Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Christian View of Church and State

Most American discussions of church and state begin from a political point of view: conservative or liberal, left or right, republican , democrat. In today's society, these terms are ambiguous at best, and often misleading or used in a derogatory sense, so I am going to avoid them.

Instead, in approaching the question “What is the role of government?” I will answer from an unashamed, hopefully unambiguous, Christian perspective. Admittedly there are many of these, also, so I will further limit this to a discussion of Christian principles based on the Bible, rather than specific doctrines or agendas.

God's View of Humanity

By God's definition, we are all rebellious sinners. Created to worship Him, we have instead refused to submit and chosen to worship ourselves and the things we have created. God's holiness demands an eternity of punishment for this sin. Nonetheless, the cry of God's heart is that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In His mercy, He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin, and the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and guide us into all truth.

Free Will

God does not, however, force anyone to worship Him. From beginning to end, the Bible can be viewed as an extended love letter from God, pleading with man to repent and return to their Creator. It can also be viewed as the words of a wise Father, warning his children not to play with various forms of fire because they cause burns. While He may orchestrate circumstances to reveal our sin, in the final analysis, the choice is always left to the individual.

The Role of the Church

Among those who have repented and been saved, our role is two-fold. First, we are to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. Second, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Implicit in this summary of the law, and more explicit in other passages, is that God's desires should be our desires, and His methods, our methods. We are specifically instructed to speak the truth with love, help those in need, and preach the gospel to all creation.

The Church in Practice

The church characterized in the New Testament largely, but imperfectly, achieved these goals. The gospel was preached. God was worshipped above all else, and many were drawn into the kingdom. Those in need were helped in love, the rebellious heard hard truths in love, and all were allowed to freely choose.

Since that time, however, the historical church has generally failed in its assigned task. Instead of pointing the way to Christ, church leadership has interposed themselves between Jesus and man. Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to do his job of convicting and guiding, man has arrogantly assumed this position.

Around 312 AD, Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and subsequently put the weight of the government behind the church. Thus began the practice of state enforcement of the doctrines determined by the established church, leading to centuries of wars.

The American Church, 2008

Things have not changed much in the United States. With the Salem witch trials a notable exception, we no longer execute people for their religious beliefs. However, the freedom of religion defined in the First Amendment is, in practice, a myth.

American Christians typically approach government from one of two perspectives. Desiring to help those in need, they use the government to redistribute wealth. Others, motivated to see repentance from sin, use the government to define and enforce moral behavior. Both positions use the coercion of the state to enforce religious practice. Neither position draws people to Christ, and in fact, interferes with the work of the Holy Spirit. In addition, it allows Christians to avoid their personal obligation to speak the truth with love, help those in need, and preach the gospel to all creation.

Conclusions

God gives each individual the free will to choose to repent and follow Him, or to continue on the path to hell. Government should do the same. The language of the First Amendment in this regard is God-given:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ;

The failures of the church to convert society to Christianity should not become the job of the state. The role of government should be limited in this regard to that defined by Thomas Jefferson:

Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual. letter to Isaac Hall Tiffany, Esq., April 4, 1819

If Christians truly desire to draw others to Christ, they will not force society at large to fulfill their responsibilities. Moral laws do not change people, they only create self-justified hypocrites or criminals. Neither do laws save people. God changes people, and God alone, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, can save people.

67 comments:

Phil Johnson said...

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I think you've laid out a fairly accurate picture of the Calvinist view of reality laced with a good measure of Christian Fundamentalism.
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Taking your ideas into consideration, it seems you're calling all like minded people to join you in judgment of the current goings-on of government. Which is to say it seems that you believe that all people must--in some future and perfect day--adhere to a particular way of life. You seem to be saying that the day is coming when all human beings from every nook and cranny of earth will finally admit to your way of seeing reality and that there will be no diversity allowed whatsoever and, moreover, that those who won't get in line will burn. Sounds a little Jacobin and or neo-conservative to me.
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I don't think that is the purpose America was founded.
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But, maybe I misunderstand what you're getting at here?
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Jonathan Rowe said...

I don't see the blockquotes (or italics) in your quotations. Did you try to insert them?

Jonathan Rowe said...

