There are people in mainstream culture who are struggling with the permanence of death. This video reveals it.
Doug Wilson is linking to a report
that has Wheaton College inviting Jim Wallis to speak at Wheaton. Now the unique thing about Wallis is that he claims the effort to legitimize homosexual relationships in the law is “a justice issue.” This invitation to Wallis comes on the heels of a previous invitation to and appearance of a pro-buggery ‘Christian’ activist to speak to the student body.
Wilson’s take on this is that it is perfectly legitimate for Christian campuses to extend these kinds of invitations and on one level I understand Wilson’s view. Wilson believes that if Colleges invite these kind of people it should be akin to lions inviting the Christians over to their place for supper. Let the pagans come in and let them try and defend their paganism before a well educated Christian student body.
However there is another angle to this I want to briefly examine. Clearly when these kinds of people are given platforms in our Christian Colleges we are communicating some kind of tacit acceptability. We are admitting that the issue is now worthy of being discussed publicly in the Christian arena thus perhaps communicating a certain legitmacy to the perversion du jour.
Let me give an extreme example that I hope makes my point. What would people think if Wheaton College invited a pederast or pedophile or someone who like to bed farm animals to come and declare that these kind of perversions are ‘justice issues.’ Now I think (definitely not sure) that people would freak out over such an invitation precisely because such perversions are clearly beyond the pale. After all, who is nut case enough to actually want to listen to that kind of disgust? Is an invitation, to come speak at a Christian college, extended to somebody who is pro-buggery, indicative of the fact that among Christians Homosexuality is no longer seen as beyond the pale — every bit as detestable as pederasty, pedophilia, or bestiality?
“The politicization of the Gospel is a project of both liberals and conservatives in American Christianity. While Biblical Christianity has a responsibility to bear witness to a transcendent ethic and on that basis to criticize social evils, the danger comes when that transcendent focus is lost and the Church sells out to a secular ideology. Today the ‘crude salvationism’ and ‘other worldliness’ of traditional religion are giving way to elaborate efforts to use Christianity to sanction a political agenda. Liberation theology promotes a socialist utopia; fundamentalists who follow ‘reconstructionism’ promote a theocratic state. The German Christians would be able to agree with both of them.”
Gene Edward Veith Jr.
Modern Fascism — Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview
I’ve been over this kind of thing before but since the mistake that it represents is so prevalent in so much literature I will deal with it again here.
Veith in his book is warning about the possibility for Fascism to come to the fore once again in the West. Much of what he says in this regard is simply outstanding, though this quote leaves much to be desired. The problems with it are as follows,
1.) I agree that because of the Transcendent reference point that we find in the personal God of the Bible we must criticize social evil. However criticizing is not enough. It is not enough to say, that something is wrong without offering a Biblical alternative. A Transcendent reference point not only provides us the ability to critique social evil but it also provides the ability to promote social good. If on one hand we are allowed to criticize evil political agendas then on the other hand we must offer something that approximates a Christian political agenda.
2.) It must be agreed that the politicization of the Gospel is a project of both liberals and conservatives. The question we must ask is whether or not it is possible to have a politics from nowhere. Is it possible for a Politics to exist that is not beholden to some faith or belief system? The problem isn’t that people want to derive a politics from Chrisitianity. This is unavoidable and inevitable. The problem is when we politicize a Gospel that is not the Gospel and end up with a politicization of some other belief system that we wrongly say is expressive of the Gospel (Veith’s ‘selling out to secular ideology’). We will be forever in the position of criticizing social evils unless by God’s grace we get a politics that grows up out of the soil of Christianity.
3.) While we must continue to emphasize the ‘other worldliness’ of Christianity we must not emphasize it in such a way that it becomes disconnected from this world. It remains possible to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Certainly Jesus saves us from our sin (Veith’s ‘crude salvationism’) and makes us fit to live with Him in heaven but between then and now lies a tract of time that needs to be spent on doing His will here as it is done in heaven, and God’s will applies to every area of life, including politics. Let us remain other-worldly and let us bring that other-worldliness and incarnate it into this world.
4.) When Veith talks about ‘German Christians’ agreeing with the notion of a Theocratic State he isn’t being complimentary. But the problem with the German Christians wasn’t that they had a Theocratic State the problem is that the Theocratic State was beholden to the wrong God. Veith seems to think that having a Theocratic State is avoidable but this would be to introduce neutrality in to our thinking. Every State is Theocratic. The State we currently live in is Theocratic. It is never a question of being Theocratic or not being Theocratic. It is only a question of which Theocracy that a people are going to have. Currently we are governed by the God of the people. We call this Democracy but that is just a Theocratic system where Demos is God (The voice of the people is the voice of God). Veith, like many in the West, seems to think that a State can be set up that isn’t in service to some God somewhere. We fault the German Christians for setting up the Theocratic State that they set up. We fault them because the God of the Bible was pushed aside for a false God in that Theocratic State. Their mistake wasn’t a Theocratic State. Their mistake was idolatry.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
Wm. Butler Yeats
Over at the Bayly Brothers blog they are arguing against egalitarianism. In the recent past they have argued, along with J. P. Moreland, that the Church is over-committed to the Bible. At Greenbaggins it is always Federal Vision and its errors that have the Church in grave peril. At Heidleblog people who hold to post-millenialism are said to have the same eschatological doctrine of the Pharisees. Post-millenialists talk about the lack of testosterone in the diet of a-millenialists. At Mablog Wilson repeatedly has his spin-cycle in full gear against the ‘TR’s’. Federo Schism is always happy to tell us the evil machinations of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho while many people root him on. Westminster East is in danger of going ‘fundamentalistic’ according to the ‘Save Our Seminary’ website, while those who like Westminster East just the way it is insists that those who oppose it are closet liberals. Natural theology tries to make a comeback while MARS Seminary seeks to shoot it out of the air before it can take wing.
