that the State simply pull the plug on those it sucked into dependency and life-support. That would be cruel. However, we need to start somewhere. We need to work with urgency because many other city governments and even the federal government are effectively insolvent. As Doug has observed, the State is going to default. The only question is whether it will be orderly or disorderly. Austerity is coming to the U.S.

    The first steps of recovery from Statist addiction and co-dependency are acknowledgment and confession and repentance. We need to admit the problem and stop perpetuating the status quo State socialism. I’m concerned that Fredericka is actually just fine with the current system, but if she will, in principle, acknowledge our need to begin restoring the proper roles of State and Church, then we will probably find much agreement.

    Fredericka continues:

    If the church is commissioned to help the poor, but the poor are observed living in Hoovervilles without help, what is supposed to prevent conscientious people from arranging alternatives? Why accuse those people of evil intent?

    Nothing prevents anyone from helping their needy family, friends and neighbors. No one need wait for the Church, because the Church is the final refuge, not the first refuge of the needy. But if conscientious people really wish to help, then they should put their own money and time where their conscience is. They should not pass the buck to the State which confiscates other people’s money. To “love the poor” with someone else’s confiscated money is not love, and it is indeed a wicked and evil intent.

    Fredericka concludes with a completely uncharitable remark:

    I suspect you don’t actually want to see the RESULT God wants to see: that the poor are helped; you want something else instead, perhaps for the poor to show up as walk-on characters in your church pageant.

    I’ll just quote Bastiat here:


    “We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain”

  47. Oddly, in Bastiat’s day, that last sentence might have functioned as an effective reductio ad absurdem. Today, the response would be more like, “Well, isn’t that the case?”

  48. katecho wrote, “On cue Fredericka asks:
    Who is trying to strip the church of its calling to assist the poor?
    Those who have abdicated and acquiesced to the State. . .”

    Hi katecho. This is the problem. You’re talking to me. . .but you’re not talking to me. You’re talking to someone off in the middle distance. You, not me, claim it’s an either/or thing, either the government helps the poor or the church does. Do you think poor folk are so rare that the church and government need to engage in a tug-of-war over each poor person they find, to see who gets him? This is a false dichotomy. There is enough work to be done to keep everyone busy. . .till Kingdom come (which you folks understand erroneously).

    “I don’t recall saying that Romans 13 is exhaustive. . .”
    This is your whole argument, katecho, and you can either clean it up or abandon it. Obviously Paul does not intend to make an exhaustive list of all the things civil government is allowed to do. If he did show such an intent one could infer from the absence of a given item from the list that the government MUST NOT do that thing, but he clearly has no such intent. So then, where is it? You claim that the government is not allowed to assist its poorer citizens. Please show me where the Bible says this. I know that you say this, but you must realize that the average person, who is not a neo-Confederate, does not perceive the government as a hostile occupying power. So where does THE BIBLE say that the government must not help the poor?

  49. Roger Keane wrote, “I think a good “side point” here is that it’s very easy for an industry to spring up around the marginalization of certain people, and when that happens, there is a perverse incentive for that group to stay marginalized, or at least for the public perception of their marginalization to continue.”

    Roger, there actually is a fix for this, if excessive overhead is perceived to be the problem. Presidential candidate George McGovern, perceiving that there was too much overhead in the poverty programs, proposed a ‘negative income tax’ to replace existing poverty programs. President Richard Nixon, though he ridiculed the proposal when McGovern made it, himself proposed to Congress a negative income tax which, however, went down in flames. There’s a feeble shadow of it in the Earned Income Credit. This was a long time ago and I forget the arguments people made against it,– did the Social Workers’ Union protest?,– but if adopted, the result would be that very nearly every taxpayer dollar spent to relieve poverty, goes into the pocket of a person below the poverty line. You don’t need social workers for the government to assist the poor; Rome handed out bread and circuses, with nary a social worker in sight.

  50. katecho wrote, “How many generations will be born as debt-slaves as a result?”

    Actually, if they continue to allow the minimum wage to deteriorate, more than you might think. Following your policy prescriptions would crash the economy and impoverish the populace. Fortunately, in God’s providential mercy, we don’t do things your way.

