Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Should Social Conservatives Set Their Views to the Side for the November Election

Laurie Higgins from Illinois Family Action writes:
“The Republican governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, recently called for a “truce” on the divisive social issues. Republican governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, concurs saying, “Any issue that takes people’s eye off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits, debts is taking your eye off the ball.”
Earlier I asked, if one of the “social issues” that divided the country were not the slaughter of the most defenseless but were instead the enslavement of African Americans, would these same “moderates,” be chastising conservatives for refusing to subordinate social issues to fiscal issues?
When social conservatives retreat from the cultural and political debate, the cultural and political views of the public are shaped by those who are publicly engaged. Our retreat creates a vacuum that leftists are only too glad to fill with false moral propositions and destructive legislation. Soon there won’t be enough conservatives who think rightly on fundamental social issues, and the ones who do will lack the courage to speak. Society would be much better served by heeding the words of John Adams who said, “Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody….If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not.”
It should be noted that a truce requires that both sides agree to a cessation of activity. Surely, some have noticed that Democrats aren’t participating in the truce. In fact, carnivorous leftists are licking their chops while waiting to devour the carcass of social conservatism. And while they await its demise, they engage in ever more fevered efforts to advance their pernicious goals to preserve the right to annihilate the unborn and destroy the family.
No, Daniels and other likeminded conservatives are not calling for a truce; they’re effectively calling for a forfeit.”
While economic issues are important, I believe Laurie is correct. While social conservatives are pressed to drop their issues and vote for so called moderates, the other side is going on the offensive to dominate social policy and the party. The Manhattan Declaration signers and others have made some progress in refusing to be cowed and continuing to press on social policies as well as economic policies. And it is well that we should.
The reasons America is in trouble in our time are not purely economic. America is in trouble because Christians who believe in and live out the Christian world view and Biblical ideals are not the dominant culture makers and leaders in our society. Instead the church is often failing to teach the truths of the Biblical world view and how they apply to life. We in the pews are failing to learn and live as we should. And in the end, we do not even take significant part in most of the institutions that shape the culture. Without more really Christian University professors, artists, movie makers, and writers doing high quality work that reflects the good in a compelling way (e.g. Bach and Burke), it is no surprise we cannot find solid Christian candidates for political offices who understand law, human nature, and the limited ability of governments to solve problems.
In turn, if we keep electing people who believe the wrong things about human nature and human dignity, about rights and the sources of rights, and about governments and what they can and cannot accomplish, we will continue to get corruption, bad laws, foolish priorities, and selfish “legal” graft from our law makers. Social issues ARE important, because they are bellwethers of a person’s true beliefs and priorities. A politician who does not understand why he should be against abortion on demand and against gay “marriage” does not understand human dignity, human rights, and the rule of law. Such a person is not going to make wise choices in the long run about “economic” issues either, no matter what they tell you between now and Election Day.


Ryan Rickard said...

Are you opposed to undeclared wars and the killing of civilians? Is your foreign policy based on the golden rule? With all due respect sir, the church is in fact losing its grip because the church has lost her mind. What happened to Augustine's Just War theory and the gospel setting our foreign policy? Are you as vocal about that as gay marriage? Why do you want this artificial state to define ANYBODY's marriage?
You write: "A politician who does not understand why he should be against abortion on demand and against gay “marriage” does not understand human dignity, human rights, and the rule of law." Marriage is FUNDAMENTALLY a "religious" institution and not one that needs or begs for state endorsement and thus do Social Conservatives really want to go around forbidding a "religious" practice among consenting adults. Please don't misunderstand me, homosexuality is wrong, evil and sinful, but is this the fight Christians and Social Conservatives really want? Let's bring our troops home, save hundreds of billions of dollars a year, apply the golden rule to our social lives and foreign policies then hold meaningful rational discussions on our place in society. But until Social Conservatives stop calling for blood in unjust and undeclared wars, it is hard to take you or other Social Conservatives seriously.

Donald McConnell said...
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Donald Mcconnell said...