The main problem I have with your Arminian evangelical theology is that it assumes that we all know who the real God is and that we use our free will to reject that which we know. Indeed, I'm sure you will be able to cite scripture to that effect, which will ultimately end the conversation.

The way I see it, atheists really believe there is no God (they don't reject that which they know to be true). Muslims, Mormons -- all non-Trinitarian believers in God -- think they worship the true God and have used their Freewill to accept Him. But when they die, they find out they made a soul damning theological error.

In short, God damns you to Hell for flunking His theology test.

I can't buy it. I'd rather hear the good ole fashion Calvinist who says, "they aren't of God's elect, so to Hell with them."

akaGaGa said...

Thanks, Jonathan. It didn't copy right from my blog.

Phil, you can apply to me whatever labels you choose, regardless of their accuracy. God views me as a Christian, and that's the only label I claim or will defend.

And I truly don't understand how you interpret a call for government to get out of religion and vice versa, as judgment on my part. I'm advocating that we leave the judgment to God. If you don't like the part about burning, talk to Him.

akaGaGa said...

Well, I find it very interesting that one post has earned me the label of both Calvinist and Armenian, but I think it's a little off the topic of the intersection of church and state.

Phil Johnson said...

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heh heh heh
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God has never led me to believe what you SEEM to be saying.
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But, maybe the God I relate with is a different one than the one you SEEM to ascribe.
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?????
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akaGaGa said...

Then you should probably use a small "g", Phil. :)

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well I can't speak for Phil but I see the radical free willism that argues folks essentially damn themselves to Hell by choosing to reject God as "Arminian."

whitebeard said...

"By God's definition, we are all rebellious sinners. Created to worship Him..."

That's so irrational... What kind of a being desires to create other beings simply to worship him/her... My God is not so self-involved as to need to be worshiped.

Phil Johnson said...

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Whitebeard sez, "My God is not so self-involved as to need to be worshiped."
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So, then, you can not exercise the arrogant conceit that Calvinists and Fundamentalists express.
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Think how great you would feel if you knew your God had chosen you over the unwashed. You, too, could be arrogantly conceited and, so much so, that you could hide your conceit with your humility.
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Check 'em out. They're all over the place.
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You know how it is? My god is supposed to be spelled with a small g.
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But, then, I've not gone gaga over my thoughts as though I'm somehow better than those that don't accept my idea of God.
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Phil Johnson said...

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Watch for the feigned humility.
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Innovative Defense said...

Like your blog. Good post.

Check out my blog:

http://innovationapologetics.blogspot.com/

Grace,
Jeremy

Tom Van Dyke said...

The discussion of theology gets unavoidable around here. However, I beg for some gentle handling, and if possible, discussion at arm's length.

One's own personal religious beliefs, or expressing our emotions about someone else's, are not necessary, indeed, they're counterproductive.

This is true pluralism. We certainly did OK with Mormon vicarious baptism, which could easily be brought to resentment and ridicule. Please let us extend the circle to all discussions and views here.

Jean did a nice job on this post, simply laying out facts about the Christian worldview and its role in politics as she sees it. I have seen
no disputation of anything she laid out as factual, which should be the common ground where we all meet, to examine facts, not feelings and opinions.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, and Jean, congratulations on your first post, and welcome.

Welcome to the jungle. ;-[D>

akaGaGa said...

Thanks, innovative defense and Tom. I was wondering if this conversation would ever get past the labeling game.

And Tom? It wasn't striking me as a jungle ... more like a jungle gym. :)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now, now, Jean. Not that you aren't entitled to a little payback...

Besides the usual venal human stuff, in pursuing political power [which never turned out very well], the Church also had in mind that evil or apostasy not prosper. This is related to the belief in divine providence that we see quite universal even among the least orthodox of the Founders. Jefferson wrote of the possibility of "supernatural interference" righting the wrong---the violation of natural law---of slavery.

So, it would stand to reason that a society or nation would right its wrongs itself before God [or natural law] would punish them for it!

Now today, we're far more enlightened and don't see the hand of God as directly in everything as those in the Founding era seemed to. But still, in a democracy, each of us is a citizen-ruler. This carries an added obligation and burden that a citizen-subject doesn't bear.

One cannot be a party to the furtherance of evil or violation of the natural law by action or willful inaction. This is an ethics that need not involve religion or religiosity: All citizen-rulers are under the same moral obligations as kings.

