The second chapter of Dreher’s The Benedict Option is really quite good overall. I found myself agreeing with much of it, and agreeing also with the various qualifications Dreher made as he went along. What he does in this chapter is give a brief intellectual history of the West’s apostasy, and in the main, he does identify the right culprits. “The loss of the Christian religion is why the West has been fragmenting for some time now, a process that is accelerating” (Loc. 338).
In addition, as another big plus, he doesn’t make the mistake of marking the decline by the approximate time when the Beatles first came to America. “Nor were the 1960s the beginning of our unraveling, though they were a turning point” (Loc. 332).
So here is an overview of Dreher’s description of our slide. Given that our public square is now one great big slab of damnation, it is worth asking how we got to this point. It did not happen in just a few years.
The problems first began in earnest in the fourteenth century, when nominalism triumphed over realism. This part is an echo of Richard Weaver’s great argument in Ideas Have Consequences. And astute readers will recall that Angels in the Architecture was a good deal friendlier to the villain nominalism than this endorsement would seem to require, but here is a post that will help to fix all that.
Second, the Renaissance of the fifteenth century was way more “full of beans” than it ought to have been, and hence set us up for a more man-centered approach. “What emerged was a new individualism, a this-worldliness that would inaugurate the historical period called the Renaissance” (Loc. 443).
Third, in the sixteenth century the Reformation broke the religious unity that the West had enjoyed. As a historical fact, this is indisputable, but Dreher does wander off the point a bit when he goes on to say this: “In Protestant lands, it birthed an unresolvable crisis in religious authority, which over the coming centuries would cause unending schisms” (Loc. 690). And world evangelization. Don’t forget world evangelization. I am pretty sure we will come back to this point later on in our later reviews.
Next, in the seventeenth century, the modern nation-state began to form, and the Cartesian revolution inverted the pyramid of philosophy. No longer would philosophy sit there stolidly on its broad base of objective truth, but would now sway back and forth while balanced precariously on its tippy top of subjective experience. “I think, therefore I am,” Descartes pronounced, when what he should have done was anticipate what all his epistemological descendants would be doing, which is saying, “I think I think, therefore I think I am. I think.”
Fifth, the eighteenth century would be distinguished by the arrival of the egalitarianism of the American and French Revolutions. This coupled with Lockean neutralities, would continue to drive religion and public life further and further apart.
Sixth, the Industrial Revolution “pulverized the agrarian way of life, uprooted masses from rural areas, and brought them into cities” (Loc. 699). I hope we get back to this point later on in our reviews also. I can probably make a point of it.
And seventh, the twentieth century demolished the remains of Christendom via two world wars, which was then topped off with the mayhem of sexual revolution.
And so here we are. Glancing over the list, the first thing we should do is distinguish bad things (e.g. the rise of nominalism) from a good thing that was used to bad effect (the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution). It is one thing for Jeshurun to wax fat, and quite another thing for him to kick (Dt. 32:15). Waxing fat was the gift of God and kicking was the pride of man (Dt. 8:18).
To his credit, Dreher does recognize that in many cases the “kicking” did not come until later. “Most leaders of the Scientific Revolution were professing Christians, but the revolution’s grounding lay undeniably in nominalism. If the material world could be studied and understood on its own, without reference to God, then science can exist on its own, free of theological controversy” (Loc. 499). And while many secularists today insist on methodological naturalism from all scientists, this requirement was blithely ignored by believing scientists, as it ought to have been. And the nominalism was also ignored, as it ought to have been.
Despite all the agreement, I do want to pick out a few historical errors in Dreher’s account, particularly with regard to the American Founding. The errors are not huge in themselves, but they do reinforce the narrative that the secularists have loudly insisted upon, and it does appear to be part of the reason why Dreher thinks we are in no position to fight back effectively. More on this as we continue.
But we need to note that rejection of secularism has to include rejection of secularism’s account of how we all got here. Secularists lie about history just like they lie about everything else. On this point, Dreher has actually been maneuvered into saying something like, “Well, yeah, the golden calf did bring us out of Egypt, but we shouldn’t worship it anyway.”
Peter Berger once observed that if India is the most religious nation on the face of the earth, and if Sweden is the most secular, then America is a nation of Indians governed by Swedes. I believe this is right on the money, and I believe it is also how Dreher makes the same (understandable) mistake that Elijah did of over-estimating the extent of the secular triumph. But even here, he does recognize the divide between the faithless of the ruling elite and the denizens of the fly-over states. “The important changes, though, took place among the cultural elites, who continued to shed any semblance of traditional Christianity” (Loc. 596).
However Dreher makes the mistake of uncritically accepting the secular account of the American Founding. He confounds the American and French revolutions, when they were radically unlike one another. For example, Dreher says this: “The French and American revolutions broke with . . .” (Loc. 697). The American and French revolutions may have both been watercolors, but you really can’t make out the similarities unless you leave them both out in the rain for a couple of days.
“Most of the American Founding Fathers were either confessed Deists like Benjamin Franklin (also a Freemason) or strongly influenced by Deism (e.g., Thomas Jefferson)” (Loc. 536).
But this is simply false—although I grant the spirit of the point with regard to the two men cited, Franklin and Jefferson. Jefferson was not even at the Constitutional Convention, but out of the 55 men who were there, 50 of them were orthodox Christians. And practicing politicians like Jefferson who were deistical had to hide their convictions in the curtains in order to get elected to anything. Dreher gets part of this right, but doesn’t run it out all the way.
“Fortunately, having gone through the First Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century, America was strongly Evangelical, and citizens had a strong shared idea of the Good and a shared definition of virtue. Unfortunately, this would not last” (Loc. 558).
He is correct that it did not last—but how it was weakened is very important. Why it did not last is crucial. And meanwhile, back at the ranch, what did those orthodox Christians at the Constitutional Convention do?
Follow me closely here. If you have a state bird (like Maryland’s oriole) and a national bird (like the bald eagle), you are not setting the stage for conflict. If you have a state flower (like Idaho’s syringa) and a national flower (like America’s rose), you are not begging for regional strife. But if the state denomination of Connecticut was Congregational, which it was, and you established any other denomination as the Church of the United States, you were pleading for trouble.
And so that is why the First Amendment of the Constitution says this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Notice that the only entity that could possibly violate the First Amendment is Congress. “Congress shall make no law.” Congress could violate the establishment clause by creating a Church of the United States, bestowing that “honor” upon the Episcopalians, say. But they would also have violated the free exercise clause by telling Connecticut that they could not have Congregationalism as their state religion.
“The U.S. Constitution, a Lockean document, privatizes religion, separating it from the state” (Loc. 544).
Provoked at this point to strong oaths, I must say by the Great Horn Spoon, it is not so. It is correct to say that Locke was enormously influential, but absolutely false to say that the Constitution privatizes religion. No, it federalized religion. At the time the Constitution was ratified, 9 of the 13 states that ratified that document had established state churches of their very own. By having those state churches, they were in no fashion violating the First Amendment. They couldn’t violate the First Amendment. They weren’t Congress. The last state denomination didn’t disappear until the 1830’s (which happened in Connecticut).
And we shouldn’t draw the wrong conclusion from the disestablishment of state churches. When established state churches were being eliminated, this was not the result of religion being privatized, but rather the result of evangelical Christianity being informally adopted as the national faith. We never had an established church as a nation, but we most certainly did grow into a national creed.
Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President James Madison, himself no constitutional slouch. And he said:
“In [our] republic, there would seem to be a peculiar propriety in viewing the Christian religion as the great basis on which it must rest for its support and permanence.”
But Dreher says of the Constitution that “it also laid the groundwork for excluding religion from the public square by making it a matter of private, individual choice” (Loc. 547).
No. What actually happened is that progressives have expended a great deal of energetic ingenuity when it comes to our constitutional history. And the right understanding of the relationship of Christianity to our American federal arrangement was treated the way Stalin with an airbrush would deal with Trotsky.
The Constitution did create space for “private, individual choice,” but the Constitution did not limit religion to private, individual choices. What they did was limit the choices of Congress in religious matters. Congress could not saddle us all with Lutheranism as the national religion. Nor could Congress tell North Dakota that they were prohibited from becoming a Lutheran state. And Congress could not tell Sven from North Dakota that if he moved to Virginia he would have to become an Anglican. In short, we all of us said, Congress shall mind its own business. Which, by the way, they have not done. And then they rewrote history to cover their tracks.
