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A strange variety of "apolitical evangelicalism"

This great post by David French tells you a lot of what you need to know about so-called "apolitical evangelicalism." Namely, that it's just support for left-approved causes and wobbliness (at best) on left-disapproved causes dressed up in the transparent garb of "being apolitical."

I've known that for a long time. In fact, we discussed it away back in what almost seems like a different world when Barack Obama was merely a possible candidate for the presidency.

But a new variety has appeared on the scene. John Piper is a much-revered reformed evangelical leader and preacher who has always been extremely clear on the moral issue of marriage. His preaching is unequivocal on this moral and (one might think) cultural/political subject.

It has therefore come as an unpleasant surprise that Piper has explicitly refused to join other Christian (evangelical and Catholic) leaders in Minnesota in taking a definite stand supporting a proposed state amendment which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

No matter what, Piper's absence from the list of supporters would have been a disappointment to conservatives hoping for the unequivocal support of such an influential Christian leader--a support which is not illegal to give (not yet in our country) and which other Christian leaders are giving without hesitation.

But matters are made more disturbing by the fact that this is no mere omission or oversight. Nor is it a matter of Piper's sticking to a narrowly kerygmatic niche. Piper's refusal to support the amendment openly and clearly first came to light in this sermon. For the first 7/8 the sermon reads like clear support for the amendment, walking just to one side of a legal bright line of "express advocacy." It includes statements like this:

The point here is not only that so-called same-sex marriage shouldn’t exist, but that it doesn’t and it can’t. Those who believe that God has spoken to us truthfully in the Bible should not concede that the committed, life-long partnership and sexual relations of two men or two women is marriage. It isn’t. God has created and defined marriage. And what he has joined together in that creation and that definition, cannot be separated, and still called marriage in God’s eyes.
We must not be intimidated here. The world is going to say the opposite of what is true here.
Which means that all legislation is the legislation of morality. Someone’s view of what is good — what is moral — wins the minds of the majority and carries the day. The question is: Which actions hurt the common good or enhance the common good so much that the one should be prohibited by law and the other should be required by law?

Here are a few thoughts to help you with that question.

A constitutional amendment should address a matter of very significant consequence. To give you an idea of what has been regarded as worthy inclusion in the state constitution, Section 12 of Article xiii was passed by voters in 1998. It reads as follows: “Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good.” In deciding whether the meaning of marriage is significant enough to put in the constitution one measure would be to weigh it against hunting and fishing.

1. The recognition of so-called same-sex marriage would be a clear social statement that motherhood or fatherhood or both are negligible in the public good of raising children. Two men adopting children cannot provide motherhood. And two women adopting children cannot provide fatherhood. But God ordained from the beginning that children grow up with a mother and a father, and said, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Tragedies in life often make that impossible. But taking actions to make that tragedy normal may be worth prohibiting by law. That's a factor to consider.

2. Marriage is the most fundamental institution among humans.

And so forth. Note even the dry joke about the importance of marriage protection in comparison to the importance of promoting hunting and fishing.

Then comes point 8:

Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism. Pray that the church and her ministers would feed the flock of God with the word of God centered on the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative initiatives, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word, and to the cross.

He goes on to explain what he means (emphasis in original):

Please try to understand this: When I warn against the politicizing of the church, I do so not to diminish her power but to increase it. The impact of the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the world does not increase when she shifts her priorities from the worship of God and the winning of souls and the nurturing of faith and raising up of new generations of disciples.

Huh? Well, one might think in some puzzlement, I suppose some legal eagle told him he had to put something like point 8 in there. Seems a shame for him to sound like he's making some kind of high-falutin' principle out of it, but the rest of the sermon makes it clear enough what he's urging his people to do. A wink is as good as a nod.

But point 8 won't be ignored. The Minneapolis Star Tribune published this piece noting that Piper and Leith Anderson, another evangelical leader, were conspicuous by their absence from the ranks in support of the marriage amendment. And here is what Piper's representative, David Mathis, said:

Piper had been under pressure from conservative groups to weigh in on the amendment, according to his spokesman David Mathis, adding that Piper did not hold back over concerns the church could lose its tax-exempt status.

"Basically our position is, we're not taking one as a church," Mathis said. "And by addressing this in June rather than October or early November, there's no effort here for political expediency, trying to get certain votes out of people."

"He [Piper] wants to avoid the political realm as much as possible. The Christian Gospel is not left, it's not right. It is what it is."

Let's parse what Mathis is saying. He's emphasizing that Piper wants to avoid the political realm as much as possible. He's implying quite clearly that Piper knows that it would have been quite legal for him to take a definite stand from the pulpit in support of the marriage amendment and that that was not Piper's worry. He's saying that Piper's preaching on this issue at all was deliberately timed for June rather than in the fall precisely so that people would not be able to say that Piper was attempting to get people to vote a certain way on the amendment. Presumably this means that we can expect Piper not even to give a sermon as clear as points 1-7 in October or early November! How interesting. Mathis is saying that the church does not have a position on the amendment. And he's saying that for Piper to take such a position from the pulpit would be to distract attention from the true mission of the church which is to preach a gospel that is neither "left nor right."

If that doesn't counteract the impression one might otherwise have gotten from the first seven points of Piper's sermon, I don't know what would.

Piper, as if to be sure his supporters are thoroughly confused, then published this response to the Star Tribune's piece. Piper implies that he has been misrepresented. (Maybe he should talk to his own official representative, David Mathis, about that.) According to Piper's response to the article, he did not opt out of the marriage fight but spoke quite clearly to the issue. However, Piper then continues his exceedingly strange practice of treating express advocacy, which was never more than a legally convenient bright line, as some sort of previously undiscovered theological and pastoral principle. Piper also continues to apply this principle equally to endorsing candidates and to taking a position on a narrowly focused constitutional referendum: (Emphasis added)

The aim of point 8 was that over the long haul Christians will take clearer, stronger, more effective stands for justice and righteousness and the common good if pastors and preachers speak powerfully and faithfully and biblically to the moral and spiritual and ethical and theological issues surrounding political issues, rather than advocating particular candidates and laws.

So in other words Christian leaders should not do what other Christian leaders in Minnesota have done by unequivocally supporting the amendment. After all, what's not to love about strengthening the church (see the explication of point 8, above)? Piper is being pretty emphatic about the warnings he has given against "politicizing" the church, and he quite evidently thinks that for him to have unequivocally supported the marriage protection amendment as he was urged to do would have been a paradigm case of this "politicization" which he has warned about. Nor does he in any way contradict what his official spokesman said about his motivations and positions, including his reason for preaching on the subject now rather than in the fall.

Piper is being, to put it mildly, extremely confusing and illogical. The first part of his sermon which kicked all this off makes it quite clear to the dullest of wits that Piper realizes that there is only one way that Christian conviction could lead someone on this amendment. Nor do points 1-7 even leave open the possibility that this is not an important enough matter to be codified in the state Constitution.