And so, the citizen-ruler isn't necessarily charged with rooting out and destroying all evil [there plenty of evidence within the Bible and without it for the folly of trying to do that], but policy must be made one way or the other, and simply voting "present" is morally negligent.

Phil Johnson said...

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I was careful to use the word, SEEMS in my response so as not to make any judgments. It surprised me to be insulted about using a small g. I don't think I overstepped any boundaries. I always reserve the right to defend myself and I try to be fair.
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akaGaGa said...

Ah, Phil. The small "g" thing was an obviously misguided attempt at humor, to try to lighten things up a little. I apologize. No offense intended.

I like your comment, Tom, and agree with most of it. I do see the hand of God in most everything, but that point is really moot.

The wrong presented in slavery, or any other violation of human rights, falls into Jefferson's "limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others" so it doesn't need a religious basis.

The question that arises in anything beyond that is where do you draw the line? If adultery is illegal, as in the OT, is the NT lust of the heart illegal, as well? We would have more jails than houses!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jean, I look at the issue of morality and law here, in one of my favorite monographs, reverently titled St. Thomas and the Ho's. Aquinas is not the cementhead so many expect from Catholics and Catholicism. Thomas was a mellow guy, full of human understanding.

[Don't miss Jordan's addendum from the Summa in the comments section. Also, since I wrote this post several years ago, I've come around closer to Jeremy Waldron's view of a more religious Locke that MJWatson mentions there, as you can tell by one of my recent posts on this blog.]

As you point out about Jefferson and slavery---and as the philosopher Hugo Grotius points out [Grotius being very influentual in the 16- and 1700s---"natural law" works with or without God. Believers see them as the same fabric anyway, so I prefer natural law arguments to Bible-thumping.

But I mention wherever I can Jefferson's invocation of "supernatural interference," as there's a general impression out there of TJ being an absolute "rationalist," deist, whatever. He was a softie, too, and quite reverent in his way.

Phil Johnson said...

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Actually, I thought my first response laid the ground work for some discussion on your post, Akagaga (Jean?).
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akaGaGa said...

I just read your pitch on St. Thomas, Tom, and it was well done - but I still disagree. Prostitution, drug addiction, and all the other so-called "victimless crimes" are failures of the collective church. Making them illegal perpetuates that failure, in essence giving the church a pass, when we should be buried in repentance. Instead of calling for the government to "do something" we should be out on the street, helping those we can.

Arresting a prostitute does not make her give up prostitution, anymore than arresting a crackhead makes him less of an addict. Only God has the power to do that, and it's the responsibility of the church to give them that chance.

[You're right, Phil, and next on the list.]

akaGaGa said...

Phil, I do believe that in some future day, we will all adhere to one of two particular ways of life, but not in this lifetime, and not because of any government, good or bad. I believe that God will judge each one of us, and that judgment determines where we spend eternity.

I don't think this is my particular "way of seeing reality," but a basic tenet of Christianity.

And with that, guys, I'm done. It's bedtime for us old folks here in the Great Northeast.

Thanks for the discussion.

Phil Johnson said...

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You very first comment, Jean, lays the foundation for your entire thesis.
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You write, "By God's definition, we are all rebellious sinners."
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At that point, the entire paper rests on the idea that each one of us is a "rebellious sinner" and as such, you make it difficult to address anything else in your otherwise interesting and well organized post.
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In other words, if someone disagrees with what you say is God's definition they really haven't any grounds for positing their views. Everything is down the tubes unless there is agreement on your foundation.
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Does anyone have a good grasp on what Allan Bloom called the American project?

Allan Bloom

Jonathan Rowe said...

On the substance of your post, let me note I really like the following:

If Christians truly desire to draw others to Christ, they will not force society at large to fulfill their responsibilities. Moral laws do not change people, they only create self-justified hypocrites or criminals. Neither do laws save people. God changes people, and God alone, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, can save people.

My friend Jim Babka, an evangelical, and the late Harry Browne's former press secretary, would entirely agree.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I strongly suggest reading Bloom's book to find out. Bloom supported the idea of spreading democracy across the globe, sometimes at the point of a gun; that might be the "American project." In this, I disagree with the Straussians and many of his followers like Francis Fukuyama are having strong second thoughts about this dynamic in "neoconservatism." But that's not the overall point of the book.

