Well put, Pastor Doug, especially your conclusion: “God is being kind to us, and He is doing it in such a way as to preclude boasting on our part.” The word picture you created in your prior post along these same lines about no conservative Christian wanting to be photographed with Pres Trump (or something to that effect as I recall) was very clarifying.
RE: Theocracy and the Tijuana Brass There is a way to present Moore’s pro-King and anti-theocracy commitments in a way that isn’t “simple incoherence,” though I have no idea whether or not he would be happy with it. It’s simply this: King’s civil rights activism relied on a distinctly biblical view of justice, but the policies he wanted don’t. Well, they depend on it in the sense that what makes any claim of justice true is its biblical pedigree, but not in the sense that there aren’t lots of other points of view from which legal protections for racial minorities make perfectly good sense. Of course there are, and because there are, pulling up Jim Crow laws by their roots isn’t theocratic in the sense that worries people who worry about theocracies—the sense according to which the theocracies tend to be objectionably sectarian. That’s a difference between a Christian using the Bible to argue for legal protections for racial minorities and a Christian using the bible to argue for legal penalties for people who (e.g.) blaspheme the Christian God. Moore himself might be incoherent—he’s a baptist, after all—but he needn’t be here.
Kyle, if we allow biblical rhetoric only if we are speaking to an issue where a requisite number of worldviews overlap and concur, then we have created a question about how this parliament of religions is to function. And which religions are excluded, and why? Again, by what standard?
Pastor Wilson, How do these thoughts apply to same-sex “marriage?” It looks like you’re arguing against letting religious scruples inform secular law, but I seem to recall you stating that we should fight for a sane definition of marriage. Is it because there is a natural law argument for marriage but not one for teetotalism? Thanks!
Roger, it is that biblical case can be made for marriage (and also a natural law case). No biblical case whatever can be made for a mandated teetotalism.
Pastor Wilson, To say “we” shouldn’t have done the Prohibition is like saying we shouldn’t outlaw anything that is not outlawed in Scripture. Is that your position? Do you believe we should get rid of our anti-drug laws?
Jessica, I believe that we should not outlaw something simply because the Bible defines it as a sin. Covetousness is a sin, but I don’t want the cops policing covetousness. Lust is a sin, but I don’t want the lust police. If the Bible defines something as a crime (meaning there are attendant civil penalties), then I believe we should follow suit. That said, I believe that a biblical case could be made for certain forms of anti-drug, or anti-drunkenness laws.
I continue to appreciate your insight regarding theocracy (your recent Tijuana Brass article). I can’t help but suspect that Russell Moore’s double standard, which you so adroitly observed, reveals his true allegiance: that of seeking respectability from the world. Working for civil change in the name of Christian morality is apparently laudable only so long as the goal is one endorsed by our current cultured elite. I doubt this is conscious in his part, but no less problematic. I hope, though, that your critique will help him realize whose respect he is truly courting at the end of the day.
Re: Theocracy Doug, I appreciate you tackling the dirty ‘T’ word, and I agree that Moore’s (and most others’) thoughts on the topic are muddled. However, the way you are using the term is a little idiosyncratic. Theocratic is typically seen as the direct rule of God, or the rule of his emanation (whatever for that may take). Even within OT studies the theocratic era ended with the formation of the monarchy. David can be a man after God’s own heart but his rule is not theocratic, it is a lawful kingdom. This is why we have the more nuanced term theonomic, God’s law is THE law, and should be our law. Though that requires unpacking as well due to the difficulty in application, the inflexible way that some (North anyone?) have tried to apply it, and the not-at-all obvious divisions in the supposed tripartite law. If you want to use the word theocratic to mean a government that acknowledges God is the ruler of all and that earthly authorities are under his dominion, that is fine. But it may cause confusion in your interlocutors.
Demo, I take your point. But the theonomists back in the eighties fared no better on this point. Anyone who insists that we have an obligation to obey the living God in our public life will be accused of being a theocratic goon show. I have decided to just lean in. Yes, I am theocratic, as we all are.
This addresses the posts on theocracy and Russell Moore. If on the one hand, in the back of your Southern Baptist hymnal, you find the nationalist military anthem “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a song that deifies the murderous John Brown and equates the killing of a people to the marching on of God’s truth, and then on the other hand, you have the exodus of an African American pastor from your organization even after a unanimous condemnation of white supremacy (link here), then Moore’s alleged inconsistency may be as much due to history, cultural influences, and political pressures than to any particularly Baptist error. Unless, of course, the Baptist errors are due to the same factors.