I do commend Dreher for beginning the task of rejecting the secularist Scriptures. His book appears to be a declaration of war on the secularist book of Romans. Their gospel is no gospel at all. “for the first time in history, the West was attempting to build a culture on the absence of belief” (Loc. 648).
But this needs to be an exhaustive project. Let us start by rejecting the secularist Genesis (Darwin) and the secularist accounts in their 1 and 2 Kings of how the calves at Dan and Bethel delivered us from the interminable wars of religion.
“The West has lost the golden thread that binds us to God, Creation, and each other. Unless we find it again, there is no hope of halting our dissolution” (Loc. 707).
Amen. But let us undertake the whole project, root and branch. And when we do, we will discover way more than 7,000 who have not bent the knee to Baal.
I found the description of the “seven steps to secularism” to be very informative. Does anyone have a recommended list of reading material dealing with the “history of ideas” from a learned Christian perspective that provides more insights into these points? I am especially interested in the question of realism vs. nominalistic. I have read multiple books from Francis Schaefer in this general area but understand some of his details are flawed. Any recommendations would be welcome.
I feel like I should point out that the Supreme Court has (wrongfully, in my mind) taken to applying the Establishment Clause to to state governments via the Incorporation Doctrine through the 14th Amendment.
Doug thank you so much for doing this. I received the book through the accs and admit I would be missing these nuances and glaring errors without your help. As always you are an appreciated “man of Issachar”
Geared to we layman I found this to be helpful sometime back. http://www.ligonier.org/store/consequences-of-ideas-dvd/
What about Article Six of the Constitution requiring “no religious Test” for offices of federal government? Such would prohibit states from requiring their senators to be affiliated with the established church.
Would that not prohibit the federal government from requiring a religious test? Not the state that sends them?
For a long time, many individual states did have religious tests in their constitutions, and eight states currently have them on the books. In 1961, however, a man in Maryland was prohibited from becoming a notary public because he would not profess belief in God. His case (Torcaso v. Watkins) went to the Supreme Court which unanimously struck down all state religious tests as a violation of the First Amendment. Justice Hugo Black wrote: “Neither a state nor the Federal Government… can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force… Read more »
But Jefferson was a bible-believing Christian, that can’t be so.
I simply do not understand people reading Jefferson can conclude this, torture his words how they will. They may believe he liked Christian ethics and humane principles, they may believe he thought Christianity was generally good for society, but even today Jefferson could not make a profession of faith that would satisfy any reasonably orthodox denomination.
I doubt any of the first six presidents would be able to take the Supper at a serious reformed church.
Okay, but we should just keep in mind that being cast out or rejected by the Church of England is exactly how America came into being in the first place.
Half of it.
I don’t think the Jamestown settlers had any quarrel with the Church of England. Or the Spaniards who colonized the southwest and California.
The Virginia vestrymen sort of did.
I googled and couldn’t find anything. Can you tell me something about it or where to look?
My source is: The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, by Frank Lambert.
Lambert points out that there was no resident bishop in colonial Virginia, and Virginia gentlemen actively opposed appointment of any. Wealthy planters, vestryman in each parish, exercised authority over church affairs, just like they exercised authority over everything else, and had no intention of relinquishing control.
Not a theological quarrel, but more of a political one, from which, according to Lambert, the Archbishop of Canterbury backed away. Of course the Virginia elites remained committed Anglicans, and committed repressors of any other kind of Christian.
Thank you, that’s very interesting. I wonder if that meant that their clergy were even more under the control of the landed gentry than they would have been back in England. I have often wondered why the Anglican/Episcopal church became associated with higher social status than the others. Do you think it was because they inherited land rather than by being self-made men?
Per Lambert, “The minister himself knew that the vestrymen had put him in his position, and he knew that they could remove him”. If the association of the Anglican/Episcopalian church goes back to the colonies I suppose it is because, outside of New England and Pennsylvania, it was either the only church tolerated, as in Virginia, or the official church, even if others were tolerated, as in New York. The Church of England was the kings church. Anybody who was anybody belonged. I think for the most part dissenters were probably middle to lower class in both England and America.… Read more »
Jilly, here’s a view. Those English, south of the Mason Dixon line would generally be Cavaliers and OK with the C of E. Those English north of Dixe, might generally be Puritans, and not OK with the C of E. As for the Spanuards: Of the Spanish Armada,”The strategic aim was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I of England and the Tudor establishment of Protestantism in England, with the expectation that this would put a stop to English interference in the Spanish Netherlands and to the harm caused to Spanish interests by English and Dutch privateering.” Man, history is complicated! ;… Read more »
It is indeed. But ME is right that the English Catholics who came to Maryland were escaping the C of E. I think I remember reading that the first permanent settlement in America was St. Augustine, FL, which was Spanish Catholics. I wonder what the Spanish friars who colonized California would say if they could see it now.
On a purely personal note, our divorce got finalized today after dragging it out for nine years. It is illogical, but I feel as I am wearing a giant D, under which I want to write “Not my fault; I didn’t want this.” Which is weird because I don’t feel that way about other people’s divorces. It was finalized on our 30th wedding anniversary! I am trying to cheer myself up with the thought that if he gets dementia, it will be up to his new wife to take care of him. What a shame that divorced Catholics can’t date–otherwise… Read more »
Well, I am a slightly younger man, and still married, but next time we make it out to LA, the fam and I will host you! Jilly, I am sorry your marriage hit the bump. We still have 3 years to go to hit 30 years in ours. Lots of folks here will send you and your family thoughts and prayers. Like right now for instance! God, please be with Jilly, as you always have been. Help her to see you, and that she is in your hands, even in dark valleys or by still waters. Bless and keep her… Read more »
Thank you so much for your comforting words. I know I will get through this, with the prayers of people like you. I have to re-learn to pay bills, write checks, and pay income tax, which makes me feel as if adulthood is being thrust upon me for a second time! I think my ex-husband (first time I’ve written that) will marry the lady he has been living with, and I can even hope he will be happy with her. God has been good to me in that, even at the beginning, I never felt angry, only sad. Anger must… Read more »
Exactly what “A” dad said. Take your time to mourn. Thank you for allowing us to mourn a little with you.
Thank you, Clay!
Thank you so much, that is very comforting. In the nine years since he left, I have never actually wanted to date, so it has been easy to be obedient!
I meant to add that, in the meantime, there is always Justin, whom I love with a pure love, untouched by sinful carnality. My trysts with him would be as chaste as his candlelight dinner with Angela Merkel. He would love me for my mind, and I would love him for his–policy statements delivered in flawless French.
Too bad he’s gay.
He is NOT gay!!!!!!!! He has a lovely wife and three darling children and he defeated an experienced boxer in the ring. He is only wearing a pink shirt because he promised, as prime minister, to lead the Toronto Pride Parade, which one out of every 30 Canadians attended. And one of my siblings married his cousin, which while not making him straight by definition, is good enough for me. If he were gay, I would not yearn to hear him read the Montreal phone directory into my ear.
How does that not scream “gay” to you?
I’m not sure whether you’re referring to the boxing pictures or the pride pictures. Well, it just doesn’t. I don’t know anyone in real life who is that good looking, but I know lots of men here who dress and style their hair the same way and who I know are not gay. Most of the PM’s pictures show him in a suit and tie, and he looks normal to me, just a lot better looking. He has very pretty hair (as did his mother), but that doesn’t scream gay to me. Clearly he is not traditionally masculine like John… Read more »
Ah Jilly! Loved the good humored response! I guess we were getting too snowflaky for ash.
Like a good fish, I always rise to the bait!
I immagine this being like a reverse addams family scenario.
When I start to wear this, you will know I have gone finally and irretrievably over the edge.
Not creepy at all. Clever and cute.
Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible is a good book to read about these issues. As is Jay Adams on Divorce. I know you are likely to tow the Catholic line but it is worth reading around a very complex issue. If you want me to get you either of the books flick me an email.
I am confused. Are you asking whether he took communion? I don’t think he did, but even if so, that reflects on the church, not his views. His views are unacceptable for a serious Reformed church to accept.
I guess I seeded two questions.
Are you implying that Washington was not part of a serious Reformed church? And also didn’t take communion there?
I don’t know anything about the nature of the church Washington attended. But I am pretty sure that he didn’t take communion. I heard a speech from a history professor from Regent University in VA Beach (of Pat Robertson fame) who also had degrees in theology, and in it he declared quite unequivocally that from his behavior regarding communion, and the nature of his death, he was very likely a closet pagan. Might be an overstatement, very probably is, but either way, he was not orthodox in his views of Christianity and any Reformed church that would not deny him… Read more »
How far would you carry this reasoning?