I agree with the idea that in principle the first best world would be entirely liberal democratic (or constitutionally republican) in all nations, everywhere. But at the point of a gun??? No. This was one of the reasons for invading Iraq and we see what it has yielded.

Jonathan Rowe said...

God's holiness demands an eternity of punishment for this sin. Nonetheless, the cry of God's heart is that ALL men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In His mercy, He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin, and the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and guide us into all truth. [Rowe's emphasis]

I'm sorry I can't resist. This reminds me of what B. Rush said about converting from Cavlinism to Arminianism to Universalism believing ALL men will be saved. If that's what God truly desires then that's what God will get: universal salvation.

I don't buy the notion that men purposefully reject God because most folks die believing what they believe in their heart of hearts, really is true (whether it's atheism, Islam, Mormonism, or whatever). IF your theology IS true the ONLY way to know for sure is to die and see God, face-2-face. Then the Muslim, Mormon, atheist, will truly know they are wrong. Or YOU may find out that Joseph Smith was right. It is ONLY at that moment AFTER death that you can make a truly informed choice whether to accept or reject the true God. And it's my belief that, if God exists, at that moment everyone WILL accept God. Hence universal salvation.

The only alternative to this, as I see it, is the Calvinist notion that God only wants His elect to accept Him (which they will). To Hell with everyone else. And that's such a horrible truth that I can't accept it. It would be like trying to accept that Allah sent those 19 highjackers into the WTC and rewarded them with virgins.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jean, Aquinas is very mellow on prostitution, which he views as tragic, the world being what it is. He does not call on the government to "do something"---it already has, and as much as he would like to see done. There is a subtlety of argument here; I don't know if we're yet on the same page.

"Victimless" crimes? Thomas clearly identifies the victims.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Two points of order [clarity]:

I believe that God will judge each one of us, and that judgment determines where we spend eternity.

Jean, if you're going to put out your own religious beliefs on the table, then you must accept what you get back.

Mr. Hart and I both have resisted putting ours on the table, preferring to explain them rather than advocate their claims to "truth." I believe this is the proper way to proceed, at arm's length even from our own beliefs. Otherwise, you and Mr. Johnson are equally justified in firing your theologies at each other, neither of course intersecting with each other.

Mr. Johnson quite properly calls you out here:

Your very first comment, Jean, lays the foundation for your entire thesis.

You write, "By God's definition, we are all rebellious sinners."


You opened the door to challenge, by making a truth claim about what God defines. [Most] any demurral you receive is entirely proper. I stand up for my blogbrothers and blogsisters, but also for our commenters when they're being fair.

Mr. Johnson is quite fair when he writes:

In other words, if someone disagrees with what you say is God's definition they really haven't any grounds for positing their views. Everything is down the tubes unless there is agreement on your foundation.

Mr. Johnson, when Jean writes "By God's definition, we are all rebellious sinners," a more charitable reading would be that like any 2-year-old, man is rebellious. This is a necessary component of "free will." "Free will" is useless unless man rebels.

What he does after he follows his first instinct to rebel, to indulge his wants and needs and id and ego, is what the spiritual path, the Tao, if you will, is all about. The Path holds no meaning for the robot programmed to follow it. One road is the same as the next.

As for eternal punishment for the wrong choices, we're all fond of noting that character is what you do when nobody's looking. Everybody's scared of going to hell, I guess, but they sure don't act like it.

bpabbott said...

akaGaGa concluded: "If Christians truly desire to draw others to Christ, they will not force society at large to fulfill their responsibilities. Moral laws do not change people, they only create self-justified hypocrites or criminals."

Good point. Another congruent persepctive ...

If you wish good behavior of others communicate high expectations. Most will strive to meet your expectations :-)

If you instead communicate low expectations some will still strive to meet your expectations :-(

Brian Tubbs said...

Regarding akaGaGa's conclusion: "If Christians truly desire to draw others to Christ, they will not force society at large to fulfill their responsibilities. Moral laws do not change people, they only create self-justified hypocrites or criminals."

I agree that Christians should not use the power of the state to impose the Gospel of Jesus Christ on people, but I disagree that Christians can't or shouldn't (as citizens) engage the political process according to their religious worldview.

