20 March 2013

Business-School Language

by Frank Turk

Did you know? There is a problem with marriage in the West.  It seems to me that some people are surprised by this -- that somehow marriage is in its death-throws in the English-speaking world and in all nations which can look back to the Greco-Roman civilization for their roots.  I mean: they are surprised enough that they have finally started to write about it in any way resembling a defense of marriage.

Here's how we know they are serious: they have pulled out the common idiom they know how to speak in best to make their point(s).  That is: the language of Business Administration.  Maybe its because these fellows all spend a lot of time in airports, and those bookstores are littered with books for business travelers, and these fellows have read one too many of these books, but it seems to have damaged their vocabulary and their approach to solving problems.

The Band, sans Bandwagon


Here's what I mean:
Successful entrepreneurs are generally defined by three core qualities. The first is a powerful desire to improve the world in some way. The second is opportunity recognition—when faced with obstacles, entrepreneurs try to think of new and different ways of doing things that open up new opportunities for success. And the third is just plain, old-fashioned guts—but you can call it "risk tolerance" and "perseverance" if you prefer. When faced with both a threat and an opportunity, most people prioritize avoiding the threat; entrepreneurs prioritize the opportunity, even if that means risk and discomfort.
Now, this bit of advice comes from a fellow who wrote a book about the so-called "Joy of Calvinism." This makes it all the more bizarre that the article reads like an updated paraphrase of Finney more than the advice of a Spurgeon or a Machen or a Lloyd-Jones.  What that doesn't mean, by the way, is that everything he says is right out of bounds.  For example, when he says this:
[Our opponents'] power comes from the falsehood of their descriptions. They win people's loyalty and belief to their worldview by creating fantasy worlds that are more enjoyable (in the short term) than the real one. These include not only the overtly pornographic and selfish fantasies—although those have played a critical role, and not just with men—but the more mundane ones as well. Twisting our softer sentiments has been as important as exploiting raw lusts.
That's completely true enough.  But then he says stuff like this:
This will require constructive efforts that describe how sex transcendently, metaphysically bonds husbands and wives in beautiful ways. (Note: it's not marriage that supernaturally bonds a couple, it's sex; that will be a key distinction for the new language to bring out.) It will also involve describing the monstrosity of divorce and the tragic suffering of disordered desire. And it will involve satire that exposes the conventions that maintain the fantasy world.
Which is patently awful.  Even if it is passably true, it's so unbelievably adolescent that I wonder how someone who is grown up can write it and not be ashamed of himself for talking that way.  But in order to say that, I have to offer the alternative, so we'll start there today and work backwards into the larger picture of taking back the narrative and high-ground of the topic of marriage.

Look here: what this fellow has done is gotten it backwards.  He thinks that sex is the thing and marriage is incidental -- he says it flat out: "it's not marriage that supernaturally bonds a couple, it's sex."    Of course: the Scripture says, "the two shall become one flesh," right?  When Jesus describes marriage, he refuses to leave that part out -- because it is part of the oldest definition of marriage relevant to his point in saying so.  It's from the beginning of all things.  But let's think about this: Jesus puts the "leave" before the "cleave."  That is: something happens prior to the "cleaving" which is best described as the "leaving."  To say that the "leaving" isn't the transcendent part, the metaphysical part, is to overlook Jesus' point about divorce.

This poor fellow has missed this entirely.  See: in Genesis, Eve is taken from Adam as his own flesh, and she comes into this world as "bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh."  That is: they are One prior to being sexually united because of their origin, not because of their later connubial bliss.  Something about Woman is made for Man, and Man is exclusively for Woman -- prior to sex.

Trying to jump the gun here, like a fearless entrepreneur, only makes you a third-rate pornographer.  It misses the point that when Man and Woman become Man and Wife, it is not that they are recognizing what sex has done for them: it is that they are now prepared for something more than simple friendship, and can make sex what it ought to be -- a gift, and a grace, and a sign of obedience in mankind's dominion over all things.

So when this author, publishing at the Gospel Coalition web site, says this:
Does this mean leaving behind the Bible, philosophy, and law? God forbid! It only means we stop trying to make any of those the centerpiece and organizing theme of the movement. First, define the movement in terms of a new description of sexuality—one that does not require familiarity with the Bible, philosophy, and law to understand. Then rightly relate each of those things to the movement.
One wonders who checked his credentials.  One wonders how he is coalescing with the Gospel, or when.