Wilkins has fled the PCA. Horne calls his enemies everything but ‘white men.’ In the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the PCA it sounds like they are beginning to investigate Peter Leithart for doctrinal inaccuracies (Can Robert Rayburn be far behind?). James Jordan’s vitriol is so acidic that Terrorists are trying to figure out how to bottle it so they can wipe out a few cities. Westminster West hates Theonomy and Theonomists don’t think to highly of Westminster West. Reformed people are now beginning earnest arguments over whether union with Christ is logically prior to justification or justification is prior to union with Christ (yes, there are real implications). The Enlightenment Theologians (Rationalists) in Reformedom can’t live with the Romantic Theologians (Romanticists) and the Romanticists swear that Ichabod is written over the Rationalist denominations.
Examples could be repeated ad nauseam reciting the conflict that is currently taking place in the Reformed World. Maybe it has always been this way, but my instincts tell me that this seems to be time where the center cannot hold. Maybe all of this is the legacy of the Postmodern virus which has the capability of eating away at meta-narratives, leaving in its wake division among people who used to be able to live with their differences. People don’t typically know this but it used to be the case that if you were attached to a Reformed denomination you could walk into one of those congregations anywhere in these United States and you would find little difference in the liturgy and service of that worship. Post-modernism has made it so every Church’s liturgy and service are as different as the different warring parties in every denomination. Maybe it is more benign then that. Maybe it is as simply a case where we are living in a time that is calling for the Reformed faith to be re-interpreted, and re-applied. There are always people who prefer the status quo to any perceived innovation. Maybe it is as simple as our ability to instantly communicate has caused us to realize just how many differences we have — differences we otherwise wouldn’t have known that we had if it weren’t for the ability to instantly communicate.
People often don’t realize the kinds of times they are living in until they are already on the other side of those times. I would have to say, like it or not, that our times are times for fighting. It is quickly getting to the point where there is no broad consensus that can be appealed to in order to find compromise on a host of different issues. This is a time where a new consensus must be created and not when consensus is returned to. Inevitably that means conflict.
I have to believe that once all this washes out the Reformed World in America is going to look very differently than it currently does.
By way of postscript, I can’t help but note that in the 19th century the warfare and division of denominations in America served as harbinger for the coming warfare and division in the Nation as a whole. Sometimes I wonder if we are on the edge of that kind of cultural division.
Not a prediction… just an observation.
In the whole Federal Vision controversy part of the problem is the tendency for some people to make Faith and Faithfulness to be synonymous. The problem here lies that when one is speaking of justification then the result in that arrangement is that you instantly have combined works (our Faithfulness) with faith alone. In justification Faith looks away from self and rests in Christ alone trusting completely in HIS faithfulness for us. Now, the retort that many Federal Vision people respond with is to lodge the accusation that, ‘that makes faith to be inert and perhaps even dead,’ and they go on from there to mock the notion that there is a millisecond when faith does nothing but receive Christ only whereupon then only it begins to work.
Now having dealt with more than a few of these gentleman I could see that their problem was, as I noted above, a desire for the faith that justifies to be a working faith. They wanted Faith to work even in justification, or else to them it was inert faith, or dead faith, or pretend faith.
So, I asked myself, ‘How can I satisfy their problem while at the same time leaving faith in justification to be completely instrumental and non-contributory in receiving Christ(?). “How can I talk about the work of faith in justification (so showing that it is living and vital even here) and yet not yield one inch that Faith is alone in resting in Christ?”
The answer I came up with was to tell them that, “Faith in justification does its proper work by resting in Christ alone,’ or, ‘Faith in justification works by turning from works to rest in Christ alone.’ Now naturally the Federal Vision guys didn’t like that because they knew it was undermining their attempt to combine faithfulness with faith thus making faith a kind of work.
That part is the old news.
The new news is now I am hearing that my answer is not Reformed and I might as well be Federal Vision. You see things have gotten so uptight here that unless you pronounce all the syllables in just the right order on the issue of ‘Justification by faith alone’ you must be held to be suspect of not being truly Reformed.
Below is from one of the Kiddie Corps cadets of the Westminster West justification police telling me that,
You can’t call “resting in Christ” an example of “working” and claim to be Reformed without causing some major confusion.
1.) I do claim to be Reformed.
2.) I do claim that the proper work of faith in justification is to rest in Christ alone and His work for us.
3.) I find nothing confusing in that statement. This is no more confusing then to say that the proper work of my body in sleeping is not to work at all.
What the problem here is that the atmosphere has become so supercharged with suspicion that unless you speak exactly the way that justification Nazis want you to speak then you are suspect even in the cases where YOU MEAN EXACTLY THE SAME THING THAT THEY MEAN.
Look, there is nobody — and I mean nobody, who is more opposed to Federal Vision on justification then I am. To suggest that I can’t claim to be Reformed without causing major confusion all because I employ a formulaic technique to potentially bridge a widening divide is just nonsense.
These Westminster West kids are starting to drive me nuts.