30 January 2009

For this reason

by Frank Turk

IMPORTANT UPDATE & CLARIFICATION:

Justin Taylor has come to the aid of the interview hereafter lambasted by me and, after trading some comments in the meta, e-mailed Dr. Moreland to see what he'd say about my assessment of the interview.

The summary of my assessment of the interview was summarized (by me) in this way:

I think that Dr, Moreland would affirm “I truly believe that (a) the first thing pastors should be concerned about is their flocks inhabiting the political process, and (b) the first thing that our pulpits should be used for is causing Christians to inhabit the political process. And the reason is that this is the most pressing issue for Christianity today.”

Here's JT's final post in that exchange:

I sent Moreland your restatement. Here is his response (reprinted with permission):

"You are correct. The context was politics and not ministry in general. I would have to be nuts to say the first thing in general is political engagement!! JP"


While this answer leaves me somewhat puzzled by the interview as a whole, one thing is clear: I owe Dr. Moreland an apology for framing his views in a way he would not. I was wrong. I apologize to Dr. Moreland and our readers for that. Because we have a policy of not deleting our posts here, please read this one in the light that my outrage is, at best, overstated and made against something Dr. Moreland himself would disavow.

Honestly: there are reasons to admire Hugh Hewitt. He's a man of many public accomplishments, a public servant, a lawyer, apparently a fine administrator and speech-writer. He's a fine man. Probably a good neighbor.

He deserves our respect.

What we are not required to give him, however, is intellectual and spiritual carte blanche. In spite of his allegedly-conservative political views, he's vacant on the subject of the Christian faith and what it means to have a savior and a Gospel and a church. And if he would stay away from these subjects, he'd be far more admirable.

But he doesn't. Maybe he can't -- maybe like a moth compelled to throw itself into the flame of a candle, or maybe like a wolf who bleeds to death because he is licking a razor and tasting his own blood -- Hewitt always circles back to the subject of christianity (small "c" intentional).

And he comes back because he thinks that the ends of the church are the same as the ends of conservatism. It's because he sees the church as a moral improvement society -- something which only teaches the world something it couldn't learn on its own.

This is why Hugh Hewitt gets my goat: he sees the church as a means to a political end. I find his views in that respect reprehensible.

Which is why it surprised me a little to see that J. P. Moreland was on Hewitt's show recently advocating for the same clap-trap Hewitt is selling. I mean: J. P. Moreland. He's a respected apologist -- same class as William Lane Craig and Francis Beckwith, right?

I'll leave that part to the meta.

But on Hewitt, we can see Dr. Moreland saying stuff like this:
Being involved in politics is not unchristian. In fact, it’s a part of our calling as Christians. Why? Because we are supposed to do good to all people including the household of faith. And to do good to all people means establishing just laws and a just and a stable social order. And that’s the job of the state. It’s political. So the first thing a pastor should do and the Church should do is to enlist people like the dickens to be involved in the political process and vote. It is unconscionable that we have these rights, and that we have an obligation as disciples of Jesus to try to bring goodness and truth to society, that we don’t use all means available to promote just laws and a just and stable social order through the political process. And so voting is absolutely critical.
Get that? The first thing we should be concerned about as Christians is inhabiting the political process.

The first thing. Seriously: that's the first thing the pulpits of our churches should be used for? But get this as a chaser:
This is important because the Evangelical does not want to place the state under Scripture. That would be to create a theocracy, and that has never been a good idea. What we want is we want to place the state under the natural moral law. Therefore, if an Evangelical is going to be for traditional marriage, and it’s going to be against gay marriage, it cannot use Scripture to argue that case in the public square. It can be preached from the pulpit that this is a Biblical view, but when it comes to political engagement, it is not our attempt to place the state under the Bible, but to place it under the natural moral law. So it would follow, then, that Christians need to learn how to provide independent arguments for traditional marriage that do not require premises from the Scriptures.
Look: I can't make up stuff like this. I'd feel embarrassed if I attributed a statement like that to someone because it is surreal -- absurd in such a way that it makes sarcasm irrelevant.

Read the whole interview with Dr. Moreland for yourself, but don't be taken in by it. You know better. You know for a fact that Jesus did not die to make sure that the Republicans will control both houses of the Legislature, the Oval Office, and appoint only right-of-center judges to Supreme Court.

Paul knew it, anyway. Listen to what he said:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world ...
Now listen: Paul says this from a prison cell under a government based wholly on idolatry. If anyone ever had a chance to declare and proclaim and require a political solution to his plight, it was Paul. But he says this:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The pontifications of Hugh Hewitt or J.P. Moreland or any of the dunces who agree with them that somehow "evangelicalism" has "died" because Barack Obama is our president are like the sounds of tin cans being kicked in the street by rough and homeless children. The sounds that come out of them are because they are part of the game and not because they have something to say. They get kicked, and it's "POP! CLACK-tee-CLACK-clack!" -- a small, insulted sound at which the children laugh.

And in case you cannot read my parable here, the children are the unbelievers. They have kicked Hewitt's can, and his complaint is really: because he played the game, he got kicked. Having more cans in the street is not going to stop the kickers from kicking: it is going to cause them to kick more cans.

Christians ought to be more than cans in the street getting kicked. Paul has indeed instructed us -- Christ has indeed instructed us, and God in all of Scripture has sufficiently and perfectly instructed us -- on what we are to do first. May He who calls us out of the world to pass through the world as if it were not our home also call us to preach the Gospel which is the only hope of men -- and not trade it for the noises of traducers like Hewitt who don't understand that they are the problem, not the Gospel.

And to be sure you know what I'm telling you personally to do here, be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this weekend -- start there. Call people there. The solutiuon that ought to be preached there should be the Gospel and not new law.







54 comments:

Fred Butler said...

You should "Twitter" him this article forthwith.

Tony Zabala said...

It doesn't surprise me that Moreland has been making those comments. He has been making similar comments like you can prove God without the Bible for the last few years. If Moreland, Lane-Craig (Molinism/Middle Knowledge), and Beckwith (apostate Roman Catholic) are the best apologists that Evangelicalism has to offer then we are in big trouble. Praise God that they're not. It's all about the Gospel. In Christ, Tony

Frank Turk said...