It is true that one problem within the church is a sort of "my earthly country is always right" approach to foreign policy. By contrast, I pacifism is also common in the church in America today. Then too, many people in America lack an accurate understanding of the law of war or just war doctrine. I myself believe in classic Christian just war theory. But I see the facts a bit differently than you do.

First, apart from whether they were the most prudent choices, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are actually "declared" wars and can be seen as within the just war concept.

Both wars were authorized by congress. A "Declaration" of war does not need to have the word "declaration" in it in order to be one any more than a contract of a will is required to name itself. The important thing is the act of approval, authority, and warning. Both wars are also supported internationally by United Nations resolutions.

As for the just war ideal, you have to consider the victims of a government as well as as the people of a government in considering if a war is just. Both Sadam and the Taliban were objectively evil governments who created mountains of victims and would have continued to do so. While no nation can take on all the evil in the world (perhaps it should focus most on its own, however small in comparison, it is reasonable to say there was a moral duty for someone to take on Sadam and the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

While you may disagree about the calculus of lives and treasure involved in choosing such wars, I don't thjink it is really fair to say they are clearly unjust or that they are illegal. Such rhetoric is unjustified by a reasonable interpretation of the facts.

Next, as for civilians, all wars cause civilian casualties. So long as real non-combatants are not targeted for non-military reasons such casualties, while very sad, are not illegal or inherently immoral in a just cause. I would add that neither I nor a proper historical understanding opf the law of war, regards Al Qaeda fighters as "civilians." They are illegal combatants; the worst offenders of the law of war and legally worse than pirates. We must love our enemies; in this case love is to pray for their repentance and to take deadly military efforts to stop them so they cannot continue to do evil to others on a global scale.

Ryan Rickard said...
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Ryan Rickard said...

Thank you Professor for a quick and thought out response. It is exactly this kind of dialogue that I believe is needed in order for the church to be effective.
Congress did in fact ALLOW the President (then Bush and now Obama) to engage in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however they did not issue a declaration of war as they did against the Third Reich in WWII as the Constitution requires. As Christians I think we can agree in the wisdom of the framers in giving declaration of war powers to the congress rather than an individual as our sinful nature is way too powerful to allow one single individual the ability to engage in such actions. Some 50,000 mothers no longer get to celebrate Christmas or life with their children that died in Vietnam, also undeclared by congress...and this is no trivial number. And for what? So we could attack this foreign boogey man? Then it was communism, now it is "Islamo-fascsim", what will this great evil be in 20 years?
As Christians we believe the entire globe to be made of evil, God-rejecting sinners, but why do we discriminate against specific ones? Castro was a monster in the 50's, 60's and 70's and we did nothing. Haiti has been oppressed for 180 years and we do nothing. Saddam committed horrible acts against his people in the late 80's and yet we waited some 15 years to call him out on it. If he was so evil, why was he not disposed of in the first desert war?
Again I ask...where is the golden rule in our foreign policy? Who get's to define "evil" and when does that "evil" become so great that we go on the OFFENSIVE with tax payer dollars? What if China all of a sudden decides that the US is "evil"? Will you consider their invasion just? Chavez is "evil", why don't we attack him? Putin is ex-KGB, should we attack Russia? Africa is a hot-bed of evil acts, let's go play moral police with tax dollars down there.
DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU. Our Savior was right! Do we want people attacking us if they arbitrarily decide that we are evil?

Ryan Rickard said...