  51. katecho wrote, “The secular State has completely usurped the role of the Church.”

    katecho, merely asserting it 350 times is not going to make it any more true than merely asserting it once. It is up to you to prove that assisting the poor is the role of the church exclusively, and not any legitimate part of the state’s activities. You have totally failed to do this. Your only stab at offering a proof was the pretense that Romans 13 provided an exhaustive list of the things that civil government may do, and you have backed off even that. So please, once again, will you make some effort to prove that the Bible teaches that the state may not assist the poor? Where does the Bible say that? I’m not asking for what some whackadoodle on the radio says about how the economy works, I’m asking for the Bible passage or passages that denies to the civil government any role in assisting lower-income citizens.

  52. katecho wrote, “and national defense”

    That’s really interesting. So you think Paul is saying he is happy that Roman legions occupy Judaea? It seems to me far more likely he is talking about law enforcement. You really think he means to give a blanket ‘right of conquest’ to the Roman legions occupying his homeland?

  53. katecho wrote, “We don’t want to end up with another Detroit.”

    Why did you select that example, instead of, let’s not end up with another rural Idaho? I’ve noticed a trend; there is a sub-text to this blog which is somewhat unsettling and requires correction. Talking about poverty in America, it’s best to use a race-neutral vocabulary, because the typical poor person in America is white:
    “Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
    More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.” (Exclusive: 4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work, Associated Press, Hope Yen, July 28, 2013). A visitor from Mars who scanned this blog would get an inaccurate impression of the demographics of U.S. poverty. Why is that?

  54. katecho wrote, “Private companies are quite capable, and perhaps more capable, of actually doing the work.”

    No, private companies are completely incapable of exercising the police power of the state to prevent Chinese babies from having their insides gummed up with melamine, or Bangladeshi factory-workers from being entombed by their work-place. This is a good example of a legitimate governmental function unmentioned in Romans 13, thus blowing up your argument. Health and safety regulations have their hits and misses: adding iodine to salt was a hit, because it reduced the number of mentally retarded children; eliminating lead from paint, gasoline, and solder used in intake water piping, was another solid achievement. Do you know that, if you chart the murder rate in the United States, it is offset 21 years from the prevalence of environmental lead in urban areas? No one but the government can force a harmful product off the market. So Romans 13, which does not mention health and safety regulations, is not an exhaustive list of what the government may and may not do; case closed.

  55. @Fredericka – the free market actually does a much better job of regulating bad behavior. The examples you cited are areas where there is no free market, or the market is highly regulated(boom).

    Here, in the United States, we see the problems caused by federal regulation that actually causes more harm than good. Take the FDA for example:

    The FDA exists to protect us from harmful drugs, but in fact the opposite occurs, not out of ill-will, but out of the nature of bureaucracies. “First, they do not completely prevent the introduction of harmful products into the market (although they are biased in that direction and away from allowing beneficial products into the market). Second, they raise the cost of bringing new drugs to market, thereby increasing prices and preventing beneficial products from coming to market. Third, they delay beneficial products from coming to market for lengthy periods of time. This means that sick people suffer more and die more often as a result. Fourth, they prohibit niche drugs that treat rare conditions from coming to market because the high costs and uncertainties of the FDA’s drug-testing process cannot be sufficiently distributed among such a small group of patients.”

    And when the FDA fails or finds faults there is no real punishment.

    “For example, we recently saw the FDA fined GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) $3 billion for illegally marketing their drugs for unapproved uses. They have fined other drug companies for similar practices. But do they ever get the job done?

    No, the FDA is habitually slow to react, and even when they do, such fines are just part of the cost of doing business with the FDA. No people have actually been punished; GSK’s stock rose significantly when the fine was announced, and hardly anyone even noticed the event. How unlike the free market, where a few tainted pills of Tylenol unleashes weeks of cable-television news coverage, billions of product recalls, crashing stock prices, and billions spent correcting the product-safety issue and assuaging the fears of consumers”

  56. Tim,
    You’re equivocating again. You went from my illustration, a child not cleaning his room to a stubborn and recalcitrant rebellious child. I hope you are able to tell the difference. In addition, I am not calling evil good or good evil. The issue isn’t the law. It is not evil but good for people to help the poor. It is, however, evil for the state to take from some people to help others. It is unjust. It is thievery. In like manner, it would be evil, for it amounts to the same thing, for the state to come to my neighbor and say, “Unless you feed this or that poor person, we will take your stuff from you and put you in jail.” If you want to be a theonomist, by all means be one. Many of my dearest friends are theonomists. But be one that applies the law of God not just through the state, but to the state.