Somebody else can "twit" Hewitt. I am really buried today.

Al said...

Yep, the first thing Paul says is that he has a Lord, a master, a Sovereign who gave him a platform for ministry in prison. If I had to put my finger on what bothered me about this interview is this understanding of “mission” that is so self-referring.

There is no acknowledgement of the Lordship of Christ in any of this. Our political mission is the mission of the church. Our response to the culture of death is Acorn with a Christian veneer. Black Liberation Theology raised up a secular Messiah and a reorienting of our theology must follow to save us from the ideological slave quarters.

May God’s people serve the King of all ages, including ours.

al sends

DJP said...

FrankSomebody else can "twit" Hewitt

I think you just did.

Reformed Baptist said...

A Theocracy has never been a good thing? Is J.P. sure about that? I am mean why did God not want the Israelites to have a king? I think it was because he wanted a theo-cracy! God was to be king of Israel. What about the Theocracy that will be set up at the Second Coming of our Lord? Will that be a bad thing? Maybe Dr. Moreland can give us a political solution to bring about the Kingdom of God!

Frank Turk said...

RB --

I think Dr. Moreland was not considering pre-Christ theocracy. I think we was, ironically, consicering alleged theoracies in the Christian age.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

J.P. Moreland: "Therefore, if an Evangelical is going to be for traditional marriage, and it’s going to be against gay marriage, it cannot use Scripture to argue that case in the public square. It can be preached from the pulpit that this is a Biblical view, but when it comes to political engagement, it is not our attempt to place the state under the Bible, but to place it under the natural moral law. So it would follow, then, that Christians need to learn how to provide independent arguments for traditional marriage that do not require premises from the Scriptures."

I don't know if JP Moreland feels the same way about evangelicals should only be using natural moral law in the Public Square against abortion as he does in the case of arguing against gay marriage, but if he were, then Pastor Russell Moore would disagree with him.

"Yes, I believe evangelicals should appeal to Scripture in their arguments against abortion. This does not mean that such arguments should be limited to biblical appeals. After all, the pro-life position on abortion rights is demonstrable from human biology, yes.

Nonetheless, there are biblical reasons why evangelicals and Roman Catholics hold to the personhood of vulnerable unborn babies. We should not be hesitant to say why we believe such things, even as we join with others of good will in articulating our opposition to the killing of the unborn.

We should gladly join hands with atheist pro-lifers such as the Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff or with Mormon or Hindu pro-life citizens.
We also should articulate that we believe this is so important precisely because we serve a King who has told us that we will be judged on the basis on how we treat the most vulnerable among us."

Excerpted from an interview with Trevin Wax.

Solameanie said...

I always thought "twit" was a bit of a pejorative i.e. "you stupid twit!" (Actor Alan Rickman can say it with special venom, as can the Monty Python lads)

This really shouldn't be that hard to balance, folks. Yes, Christians should be politically involved especially as our society is supposed to make "we the people" the ultimate governors through elected representatives. The problem comes in when we overemphasize politics to take priority over -- or even replace -- our ultimate responsibility on this planet as believers.

Unfortunately, it always seems to be one extreme or the other.

JT said...

Frank,

Yikes! I think you're seriously misrepresenting his "first thing" comment! In context he is discussing the first thing that pastors should do in terms of equipping a congregation to be culturally engaged in politics. You may disagree with the premise, but it seems like a cheap shot to imply that he thinks it's the most important thing a pastor can do!

Second observation: using natural law arguments is relatively unpopular in some circles, but it actually has a venerable tradition in Reformed thought. I'm not sure we should dismiss it so easily.

Blessings!

JT

Jim Crigler said...

TUaD: Thanks for posting the extended quote. Francis Schaeffer was saying the same thing in the 70s and early 80s when he talked about us being not allies with, e.g., RCs, w.r.t. abortion, but "co-belligerent" with them.

Frank Turk said...

JT --

Thanks for stopping by. I thought I had killed the internet with this post, given the number of comments I'm getting here.

I pondered the "first thing" comment hard -- which is why I didn't throw up this post on Tuesday night when you linked it. I considered that what he (and Hewitt) meant was that it's the "first thing" to do in dealing with the current state of politics in the US. Or maybe it's the "first thing" to do as a matter of social concern.

But plainly Dr. Moreland is talking about the "first thing" to do from the pulpit., not some other medium or platform. Plainly Hewitt is arguing that this is the purpose of preaching. The transcript is somewhat shocking in its transparency on this matter.

This is not hardly the "first" concern of any pulpit. It may be one of them -- but if it is the front-line, top-shelf concern of any pulpit in America, that church has forgotten the matter of First Concern which Paul preached to the Corinthians.

As to natural law's reformed heritage, I concede that almost whole-cloth. There’s no question that, in the end, the text of Romans 1 & 2 (among other places) has driven reformed theology to a place where it must confess that any man has the ability to perceive the decrees of God so that he (the man) is without excuse before God regarding the moral law. We admit that this is the reason that some nations have some good laws even though they don’t have any overt obedience to Christ: they have the “natural law” to guide them to general ideas of justice.

The gross problem, of course, is that Dr. Moreland advocates the Christian to be Scripturally informed, and then abandon scripture when he turns to the public square. That’s like saying you should train to be a ninja your whole life, but then when the fight comes you have to leave your real skilz in the closet and only fight with your elbows. It is in fact Dr. Moreland’s view which compartmentalizes the Christian faith into a privatized prayer closet because it demands we leave the presuppositions of the faith out of the public square.

Let me say this as carefully as possible: What Hugh Hewitt wants is a conservative version of the social gospel, which is an old-time, long-disproven, historically-bankrupt liberalization of the Christian faith. That he is using Dr. Moreland to advance that, and that Dr. Moreland doesn’t see that, is astonishing.

Again, thanks for stopping by.

aztroy said...

Frank Turk: Have you spoken to Hugh Hewitt about your view that "he thinks that the ends of the church are the same as the ends of conservatism?" I highly doubt either.

Steve said...

Frank - Actually, I'm surprised that you were suprised!

Moreland, Craig, and the rest of the "all truth is God's truth" crowd at Biola/Talbot have been selling-out Scripture this way for years.