Re: Theocracy and the Tijuana Brass So, I get it that Mr. Moore is inconsistent, bigly. My question to you is, Should we keep our non-theocratic Constitution or give it the Nehushtan treatment? What would a Wilson-approved constitution look like? Because as much as I like my Reformed friends, I really don’t want them using the power of the government to enforce their religious opinions. What’s your plan for doing theocracy without getting that kind of thing going again?
Steve, our Constitution was ratified in the “year of our Lord, 1789.” Taken with all due seriousness, that is good enough for me.
The idea of Self-Government is key to a free society. If individual people restrain personal/family behavior based on theological precepts, bringing this into the legislative, executive and judicial branches, one can claim a Godly theocracy. What other restraint would the secularist/squishy “Christian/Conservative” propose? Political Correctness? Secular Humanity? Cue Mr. T: “Pity the Foo!!” Define the restraint and identify the God of the system. Agreed, Master Wilson, theocracy is inescapable. John Adams to a Massachusetts militia 10-11-1978 (https://tinyurl.com/zy9t7u9): “But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, … this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, “would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Ron, amen. Our Constitution was not written for a nation of fornicating potheads.
Some Literary Criticism
“They are in the middle of losing a pitched battle at Midway, and have decided to send in the triremes.” I count three ingredients to the mixed metaphor. 1) Sinking Japanese aircraft carriers, 2) Ante-Marian legions, 3) Ancient naval warfare. Did I miss any? Could you double it to mixing six metaphors?
David, actually I would describe this as a purple metaphor, not a mixed metaphor. The two basic elements are modern naval warfare and ancient naval war. The intent was to create the idea of conflict where one side is totally out-classed, as in bringing a knife to a gun fight. A mixed metaphor would have been something like: “They are in the middle of losing a pitched battle at Midway, and have decided to send in the third string quarterback.”
“Like a dog chasing a fire truck.” Your line, “and then she takes him home for dinner, and he says (s-hole)” was the best I’ve read of your writing. And I’ve read a lot. Stopped me cold, made me laugh. Thank you. Love it when the “imagine if you will” scenario collides unexpectedly and abruptly with real life.
Thank you for having the courage to write this post “Theocracy and Tijuana Brass.” I sincerely hope you will write in a future post about consistency in the aims of those who elevate MLK but destroy REL. I know all too well the situation of growing up in the south with all of the social pressures from whites and blacks alike; having grown up in Stone Mountain, GA (a suburb of ATL). What I am sensing from all of the so-called Christian movements toward racial reconciliation is a talking points memo borrowed from the world, and our media particularly, that more alleviates white guilt than it does form real and transparent friendships and love between blacks and whites. I am terribly concerned that the convenient overlooking of MLK’s whole life while simultaneously denouncing one part of REL’s life (or many other famous Christian’s from the south) will only further division, distrust, and confusion about what we actually need to be focusing on. The picture painted right now is more or less that whites in the Church are still holding blacks down and have a systemic problem of racism that they need to daily deal with. I simply do not see this happening in the Church whatsoever. Perhaps in some small country Churches full of people aged 65+ in the rural parts of the deep south this may be the case, but not in the overwhelming ranks of mainline evangelicalism. My heart breaks to see someone as Russell Moore tending more and more toward progressivism, though I’m sure he would heartily denounce me on that. He is from Mississippi, which is the “Heart of Dixie.” No state has taken more heat for their own racial sins than MS. Without knowing the man personally, I can only assume that in his position of power at the ERLC he is under heavy pressure from within and without to cast a vision for the future that bears no resemblance to the social moorings that could otherwise be bequeathed to him from his home state and a denomination that shares a checkered past as well. Back to the main issue . . . I have consistently wondered, are we influencing the world or is the world influencing us? Everywhere I turn I feel under tremendous pressure to force diversity when it may not be currently possible due to demographics or cultural differences. I also have tremendous pressure to be all in with the movements of racial reconciliation or be labeled apathetic, indifferent, or worst, racist. I am 35 years old, I am the great, great, great, grandson of a confederate veteran who died of chronic diarrhea at a prison camp in Elmira, New York. I am a husband and father of 3 children who love black, brown, and white alike. I love Jesus and my identity is only in him. May the Lord be so kind as to soften all hearts, and break through our blinded eyes with the truth of the gospel so that we may see with more clarity and consistency.
W, actual racial reconciliation is a work of the Spirit, which rarely happens as a result of copying the world.