“Not orthodox” = deserving excommication?
Does someone disagreeing with that formula qualify as not orthodox?
Should Doug Wilson then be excommunicated?
I am not 100% sure what reasoning you mean. If someone is a closet pagan, yet holds openly non-orthodox beliefs and refuses communion, then the only thing the church can do is go off of his life and profession. If he sins unrepentantly and persistently, then yes excommunication can be option after the process of church discipline is enacted. If someone holds to heretical beliefs and does so unrepentantly, then church discipline is enacted and ultimately the Supper is refused. That is about as far as the church can go.
Holding non-orthodox beliefs = a sin deserving church discipline?
And a pastor like Doug who wouldn’t implement such should himself then be subject to such discipline?
I said heretical, but yes there are doctrinal boundaries around the Table. The steady stream of denunciations of false teachers in the NT are clear evidence of this.
I don’t know what Doug does at his church, but this conclusion doesn’t logically follow the premises.
Should a pastor (like Doug, by the way) who would invite folks like the pope, or President Washington, to the table — should such a pastor be challenged for such action?
Ultimately, should such a pastor himself be subject to church discipline if he doesn’t change his ways?
First of all, the Table is controlled by the session in a Presbyterian system, and I think I am correct in seeing Reverend Wilson as a Presbyterian. That means that the decision to invite or close the Table is not in his hands, but those of his elders. But, where are you getting your information that Reverend Wilson would invite the Pope to the Table? If the good reverend is opening the Table to heretics and the unrepentant, then yes. We can invite them to join through repentance. In fact, we must be doing that, but church discipline is not… Read more »
If a Session agrees with a pastor that pope and Washington should be invited, should the pastor & members of that Session themselves be subject to church discipline?
And should any belief/position that is not true/orthodox be considered heretical?
If the Session invited heretics and the unrepentant to the Table, then I cease to consider them a serious reformed church. They can join the PCUSA and live blissfully in their apostatized club. But they cease to be a biblical church at that point.
No, not at all.
But should they continue on without joining the PCUSA, should they be subject to some sort of church discipline by an applicable governing body?
If Doug & his session were to say to a Roman Catholic attending service at that presbyterian church and requesting to take communion: “As far as we’re concerned, you may partake, because we’re not sectarian …”
Would this be problematic for you?
Would it be a heretical position to take?
But should they continue on without joining the PCUSA, should they be subject to some sort of church discipline by an applicable governing body? That depends on their denominational structure. If they have an overseeing Presbytery or General Assembly or Synod, then it would need to be discussed and evaluated. If it was merely confusion or ignorance, then that is a simple fix. If they are openly refusing to hedge the Table properly, within biblical bounds, it could result in some type of discipline. I don’t want to pretend to be the arbiter here, but the Table is a serious… Read more »
So it’s the job of the Session to hedge the Table against baptised folks who hold tightly to particular heresies — and a Roman Catholic who holds tightly to all the current RC doctrines should be kept away?
Not kept away, per se, but called to repent. If they refuse, then until the repentance comes, yes, kept away. To do otherwise is to allow them to bring judgment upon themselves.
If one believes that salvation by grace through faith alone is anathema, as RC dogma teaches, or that Mary is co-remediatrix with Christ, as RC dogma teaches, or if they believe that the Christ needs to be or is re-sacrificed at the Table, then a reformed session has a responsibility to protect them from eating and drinking judgment upon themselves.
That is the elders sacred duty.
So the elders would then be protecting them from God’s judgement?
What would otherwise be a balm or medicine or source of health-yielding food would in this incidence be turned into poison by God?
So the elders, taking upon themselves a duty nowhere described in the bible, but being caring & loving folk, become the heretic’s protectors and keep them from damage due to poison ingestion?
So instead of the prohibition being a point of judgement, it morphs into a point of love?
I have no idea where you are trying to go with this conversation.
The bible is very clear that partaking in an unworthy manner is very dangerous. The elders of a church have a serious responsibility. And yes, the whole point of church discipline is love.
I’m trying to go where your logic leads. So far, you seem to advocate a sectarian philosophy that results in pastors withholding communion from and ultimately disciplining some groups of baptised folks of good reputation. And to my ear, to state it plainly like this does bring out, shall we say, the dissonance which this position rings over against anything found in the Bible or Christian love. But I know this is a popular “Reformed” position for large segments of the presbyterian stripe. So you certainly don’t stand alone. I’ve pointed out that Doug & his stripe, in contrast, thankfully… Read more »
You keep saying this about the good Reverend. He would invite an idolatrous Mary worshiper to the Table? He would commune with someone while they celebrate the re-sacrifice of Christ through the Mass? He would celebrate the most sacred ritual we have with someone who deems him and his church’s teaching anathema?
And how is this dissonant with anything in the Bible? Not some weird postmodern reading of it, the plain meaning. Heresy is dealt with in Scripture. Church discipline is commanded. Judgment, serious judgment is the result of taking the Supper in an unworthy manner.
Unless he has changed, he would not, generally speaking, go up to take communion at a typical RC celebration because he doesn’t want to condone the status quo of their doctrine surrounding the supper as acceptable. However if the group / congregation etc were starting to move in a more biblical direction — he’d go up. I’m not saying he’s right, just what his stated position has been. And I’m not saying it’s all that consistent — as he has made the point that it is the Lord’s supper and not man’s, so given a certain level of overseeing misunderstanding,… Read more »
I think there is great grace in how we conduct the Supper. The Table is open for many along the spectrum of faith and for those who are mature or infants in Christ. The Supper is a means of grace and the repentant of any sin is welcome. One does not need to fix themselves first. In fact, the Table is a way of getting fixed. But, unless we open the Table to everyone, which makes the Table effectively meaningless, given the symbolism, we have to have a fence somewhere. Elders must let the Bible make that decision, but it… Read more »
I’m sorry that you find meaningless the partaking of some baptized non-excommunicated believers of decent reputation!
You are being dishonest and twisting my words now. I am never unclear in my talks with you, but you try to twist my words into something they are not. I said that it would not generally be a problem if someone who is RC took communion, but it depends on how serious they are about the RC teachings.
Plus, I said that if we opened the Table to everyone, it would be meaningless. Nothing more.
We were speaking about opening the Table to all baptized non-excommunicated folks of non-scandalous reputation.
That’s the “everyone”.
So tell me clearly that you’d not find that meaningless?
I would be curious about why a very orthodox Roman Catholic would seek communion at a Presbyterian church; if he has reached the point of thinking that one church’s communion is as valid as another’s, he is no longer an orthodox Catholic.
Preventing people from eating judgment on themselves is one of the two main reasons Catholics discourage open communion. Your point makes sense to me.
It is a bit amusing to see you and Kilgore link arms in agreement about how you would exclude each other from this symbol of Christian unity! Doug notes that above 10% of his congregation = former RC-ers. Therefore before they jumped into that flock, let’s call them questioning RC-ers. Also there is a decent size group of RC’ers that considers it consistent with true orthodoxy to recognize the validity of the Table of many Protestants. You and many others disagree that this can constitute orthodox Roman Catholicism. But I’m curious about how you come to agree that it is… Read more »
Should we neglect Paul’s warning?
You should definitely neglect, post haste, the warning that is not there.
Paul never warned the clergy to bar the table as a means to prevent damage to a partaker.
This is just a backdoor way of neglecting Paul’s warning, whether you want to admit there is a warning or not.
Or a front door way of adhering to it.
So you admit he did not give clergy authorization to protect folks in this way? >> that it is the responsibility of the folks themselves to keep themselves away under the circumstances he mentions?
It would also be worth noting that the symbolism is of Christ’s death and resurrection, not unity. It does unite us, but it unites around something, namely the body and blood of Christ. If that is lacking, and sin is present, what unity do we have?
Well, I’m not actually as hard line on this as I probably sounded. But I think that holy communion can’t really be a symbol of unity if we are pretending a common understanding that doesn’t exist. It’s not just whether we can reach agreement on whether our Lord is literally present in the bread and wine;it’s also the Catholic belief that this sacrament is inefficacious unless performed by a priest ordained in an unbroken apostolic succession. That is a doctrine I don’t lose much sleep over, and I would be happy to see it changed. But a faithful Catholic should… Read more »
Very nicely stated.