All of our laws are, to some extent, a legislation of morality. A law against murder, for example, is based on a moral belief that government should protect the innocent. Civil rights laws are morally-driven in that they seek to guarantee equal rights to those in the minority.

Christians have as much right as anyone else to bring their moral worldview to bear in the public policy arena. They should not be told that, because of the First Amendment, they need to leave their religion at the door.

akaGaGa said...

Phil wrote "Your very first comment, Jean, lays the foundation for your entire thesis."

True enough, that's why it's first. I was pretty clear that I was presenting a Christian view, and sin is a major component of Christianity.

Tom wrote "Jean, if you're going to put out your own religious beliefs on the table, then you must accept what you get back. Mr. Hart and I both have resisted putting ours on the table, preferring to explain them rather than advocate their claims to "truth." I believe this is the proper way to proceed, at arm's length even from our own beliefs."

I have no objection to hearing the foundation for Phil's (or your) position. I'll even consider them. I do object, though, to the urge around here to pidgeon-hole people. I don't hold to either Calvinist or Armenian doctrine, and won't waste my time defending them.

I also don't agree that avoiding "naming names," as it were, is the way to go. Are you saying that I can voice my opinion as long as I don't tell you where I got it? This blog is full of references to this one or that. Are you saying the Bible is off limits? I'm not advocating Bible-bashing, but you can't have it both ways.

akaGaGa said...

Brian wrote "I agree that Christians should not use the power of the state to impose the Gospel of Jesus Christ on people, but I disagree that Christians can't or shouldn't (as citizens) engage the political process according to their religious worldview."

This sounds like an oxymoron to me, Brian. If you're not advocating forcing people to act like Christians, what part of your religious worldview are you going to legislate? Do you disagree with the Jefferson position, which covers the murder you mentioned?

Help me out, here. I don't get it.

akaGaGa said...

bpabbott wrote "If you wish good behavior of others communicate high expectations. Most will strive to meet your expectations :-)"

I'm not so sure about that one. If the bar is set too high, those expectations can create a sense of failure. My father was a perfectionist, and I strove, alright. When 5 A's and a B were not a good enough report card, though, I just gave up trying.

akaGaGa said...

Jonathan wrote "IF your theology IS true the ONLY way to know for sure is to die and see God, face-2-face."

Not so, but I didn't include that portion of my theology, because I didn't think it had any bearing on the purpose of the post. But I'll be glad to share it.

The same Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin, also indwells us upon repentance. As spiritual beings, we are aware of that indwelling, and hence, are assured of our salvation.

bpabbott said...

Brian: "[...] but I disagree that Christians can't or shouldn't (as citizens) engage the political process according to their religious worldview. "

Having just chided Tom on a similar point, I'll ask you not to misrepresent the opinions of others so as to produce a weaker target.

I may be wrong, but I don't recall anyone taking the position that "Christians can't or shouldn't (as citizens) engage the political process according to their religious worldview."

They obviously can and do, and while such might offend the principles and sentiments of some, no one is suggesting the such is incongruent with the US Constitution.

If I've misunderstood your position, and you are instead suggesting that a Christian's worldview should be above critique, why?

If something else, please explain.

If I've correctly inferred that you argue from a constitutional perspective, who is it you are disagreeing with?

Phil Johnson said...

The reason I referenced the book was to identify Allan Bloom--more or less.
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"But at the point of a gun??? No."
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How about at the threat of being sent to Hell where the individual will experience eternal anquish without end?
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Phil Johnson said...

Again, I want to be generous.
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Brian continues to press his belief with, "[Christians] should not be told that, because of the First Amendment, they need to leave their religion at the door.".
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That is NOT the point and I'm sure you know that. The point is that no religious representative has the right to use the government to promote their world view. And, you keep trying to change the argument to say that Christians are being denied their right to their own beliefs.
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Phil Johnson said...

Akagaga writes in response to TVD, "I have no objection to hearing the foundation for Phil's (or your) position. I'll even consider them.".
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But, why do I have to have a position? And, as you have spoken what--to you--is an absolute truth, why would you consider what you have prejudged as an example of rebellious sin?
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According to your definitions, there can be no argument against you whatsoever.
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akaGaGa said...