Van Til was right! "... it is the Reformed Faith, not some common denominator 'core' of Christianity, that must be defended."

Rachael Starke said...

The older and wiser (to my own sin and Christ's righeousness) I become, the more the whole "natural law" argument frustrates and mystifies me.

Let's suppose for one quiet minute that America suddenly woke up and said "Wow. That Bible may have a thing or two right. (Dr. Moreland said we didn't have to read it, but we're not that dumb. We know where he gets it.)

Let's stop killing babies, make everyone who wants to do married-type things get married, and make all those greedy Wall Streeters and CEOs who stole the nation's money pay double what they stole."

What kind of nation would we have?

A nation of married, baby-birthing, good-money-stewards headed straight for Hell. (All the ones that didn't follow all those good laws would go there too, of course, albeit a little faster.)

But now let's imagine America is suddenly revived by God such that millions repent of their sins and trust in Christ overnight. All of a sudden, people stop killing babies, get married and are generous with their money. And perhaps the government pays attention and starts enacting laws to replicate all that behavior.

But those people, if they're truly regenerate, ought to reply "Well thanks for the compliment, but we only have that because we first asked for Him. Let me talk to you about Him, then why don't you come with me to church on Sunday to learn even more about Him. We'll drive, so come early because we try to always follow the speed limit."

Andrew Faris said...

Frank,

This is bush league. JT is absolutely right, at least on the "first thing" comment.

Go back and read the exchange again. Nowhere does either of them say that this is the first thing that needs to be done from the pulpit as you allege. In his question, Hewitt simply asks what a pastor should do about this issue other than endorsing a particular candidate from the pulpit, which is illegal. He does not imply that Moreland should respond about how a pastor should preach. He is asking Moreland what a pastor should do more generally.

I think it is also fair to say that JP's response does not meant that he wants to substitute political morality for the gospel. Rather, he assumes that we are talking about what a pastor should do to/for other Christians to get them involved in social justice.

You may of course still disagree, but you have badly misrepresented this exchange, no matter how hard you've thought about it (though I most certainly appreciate that you put in the effort).

If you can show me where in the exchange the comment is limited to the pulpit, then I may agree with you. I just don't see it.

Regarding Moreland's latter comment, there are smart enough folks who think what he thinks. I'm not sure to what extent I agree with that comment, but I do think it is reasonably complex, and I don't think there is anything crazy about it. Again I agree with JT- it's not as easy as you make it sound.

Moreland loves it when people love the Bible. He's not advocating we abandon it and start from scratch; he's assuming that if the Bible says something, it is true, so we should be able to try to convince people of that without just saying "the Bible told me so." That is, of course, for better or for worse. But again, your language is pretty strong.

Andrew

Daryl said...

This is exactly why the Gospel is so important.
When pragmatism and natural law take the lead in any sphere of life, while there may be compelling arguments on any given side of an issue, there will also be equally compelling arguments on the other side.
When it comes down to it, either we have made a decision based upon the Word of God, or we have made it upon our, or someone elses good idea.
I think that's the issue here. As Christians we haven't the right to make moral decisions apart from the Word of God and, since we are called to spread the gospel, aren't these kinds of discussions in the public square yet another opportunity to do that?
We must vote and support pro-life etc. candidates, but isn't the bottom line that we accurately represent God and his Word and not that our guy wins so our agenda can happen?
Can we not do what we must and let God decide what should happen? I don't say that in a laissez-faire way, but in a real "fight for the good and resist the evil with every breath and let God be God" kind of way.

What, really, was the most important result of Wilberforce's work? Was it the abolition of the slave trade? Or was it the pronouncement of the gospel in the highest offices of the land?

I suspect the latter.

Frank Turk said...

Andrew:

From the interview --

HH: Now we’ll go down a couple of issues after the break, but I’d like to begin because a lot of pastors look to you, J.P. Moreland, they’ve been reading your work for years, you’re out there in the churches throughout the United States giving seminars, et cetera. What kind of role do they have going forward? Obviously, a lot of them are very leery about touching on politics in the pulpit. What do you expect of pastors in this new age?

JPM: Well, I think they’ve got to do the opposite. I think that Christians believe the Bible has something to say about everything. The Bible has something to say about science, it has something to say about sex in marriage, it has something to say about money. Well why wouldn’t the Bible has something to say about the state? It doesn’t make any sense to me that the Bible would be silent about this one topic when it has something to say about virtually everything else including art, history and so on. So I think what pastors have to do is to simply teach their congregations and lead by example about what the Bible says about the role of the state in public life. I think it’s more important to teach a general political theology than it is to get involved in specific issues from the beginning, because it’s going to be your political philosophy that informs those issues. And so if I were a pastor, I would begin to develop a theology about what the Bible says about the role of the state.


But that's not all. They go on:

HH: [snip book plug] Now J.P., back to the motive I had in calling you, and there will be other people like you in the weeks ahead on the Hugh Hewitt Show, which is I think the Evangelical movement has hit the rocks. I think they don’t know what to do politically, and I think that there are a lot of people who are wondering what to do politically. And in a very practical sense, I think there are a lot of pastors and a lot of lay leadership wondering what should we do. In a very practical way, what’s your recommendation to a pastor who thinks that okay, the country’s gone very far to the left, or to his lay board that thinks he needs to step up and get involved without endorsing people from the pulpit which is verboten under the tax code.

JPM: Sure.

HH: What practical steps do you advise?

JPM: First practical step is that we simply have got to realize that we must mobilize our people to vote. Being involved in politics is not unchristian. In fact, it’s a part of our calling as Christians. Why? Because we are supposed to do good to all people including the household of faith. And to do good to all people means establishing just laws and a just and a stable social order. And that’s the job of the state. It’s political. So the first thing a pastor should do and the Church should do is to enlist people like the dickens to be involved in the political process and vote. It is unconscionable that we have these rights, and that we have an obligation as disciples of Jesus to try to bring goodness and truth to society, that we don’t use all means available to promote just laws and a just and stable social order through the political process. And so voting is absolutely critical. That’s step one.