There be “faithful” RC-ers-a-plenty, however, that don’t hold those views and who’s views are much less sectarian, is all I’m saying.
That is true!
Would the RC church allow me to take communion if I attended on a visit?
I wouldn’t, but just curious.
Generally speaking no.
If the priest knew ahead of time that you were not Catholic and that you intended to take communion, he might gently and privately ask you not to. He would not embarrass you by openly refusing you communion. However, the attendance at a Catholic mass is typically huge, and may include many people who attend church while just passing through town. So there is no actual way to enforce the rule that you must be (a) Catholic and (b) not in a state of serious sin. And, of course, some priests are much more rigorous than others in enforcing rules… Read more »
Lutherites are very close to that.
Anglicaners very far away though — similar position to Doug’s, PTL.
Presbyterians are not far off either.
Plus, it is worth noting that we would not try to embarrass or publically call attention in a needless fashion. The very same challenges of enforcing face us as well, and I suspect that most churches, even my OPC, err on the side of allowing it rather than not.
Ever so gently and quietly shush folks away from Him
You are outright lying now.
Your assertion seems to be missing logical argument.
The act of excommunication is intended to be a public call of attention — yet your argument above advocates a hush-hush way to accomplish the same task?
No, I said, and you read what I wrote, that we call them to repentance. This was John the Baptist’s message, and Jesus’ message, verbatim. Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Were they trying to “gently and quietly shush folks away”? No, they were calling attention to the very thing standing in their way of getting to God.
You have consistently put words into my mouth to distort what I write. I don’t care if we disagree, but don’t lie.
Is withholding communion a form of excommunication?
It is part of the church discipline process. But there is a difference between members and guests. People we know and who are under the care of a pastor can be excommunicated from fellowship, which includes barring them from the Supper, until they come to repentance. For a guest, we would simply ask them to refrain from participating in the Table. They are welcome to join us for worship and participate in any of the events in the life of the church. I noticed you also dodged your lying. You dishonestly accuse me of shushing folks away from the Lord… Read more »
Please make the argument that deliniates the lie — don’t just assert, please.
When you say “we would simply ask them to refrain from participating in the Table” but “welcome to join us for worship” — you don’t see a glaring inconsistency here?
Reformed teaching rightly identifies participation at the Table as a centerpiece of the worship — of inestimable value, the Fathers said.
You’d lovingly cut folks off from such value, would you?!
The argument that delineates the lie is that I would “love” to cut folks off from such value.
You are again lying about my position.
If you’ll say your position that keeps these believing, baptized, non-scandalous folks away from the Table is not supposed to represent some sort of loving maneuver, I’ll take it back!
Keeping folks cut off until they jump through some hoops you’ve invented — you do that out of love, right?
You are lying again. I didn’t invent any hoops. I am merely following the text of Scripture, which I hold to be authoritative. And yes, calling people to repentance from false doctrine and sin that will damn their soul to Hell is loving. That was Jesus’ message, not something I invented. PerfectHold, I am a very patient man, especially as I get older, but it seems clear at this point that you are just going to keep intentionally misconstruing my position for sake of winning some internet argument. If you want to have a genuine interaction, I am happy to,… Read more »
I’m sorry to see you get so exasperated.
But think such response is common from those challenged on their fundamentals.
I’m not trying to jab sans logic or honesty.
You took the position that withholding communion from non-excommunicated Christians is an act of love.
Then you said you don’t do it lovingly.
Seems like a bit of a contradiction
I am not exasperated, I am merely asking you for a fair portrayal. You are still not doing that. You are jabbing, sans logic and honesty. Here is how you are being deceptive. You string my words together to make them say something other than what I meant. First off, I never said we withhold communion from non-excommunicated Christians. I said we would withhold it from people who hold heretical beliefs or are living in unrepentant sin. Presbyterians are not in communion with the RCC, so if we have a RC guest, the session makes a judgment call. Worshiping Mary,… Read more »
How about I put it this way:
You withhold communion from some nonexcommunicated Christians with whom you have a doctrinal disagreement.
You do this out of love.
No. The non-excommunicated part is misleading, and you know it. RCs are not excommunicated from a church that holds to other non-biblical standards. But if they held unrepentantly to some of the teaching of the RCC church, while being a member of our church, they would be under church discipline. We hold to Sola Scriptura and are following that. We allow communion to those who generally fall within the historical Protestant framework. This is really not hard. And yes, for the hundredth time, we call members to repentance, out of love, and we are session-controlled to guests, out of love.… Read more »
Is the non-excommunicated part mis-leading but accurate, as far as it goes?
Not just RCC-ers — you won’t “communicate” with anyone except “members” of your denomination or some other denomination that you’ve first vetted & acknowledged, right?
You don’t give communion to folks simply on the basis of their status as believing baptized non-scandalous Christianity, do you?
I mean, they have to have some thing more, right?
Like “being a member or our church” — or of a church you put the stamp of approval upon?
PerfectHold, I am sorry we can’t have a fair discussion. That was the main reason I came to this blog.
You are welcome to believe whatever you would like about me and my church, but if you have to resort twisting words to reject it, I feel confident that the problem is not my communication of it.
You’re inclined to talk is if doctrinal disagreements are completely insignificant. They’re not. If Kilgore believes I am worshiping statues of Mary, he believes I am committing the deadly sin of idolatry. How can he gloss over this with oh-well? If I believe that someone is blithely courting damnation by unworthily receiving communion, I can’t think that a display of superficial unity is more important. None of this means treating one another with a lack of love. It means recognizing that there are still real divisions that we can’t just wish away.
You are quickly becoming my favorite Catholic. I have two Catholic friends, nominally Catholic at least, they like the bottle way too much for me to think they are that serious, and they can’t seem to grasp why I can’t just let bygones be bygones doctrinally.
I am going to share this comment with them.
“a display of superficial unity”
I’m not sure sharing the Table together should be identified as superficial.
While doctrinal disagreements are not insignificant, I do indeed think folks should put better effort into superseding them with love and sharing.
No. Let’s suppose that our Protestant who is seeking Catholic communion finds himself among loving and faithful Catholics who somehow understand that he has come to their church searching for something. They will welcome him, love him, and direct him to parishioners and clergy who deal with seekers. If he has any desire to become a Catholic, he will be taught that even the Catholic children of Catholic parents receive two years of preparation and instruction before they receive holy communion. He will be offered study sessions and prayer meetings that help him get closer to Jesus in other ways.… Read more »
As Doug has put it — this approach bids the hungry come and … learn for two years before they are given food!
“Grow up big & strong, Johnny, then we’ll feed you!”
Doesn’t the phrase “seeking Catholic communion” bespeak of a sectarian ownership?
How about rather seeing it as a Believer’s Communion.
Or would you have issued an exception to the early believers that Peter bid come eat, sans two years preparation?
“This is not shushing someone away from our Lord” — except it IS shushing them away from the Body and Blood for awhile, though, right?
“seeking communion in a Roman Catholic church” would be clearer. The adult inquirer would not need to wait two years. But, neither would he be encouraged to jump ship without enough time to make an informed commitment. We believe, as Roman Catholics, that when we receive holy communion, we are proclaiming our unity, not only with God and each other, but with the Catholic church–eternal and temporal. With the pope and with the teaching authority of the Catholic church through the eons. With the body of sacred doctrine with which we have been entrusted. With the angels and the whole… Read more »
I agree it wouldn’t be the best of manners but … If a host provides a plate of fries and bids you partake of the peaches, you might grab a few and say thank you but to yourself giggle a bit and thank the Lord for the fries. That some or many or most RC-ers see the Table as a testimony to the RC faith does not necessitate others to see it the same way. Some see it as a gift of God’s to the Church — whether they wear Catholic or Baptist or other clothes. So some Presbo’s or… Read more »
Yes, they could do that, and I am sure that our Lord understands their intentions. But, even the approach you describe in your last paragraph is absolutely alien to the Roman Catholic who is taught to approach communion having fasted, searched his conscience, sought forgiveness, and borne in mind his utter unworthiness.
It is certainly true, however, that no one can take for granted any more that individual Roman Catholics know and follow traditional doctrine. I don’t say this in a spirit of condemnation; I’ve done my own fair share of picking and choosing.
I think the fasting & searching etc business is all good form.
