Parable of Good Samaritan

We come to a passage this morning that is likely one of the most well known passages in Scripture. It is also one of those passages that is one of the most misinterpreted and most ill used.

It is a simple enough passages. Two exchanges between Jesus and a Religious Lawyer at the time. I believe that the exchange was adversarial between the two. In other words I believe the the intent of the Lawyer in questioning Jesus was not benign. I advance this because of the word “test” in the passage.  The Lawyer “stands up” which was a sign of respect in the culture and asks a question to “test Jesus.”

We see this “testing of Jesus” frequently by his detractors.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. (Mt. 16)

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Mt. 19)

They said this to test Him, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.  (John 8)

The fact that this is an adversarial setting is important to keep in mind because in such situations Jesus seldom gives a straight answer to questions but instead often answers their questions with questions. What happens here is no different. The Lawyer asks questions and Jesus deflects the questions with questions of His own to drive the conversation Jesus desires.

Well, back to how the text is misused. Time does not allow us to go as fully in depth in dismissing these errant readings as I would like. I want to raise them. Try to dismiss them. Then move on to the correct reading of the Parable.

I.) Mis-reading #1 — The Good Samaritan Parable Was Given In Order to Support Amnesty Legislation for Illegal Immigrants in the West.

I can’t tell you how much material I’ve run across in preparation this week which appeals to the Parable of the Good Samaritan as the template that all Christians must use in order to demand that amnesty for illegal immigrants be put in place.

The Good Samaritan has been made the tool of Social Justice Warriors everywhere and by it we are being taught that in order to inherit eternal life we must disinherit ourselves and our children so that the alien and the stranger can inherit the here and the now. This is an exceptionally un-neighborly thing to do to our Children and our descendants. According to this interpretation the teaching of the Good Samaritan means that we must treat our children and our people as Aliens and Stranger in order to treat Aliens and Stranger like our children and our people.

The failure with this interpretation lies in the attempt to universalize a particular obligation. Jesus is teaching here in a very specific and particular situation.  The Lord Christ was not laying down policy for 21st century Nation States to take up. He was not creating new policy for Magistrates of all time everywhere to pursue. He was speaking to a religious Lawyer in order to crack his smug confidence that he indeed was a good person.

Jesus is giving ethical instruction, I believe, to the end that the Lawyer would see that he is not an ethical person.

The thinking that insists that the parable of the Good Samaritan is about immigration and amnesty policy, if taken literally, would mean the disappearance of borders and nations and peoples. It is a world where we can

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do

Upon giving this Parable, Jesus was not setting National or International Policy. He was not teaching on the Universal brotherhood of all man. He was not negating the reality of ever widening concentric circles whereby we first have to look out for our own who are of the household of faith. Jesus was not negating the prioritizing of them who are of the household of faith in terms of our care and affection.

He is simply teaching that in the course of our daily living, as we walk through life, when we come upon a real live human being in desperate need of care we have a duty and privilege to care for the least of these.

Some will retort that by seeing this passage as individual and personal that I am not loving my neighbor. Some will insist that by not championing that the Government open up the borders that I am not loving my neighbor. But what of my next door neighbor who can’t find work? How loving is it to that neighbor to glut the market with cheap labor so he will never find work? What of the minority communities in this country who’s unemployment rate is 25-30% in some quarters? Is it neighbor love to them to insist on an amnesty which will cement their unemployment? Is it neighbor love to fellow Christians to invite in a global population that is hostile to Biblical Christianity? Is it neighbor love to Christian women to open the borders to those from misogynistic cultures?

Those who want to use the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the end of pursuing the Cultural Marxist agenda of Social Justice have only incompletely thought through the matter. In many instances the misuse of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is just a means to advance a liberal humanist non Christian agenda.

Much more could be said but time wanes.

II.) Mis-reading #2 — The Good Samaritan Parable Was Given In Order That We Might Be Able to Inherit Eternal Life

One of the curios of this passage is that many people don’t bother to spend the time to point out that Jesus is not here pointing out how it is that someone can go about inheriting eternal life.

What the Lord Christ is doing here is showing the folly of the premise of the Lawyer. You want to inherit eternal life? Fine … go to the law and fulfill all that it requires you will inherit eternal life?

What does it mean to fulfill the law to love God and neighbor? Well, let me tell you a story. Now, you go on loving God and neighbor in just this way and you will indeed inherit eternal life.

The “Go and do likewise” we find at the end of the passage was NOT good news.  The impact of the “go and do likewise” at the end of the passage would have been punctuated by the sound of wind being sucked through the collective audience’s teeth as they doubtless asked themselves “who then can be saved.”

The impact of this teaching, I am convinced, is to bring the man to the end of himself. The necessity of loving God with all my heart, soul and mind and my neighbor as myself as a prerequisite for inheriting Eternal life is not good news for humans this side of heaven. We are a people who are incessantly self centered. In even the most thoroughly converted of us we tend to look to our own interest and not the interests of others. We have problems loving our own kith and kin unselfishly never mind the complete stranger … or worse yet time worn enemies.  What Jesus tells this man he must do to inherit eternal life is not possible for those of us who know ourselves.

Love God and neighbor? Is that all? Well why didn’t you tell me that sooner Jesus? No problem. Is that the way we would really have God’s people think about this passage? As ministers do we want our people leaving service thinking that they can indeed do something to inherit eternal life?

So, why does Jesus play along with the Lawyer here? Why not just say … “Only legal heirs inherit eternal life, there is no doing unto Eternal life?”

Likely the answer to that is that Jesus desired the Lawyer to come to that conclusion by lifting the requirement bar for doing that would bring inheritance so high that the Lawyer would conclude, “Who then can be saved.”