Were Piper merely making a prudential decision that he does not want to risk his church's tax-exempt status, and were that concern a plausible one, we might be disappointed but would at least understand where he is coming from. We might want to point him to this web site or this one to allay his concerns, but we might consider that his support was clear enough anyway without crossing the express advocacy bright line.

But that's not what he's doing. Instead, he's taking and even emphasizing a meta-position that amounts to political quietism. It is, in fact, a position that is hard not to read as a criticism of the other Christian leaders in his state for having "politicized" the church. This is very confused and confusing indeed. One can scarcely shake the impression that Piper's better moral and even political instincts are in tension with a political quietist anti-principle that he has imbibed from who-knows-where.

Piper ought to be a smart enough guy to realize that the "church should be apolitical" meme is being used to great effect by people well to the left of himself who wish to silence the church's cultural witness. His disappointing and confused response to a clear call to arms in the culture wars in his own state, so far from making the church stronger, will only help the cause of the church's enemies.

Comments (61)

I used to listen to Piper alot. I liked his "christian hedonism" theology (though not the name). Since his book "bloodlines" he's dishing out nothing but diversity kool-aid. So this does't really suprise me.

I looked up the "Christian hedonism." Has he never heard of eudaimonism? :-) I'm not personally familiar with "Bloodlines" but have heard about it before. I'm not a huge Piper fan/follower, but many Protestants are, which is why the kerfuffle I'm reporting here is important.

Death by neutrality. What a sad way to go.

_Bloodlines_ is about Piper's "personal journey" as a "recovering racist." You can imagine the rest. He grew up in the South during the pre-1964 era when all the restrooms/drinking fountains, etc. were still separated. But naturally he still feels a need to beat his breast about it. In fairness, he does include some literature from black thinkers who have a more realistic view of the race issue, but it's tucked into some sections towards the end of the book---definitely not the main focus.

Great post Lydia! I will be featuring it tomorrow. In the meantime, your readers may be interested in my take on the Piper's refusal to engage on the marriage amendment:
http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/gay-marriage-john-piper-has-no-preference-on-minnesota-marriage-amendment/

I have been re-working the post and replying to comments, and I think the comments help to bring out the differences in my approach compared to Piper's.

Thanks, Wintery.

What I think a lot of people just don't get who are defending Piper here is that this isn't just a matter of omission. It's not just what he didn't say but what he did say that is the cause of consternation. If Bethlehem Baptist Church has a church policy of not endorsing specific laws, qua church, nonetheless

--this cannot place a gag order on Piper as the pastor preventing him as an individual Christian and pastor from saying, either to the media or from the pulpit, "I'm planning to vote for this amendment, and I hope others follow suit."

and

--the church's not endorsing this qua church does not in the slightest way necessitate these multiple statements about "staying away from politics as much as possible" and "not politicizing the church" and all the rest of it.

If Piper and his representative had left all of that out (including point 8 in his sermon) and if he had preached the whole first part of that sermon, things would be a lot different. And if the media came to him asking his position, he could have endorsed the amendment as an individual Christian leader while declaring (if this is the case) that Bethlehem Baptist Church has a policy of not endorsing specific laws.

This would also mean leaving out all the nonsense about preaching on the subject in June instead of October. When I re-read Mathis's statements before writing this post, that part really struck me and was particularly annoying. "We timed this sermon in June because God forbid anyone should think Pastor Piper was trying to influence anybody's vote or anything." That's very, very disturbing, and it especially creates cognitive dissonance since the sermon, of course, sounds right up until point 8 like he is indeed urging them to vote for the amendment. But for some reason he wouldn't leave it at that.

Thanks for this, Lydia. We are having the same problems on the East side of the Pond, but at least the churches, except for Quakers and Unitarians, are quite clear about the need to avoid going down this wrong path. It strikes me that Dr. Piper has forgotten that there is a difference between political and party political.

It strikes me that Dr. Piper has forgotten that there is a difference between political and party political.

I think there's truth in that. Leith Anderson, the other influential evangelical mentioned in the Star Tribune for having refused to endorse the amendment, specifically used the word "non-partisan" in an interview with the media, apparently trying to explain his refusal. A voter referendum on a state constitutional amendment _is_ non-partisan! (To make things even odder, Anderson said he wasn't taking a position because "he is no longer an active pastor." But wouldn't that be expected to free him up to say more? Since his statements couldn't be thought by anyone to represent an official position of a tax-exempt church?)

The confusion between "political" and "party political" would also explain Piper's repeatedly bundling together endorsing a candidate and endorsing a state constitutional amendment or law.

I have some basic questions:

1. What is gained by the marriage amendment?

2. What is its justification?

3. Who does it benefit?

4. Who does it harm?

5. What are the ramifications for the Church if the amendment is not passed?

6. What are the ramifications for the Church if the amendment is passed?

Chucky, you and I have debated such marriage amendments ad infinitum in other threads. I'm not planning to do it again here. Sorry.

Good post Lydia.

I don't care what anyone tells me, the Evangelical church is getting weak-kneed on this issue. I am feeling the tremors all around and my radar is making beeping noises. Piper is just another example of a Christian leader who displays faith and fortitude in the pulpit, but just like a little church mouse, is very afraid to take that message to the public square and defend it like David facing off with Goliath.

I am currently reading Nancy Pearcey's book, Total Truth, and as I read I can't help but think that the very premise of her book is the importance of taking the Gospel into all areas of our culture and that Piper fails in that he has taken this Biblical truth right up to the church door, but dares not step outside.

Chucky, you and I have debated such marriage amendments ad infinitum in other threads. I'm not planning to do it again here. Sorry.

Lydia, you seem to be implying that a good Christian must support such an amendment. If so, then my questions are valid. If not, then I'm sorry, I misunderstood your post.

Lydia McGrew: "One can scarcely shake the impression that Piper's better moral and even political instincts are in tension with a political quietist anti-principle that he has imbibed from who-knows-where."

Pastor Piper may have imbibed the (Radical)Two-Kingdom doctrine that's espoused by Professors Darryl G. Hart, R. Scott Clark, David Van Drunen, et al which is basically ecclesiastical AIDS syndrome. This (Radical) Two-Kingdoms doctrine is staunchly opposed by Professor John Frame, Professor Nelson Kloosterman, Steve Hays, TurretinFan, the Bayly Brothers Tim and David, et al.

I looked up that two kingdoms doctrine on Wikipedia and found an interesting quote from John Calvin:

"There are two governments: the one religious, by which the conscience is trained to piety and divine worship; the other civil, by which the individual is instructed in those duties which, as men and citizens, we are bound to perform. To these two forms are commonly given the not inappropriate names of spiritual and temporal jurisdiction, intimating that the former species has reference to the life of the soul, while the latter relates to matters of the present life, not only to food and clothing, but to the enacting of laws which require a man to live among his fellows purely honorably, and modestly. The former has its seat within the soul, the latter only regulates the external conduct. We may call the one the religious, the other the civil kingdom. Now, these two, as we have divided them, are always to be viewed apart from each other."