But have you read Doug’s weekly Saturday communion posting?
from this last Saturday:
“You are flesh, and need to be nourished. Do not trust in theological abstractions to save you. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is your savior, and He calls you to take heed lest you fall. Come to Him.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.”
Washington notably didn’t.
Didn’t ever attend St Peter’s in Philadelphia, or didn’t ever take communion there?
Yes of course, after he cut out the objectionable parts. I daresay we could find plenty of Christianity-lite people today who think of themselves in the same way.
I think that most of us tend to want to cut out the verses that interfere with our sinful desires. I know better than to do it with scissors or red ink, but the effect on my soul is probably the same!
I was actually being sarcastic. I tire pretty quickly of the American tendency to worship a heretic like Jefferson.
I agree with Durden. Why would anyone want to venerate a politician like Jefferson. I think we can learn certain things from him, but we don’t have to venerate him in order to do that. In a similar vein, it is also quite tiring to see people try to transform Jefferson into a deist, or an atheist, etc, either in order to claim him for themselves, or to disclaim him. Jefferson was, indeed, a flagrant heretic; among many Christian heretics through the ages. Heretics can run in Christian circles for a long time, and not all heresies are damnable and… Read more »
I agree. Jefferson is much closer to the secularists in his worldview, but he was no atheist. They don’t get to claim him anymore than we do.
It’s tempting to disclaim the parts of Christian history that are disgraceful, but there is no need to cover up the reality that we Christians have had some real stinkers in the Vine, even if they immediately went out, or were excommunicated.
“…Many states did have religious tests…”
I believe that in Canada, they still have the:
“Labatts / Molson” test.
Don’t like either of them; I was a Kokanee kind of girl! Back in the day when I briefly worked for the federal government, you had to swear a loyalty oath to the Queen to get hired by the civil service. This didn’t go over well with our French Canadian brethren. Canadians are not anywhere near as likely as Americans to launch lawsuits; it was more likely that people would cross their fingers and mumble the words. I didn’t mind, having been a Brownie who promised to do my duty to God, the Queen, and my country!
Or would that apply only to a religious test in the federal bodies themselves? That is, the federal government could not prohibit any elected officeholder from taking his seat based on religion, even if (or especially if) he was required to be of that faith by his state.
Yet, even with the banning of religious tests at all levels, most voters have been remarkably reluctant to elect an atheist who is open about his views. Perhaps this is something best left to the electorate.
It didn’t originally, but it has since Torcaso v. Watkins in 1961.
The 14th amendment has led to the complete hegemony of the constitution and the judiciary which interprets it. It is a reasonable interpretation of the amendment, which should be repealed or revised.
And “the whole project” begins inside our own homes, with individual, marital and family obedience to God’s Word.
The Church next and then the state.
An “old school” end, to the current day “prophets of Baal” , somewhere in that process, would not be bad either.
Fire from heaven. It would get reported as Chinese space weapons. But yeah.
Nope, “climate change”!????
For once, that would be correct! ????????
While it’s true that “progressives have expended a great deal of energetic ingenuity when it comes to our constitutional history”, so have Christian conservatives. We’re never going to achieve a clear understanding of our country’s history until we see that the Constitution was a compromise hammered out between two rather different people groups with different values and goals, and this uneasy balance was completely overturned two generations later. This is why both progressives and conservatives are true heirs of the founding fathers, and both can easily find quotes and situations from that era to support their views now.
Puritan vs Cavaliers, the two groups in question.
While you fly the Cavalier flag Ash, you might be a bit more Puritan than you think!
I would need to inspect his hairstyle and his wardrobe before deciding. Also his skill at turning out a sonnet.
Yes, sonnet skills are a must for any legitimate Cavalier. Somehow, I bet Ash has game!
I suspect you are familiar with the David Barton school of history?
Is that like the Rachel Maddow school of…… well….. something? ????
of journalism…Yeah, just like that.
The ongoing battle of worldviews, played out in courtrooms and bathrooms, between Protestant Christianity and secularism is nothing more than the continuation of the same battle that raged during the founding of this country. Both sides have at one point or another declared victory over the other. Neither has been or still is wholly true, though it is clear that the wrong one is currently ascendant. It is simply not true that Jefferson and others who shared his Enlightenment inspired rationalism had to hide their thoughts. That is why we still have The Age of Reason and Jefferson’s heretically chopped… Read more »
Having made this point, I must add that what secularists have done with our history is a much greater contortionist act than David Barton ever performed. The attempt at wholesale destruction our Protestant roots and the Reformation influence is not in the same camp as turning a flawed constitution into Holy Writ. It is bad, but not to the same degree.
Kilden, we have separation of church and state . That often gets confused with separation of God and State, a thing we do not have. The Dec. of Ind. says we are endowed with our rights by our self evident Creator.
Besides, what church does God go to anyway? ????
He is an orthodox Presbyterian, obviously.
Your point is well-taken, and biblically that is technically accurate. Church has her sphere, and the state its. But that fact hasn’t stopped the secularist camp from moving the ball in their direction and the fatal flaw in the text is giving them that authority to do so.
Yet consider the United Kingdom which has an established church. The sovereign is Defender of the Faith and has the
authority to appoint bishops. Yet less than seven percent of British people attend church. Parish churches of great antiquity are being closed down every day and converted into houses (often in the middle of graveyards, which strikes me as creepy and unhygienic). This started to happen before the massive influx of Muslims. Even Prince Charles has declared that, when he becomes king–which I hope is at least another decade away–he plans to call himself the Defender of Faiths.
And what would he be defending them against exactly?
Against religious bigotry, or even religious exclusivism of some sort. He has walked back on the change of wording, but re-interprets “Defender of the Faith.” The avowed secularists are still not happy.
So instead of a defender he is an arbiter of competing faith claims.
Hmm, wonder how that might turn out?
In practical terms, it will probably mean as little as when Pope Leo X declared Henry VIII Defender of the Faith! I think it means, “I, Prince Charles, defend and support everyone’s right to believe or disbelieve whatever he likes, faith being generally a Good Thing–not that I am calling lack of faith a Bad Thing.”
Reading the article he wants to protect religious freedom. Worth while. Not really what defender of the faith means though.
“Reading the article he wants to protect religious freedom. Worth while.”
It is worthwhile. Kind of like having a constitution that stipulates the government shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Of course, you’re right, not really what defender of the faith means. Not that many British monarchs ever really were that anyway, and not that a state church has prevented European countries from moving down the road back to heathenism ahead of free-church America.
I suppose that Bloody Mary Tudor was a defender of the faith in the original sense, and she took it much, much too far.
Great Britain, like many of the Scandinavian countries with established Lutheranism, are enigmatic. Whereas my beef with America’s founding is philosophical, my beef with Great Britain is in the execution. The Kings and Queens have simply failed in their duties.
I do think in recent times, the adoption of globalism has exacerbated this failure of execution. It is one thing for a Christian people to grow cold in their faith. It is another thing altogether to invite the enemy to live with and help educate our children.
“But that fact hasn’t stopped the secularist camp from moving the ball in their direction and the fatal flaw in the text is giving them that authority to do so”
I do not believe there is a fatal flaw in the text. Also, the only people handing secularists authority is actually us. In a country that is some 80% Christian (of questionable degrees,but still) we simply cannot pretend as if the secularist invaded and conquered us. It is more like, we just collectively laid down in the road and allowed it to happen.
Oh no, I fully grant that secularism is a distinctively Western heresy. There is a fatal flaw in our founding documents in the form of democratic legislation, but no they did not invade from without. They apostatized from within, and voted their heresy into law.
I think where they go wrong is in assuming that religious belief in itself was as unimportant to the Founding Fathers as it is to them. Most of my secularist friends simply can’t see why religious people can’t be content to keep it at home. Religion, unlike politics, is not important to them. That being said, I don’t want the state assuming that most citizens are evangelical Christians and governing accordingly. Demographics have a way of catching up with populations who do that, and today’s favored citizen may be tomorrow’s disfavored minority. In my lifetime, Canada has changed from a… Read more »
What would you prefer? As we can see with obvious clarity now, religious neutrality in governance is a fiction. It was a ruse by secularists to convince Christians to vote for another religious governance.
In practical terms, the government can’t rule from an evangelical theology when the majority of people are not evangelicals. Even among Christians, there will not be support for candidates and legislation that seem to favor evangelical over other Christian interpretations where there are substantial differences based on conscience. That was my point about Canada with its Catholic majority. It would be grossly unfair to impose Catholic teachings about divorce and remarriage on sincere Protestant Christians whose interpretation of scripture reaches different conclusions. It would be wrong to subject your Protestant children to Catholic prayers in the public schools. When Jefferson… Read more »
I’m curious where this idea comes from. There are plenty of historical examples where the rulers and their subjects have different religions. Heck, we’ve got that now.