Now, before I bring this post home, the nose-out-of-joint presupp in the back row, still sore from the lashing from a month ago, is posting to his facebook wall, "Turk just Presupp'd and he doesn't even know it -- and he contradicted everything he said about Abortion here when he talked about Marriage."

Well: no.  What Turk has just done is point out that abandoning the narrative which is the Gospel narrative is utterly self-defeating and shoddy.  I'm still the guy who wrote this as a plain secular case for why society needs marriage, and who points to this piece by Sam Schulman as the show-stopping non-religious argument for traditional marriage.  I still think that Romans 1 gives the unbeliever plenty of evidence in nature to know the difference between right and wrong.  But: Marriage isn't simply a contract, and it's not merely a matter of vocation and therefore civil justice.  When we allow it to be only that, we have given up the entire Gospel narrative in the one institution which all people find themselves called to in one way or another.  We give up the part built into us which knows we must leave and cleave, and to be fruitful -- the way the church is fruitful in Christ, and Christ loves the church.

And this, to be as specific as possible, is why business school language about entrepreneurs and strategy all fail, all further run us down the wrong road and teach the world the wrong thing about the complementarian vision of God in humankind, made male and female: it's not just a contract, or even a covenant to be arbitrated by the heirs of Moses.  It's a grace of God built into our kind, made in his image, and part of our charge to be in dominion over all the earth.  It is literally the means God set forth so that this world could be very good, and live happily every after.

There's no business plan that is adequate for promoting that vision.  But there is a Gospel, and a Savior, and a Church, and when God is gracious, there are families who are really living as if these things are true.







49 comments:

Sheldon Clowdus said...

So this writer would like us to abandon the Bible as the starting starting point and centerpiece of our fight for the Biblical view of marriage and then posits, "If the new description of sexuality is rightly crafted, it will be in full alignment with the Bible and Christianity."

You really can't make this stuff up, can you?

Frank Turk said...

This writer, writing at the Gospel Coalition, would like us to abandon the Bible as the starting starting point and centerpiece of our fight for the Biblical view of marriage and then posits, "If the new description of sexuality is rightly crafted, it will be in full alignment with the Bible and Christianity."

Because the book of nature always ultimately unveils special revelation, right?

James MacDonald is a piker compared to this sort of thing.

Robert said...

This guy seems almost schizophrenic to me.

"The Apple of real marriage cannot displace the IBM of disordered sexuality by following IBM's business plan. We need to be nimble and innovative."

He starts from there and then talks about how we need to make sure the Bible, philosophy, and law are not "the centerpiece and organizing theme of the movement". And from what I read, he is basically saying that we need to use more worldly methods to reach the world and get them to see the inherent natural flaws with not pursuing marriage as the place for sexual union.

Add to that how he totally botches the one flesh union by saying that sex is what creates this supernatural union and I am shocked that it made it through the editorial process. When I am apart from my wife (as well as when we're together), I am cognizant of her and what she wants/needs. That is what it means to me that we are one flesh. And that started before we were having sex. It started when I left all my previous relationships and lifestyles and we were thinking about a life together.

Honestly, I think this guy needs to make the Bible more of a centerpiece himself before he starts to tell Christians how to approach the battle for marriage.

Robert said...

I could actually back up a bit there and say all of that happened before we were married and having sex. See, the decision for and commitment to that type of union has to start before the day of the wedding. Then you don't have all of these whimsical ideas from TV and movies about some sparks flying right before the wedding day and people leaving each other at the altar. Of course, that requires putting sex back in its proper place, too...which seemed to be of little importance to this author. It is almost like as long as people are monogamous, everything is OK...since it is really all about the sex creating the one flesh union, right?

Paul Reed said...

The Biblical "vision" for marriage is that people avoid sexual immorality. Of course, since our churches and culture make almost nothing of sin, this is seen as a ridiculously small-minded vision. Instead marriage is viewed as something to help people and society reach "fulfillment", whatever that means, and people ask, "so why shouldn't gays get married"?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Talk about a fantasy world! The writer says:

This will require constructive efforts that describe how sex transcendently, metaphysically bonds husbands and wives in beautiful ways.

