Luther on the Gospel-grace of the Law...

(Tim) At times, it seems best to promote a discussion to the main page. Readers lose track of discussions in the comments under old posts. Here's one such discussion that I'm promoting for reasons I hope are obvious.

It's my conviction that the endless mantra of grace that permeates our Evangelical/Redeemer/Westminster/Campus Crusade/R2K/Covenant world leads to us knowing little of grace because we despise God's Law and repentance.

In the midst of a discussion bearing on this matter, the historian Darryl Hart asked me to clarify what I meant when I spoke of the grace of the Law--that to preach the Law is Gospel preaching and that the Law is our Gospel schoomaster or tutor? Here I respond:

Scripture says:

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

This is the great failure of Gospel preaching in our time, and the reason for the absence of fruit within our churches. We fail to preach the Law, instead trying to save unregenerate sinners from the indignities of repentance. We preach grace without leading souls there through the Law. We repudiate the Schoolmaster. It's the habit of pastors only to address the regenerate within the Covenant Community while outside that Community we gag preachers, leaving Gospel proclamation and conversion to Campus Crusade...

Then, back inside the Covenant Community, we demonstrate we are opposed to the first of Luther's 95 Theses, that our Lord declared the life of the Christian to be a life of repentance.

"Repentance? What's that? And why? Look to your Baptism! Don't let those piety/holiness ignoramuses scare you. You're saved by grace through faith, and this not of repentance lest any many should tremble. It's all of grace, my fine friend--all of grace!"

And Luther's Law for the flesh?

Nonexistent. Hated, even.

"What flesh? Where? Who? Flesh? Forget your flesh, dude. It's all of grace! Look to your Baptism!"

We skip directly to justification and regeneration, bypassing the Tutor given us by God to lead us there. Then, after what we take to be the fruit of regeneration (which is judged by a soul's ability to use the words 'sovereignty' and 'providence' and 'grace' coherently), we skip directly back to justification, bypassing the sanctification without which no man will see God. Willfully conflating regeneration and sanctification, we don't get either right because of our hatred for God's Law and our refusal to use it any way at all--pick any one of the three.

Even Calvin's second use of the Law is effectively strangulated: "Keep the preacher in the church, among the Covenant People. That's His calling--to preach and teach and administer the Sacraments among God's Covenant People who look to their Baptism and the Table of our Lord. What on earth are you doing taking the second use of the law over to the Areopagus? Get your compartments straight! The Apostle Paul was an apostle, don't you know? That's not your calling!"

Truth is, the difference between R2K and Wheaton Evangelicalism is not that Wheaton is antinomian and R2K embraces the three uses of the Law, but that R2K holds to a truncated law that knows little beyond the Sabbath and vows, and R2K has a much more sophisticated explanation for gagging God's Law (everywhere else) than any explanations given by Wheaton Evangelicals.

Over and over, I post this from Luther, believing it provides the perfect diagnosis of the Evangelical/R2K/Covenant Theological Seminary/Westminster/Redeemer/Lutheran grace mantra world of our time. Here Luther speaks of preachers who gag the Law, producing congregations of souls who all alike are "without compunction of conscience."

This, then, for those who want to know how I could speak of the Gospel and the grace of God's Law. Since we're Reformed, I could quote Calvin, but I think presenting this rebuke from the mouth of Luther, instead, carries a delicious irony, and therefore a much greater potency:

* * *

In regard to doctrine we observe especially this defect that, while some preach about the faith by which we are to be justified, It is still not clearly enough explained how one shall attain to this faith, and almost all omit one aspect of the Christian faith without which no one can understand what faith is or means. For Christ says in the last chapter of Luke [24:47] that we are to preach in his name repentance and forgiveness of sins.

Many now talk only about the forgiveness of sins and say little or nothing about repentance. There neither is forgiveness of sins without repentance nor can forgiveness of sins be understood with out repentance. It follows that If we preach the forgiveness of sins without repentance that the people Imagine that they have already obtained the forgiveness of sins, becoming thereby secure and without compunction of conscience. This would be a greater error and sin than all the errors hitherto prevailing. Surely we need to be concerned lest, as Christ says In Matt. 12 [:45] the last state becomes worse than the first.

Therefore we have instructed and admonished pastors that it is their duty to preach the whole gospel and not one portion without the other. For God says in Deut. 4 [:2]: “You shall not add to the word. . . nor take from it." There are preachers who now attack the pope because of what he has added to the Scriptures, which unfortunately is all too true. But when these do not preach repentance, they tear out a great part of Scripture. They have very little good to say about the eating of meat and the like, though they should not keep silent when they have an opportunity to defend Christian liberty against tyranny. What else is this than what Christ says in Mall. 23 [:24]: “Straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel?