Jesus speaks this way from time to time. When he says that “ye must be perfect even as your heavenly father is perfect,” He raises the behavior standard so high for inheritance of heaven that it is seen as impossible.  When Jesus gives the behavioral standard for a rich man to get into heaven He is met with the exclamation … “who then can be saved.” When Jesus speaks this way the intent is to both esteem the Law AND to bring people to an end of themselves in terms of thinking of themselves in terms of doing the law in order to inherit eternal life.

So, this parable is not here so that people can love God and neighbor so well that they can inherit eternal life. The passage is not here to stoke confidence in the self which is exactly what the Lawyer is seeking to accomplish. We know this because the text tells us of the Lawyer,

29 But he, desiring to justify himself  …

Benson in his commentary offers,

(He asks this), to show he had done this, and was blameless, even with respect to the duties which are least liable to be counterfeited … ”

The Lawyer wanted it to be clearly seen that he indeed had fulfilled the law in terms of loving God and neighbor and had earned his inheritance of Eternal life. Jesus tells the parable, I’m convinced, in order to dissuade this Lawyer and everybody else of this conviction.

So, the Good Samaritan Parable Was not Given In Order That We Might Be Able to convince ourselves that we are the excellent doers, who, because of our doing, will inherit eternal life.

So, what is the proper reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If these are improper readings what is the proper reading of this text.

III.) The Proper Reading of This Text Examined

A.) A proper reading of the parable reminds us that the function of the law is both a street light to show us our sin and a guide to life.

Jesus goes to the Law, thus demonstrating He is not antinomian.

But the Law has more than one purpose. As I have said earlier the purpose here is to cut out the legs from underneath this self righteous lawyer’s misinterpretation and smugness.

However, this does not mean that the law does not have the purpose as a guide to life. It should be our intent to be a people who help others in need as we have opportunity and means.

And so a proper reading of this text esteems the law, as rightly interpreted.

B.) A proper reading of the parable casts us upon Christ.

Our tendency in reading the Scriptures is always to make the Scripture about ourselves. This text is no different. Often we leave the text examining ourselves to see if we have been Good Samaritans in our lives. And there is nothing automatically wrong with that. Scripture calls for self examination.

However before we make the passage subjective as about us we should pause to ask if the passage is about someone else being a good Samaritan.

Examined closely the parable of the good Samaritan is not teaching us about what our immigration policy should be. After all, this parable was not given in order for the Magistrate to set policy but it was given that men might see Christ and their own individual duty. The parable is not teaching us that we can earn eternal life. After all, if loving God and neighbor perfectly is the standard who can earn eternal life? The parable is only about us after it is about Christ. Christ is the good Samaritan who found us as beaten by the fall and stripped of any hope. The Priest and the Levite, representatives of the Law, passed by, unable and unwilling to do us any good. It is Lord Christ, who was, just as the Samaritan was, one who was not received by the institutional religious community and it is the Lord Christ, just as the Good Samaritan, who stops and binds up our wounds and gives us the medicinal oil and wine of the Gospel … who has compassion upon us as completely unable to help ourselves … who took it upon Himself to do all the doing that we as beaten sinners could not do.

You see, we are not so much the Good Samaritans of the account here. We are the unidentified chap robbed, beat up, and left for dead. The Good Samaritan is Christ who has bound up our wounds and treated us with the oblation of Himself.

Here is the picture of inheriting eternal life. We were left for dead and someone came along and did all the doing.

If we have any hope to be Good Samaritans ourselves it is only in light of the reality that Christ was first our own Good Samaritan. He had pity on us as beaten and stripped sinners and provided our healing and paid all our costs.

The parable thus shows that Eternal life is not a matter of us fulfilling all the law and so being worthy of life as inheritance. The parable demonstrates the Gospel of Christ as doing what we can’t do for ourselves.

________________________

Conclusion

1.) Many people want to use this parable to show that Jesus was sharply attacking communal or racial prejudices. I don’t see that in the text. The chap beaten up was unidentifiable. The Priest and the Levite do not pass by because they know the victim is Gentile or Samaritan or Jew. There is no communal or racial prejudice connected with their passing by.  They pass by in keeping with their teaching from the book of Ecclesiasticus,

12 When you do a good deed, make sure you know who is benefiting from it; then what you do will not be wasted.[a] You will be repaid for any kindness you show to a devout person. If he doesn’t repay you, the Most High will. No good ever comes to a person who gives comfort to the wicked; it is not a righteous act.[b] Give to religious people, but don’t help sinners. Do good to humble people, but don’t give anything to those who are not devout. Don’t give them food, or they will use your kindness against you. Every good thing you do for such people will bring you twice as much trouble in return. The Most High himself hates sinners, and he will punish them. Give to good people, but do not help sinners.

They pass by because of concerns about becoming ceremonially unclean.

If Jesus is sharply attacking anything He is sharply attacking what He constantly attacks in Scripture and that is the damnable hypocrisy of the Religious leadership.

Jesus introduces the Samaritan in order to demonstrate that those thought to be religiously and racially vile are more righteous than the supposed religious good guys.

The Samaritan likewise knows nothing about the victim. The point isn’t that he is rising above his racial prejudices. The point is that the hated Samaritan enemy is more of a lawkeeper than the righteous.

2.) We live in an age, as one writer has put it, of pornographic compassion. We bleed over the sensationalism made by the news media of the suffering in Rawanda, or Afghanistan, or Syria, all the while we turn a blind eye to the needs that Jesus has brought to our own feet found among our family and neighbors. We rush past the stripped and beaten of our own circle of influence so that we can feel good about ourselves by how big a check we cut for the stripped and beaten 4000 miles away.