Um, sure. Does he really think that a testosterone-laced frat boy is just one beautiful, transcendent description of sex away from leaving the party alone?

The real-world facts are that sexual desire screams through the Adamic loins (he ought to re-read the OT) and the only restraint that has ever worked is the one rooted in fear of God.

If you don't get to that, some pie-in-the-sky "narrative" is not going to do the heavy lifting for you.

DJP said...

If this won't Frank the meta: I just recently started a SS series on marriage at CBC, which you can find online along with the outlines.

Starting literally at Gen. 1:1, we've spent seven classes focusing in on what God had in mind in creating man, in creating man as male and female, and in creating marriage.

In the course of the studies, I've made a great deal about marriage being a covenantal relationship within which sex is something of a sign and a seal. I specifically spent time addressing the idea that it's primarily created by sex, and differentiating the covenantal idea from the contract idea.

And I'm only just getting started on those implications.

Now reading you today, Frank: I'm wondering whether writers like this aren't moving us to miss a golden opportunity to show precisely what we all say we believe to be true — that you simply can't make coherent sense out of life without starting with God's Word.

Frank Turk said...

DJP --

after almost a decade of me franking-up your metas, you deserve one or two -- but this comment is stellar (of course).

I think the main problem for fellows like this one is that they simply can't get the distinction between what is revealed in creation and what is revealed in Scripture formed up the right way. Somehow they think you can get the Gospel out of Nature and maybe we don't need Scripture to get this settled.

Now, without a doubt: I have some sympathy for him in this case because he's saying, in some sense, that we need to be able to live in a society where "marriage" can somehow be engaged in between unbelievers and believers -- that somehow, there has to be a lingua franca between the unsaved and the saved because America will always be a society of people who are mixed in that sense. And let's be serious: marriage is not something which started with the Christian church. Even Paul recognizes that there are marriages which are valid prior to faith.

BUT:

Facts are facts, and Christian marriage is the definition of marriage in our society. To say otherwise, even in the face of the disastrous divorce rate, is absurd. The problem, of course, is that (as Carl Trueman said last week) we gave up that definition decades ago. We did: the church. So now the reform has to take place inside the house of God, and then also outside the house of God.

And the only solution there is -not- a secularized vocabulary about sex and relationships -- let alone the awful, truly awful idea that somehow marriage can be reformed via Six Sigma and management theory. The only solution there is the Gospel.

DJP said...

Frank: "The only solution there is the Gospel."

And here's the point: surely every TGC blogger would formally agree with that statement. But here's one who seems to be specifically suggesting a solution that involves getting around the Gospel.

Frank Turk said...

THIS

Robert said...

DJP,

I'd actually word it more strongly and say that what he prescribes is actually ignoring what the Bible says and just trying to relate to the world on their terms. Reminds me of Rehoboam and his choice of counsel.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Business-school language in a quasi-Gospel context? Reminds me of the series of John Maxwell "leadership" videos I endured once upon a time! I guess I can't fault someone for trying to speak the lengua franca of the business class, but I think your greater point is that if they do, they ought to be faithful to the Gospel when they do it, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Oh doggone it, I wish I had read the other comments first before I used the lengua franca phrase!

Kerry James Allen said...

How about Barna, Hybels, and Maxwell as a business model "trinity" infecting the church that wasn't modalistic since they were all operating at once!

Frank Turk said...

Kerry --

Let me say this so it gets said:

Barna, Hybels, and Maxwell wish they were Seth Godin, Jim Collins and Tony Robbins.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

Frank Turk said...

You know: I know my spelling skills are nearly non-existent, but I did look up "Lingua Franca" before I used it here.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank - I acknowledge my mis-spelling of that phrase, which is not one that I use very often. At least I have the consolation that in mis-spelling it, I demonstrated that it really was coincidental that both of us used it this morning! lol

Nash Equilibrium said...

(As opposed to Lingua Frank, which is pretty much defined as English written in Comic Sans)

Frank Turk said...

I put the stink-eye on you for that, Nash.

DJP said...

