If I Were the Devil . . .

I believe I understand what Russell Moore and Andrew Walker were seeking to do with this piece, and I wish them well and applaud their efforts. There is much that is valuable about what they are saying, particularly in their recognition of the distinction between sins and crimes. However, comma . . .

The problem, as I see it, is embodied in a sentence near the end of their post. The context that makes it problematic is cultural climate in the West today. I do not say any of this to applaud the Ugandan legislation, about which I know nothing, but rather to point out how the forces of Progress in our nation use such things to maneuver us into a position that is much more to their liking.

“The jailing and execution of people for consensual sexual immorality, in contexts like we see in many places around the world, isn’t Christian, either.”

This sentiment rests on a particular understanding of the old order, the order of Christendom, at the very time that this order is under a full scale assault, by the very people this sentiment is designed to protect.

I have perhaps said it before, but my pastoral philosophy of ministry is summed up by this: “What would I do here if I were the devil?” and then try to counter that. And if I were the devil, I would take this sentence, and then take two steps beyond it.

The first step beyond it, if once we have established that consensual sexual immorality ought not to be a crime, is to start promoting various forms of consensual sexual immorality that the state would have a necessary interest in discouraging. Things like adultery and prostitution come to mind. Prostitution can be as consensual as buying a can of beans is.

When it comes to sexual immorality, the human heart is amazingly creative, and since the forces of immorality are not at all interested in finding some peaceable point of equilibrium with us, they will find multiple ways to push the boundaries. They can always figure out ways to push us that will require the defending culture, if it acts, to act with some form of a civil penalty that represses their consensual immorality. It may not be jailing and execution, the penalties they mentioned, but anything else the modern state does — fines, deportation, etc. — depend upon the power to jail. Why should the marriage partner who didn’t commit adultery get the kids? And so forth. Why should the state get to penalize someone for what was a consensual sexual act between a boss man and his secretary?

Also, incidentally, I am not here trying to build my ideal biblical libertarian republic from scratch. You have to play cards with the hand you were dealt, and you should dance with the one what brung ya. So the immediate question is not whether prostitution was criminalized in Moses’ Israel, about which I have opinions, but rather what the practical effect would be in the present if it were decriminalized in 49 states. Such a decriminalization could not be separated from the current push for widespread acceptance of every form of sexual deviance, and it puts Moore and Walker in the awkward position of advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution because of how our forebears treated the Baptists. But I can’t imagine that this is what they would want — although the structure of their argument seems to require it.

So why worry about what Uganda might do to criminalize a consensual sexual act? Why aren’t Christians fighting the injustice of criminalized consensual acts sexual here?

When the bad guys have pushed that kind of thing sufficiently, they will then take the next step. In fact, their agenda is far enough along that they have already been taking it. What’s with that tired old category consensual? The first place that this comes under assault is with age of consent laws. Those laws presuppose the old order of Christendom, and a childhood protected from sexual predations was a cultural artifact of the Christian gospel. I thank God for it. The apostles of Progress are trying to dismantle the entire thing, and I really don’t think we should be helping them in any way.

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41 thoughts on “If I Were the Devil . . .

  1. Doug,
    Isn’t it possible to decry governments laying down unBiblical punishments for homosexuality, while still recognizing that it would be equally unholy, though in the opposite direction, to allow that kind of sexual sin to run amok in the public square? I Timothy 1:8-10 seems to suggest that the civil government does have a say in some aspects of sexual ethics. I know you are at least open to the concept of theonomic ethics from what I have read of you.

  2. They also said,

    At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing homosexual activity to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.

    I’m sure they make this jive with Leviticus somehow, but I wonder how.  My problem is not with saying whether or not such acts should be legal, but rather with saying that, given Scripture and that it was illegal within the people Israel, it is unjust to do so.

  3. Doug,
    One other thought. I believe there is incredible peer pressure on Christians to relegate themselves to areas that will not impede the cultural decay that is taking place. Christians can have Sunday mornings, and then, only in dealing with sufficiently esoteric issues that we will not really impact anything or anyone, and thus we will be out of the way.  That said, I do not think most Christians have a self-conscious sociopolitical ethic. Churches do not teach this, and in fact, they teach the opposite, that we should stick to the spiritual stuff (as if social justice is carnal). That said, don’t you think that one of the greatest challenges facing the church today on topics like the one above deals with the fact that Christians do not have a Biblical, consistent, coherent answer as to what separates public and private spheres? I am convinced that Christians en masse really do not know what government’s role is, that our view tends to be eclectic and culturally directed, and it is not exegetical. I mean, before we can decry governments abusing homosexuals, don’t we first have to sort out what role, if any, government has in these areas based on the Bible? Oh, what am I saying, let’s get back to the prayer of Jabez.