Only insofar as Catholic prayers are per se wrong. I don’t see what’s difficult about the principle.
I do, because the rightness or wrongness of the Catholic prayer’s content is a matter of faith which should not be compelled. “Dear Lord, we pray for the unity of your Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic church, and we pray that all who have left her fold through heresy, schism, and error will return to her.” A Protestant child could not, in good conscience, say Amen. You may see that prayer as wrong per se but million upon million of Catholics see it as not just right but supremely, divinely right. And it should not be a numbers game, depending… Read more »
I agree it shouldn’t be a numbers game. But somebody has to decide.
In a democracy, won’t it have to be either a majority decision or nothing, unless we are considering small pockets of homogeneous people? It is likely that no Catholic or evangelical group would favor a prayer so sectarian in spirit that other Christians could not in conscience assent to it. On the other hand, there are differences that can’t be split. One of the problems with official prayer that offends nobody is that you end up treating God as the Higher Power in AA. That was actually a Catholic objection to some Protestant school prayer. Catholics used to be forbidden… Read more »
Obviously the spirit of democracy is that of “majority decision or nothing”, and you can’t have nothing in this context. One of many reasons to reject democracy. The objection to the kind of prayer you describe is a very good one, and I believe Pastor Wilson has criticised the National Prayer Breakfast and events similar to it for that reason (among others).
There’s no such thing as nothing when it comes to religious views.
jillybean wrote: I do, because the rightness or wrongness of the Catholic prayer’s content is a matter of faith which should not be compelled. Rule from an evangelical theology doesn’t entail compelled or restricted public prayers though. Does jillybean have a valid example to offer? jillybean wrote: You may see that prayer as wrong per se but million upon million of Catholics see it as not just right but supremely, divinely right. Curiously, jillybean is actually just fine with her Catholic prayers being restricted, so long as it is restricted by the guardians of pluralism in the name of “tolerance”,… Read more »
I don’t think it is dissonance really, but we do not share the same premises about the public schools. While agreeing with you that perfect neutrality is impossible, I disagree with you that even the attempt at neutrality constitutes a form of secular religion. I am willing to accept the restriction of Catholic prayers in the public schools because I recognize the wrongness of imposing Catholic prayer on the children of people who object to it. If I do not want the government appearing to give preferential status or quasi-official endorsement to Buddhism, Scientology, and Wicca, I have to be… Read more »
jillybean wrote: I am willing to accept the restriction of Catholic prayers in the public schools because I recognize the wrongness of imposing Catholic prayer on the children of people who object to it. Why not simply recognize the wrongness of imposing government education on the children of people who object to it? By the way, who does jillybean suppose is trying to impose and require Catholic prayers of children? She doesn’t ever say. She seems to just assume it. Wake up jillybean. The restriction of Catholic prayers is not neutral, and neither is her acceptance of those restrictions. It’s… Read more »
Well, I have never denied being gullible! My gullibility quotient is high. I don’t think children should be compelled to receive government education against their parents’ objections.
There was a time when the province of Quebec imposed Catholic prayer on non-Catholic children. It is always a risk when one group holds the majority. I don’t think this would happen here. But I can see vaguely Christian prayer being imposed on Jewish and Muslim children, and I don’t think that is fair in a public school setting.
I must be missing your point somewhere — how is government education imposed on children? Arguing that it shouldn’t exist at all is a reasonable position but I’m not aware of anywhere in the U.S. that it’s imposed on any children. Imposed on the rest of us in the form of taxes, yes, but not imposed *as education.* I believe it does happen in some countries but is that what’s in view in your comment?
Dunsworth wrote: I must be missing your point somewhere — how is government education imposed on children? I doubt Dunsworth missed my point, but perhaps I could have said: Why not simply recognize the wrongness of imposing a government education system on children and parents who object to it? Dunsworth wrote: Imposed on the rest of us in the form of taxes, yes, but not imposed *as education.* There seems to be some splitting of hairs here. Would this reasoning hold if the government were to tax the public for the exclusive funding of Christian schools, while not requiring everyone’s… Read more »
“For example, in Pennsylvania, today, homeschooling parents are required to register, to teach a list of state-mandated subjects, meet hourly requirements, maintain a log book, have an annual portfolio evaluation by a licensed psychologist or certified teacher, and approved standardized testing must be performed at various grade levels. The government officer may not be delivering the materials directly, but his nose is in the tent, his fingers are in the pie, and his tail is wagging the dog. It is an imposition of education through regulation.” Yeesh, thanks for reminding me. My blood boils just thinking about it. I think… Read more »
Pluralism is one thing, but neutrality is simply not an option. Somebody’s laws about divorce are going to be enforced. The question to ask is which one is right. That leaves many other views as wrong. In practical terms, the government can’t rule from an evangelical theology when the majority of people are not evangelicals. Then why do you seem to think that a secular government can rule when the majority of people are not secular. Surely you don’t think secularists are being neutral do you? Besides history shows us religious pluralism is able to be handled much better by… Read more »
Well said. Durden wrote:
Unfortunately, jillybean seems to be an unrepentant believer and promoter of the myth of neutrality. She can be very insightful at times, and is generally a good listener, but something has deep hooks in her on this issue.
“The ongoing battle of worldviews, played out in courtrooms and bathrooms, between Protestant Christianity and secularism is nothing more than the continuation of the same battle that raged during the founding of this country.”
I’m going to disagree. There is so much revisionist history going on it is hard to see the truth sometimes, but literally, there were no secularists when our country was founded. The closest thing you can find is a deist, a deist who believes in the Christian God as the Creator of the universe and who’s writings,letters, all reflect that.
I don’t think there is much evidence to support the position that Jefferson believed in a Christian god. He liked Jesus as a moral teacher and rejected pretty much everything else. He longed for a day when science would replace religious superstition, and he saw God as a natural and creative force that set the world in motion then walked away. “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of… Read more »
I am not referring to the religious belief of atheism or even agnosticism. That is difficult to find, though there may be a few candidates. I mean secularism in governance. The legislative ideals of a nation are not rooted in God’s Law and that religious influence should not be considered in making laws. That idea was very deep in many of our founders.
“The legislative ideals of a nation are not rooted in God’s Law and that religious influence should not be considered in making laws. That idea was very deep in many of our founders” I used to believe that too, but after I began reading some of their letters, especially Madison’s, Christian values really were who and what they were as people. They are not trying to build a secular system at all, but rather to balance the power so faith is allowed to flourish. Madison speaks of separation of church and state as way of preserving the church in greater… Read more »
Let’s assume that’s true. They did end up giving the legislative authority to a democratic voice? Perhaps they never dreamed that the voice of the people would ever turn from God and that the people would be good stewards of instituting God’s Law via democratic means. I think that is naivety at its finest, if true, and in the end, they planted the poison that allowed secularism to thrive.
“Perhaps they never dreamed that the voice of the people would ever turn from God and that the people would be good stewards…”
I think they did. I think they made it clear that if the people turned away from God, the whole thing would come tumbling down. Democracy requires good followers, people with shared values, a common purpose.
Remember that famous exchange, where a woman asks Benjamin Franklin,“Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” And Franklin quips, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
I would have preferred a monarchy. Just saying.
The problem with a monarchy is that it has to be hereditary. You take whoever comes along as the first born of the previous king, no matter whether he is stupid, ungodly, and wicked. Once you start picking and choosing among the sons, you’re destroying the hereditary principle. Is it not safer, in terms of maximizing the chance of having a godly ruler, to be able to elect and dismiss bad leaders?
It doesn’t have a particularly good track record.
Neither system does, and while I have an inclination toward monarchy due to my upbringing, I am not sure that you and I would agree on which kings were righteous and which were not. For example, I am fond of King Henry of Navarre!
No, this is a really false equivocation. Democracy and violent social instability are pretty strongly correlated. Looking at European history, it’s not unusual for a monarchy to only have succession crises every 200 years or so; the USA couldn’t even make it a century. Anglo-American stability in the 19th/20th century is the outlier, and benefited from strong external enemies to distract from internal conflict.
