Andrew’s Sandlin’s recent response to me helpfully pin-pointed the one area where I think we genuinely differ, which is in the area of scriptural applications.
First, he began by thanking me for not employing satire, invective, and so on, in my response to him. He noted that such tactics in Scripture are to be employed against Christ-denying Pharisees, statists, apostates, and so on. This is simply another way of affirming what we have always affirmed about the point of lawful satire, which is that it is only to be aimed at religious arrogance. This is an argument I laid out in The Serrated Edge. I quite agree with Andrew in principle here, but the difficulty comes (as always) in the application. Stuffed shirt Pharisees almost never identify themselves in this way. Pharisee was a term of praise until after Jesus got done with it. No one knocks on your door, and says, “Hello, I am here as an agent of Hell, and I have come to lead you astray.” In other words, if you ever knock a wolf (in sheep’s clothing) a good one, the chances are outstanding that said wolf will start bleating like you are some kind of maniac shepherd. So remember how this discussion originated. I launched an attack on postmodernists within the evangelical camp, those who are now saying that there is no such thing as absolute truth, that there are no metanarratives, not even those revealed by God, and so on. I wasn’t using this kind of language on Baptists for dunking, or Presbyterians for sprinkling, which would evidence a complete lack of proportion. Postmodernism reeks like a sulphur pit, and if I ever stop throwing rocks at this hellish Apparition from the Academy, it is only because my arm is tired. In other words, Andrew and I agree in principle, but differ on application. Postmodernism, in the forms I was attacking, is apostasy. That was my point.
Andrew then tried to argue that the issue is really the sufficiency of Scripture, citing certain stands that we have taken (e.g. on the reasons for 9-11, a suggested response to homosexual marriage, etc.). Andrew was arguing that our applications of scriptural principles ought not to be confused with Scripture itself, which is of course true. But it does not follow from this that such applications cannot be made with scriptural authority. We are required in Scripture to make such applications with scriptural authority. Further, I know that Andrew agrees with this (in principle), because his organization is called the Center for Cultural Leadership. The subhead on the web page says their objective is to create a “new kind of Christian,” presumably Christians who lead, and who lead culturally. Now, where shall this new kind of Christian come from? And what informs his attempts at cultural leadership? By what standard?
If we do not have the capacity to draw on Scripture as we teach Christians how to paint, compose, vote, dance, sing, write, and so on, then this would not be Christian cultural leadership at all. But if it is Christian cultural leadership, then there are applications we must be making from Scripture. Andrew has certain policy suggestions for Christians, as Christians, to follow, and he advances them as a Christian minister. He does not look at Christians who differ with him (like us) and say that “your guess is as good as mine.” Precisely because he does not do this, he is making policy suggestions in the name of the Lord — which is precisely what he chides us for doing. And so I guess I don’t get it. Why are we having this discussion?
I gather, for example, that Andrew thinks that I should have voted for President Bush, which I neglected to do. Now did Andrew think I should have followed this particular policy proposal because I am a Christian? If not, then why should I listen to his urging? But if so, then how is it not structurally identical to what we are doing (only with a different application)?
If what Andrew is proposing is not scriptural cultural leadership, then why should any of us bother? But if it is scriptural cultural leadership, then he must have a hermeneutical process that could get him (in principle) from the destruction of Sodom to the destruction of a wicked city in our day. There must be a way of saying that the revelling that St. Paul prohibited in the New Testament corresponds to a 21st century rave. Without such applications, the Scriptures are sufficient for nothing other than being admired from afar. No situation that any of us have faced in the course of our lives is exactly parallel to the particular issues addressed in the Bible.
In short, it is an applied Bible that is sufficient. Put another way, the Bible alone is sufficient for all applications. The Bible does not step in for us and make the applications itself. And if the Bible is not applied by us to situations it never mentions by name, then how could it be sufficient? Sufficient for what?