  4. Wesley,
    Exactly my point. They claim it is not Christian to execute people for sexual immorality. However, in the OT, there were occasions where it would have been sinful not to do so. My concern is that the authors really do not have a sincere Biblical belief that it is now unChristian to have what most people in our present day would scorn as a Puritanical government; rather, the perceived embarrassment from advocating what is seen as old fashioned and neanderthal leads them to this conclusion. I mean, if there is an exegetical argument to be made, then let them make it. Otherwise, the fact that we would blush when reading some of the OT laws is more indicative of how evil our culture is, because we are so rampant with what the Bible would term “criminals”.

  5. By what standard can you consent? When I worked in a nursing home, part of the orientation included a warning: Residents can have sex with whomever they wish except you. They can not legally consent to have sex with you and if you violate this, you will be charged with statutory rape.
    Why can’t sexual offences not be considered capital crimes? Jesus didn’t pardon that woman out of mercy, it was out of justice. If the authorities brought both of them who were guilty, he would have had no choice but to condemn them.

  6. Well, I want to give them a lot of slack.  I take Russell Moore as a great representative of Christianity, but I do wonder what exactly they meant by saying that.  They might could have said that, given today’s culture and the shape of our government, it may not be the most expedient of stances.  That may  have been a better statement than saying that it is “an affront to the image of God”.

  7. Wesley,
    You are correct, as was Doug. We have to start with the hand we currently have, and work from there. I think a significant problem though is that the destination in view on the part of the church is the antithesis of Leviticus. I think most Christians today either assume that “we just don’t do that anymore” or they are embarrassed of those laws and repudiate them. One thing to consider is that if God expects a greater degree of control over what goes on in the public square, and we do not do that, then much like neglecting a lawn, the weeds will invariably spring up. It would be folly to see that and to think anything other than greater tending to the lawn is called for.

  8. Is there any problem with exchanging actions into their premise: “At the same time, we believe laws criminalizing ______________ to be unjust and an affront to the image of God embedded in all persons.”
    How about:
    incest (consensual),
    pedophillia (Consensual, “and please do not confuse the issue with your old, tired and staid thoughts about age of consent”.),
    bestiality (the animal “consented”),
    public drunkeness (It was just me lying in the street, puking in the gutter.”),
    driving under the influence (“I did not get into an accident.”)

  9. If I understand Doug’s point aright, at least part of what is wrong (unwise/shortsighted/misguided?) with the argumentation of this article is that it relies upon the foundation and shared good will of a Judeo-Christian culture and legal system (i.e. Christendom).  We no longer, however, live in such a system, and like President Obama is finding out with Vladimir Putin, if we assume that the other guy is going to play by the same rules, we will often end up being played for a fool.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
    A question arises, of course; namely, what are we to do about it, especially when martyrdom and zealotry increasingly present themselves as the main options?  I’ve heard it said that Jeremiah 29:4-7 should be our model, and would love to hear some thoughts on that…

  10. David wrote:

    “That said, I do not think most Christians have a self-conscious sociopolitical ethic. Churches do not teach this, and in fact, they teach the opposite, that we should stick to the spiritual stuff (as if social justice is carnal). That said, don’t you think that one of the greatest challenges facing the church today on topics like the one above deals with the fact that Christians do not have a Biblical, consistent, coherent answer as to what separates public and private spheres?”

    I agree with David.  This is one of the biggest issues that Christians need to figure out.  We have labored under Dispensationalism long enough.  The idea that the Church is a parenthesis, and that Christ is not currently asserting His Kingdom authority to inherit the nations, has left us bewildered about the role of the State.  We have taught the world that our interest in public truth is carnal.  They got the message and they now hold us to it.  We preach a private, inner gospel, which fits neatly within our hearts, with room to spare.  But the apostles preached a public gospel.  They proclaimed another King above Caesar.  This is the only kind of Gospel that gets Christians thrown in jail.  It’s the only one that threatens the world.  When Christians rediscover Christ’s authority over the world (the nations, and all of life, not just our private spiritual lives), then the world will be turned right side up.  The world won’t stand a chance.  God’s Word won’t return void.  God is pleased to work through a people that believe this, not through a people that doubt it.

  11. I agree with Katecho.
    I would also add that I think/sense that  God is about to open a world of hurt on the U.S. and our role is restoring the covenant relationship between God, the governing and the governed from the bottom up. We have work to do and it is a joy to do it.