So we have admonished them to exhort the people diligently and frequently to repent and grieve over their sins and to fear the judgment of God. Nor are they to neglect the greatest and most important element of repentance, for both John and Christ con demned the Pharisees more severely for their hypocritical holiness than for ordinary sins. The preachers are to condemn the gross sins of the common man, but more rigorously demand repentance where there is false holiness.

...The preachers are to proclaim and explain the Ten Command ments often and earnestly, yet not only the commandments but also how God will punish those who do not keep them and how he often has inflicted temporal punishment. For such examples are written In order to forewarn people, for instance, bow the angels spoke to Abraham in Gen. 19 [:12f.], and told how God would punish Sodom and destroy it with the fire of hell. For they knew that he would tell it to his descendants so that they would learn to fear God.

So too they are to point out and condemn various specific vices. as adultery, drunkenness, envy, and hate, and how God has punished these, indicating that without doubt after this life he will punish still more severely if there is not improvement here.

The people are thus to be urged and exhorted to fear God, to repent and show contrition, lest their ease and life of false security be punished. Therefore Paul says In Rom. 3 [:20]: “Through the law comes (only) knowledge of sin.” True repentance is nothing but an acknowledgment of sin.

Then it is important that faith be preached. Whoever experi ences grief and contrition over his sins should believe that his sins are forgiven, not on account of his merits, but on account of Christ.

When the contrite and fearful conscience experiences peace, com fort, and joy on hearing that his sins are forgiven because of Christ, then faith Is present—the faith that makes him righteous before God. We are to teach the people diligently that this faith cannot exist without earnest and true contrition and fear of God, as It is written in Psalm 110 [Ps. 111:10] and Prov. 1 [:7], “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” And Isaiah says in the last chapter: "On whom does God look except on the trembling and contrite heart?"11

This shall be proclaimed repeatedly, so that the people do not entertain false notions and think they have faith when they are far from having it. It shall be made clear that only If they have faith can they truly repent and grieve over their sins. Without repentance theirs is an imagined faith. True faith brings comfort and joy in God, and we do not feel such comfort and joy where there is no repentance or fearfulness, as Christ says in Matt. 11 [:5]: “The poor have good news preached to them.”

These two are the first elements of Christian life: Repentance or contrition and grief, and faith through which we receive the forgiveness of sins and are righteous before God. Both should grow and increase in us. The third element of Christian life is the doing of good works: To be chaste, to love and help the neighbor, to refrain from lying, from deceit, from stealing, from murder, from vengefulness, and avenging oneself, etc.

Therefore again and again the Ten Commandments are to be assiduously taught, for all good works are therein comprehended.

They are called good works not only because they are done for the welfare of our neighbors, but because God has commanded them, and so they also are well pleasing to God. God has no delight in those who do not obey the commandments, as is stated in Mic. 6 [:8]: “0 man, I will show you what is good and what God requires of you, namely, to do justice. Yea, do justice, delight to do good to your neighbor, and walk humbly before God.”

...Now we have already shown that it is necessary to preach penance, and to punish fearless behavior which is now in the world and has its origin, at least in part, in a wrong understanding of the Faith. For many who hear that they should believe, so that all their sins will be forgiven, fashion their own faith and think they are pure. Thus they become secure and arrogant. Such carnal security is worse than all the errors hitherto prevailing Therefore in preaching the gospel it is necessary in every way to instruct the people where faith may be found and how one attains it. For true faith cannot exist where there is not true contrition and true fear and terror before God.

This is most important in teaching the people. For where there is not contrition and sorrow for sin, there also is no true faith. Thus we read in Ps. 147 1.111. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” God himself also says in Ezek. 3 [ 18] that if the preacher does not condemn the error and sin of those whom he teaches, God will lay the loss of their souls to his account. Such a verdict God pronounced upon that kind of preacher who comforts the people and says much about faith and the forgiveness of sins but nothing about penitence or the fear and judgment of God. Jeremiah, too, condemns such preachers in the seventh chapter [Jer. 6.14]: One should not believe those who cry, Peace, Peace, when God is angry and there is no peace.

We need to fear that God will severely punish these preachers and pupils because of such security. For that is the sin which Is decried in Jer. 6 [.15], “They did not know how to blush." And St. Paul in Eph. 5 [ .5], condemning those who live securely in their perverse ways without sting of conscience, says, “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolator) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them."