It is BECAUSE ALL WARS cause civilian casualties that we have to be that much more careful. Our pretense was wrong-WMD's-and yet you remain unapologetic for even 1 undeserved civilian death. And no, I am no referring to Al Qaeda fighters as civilians. I am referring to actual civilians of both countries that have died as a result of our presence, ESPECIALLY when the pretense for our presence has been proven invalid.
Allow me to ask professor...how many innocent civilians deaths are acceptable to you? 10? 100? 10,000? If life is as sacred as SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES declare, then you know the answer sir. ZERO! And examining the Old and New Testaments of our Scriptures will only reinforce this number.
The Gospel of Christ demands we respect lives, after all this is the mantra of SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES when promoting a just Pro-life position. Yet your foreign policy is far more flippant with the value of a life. Why? Because they are Muslim?
Would Paul condone such OFFENSIVE war practices? I am not a pacifist and your label as such is inaccurate, as I do see a just DEFENSE such as the American Revolution where we were attacked by a hostile Britain and we protected and defended our property. But would Paul encourage military action against the unregenerate for acting like...unregenerate? That seems not only silly, but hypocritical as well.
It may seem trite, but where is the golden rule in your Social Conservative agenda?
You write:"We must love our enemies; in this case love is to pray for their repentance and to take deadly military efforts to stop them so they cannot continue to do evil to others on a global scale." What? Where is that verse? I get the first part, but where on earth did you surmise the latter? Paul knew evil regimes and oppression. Christ knew of evil tyrants and dictators. Yet I don't read anything close to what you are proposing. This brand of Christianity is scary sir, and borders on the rationale used to justify the Inquisitions and Crusades. Will the world really observe our military conquests and reach YOUR conclusion that we were just "loving our enemies"?
Again I repeat, where is our Golden Rule? Answer that and you will see why your foreign policies and social programs are like chasing the wind.

Ryan Rickard said...
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Ryan Rickard said...
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Donald McConnell said...

As to your first reply to my response to you, The Congress has just as much approved of the curent wars as they approved WWII. The requirements of the constitution have been met. If you want a more florid and specific language of comitment, that is OK, ut it is not a legal requirement under the Constitution.

It is true we are all sinners, but some sins and some acts require action by nations or individuals to protect others.

Fascism and Comunism were real dangers and resulted in the deaths of millions of civilians before the WWII axis powers and later the Soviet Union fell. Thankfully we never had to fight a hot war against the USSR, but most of the small wars in the world at the time were fueled by their ideology, money, arms, and epionage. When the USSR fell, the number of small wars in the world went into rapid decline and has remained at a lower level despite the current conflicts involving radical Islam.

I don't think the problem with "enemies" is caused by the victims of totalitarian regiemes. The problem is both due to human nature and to the very real work of spiritual evil in the world - ever working to subjegate mankind and smother the truth. The battle never ends and has many levels. Our greatest struggle is within our own hearts as individuals. Then there is the problem opf crime and the problem of false ideas within every community - even our own. Then on the wotld stage we have always had and always will have groups and nations who want to enslave people in error and ignorance. America, like all nations is a mixed bag since our alies and trading partners get Planned Parrenthood and Playboy as well as support for religious liberty and free trade. I think some of our support for religious intollerance in places like Saudi Arabia is intolerable. But we are not yet demanding atheism of whole nations. On the ballance, we are still working for good more than bad.

There is an objectove standard of evils. China and the US are not moral equivelants,

It is not always appropriate to go to war to solve every global problem. We could not succeed in the attempt for one thing. On the other hand, that does not mean we should never go to war to coombat an international evil.

As for the golden rule, I seek to follow it. If I lived in a nation where a dictator or oligarchy had a totalitarian grip on my society, was killing and torturing thousands without due process, brutalized women, prevented people from hearing the gospel or getting an education in truth, and was preparting and ploting to attack other nations in unjust wars, I would happily pray for a stronger and more nobel country to use whatever just cause was available to do whatever was necessary to bring change to the situation - evne war if it came to that. I would want someone to think about doing for me what I would be williing to do for them - namely doing something about a really evil government.

If people do not opose the agressive totalitarian governments and gropups of the world they will not sit back and enjoy their power. They will spread their darkness till it covers all of human kind.

I find it odd that you can see the justice in teh American revolution, but that you will not oppose far worse evils than 18th century British colonialism.

Tim M said...