I would like to add to the content here a transcript of some additional portions of Piper's original sermon that didn't make it into the on-line transcript. These were sent to me by a helpful reader:

The impact of the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the world does not increase when she shifts her priorities from the worship of God and the winning of souls and the nurturing of faith and raising up of new generations of disciples. It doesn't. It feels in the moment like it does. "Ha, look how many people showed up for the rally!" Or "Look how many signatures in that church they got!" Or "Look how that committee is functioning." Or... It feels powerful. Give it a generation. And little by little, that vaunted power bleeds away the very nature of the church... and its power. If the whole council of God is preached with power, week in and out, Christians who are citizens of heaven and citizens of the democratic order will be energized as they ought to speak and act for the common good. It's your job, not mine. Don't look to me to wave the flag for your vote or wave the flag for your candidate. I may not like him, or it, because of what God says.
My job is to feed the saints with such meals that they will go out strengthened and robust and able to do the study and do the courage do the action needed as salt and light in this world, and that will go away if you insist on the Church and the ministry being the political leaders. It will. And we can point to many where it has.

Notice the weirdness of this. Piper has just seemingly been indicating that he supports the legislation, though without coming out and saying so. Now, however, he reverts to talking about candidates (and the sermon isn't about a candidate, so that's a red herring) and to implying that his parishioners don't really know his position and that he "might not like" whatever it is that they want him to "wave the flag" for. At the best, that is a real distraction from the actual legislation that is the subject of the sermon. At the worst, it creates informational confusion about what side Piper really is on concerning the amendment itself.

Moreover, he's just pounding and pounding and pounding on the idea that once one becomes a pastor one *should not* take a public position on legislation. If you don't read this as a criticism of the other pastors in Minnesota who have publicly endorsed the amendment, I think you are being somewhat tone-deaf. Is it really true that a pastor should not take such a position? Is that what we want pastors to believe? And--interesting question--are not pastors themselves citizens?

Speaking of which, look at these additional comments even in point #7, which I had previously thought was entirely clear:

Here I feel like I'm pushing the upper limit of my paygrade. My happy conviction is that pastors ought not to be experts in lots of things. And I'm certainly not an expert in civil law and how economics work and how politics work. I just don't know much. I'm just reading my Bible and trying to understand what God says and then saying just as much as I know, and I'm counting on a lot of lay people to do a lot of hard work for me. That's the conception I have. If you think I'm the expert on everything, sorry, it's kinda late in my ministry for you to be corrected on that. [laughter]

Hmm, what's that all about? Why are we talking about economics, for crying out loud???? Is this amendment something that requires heavy economic expertise? This "Aw shucks, ma'am, I'm just a pastor. I just read my Bible; I don't know nothin'" stance is extremely frustrating. It's not as though God supplies some kind of anti-charism when one is ordained a pastor making one unfit for the judgements of a citizen, yet Piper's words here might almost make one think he believes that. What about Piper's parishioners who are also not experts on "civil law, economics, and politics"? How are they supposed to be capable of doing this incredibly hard thing--taking a position on this amendment?

Again, the problem here is the teaching of political quietism and political ignorance for pastors and the implicit criticism of those who do take a clear public position on this legislation.

This uncertain sound is not what the church needs to hear right now. Piper could not be more wrong: It does not strengthen the church.

Piper is a good popular speaker, and writer on theological topics; but he is no Don Carson or Jack Gerstner. Many of my friends have been greatly helped by his writing and preaching. I just never found him that meaty. I have only a couple of his books on my shelf, one on Jonathan Edwards, and one, that I have not yet read, that is an exegetical study of the ninth chapter of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans.
I say this by way of introduction, to say that I have no brief, either for or against, John Piper.
Some evangelical clerics, and Pastor Piper seems to be one such cleric, speak out only sparingly on issues or candidates. They think the calling of the institutional Church is to preach biblical principles not speak out on ballot initiatives or candidates. They wish to avoid what they see as the trap; that they believe Dr. Carl McIntire, Dr. Jerry Falwell, & Rev. John Stormer fell into. In part they do this to be consistent in condemning those liberal Churches who involve themselves in and preach about 'civil rights' issues or what ever war our nation is currently involved in. They instead preach on biblical texts that teach the Christian understanding of human sexuality, or on texts that show the error of pacifism from a biblical perspective, or on what the Bible teaches about Zionism.

Again, Thomas, my problem there is with the meta-position not with the omission per se. The idea here seems to be that once one is a pastor one _ought not_ take any public position on such an amendment. I just disagree with that. Moreover, it creates confusion for anyone to preach a sermon that sounds at first so clearly like an endorsement of the amendment and then to go on at such length about how, because one is a pastor, one does not and ought not endorse the amendment.

There is also a real question here about how this restricts a pastor's ability to act as a citizen. We really have a problem if our "rules" mean that, say, a pastor, just because he's a pastor, ought not to go to a town meeting and speak out during the open comments section in favor of or against a piece of legislation. Any citizen of the district ought to be able to do that, yet if a pastor is suddenly so afraid that a "public position" will be somehow contrary to his role qua pastor, he will not do this and hence will elaborately and deliberately abrogate even his own individual civic role as a citizen.

What that seems to me akin to is pacifism for the clergy: "I'm a clergyman so I must never bear arms." Similarly, "I'm a clergyman so I must never speak out on legislation."

If this is a reaction to some actions by other people, which these pastors believe amounted to putting *too much* time into political action, I can only say that it is a grave and misguided overreaction. And an overreaction that is particularly unfortunate at this particular moment in history.

The question is one of sphere sovereignty. What is the proper sphere of the State? What is the proper sphere of the institutional Church?

Well, I just definitely and strongly disagree with any position on "sphere sovereignty" that would entail that John Piper or any other pastor would be violating "sphere sovereignty" by saying, yea, even saying in a sermon (and a fortiori if asked by the press outside of a sermon), that he is proud to be voting for this amendment, that it's a good piece of legislation and that he hopes it passes.

A major problem with being apolitical is that, as the realm of politics expands, one must increasingly shrink from expressing his opinions.

My job is to feed the saints with such meals that they will go out strengthened and robust and able to do the study and do the courage do the action needed as salt and light in this world, and that will go away if you insist on the Church and the ministry being the political leaders.

Who's asking him to be a political leader? Has anyone suggested he run for office? They just want him to throw his spiritual authority behind a political issue that is first and foremost a foundational moral issue. I think he creates for himself a false dilemma, perhaps thinking that dipping his hands in the political waters now and then would somehow dirty them. Why can't he look at it from the other direction, that dipping his hands would help clean up the cultural dirt?

