Tag Archives: pluralism

Unity of Churches? What Does the Bible Say?

I think modern calls to unity and ecumenism are wrongheaded. Al Kresta talked about it in the podcast below calling Evangelicals “separated brethren” and I believe Steven Greydanus has said that evangelicals are “sheep outside of the fold” and/or a younger brother of RCC. Thus, we don’t experience the “fullness of the Gospel” because we are not under the umbrella of the RCC. These RCC can correct me if I’m wrong but it seems as if they hope for a formal unity where everyone, including the Orthodox are under the RCC. Evangelicals work with the same assumptions. George Yancey has written about it in, “One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches” and in other places. And progressives actually seem to have no problem coercing others into what they believe. They want everyone to follow their liberal agenda’s, ie., everyone SHOULD be welcoming and accepting of LGBT and SSM (not just between races and ethnicities but anyone who is different). This was something that really struck me as I read, Skillen’s “Recharging the American Experiment.” In there, Skillen’s said that the government should not coerce theological conscience. There are some churches that believe in SSM and some that do not. As we live in a pluralistic society, all should be allowed to exist in their differentiation. By implication, this could be the same for churches between themselves. Churches don’t tell others churches what they should believe with regard to a host of issues. So it should be the same with SSM. Churches are not united for a myriad of reasons—theological, moral, worship style, ethnic, etc. The problem with calls for unity, it seems, is that this is:

1.An ideological utopian vision influenced by modern Kumbaya culture.

2.It is not what Jesus had in mind in John 17.

Here is D.A. Carson on John 17. The John 17 unity prayer needs to be understood within the greater context of the Father’s protection for those who would be followers of the Messiah.

“The constant goal is that the disciples be one as Jesus and his Father are one. Like any analogy, this cannot legitimately be pressed without limit. The unity enjoyed by Jesus and his Father has numerous features that could not be duplicated in the unity among believers. For instance, Jesus and his Father are but two; the believers are many. Jesus and his Father stand together in their creative work (1:1–3); this cannot be predicted of the disciples. Jesus and his Father enjoyed the brilliance of pretemporal glory (17:5); but obviously that unity could not in the nature of the case be shared by temporal creatures. Many other such distinctions suggest themselves on the basis of the fourth Gospel alone. Yet clearly the analogy is important, and must not be robbed of all content by endlessly peeling the onion. Many of the relational ties between Jesus and his Father described by John’s Gospel are functional in nature. Moreover, as chapter 2 of this book demonstrated, if Jesus stands with his Father with respect to man in revelation and authority, he simultaneously stands with man with respect to his Father in dependence and obedience. Within this framework, the Father and the Son enjoy a perfect unity of love, of purpose, of holiness of truth. Now, Jesus prays, so protect these people you have given me that they may be one as we are one: one in love (a theme already stressed, 13:34f.; 15:13), one in purpose (obedience, fruit bearing, witness—all prevalent themes in these chapters), one in holiness (it is not for nothing that Jesus here addressed his Father as “Holy Father,” and will shortly ask him to sanctify the believers), one in truth (they, unlike the world, have come to recognize the fundamental truth that Jesus is the revelation of God). This theme of unity is an important one in Jesus’s prayer. It is picked up again and repeated (17:21, 22, 23), and so we shall return to it in the last chapter of this book—at which time its relevance to the modern church may be usefully explored. For the moment, it may be helpful to note that if the prayer is a request that Jesus’s disciples be protected in order that they may be one in love, purpose, holiness, and truth, it follows that the greatest dangers lie in those things that seek to destroy unity in love, in purpose, in holiness, and in truth. An adequate catalog of such evils, coupled with a careful assessment of their danger, would immediately double the length of this book. Such a catalog would include jealousy, hate, friction, arrogant isolation, selfishness, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, a wretched tongue; for these vices seek to destroy the unity of love. The catalog would go on to mention one-upmanship, an uncooperative spirit, brinkmanship and impatience (which threaten unity of purpose), all kinds of sin (which abhors holiness), and lies, dogmatic half-truths, unwillingness to admit error or sympathetically learn from one another, chronic unbelief (which conspires to obliterate unity in truth). From all such evils, good Lord, deliver us.”