* * *

Luther threatens those "many" pastors (and by extension, those elders complicit in this sin of their pastors) who preach forgiveness without repentance, grace without Law. He says "God will severely punish these preachers and pupils because of such (false) security."

God lead us to repent and turn again to faithfulness in our callings.

Comments

Thanks for sharing that. I find it not only useful in consideration of the context that Luther addresses but also helpful as a parent considering how to share and live the gospel with his sons.

It seems to me that the evangelical church de jour (the theeker thenthitive church!) is an unrighteous and unfruitful church because it is a church which lacks the redeeming qualities and character that come from the hand of God's firm discipline. Oh, that's the only kind of discipline which is truly loving.

> R2K has a more sophistcated explanation for gagging God's law than any explanation given by Wheaton evangelicals.

R2K is the most systematic,comprehensive developement of antinomianism to afflict the Church to date. R2K is antinomianism come into its own-a marvel of modern heretical achievement.

I am late to this post, but shouldn't the phrase "look to your baptism" mean repent and turn from your sin? In other words, the problem is not the phrase. The problem is that the antinomians have sucked baptism dry so that it means exactly the opposite of what it means in Romans 6 and in WLC #167. And this turning is a life long act, not a moment in time. Peter Jones, Pastor Christ Church of Morgantown

>>shouldn't the phrase "look to your baptism" mean repent and turn from your sin?

I'm all for repentance and turning from sin but what is your basis for this idea?

Tim, you have no evidence that 2k strangles the law. This is a figment of your imagination. In fact, when it comes to discipline communions and institutions the churches and seminaries where 2k is flourishing show more fruit of repentance that those where its critics and pastor and study.

What is more, for all of your talk about being pastoral, it seems you do not understand that most people have more trouble believing they are forgiven than that their status with God is related to their conduct.

What is actually the case is that 2k advocates are so eager to maintain the law and the depth of human sinfulness that only justification by faith alone and the sufficiency of Christ can yield any hope for a truly repentant person.

But if you want to continue to make up lists of enemies, go ahead. Just watch out for the law that is the 9th commandment.

Another thought here is that in our Gospel preaching, we need to preach Law, but we also need to tell people, as Jesus did, to 'count the cost' of following him.

So, not sure how well this quote from Bonhoeffer fits the discussion, but criticism of doing so welcome:

http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2638

... Cheap grace, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is the failure to take seriously, in faith and in the Christian life of discipleship, the depth of human sinfulness and what it cost God to redeem human beings. In the first chapter of his Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer summarizes what he means by the concept by stating the following:

"Cheap grace," writes Bonhoeffer, "means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before .... Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

"Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has .... Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because if calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: 'ye were bought with a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."

>>Tim, you have no evidence that 2k strangles the law.

Dear Darryl,

If you listened only to what Craig French said here and on your own blog concerning his personal experience while being an R2K disciple, you'd know you shouldn't claim "no evidence." Craig has provided firsthand testimony to the fruit of R2K in his own soul. He may be atypical. He may never have understood your nuances in holding to your unique R2K formulation. He may be lying. But he ought to keep you from making the categorical statement that there's "no evidence." And beyond Craig, I've seen other evidence, also.

The rest of your response is helpful. May you be correct.

Love,

Tim, if Craig's experience of 2k constitutes your evidence, then how far can I go with the evidence of my experience with the brothers Bayly?

>>Darryl: What is actually the case is that 2k advocates are so eager to maintain the law and the depth of human sinfulness that only justification by faith alone and the sufficiency of Christ can yield any hope for a truly repentant person.

Hope for what?

> Hope for what?

Heaven. Christ's redemptive purpose in history is the salvation of individual souls and nothing else according to the R2Kers. History itself is left to Satan and his covenantal representatives (apparently as a consolation prize); and of course there are no covenantal sanctions imposed in history. All Christ's preaching exhorting his followers to establish his kingdom on earth is conveniently dismissed by a hermeneutical sleight of hand. As I stated earlier, combining elements of antinomianism, pietism, neoplatonism, and gnosticism, R2K is a marvel of modern heretical achievement.

Don, did Christ exhort his followers to establish his kingdom on earth when he said "my kingdom is not of this world"? You might want to look in the mirror to see if your Corinthian make-up is on a little thick.