Bill, exactly. All the statements about the church "being political" are overblown like that. "Asking the church and the ministry to be political leaders," "shifting our priorities away from the worship of God and discipleship and winning souls." False dilemmas abound. What's particularly striking is that he devoted an entire sermon here to, in essence, _this amendment_, but then he acts like spending one sentence therein openly endorsing the amendment, and being willing to say that he endorses it publicly when questioned by the press, is going to amount to some huge shift of priorities away from worship! It's really almost amusing. Like the mere words "Yes, I do endorse this amendment" by themselves have seismic impact on the entire priorities of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

This is not exactly razor-sharp thinking.

Thomas, I pretty much agree with what you said.

Lydia, Piper is trying to walk a fine line. A line which the LCMS tries to walk. The LCMS pretty much only comes out on specific legislation when it directly effects religious freedom, like the HHS mandate. Otherwise they follow the rule of preach the Gospel to our members and let them be the force for change in society.

On the other side look at the Catholic church on matters like this. One minute they are screaming about the Constitution and religious freedom, and the next they are congratulating the same president on his unConstitutional move to amnesty certain illegals.

Which side is upholding the integrity of the church, Catholics or the LCMS?

I'm still waiting Lydia, for an answer as to whether or not a "good" Christian must express support for this amendment?

Is that your argument?

Are you saying that Piper is not a good Christian? Or are you just saying that he is not consistent?

I'm asking this because I consider myself a good Christian but I don't feel the need to support legislation limiting a practice to strictly heterosexual couples. I don't see how such an amendment furthers the Kingdom of God.

Chucky, I'm saying that I find it boring and time-wasting to debate this type of amendment with you, that I already did it (which was a big waste of time), and that my fingers would fall off and my eyes go blind if I debated everyone on every thread on every topic over and over and over again, world without end. Therefore, I'm not going to debate you on that topic again on this thread. If you read the _other_ comments, you'll see what the rest of us are _actually_ discussing here. Over and out.

Chris, John Piper is not an institution. He is a person. He is not the LCMS or the Catholic Church. He isn't even Bethlehem Baptist Church.

You do not address my comments on citizenship. Do pastors, in virtue of being pastors, even in virtue of being well-known and influential pastors, cease to be able to be politically active citizens? Do they become ignorant about legislation (as Piper very nearly implies in the above-quoted comments)? Do they need vast help from laymen (who apparently have some special political charism removed from pastors at ordination) to decide whether something like a marriage protection act is a good law? Must they remain publicly silent about whether or not they themselves favor specific legislation such as this marriage amendment while only the laity are permitted to speak out?

You're darned tootin' he's "walking a fine line." He's walking a line so fine that he ends up sounding pretty darned near incoherent. "Oh, you'll have to judge [wink wink] whether protecting marriage is as important as hunting and fishing" one minute and the next minute, with great emphasis, "It would just be Really Bad if I were to start trying to _rally_ you or _wave a flag_ for some particular candidate or law; it would weaken the church, so I absolutely refuse to do anything of the kind. And besides I'm nearly above my pay grade here because all I do is read the Bible. And don't ask me to rally you anyway, because I might not agree with you."

As for the LCMS and the Catholic Church, my problem with Catholic leadership is that I disagree with some of the positions they think addressed by their Christian commitments (such as their pro-illegal immigration stance), not that they shouldn't speak out.

If you, or the leaders of the LCMS, think that the issue of sodomite "marriage" is not intimately related to religious freedom and doesn't rate (as apparently the HHS mandate does) speaking out by Christian leadership, I can only say that you (or they) need to get some more information!

A strange variety of "apolitical evangelicalism"

Lydia McGrew: "One can scarcely shake the impression that Piper's better moral and even political instincts are in tension with a political quietist anti-principle that he has imbibed from who-knows-where."

Thomas: "The question is one of sphere sovereignty. What is the proper sphere of the State? What is the proper sphere of the institutional Church?"

Dear Lydia,

In a sense Thomas's questions help to answer the question of what Pastor Piper may have imbibed from who-knows-where. Look to those pastors, theologians, and professors who emphasize Sphere Sovereignty.

And when you nut it out, or boil and distill the essence, what you get is cowardice well-cloaked and well-disguised in theological sophistry. Brings back to mind the well-known dictum attributed to Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that "good" men do nothing."

Except now, the "good" men have theological and/or biblical justification for doing nothing.

This "evil" is a political evil. And the church as church and the pastor as pastor must not taint the sphere sovereignty of the church with moral-political counsel and speech.

I definitely think the quote from Edmund Burke is relevant here. No doubt Piper's supporters would protest that he isn't "doing nothing" because he gave the sermon at all. But there is nonetheless a connection in several ways. E.g. He (according to his spokesman) deliberately gave the sermon at a time when he could be deemed to be having less effect on the actual election! And he is in essence urging pastors not to endorse such amendments, which will certainly weaken and lessen their chances of being passed.

However, I am myself more inclined to call Piper seriously muddle-headed on these points rather than cowardly. Indeed, the fact that he is not naturally cowardly is precisely what gives the entire thing such a feeling of cognitive dissonance. At one moment he comes out with ringing defenses of marriage and clear statements against homosexual acts and the very metaphysical possibility of homosexual "marriage." Not going to endear him to the liberal establishment. At the next moment he positively prides himself on not taking a public stand on the amendment.

It might well be that others deserve the "cowardice" label more. Here I would _tentatively_ suggest that that label might better apply to Leith Anderson, whose excuse for not making a statement (that he isn't an active pastor??) rings extremely hollow and is, in fact, the opposite of Piper's reason.

Piper is badly, badly confused. Presumably by some theory, perhaps a Two Kingdoms theory or some misapplication of the notion of "sphere sovereignty." This is certainly a case where good common sense is coming in conflict with bad theory, and bad theory is winning. What is so annoying about it is that Piper is so influential a person. If anyone thinks this won't influence other pastors--present and, maybe even more importantly, young _future_ pastors--he is engaging in wishful thinking. Hence Piper needs to be held to account.

My bad. In no way do I ever want to imply that Piper is cowardly. And I can see how someone could read that from my prior comment.

I think you put it quite well when you wrote: "Piper is badly, badly confused. Presumably by some theory, perhaps a Two Kingdoms theory or some misapplication of the notion of "sphere sovereignty." This is certainly a case where good common sense is coming in conflict with bad theory, and bad theory is winning."

This bad theory has several names: Radical Two Kingdoms (R2K), Escondido Two Kingdoms (E2K), Westminster (West) Two Kingdoms (W2K), Neo-2K, Natural Law Two Kingdoms (NL2K), etc....

These bad theory promoters like to term their strict sphere sovereignty arguments as generic "2K" but their interlocutors refuse to give into their game of linguistic repositioning.

Eg. of a Bad Theory: "One is morally obligated to follow the orders, even immoral orders, of one's superiors." Did this bad theory win over "good" men?

Anyone ever see the movie, Judgment at Nuremberg?

----

Strict Sphere Sovereignty of Radical Two Kingdom Teaching: "Pastor as Pastor and Church as Church may not speak out on issues that the secular culture deems as 'political'."