Think about that -- that somehow the political condition of the nation is in the top issues which the "lay board" thinks the pastor should talk about from the pulpit.

That's not merely-marginal stuff. that's making the affirmation -- as Hewitt does all the time -- that the church is a moral reformation club. It's old-school theolgical liberalism, plain and simple -- the idea that somehow the pulpit is just a place to teach people how to be good.

I think you have to take your blinders off. Hugh's a theological liberal and a neocon at best politically.

This is not hardly "bush league". This is doing what Dr. Moreland says he is doing, which is donning our theological eyeglasses to take a hard look at the public affirmations of people giving direction to pastors and to the church.

Frank Turk said...

aztroy:

Hugh Hewitt doesn't return my e-mails or my calls. But I have read almost all of his books, and pages of transcripts from his shows, and there is no question in my mind -- especially after reading in not of -- that Hugh Hewitt doesn't have a clue what the Gospel means, and his systematic understanding of our faith is hap-hazard at best.

He sees the church as a social institution which ought to be reforming men's actions, but when it comes to things like why the Gospel comforts us in hard times, or does the matter of salvation have any practical implications, or how is Christianity superior to Islam, Hewitt is no better than the average agnostic.

Sorry. Nice man otherwise -- provocative radio host. Has an impressive record of civic achievements. Should find something other than faith in Jesus Christ to talk about until he knows more about it.

DJP said...

Hewitt...I think the Evangelical movement has hit the rocks

Bitterly ironic coming from a man who, out loud and in public, calls himself an "Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian."

Andrew Faris said...

Frank,

I read the interview the first time you linked to it.

You've taken my comments and changed their focus. I said nothing about whether or not Hewitt is a liberal. I don't know his stuff much at all and have not commented on that issue.

What you have failed to do is to vindicate your claim from JT's response, namely that you've ripped JP's words from their context big time.

In the section you quoted me, I can find pulpit references twice, both of them from Hewitt's long and frustratingly unfocused questions, and neither from JP's response.

The first "pulpit" reference is Hugh's comment that a lot of pastors are leery about teaching on politics from the pulpit. He then asks JP what a pastor should do. He does not ask what a pastor should do "from the pulpit" but just generally what a pastor should do. JP's response is that pastors should teach their congregations what the Bible says about political theology. He does not say that it has to happen from the pulpit anywhere there. And what's wrong with that? My guess is that you (as well you and I should) attempt to take your political theology from the Bible. JP advocates that quite clearly.

The second exchange, the one you quoted in the full post, has Hewitt asking Moreland about what a pastor should do in practical terms specifically about the issue of politics and Christianity since he surely will not be preaching who to vote for from the pulpit. This is the second and only other reference to the pulpit in this exchange.

JP again responds with no reference to what should happen in the pulpit. All he says it that the first thing a pastor should do in regards to Christianity and politics is mobilize Christians to be involved in the political process because it is a way to do justice to all. There is no way that you can take from this comment that JP thinks that the first thing a pastor should do more broadly in church is to get political.

Maybe JP has fallen into a Hewitt trap somehow, and maybe we should stop listening to the likes of Hewitt on this sort of thing. I'm not totally sure I agree with JP on these points.

But to extrapolate from this exchange that Moreland thinks, more broadly, "The first thing we should be concerned about as Christians is inhabiting the political process" or that "that's the first thing the pulpits of our churches should be used for" is totally irresponsible. He just does not say that.

Again I'll say it: until you show me where Moreland says something like that far, far more clearly, (especially about pulpit ministry), then I remain thoroughly unconvinced.

Andrew

DJP said...

He then asks JP what a pastor should do. He does not ask what a pastor should do "from the pulpit" but just generally what a pastor should do

Boy, I do think that's your classic "distinction without a difference."

Andrew Faris said...

Dan,

Obviously there is considerable overlap. But there is more to pastoring than just preaching, isn't there?

And even if my distinction doesn't have a difference in your view, I think my point still stands: Moreland does not insist on pulpit ministry like Frank says he does.

Andrew

(P.S. I don't want any of my straightforward criticism to give the wrong impression: I love and greatly appreciate this blog most of the time. I just feel the freedom to not mince words considering that you folks so often do the same. Just so we're clear!)

Frank Turk said...

| I read the interview the first time
| you linked to it.

It seems to me you skimmed it, and then have layered onto it a good bit of what I will call "generous exposition" to have it come out with something more flattering than what I think someone else might come away with after a fair second read and some reflection.

| You've taken my comments and
| changed their focus. I said
| nothing about whether or not
| Hewitt is a liberal. I don't know his
| stuff much at all and have not
| commented on that issue.

What I have done is contextualize this exchange with Hewitt's track record. It doesn't matter, really, if you "know his stuff" unless you're willing to say that whatever he has said in the past, and whatever his overall trajectory regarding the Christian faith is, we have to read him sort of abjectly, as if he's just a friend of the family, so to speak.

And that, I think, is what you do, below.

| What you have failed to do is to
| vindicate your claim from JT's
| response, namely that you've
| ripped JP's words from their
| context big time.

Unfortunately, I think you're wrong about that. The context I have provided here shows without any doubt that what Dr. Moreland said was in response to Hewitt's proddings about the first concern of men in the pulpit today.

And note something which was in those quotes which I didn't really hammer out for the sake of not piling on JT: Hewitt's question was plain about men who want to use their pulpits to advance political agendas, but were hesitant to violate the tax code.

He sees who his allies are in this little adventure -- men who are want to shield their work behind the cloak of religious freedom.

There's a real depth not just of pragmatism but rank utilitarianism in what Hewitt is using Dr. Moreland to stand up here. You can see it if you simply look.

| In the section you quoted me, I
| can find pulpit references twice,
| both of them from Hewitt's long
| and frustratingly unfocused
| questions, and neither from JP's
| response.

That, my friend, is the most illiterate reading of what happened there you can muster without saying that I was wrong because the words aren't in English.

Hewitt's question in the first quote is this:

"a lot of [pastors who respect you] are very leery about touching on politics in the pulpit. What do you expect of pastors in this new age?"

Dr. Moreland's response is this:

"I think they’ve got to do the opposite."

The opposite of what, Andrew? The opposite of not touching on politics in the pulpit.