Craig, hope as in my only hope in life and in death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ who fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my father in heaven; in fact all things must work together for my salvation. And because I belong to him Christ by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and able from now on to live for him. (Heidelberg q&a 1)

I am thankful for the whole counsel of God's word. Being now "free from the tyranny of the devil," I can know how to "live for him," at home, in church, in my job, and in all of life.

Dgh

I could construe that passage to mean that Christ's kingdom does not receive its sanction from the world or opperate in terms of its values. We are not to be of this world yet we are in this world. How do you exegete "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" or "the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ"?

Agreed Don. And Jesus continues, in the Dgh reference, to say “...But my kingdom is not from the world.”

And the point would be authority and armed conflict. Christ's authority is not on a par with the authority of nations. If it were, we would expect a martial subduing of these nations.

I am reminded of this quote:

"The ten commandments were not given to the Israelites as a covenant of works, but in the way of the covenant of grace, and under that covert. Ye saw it was Jesus the Mediator that spoke these, Heb. xii. 24, 26. Amongst all the reasons there is not one of terror; but the sweet savour of gospel-grace" -Thomas Boston

In contrast to Boston's summary of what the Reformed confess, R2k proponents often see the law as a "republished" covenant of works, and thus, as always condemnatory. Dr Cornelis. Venema undresses this hermeneutic in the latest "Mid America Journal of Theology," showing why R2k simply has no stable theological basis to affirm the 3rd use of the law. Therefore, neither should we be surprised when we see R2k folk say the Law/Word does not speak to the so-called "common realm".

Yet, it is interesting to note that while R2k-er's argue the Bible is silent on plumbing, farming, chattel slavery, government policy on abortion or homosexual marriage, Darryl does believe the Bible's 9th commandment speaks to internet blogging. We should be grateful for a small step in the right direction.

Mark, but even Kloosterman agrees with me that the Bible doesn't apply to government policy on blasphemy and idolatry. I do wonder when you will ever come out with the culture warrior's Bible -- you know, the one with the parts of Scripture that apply and the one's that don't. Remember the Puritans? They put adulterers to death, just like God's people did when the law functioned as grace.

Don A., I take the second petition to mean what all students of the Shorter Catechism take it to mean: "In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan's kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened."

But Darryl, you don't think the Bible speaks to courtroom oaths, sabbath rest, chattel slavery or abortion, yet you got the Good Book speaking to internet blogging. You really should take a couple of hours and publish an R2k Bible.

But Mark, I do think it speaks to the sabbath and abortion. You simply refuse to acknowledge this in your oh so charitable way. The problem for you is that you think the Bible speaks to blasphemy and that the Bible should inform government law and yet you don't think the magistrate should punish blasphemy.

At least on my view I am not talking out of both sides of my mouth, the way you are when you take Indiana's attorney oath which includes no acknowledgement of Christ as Lord.

But Darryl, your problem is you don't think the government is appointed to protect the sacred ministry so that the kingdom of Christ may advance, so that men may not blaspheme but praise His name. Those of us who subscribe to Revised Belgic 36 settled on an answer to your tired "punishing heretics" strawman, but you've made clear your disdain for Dutch Calvinists like Kuyper.

Glad to hear you think the Bible speaks to abortion, but your problem is that whatever the Bible says about abortion, it doesn't apply to government policy. And yes, you think the Bible speaks to the sabbath, but your problems is you don't think the government has any duty to honor sabbath rest.

Your further problem is that you read the Oath of attorneys and the Indiana constitution almost as poorly as you've been reading the Christian Renewal series by Kloosterman. I understand your angst at seeing the R2k project being dismantled before your eyes, but please brother, don't let that drive you to nip the eggnog while you're reading.

And Darryl, I most charitably desire for you to see that it's your own R2k that doesn't require anyone to be charitable with you. You can't give us a Bible text that regulates the common activity of internet blogging. Why would you declare open season on yourself?

Darryl: "Craig, hope as in my only hope in life and in death is that I am not my own but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ who fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil...And because I belong to him Christ by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and able from now on to live for him."

I hear the first part very often from R2k...I don't hear the latter portions...like ever. As Don pointed out: R2k offers future hope, but I never seen present hope. I don't mean this in a postmil vs amil way. The everyday battle against indwelling sin. Christians who desire to battle are painted as being guilty of "revivalism", "pietism", or some other pejoritive...ism

More often, there appears to be an ever evergreen treaty made with sin while awaiting the freedom of the hereafter. I'm NOT saying you approve of sin, rather, the expectation is "whaddya gonna do? Live and let live". There's a distinct lack of battle. The compartments are so neat that one wonders how Christians ever came to be martyrs.