If this is the case, as I believe it is, Sunday morning is not the most segregated hour in America. That is an ideological utopian vision of how one believes things ought to be. James Kalb and of late, Jared Taylor have spoke about some of the sociological aspects of human communities where they expound on the idea of “birds of a feather flock together” and “where we find ourselves naturally.” Let’s face it, it’s right there in front of our faces EVERYDAY. Diversity. Diversity is with us as a constant—as the way of the world. Why do we still have the black race? Why do we Asian peoples? Why do we still have Anglo-Saxon European peoples? Spanish and the sub varieties therein. As said above, people group together for various and myriad reasons. It is still basically the same in schools, in marriages, and in friendships. This is not to say that persons from one group will not venture into another group, but if it is done, it will be done organically without changing the distinctions of that particular group.

Separation of Powers and Religious Liberty

I have been interested in religion/faith and politics from as far back as I can remember. Mostly from my early 20’s. These are the kinds of questions I lose sleep over. Not in an anxious sort of way, just in an OCD sort of way. 🙂 One question that seems to come up time and time again has to do with equal treatment between religion and non-religion in the public square.

A number of years ago, I came across the Kuyperian view of things that gave explanatory power to these questions, however, (at least the materials I have read) they didn’t seem to respond to this question in substantial ways.

Kuyper, if you may recall, talked about the different spheres of society, each having distributive authority from God. For an example, the police have their own authority and a union has it’s own authority. Neither authority should be “omni-competent” taking over the other sphere’s authority. The police can’t take over the union and carry out their responsibility nor should the union do the job of the police. This is essentially what Kuyperians say is an injustice. I personally can bear this out with my job and that of Canadian Customs whom, in the past have expected me to do their job for them at times (I crossed the border fourteen times a night on a round trip. I have never had a problem with American Customs in this regard).

What you see here is what conservatives have always talked about and of which you can read in many of the writings of conservative websites and think tanks from some of their brightest thinkers—a separation of powers— plain and simple. I’m all for this because of my view of human nature. I believe that power can corrupt (not that it does so necessarily) and thus too much power in the hands of a particular sphere or authority is detrimental to the common good.

As an aside, Kuyperian political philosophy is actually conservative in this manner and I came to see this the more I delved into sphere sovereignty. Interestingly, I have a friend of mine who comes to LIBERTARIANISM from a Kuyperian position. Yet, Kuyperians will tell you that sphere sovereignty is different from conservatism and surely different from libertarianism. However, the reason I think Kuyper and conservatism are closer is not because of something I’ve discovered on my own but because it has actually been written about in books like Mark Larson’s book: “Abraham Kuyper, Conservatism, and Church and State’’ where he lays this out very succinctly.

It seems to me that where Kuyperians, conservatives and libertarians all lay their heads down is in this area of separation of powers. They may do so for various reasons but one of the underpinning reasons has to do with justice over-all.

Having said that, I think this touches on the first paragraph of the equal treatment of religion and non-religion in the public square stated above. It’s not so much a question of fairness (for life is hardly ever fair) but one of justice. How do we, as a society, do justice to religious belief and non-religious belief in the public square without establishing one or the other? Again, it comes up time and time again in battles that take place in the courts. For an example, the statue of Satan being placed next to the Ten Commandments in a public square-how does a society do justice to both?

An aside: Satanism is most assuredly a belief system and so I would not say it is UNBELIEF, thus I think it would differ from atheism which seeks to be free OF religious experience. Concerning belief and non-belief though, how does a government seek to do justice to both of those?

At the moment, I’m reading, “Secular Government/Religious People” by Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle

I can’t say much about the book because I’ve just gotten into it other than this:

In there, they argue that a “secular government” is not necessarily hostile to religion and establishes an official religion of secularism. Kuyperianism will tell you that in many respects the role of government is to act in a judicial manner between the differing spheres (something the authors recognize). A further implication of this separation of authorities (authorities here can mean the different religious authorities as well) is that government:

“…does not promote religious worship, oversee religious indoctrination, or exercise religious authority. Instead, that responsibility belongs solely to the people and their voluntary religious communities.”