Why stop at stink-eye?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Now, this bit of advice comes from a fellow who wrote a book about the so-called "Joy of Calvinism.""

This post is robbing him of his joy!

Nash Equilibrium said...

LOL

Frank Turk said...

Oh PTL -- OSH showed up. I thought he (she?) had been killed by his (her?) own ill-will.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I wonder if the author of that book has considered what to do when the act of sex fades away with things like age or illness, which it likely will. Then where does a couple look to be "transcendentally and metaphysically bonded together" after that much "needed" element is gone? He's hedging his bet on things that fade away.

Eric said...

Webster,

I guess they're left to reminisce.

Carl C. said...

Webster,

Our favorite icon Pat Robertson has taken the definitive stance on that issue for all of us.

Frank Turk said...

Webs:

Yeah, well, marriage is for and about young people, right? A theology which treats man like the grass with is here one day and gone the next is too irrelevant.

Carl C. said...

This is simply incredible. Frank, you've nailed this case well, so not much more to be said. This is just one more fruit of the commercialization/secularization of the visible church, where we are trying to submit our church culture and even way of speaking to the world's standards instead of vice versa.

I'm currently listening to a message from Tom Patton ("Letter to a Christian Nation") that speaks directly to this problem. Although his focus is what Jesus would say to the church in America, it's oh-so-applicable here in Europe as well. The Gospel changes people, not smooth or constantly-morphing ways of diagnosing our cancer.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank was right again on his last comment, because he agrees with Pat Boone: Here]

...and what could be wrong if it agrees with Pat Boone?

Andrew Sanford said...

Frank,

Thanks for once again speaking into an issue that often seems so cluttered (everyone seems to have an opinion on what "we should be doing" as the church) and continue to bring some much needed commentary (which TeamPyro has constantly done- also thanks for the weekend extra post).


The problem here seems to me in some ways even larger than the marriage/sexuality issue though (not to minimize that problem though, it is a MASSIVE issue that the church must confront to be faithful gospel-witnesses in our country).

To me the problem with the article is that it trusts the american pragmatic business model and its techniques as a higher source of authority than the bible in regards to orthopraxy (in this case marriage)

And that is something I don't think is limited to this article. I think its a massive problem for many conservative evangelicals.

Paul Washer makes this point in his 10 Indictments sermon by saying that it is a functional denial of the sufficiency of scripture. (if you haven't seen that sermon... you must)

Would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this.

DJP said...

Frank's thoughts on your thoughts, or on Paul Washer's sermon?

If the latter, perhaps someone could ask Paul Washer to give his thoughts on Frank's post.

Aaron Snell said...

Thanks, Frank, for not making me wait very long. :)

I see this article (which, it should be noted, is the part two to this) as an attemp to answer the same questions Dan posed last week: "how do we respond to sheer verbalized emotion that fixes on facts and logical arguments like a caddisfly larva does with gravel and twigs?" and "should we simply abandon secular arguments? Is this the watershed issue that shows our culture how bankrupt the path of autonomous narcissistic secularism really is?" Forster frames it this way:

Natural law advocates are attempting to reason about sexuality with people who fervently and fundamentally believe reasoning has nothing to do with sexuality. If they don't want to reason, you can't reach them with arguments. As Aristotle wrote at the beginning of his Ethics, people exercise their reason only to the extent that their rational capacities are nurtured, trained, and formed (mostly in childhood) by means other than reasoning. Most Americans today have received little such formation. The claim that marriage is something and we can know what it is comes to them as a completely novel and foreign idea, and they're not much inclined to do the hard work of understanding it. The natural law case is gibberish to them...

The debate about marriage is a debate about public policy and the shared American culture, not theology or Christian ethics. "People have to be convinced that social institutions should participate in and reflect some sort of cosmic order," Leithart observes. "Who believes that these days?"

But at an even deeper level, the audience doesn't even understand Wilson's claims, in the same way it doesn't understand natural law. Like Gergis, Wilson is talking gibberish. Those who grew up in the mainstream cultural environment of the past half-century lack the mental reference points to interpret scriptural and theological language. "Does the vocabulary we have make any sense to the public at large?" Leithart asks.


However poor the answers, it's good to see the conversation centered on these questions. As far as his description of the landscape goes, I think it's pretty accurate.