You’re right. Now tell me what you think of my King Henry.
ashv wrote: No, this is a really false equivocation. Democracy and violent social instability are pretty strongly correlated. Looking at European history, it’s not unusual for a monarchy to only have succession crises every 200 years or so; the USA couldn’t even make it a century. Anglo-American stability in the 19th/20th century is the outlier, and benefited from strong external enemies to distract from internal conflict. Speaking of equivocations, ashv seems to be equating and confusing republic with democracy. The instability of democratic mob rule doesn’t inform us about republics. In any case, there seems to be an unstated assumption… Read more »
Speaking of equivocations, ashv seems to be equating and confusing republic with democracy. The instability of democratic mob rule doesn’t inform us about republics. I am using “democracy” in the casual sense of “any system that regards The Will Of The People as the ultimate source of political legitimacy”, which is in line with what jillybean was referencing and describes the USA quite well. I agree that this doesn’t necessarily describe, say, the medieval Venetian republic. But it’s as far from the form of governance we see in the USA as any medieval monarchy is. In any case, there seems… Read more »
This is precisely why “seeking to maximize freedom” does not rank high on my list of priorities.
Durden wrote: This is precisely why “seeking to maximize freedom” does not rank high on my list of priorities. Fortunately, in spite of ashv’s continued insistence to the contrary, a constitutional recognition of fixed natural liberties from God (that are not to be infringed without due process), does not require us to seek to maximize every imagined freedom and cultural licentiousness. These are two different concepts that ashv often conflates. Nor does refuge from the democratic “will of the people” require us to prostrate ourselves to an autocrat. Other solutions exist. In fact, the U.S. is founded on such. It’s… Read more »
ashv wrote: I am using “democracy” in the casual sense of “any system that regards The Will Of The People as the ultimate source of political legitimacy”, which is in line with what jillybean was referencing and describes the USA quite well. I’m glad to see that ashv’s equivocation is only a casual one. However, the founders instituted a republic precisely to avoid falling victim to the “will of the people”. They spoke often of the dangers of democracy and of the fickle will of the people. So clearly ashv is attacking something else, perhaps a straw man. Rather it’s… Read more »
Do you disagree that the political formula of the USA rests on “consent of the governed”?
ashv wrote: Do you disagree that the political formula of the USA rests on “consent of the governed”? I disagree that “consent of the governed” is to be confused with ashv’s idea of democratic mob consent. It referred to consent of the governed, through their representatives, which should have allowed for an organized secession from England, and from the Union. In the context of the Declaration of Independence, “consent of the governed” is not raised in relation to someone having a bad hair day, but in relation to a government that has “become destructive of these ends”, i.e. the natural… Read more »
If consent of the governed is the basis for a government’s legitimacy, then representatives, constitutions, magistrates, and the rest are only valid to the degree that The People consent to them, and can be thrown out at any time for any reason. If that’s unacceptable, some other formula for legitimacy must be found. As Belshazzar suddenly learned, even oriental despots have hard limits on their rule.
It’s interesting that your model for relationship between ruler and ruled is marriage. Historically (and I daresay biblically) the model has been fatherhood.
The question of stability is precisely why we as Christians are to pray for our leaders. We want to live peaceful quite lives.
This is why nations clamor for kings and strongmen when the chaos gets out of hand. Weak government or no government leads to local warlords who are a law unto themselves. The sinfulness of man’s heart must be restrained, even if by other sinful men, as in the Roman Empire, simply because thousands of little tyrants is far worse than one big one.
Durden wrote: This is why nations clamor for kings and strongmen when the chaos gets out of hand. Indeed. People will even sell their soul for a little peace and safety. That doesn’t make it wise. But look at what ashv is peddling. He is expressly advocating that we should sacrifice natural liberties, freedom of association, rule of law, equal treatment under the law, limited government, and checks and balances, all in favor of an autocrat to bring us some stability. It would be one thing if ashv were simply warning us from putting our trust in all such civic… Read more »
Of course other options exist, and from what I have read that was his contention. If I understand his position well, which I may not, he simply wants us to be willing to apply the expectations of God’s Law to the leaders of a nation, and he sees nothing particularly sacred about which type it is. I like monarchy, so we have that in common. I would also reiterate my question from before about natural liberties. I see in the text of Scripture humans having the option to be either slaves to sin or to Christ. If we are slaves… Read more »
“Rule of law” is a rather confusing phrase though. Most uses of it I’m familiar with evince a view of law as something existing objectively and independently of a ruler enforcing it — as seen in the phrase “a government of laws, not men” — but clearly this is nonsensical. What do you have in view?
I admit, as you note, it is seemingly nonsensical. The last eight years show that to be the case. No man is above the law, except the man who enforces. Ostensibly, it means there will always be an enforcer somewhere, but that is fiction in practice. All I mean by it is that the law is not man made, either democratically, or by kingly fiat, but revealed by God. There should be no means by which humans can alter God’s Law. We are ruled by our Heavenly King, and the human king ought to reflect that heavenly kingship. In short,… Read more »
I read this recently on the topic of “rule of law” and I’m ready to discard the phrase altogether now: http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm
The salient thing about divine law is that God punishes violations of it. Similarly, judgements and statues made by men are only meaningful in the context that they are interpreted and enforced by judges and rulers.
Thank you, good sir.
ashv wrote: I read this recently on the topic of “rule of law” and I’m ready to discard the phrase altogether now … Ashv’s linked article is nothing more than a professor’s ironic attempt to deconstruct all language … using language. The author’s point is that language is fatally imprecise and therefore useless to encode any principles of law. How did ashv ever fall for this? I have a question for ashv, based on his acceptance of deconstructionism: Can ashv cite any arguments against the rule of law, from his entire linked article, that would not apply equally well to… Read more »
I’ll answer this one after you answer my last question to you.
ashv wrote: “Rule of law” is a rather confusing phrase though. Most uses of it I’m familiar with evince a view of law as something existing objectively and independently of a ruler enforcing it — as seen in the phrase “a government of laws, not men” — but clearly this is nonsensical. Ashv has attempted this weak sauce before. Is God’s Law nonsensical because its words are not self-enforcing? This is not a rhetorical question. Can ashv answer it for us? Here are two actual definitions of the rule of law that anyone with internet access can find. This is… Read more »
Durden wrote: If I understand his position well, which I may not, he simply wants us to be willing to apply the expectations of God’s Law to the leaders of a nation, and he sees nothing particularly sacred about which type it is. Ashv is rather coy about what he is really advocating, but certain features have dribbled out over the months. While I believe there are more accountable forms of government than monarchy, given God’s anointing of various kings in Israel, it’s not possible to conclude that the mere presence of a monarch is inherently ungodly. That has never… Read more »
Thank you for the detailed reply. I don’t have time to do it justice with a response tonight. I promise to return as soon as possible.
Grace to you.
Ashv has expressly rejected all constitutional or parliamentary forms of government because they pretend to limit the king’s hand. I, too, reject the idea that parliaments are biblical. I am not so opposed to constitutions, per se, but honestly, the Law of God ought to act as our constitution, with a King or executive council charged with implementing that system. I don’t see an issue with a secondary document, similar to how we Presbyterians use the WCF and other creeds as secondary charters. But my concern is not with limiting the King’s hand. That role goes to the prophetic voice… Read more »
Durden wrote: I, too, reject the idea that parliaments are biblical. I am not so opposed to constitutions, per se, but honestly, the Law of God ought to act as our constitution, with a King or executive council charged with implementing that system. The Law of God is expressed in overlapping case laws that reveal basic principles that may have application to multiple spheres of jurisdiction (family, Church, State) at the same time. While it doesn’t have to be called a constitution, I believe it is both appropriate and useful to express those principles for application by the State. For… Read more »
I believe it is both appropriate and useful to express those principles for application by the State. Agreed. Ashv rejects that anything but God can limit the king’s hand. In principle, the King is subject to God, and is subject to the prophetic voice of the church, which should really be closer to the voice of the people, though not necessarily a reflection of it. In reality, somebody has the final say. Somebody is the final arbiter. The question is which system best restrains the most evil. This is only a problem if the king is evil, which is sometimes… Read more »
I have little to add since you understand my position fairly well. I just wish to emphasise:
This is a position you have invented, and repeatedly assert without foundation.
If I’ve invented these distinctions, why does wikipedia have several articles describing them?
Ashv’s Divine Right view makes all of our liberties grants of the State, dispensed at the whim of the king, to permit or withhold however he sees fit. All such liberties and freedoms must be merited by the people, and do not exist innately in them as natural and gracious gifts from God.