That being the case then, my question is, can the public “space” be filled with religion or no religion? So coming back to our example of belief and non-belief in the public square, would it be the case of government, not endorsing any particular religion per-se, but by allowing religious belief in the public, is that not essentially a violation of government backed religion? Would it violate the rights of those with “no religion?”

The authors as far as I can tell may get into this question but for now they say that each side:

“…ignores half of the “Constitution’s distinctive way of connecting secular government and religious people.”

That is,

“One group exalts the secularity of the state but dismisses the religious character of the people, and the government’s legitimate responsiveness to that character. The other group denies the distinction between the government and the people, and expects the government to mirror and celebrate the community’s (usually the majority’s) religious identity.”

For me, at this point, “no-religion” IS religion. It IS religious. That to me seems to be an important question I hope the authors address. For there really is no violation of establishment of religion when all is religious. If the character of the people is religious, as the authors say, then atheist or theist, a government is ultimately going to violate, at a fundamental level, one party’s religion.

In Love Again, NATURALLY

Really not getting this. Why does Vines insist that everyone be inclusive? For example, why do I have to have gay friends? Listen, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against having ANYONE as a friend but I do happen to choose who they are for various reasons ie., everything from whether they are involved in crime to whether there are personality conflicts. There are going to be sub-categories of reasons within these as well. For example, the personality conflicts might be based on biases and/or prejudices. They might be based on cultural relevance, political views, etc.

What if my church doesn’t go along with Vine’s interpretation of the Bible? Why can’t Vines find acceptance in a community that accepts him and other gay folk as they are? The idea of pressuring folk through a constant barrage of questions like these is like the “corporate pressure” that churches put on their parishioners to give tithes. They don’t come right out and say it, but you can certainly feel it.

Listen, don’t try to convince me to befriend folks I don’t want to befriend (for the various above reasons). I’m not saying that, say, gay folk should not be “accepted.” I’m not saying that gay folk should be abused or oppressed. As a matter of fact, I think gay folk should find people, and communities and churches that will accept them and be a safe place for them. There are PLENTY of people and places around that will be open to and accepting of them. But please, don’t try to convince the rest of us to be AS accepting. Relationships have to come naturally and can’t be forced. But also, why not just let people and churches be? Forcing them to accept you and all your beliefs is akin to the attempt to eradicate natural ways of people falling in love.

Sectarian Diversity

This is a musing I put up on an Open Theism page that I’m a part of. When I refer to “Greg” I’m speaking of Greg Boyd who is quite influential in open theistic circles.

I want to ask a question but it will be put more in the form of a statement. This is also actually related to other issues as well, for example the “Health and Wealth Gospel” and is something I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time now. But I guess I’m wondering what the “goal” of open theistic theology is. Think of it like this. Say, back in the 1950’s, the “Health and Wealth Gospel” was virtually unheard of. America did start to see the major celebrity preachers come into the spot light at this time, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that we begin to see the “Health and Wealth Gospel” come to full fruition. Since that time, there have been numerous articles and books (not to mention negative press from the secular media) talking about scams and the dangers of the “Health and Wealth Gospel” and yet here we are in 2014, and has the Health and Wealth Gospel gone the way of the do-do bird? Nope. Still here. Fundamentalism. Has DEEP roots in America. LOT’S of criticism of that. Still here. Let’s forward to Open theism. Institutions like the Catholic Church (or at least some leaders) consider it to be a heresay. So my question is, what is the goal of adherents of different religious movements and in this case, open theism? See, I’ve heard people complain when they were a prof at a Christian institution that there was a lack of openness to differing points of view ie., some won’t consider evolution and will even fire someone for teaching such “heretical views.” So what is the solution to all of this? What do open theistic proponents hope to achieve? Will they be not be satisfied until he whole world converts? Or at least the evangelical world? Well, I have news for you. Not gonna happen. Greg said years ago that he wasn’t concerned about the results but rather about being faithful. OK. I get that. But does that not mean NOT TRYING TO CONVERT people to your point of view? I mean, there has to be more to all the energy expended than simply being faithful. There has to be the hope of converts. To see, if not great swaths of folk “jumping the broom” and coming over to your side of seeing things then at least SOME. Is there not also the goal of correction? But is the traditional classical view of God like going to go the way of the do-do bird any time soon? Probably not. So would not a better solution be to accept things the way they are? Preach IN YOUR circles an open theistic view but leave everyone else be? In saying this, I’m not suggesting that one not have conversations with willing participants outside your circle, but should the goal be to convert say, Catholics whom predominantly believe in the classical view? Sometimes we see changes on political and theological issues. There is more acceptance of blacks and interracial marriage than years previous. More acceptance of same-sex marriage. More openness on certain Christian campuses to different points of views. But this isn’t across the board. Institutions will have their “defining lines.” Beliefs and policies that separate them markedly different from others. Call this a sectarianism. But it’s there. All around. For everyone. Is this such a bad thing? I just saw a t-shirt that said, “Be the change.” I’m sure it means personal change that will ultimately affect the world. But again, what is the goal? It’s so vague! Change to see what? Sometimes I think evangelicalism (and the church in general) is rife with an over-realized eschatology. “If I get enough folk to see it my way things will be better!” (as far as that goes).