  57. Hey rcjr,
    If I don’t hold to the tri-fold of law invented by Aquinas, how am I equivocating? You ask me if the state should enforce civil crimes for disobedient children, and I say there is nothing amoral about that in principle, how is that equivocating? I’m not sure the word means what you think it means. I’m not a theonomist. I’m not wanting to be one. I’m simply saying we cannot declare theonomy amoral.

    Here is my argument:
    God formed a government that did not hold to separation of church and state
    God’s government was exceedingly wise and good
    God’s government commanded Israelites to leave the corners of the field for the poor
    Therefore state organized benevolence is not a necessary evil.
    Our definition of stealing cannot include this because God said thou shalt not steal.

    I’d love you to interact with that argument.
    Tim

  58. The principle behind the two is the same. Is it amoral for the state to punish disobedient children? The difference is obviously degree of disobedience. If I say it’s evil in principle, I am saying God was evil, and I’ll not say that.

    Once again I’m not arguing for what is wise in a secular government. I’m simply saying that when we advocate that wisdom, let’s not do so in ways that would declare God’s law evil.

  59. Fredericka wrote:

    It’s interesting that you should mention Rome’s bread and circuses: The emperors made half of the days of the year non-working holidays, and gave out free food and paid for extravagant entertainments for the non-working populace so that said populace would not rebel against the government’s wasteful spending and the miserable conditions in which the populace lived.

    It promoted social harmony by distracting the people from how bad everything was, and, it could be argued, led directly to the overthrow of Rome by nations with little patience for such self-indulgent and weak pursuits.

    If this is what modern “social justice” and “social welfare” programs aim to achieve, then, quite frankly, they must be dismantled before we are overrun by Visigoths.

  60. Tim M. wrote:

    You ask me if the state should enforce civil crimes for disobedient children, and I say there is nothing amoral about that in principle, how is that equivocating? I’m not sure the word means what you think it means.

    I don’t wish to come across as patronizing, but there really are some deep distortions even among God’s people today. Not everyone comes from the same background or teaching, so we have to back up and look at the big picture of history. It’s important to care enough about our brothers and sisters to sort through the issues when there is obvious confusion, and to at least understand each other, even if we aren’t ready to agree. There are several things that need to be corrected in Tim’s descriptions.

    First, some groundwork. When God first drew near to His people in history to directly organize them, and even before He allowed them to subjugate themselves to another king, He already distinguished the offices of His servants (priests) from the office of judge, soldier and sword-bearer. The State/king/civic magistrate had roles that differed from the Church/priest/synagogue. They were funded separately. The tithe went to the priest and the tax went to the king. The king could not dip out of the priest’s portion. The priest administered God’s House, and the king administered civic judgment and armies. The priests didn’t have authority to raise armies and the king didn’t have authority to perform temple sacrifices. The offices and spheres were separate, even though there were some rare cases where the same person could hold both offices. This is the historic basis for the desire to separate Church and State offices/jurisdictions at the founding of the U.S. For example, the Danbury Baptists were concerned about the State usurping the Church’s role, and wrote to Thomas Jefferson to get his assurances. The emphasis on separation of spheres was coming from the Church, rather than the State, but the State at that time was not secular and so it affirmed the separation of roles.

    However, the distinction of roles and spheres between Church and State does not mean that any authority, whether priest or president or parent, is excused from acknowledging Christ from their office. When kings are commanded to kiss the Son, this is a public display of homage that is required of the State just as much as it is required of the Church. As Doug Wilson has pointed out, “separation of Church and State” does not mean “separation of God and State”.

    With that background, the separate spheres of Church and State allows us to see why the State bears the sword, and the Church does not. The State has jurisdiction over issues of crime and punishment and forced compliance, while the Church addresses the issues of sin and changes of heart and attitude and right worship and compassion and mercy. The Church is not given the sword to force compliance; their ultimate means of dealing with disobedience is excommunication.

    So getting back to disobedient children. The reason why Tim is equivocating with his example is because disobedience in a child can be both a sin and a crime. It can start out in the jurisdiction of the family, then later the Church, and then move to the jurisdiction of the State, such as we saw with the perpetrators of the Columbine shootings. So we can’t equate (equivocate) the Columbine shooter’s rebelliousness with the toddler who lies about taking a cookie, but we can distinguish actions which are crimes from those which are in the more general category of sins.