Dynamite article. I’m going to be stealing that “same sex mirage” line, as I already do “by what standard.” To play devil’s advocate, what would you say to a response arguing severity? As a hypothetical rebuttal: Slavery and Jim Crow were matters of paramount importance. The subjugation of an entire race, on only the grounds of race, is a matter that the state clearly as a direct interest in. Whether or not homosexuals call themselves married, even if we take the strictest view of the negative ramifications, can’t possibly be considered as dire as Jim Crow. It isn’t very fair of you to compare the two across the board as though it’s a similar situation. Preventing large scale discrimination was a moral imperative. Stopping two consenting adults from using a title and taxing status is at the very least intrusive meddling. Applying theocracy to how people handle their interpersonal affairs in their home is clearly over the line. I imagine many people would jump to a response something to that effect. Can severity of the problem render the conflicting positions a non-issue?
Justin, the problem is that Jim Crow laws were Jim Crow laws. The state was not the savior in all this, the state was the problem. In a free society (where freedom of association was honored), a non-bigoted white man would have had the liberty to open a restaurant that served all races. After all, everybody’s money is the same color. But under Jim Crow it was against the law to do so. When our current laws mandate who you must and must not associate with, they are perpetuating the central problem.
That Gagnon guy deserves a courage award for his piece calling out TGC. I am sick to death of their moral preening designed to pander to the Leftist elites.
BJ, I agree that such things take a great deal of courage. And part of the equation is the fact that the elites all agree that such things require no courage at all. And those who think it does are playing the worldview equivalent of Walter Mitty games in their head.
Thanks, Pastor Doug. It’s all true and then some. I hope you are able to talk more about the general screaming inconsistency in Gospel Coalition praising a man like MLK at present, after they’ve worked so hard to shame Cracker-Evangelicals for stooping so low as to vote Trump over Hillary. As you mentioned above, if General Lee’s statue should come down with ropes, shouldn’t MLK’s be addressed with dynamite? What I find so disturbing these days is that men whom I have loved for years, such as Piper and Don Carson, see no problem in being involved in a conference in honor of MLK. One of the plenary talks is about addressing the present inconsistencies of Whitey-Evangelicals! I grant such inconsistency in the likes of the Falwell crowd, smiling for pictures with Trump while his Playboy magazine hangs in the background. But the irony of addressing white inconsistency during a conference which is itself inconsistent is rich indeed.
“But there are many people of influence in the Southern Baptist Convention who do see these contradictions, and who are in a position to fix it. And they really need to, because this is embarrassing.” The problem of course, is that we Baptists are largely far more worried about being embarrassed (in front of the cool kids) by biblical consistency than we are worried about being embarrassed (in front of the theology nerds) by inconsistency.
Gary, I think this is true of a number of “thought leaders” who want to wind surf the zeitgeist. But I know that it is not the case for a number of principled leaders in the SBC.
The Porn Lady
Thank you Doug for taking the time and effort to piece together this very thoughtful article.
There is more evidence of collusion with Russia (which sits at zero) than this porngate nonsense. We know Democrat operatives paid upwards of $700,000 to get women to falsely accuse Judge Roy Moore of rape. How much do you think they paid the whore? Her only evidence is an unsigned contract. If that’s all it takes, then I’ll show you an unsigned contract that you owe me a million dollars. Pay up!
Boxty, a couple things. First, I stated at the beginning of the article that the WSJ had established something as “likely.” I do grant that the claims could be false. But if they are true, they are the kind of thing that Trump has been notorious for, and has bragged about himself. My point is, that if it is true, it is not news. Roy Moore denied everything from beginning to end. If the allegations about him were true, it would be nothing but news.
In your post “Already Baked In,” you counsel that “condemning Trump’s open adulteries takes little courage and even less detective work. Remaining relatively silent about them is a form of culpable expedience.” I suppose I would like you to say a little more about this. I gather that your main target is Christians or Christian organizations of some public standing, which therefore have an ‘on the record’ sort of public witness. I, however, am interested in the obligations of condemnation that private, ordinary, “never interviewed by the news” Christians have. I bristle at the media condemnation machine, or the way people use condemnation on social media as a type of preening or virtue signaling. I invoke Amos 5:13—he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time as this, for it is an evil time. However, I certainly do not wish to be guilty of culpable expedience. There seems to be a tension between the prudential counsel of silence and the imperative to proclaim God’s truth fearlessly. I suppose I would simply like to hear your own counsel on how to navigate this—for private individuals, not large evangelical organizations.
Matthew, I agree with your distinction here. The culpable expedience I was talking about had to do with Christians who had direct knowledge about something in their own sphere—e.g. a volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center who knows that the abstinence lecturer they employ is sleeping with her boyfriend. That would take courage to deal with. But to refuse to obey the media condemnation machine—that takes another form of courage.