In the words of Thomas Fleming,

“We have been plagued … by the cynical sentimentalism that raises trillions of dollars to help strangers while poisoning us against the needs of family, neighbors, and friends.”

Examining Rev. Dr. Jim Cassidy’s “Racial Supremacy and The Gospel” Sermon (II)

“It may be agreed right off that for those that can see only this world, whether claiming to be Christian or not, the passion for unity in and of the world must become a veritable obsession. It may be admitted that an overriding unity of creation is as necessary to human existence as food and air. As long as that final unity is consciously or subconsciously seen in the One who made all that is, then the separations, diversities, distinctions and differences which abound in creation become not an unendurable frustration, but a boundless vista of goodness and peace. But if all talk of God is only a facade of pietism, and if the only thing that matters really is this world, and the Christian hope of the world to come is better described in the famous Marxist sneer as ‘pie in the sky;’ if all the direction and purpose of life is found in this world, and if all that matters is improvement and ultimately even perfection of this world, then unity, too, must be achieved in terms of this world. Hence, integration—a plan for another step in the unifying process of the diverse parts of society. Integration is not an end in itself, but a supposed step toward the end of achieving heaven on earth. Integrationists, therefore, like all Utopians everywhere in all times are wildly determined to remove from their path all who would obstruct their progress toward ultimate unity and heaven on earth.”

T. Robert Ingram
Episcopalian Rector 

RDC sermonized,

“In this new Nation (the Church) there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Barbarian or Scythian (Colossians 3:11).”

Bret responds,

The point here in Colossians is much the same as Paul’s point in Galatians 3:28. The point is that in terms of being in Christ (the “New Man” in Colossians 3.) there are no racial nor national restrictions that stand in the way. God calls all types of men to Himself and no man, from any tribe, tongue or nation, is turned away from Christ because of his race or ethnicity.  That Paul understood that Nationalities exist after conversion is seen from the His special affection for His own people (Romans 9).

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

That the early Church understood Nationalities exist and must be dealt with as nationalities is seen by its appointing 7 Greek named deacons to deal with the Greek widows complaining against unjust treatment vis-a-vis Hebrew Widows in Acts 6.

Colossians 3:11 (or Galatians 3:28) does not teach that race and ethnicity go away or maleness or femaleness, or ethnic differences are undesirable, or that the Church ignores these realities, or insists they must go away.

The Church is indeed a new nation but it is a nation of nations. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation in their tribes, tongues, and nations comprise the one diverse but unified body of Christ. The one body of Christ is not all an eye or an ear. There is a maintained diversity within this one body of Christ. There is one wild olive tree but many branches. The Church is thus not all trunk or all branches. Unity in diversity. 

Dr. Geerhardus Vos understood all this when he wrote on Romans 11:1-2,

This (branches) image is nowhere and never used of the implanting of an individual Christian, into the mystical body of Christ by regeneration. Rather, it signifies the reception of a racial line or national line into the dispensation of the covenant or their exclusion from it. This reception, of course, occurs by faith in the preached word, and to that extent, with this engrafting of a race or a nation, there is also connected the implanting of individuals into the body of Christ. The cutting off, of course, occurs by unbelief; not, however, by the unbelief of person who first believed, but solely by the remaining in unbelief of those who, by virtue of their belonging to the racial line, should have believed and were reckoned as believers. So, a rejection ( = multiple rejections) of an elect race is possible, without it being connected to a reprobation of elect believers. Certainly, however, the rejection of a race or nation involves at the same time the personal reprobation of a sequence of people. Nearly all the Israelites who are born and die between the rejection of Israel as a nation and the reception of Israel at the end times appear to belong to those reprobated. And the thread of Romans 11:22 (of being broken off) is not directed to the Gentile Christians as individual believers but to them considered racially.”

Geerhardus Vos
Dogmatic Theology Vol. 1 — 118

RDC sermonized,

“Ethnic differences are undesirable. Ethnic differences — Ethnic divisions among the Nations is a product of the divine curse…. A curse that is gloriously overcome by the Gospel.”

Bret responds,

If ethnic differences are undesirable what other godly course exists except to try and eliminate ethnic differences? They used to call that ethnocide.

With this statement, it is hard not to hear music in the background,

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Certainly, the Gospel gloriously overcomes racial hatred and animosity but to suggest that it overcomes the reality of ethnic differences is to advocate for a kind of Marxist Gospel. A Marxist Gospel taught and embraced by another leader from a different kind of pulpit, once upon a time,

“Marxism cannot be reconciled with Nationalism, be it even of the ‘most just,’ ‘purest,’ most refined and civilized brand. In place of all forms of nationalism, Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations into a higher unity, a unity that is growing before our eyes…

The proletariat … welcomes every kind of assimilation of nations, except that which is founded on force or privilege.

The proletariat cannot support any consecration of nationalism: on the contrary, it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers; it supports everything that makes the ties between nationalities closer and closer or tends to merge nations.”

Vladimir Lenin
Critical Remarks on the National Question

Can’t well-intentioned ministers see that when they say things like, “Ethnic differences are undesirable,” that they are reading off a sheet of music that is the very antithesis of Biblical Christianity? Are we to believe that God and Lenin agree? Are we to believe that this is one place Communism got it right? God wants us to imagine no more countries?

Another thing we must keep in mind is that ethnicity is merely an extension of the family. Ethnicity is the next concentric circle outside of family and clan. If Ethnicity is gloriously overcome by the Gospel what else are we to conclude but that the family is gloriously overcome by the Gospel? 