Wow, Ryan - that's a lot of focus on one subject (Iraq/Afghanistan). Especially your focus on the lost lives ("how many are acceptable?.."). Here's the difference in focus for social conservatives: for as many soldiers that have died in eight years of the war in Iraq, nearly that many are murdered *every day* by their mothers in the US. There are other concerns with the war, but compared with abortion, it's a drop in the bucket.

As to gay marriage (forcing religious institution on the public), if it passes it's guaranteed to impose moral views from public schools onto Christian children (that homosexuality is okay). That's worth fighting for.

Professor McConnell said...

You are right that all qwars cause civilian casualties and that we need to be careful. Considering the use of force always requires prudence, prayer, proper authority under the circumstances, a reasonable chance of meeting a worthy goal, and a careful ballancing of the costs. Sometimes significant civilian casulties are a necessary evil to prevent even worse problems for civilians down the line. Lots of civilians died in WWII, but I sudder to think of the costs of an early negociated "peace" in that war.

As for WWMD and Iraq, I am not so certain as you that we were completley wrong on that count. Inteligence and foriegn policy are odd creatures. You are alos iignoring all the other causes of the war - violation of the peace agreement by Iraq, Iraqi attrocities and genocide, etc. The war may have been the wrong decision in rhetrospect, but there were certainly reasonablwe arguments for the attempt at the time.

Ryan Rickard said...

What about the atrocities committed by the US and the UN, such as the sanctions that caused the death of 500,000 Iraqi children? Can you get your hands around that number? That number confirmed by the UN and the US Ambassador to the UN, saying the "price was worth it". Was it? Is that evil? Is that a foreign policy based on the Golden Rule? Or are you under the impression that our foreign policy is infallible? Sir, that is a HALF-MILLION children DEAD. Because we cant or wont mind our own business. If that is not EVIL, than what exactly qualifies?

Ryan Rickard said...

I agree with you that abortion is murder and evil. I also agree with you that homosexuality is an abomination and sinful. But if I understand you correctly, you are concerned that a non-christian institution (i.e. public schools) will be teaching non-christian values (i.e. being gay is fine). Isn't that what the Apostle Paul told us would happen? Do we now fight the symptom and not the disease? Fine, go ahead and fight gay marriage and maybe you will win. But to what end? The gay community is still damned to hell so what real progress did we make? Their eyes are blinded Tim, by the enemy and their own depravity and rather than pray for that group, you forbid them to practice a religious ceremony? Make no mistake, marriage is in fact a religious ceremony that only recently became STATE sanctioned. Why on earth do I need the state of California to DEFINE who my spouse is? Isnt that between God, my wife, and myself as well as "the community" we live and fellowship in? The better argument then is not AGAINST gay marriage but AGAINST THE STATE DEFINING ANYBODIES MARRIAGE! Do you need the state to define who your friends are too? Do you REALLY care if two gay men want to profess a exclusive relationship amongst their friends and family? That is the fight we want? The Apostle Paul seemed more concern with sharing the gospel than legislating a moral code. After all it is the GOSPEL ALONE that will cure the disease (sin) AND the symptom (homosexuality). And thus it is the gospel that should be the greatest tool social conservatives use. Instead they rely on courts.

Professor McConnell said...

First, I don't believe Sadam's numbers about the dead children. Second, Sadam and his government's decisions were the proximate cause of the death of any children who did die during UN sanctions.

I an escaped mass murderer takes a dozen hostages and tells the police surpounding him to leave or he will start killing the hostages, is it the fault of the police if he shoots a hostage? Are they blameworthy for not letting him go to continue killing becauser they put the hostages at risk?

Professor McConnell said...

The gospel is of the highest importance. But part of loving our neighbors is contributing to the decisions of the republic in which we live. Good laws cannot make a bad culture obey God. But laws do have a real influence on culture - oparticularly in hyperlegalized cultures like ours where people mistakenly think that if it is legal, it must be OK.

Mariage is a divine ordination and not a creation of the state. But the state has to make laws concerning how people live. If two people claim the right to raise a child, the state must have some laws to decide whichj person gets the child. Those laws should be in accord with the divine order, not in opposition to it.