In response to your article about porngate. Thank you for finally speaking of Trump how he deserves. Though not as strong as I would have written, it seems you have finally grown a backbone. One thing I would add is the fact that this has not created a stir is terrifying. We have grown so used to the antics of this madman that we aren’t at all surprised and there is little political recoil. Imagine what would have happened to Obama, who was hounded for putting his feet on his desk by Fox News. I’m terrified if we continue in the trajectory of moral decline that we are on. Feet on the desk making to affair with a porn star, murder seems to be next if this metaphorical slope is followed.
Malik, saying that unrepentant adulteries land you in Hell isn’t strong enough? But one can’t be sent to two Hells.
Fail. I don’t like Trump and I don’t condone having sex with pornstars, but adultery in the OT occurred when a man had sex with another man’s wife. That’s it. Call it whatever you like, but it isn’t adultery when a man “cheats” on his wife (or wives).
D, it most certainly is adultery when a man cheats on his wife, no scare quotes. That is in fact covenant breaking (Rom. 1:31-32). And the Lord gives us the exception of “divorce for adultery” (Matt. 19:9), and He teaches it is possible for a wife to put away her husband. “And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:12). In other words, she commits adultery through divorce and remarriage, unless her husband was unfaithful to her. If she initiates the divorce, the exception clause applies to her.
Kill the Dragon
Blessings from Wisconsin! I am currently reading a book by Trevin Wax called “This is Our Time,” which has been enjoyable so far, but I noticed something I thought you might enjoy. On page 53 Wax writes, “I once heard an author sum up the storyline of the Bible in a few words: Kill the dragon. Get the girl.” I thought you might want to know that you made his book Incognito. I suppose he could be referring to someone else but the fact that he didn’t name the author (in a book full of quotes from authors with full name published) was a sign that it was. He probably would have gotten in a little too much trouble had your name appeared! Hopefully, you get a kick out of that. Michael
Michael, you may be right. But I got the precise phrase itself from Joe Rigney, and he remains preeminently quotable.
Doug, I can “amen” every word of this post. The “cool-kid-ness” of all this is, to my mind (which I hope is informed by the Spirit), repugnant. With that said, I must ask you an honest question. A dear friend and brother, to whom I often forward these posts, asked it of me. How do these articles relate to Matthew 18:15-17, in terms of calling sin to a brother’s attention first privately, then if no repentance is forthcoming, in front of a few witnesses (preferably, elders of the church), then, if necessarily, bringing it before the entire church? I understand that the passage talks in terms of sin against another Christian personally, and I understand the heavy responsibility on a denominational leader, who is operating, in a sense, in a de facto surrogacy for his denomination, as in this case. But there are those who view such articles as the last few as something that brings unnecessary disunity. I am, frankly, undecided on the matter. I view Scripture as having more continuity than discontinuity, and I see scriptural examples, particularly in the prophets, of such a “serrated edge.” But I wonder if the prophets in question had essentially followed the Matthew 18 pattern—speaking direct accusation, then “writing it up,” so-to-speak. I would appreciate your explanation of why you chose to chasten brother Moore in this manner. Thank you for your love of truth and for the teaching that I have so personally benefitted from.
Jim, thanks for the good question, and thank your friend also. First, I would be delighted to meet with Russell Moore to discuss these things privately. I am not opposed to that. That said, I do not believe we are in a Matthew 18 situation. As you indicated, Russell Moore has not sinned against me personally. I don’t have a personal relationship with him. If I did, I would be happy to pursue that first, and all for the sake of unity. But I believe this situation is more (structurally) akin to Paul addressing Peter at Antioch (Gal. 2:11). There is no indication that Paul went to Peter privately first, and he says explicitly that he rebuked Peter in front of them all (Gal. 2:14). This is because Peter’s error was serious, and it was public. That sort of thing should be addressed immediately, and in as public a way as the error was public.
Random Polity Question
Having allowed that you could have Arminians in the soup there, what happens if they like it? What happens if, say, you get a flood of ’em coming in, such that they outnumber the Reformed-minded 100-to-1? Are you still a Reformed church? Your definition of what your church “is” seems dependent on the stripe of doctrine promoted by those you identify as leaders. But what a shame if some of those Arminians get called to lead? You’d forbid such scandal, yes?
Eric, they would all be welcome, and yes, that would not keep us from being a Reformed Church. But our constitution requires elders to subscribe to our confession, which is the Westminster. Now there are ways under this set up for the church to lose its Reformed identity—but there is no honest way for it to happen.