Finally, on this point, we would note that ethnic differences can’t really go away. Large-scale ethnic intermarriage does not reduce ethnic differences, but rather, by their million permutations, increases them. This is what happened in Brazil as this documentary captures,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g29P3-xj7GQ&feature=youtu.be

RDC sermonized,

 

“That means that the differences that separate us as human beings are, in one sense, lamentable. We have to understand that in a certain respect the differences that make us different from one another, that separate us as different ethnicities, with different races, with different colors of skin, different cultures, different languages that put us apart from one another is, in fact, a lamentable thing that should be and is overcome by the Gospel. Now, we have to say just as a sideline here, in another sense many of the differences that separate us as cultures is quite understandable. They’re not sinful. There are certain differences that separate us as cultures. Things that make each of our cultures distinct. And those cultures have good things and bad things that characterize their cultures that make them distinct from other cultures.”

(Gives Illustrations about Irish)

Bret responds,

First, this is difficult to respond to because of what sounds like double speak. On one hand, our differences like ethnicity, race, the color of skin, culture, languages, are lamentable. On the other hand differences, that separate our culture are quite understandable. I submit that if one subtracts ethnicity, race, the color of skin, culture, and language there is nothing left of a culture that can make its difference understandable.

What all this sounds like is the idea that grace destroys nature, or, to say it a different way, this sounds like Redemption negates creation. The effect of salvation is that we lose the identity God created us with. The Reformed, have always said instead, that Grace restores nature. Redemption does not make our creaturely identity markers go away. After conversion, I still retain race, ethnicity, and gender. Upon Redemption, I do not quit being a Father, a Son, a Daughter, a Wife. Rather upon Redemption, I am a new man in regards to those unerasable creaturely realities. When regenerated, I lean into my creatureliness as one translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.

The Gospel does not overcome man’s God assigned creatureliness and it is errant to say that it does. The Gospel overcomes the twistedness in which I handle my God assigned creatureliness.

McAtee Contra Leithart On Nationalism

Recently, on the Web-blog of “First Things”

http://www.firstthings.com/tag/globalism

Dr. Peter Leithart, champion of the Federal Vision movement, wrote that Christians are forsworn against being either Nationalists or Internationalists.  Leithart wrote that Christians “must refuse the choice,” of embracing either nationalism or globalism, arguing instead that Christians must be “Kingdom First” people.  Leithart’s notion is that Christians cannot be either Nationalists nor Globalist because they are Christ Kingdomists and being Christ Kingdomists they must forswear both Nationalism and Globalism.

All in all this article was rather badly put on Dr. Leithart’s part. What I’d like to think that Dr. Leithart  was actually arguing is that Christians are forsworn against being unbiblical Nationalists. With this truth every right minded Christian agrees. Biblical Christianity has no more use for the anti-Christ Nationalism of the Alt. Right, for example, than it does for the anti-Christ Globalism of Russel Moore or much of the PCA and the modern misguided Reformed clergy corps.

However, at the end of the day all Biblical Christians are duty bound to embrace a Biblical Nationalism where the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His law are to be bowed to by the Kings of the earth, lest those Kings perish in their way. There is simply no way to get to Leithart’s proffered Biblical Globalism apart from a return to a notion of Christendom where many individuated Nations find a harmony of interests and so a sort of biblical Globalism because they are each, in their own capacity as individuated Nations, bowing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Naturally, it can be easily agreed upon that as biblical Christians our first commitment is to Christ and His Kingdom but it is precisely because Christ and His Kingdom is our first commitment that biblical Christians are duty bound to champion concepts of Biblical Nationalism. Scripture clearly teaches that God

Acts 17:26 made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place

That God supports nationalism is seen in the reality that He has made every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth. If God supported pagan globalism — the kind of globalism that desires to erase all National distinctions in favor of an amalgamated melting pot of an undifferentiated glop of peoples — then He would not have made every nation of mankind and so given people National identities. Clearly already we have an idea that God supports godly nationalism. As such we see that if it is true, per Dr. Leithart, that we must be Christians who seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness we must be at the same time be Christians who advocate biblical nationalism. Any hopes of a biblical globalism — a return to Christendom as it were — is pinned upon a return to biblical nationalism first.  In all this we are merely echoing far greater minds who went before us,

“Nationalism, within proper limits, has the divine sanction; an imperialism that would, in the interest of one people, obliterate all lines of distinction is everywhere condemned as contrary to the divine will. Later prophecy raises its voice against the attempt at world-power, and that not only, as is sometimes assumed, because it threatens Israel, but for the far more principal reason, that the whole idea is pagan and immoral.

Now it is through maintaining the national diversities, as these express themselves in the difference of language, and are in turn upheld by this difference, that God prevents realization of the attempted scheme… [In this] was a positive intent that concerned the natural life of humanity. Under the providence of God each race or nation has a positive purpose to serve, fulfillment of which depends on relative seclusion from others.”

-Geerhardus Vos,
Biblical Theology

Dr. Leithart insists that the Church is ecumenical, a worldwide “Abrahamic empire.” And with this we agree. However the Church is ecumenical in the sense that it is Nation of Nations. It is not ecumenical in the sense that it is filled up with jumbled together individuals who have lost all their creational identity markers because they’ve become Christian.  It is ecumenical in the sense that Christians in their nations, from every nation comprise the catholic Church.

Leithart goes on to note that, “our deepest  brotherhood isn’t with other citizens of our nation but with those who are united with us by the Spirit in the Son.” It is true that we have a deeper brotherhood with those who are united with us by the Spirit in the Son, than we have with citizens of our own nation who are outside of Christ, but we wonder if Leithart misses the deepest of all brotherhood that exists when we are united by the Spirit in the Son with those we are already united with us by blood ties?