>>But Mark, I do think it speaks to the sabbath and abortion.

Actually, not.

By any reasonable judgment, a failure to mention abortion in a post and following lengthy conversation concerning the Christian pursuit of justice is to deny that the Bible speaks to abortion. Similarly, if a well-published Christian historian writing in Germany during the Third Reich on the subject of the Christian's pursuit of justice didn't mention the incarceration and wholesale slaughter of the Jews, it would be clear he didn't believe the Bible addressed the Jewish question.

Or, something worse--that he didn't care about slaughtered men and their wives and children as long as they were Jews. Or little babies not his own.

Actually, that's what I think about Reformed men and abortion. Justice is an intellectual pursuit with no victims, blood, oppression, death, or judgment to come, and therefore no action.

R2K is perfectly in tune with everyone else, although it's heartlessness cops a posture as high-minded principle.

Love,

> one wonders how Christians ever came to be martyrs.

If primitive Christians had apprehended R2K's enlightened hermeneutic, all that unpleasantness could have been avoided.

>>If primitive Christians had apprehended R2K's enlightened hermeneutic, all that unpleasantness could have been avoided.

Isn't this a bit overstated? Rome required acknowledgment of the Emperor's divinity. I don't think even R2K would swallow that. I'd still like to hear how R2K addresses the fact that each adult member of our society wields political power (unless they willfully abstain). I'd also like to hear how they would practice their understanding in a society like the 3rd Reich.

David,

I don't think it is overstated. R2k's pluralism is implicitly polytheistic. Multiple law orders presupposes multiple gods. R2k would have proved no more of a threat to Caesar than it does to our current order.

> I'd also like to hear how they would practice their understanding in a society like the 3rd Reich.

They would practice it like rank and file Lutherans did.

Craig,

I question whether ethics can be divorced from eschatology. Eschatology is primarily ethical and only secondarily predictive. After all is said and done, I'm not sure that R2K's civil antinomianism and cultural impotence are not merely the result of a consistently applied eschatology.

Don,

I think for some, R2k does stem *partially* from a particular view of eschatology, but I'm not certain which comes first...the R2k or the particular brand of amillenialism. If one accepts R2k, amil necessarily follows. If one accepts amil, R2k does not necessarily follow.

I tend to be postmil...but I'm not especially committed to it. I think a non-R2k amillenialism is compatable with living as Jesus demands.

>>Escatology is primarily ethical and only secondarily predictive

While I was in the middle of shedding my R2k a postmil friend described me as "functionally postmil". He said I lived inconsistently with my amil profession. Another way to phrase it would be thus:

My ethic presupposed a predictive...so which one is prior? The ethical or the predictive?

If I hold to a postmil view, that entails a certain ethic (so I'm told)...so ethics is presupposed. If I follow a certain ethic, a certain eschatology is entailed (so I'm told)...so eschatology is presupposed.

This is a case where presuppositional jargon can be unhelpful.

Craig,

I'm not sure I know what you mean by "presuppositional jargon"( at least not in our current context ). My point is simply that each of us labors in terms of an eschatological vision, and that vision to the degree that it is consistently adhered to will determine our ethics. Eschatology is an ethical prod that compels us to fulfill a particular mandate. I should not be surprised that a consistently applied amillenialism would tend toward antinomianism.

Don,

I'd rather not derail. Perhaps I saw jargon where there was none.

If we sat down, you might nearly convince me that amil leads to antinomianism...I'm sure I've put less thought into eschatology than you have. I can say that confidently as, outside the Bible, I haven't read anything eschatological since I threw away my John Hagee books circa 1999.

Mark, so you don't think the Bible prohibits blasphemy or idolatry? As long as a church promotes the true religion, even if it permits blasphemy, is doing a good job? Of course not. So which is it Mark, if the Bible is the standard? Should a Bible-based state allow or prohibit idolatry? You're not following the Bible.

And you're not following your own convictions in taking attorney oaths in Indiana.

Here's the oath:

"I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead the court or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law; I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client at every peril to myself; I will abstain from offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged; I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God."

And here's what the state constitution says about maintaining the sacred ministry:

"Section 5. No religious test for office

Section 5. No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for any office of trust or profit.
Section 6. No state money for religious institutions

Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution."

Mark, you're in a pickle of inconsistency. But I guess it helps that you have 2k to beat up on since apparently you don't own a dog.