Brian, Brian. That was a direct quote from your comment. I didn't misrepresent you.

I was asking you to specify what you meant when you said "engage the political process according to their religious worldview."

What exactly does that entail in your view?

Phil Johnson said...

Akagaga explains, "The same Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin, also indwells us upon repentance. As spiritual beings, we are aware of that indwelling, and hence, are assured of our salvation."
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That comes right out of the Great Awakening, Jonathon Edwards and George Whitfield. It created a hub bub that finally resulted in Edwards being relieved of the pastorate at North Church. Further, the idea is a continuation of the argument about how a person gets to be included in on membership in the "church". In Merry Old England, everyone was born into membership which was evidenced the day of their christening. Christening? Get it?
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akaGaGa said...

Phil wrote "But, why do I have to have a position?"

Well, if you don't, Phil, then why are you arguing with mine?

I was sincere in saying I will consider other views. The exact quote escapes me right now, but the gist is that it's good to test our beliefs. How else are we to learn and grow? In fact, I wasn't raised as a Christian. Being open to different viewpoints is what allowed me to change my beliefs.

akaGaGa said...

"Christening? Get it?"

Well, now I do, Phil, cause you finally told me where you're coming from. I'll state what I think you're saying, and I'm sure you'll correct me if I don't "get it."

I think this is about infant baptism, which had, and continues to have, a major place in the Christian church.

After a few years of seeking and digging around this subject, I'm aware that this practice is included in various church doctrines, but I don't see where it's advocated in the Bible.

As I've rejected most of those doctrines for myself, choosing to base my beliefs on the Bible alone, I don't buy into infant baptism, but I'd be very interested to know why you do ... that is, if I've understood this correctly.

Phil Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Akagaga, in her last response to me,.begins with, "Well, if you don't [have a position], Phil, then why are you arguing with mine?"
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Good point, Jean.
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Why am I?
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For starters, history--itself--shows the morality of your absolutist world view in great detail. You argue for a future perfect world in which everyone has been disciplined to understand and accept the exact same higher morality.
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You're not the first one to do that. History teaches us about the Jesuit priests, Fathers Spraenger and Kraemer who prosecuted the European Inquisition. Nor were they the first and you won't be the last. Rousseau and Jacobinism are in there as well along with an endless line of those that possess the absolute truth of all truths..
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You say, that you were "sincere in saying [you] will consider other views. ... it's good to test our beliefs. How else are we to learn and grow? In fact, Being open to different viewpoints is what allowed me to change my beliefs."
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So, now, have you finally come to a place where you will never change your beliefs again?

(My previous post had a typo that confused my meaning--sorry about that)

Phil Johnson said...

No, Christening was about becoming a member of the Body of Christ.
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That's why we have a "Christian" name.
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And, Johnathon Edwards and George Whitfield were about becoming a member of the Body of Christ. It is the same example you gave about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
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History?

Matt Huisman said...

And it's my belief that, if God exists, at that moment everyone WILL accept God. Hence universal salvation.

So you believe that 1) life is a rigged game, impossible to figure out let alone win, and therefore utterly meaningless; 2) afterwards, you and Hitler meet God and 'choose salvation' (if that’s the right phrase, since no one ever takes the alternative - and would not seem to have any basis for making the choice anyway).

I can follow #1 by itself. I'm having a lot more trouble understanding how the combination of #1 & #2 is worth discarding 2,000 years of wisdom on grounds that it is more just.

akaGaGa said...

Phil wrote (twice) "You argue for a future perfect world in which everyone has been disciplined to understand and accept the exact same higher morality."

C'mon, Phil, I said no such thing. I stated pretty clearly that no one's religious views should be forced on anyone else. In fact, that's the main point of my post.

And then you go on to suggest that I'm starting a new Inquisition, which is not only inaccurate, but pretty insulting, Phil.

You said "I was careful to use the word, SEEMS in my response so as not to make any judgments." Sorry, but I think you're making judgments when you accuse me of:

Calvinism, Christian Fundamentalism, Jacobin and or neo-conservative, arrogant conceit, going gaga, feigned humility, absolutist world view, starting a new Inquisition - and I probably missed a few other ones.

Those are insults, Phil, not arguments. Time to shake the dust off.

Phil Johnson said...