That's not a secret code there -- there's no esoteric nuance. Dr. Moreland expresses clearly that politics ought to come from the pulpit.

| The first "pulpit" reference is
| Hugh's comment that a lot of
| pastors are leery about teaching
| on politics from the pulpit. He then
| asks JP what a pastor should do.
| He does not ask what a pastor
| should do "from the pulpit" but just
| generally what a pastor should
| do. JP's response is that pastors
| should teach their congregations
| what the Bible says about political
| theology. He does not say that it
| has to happen from the pulpit
| anywhere there. And what's
| wrong with that? My guess is that
| you (as well you and I should)
| attempt to take your political
| theology from the Bible. JP
| advocates that quite clearly.

I promise you: I can line out my political philosophy quite clearly from the Bible -- and ironically, it is at the opposite end of the universe from what Dr. Moreland has proposed here.

But to your larger point specifically, you have glossed over Hewitt's question as it was phrased, an then glossed over Dr. Moreland's answer. You could not have done a poorer job of connecting the answer to the question if you were intentionally trying to falsify what was said.

Do the opposite of what, Andrew? That is what you have to face in your exegesis of this exchange: if Dr. Moreland is expressing that pastors "do the opposite", they are to do the opposite of what?

| The second exchange, the one
| you quoted in the full post, has
| Hewitt asking Moreland about
| what a pastor should do in
| practical terms specifically about
| the issue of politics and
| Christianity since he surely will not
| be preaching who to vote for from
| the pulpit. This is the second and
| only other reference to the pulpit
| in this exchange.

That, my friend, is intentionally myopic. Hewitt has phrased this next question in the context of "evangelicalism" -- as if that was, in and of itself, a political movement.

Listen: evangelicalism my have been a lot of utterly stupid and random things at the end of its life, but to name it as a "political" movement is, at the absolute best, to have bought the MSM portrayal of Christians hook, line and sinker, and to have such a cynical view of church as to be either ignorant or dismissive of the centrality of the Gospel even in the worst forms of that movement.

And here's the punchline: Dr. Moreland buys it without missing a beat. Can't endorse a candidate? Well, you must vote! get out the vote! If you can't endorse a candidate from the pulpit, you must get out the vote from the pulpit.

There is not way to mistake the intent in what he said.

| JP again responds with no
| reference to what should happen
| in the pulpit.

Hogwash. The question was phrased to be actions from the pulpit; Dr. Moreland responds with actions from the pulpit. To say otherwise makes what he does say meaningless -- completely contextless.

| All he says it that the
| first thing a pastor should do in
| regards to Christianity and politics ...

... since he can't endorse a candidate from the pulpit ...

| ... is mobilize Christians to be
| involved in the political process ...

... from the pulpit ...

| ... because it is a way to do justice to
| all. There is no way that you can
| take from this comment that JP
| thinks that the first thing a pastor
| should do more broadly in church
| is to get political.

So when, exactly, does the pastor do this teaching, Andrew?

When does Hugh imply or express that what's going on here is advice away from the pulpit? When does Dr. Moreland do that?

You can't say -- because they never do. They are giving pulpit advice. There's not question about it.

| Maybe JP has fallen into a Hewitt
| trap somehow, and maybe we
| should stop listening to the likes
| of Hewitt on this sort of thing. I'm
| not totally sure I agree with JP on
| these points.
|
| But to extrapolate from this
| exchange that Moreland thinks,
| more broadly, "The first thing we
| should be concerned about as
| Christians is inhabiting the
| political process" or that "that's
| the first thing the pulpits of our
| churches should be used for" is
| totally irresponsible. He just does
| not say that.

He does in fact say that. I have cited where he does.

But here's a chance for you to shine: tell me where this discussion expressly shifts from what Pastors can/can't do from the pulpit to where they can do this stuff. Show me where Hewitt and Dr. Moreland tell us the context which is not the pulpit where teh pastor can now teach this stuff.

| Again I'll say it: until you show me
| where Moreland says something
| like that far, far more clearly,
| (especially about pulpit ministry),
| then I remain thoroughly
| unconvinced.

In your view, Dr. Moreland speaks in completely-abstracted generalities -- in response to Hewitt's clearly-specific details. If he is doing that, Dr. Moreland is merely blowing smoke.

You know: should we vote? SURE we should vote. Anyone can tell anyone that over coffee, or at the gym, or on a blog. In fact, let me tell you, "make sure you vote because that's part of good citizenship."

But Hewitt's questions are about what to do from the pulpit when one finds oneself in the legal pinch of the tax code. Giving a general, contextless answer to that question is just bloviation -- and let me say that I find it hard to call Dr. Moreland someone who bloviates because he's not stupid, and he's not inarticulate. He answered the questions posed to him without repositioning away from the pulpit. It's clear what his intention was.

If you choose not to see it, I can't help you. You are welcome to the last word here -- I have said all I can say about this without repeating myself.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

TUaD: Thanks for posting the extended quote. Francis Schaeffer was saying the same thing in the 70s and early 80s when he talked about us being not allies with, e.g., RCs, w.r.t. abortion, but "co-belligerent" with them.

You're welcome Jim Crigler!

FWIW, I thought Frank Turk's commentary about JP Moreland's "first thing" comment was a bit off-kilter as well when I first read the post, but decided not to raise Frank's ire by objecting to it. (But I'm glad that Justin Taylor brought it up!)

I thought the dubious part was JP Moreland's argument that Christians should only use Natural Law arguments when contending in the Public Square. And to be fair to Professor Moreland, there are a good number of theologians and other Christians who believe the same as Dr. Moreland.

(But to be transparent, I hold to Reform epistemology).

WildernessWonderer said...

Daryl said...

"This is exactly why the Gospel is so important.
When pragmatism and natural law take the lead in any sphere of life, while there may be compelling arguments on any given side of an issue, there will also be equally compelling arguments on the other side."

You don't really mean that. Issue: Did the Holocaust occur?
Please supply equally compelling arguments on either side. Go!

Daryl said:
"When it comes down to it, either we have made a decision based upon the Word of God, or we have made it upon our, or someone elses good idea."

Paul disagrees with you in Romans. Even Frank Turk recognized that.