Thus while we agree with Leithart that commitment to Christ reigns above commitment to Christless family we still also agree with Charles Hodge when he noted, while commenting on Romans 9:3,

Paul had two classes of brethren; those who were with him the children of God in Christ; these he calls brethren in the Lord, Philip, i. 14, holy brethren, &c. The others were those who belonged to the family of Abraham. These he calls brethren after the flesh, that is, in virtue of natural descent from the same parent. Philemon he addresses as his brother, both in the flesh and in the Lord. The Bible recognizes the validity and rightness of all the constitutional principles and impulses of our nature. It therefore approves of parental and filial affection, and, as is plain from this and other passages, of peculiar love for the people of our own race and country.

Charles Hodge
Commentary Romans 9

Because of this Leithart is wrong when he writes, “we cannot be nationalists,” unless what he means is that we cannot be unbiblical nationalists and must instead be careful to be biblical nationalists.

Leithart’s problem also comes through when he writes on why the Church cannot be globalist. We agree that the Church cannot be New World Order globalist but the reason that is so is because the Church is a Nation of Nations and to eliminate nations by a babelistic amalgamation would be to eliminate the Church. I agree here with a earlier generation of Biblical Scholars,

“More than a dozen excellent commentaries could be mentioned that all interpret Israel as thus inclusive of Jew and Gentile, in this verse, — the Gentile adherents thus being merged with the covenant people of Israel, though each nationality remains distinct.”

Thus the highest description of Jehovah’s covenant people is applied to Egypt, — “my people,” — showing that the Gentiles will share the covenant blessings, not less than Israel. Yet the several nationalities are here kept distinct, even when Gentiles share, in the covenant blessing, on a level of equality with Israel. Egypt, Assyria and Israel are not nationally merged. And the same principles, that nationalities are not obliterated, by membership in the covenant, applies, of course, also in the New Testament dispensation.”

Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011),   pp. 101-102.

And those national distinctions exist right into the New Jerusalem where we see the nations existing as nations and being healed in their capacity as nations,

The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  (Rev. 22:2)

Nations, as Leithart rightly notes, retain their national identities – their languages, histories, and customs and so the Church is and remains, as I’ve noted earlier, a nation of nations. Christians must be nationalists because they serve a God who “possesses all the nations” (Psalm 82:8).

The disagreements I have with Dr. Leithart shouldn’t negate the agreements I have. I thought this paragraph by Dr. Leithart to be wonderfully put,

Put it positively: Our internationalist and nationalist instincts infuse and qualify one another. Christian “globalism” acknowledges the goodness of peoples, the beauty in the difference of human experience and culture. The church is polyphonic. We live within political communities and, as Augustine said, we are specially obligated to love our nearest-neighbors. Christian “globalism” will thus exhibit “nationalist” features. Yet Christian “nationalism” is always qualified by our more fundamental attachment to the trans-national church. Christian patriotism will appear suspiciously thin to a true-blue nationalist.

First, it needs to be said that the Church is more intra-national than it is trans-national. Second, I would take exception here to the idea that the unbiblical nationalist is the “true-blue nationalist.” In point of fact it is the Biblical Christian who is the true-blue nationalist because they realize that any nationalism apart from Christ is idolatry and as such will destroy true-blue nationalism.

A true-blue biblical nationalism would never lift the nation above Christ. A true-blue biblical nationalism would never absolutize the nation so that it bears a sacredness above Christ and His Church in other nations. We refuse impure unbiblical nationalism but we enthusiastically embrace, without embarrassment, a biblical nationalism. There is no other option.

Having said that we understand that there is no longer any nation that exists that has pledged, as a nation, its fealty to Christ. As such biblical nationalism goes a beggaring. However, in principle, biblical Christians must work for the day when once again, political leaders of particular nations acknowledge they are servants of a universal King and where fealty to the king is a fealty to one who saw himself as a vassal of Christ.  This is our postmillennial expectation.

We live in a time when all the pieces are moving towards a Babelistic New World Order. The media moguls with their Hollywood films, books, radio, and magazines are cramming down our throats the messages of a Globalism that offers an amalgamated, unisex world union as a promised utopia.  Likewise Corporations, and Governments are pushing us incessantly towards this nightmare dystopian New World Order vision.  Even the modern contemporary Church in the West, both “conservative” and liberal, having reinterpreted Christianity through a Cultural Marxist grid, is pushing this globalist agenda. Leithart’s warnings against nationalism in this climate is like warning against prudery while living in a bordello culture. Surely prudery can be a problem but it’s hardly a real danger in a bordello culture.

Biblical Christians live in a time where they must say “no” to New World Order globalism, as well as to anti-Christ Alt. Right Nationalism, as well as Leithartian scriblings that embraces open borders all the while insisting that we should beware of globalism. If the embrace of open borders is Leithart’s idea of an appropriate nationalism we have problems.

In the end I see what Dr. Leithart is advocating for as a “soft Globalism.” Leithart’s globalism is not the in your face variety found in the Halls of White House or as advocated by Angela Merkle. Instead it is a kinder and gentler Globalism where Nations lose their identity incrementally and where the idea of nations can still be spoken about in theory even if they are eclipsed in practice. Honestly, I see Dr. Leithart, on this monumentally important issue, being a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Beware this leaven.

 

 

 

Meandering Thoughts On The One and The Many

Diversity absolutized would end in the uniformity of absolute diversity.  In point of fact absolute diversity is impossible since sameness must exist in order to identify diversity. In a world of absolute diversity one could not recognize diversity because in order to measure diversity there has to be a corresponding idea of sameness in order to measure diversity. Hence absolute diversity leads to uniformity. If everything is different than nothing can be different because no continuity would exist between the differentiated things in order to know recognize and identify differentiation. If diversity is absolutized so that uniformity is allegedly eclipsed than the consequence is a absolute uniformity of differentiation where everything is the same because nothing is the same.

