Dr. Martin Selbrede has a go at Dr. Stephen Wolfe.
I have always liked Dr. Selbreded though I have never met him. I have read his material. I have viewed some of his teaching online. He has always struck me as a kind and gentle man who is not interested in polemics. Further, generally speaking, the man is smart as a whip.
I cannot loudly enough sing the high praises of the first section of Dr. Selbrede work linked above where he dismantles Wolfe’s Natural Law paradigm. I wish such analysis was required reading for all those being tempted by Wolfe’s brash attempt to return the Church — and indeed all of us — to the nonsense that is Natural Law theory.
However, when Selbrede starts writing about race/ethnic issues Selbrede becomes every bit as awful as he was good previously on the Natural Law material. It really was quite disappointing to be cheering heartily reading Selbrede’s take down on Natural Law theory only to be booing every bit as intensely as Selbrede turns to racial/ethnic issues.
Below I examine the more egregiously mistaken elements of Dr. Selbrede’s writing on race/ethnicity.
Martin Selbrede writes:
That proposed deconstruction (of modern liberalism that Wolfe calls for) is a tall order. It must defang Psalm 87, which casts a multitude of nations as all born in Zion. It must explain what Japheth is doing in Shem’s tents in Gen. 9:27, account for the flowing together of nations in Isaiah 2 and the gathering of the peoples to Shiloh in Gen. 49:10. The parable of the Good Samaritan answers the question, Who is my neighbor?
Bret deconstructs Dr. Selbrede’s attempted deconstruction of Wolfe’s call to deconstruct modern liberalism;
1.) Psalm 87 is no barrier to race realism or the recognition that core ethnicities comprise cultures/social orders. Yes, Psalm 87 casts a multitude of nations as all born in Zion but that does not mean that each nation born in Zion is no longer its own nation. Here is one commentary on Psalm 87;
Verses 4-6. – The Almighty is introduced as making a revelation to the psalmist. He will cause the Gentiles to flock into his Church, even those who have been hitherto the most bitter enemies of Israel (ver. 4), and will place these strangers on a par with such as have belonged to his Church from their birth (vers. 4, 5, 6), admitting them to every blessing and every privilege. The Church, thus augmented, shall be taken under his own protection, and “established,” or placed on a sure footing, forever. Compare our Lord’s promise to St. Peter,” On this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). (Pulpit Commentary)
The fact that it will be said that Israel’s previous enemy nations will one day be spoken of as “being born in Zion” only means that God will win those nations to Himself. It does not mean that they will cease being nations and will be swallowed up whole into a John Lennon song where we are to “Imagine there are no countries.”
Selbrede here seems to make the one and the many mistake, preferring to understand that ethnicity disappears once one is redeemed and placed in the Church. He makes the mistake, that is so common today, of not realizing that the Church is comprised not of a bunch of atomistic individuals but rather the Church is comprised of the nations in their nations. This is explicitly taught in Revelation 21 where we see the nations in their nations coming into the New Jerusalem.
Selbrede, presupposes classical liberalism in order to prove classical liberalism.
2.) First, we note that Japheth is in Shem’s tent (Gen. 9:7) as distinctly Japheth and not Shem.
Second, we note that Japheth is in Shem’s tent to have the blessings and to do the work that Shem forfeited when it was cut off for crucifying His Messiah.
Japheth, in Shem’s tent, does not prove, that the end consequence of Christ’s postmillennial triumph will be some kind of “Christian” multicultural Empire where all colors are bleeding into one.
3.) As to the flowing together of the Nations in Is. 2 and the gathering of the people to Shiloh in Gen. 49 the principle is the same as in #1 above. Yes the nations flow together to the mountain of the Lord but that does not necessitate that they do so as a polyglot reality. It merely means that the Lord Christ will win the nations in their nations to Himself. It does not mean that they lose their national identity. Because of passages like Isaiah 2 and Micah 4 and Gen. 49 I expect that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, — each in their tribe tongues and nations — will be present at the marriage feast of the lamb. What I do not expect is that the nations will lose their national/ethnic identity all because they have been, by God’s grace alone, spiritually united to Christ.
Once upon a time, in New York city, one could visit various ethnic enclaves and yet remain in New York city. In the same way the new Heavens and the new Earth will not be populated by a coffee latte Christian people but will be a place where you can find the one and the many in technicolor and while remaining nationally/ethnically distinct there will be a harmony of interest because Christ is King over all and all have sworn oaths of fealty to their one great King, and because of that they will love one another with the love of Christ.
5.) Nobody denies that the good Samaritan teaches who is my neighbor. Further, it would only be relevant to this discussion if anybody was denying that Christians of varying ethnicities/races were not neighbors.
Dr. Martin Selbrede writes,
Why would we be surprised that each ethnicity/race as converted to Christ would have good international relations with their neighboring Christian nation? That fact does not change the reality that they remain the same distinct nation after conversion as they were before conversion.
Dr. Martin Wyngaarden makes my point for me here;
Dr. Martin Selbrede quoting Wolfe writes,
Selbrede is imputing here to Wolfe some things I doubt Wolfe would say he is doing. Wolfe asks us to do a thought experiment in what Selbrede is quoting. No one (including Wolfe) believes that in order to arrive at ethnicity one must first de-humanize man. Selbrede is way over-interpreting here. Man is man and part of being man is having an ethnic identity that makes one prioritize one’s people. Jesus demonstrated this ethnic reality and prioritization when He wept over Jerusalem and not over Rome or Nineveh. Jesus demonstrated this ethnic reality and prioritization when He asked the Syrophoenician woman if the children’s bread should be given to the dogs. Jesus demonstrated this ethnic reality and prioritization when He sent His disciples first to Judea and only then to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.
It is indeed natural and good to prefer one’s own.
As to the issue in Acts 6, we would ask Dr. Selbrede to note that the resolution to the problem there with Grecian widows was to appoint Grecian men to be Deacons. In such a way there were be no failure to provide for the Grecian widows. It looks to me to be a solution that favored natural affections.
However, I do end by agreeing with Selbrede that Wolfe’s Natural Law idea of creating “a wall of separation to keep the Word of God confined to the church,” is complete hooey. All of life is to be governed by God’s Word and the notion that we are to be ruled by a ill-defined subjective Natural Law in the common realm is completely contrary to Christianity. At that point Dr. Selbrede and I are in full agreement.