  12. @Katecho, I definitely do not agree with Moore on that particular point, however he is coming from a “two-kingdom” perspective and not a Dispensationalist perspective.  Unless you know something I do not know?
     @John M. Harris you beat me to it… However a person might seek to apply the Moasic legislation today, at the very least we can try to avoid making statements that seem to question the morality of God’s law.  

  13. I apologize for any implication that Moore or Walker is a Dispensationalist.  I’m actually not familiar with either of them at all.  I was speaking of the negative effects of Dispensationalism on its own, but I would include the two-kingdom view as having the same error with regard to public truth.  The idea that Christ is not yet asserting His Kingdom authority among the nations is a serious error that has confused the Church for too long.  But I believe this would be an instance of disagreement among fellow Christians that doesn’t call for rhetorical broadswords to come out (maybe rhetorical thumbtacks though).  We can take a long term approach to correcting it, since many Christians in these camps continue to do good Kingdom work in spite of their theology of the Kingdom.

  14. “Why don’t they teach logic in schools these days?”                                                                                                     
    1. Murder is against the will of God.                                                                                                                      
    2. The punishment for murder, at the most, is death.                                                                              
    3. The church cannot use the power of the sword to punish wrong-doing.                                    
    4. The church must demand that the state use its God-given authority of the sword to carry out the ultimate punishment for this unholy act.                                                                          
    5. The state has primarily the responsibility and secondarily the authority to uphold God’s law in punishing murderers.                                                                                                                                
    6. Therefore, plug in the chair, chamber the rounds, dangle the rope, etc. Justice must be served.                                                                                                                                                                          
    What sins, Biblically-speaking, should also be made unlawful by the state and thus considered to be crimes? Simple–those requiring maximum punishments which the church does not have the sphere-sovereignty to carry out. Other actions might also be considered crimes (shooting off fireworks within city limits, spitting on the sidewalk, attending a Miley Cyrus concert, etc.), though the actions are not sinful in themselves, depending on laws created by consent of the governed.

  15. I guess the questions that always floats through my mind are the questions; 1)What do you do if you are the one in power?; and 2) How do  you distinguish capital offenses from non-capital offenses?  I am not Post-Millennial, but I do have to answer these questions.  I wonder if we are in the sexual mess that we are in as a society, at least in part, because we consider sexual immorality to be such a private matter.  Yet, the Old Testament clearly considers adultery (Lev 20:10), incest (Lev 20:11-12, 14), sodomy (Lev 20:13), and beastiality (Lev 20:15) to be captial offenses.  If I consider the Law to be righteous, wise, holy, and good (Deu 4:8; Rom 7:12, 16; 1 Tim 1:8), then I wonder what good reason I would have for not making them such in my imaginary hypothetical government that I am responsible to establish?  

  16. Tim,
    Through the ages of the church, there has not been enough study on the issue of the application of God’s law to modern times. Today, I think most people are simply embarrassed by what books like Leviticus say, and so the issue is not studied because it seems too far “out there”. And indeed, compared to where we are right now, it is pretty far afield in one sense. I think in terms of process, that the method by which Christians decide which laws, if any, are still to be applied in some fashion has to be exegetical, not political, cultural or by popular vote. Until Christians in large enough number at least see what the goal should be, I do not see what prevents us from drifting back to where we are culturally right now. The boundary has been ignored, so there is nothing to keep us from going adrift. It is funny, but the marginal aspects of society have a way of dragging the rest of us behind with the power of a tug boat. Example – homosexuality, once thought to be a psychiatric diagnosis, it is now the single most important thing that any of us can participate in/support/stand in awe of.

  17. Tim Mullet wrote:

    “I wonder if we are in the sexual mess that we are in as a society, at least in part, because we consider sexual immorality to be such a private matter.”

    The situation seems to be even more general.  We consider truth itself to be such a private matter.  We have lost touch with the idea of any public truth that is true for all.  The Gospel is not true for all, but only if you “accept it privately”.  This is what we have become.  We Christians have bought off on this kind of relativism.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  However, like Travis M Childers wrote, we can’t get all worked up and try to put the sword in the hand of the Church.  Nor can we presume that the State is the solution, if we can just grab the levers of political power for a few minutes.  Politics follows culture.  The culture must be changed.  If it is not changed, the laws will just revert back in the next election cycle.  Fortunately, God has given us a Word exactly for the very purpose of changing culture.  The Gospel changes culture.  It changes hearts.  Politics follows.  We should reject a bloodthirsty outcry to slaughter all the homosexuals and adulterers and abortionists at dawn.  That would be like a form of entrapment, catching them on the side of death.  We need to proclaim the truth of the gravity of those sins, and proclaim the Gospel.  When the Gospel has changed our culture, then we can have God-honoring capital laws as a deterrent between the people and the cliff of such sin.