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Jonathon Rowe had written, "... [I believe] that, if God exists, [after death] everyone WILL accept God. Hence universal salvation."
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Not, according to Fundamentalist Christianity, Jonathon. : But, they do agree that "every knee shall bow".
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And, To Akagaga who chided me with, "Those are insults, Phil, not arguments. Time to shake the dust off."
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Sometimes it gets hot in the kitchen when controversial ideas are on the table.
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My "insults", as you say, were my payback for the lower case g insult you put on me.
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I would have never voiced such thoughts had you not FIRST insulted me. I will try to be fair always. And, I'm sorry you took exception to my thoughts. I won't run and hide and I do reserve the right to defend myself. I'll go to the wall for you and your rights.
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Matt,

As I understand orthodox doctrines on salvation, if Hitler, after doing what he did, accepted Christ, he'd be in Heaven while all or most of the Jews he killed (assuming most didn't accept Christ) are in Hell. I think that notion is a lot worse, makes much less sense, than what I posit.

I'll accept the possibility that truly given one last chance seeing God Face-2-Face some folks might hate Him so much that they'd choose not to be with Him. But you have to ask yourself, what are the alternatives? If Hell is a place where you can continue enjoying your sins for all eternity, then yes, I can accept the notion of a crowded Hell (like an eternal Las Vegas nightlife). However, that's not what the orthodox notion of Hell teaches. If Hell is a really bad, unpleasant place (and Heaven is perfect happiness) then who would choose to go there?

Christopher Hitchens might call himself an "antitheist" who hopes there is no God; but if he's faced with a pleasant experience for eternity v. an unpleasant experience for all eternity, I can't imagine him or anyone choosing an eternity of being waterboarded.

By way of analogy: During the Vietnam War lots of folks who didn't want to go to college, had no plans of doing so, all of a sudden, for obvious reasons, found themselves sitting in boring college business classes. In their first best world, they'd be doing something else. But, boring business classes will do just fine over the jungles in Vietnam.

If on the other hand, Hell is an eternal Las Vegas Nightclub where you get to eat, drink, fornicate, gossip, and gamble for all of eternity, then yes, I'll probably see Hitchens, George Carlin and many other folks there.

Phil Johnson said...

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I definitely will defend myself. My liberty was, once and temporarily, taken away from me by a crooked prosecutor who was subsequently sentenced to 29 years in prison at Ft. Leavenworth. The charges against me were dropped after I was held in restraint of my free speech for two years. Hopefully, you can see how I have reason to object when a false spin is put on my self expressions. Check it out.
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Show me, Akagaga, where I once accused you of "starting a new Inquisition".
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This vein is a deterioration of your original post. I want to stay on track; but, you've got to stop the attacks. They are non-productive to your purposes.
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Matt Huisman said...

Jon,

All I'm saying is that you appear to be sacrificing a lot to arrive at a just God. I made two points in my comment above. We can go back and forth on #2, but you've got to help me get past #1 first.

[...1) life is a rigged game, impossible to figure out let alone win, and therefore utterly meaningless; 2) afterwards, you and Hitler meet God and 'choose salvation'.]

Phil Johnson said...

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Each of us has favorite books we keep on our active shelf throughout long periods of our life.
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One of the books on my active shelf is this one
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In it, the author claims human beings are meaning making machines; which is to say that each one of us has the personal responsibility of making meaning out of our own existence.
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Matt,

I know I can draw a connection between 1) & 2). And by 1) I'm presuming you mean my for the most part agnosticism and assertion that that's where philosophy has lead me. However, 2) doesn't necessarily follow from one. In fact, 2) is part (a small part) of the tradition in Christian orthodoxy. Indeed it was Benjamin Rush's position. He writes in "Travels through Life," his autobiography:

At Dr. Finley's School, I was more fully instructed in these principles by means of the Westminster Catechism. I retained them but without any affection for them 'till abut the year of 1780. I then read for the first time Fletcher's controversy with the Calvinists in favor of the Universality of the atonement. This prepared my mind to admit the doctrine of Universal salvation, which was then preached in our city by the Revd. Mr. Winchester. It embraced and reconciled my ancient calvinistical, and newly adopted Armenian principles. From that time I have never doubted upon the subject of the salvation of all men. My conviction of the truth of this doctrine was derived from reading the works of Stonehouse, Seigvolk, White, Chauncey, and Winchester, and afterwards from an attentive perusal of the Scriptures. I always admitted with each of these authors future punishment, and of long, long duration.