Tim, by your logic, since you don't mention the sins of idolatry or blasphemy (and even promote music that trivializes Christian worship), may I conclude that you don't believe in the 3rd commandment?

Try to be loving.

The religious test statement are no problem as they only act as a limitation upon state statute.

Darryl, perhaps the eggnog has you pickled rather than my being in a pickle. You missed the oath's acknowledgment that we are to pursue truth and justice, done by the help of God. And you left out both the Preamble and Article 1 Section 1 of the Constitution which likewise acknowledges Almighty God as the source of liberty. I know such First Table acknowledgments are anathema to your system, but there they are.

Mark, and you don't seem to acknowledge that Indiana's and the U.S.'s constitutions grant freedom to blasphemers and idolaters. Where in the history of Christendom has that ever happened? And you take the Bible seriously. Psshaw.

I'm glad dgh quoted the Indiana Constitution. It's good to see specifics like that. As Mr. Van Der Molen mentioned, you left out the most relevant part. It's best if we be careful thinking about law. None of the sections you quoted would prevent Indiana from having laws punishing blasphemy or idolatry with death--- just so long as those things were, like murder and rape, not disqualifications for political office. The Constitution just says that we could make a rape conviction a disqualification for office but not an idolatry conviction.

The following sections, though, are more relevant:

Section 2. Right to worship
Section 2. All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

(History: As Amended November 6, 1984).
Section 3. Freedom of religious opinions
Section 3. No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.

Section 2 actually I would read as saying that only Christians have a right to worship, since the worship must be of Almighty God to be covered by Section 2.

Standing alone, I would interpret Section 3 as forbidding laws banning idols, but in context, perhaps it just forbids laws banning idols of anyone but Jehovah and Christian saints.

All that is quite aside from whether anti-idolatry laws would be prudent and good or not. It's just that it's not clear to me that the US or Indiana Constitutions rule out such state-by-state laws.

Eric, exactly what part of "no religious test" do you not understand?

The part Eric doesn't understand is that, since there's to be no religious test, the slaughter of unborn children must be legal. After all, it's a religious issue where one's opposition to that slaughter can only be the product of one's private religious convictions, and therefore beyond the ken of the civil magistrate.

This has been the case for well over fifty million unborn children just in these United States, now, and after listening to you talk for quite a while, I wonder if this state of affairs is not rather to your liking? You're personally opposed to abortion, but when it comes to the actual slaughter of fifty million souls, that precious "no religious test" in our civil compact provides wonderful cover for mute dogs that don't want to bark.

It reminds me of Teddy Kennedy. Facing death, he wrote a letter to the Vatican trying to explain all his high-minded principles for why he couldn't bark, but that letter got him nothing other than a carefully worded rebuke. And rightfully so. But of course, there's an easy way out of this dilemma. Teddy Kennedy was our civil servant and not a minister of the Word and Sacrament, right? Ah yes, those precise categories that provide such comfort to those who like not feeling any duty to bark.

And now, the same with sodomy: opposition can only come from deeply personal and private religious convictions, they say, and since it's entirely inappropriate to encode any religious test, one may claim to be personally opposed while recognizing a sodomite's right to choose. It sounds like Tony Campolo and his helpmate, doesn't it?

And soon, the same with incest and bestiality. There's no law bearing the slightest relationship to the second table of the Law that can't be made out to be a religious test, and so we're taken right back to the land of Canaan and we sit at the edge peering down into the slime, partly amused, and partly anticipating that day when... His will is done on earth?

Or that day when God will see that our cup of wickedness is full and He will make the land vomit out its inhabitants. But hey, the people of God will enter and begin to harvest apples we did not plant while occupying houses we did not build?

Trouble is, we've been living in the land and we've been corrupted by its evil practices and we've had shepherds who failed to prophesy against the wickedness and warn of the coming judgment, so the land's wickedness is our own. We are all Canaanites, now, because our prophets are mute dogs who cannot bark. There is no fear of God in the land, the Evangelical Church has gagged it with dispensationalism, and Reformed churches have gagged it with grace and endless patter about moralism, legalism, and elder brotherism.

Christians other than Anabaptists (which I think you are not) have always sought the enforcement of the second table of the Law by the civil magistrate--things like people not lying when they sign or live under contracts. Christians other than Anabaptists have always honored God's Word which tells us to obey those in civil authority over us knowing that their sword keeps us and our covenant children, too, from evil.

The idea that the civil magistrate should not enforce God's Moral Law is simply foolish, but where that foolishness comes from and what motivates it seems easy to see.

Peace, peace where there is no peace.