Turning to Forster's conclusion, though, I have to ask: what if, in giving our culture a more compelling story about marriage, we give them one that isn't just consistent with the Gospel, but actually IS the Gospel? Isn't that what marriage means? It's not about sex, it's about God the Son leaving the Father to come rescue and redeem His people, right? And the problem of our hearers not having the categories for our message is not a new one. Neither is the solution. You don't abandon biblical categories; you build them.

Andrew Sanford said...

DJP,

Frank's (or anyone's) thoughts on my comment is what i intended (sorry i didn't make that clear)

I asked with the intention of seeing if the post was off-base or if the feelings i have about business style pragmatism are shared by others.

Also i too would enjoy Paul Washers thoughts on this topic.

Carl C. said...

Andrew,

I agree with your first comment, and that was partly the point of mine. The "american pragmatic business model and its techniques" that has been hijacked and adjusted to churchese affects marriage as well as many other aspects of Christian living.

Jim Pemberton said...

Ask most men, especially early in their marriages, what their goal for their wife was, note the response. Most men would pause and think about it because they hadn't thought about it. In fact they have a goal, but the goal they have had is one that they wouldn't rather say. Based on counseling statistics, the big issue for men is sex. Their goal is to get their wives to have sex with them more often. If they've thought about what the Bible says relative to their marriage, they might have looked up 1 Cor 7:5 and try to guilt their wives into it. To be fair, men have a need and their wives are the only one who can righteously meet that need.

However, does this translate into a Biblical goal for husbands to have toward their wives? I'd say the primary goal is the sacrificial love found in Ephesians for her sanctification and the understanding and honor in 1 Pet 3:7. Such passages require much from husbands and align us with the husbandry of Christ toward his people.

Frank Turk said...

Andrew --

First, before I say another word, I have had dinner with Paul Washer, and know what sort of man he is. I am a midget compared to him physically, and definitely his weaker brother.

I think the statement that this all comes down to a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is actually a Dan Phillips sermon note/blog post which you well consider. I think it's an utterly-plain and utterly-ignored truth about all of our shortcomings: It's a version of the Serpent's taunt, "Hath God really said?" Well: yes.

BUT!

This begs the question: is this a willful refusal of Scripture, or a mistake from ignorance? Ignorance can be corrected; disobedience, frankly, takes a different kind of correction.

For the average Christian Joe, we can hope in love that it is the latter; when it is someone posing as an informed guide and entrepreneur, it's hard to wrap our arms around the "ignorance" category since they are declaring they are past such a thing.

Frank Turk said...

Pemberton: you are the right kind of trouble-maker.

Sheldon Clowdus said...

Spot on, Frank. As you so helpfully added to my first comment, this is someone from The Gospel Coalition making this argument that in essence the gospel isn't a useful tool in the fight for biblical marriage.

While one certainly seeks to be charitable and think that perhaps the other party has made this statement from ignorance, this is a particularly egregious error and it is extremely difficult to conclude that he doesn't know any better.

Either way, ignorance of how the gospel applies to this subject or the belief that the gospel doesn't apply, it is hard to understand why he is writing at a place like TGC.

Aaron Snell said...

To be fair, I don't think Forster is saying that the Gospel doesn't apply. I think his error is more subtle than that:

>>"Does this mean leaving behind the Bible, philosophy, and law? God forbid! It only means we stop trying to make any of those the centerpiece and organizing theme of the movement. First, define the movement in terms of a new description of sexuality—one that does not require familiarity with the Bible, philosophy, and law to understand. Then rightly relate each of those things to the movement."

So the question before us is, should we be a part of a "movement" that doesn't make the Bible its centerpiece and organizing theme? Forster addresses this in the comments:

>>"1) Why do we care about law when it can't change hearts or save people? Because we love our neighbors and we care about justice. Martin Luther King once said: "I know that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that is important also."

2) So if we do care about law, what view of marriage is appropriate for the law? A distinctively Christian view? No, because God gives the institution of marriage to the whole human race, not just to the church. It is the human community at large, not the church in particular, that has been given stewardship responsibility for this institution. God reveals that marriage is an image of Christ and the church, and only Christians are capable of living into that reality intentionally and in its fullest sense. But that does not give Christians the right to use the law to forcibly "Christianize" the institution. As members of the human community, we can and must participate in the public stewardship of marriage, but we must do so in a way that does not exclude our neighbors from sharing joint stewardship of it with us.