Daryl said:
"As Christians we haven't the right to make moral decisions apart from the Word of God and, since we are called to spread the gospel, aren't these kinds of discussions in the public square yet another opportunity to do that?"

Yes. And, discussions in the public square are opportunities to argue that justice be done, which can be argued from natural law with those who do not accept your premise that the Gospel is enough.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

JT wrote: "Yikes! I think you're seriously misrepresenting his "first thing" comment! In context he is discussing the first thing that pastors should do in terms of equipping a congregation to be culturally engaged in politics. You may disagree with the premise, but it seems like a cheap shot to imply that he thinks it's the most important thing a pastor can do!"

I have become disappointed in Pyromaniacs due to the attacks on others of which post is another example of. Frank, brother, IMHO your post should be deleted.

DJP said...

Yeah. Maybe Frank should really provide 3... no, four detailed responses to that fundamental accusation.

Oh, wait... he did.













If you're still "disappointed," you could ask for a full refund at the door. Just present your receipt.

JT said...

Frank,

I respect you greatly, and you may be entirely right about Hewitt. But the fact is that your riff on Moreland's use of "first" is wrong, uncharitable, and should be corrected. Sorry--but I think it's actually pretty clear.

Best,
JT

Daryl said...

WildernessWonderer asked

"You don't really mean that. Issue: Did the Holocaust occur?
Please supply equally compelling arguments on either side. Go!"

That's not a question of morality, it's a question of historical fact.
A better question is "Should the holocaust have occurred" GO!! And, absent Scripture, an argument plausible enough to capture an entire generation of Europeans was aptly given.

"Daryl said:
"When it comes down to it, either we have made a decision based upon the Word of God, or we have made it upon our, or someone elses good idea."

Paul disagrees with you in Romans. Even Frank Turk recognized that."

Where does Paul do this? He does say that God's eternal attributes can be seen, but, absent special revelation, how is it decided that man should only sleep with his wife? Where is that determined in natural law? I offer that it just isnt'.

"And, discussions in the public square are opportunities to argue that justice be done, which can be argued from natural law with those who do not accept your premise that the Gospel is enough."

So is the role of the church, as the church, to provide justice in the public square, or to announce the gospel?
If the church successfully argues that abortion should be stopped and yet the gospel is NEVER proclaimed in so doing, has she succeeded? Has she been faithful?

I wonder.

Libbie said...

Yes, evangelical Christians should jettison that 'Word of God' thing. We do so much better on our own. [insert 'for crying out loud' emoticon here]

I don't care how much else is sensible in that interview, the minute I hear someone saying something like Christians need to learn how to provide independent arguments for traditional marriage that do not require premises from the Scriptures, the person has completely undermined everything else.

Why ON EARTH would a Christian want to pretend their own reasonings are a higher authority than the Bible, especially to an unbelieving world? Absolutely barking.

Hayden said...

Frank,

I was a little skeptical as well until I went and read the transcript and found this gem.
---
HH: Would you recommend pastors preach from the pulpit on the necessity of registering to vote?

JPM: Oh, there’s no question about it. Absolutely. In fact, it’s a derelict of duty if a pastor does not, in a free society like ours, where we have an opportunity to be a part of promoting a just society and good, stable and social order with regard to laws and politics not to encourage from the pulpit that people become informed on these issues, vote, and so on. Absolutely.
---
Ouch! I thought the pulpit was to be used to 'preach Christ and Him Crucified'. I thought the pulpit was to be used to proclaim the glories of the Scripture. I must have missed that register to vote section of the Scripture. Our job is not to present a 'just society' but to proclaim a risen Savior. We were told that the world would get worse as time goes on and it has, why substitute the Gospel which is the 'power of God unto salvation' for some moralizing about voting. Sheesh!!!

I appreciate JP Moreland for many reasons but this interview is not one of them.

Soldier on my friend.

Habitans in Sicco said...

The full context of Moreland's remark, which Frank did give, argues for Frank's interpretation; not the backward exegesis of those who have tried to soften the problems with what Moreland said. If Moreland meant something totally benign, he was anything but "clear" about it. Insisting he was clear enough doesn't actually make the statement he mande any clearer.

I.e., Moreland is the one who needs to withdraw or clarify what he said, not Frank Turk.

And I think it's grossly uncharitable to charge Frank with uncharitableness for pointing out the clear implications of Moreland's remarks.

JT said...

Habitans in Sicco:

Come on, dude. Frank clearly misrepresented Moreland. Frank has Moreland saying that the first thing Christians should be concerned about, and the first thing that our pulpits should be used for, is inhabiting the political process (!). Moreland said nothing of the kind, and doesn't believe that. That's all I'm saying.

We all mess up in this blogging thing--and if we do, we should fess up.

JT

Frank Turk said...

JT:

Let me offer you the same golden opportunity I offered Andrew -- show me where Dr. Moreland contexted his remark to something other that what I have presented here.

Let me be honest: I want to be wrong about Dr. Moreland. I would prefer to apologize if I knew I did him wrong.

I have a double problem at this point. The first problem is that I have apparently misrepresented what Dr. Moreland said -- which is logically possible, yes? So the first problem is a possible fault of mine.

But the second problem is that no one has offered a tenable alternative reading of what Dr. Moreland has said.

The resolution of the second problem moves toward resolving the first. I leave it an open question: what did he mean, if not what I have here complained about? "First" when and where for pastors, Justin -- because it is not the "what" which we are unsure about.

Frank Turk said...

Joe:

I am always most convicted when an anonymous poster demands that I recant.

Thanks for your input. I will file it under the last name of your pastor.

fissh said...

JT, do you have like a "two Frank" policy?

If one kind of "Frank" becomes Roman Catholic after making a name as an "evangelical" leader, you don't say "boo," shut down any line of comments that gets too critical, put up posts about his books, and let him comment without comment at your own blog?

But if another kind of "Frank" so loves the true Gospel that he complains when the Gospel isn't given first-place, you chase him down to other people's blogs to demand a retraction?

I don't get it. I think you love the Gospel, too, but that's just kind of weird.

Me, I love Franks who love the Gospel. The other kind gives me constipation.