In the same way Uniformity absolutized is the end of uniformity. If there is no determinative way or manner in which uniformity can be distinguished from differentiation then how could we possibly know if there is uniformity? Uniformity requires the reality of differentiation in order to be able to identify uniformity. If everything is the same nothing is the same. If everything is Macaroni and Cheese than how can we know what Macaroni and Cheese is if there nothing to differentiate it from anything else?

Uniformity and diversity need each other because without each other neither can exist or find meaning as Uniformity nor as diversity.

Of course the denial of Uniformity and diversity is a denial of the God of the Bible and without the God of the Bible no meaning can be located anywhere. God is the Transcendent One and Many which gives meaning to all the Immanent One and Many’s.

McAtee Contra Tuininga on the Idols of Traditionalists Concerning Marriage and Family

Here we find a recently minted Dr. of the Church giving his opinion on the putative correlation between idolatry of the family as practiced by “traditionalists” and idolatry of perverse sex as practiced by progressives.

The Christian Idols of Sex, Marriage, and Family

Another source tells me that Dr. Tim Keller reasons in a similar fashion but as I don’t typically read Keller I’ll have to take my sources word for it.

MT writes,

In the sex-saturated culture in which we live, both progressives and traditionalists have come to embrace overly sexualized narratives of sex, marriage, and family. Both tend to idealize sex as a fundamental part of human flourishing, essential to personal wholeness. Progressives emphasize the goods of sex to such an extent that they have largely abandoned the notion that good sex can only take place within a heterosexual, married relationship. The only ethical guidance they seem to be able to provide individuals seeking sexual flourishing is to tell them to respect the consent of others and do what seems right to them. Traditionalists, for their part, idealize the permanent union between a man and a woman and the nuclear family that is supposed to flow from it as if it were the greatest and most wonderful relationship that any person could know in this life.

BLMc responds,

1.) I would dearly love to meet some of these “traditionalists” who are “idealizing the permanent union between a man and a woman and the nuclear family that is supposed to flow from it as if it were the greatest and most wonderful relationship that any person could know in this life.”

As a minister, as most ministers, I deal with the flotsam and jetsam of wrecked family lives on a consistent basis. I personally know of no one, outside or inside the Church who fits the description that Tuininga gives above regarding “traditionalists.” They may exist, but to speak of them as existing as a equally serious problem as progressives blow all my circuits.

The facts about how the family in America is in disrepair are pretty well known. These facts remain true whether you consider statistics on those outside the Church or those inside the Church.  For example,

a.) Only 46% of U.S. children under 18 live in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This stands contrasted with 1960 when that number stood at 73% and 1980 when that number stood at 61%.

b.) The percentage of children born outside of marriage is now at 41%. This number stood at 5% in 1960.

c.) In 1960, only one in ten adults 25 and older had never been married. In 2012 that number has jumped to one in five.

We could go on repeatedly citing these kinds of numbers. The plea I have for Dr. Tuininga is to please introduce me to the kind of Traditionalists that you say are making the equal but opposite error of the progressives.  Where are all these Traditionalists you speak of? I can easily introduce you to all kinds of progressives that fit your description. These progressives would even accept your description of them. But where do I meet a flesh and blood traditionalist who would stand up and salute your description of him as being accurate?

2.) Since I am convinced that very few if any of these kinds of Traditionalists exist I begin to wonder if Traditionalists, as described by Matthew, becomes more of a stalking horse in order to suggest that those who oppose progressives are equally sinful as progressives themselves and so have just as much to repent of as progressives. This reasoning serves the purpose of hinting that those who are pleased with Biblical marriage and family as a gift from God and who want to defend that institution are as equally in sin as sodomites, transgenders, and pedophiles.

3.) Obviously, the “most wonderful relationship that any person could know in this life,” is that relationship wherein man, by God’s grace alone, enters into covenant with His creator and redeemer and so walks in light of that grace. But again, I don’t know any Traditionalists who would deny that and insist instead that marriage and family are even more superior to walking with the Lord Christ by the power of the Spirit.

Once again, I am convinced that Dr. Tuininga has created a false dichotomy that has the effect of saying, “Well the church has problems. First it has problems with the progressives but then it has a problem with the traditionalists also and we can’t speak to one of these problems without admitting that we have both problems.” This has the effect of diminishing the problem we have with progressives. When I meet traditionalists who embrace Dr. Tuininga’s description of them, as progressives would embrace Tuininga’s description of them I’ll then only begin to consider his claims.

MT writes,

These narratives have deeply shaped Christians too. Progressives in the church increasingly find themselves questioning classic Christian prohibitions of fornication (i.e., sex before marriage), homosexuality, and divorce, while traditionalists cling all the more tightly to the glories of the married relationship to which everyone is called and for which everyone who is not having sex must necessarily wait. Progressives are abandoning gender as merely a human construct, while conservatives are holding to gender distinctions all the more rigidly as the inviolable decree of creation. Both groups seemingly despise the celibate life, finding it deeply implausible, and both tolerate divorce in virtually every instance in which a couple really wants it.

BLMc responds,

1.) Again, I’d like to meet these traditionalists, who insist that everyone, without exception, are called to marriage. Really, I’d like to meet them because I don’t think they exist in any real numbers.  To posit them makes for a nice counterbalance in arguing we have equal but opposite problems among our constituencies but these flesh and blood people don’t exist as any real presence in the Church.