You touch on the real problem - if the laws of the state recognize gay mariage they are going to teach children in school that homosexual conduct is good and normal and healthy. They will also teach that people and books that speak out against homosexuality are bigotted and evil. While I believe inteh sov. power of God, I also note that under his sov. events still usually have the expected consequences most of the time. The consequences of gay mariage laws will be heartbreaking damage to children, persecution of the church, fewer believers in Christ, and great human missery. And noe of it has to happen. Believers are not a tiny slivery of the populations. They are more than enough to control the outcome of any election if they will stand up for the truth.

Some pietistic Christinas are always eager for evil to triumph on earth so they can be martyrs. I don't think that is Biblical. To paraphrase Jesus: "offenses are inevitable, but woe unto those who cause them." In a republic, if we do not use the rights of citizenship (as Paul used his by the way) we are to blame for the offenses that will come.

Ryan Rickard said...

Thank you Professor for your timely responses in this ongoing (and maybe never ending) discussion. I value clarity over agreement and I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to hold this online conversation with me. I hope that my tone comes across and genuine and respectful and never as condescending.

The numbers that I site on the effects of the UN Sanctions come from a UN report, not Sadam. In addition, Madeleine Albright (then US Ambassador to the UN and later Secretary of State)confirmed them.

If you google IRAQ WATER TREATMENT VULNERABILITIES, you will see a document that proposes the danger of Iraq's water resources if not treated. Maybe a coincidence then that the US bombed 7 of Iraq's 8 dams causing a sever shortage of drinkable water. But what do I know?

Even conservative estimates place the death toll at 170,000. Looks like we sure taught Sadam a lesson. A lesson I propose that is NOT rooted in the Golden Rule. A lesson FAR to many Social Conservatives seem to more than comfortable looking the other way on.

Ryan Rickard said...

Professor, you wrote: "The consequences of gay mariage laws will be heartbreaking damage to children, persecution of the church, fewer believers in Christ, and great human missery".


You make it seem that the passing of this law will spell doom for the Gospel. In fact it will probably result in the exact opposite. Just like Obama's presidency has been GREAT for social and economic conservatives because the radical has a way of waking the opposition up. I agree when Dobson stated that a blow-out is better than a slow leak. The same may be said for the passing of gay marriage laws. The voters of our state (far from being a socially conservative state) voted against gay marriage and now COURTS will over ride the voters. This is going to provoke tremendous backlash against the establishment. We may very well see the same thing if/when marijuana use becomes legal in November and the Feds attempt to block that.

But I digress. Persecution of Body of Christ is ALWAYS healthy for the Body of Christ as the Gates of Hell CANNOT prevail against her. So this talk of impending doom on the church if gay marriage is allowed is nonsense. The church may in fact begin to revive and use this decision as fuel to wake up. Your fear sir, seems cowardly and unnecessary. I wonder how much faith you TRULY have in our God's righteous sovereignty.

As Alexander Pope once stated: Cease, then, nor Order imperfection name;
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit: in this or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless'd as thou canst bear;
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

Ryan Rickard said...

You write: "Those laws should be in accord with the divine order, not in opposition to it."
I whole heartily agree with you sir. But I wonder if Social Conservatives agree with you? Are drug laws in accord with the divine order? What about polygamy? Where does God EVER endorse prison as a means of punishment or rehabilitation? Yet social conservatives act as if these laws are all God ordained. Can you tell me where in the scriptures drug use is prohibited or better yet criminal? Polygamy? Prostitution is criminal here, but is that in accordance to divine order? Poor God could only come up 613 laws, what He really needed was our help since we know better than Him how to guide the morality of a country. Prisons????? Please.

This is the fundamental problem of Social Conservatives, especially in the Evangelical Community. They are mad at the world for ACTING like the world. They are in fact behaving like they are supposed to behave and rather than spend so much time, energy, and money on more and more legislation (wasn't it Piggy from Lord of the Flies who proclaimed, "RULES RULES RULES, we've gotta have RULES"?) we should be giving them the one tool that will actually help them, the gospel of our Lord. But I realize that this is all pretty consistent with your evidentialist apologetic.