    Tim M. wrote:

    I’m not a theonomist. I’m not wanting to be one. I’m simply saying we cannot declare theonomy amoral.

    Theonomy is the condition of being ruled by God, or under His law. It is the condition of God exercising His authority in governance. Because of the Fall, there was a time when Satan had staked a claim of authority over the nations, but God promised to fulfill a plan of historic redemption. Once Israel was freed from slavery (redeemed) from Egypt by the strong arm of God, they were certainly in a condition of theonomy, but even in that condition, God established various subordinate offices. He gave His laws so that the people could judge and discern as God would do. God loves to teach us by delegating godly duties. So a theonomy does not suggest that God is micromanaging. That is a completely false notion.

    Since Christ has now come to plunder Satan and take back (redeem) all the nations, we see that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Satan has fallen like lightening out of heaven, while Christ has ascended to the throne of heaven, coronated as King of kings to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Therefore the nations are once again in the condition of being ruled by God, and under His exercised authority. All men everywhere are called to bow, and especially kings are called to kiss the Son and do homage.

    Thus we are all living in the new theonomy. It is not up to us to decide whether we want to live in one, or whether we think it is moral or immoral to live in one. The condition is inescapable. The only question is whether authorities will acknowledge Christ’s authority or perish in the way. The secular State wishes to cut the cords of God’s authority, and set themselves up in the place of God, but this false theonomy is doomed to failure, as we are witnessing in our day. Death to the civic god!

    Relating back to Tim’s comment, just because we are all living in the new theonomy, it does not follow that the distinction between the spheres of Church and State dissolves away. We see that the distinction between the office of priest and the office of king were in full effect in Israel’s the old theonomy too. So we have to abandon that misconception.

    Tim M. wrote:

    Here is my argument: God formed a government that did not hold to separation of church and state God’s government was exceedingly wise and good God’s government commanded Israelites to leave the corners of the field for the poor Therefore state organized benevolence is not a necessary evil.

    On review, we see that Tim M.’s argument rests on several false premises about the ancient government of Israel. We see that God was not micromanaging, but defined and delegated various offices for them which held to particular distinctions and separations between priest and king, Church and State; and this was wise and good.

    God’s government did not come up with the idea for Israelites to leave the corners of the field for the poor to glean. It was not an act of mercy by the State, as Tim M suggests. Rather God spoke it to Moses and commanded this practice Himself.

    Since Tim’s premises do not hold, neither does his conclusion about State intrusion into the role of the Church as the final refuge for the needy.

  61. Katecho,
    I’m not sure you understand my argument not my intent, perhaps you could demonstrate that you understand my argument.
    Tim

  62. David R. wrote, “Fredericka – the free market actually does a much better job of regulating bad behavior.”

    Hi David. I wouldn’t say so. Credit default swaps are a good example of a market which failed to self-regulate. For one party to pay another party in the event of default on a mortgage is basically insurance, and insurance is a heavily regulated industry, for good reason. When you set up shop to sell insurance, business is great so long as you take in premiums but do not pay claims, but then when the tornado comes, you must have the resources to pay claims, so they require the insurance providers to maintain reserves. It would not have been unreasonable to regulate the credit default swaps on a similar basis, but they did not regulate them at all, and so they opened up a gigantic black hole beneath the big banks and insurance companies like AIG, which they promptly fell into. When the private parties offering credit default swaps evaluated their riskiness, they kept saying, ‘Real estate values have not fallen in all parts of the country since the Great Depression.’ No kidding. And who ever said we could not have another? They did not evaluate the risk correctly. Free markets are subject to irrational exuberance, over-confidence, and self-congratulation. I agree that there have also been spectacular failures in governmental regulation, including excessive and irrational regulation, and being in bed with the companies to be regulated. I think every seventy years or so we are doomed to have a major financial crisis, because in between times people forget how bad the last one was, and they say ‘let’s get rid of all this stifling regulation.’