For Pete’s sake, as far back as 1947 Social Scientist were shouting loud and clear that the American Family was in deep trouble. Writing in 1947, Carle Zimmerman, in his classic “Family and Civilization”, had this to say about “The Greatest Generation.”

“The fact is now well known, and associated with these changes, that the Western world has entered a period of demoralization comparable to the periods when both Greece and Rome turned from growth to decay. Divorce, premarital sex experience, sex promiscuity, homosexuality, versatility in sex, birth control carried to excess, spread of birth control to every segment of the population, positive antagonism to parenthood, clandestine marriage, migratory divorce, marriage for sex alone, contempt for familism, even in the so-called educated circles—all are increasing rapidly. In spite of our virtuous words, and without even the intellectual honesty of the Greeks and Roman, we have gone as far as they, and it would appear that we are going even farther. The family crisis of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is like that in Greece and Rome, except that we do not recognize it and are intellectually dishonest with ourselves on this subject.”

~Carle Zimmerman, “Family and Civilization”, p. 174

Where is all this familolatry  that Tuininga abhors?

2.) Unless Tuiniga can show Scripture that teaches to the contrary, traditionalists are correct to insist that “everyone who is not having sex must necessarily wait” for marriage.

3.) Tuininga complains that “conservatives are holding to gender distinctions all the more rigidly as the inviolable decree of creation.” I wonder, can Dr. Tuininga point out anywhere in Scripture that affirms gender is a social construct and so Christians, out of deep compassion and love for errant progressives, shouldn’t hold on to gender distinctions all the more righteously as the inviolable decree of creation? Where does Dr. Tuininga find that gender is a violable decree of creation?

4.) Note how Tuininga jades the conversation with the language he uses.

“conservatives are holding to gender distinctions all the more rigidly as the inviolable decree of creation.”

Traditionalists, for their part, idealize the permanent union between a man and a woman …

MT writes,

From the perspective of the gospel, both of these narratives are deeply flawed. True, Jesus clearly affirmed traditional Jewish teaching regarding sexual immorality, and he affirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman because that is how God declared it to be from creation. Up to that point, at least, the traditionalists are right.

But Jesus said so much more than that – the gospel says so much more than that – and that is getting lost in the debate. If the church hopes to truly exercise a prophetic voice in the midst of a culture whose radical over-sexualization produces ever greater numbers of abused, scarred, and disillusioned victims, it needs to recover the good news of Jesus for sex, marriage, and the family.

BLMc

It may be true that Scripture says “more than that,” but it is also true that Scripture does not say less than that. Marriage is God’s good gift.  Children are a heritage of the Lord. God says that “if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  So, highly did St. Paul think about family that he was inspired to write,

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

One wonders if Dr. Tuininga would accuse God of being a traditionalist “who idealizes the permanent union between a man and a woman and the nuclear family that is supposed to flow from it as if it were the greatest and most wonderful relationship that any person could know in this life.”

MT writes,

Catholic ethicist Julie Hanlon Rubio points out that Jesus consistently challenged his followers not to hold too tightly to marriage and family. Jesus, like his most famous follower, the Apostle Paul, lived a celibate life, and like the Apostle Paul he did not hesitate to characterize the celibate life as one that is especially conducive of devotion to the kingdom of God. He called his disciples to leave their family members for the sake of the kingdom, using language that still shocks us today (if we have ears to hear it):

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

BLMc responds,

1.) We are Reformed not Roman Catholic.

2.) Certainly Dr. Tuininga understands that all relationships, all the good loves of this world, all the things that are good gifts from God, must be related to as “hate” when compared to our love for Christ. All our good relationships must never be ends in themselves. They must all be engaged in keeping with our higher love for God. God has called me to hate my love for family in comparison to my love for Him but He does not call me to hate my family in an absolutist fashion. I suspect that Dr. Tuininga loves his parents. I suspect that Dr. Tuinga loves his siblings.

3.) We do not know absolutely that Paul was not married. History suggests that a member of the Sanhedrin was required to be married.  That Paul was celibate for long periods of time is not denied.

4.) We should not be surprised that someone from Rome, with their requirement for celibacy in the Priesthood, is going to argue that celibacy is a good thing. Of course the Reformers disagreed with Rome on this issue.

MT,

The problem, for Jesus, was not sex. The problem was that marriage, like other familial bonds, places on human beings a host of demands that can easily distract us from the things of God. It calls us to serve one another with absolute fidelity. It tempts us to pursue a life oriented to pleasure, property, and the pursuit of happiness. It makes us, like the rich young ruler, unlikely to be willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus once we have considered what the cost of such discipleship might be.

BLMc

Now, it seems that Dr. Tuininga has taken up Roman Catholic platonic like reasoning and is suggesting that Marriage is a lesser place than celibacy. Marriage and family makes us unwilling to take up our cross and follow Jesus? Marriage and family distract us from the things of God? Doesn’t this imply that marriage and family are not “the things of God?”  Those are pretty big claims Dr. Tuininga is making.

MT,

Indeed, when the disciples heard the extent of Jesus’ teaching on marriage their response was not, as it is for so many traditionalist Christians today, to yearn for it all the more deeply (and feel ever more guilty for denying sex to those who are not yet or cannot be married). On the contrary, they exclaimed, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10). And Jesus does not rebuke them for this conclusion. On the contrary, he said,

Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. (Luke 19:12)

BLMc

Clearly it is the case that for some people and especially during certain epochs that being married is not ideal. I’m not sure what Dr. Tuininga’s point is here. It is widely and roundly accepted in the Church that not everyone is called to marriage and family. Point taken. Praise God for those who have the gift of celibacy. Praise God that he raises up some to be single all their lives.