Dr. Piper actually showed great leadership. He stepped out of the exegetical series on which he was preaching, and spoke about a moral issue confronting the State of Minnesota. He showed what the Bible teaches and what Christians have everywhere and always believed.

What was it that Dr. Piper failed to do. He did not offer a political solution to this moral issue. Dr. Piper left that to his congregation to work out on their own. I do not know why he chose to do this. He may have chosen this coarse of action because God alone is the Lord of man's conscience. He may have chosen this path because of some explicit or implicit view of sphere sovereignty.

I did not mean to imply that Dr. Piper did what he did because he believed in sphere sovereignty. I raised the issue because, I would have done the same thing he did, and that would have been part of the reason that if I were a cleric I would have not endorsed a specific referendum proposal.

Dr. Piper is not necessarily driven by some radical two Kingdom teaching peculiar to the Calvinistic right. If I read him right, Calvin in Book IV, Chapter 20 of his Institutes would have chosen to directly offer a solution to a threat to the good moral order of the civil state and strongly suggest it to Geneva's political leadership. Martin Luther would not. Dr. Luther would have done just what Dr. Piper did.

Abraham Kuyper was an early and articulate defender of the idea of sphere sovereignty. Kuyper would have strongly spoken out on and offered political solutions to threats to the good order of society. Kuyper, though a cleric went on to found the Anti-Revolutionary Party and was elected Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Kuyper could do this because he believed in a theory of common grace, and therefore believed it was appropriate for clerics to make common cause with unbelievers in advancing the civil good.

I am fascinated by Truth Unites... and Divides suggestion that their is a distinction between Westminster West 2 Kingdom and Escondido 2 Kingdom. Be that as it may be, I am not aware of a 'Strict Sphere Sovereignty of Radical Two Kingdom Teaching: "Pastor as Pastor and Church as Church may not speak on issues that the secular culture deems as 'political'."

Well, Thomas, see my comments above. This is not just a matter of what he _didn't_ do but of what he did do. I've said that again and again. His idea that pastors *should not* speak out on specific matters of law is really problematic. It amounts to bad advice to other pastors. It is based on a false dilemma. It reduces severely the extent to which a pastor can even act as an individual citizen.

Moreover, he interrupted his sermon series and gave that sermon now, according to his representative, so as to minimize any idea that he was trying to have any actual impact on the election. Maybe if he'd finished his sermon series he would have been giving this sermon closer to the actual election! So it wasn't a matter of the great urgency of the issue motivating him to show leadership, to drop everything and preach on it, but rather of his wanting to be sure to preach on it so far from the election as not to seem to be influencing it. This is a misguided reason, to put it mildly, and certainly that timing and the interruption of the other series does not reflect a desire to show leadership on the issue but rather the opposite.

"He stepped out of the exegetical series on which he was preaching, and spoke about a moral issue confronting the State of Minnesota."

But why deliberately do it now in the summer, instead of later when it would have the most effect? Piper's rep. was explicit that they timed it so as NOT to coincide with the election season.

In 1960, right after the Democrat National Convention, I heard a sermon in a small rural Presbyterian Church in Southeast Michigan on the importance of baptism. As I remember it, the gist of the sermon was that the Society of Friends and The Salvation Army were heretical cults, [because among other reason they do not practice water baptism], and should not properly be considered Protestant. After the worship service I heard someone ask the preacher if the Roman Catholic Church was a cult. He said no, that the Roman Catholic Church was an apostate Church but not a cult.
Later that day their was some discussion of the sermon. [Some Protestants have a habit of frying the preacher as they eat their fried chicken for lunch.] During lunch someone asked why he gave the sermon when he did. Someone else answered that he probably wanted to avoid appearing to be meddling in the election.
For those of you who have a short political memory; Vice President Richard Nixon was a Quaker and Senator John F. Kennedy was a Roman Catholic. Kennedy and Nixon were facing each other in the 1960 Presidential election.
Fast forward to the late 1970s. A prominent anticommunist Baptist Pastor in Missouri tried to enlist J. A. O. Preuss II and Robert Preuss into signing on to support some specific political action in Missouri. Both declined to sign on, on the grounds that they were preachers of the Word. He pointed out to them that they had both preached on the issue. Robert Preuss responded that that was all he was allowed to do as a minister of the Word. The Baptist Pastor pointed out to them that their father, J. A. O. Preuss I had been politically involved, in fact he had been a Governor. Robert Preuss responded by telling them that was his calling before God; and that their calling was to preach the Word of God and not advocate specific political solutions and making common cause with unbelievers.
When my Baptist Pastor friend told me about this exchange I suggested he tell them about Abraham Kuyper; who had been both a pastor and a politician. In retrospect I think Kuyper was wrong. He justified his coalition with the Netherlands conservative Roman Catholic Party and other non Reformed conservatives by appealing to the doctrine of common grace. I think in doing so he compromised the Gospel.

Truth Unites... and Divides:

Strict Sphere Sovereignty of Radical Two Kingdom Teaching: "Pastor as Pastor and Church as Church may not speak out on issues that the secular culture deems as 'political'."

But he did speak out on the issue - very explicitly condemning homosexual "marriage" - he just refused to endorse a specific course of political action as the solution to the problem. And, to be honest, the political action being argued for is not a "solution" at all to the problem of homosexuality.

"And, to be honest, the political action being argued for is not a "solution" at all to the problem of homosexuality."

And, to be honest, Chucky Darwin, no one ever said that defining marriage as one-man, one-woman was a "solution" at all to the "problem" of homosexuality.

Hi Lydia, et al,

I think this article by Tony Reinke from John Piper's Desiring God blog explains what John Piper's approach rather well:

Vote as Though Not Voting.

A little "Zen-nish" for my taste, but I get his meaning and his paradox.

Yeah, kinda zen. I have to say I wouldn't mind that stuff so much if it weren't for the fact that, after all, Piper won't even tell us how he's voting on this particular issue. If _that's_ the implication of "voting as if not voting," then I say the heck with it. Allegedly the two are separate, since this "voting as though not voting" stuff is directed at the laity, and the whole burden of Piper's spiel about his not taking a public stance on the amendment is a gigantic clergy/laity distinction. (Which is extremely ironic for a Baptist, I might add!)

Still, there is probably a connection. Since he's going on at some length here about downplaying the importance of politics, that no doubt affects the urgency with which he regards the marriage amendment in Minnesota. Hence, it is not implausible that he isn't too bothered by the extreme limitations on his own ability to speak out *as a citizen* (which I've discussed above) imposed by his "political pacifism for the clergy" principle.

Three years ago I spent many hours pounding the pavement and writing letters and op-eds trying to prevent the passage of a local ordinance to grant special rights not only to homosexuals but also to the "transgendered." It was a terrible ordinance, perverse in every respect. When eventually it passed one of the consequences was the harassment of a Christian young woman working at a local clothing store by a cross-dressing man who demanded to use the women's try-on rooms, tried on a skirt, and then came out and demanded of the flabbergasted girl, "How does it look on me?" The poor girl, not being old and hardened like me, didn't think to raise an eyebrow and say, "I don't think it's your color." Apparently she did manage to avoid getting in trouble for "discrimination."