  63. Arwen B wrote, “It promoted social harmony by distracting the people from how bad everything was. . .”

    Hi Arwen. I agree, but social harmony is a nice goal anyway, e pluribus unum. When Rome conquered the world, the upper orders were sent out to govern the provinces, and they came back laden with the loot they had pillaged. If you read Cicero’s prosecution ‘Against Verres,’ you learn that this man, who was sent out to govern Sicily, came back carrying practically everything of value in that place that wasn’t nailed down. The lower orders were sickened, and even a far-seeing knight like Cicero realized this piratical plunder has got to stop. The lower orders were seeing their living standards fall, because those who were handicraftsmen were obliged to compete with the hordes of slaves who were being brought back by the triumphant armies. A man who made shoes for a living, was now obliged to compete with the slave-shop of Greek sandal-makers next door, who were making a more fashionable product, at a lower cost, because if you’ve ever seen an archaeological dig of Roman slave quarters, slaves had about as much living space as if they were living on a nuclear sub. So the formerly proud, and free, working classes were disgruntled, because they had reason to be, and a demagogue like Julius Caesar could play them like a violin. Rome did not necessarily produce a lot of stuff, but they stole a lot, and the working man demanded his share of the swag. Thus, bread and circuses. My late father claimed to have heard,– I never heard it myself,– a Baby Snooks episode in which they went back in a time machine to ancient Rome, and saw the Christians being fed to the lions. Baby Snooks began wailing inconsolably,– ‘Waah!’ Daddy tried to comfort her, saying, ‘Don’t worry Baby Snooks, it’s really over very quickly, the Christians don’t suffer for long!’ But she kept crying ‘Waah!’ So Daddy asked, ‘Well, what ever is the problem, Baby Snooks?’ She explained, ‘Oh, it’s not that, Daddy; it’s just, there’s a little lion over in the corner, and he’s not getting any!’ So the Roman working classes were like the little lion. In a way I sympathize with them, because they were not getting any, but not too much.

  64. katecho wrote, “Death to the civic god!”

    In a democracy, the government is us. Why should we hate ourselves, or even mildly dislike ourselves? Self-loathing is pathological. Find something nice to say about our government today! Like, ‘they make pretty money’. . .or no, wait, that’s Canada. . .

  65. katecho wrote, “God’s government did not come up with the idea for Israelites to leave the corners of the field for the poor to glean. It was not an act of mercy by the State, as Tim M suggests.”

    katecho, I don’t know why you emphasize some points at the expense of others. Why is ‘gleaning’ such a big deal to you, while ‘forgiving debts’ is unmentioned? I think you have a very unbalanced view. “At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’S release.” (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Forgiving debts is a really big deal. Why is it always just ‘gleaning’?

  66. Katecho, once again your post is completely full of lies, attributing myriad things to me that I have neither said nor believe. As I have asked you time and time again, please quote me whenever you claim to be representing something I believe, because you are virtually always wrong.

    Also, please address me, not the imaginary audience. I’m a real person. Real people tend to communicate much better when they talk to each other as if they’re addressing real people.

  67. Pastor Wilson, we both agree that rich and poor are not the only two options. But if someone is far wealthier in every objective measure than anyone other than royalty was in Jesus’s day, and they’re living in a world where hundreds of millions of people are still just as poor as anyone was in Jesus’s day, then don’t you think they might be in danger of falling into the “rich” category? That would cover most Americans, right? Yet, as far as I’ve seen, the majority of churches don’t seem to think anyone actually falls in the rich category, at least not anyone in their own congregation.

    Also, you’re still ignoring the question of how you actually apply the plain language of Luke 14:33 and Luke 12:33. And if you’re really wondering whether you might be rich, why not look at Luke 3:11 (“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”) or 1 John 3:17 (“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”) or 2 Corinthians 8:14 (“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is.”) or Acts 2:44-45 (“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”) or Acts 4:32-34 (“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.”)

    Or many, many other commands and verses like those. The case seeming to be made here is that the plain meaning of all of them should be ignored, which they have some deeper spiritualized meaning that helps us not to actually have to do anything significantly different with the money that comes into our hands than the rest of the greedy Americans. I think that if someone tried to do that with sexuality or gender roles, you would laugh at them. In fact, you do.

  68. Most of this debate, such as it is, is about different policy preferences, roughly speaking the “blue” model vs the “red” one. There is no way to settle this any more than there is any way to settle any argument of preference. Either model can “work”, though obviously neither one can handle any conceivable set of circumstances. The problem we have in the US today is the endless fight over who runs the central government, which produces mostly incoherent governance along with a lot of bad blood and suspicion. The US should decentralize, and return most of these questions to smaller-scale polities which are more united and interdependent.