You were right, the Divine order is right. But more than that it is also sufficient. Now we need the Gospel and Prayer and Humility and Fasting and Brokeness, and maybe then we could get our own house in order before we pull the sliver out of the heathen's eye.

Professor McConnell said...

The church will prevail as a whole because Christ will prevail. But persecution can and has destroyed most of the church in a number of countries that have never recovered. Look at the history of Japan, north africa, the arabian peninsula, and central asia. Millions are prevented from hearing the gospel in an open way by past persecution and/or bad laws.

The gospel is the most important thing for sure. But life on earth still has to include other things like food and water and education and human laws. Just because people believe the gospel and become Christians does not mean they automatically think and do the right thing about everything. If they did, we would not have anything to argue about would we?

The Bible does not teach that human laws are unnecessary or undesirable. God created a system of human laws for Israel that allowed addition and change based on new circumstances. We no longer live in an ancient agrarian society. So within the broad constraints of God's moral order we need some new laws.

I admit prison is nott a good remmedy for most crimes - especially not the way we run prisons. The Bible did forbid the use of mind alttering drugs though - that is part of what is forbidden in the prohibition list of occult forms. Drug laws may not be optimal, but autopmiobiles and drugs don't mix well. Neither does near universal health care and legal drug abuse.

The radical libertarian ideal is attractive in some ways, but it does not work in the real world.

Ryan Rickard said...

You write: "God created a system of human laws for Israel that allowed addition and change based on new circumstances"
Ummmmm sir? Are you just making this up? Where is that written? I read the EXACT opposite in Deut. 4:2.
You write: "The Bible did forbid the use of mind alttering drugs though - that is part of what is forbidden in the prohibition list of occult forms."
Not really buying this one either. Galatians 5:20 does forbid sorcery and I grant that the Greek word is pharmakia, but isn't it clearly implied that this would forbid drug use specifically TIED to sorcery and certainly you don't believe that the bulk of drug use in America is a form of sorcery? Drug use in this country is overwhelmingly used to mask or band-aid the pain that individuals face in light of their depravity. But yet again, you and other social conservatives are more interested in legislating a cure for the symptom rather than for the disease.

Ryan Rickard said...

You write: " Drug laws may not be optimal, but autopmiobiles and drugs don't mix well."
Sir, you are a smart man, but you can't possibly believe this logic do you? I could create a list ad infinitum, ad nauseum of things that do not "mix well" with driving a car, should we CRIMINALIZE all of them? Or is society better off offering a general disclaimer that driving requires RESPONSIBLE behavior and any and all IRRESPONSIBLE behavior mixed with driving can and will lead to consequences? And again you miss the point. Is drug use considered CRIMINAL for the sole purpose of protecting other drivers on the road? Are the bulk of convictions related to drug use tied with the offender's driving habits? Don't be silly sir.
Let's tell the truth instead of conjecture. When the state of Texas moved to CRIMINALIZE pot, a state senator declared, "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy." What are the chances we could find that senator in church Sunday morning? How about Harry Anslinger, former head of the US Bureau of Narcotics, "the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races." Great.
How many BILLIONS of tax-payer dollars have been spent trying to legislate bad habits?

Ryan Rickard said...

You write: "The radical libertarian ideal is attractive in some ways, but it does not work in the real world."
Strange, I hear this exact same argument used by non-believers against Christians. Shame on me for wanting to see a genuine Judeo-Christian ethic in practice. But I guess it is either too hard, too impractical, or would require too many people to actually care about God's word. I wonder how you can say that "it does not work in the real world" when I am not sure how many times it has even been tried.
It seems to me that when God wanted to start a nation, He needed 613 rules. When did our wisdom exceed the Almighty's?

Professor McConnell said...