Satan and Religious Tolerance

Over the last few days I’ve seen on my facebook newsfeed a couple of interesting posts at blogs I frequent. So what I will do is provide two different posts concerning the two different blogs each touching on the issue of religion in the public square.

This first blog posting has to do with this recent news story.

Honestly, I don’t see what the fuss is about. On the one side we have some conservative Christians who may prefer that they get privileged status over other religions and the progressive folk come along and say, “If you’re for religious freedom, what about the religious freedom of those who differ from you?”

That question is a fair one, but my problem is, once again, that there is this sort of lumping together by progressives of those who believe in legitimate religious freedom and those “privileged” conservative Christians. Now, there may be a fuss but that fuss, for the most part, is put up by those conservatives and those who think that a Christian view of politics means either some sort of theocracy or that laws should reflect a strictly Christian bias, ie., this issue right here that we are speaking of, ie., reflecting the Christian religion above the rest. However, this is a narrow understanding of politics and really doesn’t reflect the Kingdom of God as it stands at this moment in history. It’s a carry over from an “over-realized” eschatology.

In other words, as Christian scholars believe, we are at a time normally called, “the already not yet” or an “in-between-the-times.” That is, we taste some of the fruit of the coming Kingdom but not all of it and not in it’s fullness. That time will be ushered in via Christ and could be catastrophic or progressive in nature. It’s this idea that because we taste some of this Kingdom fruit, we tend to think that the Kingdom has arrived already. And if the Kingdom is thought in this over-realized eschatological fashion then that means that justice is thought of this way as well because without the Kingdom we cannot have justice. They are are after-all inextricably connected. With the Kingdom comes justice–ultimate justice. However, if we have the more accurate view that we live in-between-the-times, then that will or should reflect a more accurate view of justice ie., not ultimate justice but pen-ultimate justice. That is, we will have to settle for a justice that is second best. So how does this relate to this Satanic monument that some Satanists want to put up?

Well it relates in that because we Christians have to settle for a less than best justice ie., every one doesn’t worship in truth, ie., it would be great if everyone worshipped the true God of the universe and so everyone must be treated equally with regard to religious belief and practice. And this has been spoken about for some time now by the likes of
Paul Marshall among others, where he says in his book, “God and the Constitution” that there are suggestions within Old Testament Israel for religious tolerance of the foreigners religious practice within the nation. So this should inform us as to the allowance and toleration of sin and evil and other religions.

As side from that, something needs to be understood about religion and government itself. Religion is inevitably not simply a private concern but spills outward into all areas of life. Government doesn’t have the right to define what TRUE religion is and so must protect the right of all citizens to worship as they see fit. A public justice would require government to treat everyone equally in terms of both private and public practice of religion. What government does not have the authority to do is to establish any ONE religion. If everyone is suppose to have the right to practice their own religion then a government establishment of religion would be contradictory in terms of it’s EQUAL TREATMENT of all citizens.

So it seems that if religion is going to spill out into all areas of life which would include the display of religious symbols in public, then it would only seem fair to allow for a Satanist monument. The only question would be one of cluttering the state capitol lawn.