  69. Fredericka wrote:

    In a democracy, the government is us. Why should we hate ourselves, or even mildly dislike ourselves? Self-loathing is pathological.

    In a democracy, the government represents us, but just as we are not God, neither is our government. Christ alone is our Savior. So the sooner the secular civic false god is crushed to death by God’s zeal, the sooner we may find the footstool of mercy at the feet of the real Savior. The secular State seems already on life-support in most places. The frequency of death throws seems to be increasing, and that’s mostly in spite of anything Christians have organized to do.

  70. Matt wrote:

    The US should decentralize, and return most of these questions to smaller-scale polities which are more united and interdependent.

    I agree with Matt’s conclusion. It seems there was a brief intervening period in history when smaller central government used to be one of the distinguishing features of the “red” model versus the “blue” model. The centralization problems started well before that time though.

  71. Referring to Luke 14:33 and other passages, Jonathan rebukes Wilson:

    If certain other self-interested Christians just whisked away a few Biblical lines about sexuality (or baptism, or any number of other issues) as carelessly as you try to avoid applying these commands to yourself, you would have a field day with them.

    Jonathan appears to have appointed himself as judge, describing Wilson as self-interested, careless, evasive and refusing to apply the passages to himself. It seems increasingly personal with Jonathan, which suggests there is something unstated going on here. Yet Wilson wrote:

    “If I am in violation of Luke 14:33 for having a computer, a truck, a house, regular meals, and hot and cold running water, then what am I doing to a poor man if I obtain for him a computer, a truck, a house, regular meals, and hot and cold running water? Either it is possible to have that stuff, and not be in violation of the Lord’s charge, or I shouldn’t do that to this poor man, making him as much a son of hell as myself.”

    Notice that Wilson’s view pictures the lifting up of others out of poverty by seeing them obtain the same blessings that we enjoy. Contrast this with Jonathan’s model of poverty as a goal unto itself, which is apparently achieved by giving away all our possessions until everyone is sufficiently poor. Poverty seems to be absolutized as the pious ideal in Jonathan’s view, but he is free to correct the impression that he has given. Clarification would be so much more constructive than just calling me “completely full of lies”.

    Does Jonathan still have a computer, regular meals, and hot and cold running water? Does Jonathan have more than one shirt? Is he drawing the line just above the wealth that he possesses? Jonathan repeatedly tries to wrap Luke 14:33 around Wilson’s neck, demanding to know how Wilson applies it. But it seems the more pressing question is: how does Jonathan apply it? How does Jonathan avoid the guilt that he projects on Wilson with that verse? This is the elephant in the room. Does Jonathan give 10%, 30%, 80% or 100%? What is the principle Jonathan uses to ease his own conscience, but still hold Wilson culpable?

    I’m going to make a guess that Wilson is, at minimum, a faithful tither of his time and money to the Church. What more does God require of Wilson? Does God require Wilson to tackle the plight of the world, ever searching for one more man without a shirt? Has Wilson spurned the poor who have crossed his path in Moscow? Is Wilson owned by his possessions, hoarding and trusting in his wealth like the rich young ruler, such that his loyalty needs to be tested by giving it all away? Or is Wilson like Zaccheus?

    LUKE 19:8-9 And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

    How did Zaccheus find salvation by surrendering only half of his wealth? Should Jesus have insisted on all of it (as with the rich young ruler), or is Jesus a better judge of hearts than Jonathan? Has Jonathan lived up to his own standard by which he judges Wilson?

    I don’t actually expect Jonathan to answer most of these questions, but if he wants to help us understand his position, it should start with seeing how Jonathan thinks Luke 14:33 should be consistently applied. For example, it takes lots of personal possessions and capital equipment (owned by someone) to produce and deliver a shirt to me, let alone an extra shirt for me that I can give to a poor person.

  72. Ah, I had forgotten this minor evangelical figure until recently. Seems like this is the pattern:
     
    Mr. Wilson offers an unsupported generalization
    People raise issue with it.
    He ignores these responses and lets his squad of interpreters offer enthusiastic conjectures of what he really meant.
    He jumps in to handle one or two easy ones.
    He stands before the Throne of Christ red-faced when asked “Why did you speak falsely in my name?”

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