I consider every moment of my time opposing this abomination well-spent. All that "stuff" about "voting as if not voting" would be understandably taken to imply that it wasn't. Indeed, I had local Christian families who "didn't feel comfortable" putting signs on their lawns opposing this perverse ordinance. The downplaying of the political as in that column would tend, rhetorically, to support them.

Let's face it: Emphases and priorities are time-sensitive. Is this the time for such columns? Are the contexts in which we are being metaphorically taken by the collar and shaken as demands are shouted at us for approval of the most disgusting perversions the contexts in which to tell us to be more "above the fray" in the political realm, more removed from this-worldly thoughts and concerns? I say no.

Truth Unites... and Divides:

And, to be honest, Chucky Darwin, no one ever said that defining marriage as one-man, one-woman was a "solution" at all to the "problem" of homosexuality.

Granted, but what is it a solution for then?

Chucky Darwin: "Granted, but what is it a solution for then?"

Are you a Bible-believing Christian, Chucky? What do you think?

Hello,

I am the Scott Clark to whom "Truth Unites" referred above. Two comments:

1) TUAD is a notorious, anonymous internet troll. He/She makes seems to have nothing to do but malign people all day. Why does this blog permit anonymous comments from those who are not obviously in danger. Since TUAD writes from N. America I take it that he/she is not in mortal danger for being a Christian.

2) TUAD quite simply misrepresents the state of things. I am quite in favor of Christians being politically active. As TUAD knows well (I used to have a blog and he was a frequent troll there until I shut down comments) I have long argued that Christians ought be active culturally and politically.

3) It is quite another thing for the visible, institutional church to be politically active. Good people on both sides have disagreed on whether and to what degree the church as church should be involved in electoral politics. There is an ancient and honored view among the Reformed, held in the US by Southern Presbyterians, Orthodox Presbyterians, and those with roots in the covenanting tradition, that the church as an institution is to attend primarily to spiritual matters. In these traditions, Christians as private persons, as citizens, are free (and ought) to form associations (the Dutch call them societies) to advocate for various positions consistent with the Christian faith.

4) To the degree that ministers are officers of the church and fundamentally representatives of the kingdom of God, they are naturally restrained about speaking to partisan political matters. Certainly they must preach the whole counsel of God. Their office requires it but there are certain limits. That doesn't make a minister politically indifferent but recognizes his vocation to speak to the congregation about the kingdom of heaven/God and to help them navigate life in this world as citizens of that kingdom. This doesn't make a minister unconcerned about this world but it recognizes his distinct vocation.

Okay, that was four comments!

Lydia, et al,

Please look at this post by TurretinFan whereby he engages R. Scott Clark:

Response to “Why One Should Read Before Writing” by R. Scott Clark.

Here is the relevant question posed by TurretinFan to R. Scott Clark:

“So, can the church speak to political issues or not?”

The whole article is well-worth reading, but this excerpt by TurretinFan is quite good:

“9. Missing the Point

The point of my post was two-fold: (1) to point out to my reader (who had the question) the easy resolution of the matter; and (2) to highlight the fact that on the other hand such material would seemingly be unwelcome in the pulpit. I think that Prof. Clark actually accepted these. His comment, “I discuss things here that, as a minister, I would not discuss from the pulpit,” suggests he agrees (violently) with my comment: “I think most are ok with that – as long as he doesn’t use the pulpit for those political comments.”"

R. Scott Clark, we haven't so far had the problems with this particular commentator that you seem to have had. There can be many good reasons for having an alias, including the fact that, in America, both oneself and one's loved ones can become political targets of opportunity if one makes politically incorrect posts. After more than five years of public blogging, I sometimes wish I'd gotten myself an alias at the outset, but it's too late to think of that now. At the risk of sounding snarky, I can't help wondering if your apolitical approach to things and your focus on Christianity per se have left you somewhat uninformed about the way this can work. I'm somewhat insulated by the fact that I do not have a career outside the home and that my husband is a tenured professor. Still, let me just say that while you may not believe in a politicized world, the politicized world believes in you.

I do understand that the tradition of political quietism for the clergy and the church is "ancient." I just happen to disagree with it rather strongly. I also think there is something extremely cognitively dissonant about Pastor Piper's expressly referring to the upcoming referendum, seeming to be giving his people excellent advice relevant to their voting on it, and then taking away with the left hand what he gives with the right by his emphatic comments on being apolitical. I also think it particularly bad that this theory of political quietism muzzles clergymen and robs them of part of their own ability to act fully as citizens even as individual persons. Presumably, were Piper not a clergyman, he would feel quite free to answer a reporter on the straightforward question of whether he endorses this obviously good amendment, an amendment that should be of great concern and interest to Christians in the present context.

TurretinFan to R. Scott Clark: “So, can the church speak to political issues or not?”

R. Scott Clark: "To the degree that ministers are officers of the church and fundamentally representatives of the kingdom of God, they are naturally restrained about speaking to partisan political matters."

R. Scott Clark, what is your biblical support for your thesis, for your argument, that ministers as officers of the church and fundamentally representatives of the kingdom of God are naturally restrained about speaking to partisan political matters?

In short, can ministers as ministers speak to "political" issues or not? Yes? Or No?

If no, then what is your Biblical support for your Westminster Two Kingdom teaching that pastors/ministers do not have the liberty to speak to political issues?

You have the burden of proof.

By the way: A marriage protection amendment is not "partisan." That's very important. This was brought up in the thread above.

This is great, one cowardly anonymous commentator quoting another! Ah, the internet is a wonderful thing. Look, if you're in the Sudan (where you probably wouldn't have internet access) or Iran or China, I can understand anonymity otherwise it just signals a complete lack of willingness to take responsibility for one's words.

Further, TUAD's argument is easy to refute.

Show me a single passage where any NT figure makes a clearly political argument. "I appeal to Caesar" is about as close as it comes or perhaps "that old fox" (re Herod). Rom 13 calls a patently wicked 20 year old kid God's "minister." What neither the anonymous TUAD nor the equally anonymous TFan understand is that, according to the Westminster Confession 32.2

2. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his church

and

4. Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.
4.

If ministers fulfill their vocation, to preach the whole counsel of God, to teach people to think like Christians, to see the world as God's Word would have them see it, if they learn wisdom (where there is no direct political counsel in there are entire books in Scripture devoted to wisdom) they'll b equipped to act politically.

Finally, the writers of Scripture generally take direct moral responsibility for their words. There are no cases, of which I know, of intentional anonymity in the NT (the authorship of Hebrews being ambiguous). They took responsibility for their words and many of them died on account of it. Lots of people have spoken up and suffered for it so I'm quite unpersuaded by TUAD's weak defense of of his apparent cowardice.