3) If all this is correct, it implies that there must be a view of marriage knowable by the natural revelation God has given to all humanity through reason and conscience (Romans 2) that is adequate for the human community even though it falls short of the Christian view. And this is the case. If you doubt it, I would strongly commend to you the masterpiece What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, which I discussed in part one of this article."

So we're right back where Frank predicted we'd be, on his previous post on abortion and arguments about civil law in the public square. Which is all well and good, but I think it is here that Forster makes one of his two big missteps. He says we need to use new language - the koine of today's sexualized culture - to tell a more compelling story of marriage. The problem is the only story we have to tell is the one that makes the message of the Bible it's centerpiece and organizing theme, the very thing he says we must not do.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

This is one of those articles that I read and immediately recognize I already knew all these things but had failed to connect the dots. I have nothing to add but thanks.

Sir Aaron said...

I can't add anything that hasn't already been said, except to say that Forster's Joy of Calvinism is an excellent read.

Jack said...

I waited eagerly since Sunday for this post, and I guess I'm kind of confused. As best it seems to suggest that the solution to the "marriage" problem is the gospel. That seems just a little too simplistic. The solution is salvation is true, but we must remember that salvation is ALWAYS a minority path. (The narrow vs. broad way.)

If even Cromwell's theocracy in the height of religious fervor could only last 12 years (at best) why do we think that the gospel's intersection with the culture will ever result in lasting change? I suppose the better question is what difference does it make, at the end of the day, winning the culture is worthless next to the gospel, but it is more enjoyable to live in a culture with Godly values, but for the secular, they must be persuaded that it is in fact better to live in a culture with Godly values, not because they are saved thereby, but because...it works better.

What I mean is this, to those who are unsaved, and by all indications will never be saved, to win them politically means to convince them that despite they believe something to not be true, they need to believe its moral system is better than the alternative.

And this to me is the problem. As long as the church participates in the broken cultural relics like "marriage" the people looking at the church see no better operation inside the church vs. outside, therefore there is no reason to seek one set of rules over the other, in fact, given the mere proclivity of most, people will always in said circumstances choose fewer rules.

The long term where do we go, is to do what the Bible commands. Detach the church from the legal system, Hold on the other side of separation of church and state. The state can have its rules, but set up I Cor. 6 arbitrators and judges. Persuade states to allow (choose a state like Utah or Texas) to allow binding arbitration agreements that compel resolution in a I Cor. 6 setting. Avoid civil "unions" no longer call civil "unions" marriage. For that would be deception, the state that allows "marriage" that is not marriage marries no one. Marriage predated the state, get back to that situation. In all manner of disputes demonstrate that Biblical principles work better than secular rules.

As people see Biblical principles work better than liberal social engineering people will return to Biblical principles, if nothing else...because they work.

Why is marriage ending? Because no right minded man would get married in the current society. It changes your position 0 for child custody, and instead of holding up the idea as the husband as head of the house, it undermines it.

Frank Turk said...

Jack has posted an intelligent objection to this post, and I hope to provide an intelligent response.

Saith Jack:

| I waited eagerly since Sunday for this post, and
| I guess I'm kind of confused. As best it seems
| to suggest that the solution to the "marriage"
| problem is the gospel. That seems just a little
| too simplistic. The solution is salvation is true,
| but we must remember that salvation is
| ALWAYS a minority path. (The narrow vs.
| broad way.)

OK: hang on. I am very sensitive to the concern that saying, “The Gospel is the Solution to Culture,” is simplistic and maybe too vague. But, I think, that objection usually comes from people who have too minimalistic a view of what the Gospel is – what the message proclaimed actually is. For example, I’ll bet most of our readers – our good and Godly readers, who are theologically informed people – would say that the Gospel really doesn’t speak to the Return of Christ. Yet: that truncates the real point of 1Cor 15. It’s not intransigence on their part that causes them to do this, BTW: It’s the kind of focus we put on teaching the Gospel trying to run away from the Jenkins/LaHaye model of thinking about end times, and also minimizing the importance of eschatology to maintain public associations.