A commenter recently said they did not believe the law of ancient Israel was allowed to incorporate change. As this is an important issue, I thought I would say something about it here on the main blog.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2 says:
“ 1 Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”
By this God meant that no one should claim God gave commands he did not give or claim that commands God did give were not given by Him. He clearly did not mean there would be no additional revelation from God because there obviously was additional revelation. He also did not mean to bar common law judicial decisions or additional human laws for Israel. I have reasons for believing this:
1) Look at the example of the case of the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers chapters 26, 27, and 36. The law was modified to deal with a new circumstance, thereby setting the precedent of common law development.
2) Historically, the Mosaic Law did provide for common law style human legal additions. The rabbinic method of expounding the law to new circumstances actually influenced the development of English and American common law methodology.
3) That is how ancient law codes of this type worked and were understood. The Ten Commandments, or the ten words and they are known to the Jews, are the core principles of the code. The other “commands”, like “if a man steals a sheep . . .” etc are exemplar analytic dispositions to serve as guidelines for judges on how to apply the principles in the central Ten Commandments.
4) In practice it has to be that way. No legal code can deal with all possible future human conduct. Additional common law rulings and or statutes will be necessary to deal with new technology, new scams, new threats, and new business patterns that did not exist when the code was made.
5) Better and brighter men than I have interpreted scripture this way. For example, look at the collective teachings of John Calvin in the Institutes.
The Bible also never says other nations have to have exactly the same laws as ancient Israel. These laws were given by God to Israel. Because they came from God, it makes sense to pay attention to the timeless truths they embody. But, a code for an ancient agrarian people is not adequate for a country with cars, computers, nuclear reactors, and banks.

Professor McConnell said...

As for the question of illegal drugs, I am using an understanding of Deut. 18:9 – 12:
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.” –– Deuteronomy 18: 9-12.
My understanding of “sorcery” is that the ancient practice involved the use of mind altering drugs. As you acknowledge, the Greek word for sorcery is”pharmakia.” And actually, I do believe that this passage forbidding the use of drugs purely to obtain an altered state also would apply to people who “get high” for recreational purposes. The problem with such practices is not merely the intent of the practitioner, but the affects of the practice. Drug abusers don’t need to think they are doing “sorcery” for drug use to be bad for them and contrary to Biblical norms of proper use of creation and proper care for our bodies. Contrary to the modern and postmodern dualisms of our culture, the body is a real part of the real you and should be treated with dignity, care, and respect, not manipulated to produce thrills for your consciousness.
As for your’ treating the symptom instead of the cure mantra, as I have said before I do believe in preaching and teaching the gospel – so I believe in the cure. But I do believe in treating symptoms. When someone has an operation, we give them anesthesia, when someone has a high fervor, when try to cool them. Treating symptoms is part of having love and compassion for people and is an application of the Golden Rule.
I think you have a misunderstanding of the purpose of law and government. Romans 13 and I Peter tell us the purpose of government is to punish evil and encourage good. The Bible is saying this about all governments, not just Israel’s. In fact, both Paul and Peter must have had the Roman government in mind at the time. The Bible traches that all human beings have acces to knowledge of the difference between good and evil. So while no government is perfect, it is not impossible for governments to do their job. This is not to say all evil can be punished or all good rewarded; practical wisdom must be used to judge what can be done and what cannot. The bible rejects the mo9dernist notion that we cannot agree on an understanding of “the good” for practical purposes like basic laws and government. It may be hard, but objective good does exist and we do have more than enough knowledge of what it requires. It is our sinful natures that get in the way. Because of human sin and its effects, what government can accomplish is always limited. And, many things are more withion the efficient and proper purposes of the family, the church, universities, businesses, and other organizations. Nevertheless, the obligation of government is fundamentally connected to punishing evil and encouraging good from a Biblical perspective.

Professor McConnell said...