  18. Katecho, I agree with your assessment that truth itself is such a private matter.  Relativism is fairly ubiquitous.  Yet, it only seems to go one way, correct?  The sodomites certainly want to impose their sexual morality (or lack thereof) on the rest of society.  They do not believe that acceptance of their morality is optional.  They do believe that the state should punish disobedience to their dictates.  They do not believe these matters are up in the air so to speak.
     I agree with you that the gospel changes culture and we should not assume the state is the ultimate solution to morality.  A just society needs transformed hearts.  Although, I do think there is something to be said about the state’s function of restraining immorality.  Part of the reason why Israel was to have capital punishment was so that the congregation would hear and fear to do such wickedness.  Calvin’s second use of the Law would describe the Law as a curb to immorality correct?  My hypothetical situation was the situation, what do you do if you are in power?  Another way to put the scenario is, what do you do if you and a group of Christians are stranded on a deserted island indefinitely?  What sort of government do you form?  What sort of rules do you make?  In that scenario, you have a government being established by regenerate hearts.  I wonder if some would think the answer to that question would be to go and find a pagan to make the rules.   

  19. Tim, the founders of the United States of America found themselves on an island continent (though populated) where they were tasked with forming a government.  A significant number of those men (not all) – and their wives – were born-again believers.  They knew exactly what kind of government to form and they did it.  They formed it around Judeo-Christian law and it worked very well (not perfectly) for a very long time (please don’t anyone bring up slavery – it’s been done to death).  This country offered nothing to it’s immigrants other than freedom from government intrusion into their lives.  There were NO TAXES! NO HEALTHCARE; NO WELFARE; NO ROADS; NO PROMISES. AND THE PEOPLE CAME HERE BY THE MILLIONS! Now why do you suppose that was?

  20. Tim, forgive me for sounding like I’m lecturing you.  I understand your questions were largely rhetorical and believe that we are on the same page.

  21. @Tim.
    I brought it up, because of the triune (correct term?)  notion of governance that Pastor Wilson shows us:  God<->gov<->citizen. In the current thread we are only focusing on gov<->citizen and  God<->citizen. I think the current discussion resolves itself when we citizens re-learn what God’s stance towards the  God<->gov. link is . My sense is that He is not pleased with God<->gov and just fine with God<->citizen and will restore what His citizens require.
    Arguments and discussion and governance that only have a gov<->citizen relationship are meaningless to the Christian.

  22. I would also add that this change in model  from God<->gov<->citizen to gov<->citizen by the pwb in gov is what has many Christians on their rhetorical heels. To ‘complicate’ things are the unsaved and un-educated who only know gov<->citizen–where gov effectively replaces God.

  23. Why so much unholy kissing?   Because the command 5x repeate,d Greet one another with a holy kiss, is totally disregarded by most churches.

  24. Man! I like Russel Moore! And I’m a baptist! But I’m still sitting here scratching my head about how executing homos could be called unbiblical? Apparently it was good enough for The One Who Sits Enthroned in Heaven. Trying to be a bit more spiritual than God, Mr. Moore? And let’s not even start on the image of God. The reason for killing the person who murders is precisely because of what murder does in terms of the image of God. Should we be surprised, then, that God legislates capital punishment when two men get confused about what member was designed to go where? Isn’t this also such a heinous attack on the image of God that execution is warranted? Maybe Moore accidentally missed the Pentateuch last year on his thru-the-Bible reading plan. Let’s all learn the lesson well: Be careful to read your Bible every day, be careful not to miss Leviticus, and be careful not to be more politically correct than God.

  25. Liberal professing Christians do have a socio political ethic. Attend a United Methodist Church some time . It is usually stated in thge liturgy. BTW. the Constitution only refers to one race and it does so twice. that race is Indians

  26. David said: “One thing to consider is that if God expects a greater degree of control over what goes on in the public square, and we do not do that, then much like neglecting a lawn, the weeds will invariably spring up.”  I’ve read the various posts by everyone on this subject, and they’re all very good.  Indeed, the roles and boundaries of church and magistrate are not always easy to discern.  And like Katecho said, the concept of truth in general has been diminished in the public sphere, since truth and religion have been mostly relegated to the private sphere.  However, I think it’s important to recognize that nowhere in the New Testament does it promise an easy social or political life for Christians.  And nowhere does it promise Christians religious freedom.  Religious freedom is great, of course, but it is a byproduct of modern Western civilization.  It did not exist in the apostolic and post-apostolic eras of the Church.  In Old Testament times, especially under the kings, there existed various theocracies.  No such theocracy existed, or was even prescribed, in the New Testament era.  And certainly nothing like a post-apostolic theocracy began to take shape until the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne in 800 A.D., which if course did not follow any biblical pattern or prescription.