Did Moreland ever say in that interview that preaching the Gospel was first, and that a "just" society of unbelievers was still going to Hell because they really need the Gospel, not just good manners? If he didn't say it, isn't that kind of important? Isn't that Frank's point? Don't you agree with that point? Wasn't it important that someone make that point? Aren't you glad Frank made that point?

Andrew Faris said...

Frank,

I'm frustrated: last night I typed out another response, and then after I was sure I had posted it, it vanished into the nether regions of the internet, apparently.

Probably a good thing, because it probably rambled.

I'll use numbered points this time, because it helps me thing:

1. I need to apologize. Reading back on my comments and considering the attitude I've been walking around with as I turn this conversation over in my mind, I realize that I've been prideful and arrogant, seeking to show you that you are wrong rather than actually to edify. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but my attitude has been less than, "Boy do I want to edify the church right now." So I genuinely apologize and ask your forgiveness.

2. After re-reading your detailed response to my last post, I gladly concede that Moreland is talking more directly about preaching than I allowed for, at least in the first of the two exchanges you quoted back to me, and probably primarily in the second. I skimmed the "opposite" comment to try to get to the meat, and didn't realize it until you pointed out more closely. So thanks for that- it's helpful.

3. On that note, thanks for putting in the time to interact with me in such detail. I know it takes awhile, and as another blogger, I really do appreciate it.

4. I've been too broad in my critique, so let me narrow it down to the one thing that really troubles me, which is what J.T. is also getting at: when Dr. Moreland makes his "first thing" comment, he is not suggesting that the main thing churches/pulpits should always be used for is political, moralistic preaching. Rather, he is addressing Hewitt's specific case of a pastor who specifically wants to address the political issue. The first thing that pastor should do, says Moreland, is to get people voting.

This is simpler than you're making it. It's an issue of Hewitt asking a specific question in which he creates a specific hypothetical situation, and Moreland responds addressing that hypothetical situation. "First thing" refers to the "priority in a series of possible actions related to pastors who want to commend right wing politics without specifically endorsing a candidate from the pulpit." Again, that is what Hewitt asks the question about, and that is thus what Moreland answers.

Imagine you invite me over one day to talk. I arrive at about 11:30 a.m. and you decide that you want to have the conversation elsewhere because someone at your house is sick. So we figure lunch is coming up, and we'll go out to get some food and talk over a meal. We get in your car (thanks for driving by the way, since I did just drive all the way out to your house), and I say, "So what do you want to do?"

Then you respond, "The first thing we need to do is fill our bellies." I would know, because of that context, that you were talking about eating lunch. I would know quite certainly that you were not saying that above all else in life, we should care about eating.

But then imagine that J.T. somehow gets a hold of a recorded version of our conversation, cuts that piece out, and posts something with the title, "Cent is Looking to Feed Himself, not God's People." Then he lampoons you on his blog for looking to feed yourself as the main thing in life.

What he has done is taken your "first thing" comment, and made "first thing" necessarily denote "the main thing in all of life," when what you meant was, "the first in a series of afternoon activities."

This is, I think, what you have done to Moreland's comment. He is quite obviously talking about a specific issue: political theology and preaching. In real life, that specific issue would have to be carried in the church, probably from the pulpit. But just because he could be talking about the broader issue of the main goal of the church and the role of preaching within that does not mean that a discussion of every specific case has to apply so broadly.

I just don't know how to address this another way.

Hewitt asks a question. Moreland answers it. What's the question- what's that one, specific question (not the theme of the whole interview, but that one question, which by the way, comes right after a broadcasting break, so it is possible that the subject has changed at least partially) that Moreland answers? There is your context.

Thanks again for all your time on this.

Andrew

CR said...

Frank: snip snipThe first thing. Seriously: that's the first thing the pulpits of our churches should be used for? But get this as a chaser:

snip snip Let me offer you the same golden opportunity I offered Andrew -- show me where Dr. Moreland contexted his remark to something other that what I have presented here.
snip snip
.

Frank - It does appear that the context of JPM's remarks is his concern that evangelicals have failed to develop a political philosophy that's holistic.

JPM: Well, I think Evangelicals have failed to develop a political philosophy that’s holistic.

JPM then goes on to list his concerns. HH then asks JMP what he expects of pastors since most of them are leery of touching politics.

HH then says: In a very practical way, what’s your recommendation to a pastor who thinks that okay, the country’s gone very far to the left, or to his lay board that thinks he needs to step up and get involved without endorsing people from the pulpit which is verboten under the tax code.

HH then asks JPM what practical steps he would advise. And then JPM launches into the steps that he advises. The "first thing" is not the first thing that pastors should be doing on pulpits but JPM is just going through his steps that he believes pastors should do in getting people involved in the political process without endorsing a candidate.

Later in the interview, HH asks JPM on "step two?" And JPM continues. So, you're asking for a tenable alternative to what JPM is saying.

Well

(a) JPM says that evangelicals have not developed a political philosophy that is holistic. {You may agree or disagree with that}

(b)JPM has some concerns and goes into a discussion on positive and negative rights.

(c)HH asks what should pastors do since very few of them want to touch politics in the pulpit. JPM responds by saying he believes the Bible has some things to say about the state and therefore pastors should develop their theology what the Bible says about the role of the state.

(d) He then talks about a bunch of stuff on culture and the HH talks about a lot of evangelicals that don't know what to do politically and hence JPM launches into the practical steps of what pastors can do to teach their flock on what to do politically. {You probably don't believe that pastors should do much if anything at all using pulpit time on political issues, to that, RC Sproul would disagree.}

But I don't believe the context as shown above is that that the first thing pulpits in our churches should be used.

Habitans in Sicco said...

"Holistic" is the operative word.

Frank's whole point, I think, is that if the big-picture strategy for impacting culture starts with getting church members to vote; omits any reference to the gospel; and deliberately seeks to stress arguments that make no appeal to Scripture--well, that's neither "holistic" nor "evangelical."

CR said...

HIS: Frank's whole point, I think, is that if the big-picture strategy for impacting culture starts with getting church members to vote; omits any reference to the gospel; and deliberately seeks to stress arguments that make no appeal to Scripture--well, that's neither "holistic" nor "evangelical."