First, there are no good tests for determining when a person is intoxicated by a drug like there are for blood alcohol; so, basing arrests on being high while causing traffic violations is a problem. Better to limit access to recreational drugs to begin with. Lots of people in our society believe “if it’s legal, it’s Ok.” So, if recreational drug use were legalized, it would increase. The use of drugs would result in additional accidents and deaths, not just from negligent driving, but in the use of all sorts of heavy equipment. Dealing with government bureaucrats and customer service people is difficult enough without a large percentage of them being “high.” England and America had legalized use of drugs in the late 1800’s. The destruction of lives and property that resulted were a large part of why they are criminalized today.
Second, racism on the part of a few legislators is no argument against particular laws. Not everybody who voted for drug laws did so for racist reasons. The failure to repeal drug laws is not for racist reasons today. Your argument about the racism of two law makers is irrational and relies on an informal fallacy.
If you want to say drug enforcement is done poorly, or is too expensive, those are viable arguments about which reasonable people can disagree.

Professor McConnell said...

You are begging the question in your last post. I have been laying out for you what I understand a Christian ethic to require. But you disagree. That is your right.
Libertarianism is not a genuine Christian ethic. It is based on a world view that says the citizens of a state cannot agree on what “the good” is because there is no objective understanding of “the good.” By contrast, the Bible teaches that the purpose of government is encouraging good and discourage evil. The Bible teaches that there is an objective measure of the good. Government should be limited, not because we cannot know the good, but because in light of human sinfulness and living in a sin damaged world, what governments can accomplish successfully is limited, and the trustworthiness of humans running governments is limited.
Your are wrong about Israel having only 613 rules. See my prior post. Certainly there is no way America could survive with only 613 rules today. Life is more complicated now even though morality and human nature have not changed at all.

Ryan Rickard said...

Thank you sir for taking considerable time to respond to my questions, concerns, and arguments. As you and I both know, this argument could go on without end, so out of respect for your time I wish to conclude this discussion with a few clarifying points. Feel free to respond if you wish, but I understand if you too would like to move on to another subject.

I am not sure that you sit in a position to determine whether or not "libertarianism" is a "genuine Christian ethic". I believe the Reformed Theonomic approach to ethics popularized by the late Greg Bahnsen is most certainly a genuine Christian Ethic, and it is very much a "libetarian" ideal. Not that I am "theonomic" per say as Dr. Bahnsen defined his ethic, but I certainly see his wisdom in placing a premium on Torah or God's law and understanding the transcendent nature of said law.

Finally you write: "The rabbinic method of expounding the law to new circumstances actually influenced the development of English and American common law methodology." Sir, this is exactly my point. The rabbinic method allowed for an oral law to parallel God's written law so that even today Jews consider the oral law to be equal in authority to the written law. This ideology led to the rise of Pharisaicalism where they needed to add laws to God's laws in order to not break God's laws. But in doing so they placed a yoke on Israel that still exists on Jews to this day and certainly this yoke led to Jesus' constant rebuke of their teachings. With that in mind, do you agree or disagree that Social Conservatives sit on a slippery slope, as the Pharisees of old, in wanting to add to the divine order of laws? Maybe we don't need 613, but we are adding almost 70,000 a year sir. When will it be enough?

Professor McConnell said...

Thanks Ryan. I agree that this is a good time to stop here on this comment thread. This last post is your best. I don’t agree with Greg Bahnsen about everything, but I have a lot of respect for his work and the spirit in which it was done. He did really brilliant work in many ways. I really like the writing done by his son, who mostly writes on economic issues and who I usually agree with.
You are right that there are too many laws. While 613 may not be enough, we have way too many. I have no objection to carefully repealing and simplifying large sections of the laws on the books.
You are also right that the rabbinic tradition went wrong in many ways. Jesus makes this clear. Common law exposition only works when the practitioners are animated by the Spirit of God, motivated by ordinate loves, and approach their task in humility. Somewhere along the line most of the rabbis got off on the wrong track. But for the Grace of God we have ever tendency to do the same thing. I know you think most evangelicals are off track, and you have some weighty reasons for your position.
Thanks for your comments. Best wishes.