  27. Scripture clearly mandates (in Rom. 13:1-7 and 1 Pet. 2:13-17) that Christians should submit to the governing authorities regardless of the faith of the authorities, and that we should honor and obey the governing authorities.  In light of this biblical precept, in what circumstances can Christians engage in civil disobedience?  And if such engagement is warranted, what might this look like?  How should Christians go about doing this?  I ask the questions, yet I lack the prescriptive answers.  This is partly because the apostles in the New Testament era didn’t live in a world of democratic, religious freedom.  Moreover, it was never the mission of the apostles to fight for civil rights or for religious freedom; their mission was for the gospel and to build Christ’s Church.  And they persevered in their mission in spite of the lack of civil liberties which we take for granted in our day.  Thus, it’s extremely difficult to conceive, let alone carry out, a New Testament modeled church in 21st century America, with all the freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted.  And it’s the challenge of our time to continue to build gospel-centered churches in modern America, amid the rapid secularism and the steady erosion of religious freedoms that we’ve been accustomed to in the past.  But as the gospel always does, it grows and spreads even in the darkest places; even in places where we naturally wouldn’t expect it.  Such is the nature of God’s kingdom, which will prevail. 

  28. If and Moore and Walker are to be understood correctly, Christians must immediately demand the repeal of all laws against prostitution and pedophilia and rape, “To this end, though, we believe a nation can teach a positive truth in its laws about marriage and sexuality without prohibiting and targeting its opposite.”

  29. In light of this biblical precept, in what circumstances can Christians engage in civil disobedience?  And if such engagement is warranted, what might this look like?  How should Christians go about doing this?  I ask the questions, yet I lack the prescriptive answers.

    Dan, Last week I was in the same boat. Then I was referred to  Pastor Wilson’s two  sermons on this very subject.They  will answer you questions. I posted the links above in a response to Tim Mullet. Short synopsis–>
    1. Government is a good given to us by God.
    2. There is a covenant between a government and God (with all that entails for keeping/breaking it).
    3. Our duty to governemt exists  only because of 1 and 2  above. as nothing is allowed to come between God and His sheep (doctrine of lesser magistrate introduced here as well as other principles)
    4. etc ()

  30. Hi Timothy.  Thanks for your reply.  I’ll definitely check out those 2 links.  This subject is worthwhile for all of us to think through.

  31. Dan et al,
    Because (I think) I am in an older demographic than many of the posters here, I must remember that even though the questions reveal a thought that these questions are new, they really are not. They were “new’ to me at one point in my life, and as I performed the auto didactic process, it was part of how I discovered why I felt so out of step with modern evangelical theory.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That is another reason why Pastor Wilson’s ideas do not seem foreign or outrageous to me, because when one starts exploring the historic positions of the church, it is one where the most common event is that of tomb building. Those we honor today are long dead, and so it is safe to provide cheap chin boogie lip service in their honor. In their day, they were on the the front lines and were often greatly reviled.
                                                                                                                                                                          I would like to suggest some resources that I found to be helpful: Lex Rex (Samuel Rutherford) as well as the seminal Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants).

  32. @RFB
    Thank you for the references. I found links to those works
    I will give them a read.

  33. Katecho is correct.  A ‘dispensationalist’ reading of the OT is likely at least part of the problem for so many issues.  Our fathers in the faith – especially those who exercised some influence in the setting up of governments/states – had no issue with seeing key OT passages as very relevant to the individual believer AND the Church.
    Dave W., I do wonder how helpful it is to call those caught in the grip of serious (moral) sin, ‘homos.’  Helpful in the sense of not merely winning the argument, but winning the man.  
    Rosaria Butterfield’s story may not map onto everyone’s (I’m sure it doesn’t…), but it’s instructive for conservative Christians to note how powerful the RPCNA pastor’s testimony was to her – and she was won.  I see many others using terms of derision to refer to gays and lesbians… and winning no one.  Let’s speak using the words Scripture uses, but also the manner (cf. Gal. 6:1).  

  34. One liberal friend said that the one positive of feminism is that sexual harassment in the workplace has decreased because of government intervention. Thoughts? comments?

  35. Robert, perhaps that’s true, except when the sexual harassment was perpetrated by a popular liberal President in the oval office.  The feminists were strangely silent.  It was just sex, after all, and Hillary stood by her man just like a good traditional — I mean feminist — woman would do.

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