That may or may not be Frank's point on this meta. I'm not taking sides on this issue. I think Frank's position on whether the pulpit should be used for discussion on anything "political" is well known. Why argue?

But, I think one thing is clear, JPM is not saying the first thing pulpits should be used for is to teach Christians on how to inhabit the political process.

I think there are good things to discuss about what JPM is arguing. But it seems to be completely distracted by this notion that JPM is arguing that about "first things" pulpits should be used for.

Tim Bushong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Bushong said...

Libbie:

"Why ON EARTH would a Christian want to pretend their own reasonings are a higher authority than the Bible, especially to an unbelieving world? Absolutely barking."

Amen. Sounds like they are trying to find a common-ground authority between the disagreeing parties. You know, "Well at least we both agree that THIS can inform our behavior". The problem is that, outside of the Word of God, there is nothing objective left but culturally-based societal norms, or pure naturalistic means (science), both of which are useless in defining absolute ethics.

Frank Turk said...

Andrew:

That's a very broad-minded and humble response, and I honor that.

I would respond to you right now, but PITTSBURG JUST SCORED AT 00:00 at the end of the fist half!

WHOOOOOOOO!

More tomorrow.

Rick Frueh said...

The continuing effort to reconcile the church with politics grows tedious, but remains as productive as the dog chasing its tail. Should the Lord tarry another fifty years a new generation will be presented with solving that spiritual Rubic's Cube with basically the same success.

Every once in a while a mirage presents itself and excites the faith community, only to disappear with the natural cyclical nature of such things. And disappearing with that mirage is the time, effort, and finances that were given to help construct that very mirage.

Dog + tail = Dog + tail

JT said...

Frank,

I should probably drop it at this point, but as I said in my initial comment, the "first" clearly refers to the first thing pastors should do in terms of addressing/rectifying this issue--certainly not the most important concern a pastor should have.

In response to your challenge: I think those sorts of challenges only work when you're dealing with two plausible interpretations. I don't think yours is plausible--so it becomes akin to trying to prove a negative.

My counter-challenge: do you really think that if we emailed Dr. Moreland, he would say, "Yes, criticisms aside, Frank has correctly understood my authorial intent: I truly believe that (a) the first thing Christians should be concerned about is inhabiting the political process, and (b) the first thing that our pulpits should be used for is inhabiting the political process."

And let me just clarify again: every other criticism you make might be true--but this one simply isn't.

All good things must come to a close--so I'll let you have the last word.

Blessings,

JT

Frank Turk said...

| I should probably drop
| it at this point, but
| as I said in my initial
| comment, the "first"
| clearly refers to the
| first thing pastors should do in
| terms of addressing/rectifying this
| issue--certainly not the most
| important concern a pastor should
| have.

JT: pastors in addressing this issue from the pulpit. Hewitt’s question frames this as the concern from the pulpit.

We do not disagree on the “what”: I don’t even think we disagree on the “where” and the “when”. What we disagree on is whether we should take seriously what Hewitt and Dr. Moreland have prescribed. Your view, insofar as I have been able to grasp it so far, is that we should consider this as general and vague advice for pastors to take up at some time. My view is that Hewitt and Dr. Moreland think this is the most pressing homiletical topic on the preacher’s agenda -- if he cares about America and evangelicalism. It’s a call to action.

Both views may be false, but it seems to me that only one of them may be true, based on what is in the transcripts.

| In response to your challenge: I think
| those sorts of challenges only work
| when you're dealing with two
| plausible interpretations. I don't
| think yours is plausible--so it
| becomes akin to trying to prove a
| negative.

Not at all – although I admit that’s a nice try. I’m not asking you to prove a negative: I’m asking you to substantiate any other plausible reading from the transcript. Some exposition would be good.

Don’t disprove me: prove your view.

| My counter-challenge: do you really
| think that if we emailed Dr.
| Moreland, he would say, "Yes,
| criticisms aside, Frank has correctly
| understood my authorial intent: I
| truly believe that (a) the first thing
| Christians should be concerned about
| is inhabiting the political process,
| and (b) the first thing that our
| pulpits should be used for is
| inhabiting the political process."

Yes, I do. However, I think you have here misrepresented both Dr. Moreland and me because Hewitt’s question was for pastors, not all Christians

I think that Dr, Moreland would affirm “I truly believe that (a) the first thing pastors should be concerned about is their flocks inhabiting the political process, and (b) the first thing that our pulpits should be used for is causing Christians to inhabit the political process. And the reason is that this is the most pressing issue for Christianity today.”

Listen: the great build-up from Hewitt and Dr. Moreland regarding the great power of government to do justice upon people made it clear what their intention was – and as I pointed out to Dr. Frank Beckwith at your blog, their view that more laws will do the trick is not really a very consistent view, let alone a very Gospel-centered view, or a very historically-consistent view.

If that build-up doesn’t influence the way you’re reading this interview, I’m not sure what can.

| And let me just clarify again: every
| other criticism you make might be
| true--but this one simply isn't.

Is too. I have given every other argument in favor of my view, so I might as well respond to this last objection.

Is not? Is too.

JT said...

Frank,

“I truly believe that (a) the first thing pastors should be concerned about is their flocks inhabiting the political process, and (b) the first thing that our pulpits should be used for is causing Christians to inhabit the political process. And the reason is that this is the most pressing issue for Christianity today.”

So just to clarify: if Moreland were to say this is not what he meant or said, you'd concede?

JT

Frank Turk said...

Yep.

JT said...

I sent Moreland your restatement. Here is his response (reprinted with permission):

"You are correct. The context was politics and not ministry in general. I would have to be nuts to say the first thing in general is political engagement!! JP"

JT

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I heartily recognize and applaud Justin Taylor(JT)'s perseverance.

Great work brother!

DJP said...

Really?

I applaud Frank's persistent and patient provision of answers to every question and challenge that's been flung at him.

Good work, Frank!

Has JT done the same?

And while I'm opining, I think Frank's being over-gracious.

Frank Turk said...

Speaking of which, I have posted a correction/apology at the top of the post.

And I'm closing the comments here. Please me-mail me with any further grief or graciousness.