Here ends my engagement with the anonymous TUAD (and TFAN).

R. Scott Clark, some pastors don't agree with you. In fact, they disagree, quite strongly. Let me give you a transcript of pastor Brad Brandon's thoughts on this issue on this issue from his radio program the other day:

******

You know, you're gonna have to forgive me up front, because I am gonna be coming out on this show a'swinging. There's really no way around this, I'm gonna come out on the show today swinging because of some things that have recently happened...I wanna discuss this here in the opening of the show, and this is the issue of John Piper's message that has to do with the gay marriage and the gay marriage amendment. I wanna discuss this and walk through this because to me this really is an issue that I think there's a lot of misguidance in. And I take issue with John Piper's last point of his message, which I felt, and I'll explain this, I felt negated the rest of the message.

Essentially we have had two mainstream evangelical Christians from large churches, evangelical pastors I mean to say, from large churches, who have come out and essentially said, "Well I'm not in favor of homosexuality, I'm not in favor of same-sex marriage, but I don't think it's the job of the church to get involved." Those two pastors now are Leith Anderson and John Piper, and I gotta tell you, I think these two guys are taking classes from Greg Boyd on how to take stands on issues. I know that I'm naming names here on the program, and I'm not gonna ask forgiveness for that, there are times when names need to be named. And I take a huge issue with Piper's last point in his message, which essentially was, he went on for 7 points telling us all about how gay marriage was wrong and same-sex marriage was wrong, but the last point that he makes, point #8 in his message is, "But you know what, I don't think that pastors and churches really oughta get involved in the issue. It's more of an issue for Christians to get involved with." And I take great issue with that, and I don't even know where to start on this. I think that is the cheapest way out that I have ever heard.

Now I am not making any personal accusations against Pastor Piper. I'm not. I'm sure that he's a great guy personally, I'm sure that he loves the Lord, I'm sure that his ministry reflects that, I'm sure that he's a great pastor, I'm sure there are many people who could call, and we could fill an entire show about how good and godly and god-fearing and loving a man that John Piper is. I get all of that and I say, "Well, then great," but I disagree wholeheartedly with the last point that he made in his message, again, essentially saying, "It's not my job as a pastor to get involved, it's not the job of the church to get involved with the marriage amendment," and he essentially says that churches and pastors should not prompt people, and shouldn't be prompted into political activism. Let me give you some closing thoughts on this, very quickly... I gotta tell ya, to say that leading a church or a pastor, or pressing him or the church into political activism, in the context of talking about gay marriage, or same-sex marriage, or defending traditional marriage, here in the state of Minnesota, is essentially to say that marriage is a political issue.

So again we go back to the argument... all we have to do then is label something a political issue, and all of a sudden pastors and churches shouldn't get involved. I wholeheartedly disagree, I could not disagree more with him on this particular issue. Again, I'm not attacking him personally, but I am attacking this point, I am attacking this philosophy, this ideology that says, "Well, we shouldn't be pushed into political issues." We can as churches and pastors get involved with political issues. Let me tell you something, the Bible says that the church is the ground and the pillar of the truth, and if somebody wants to drag the truth into politics, then by golly guess what, we as Christians and the church and the pastors ought to go there.

And let me make this point as well: If pastors and churches aren't going to lead people, if we're going to leave the dirty work up to the Christians, and we're not willing to get in the trenches, roll up our sleeves as pastors and churches, and lead them into the fight, then who's gonna do that Mr. Piper? Who exactly is going to do that? I think it is the church's job to lead these people into these fights. And furthermore, if I may (I told ya I was coming out swinging, right?) why would you make a blanketed statement saying, "Well, pastors and churches shouldn't get involved with political issues," well that's fine Mr. Piper if you wanna come out and say, "Well, God just hasn't called me into this fight," or "God hasn't called my church into that fight," well Mr. Piper, what if He's called me, as a pastor, into that fight? What if He's called my church into that fight? Are you telling me that I shouldn't get involved in doing something God has called me to do?

********


Mr. Clark, please--Let's not have an argument on Internet anonymity. We disagree on that, and that's that.

As for your biblical argument, what I do not understand is how people cannot see how anachronistic it is to say, "The Bible says nothing about voting" or "The Bible authors or characters don't make political arguments" and conclude, "Therefore, churches shouldn't" or "Therefore, pastors shouldn't."

_Think_ about this. Not a single book of the Bible was written in a context in which either the author of the book or any of the people involved were going to be voting on referendums, voting as members of a legislature, voting for candidates to be their representatives, nothing. That is utterly anachronistic. Representative democracy and/or voter referendums, self-government of any kind, were simply not an issue in those cultural contexts, period. You might as well expect the Bible to talk about the Internet as to talk about taking a position on a constitutional referendum.

As a general rule, the argument from silence, "The Bible doesn't talk about this, therefore it's wrong to do it," is to be treated with a good deal of suspicion. You are doing things all day every day that the Bible doesn't talk about. I can see such an argument from silence if applied to some direct matter of distinctly Christian doctrine which is taken to be quite important doctrinally, though in deference to the ecumenism of this site and my Catholic blog colleagues, I won't give examples. My meaning should be clear. But if we're expecting the Bible to define all the activities that a pastor in America 2012 is permitted to undertake and arguing that if something isn't in the Bible he can't do it, then we're misusing the Bible. Biblical Christians _ought_ to know that.

Let me point out further, Mr. Clark, that there is a lot of content that I have put in this thread, sometimes repeatedly, including in my response to you, that you have not addressed. You haven't, for example, addressed my point that this is not a partisan matter. You haven't addressed the urgency of this _moral_ issue in its manifestation in the political realm for Christians. You haven't addressed the fact that pastors are still citizens but that the theory which I take you to be promoting would call on them not to act as citizens (I've given examples throughout the thread). I mean, there's content here. It would be, I think, a better idea for you to engage with some arguments rather than just quoting the Westminster Confession.

Truth Unites... and Divides misrepresents what Dr. Clark says. Dr. Clark does not say that Ministers of the Gospel do not have liberty to speak to political issues. Dr. Clark says that clerics by virtue of their office in the institutional Church are restrained about speaking to partisan political matters.
Obviously Dr. Clark is capable of speaking for himself; but I am reasonably sure he would have no problem with a cleric sending a note out to his parish convening a study/action group to deal with a social/political issue. Dr. Clark agrees with Abraham Kuyper's theory of common grace and would not object to Christians, as private citizens, forming a Christian political association to fight the sodomite agenda. What he disagrees with is having the institutional Church involving itself in electoral politics.

But Thomas, Dr. Piper takes that to mean that he, Dr. Piper, cannot say to the media, "I endorse this amendment."

There are indeed (I've seen it) pastors who take a clear position on a particular political issue and put their names to it. On a list of endorsers (or opponents) of some ballot measure, one may see the name, "Rev. So-and-So." And sometimes an asterisk will be put in place saying, "This does not represent an official position of Rev. So-and-So's church, ____ Baptist Church."