Okay, just for kicks, let’s make it a supreme council. I don’t know the official word for that, but if having one leader is the problem, let’s make it 5. I am less concerned with how many executives, and more concerned that the theonomic basis for our legislation is in place.
Every system of governance has a final arbiter. The question is not whether they are held accountable by the people, but whether they are held accountable by God and to God’s Law.
Chesterton would say that is the great thing about monarchy: if the king cannot be everyone, at least he may be anyone. It winds up with a natural balancing mechanism.
I don’t think Jefferson was interested in establishing God’s law as an orthodox Christian would understand it. He said in one of his letters that Calvin was a demon. The notion of a republic built on Old Testament law would have made his blood run cold. I think he saw the value of normal human decency and good conduct, but he would have found a basis for these in natural law and in the accumulated human wisdom of other faiths and traditions. Even secularists today believe in human perfectibility if only people will be rational, open to science, and willing… Read more »
Of course Jefferson would think that of Calvin. He preached God’s almighty control over the individual’s life. Jefferson wanted to be autonomously in control. They are mirror opposites.
But I would note that theonomy is not based in OT law. It is based on the entirety of Scripture.
Jefferson can be accused of many things, but consistency of faith is not one of them. In contrast to jillybean’s anecdote, Jefferson also helped to found, and financially supported, the Calvinistical Reformed Church of Charlottesville. Go figure.
ME wrote: Madison speaks of separation of church and state as way of preserving the church in greater purity. So he is not trying to keep faith out of government, he is actually trying to keep government out of the church. Correct. Today, we have almost completely lost the separation of Church and State jurisdictions. The State has usurped all of the public roles of the Church with regard to charity and benevolence. The Church played its part in surrendering this duty. On our current trajectory, it won’t surprise me if the State eventually appoints shamans to lead the people… Read more »
We have only to compare the Declaration of Independence with the Mayflower Compact to see the difference. The DOI breathes pure Enlightenment thought. My knowledge of the Bible is embarrassingly slight, but I have read enough to know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” don’t seem to enter into it! “Nature and nature’s laws” are a far cry from the commandments of God in scripture.
Maybe “pure” is too strong. It does seem like it is a very compromised document.
Your comparison makes that point very clear.
Hindu state of Idaho
Our legal establishment did in the past prevent a polygamous state of Utah. The most “biblical” constitution will not preserve faithfulness if human hearts are unfaithful (as we see in the Sinai establishment). Our constitution worked fine in a culture of commitment to “God’s Law as the final arbiter of truth.”
This is all too true, but what we see is that the constitution is not irrelevant. We can’t merely dismiss the role our constitution has played in allowing the decadence we see. Obviously, it can happen to any people, no matter how perfect the Law. But, that is not the purpose of the Law. The gospel must be preached. But where it is preached and established, the laws of the land are not irrelevant.
Of course laws and constitutions are not irrelevant. But no one has shown that the US Constitution enshrines an anti-divine law outlook. It was a workable document for a Christian society. The point is, you cannot write a consitution that will play no role if decadence happens. Even if the federal and all state constitutions explicitly said, “God’s Law is the final arbiter of truth,” that would not prevent unfaithfulness, and some aspect of the constitutions could be used to justify unfaithfulness. Even churches are not preserved by explicit words on paper–they keep the words and find ways around them.… Read more »
I rather agree with this, somewhat anyway.
Something that always throws me,how do people determine when this alleged decline began? Some pine for the 1950’s that never really existed except on their TV’s. And some claim it all went downhill right after the French revolution.
So what makes America more of a “Christian nation” back when we were slaughtering Indians and enslaving black people? Why is the golden age of faith seen as the time we actually had kids chained up in factories and working in brothels? Is no one as philosophical as I am about the “good old days?”
Golden ages only get that way when you squint and hold your mouth right. Yet we have this very obvious decline and that raises the question you ask: decline from what? Well, not from a golden age.
Where does a river start?
East of Eden.
Is a repentant former drug dealer who still lashes out at his kids as he learns to conform to Jesus more of a Christian than the nice, clean guy who pays his bills, is everybody’s favorite kiddie soccer coach, and donates to good causes, but despises his baptism and hates all mention of God’s love? I would say so. I think the issue is not absolute level of outward Christian behavior, but of loyalties. I think it is arguable (though perhaps debatable) that loyalties were more Christian in those times when children were chained up in factories, and we were… Read more »
It’s an expression of tribal anxiety, not a rigorous calculation. For the declinists, things are getting worse because conservative christians like them have less cultural influence and fewer numbers. What they actually do with that influence is irrelevant.
Trouble with Weaver is, he says things started going to pot hundreds of years ago, so the slope of decline is noticeable? And were things really that much better back then?
Very, very good points, especially re: the First Amendment and Congress. I plan on reading the BenOp when it comes to my library because it is such a talked-about book but it needs to be repeated that while Rod Dreher might be a decent writer with some interesting things to say but he is also awfully confused about Christianity, which is odd since he claims to have discovered the only means for preserving the faith. This is the same Rod Dreher who less than 18 months ago remarked (re: Dr. Larycia “Hijab” Hawkins at Wheaton claiming that Muslims and Christians… Read more »
So the “secularist Genesis (Darwin)” is not in Mr. Dreher’s list of decline, as reported in this post. Yes, we did evolve, but we shouldn’t let that destroy our spirituality. Has he pondered evolution much? Or does he really think it doesn’t give away the store?
In one sense, it is definitionally true that Christians and Muslims (and Jews and all other mono-theists) worship the same God. There exists only one God who can be worshipped – the Creator of Heaven and Earth. It is a statement that can only be denied by positing polytheism (“We worship the God of the Sky, but they worship the God of Mountain.”) Of course, Muslims have very different ideas about God’s nature. Mohammed found the doctrine of the Trinity too complicated to fit into his new religion. Imagine you and your grandmother are walking down a long, deserted street… Read more »
That is not at all accurate. Using your example, I can look at “Joshua” and recognize him as my friend and my grandmother can see him as the postman. His essential nature is not different, simply the way we identify him. The way Christians see Jesus Christ as God incarnate is not in any way the same in essential nature as the way a Muslim would see Him, as a human prophet. To reduce the difference between the Muslim conception of God and the Christian understanding of God to merely identification is a grievous error.
Recall John 6:66-69: After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” The disciples who left Jesus understood him to be a human prophet who had just said some things that were too difficult to accept. The ones who remained had faith in Him as the Son of God. However,… Read more »
Of course, old folk can sometimes see things more accurately than youngsters:
“That’s no moon”
I think I understand your point. The position of classical theism is that there can be only one God, the cause of the world. We have to be careful not to talk as if there are rival Gods. But, I wonder if framing the statement as “Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God” is as useful as saying that “Christians and Muslims have fundamentally different understandings of the nature and attributes of the one God, and we believe that Muslims are worshiping a distorted view of God that bears little resemblance to His true character.” At some point… Read more »
“I was always a little bothered by a contemporary Christian hymn “Our God is an awesome God.” It always suggested to me that we have a different God than the tribe across the river.”
What’s bothersome about the existance of false gods?
I think we have to be careful to phrase things so that it is clear people are worshiping their false images/ideas of the one true God, not that they are worshiping rival gods. “Our house is an awesome house” suggests that there are other houses. “Our God is an awesome God” suggests there are other gods who are not so awesome. I realize it can also mean “The one and only God of all creation whom we worship.” It is a tiny point and unimportant, but the song makes me vaguely uncomfortable.
If Jim Bob Smith says ‘I am god’ and people believe him and worship him. Those people are worshiping a false god, not a distorted image/idea of God, and Jim Bob Smith is a less than awesome god. Also consider Elijah vs the prophets of baal at mount carmel, baal is a rival god even if he’s not a proper one.
Good catch, Arthur. Mr. Dreher has also said the following in an interview about his Benedict Option book: “I think of myself, and my generation—most of us, even we who are conservative Christians, would never want to go back to a time when gays and lesbians have to be back in the closet. I don’t want that at all. At the same time, I don’t want the state compelling religious institutions—churches, hospitals, schools—to violate our conscience on what sex is for and who the human person is and what marriage is.” In other words, Dreher doesn’t understand how to roll… Read more »
I suppose I will have to read this book. On the surface it seems to call for something that I have heard DW denounce in “Christian ghetto’s”. Perhaps I got the tone of that wrong though. Thoughts?