That said: I think that it is impossible to engage the culture effectively unless the Gospel is our template, our blueprint. That doesn’t mean that we expect everyone to repent and be baptized in order to agree with us, for example, that murder is wrong or that theft is wrong, or that lying is wrong. But it does mean that we can get them to agree on these things because the moral law is written in the fabric of creation. And the first premise of the Gospel is: The Moral Law.

We’re not idiots to believe that there is a moral law that every man has no excuse to know and to obey – but we are idiots if we think that this is not a premise of the Gospel.

Jack, however, is no idiot. He continues:

| If even Cromwell's theocracy in the height of
| religious fervor could only last 12 years (at
| best) why do we think that the gospel's
| intersection with the culture will ever result in
| lasting change?

Well, our post-millennial brethren might have a thing or 100 to say about that. Let’s not ask them if we want to keep this brief.

The rest of us should say something like this: because we believe the premises of the Gospel, we believe that everyone can understand the moral law, and everyone can agree that Government has a responsibility to do justice. If those things are true, then we should expect that government – even populist-driven government – and have a minimum-few list of non-negotiable laws that it will enforce.

[-cont-]

Frank Turk said...

[-more-]

But – and this is a critical “but” -- marriage is not about justice. Government wrecks marriage as an institution because Government can only be good at justice, not love, or mercy, or personal responsibility, or personal sacrifice. However, Government needs marriage for other reasons – and therefore, it ought to simply follow the authority which actually understands marriage and can make marriage flourish. (apologies to DJP for sounding like Keller)

| I suppose the better question
| is what difference does it make, at the end of
| the day, winning the culture is worthless next
| to the gospel, but it is more enjoyable to live in
| a culture with Godly values, but for the
| secular, they must be persuaded that it is in
| fact better to live in a culture with Godly
| values, not because they are saved thereby,
| but because...it works better.

Well, in some sense – Aha!

But look: you are making a pragmatic argument then, and also a simple secular argument which the non-believer can somehow grasp. The unbeliever will grasp the argument, “this works better that that.” But! The reason our Brand X (like Xmas and Xian) is better than their Brand Z is not because it makes better government: it is actually because it makes better spiritual sense in terms of love, mercy, and people.

Our view of marriage is really not about what I get out of it: it is about what is right spiritually for any man and any woman. It works better because this is how we were made.

And that, in spite of Calvin’s objections to this argument, is why Marriage is not just some vocation like farming or smithing: marriage is about how we are made. And that, at the end of it, requires the Gospel to explain it completely.

| What I mean is this, to those who are unsaved,
| and by all indications will never be saved, to
| win them politically means to convince them
| that despite they believe something to not be
| true, they need to believe its moral system is
| better than the alternative.

I think there is a great secular moral argument to be made to the secularist. You can find it here and here.

But look: in making that argument, our advantage is that we know more about the moral law than they do – because we have the Gospel. That is: we know that the Law does more than merely cause bad people to hide from the police. The Law always causes bad people to realize they are bad. Whether that hardens of softens them is, of course, not entirely clear – but getting people to agree to what is utterly evident in nature is Gospel-centered work.

The rest, I’m afraid, talks in a circle.

Robert said...

Frank,

That response was awesome. Thanks for taking the time to post a thought-out answer. It's not like I'd expect anything less, but it is wonderful to see and read through it.

Scott Welch (formerly Scooter) said...

I echo Robert's comment, Frank. That response is outstanding on several levels.

Any chance it can become a new post so that it isn't missed at the bottom of a comment thread?

Aaron Snell said...

And now there's a part three.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Quoting from the original piece:

"We need to say to [the LGBT community], not begrudgingly but sincerely, that we want to find a shared way of life that affirms their dignity as human beings and their equality as American citizens. And we need to say that we have not done a good enough job of that."

Uh, actually, we don't, and excuse me, but I think I can make my own decisions about what I "need" to say and not say. And since you've just proven that you really have no clue what the LGBT community really wants, I think I've got a bit of a jump on you in that respect. Thanks anyway.

Sir Aaron said...

This thread reminds me of a current seriesbeing given by my favorite Pastor.