I pointed this out in a discussion in a more private forum, and my opponent said, quite correctly (it was the only thing we agreed on), that Pastor Piper probably didn't and wouldn't do even that because he is so influential a pastor that his announcement would be taken to have (God forbid) something to do with the church no matter what.

As far as I'm concerned, that's an "I rest my case" moment. So if one becomes an influential pastor, one has to shut up about political matters because the political quietism of the church is more important than one's own citizenship.

R. Scott Clark: "To the degree that ministers are officers of the church and fundamentally representatives of the kingdom of God, they are naturally restrained about speaking to partisan political matters."

Lydia: "By the way: A marriage protection amendment is not "partisan." That's very important. This was brought up in the thread above."

This engenders the following thought-stimulating questions:

(1) What is the definition of "partisan"?

(2) Who defines the term "partisan"?

(3) Suppose a church/denomination and its pastor/leaders take a Biblical position on an issue (such as marriage is defined as one-man, one-woman) and other folks accuse the church/pastor of making a partisan and political stance. The reply of "So what?" needs a cogent, substantive response to undergird its accusation of partisanship and unwanted political involvement.

(4) Following (3), by adopting a biblical position that opposes an anti-biblical position, why shouldn't the church/denomination and pastor/leaders simply shrug off the accusation that it's being partisan and/or political? They are being Salt and Light in a fallen, dark society.

(5) Why should the church/denomination and pastor/leaders permit and allow the secular culture to dictate or circumscribe what it can officially announce via statements or from the pulpit about the Gospel and Biblical Morality? All the secular culture and its leaders have to do is to announce that this or that issue is "political" and then the church pastor and denominational leaders have to shut up and be silent?

1930's Germany and its political powers would have loved that.

Two clear and logically consequent implications come out from Pastor Piper's sermon:

(1) Denny Burk: "It is true that Piper never says in so many words, “Vote for the amendment.” But anyone who thinks that Piper’s position on the amendment is unclear has either failed to listen to the sermon or is being unfair to the content of what he preached. Support for the amendment is the necessary implication of the sermon."


(2) Lydia: "Moreover, he's just pounding and pounding and pounding on the idea that once one becomes a pastor one *should not* take a public position on legislation. If you don't read this as a criticism of the other pastors in Minnesota who have publicly endorsed the amendment, I think you are being somewhat tone-deaf."

Lydia is quite correct here. Piper and the R2K adherents are criticizing in their disapproval of pastors exercising their Christian liberty in taking a public, pulpit position on legislation.

In turn, a good number of Christians are criticizing Piper and the R2K adherents for their condemnation.

Statement of Purpose

"What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: The Jihad and Liberalism."

Lydia: "Piper ought to be a smart enough guy to realize that the "church should be apolitical" meme is being used to great effect by people well to the left of himself who wish to silence the church's cultural witness. His disappointing and confused response to a clear call to arms in the culture wars in his own state, so far from making the church stronger, will only help the cause of the church's enemies."

Me: "... ecclesiastical AIDS syndrome."

Truth Unites... and Divides:

Are you a Bible-believing Christian, Chucky? What do you think?

Yes I am, and I don't know what the marriage amendment does for the Church, for me personally, for my family, or for society in general. That's why I'm asking.


Show me a single NT passage where any ecclesiastical officer (e.g., apostle, pastor, elder, deacon) speaks to ANY political question? In the absence of ANY such evidence we should be very restrained about criticizing a pastor for not speaking up about a civil matter. It seems to me that if it so clear what ministers should do in these cases then there ought to be some clear example or instruction.

I can point to Daniel but I don't see him telling the magistrate exactly what to do. I do see him serving the magistrate as far as his conscience, constrained by the Word, allowed.

Further, I offered two passages from the Westminster Assembly where churches (and by implication ministers) are restricted from speaking to civil matters except in exceptional cases.

Ministers can and should speak to these issues in principle by instructing their congregations in what God's Word says about God's law, about creation, about the divine intention in sexual relations etc. without telling them exactly how to vote.

Prof. Clark says;

"Ministers can and should speak to these issues in principle by instructing their congregation in what God's Word says about God's law, about creation, about divine intention in sexual relations ect. without telling them exactly how to vote."

Amen. Well said.

Show me a single NT passage where any ecclesiastical officer (e.g., apostle, pastor, elder, deacon) speaks to ANY political question?

I'm sorry, but this is an extremely poor argument from silence. Dr. Piper is a citizen in a representative democracy, a form of government not in question in the context of any biblical book. I have already discussed this poor argument above.

I must say, Dr. Clark: You are an academic. You presumably understand the notion of the give and take of ideas and debate. Yet again and again in this thread you have simply repeated your initial statements while, it seems deliberately, ignoring the arguments and points I have made to the contrary. I've pointed this out before. That's surprising in a person of your background. It is what I would rather expect of someone who blogs but doesn't know how to argue.

Further, I offered two passages from the Westminster Assembly where churches (and by implication ministers) are restricted from speaking to civil matters except in exceptional cases.

I do not recall ever in my life taking an oath to believe all and only those things stated by the Westminster Assembly. Is the Westminster Assembly the Protestant equivalent of the Catholic magisterium? Has Dr. Piper, a Baptist who presumably believes in the priesthood of all believers and the freedom and right of all believers to interpret and apply Scripture, taken such an oath? It would surprise me, if so.

Lydia comments:

I do not recall ever in my life taking an oath to believe all and only those things stated by the Westminster Assembly

For reformed protestants the Westminster is to some extent the gold standard or the equivalent of the Catholic magisterium. The Congregational Churches had John Owen draw up the Savoy Confession of 1658. It is the Westminster with the Congregational exceptions. The Baptist equivalent is the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. It is essentially the Westminster with the Baptist exceptions on the sacraments. Charles Spurgeon's adopted a slightly revised version of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.
Prof. Clark offered the Westminster Confession as an example of what has been the historic reformed protestant understanding of the restraint particular congregations. He is a cleric in the United Reformed Churches and as such subscribes to the Three Forms of Unity: The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, The Belgic [or Netherlands] Cofession of 1561, and the Cannons of Dort of 1619. He is not appealing to his own Church federation's confession; but to the best known reformed protestant statement of faith.
Dr. Piper's congregation, Bethlehem Baptist Church, does not subscribe to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.

Oh, well if the Westminster Assembly said it, I believe it!

In all seriousness... isn't the whole point of being Protestant that we don't have to sign on to rubbish like that?

Yeah, "humble petition in cases extraordinary"...Well, attempts by perverts to redefine the fundamental institution of human society should certainly count as an "extraordinary case," but then, we live in extraordinary times. There will probably be more of such "extraordinary cases." I don't know about "humble petition." The voters have a say about the matter, and what is needed are votes for the amendment in Minnesota, not a "humble petition" to anybody.

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