MT writes,

When is the last time you’ve heard a sermon on that text? Jesus, like Paul, recognized that there is something better than sex in this life, a calling that far transcends gender roles, and one that is worth pursuing for those willing to receive it. He himself chose that path, rather than the path of marriage.

BLMc

There is no calling, not even one of celibacy, that transcends gender roles. If God calls a man or a woman to celibacy He calls them to celibacy as a man or a woman which He created as a man or a woman.

MT writes,

And yet, his point was not to reject the family. His point, rather, was to get his followers to look beyond their own marriages and families to the much more important family of those who have been reconciled into communion with one another and God. When his own biological family came seeking him, attempting to interrupt his kingdom work, he spoke words that would shock us if we actually took them seriously:

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Luke 12:48-50)

BLMc,

Certainly spiritual family is more important than physical family who reject our undoubted Catholic Christian Faith. But physical family that is also spiritual family is to be prioritized above both spiritual family alone or physical family who reject Christ.

MT,

Nor was Jesus simply thinking of his own unique messianic situation when he said that. On the contrary, each of the synoptic gospels records Jesus, immediately after his conversation with the rich young ruler, pointing his own followers in the same direction. As Mark’s version puts it,

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Mark 10:29-31)

BLMc,

It is stipulated that God is no debtor to man and that for those who are called to leave family for the Kingdom will be rewarded richly by God, just as those will be richly rewarded who were called to family and loved their family to the glory of God.

MT writes,

To be sure, sex, marriage, and family are good things, gifts from God. But they are not the best thing. And if the words of Jesus or Paul mean anything to us at all, there is something about the celibate life that is, in fact, closer to that best thing. The early church saw that (indeed, they took it much too far), but our culture has blinded us to it.

BLMc responds,

This is not true.

1.) What is true is that the celibate life is best for those who are called to be celibate while the married and family life is best for those who are called to marriage and family. This idea that the celibate life is best is platonic and I suspect comes from Dr. Tuininga reading too many Roman Catholic ethicists.

2.) The early church was awash in Platonism and Gnosticism. Many despised the body.  The Reformation embraced marriage as a good gift from God. Did Luther live a less than best life because he married Katy? Did Calvin live a less than best life because Idelette was always afoot? Dr. Tuininga really does go a bridge to far in this “reasoning.” Is Dr. Tuininga trying to turn us back to a “material word only so so good” vs. “spiritual world really good,” thinking? Beware the leaven of Roman Catholic ethicists.

3.) Neither celibate life nor non celibate life is closer to the best thing. To suggest that either is ideal, in and of itself, over the other is not Biblical thinking. Biblical thinking understands and affirms that we, in the Church, are all gifted and called differently and all those gifts and all those callings serve the body of Christ for God’s glory.  If God gives the gift of celibacy to a Brother or Sister in Christ then praise God. But it is no lesser existence to know that God has called one to marriage and family.

MT writes,

If the Christian sexual ethic has become less plausible in American churches today, if churches are less and less willing to call their followers to the path of radical discipleship, indeed, if the celibate life of the Christ to whom we are supposed to be conformed has itself become inconceivable to us, then that is a testimony to just how much Christians – progressive and traditionalist alike – have failed to hear the gospel and believe it. Just like our culture, we have idolized sex, marriage, and family. We have confused the American dream with the gospel.

BLMc responds,

The progressives certainly have idolized sex but I’ve yet to see any evidence that traditionalists are idolizing family and marriage. I read assertion after assertion but I see no evidence that we have a wide ranging problem in Church and culture of a pervasive traditionalism that is gumming up the gears. Instead what I see is marriage and family on the rocks. I see almost the complete and total breakdown of the nuclear family. The extended and Trustee family is almost to the point that it is barely remembered. Atomistic individualism reigns supreme to the point that familial covenant identity is non existent. I see all this, and I’m supposed to believe that we have a problem in our culture and church with traditionalism that turns the family into an idol?

I’m not buying it.

MT writes,

If that is indeed the case, then as Ed Shaw puts it in his must-read, Same-Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life, the church should give thanks for the phenomena of homosexuality and same-sex marriage because it might just serve as the wake-up call the church needs. In the words of the songwriter Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” If progressives are caving in to the spirit of the times, then traditionalists are too often basking in a hypocritical self-righteousness. Both need to repent and return to the gospel.

BLMc,

1) I certainly agree that “we are not as strong as we think we are.” I find the proof of that in Dr. Tuininga’s article.

2.) The next to last sentence of that paragraph above pushes me into thinking that this was the real purpose of the article. Both progressives and traditionalists are equally sinners, in terms of their convictions, in this sodomite marriage debate. The convictions of neither camp are superior to one or the other. Once they are both seen as being equally sinners then the stench of sodomy and perversity in the Church fades as traditionalists are equally full of self righteous stench.

But again… where are the traditionalists who will own the description that Tuiniga gives them? The progressives are glad to embrace Tuininga’s descriptors. They will gladly admit that they,

emphasize the goods of sex to such an extent that they have largely abandoned the notion that good sex can only take place within a heterosexual, married relationship. The only ethical guidance they seem to be able to provide individuals seeking sexual flourishing is to tell them to respect the consent of others and do what seems right to them.

Where is the evidence that family life in America is awash in traditionalist thinking per Tuininga’s claims? All the stats point to just the opposite. Where are those traditionalists who would despise people called to celibacy? Introduce me to some of them. I want to meet them.

Dr. Tuininga’s article is deeply flawed because he’s created a caricature out of the Traditionalist position and then posited that caricature as being a equal problem in the culture and church as the progressive position. This equalizing then serves to diminish the real problem of progressive LGBT’ism.