Brad Hart said...

It seems that every time we have a major debate on this blog I am out of town! Sorry for being so late to the discussion.

First off, welcome to the blog, akagaga, and congrats on your first post! For you to get over 50 comments on your "rookie" posts shows that you know how to strike a chord with our audience! I hope to hear more from you in the future!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Brad. And since it was you started the "Original Intent" thread, I hope you check back on the mischief you caused.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "Yes, Brad. And since it was you started the "Original Intent" thread, I hope you check back on the mischief you caused."

It is not Brad's mischief. It belongs to those who engage in it.

Phil Johnson said...

Has there been any discussion on the blog?

Brad Hart said...

Should we NOT discuss Original Intent?

bpabbott said...

Brad: "Should we NOT discuss Original Intent?"

It is an interesting subject.

Myself, I see the original intent as an exclusion (for the lack of a better word) of religious doctrine/establishments from the governing of our Nation ... and vice versa.

I might even go so far as to say that "God" is an establishment of religion, as he has not been established by anything else ;-)

In any event, my understanding is derived proportionately from Madison, Jefferson, and George Mason.

There are some excellent sources of information, on the subject, available on the web. The FindLaw site has an article on the First Amendment and Religion.

And there is the work of Jim Allison. For example, Original Intent: Introduction, Original Intent: Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

hmmm ... Brad, did I infer correctly that you suggested to discuss the original intent of the first amendment's religious clauses, or were you suggesting the broader subject of original intent and its place in interpreting the law?

Phil Johnson said...

akagaga wrote, "If Christians truly desire to draw others to Christ, they will not force society at large to fulfill their responsibilities. Moral laws do not change people, they only create self-justified hypocrites or criminals. Neither do laws save people. God changes people, and God alone, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, can save people.
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That sounds a mite Jacobin to me in the sense that it is a very narrowly defined way to access the good, the beautiful, and the true. Which also plays the single note way that we come to truly be a moral people.
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Do I misunderstand the point that is trying to be made here?

bpabbott said...

Phil: "Which also plays the single note way that we come to truly be a moral people."

As I've become accustomed to those who confuse correlation with causation (or the appearance correlation with causation). This is most clear in my having become accustomed to those who see the doctrines of their religion in every moral act and individual.

It will be interesting to hear akagaga's response. Particularly if he has a very different perspective than I'd inferred.

Phil Johnson said...

But,akagaga has shaken the dust off her sandals and claims she won't come this way again.
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Interesting, hey?
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We could discuss her blog rather than the bustle.

bpabbott said...

Phil: "akagaga has shaken the dust off her sandals and claims she won't come this way again"

oh well. Some how I missed the good-bye.

Well if she is lurking, perhaps she offer a response.

Matt Huisman said...

However, 2) doesn't necessarily follow from one.

Actually Jon, I would have liked you to look at it the other way around. If you posit #2 (God gives you the details after death and you get to make a truly informed choice), doesn't that render #1 (life is irrelevant; meaningless) true?

Your problem with orthodoxy is that God has not made things clear enough in this life. What I don't see is how your alternative helps here. We've gone from cloudy to black, as your solution appears to strip this earthly life of any eternal meaning.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Matt,

I'm going to address this somewhat in a future post. I'm not saying I have the proper solution. But I do know that there is just something disturbingly wrong and non-common sensical about orthodox notions of salvation. The gist of the post will be this: I agree with TVD when he notes Founders like Jefferson and Adams were theological embarrassments when they tried to incorporate non-Western religious notions into their unitarianism. Their religion was clearly "Western." (And if you want to call it "Judeo-Christian," fine). However, one thing I think they got exactly right is their assertion that there is something shockingly and outrageously absurd about requiring men to believe in incomprehensible orthodox doctrines in order to obtain salvation.

Phil Johnson said...

I invited a person I met at a different blog to visit here.
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After reading and catching up on this site, he recommended this site to me: http://www.theocracywatch.org/
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The articles under this banner, The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party, are appropriate to this thread. I think.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not really, Phil. We generate enough nonsense around here on our own already.