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Christianity, Conservatism and Liberalism

Jan 5, 2007

With both major political parties now headed by professing Christians, the discussions about faith and politics in Australia continue to gather steam. Christians can rightly argue as to which party best represents their faith. And they can agree to disagree as to what are the most important political policies from a Biblical point of view.

As I have discussed elsewhere, the Christian faith is not limited to any one political party, and cannot be fully realised in just one party. But it is still possible to argue that certain political philosophies may better express some basic Biblical principles than others. The worldview behind one major political party may come more close to approximating biblical concerns than that of another party. These are all moot points of course.

But given the growing interest in such questions, it is always a worthwhile exercise to see how they have been debated elsewhere. The US has certainly had a long history of deciding how to integrate faith with politics, and debating which political party best represents the Christian vision.

One interesting article on this complex and controversial subject appeared in a January 5, 2007 article in Townhall.com by David Limbaugh. Entitled “It’s the worldview, stupid,” Limbaugh sought to show how the differences between the political philosophies of the Democratic and Republican parties play out in the area of Christian political concern.

He begins with this observation: “The American left exhibits ambivalence toward Christians and Christianity. On the one hand it routinely demonizes them and their values, and on the other, identifies with them. This sometimes looks like an insulting charade. Liberals often mock the perceived backwardness of Christianity, yet their prominent politicians jump at the chance to appear at megachurches to rub elbows with their robust congregations.”

As in Australia, the left in America is mainly secular, while the conservative parties are more likely to be made up of religious folk. But Christians on the Left in both countries are seeking to redress this imbalance.

Limbaugh continues, “I agree that many Democrats are Christians, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Democrats’ guiding ideology (liberalism) fervently promotes secular values, even at the behest of government, whose endorsement of ‘religion’ it unpersuasively purports to oppose. Nor does it negate the political left’s commitment to reducing Christianity’s influence, not just in government, as it claims, but in our culture and on our moral principles. The left’s aversion to Christianity can be seen in several current books urging Christians to keep their noses out of politics or arguing that Christianity has been a destructive force in history and that diminishing its influence will benefit society.”

And the religion wars are just as pronounced in the US as they are here, even more so. “New stories abound chronicling efforts of atheists and secularists to denigrate Christianity and its values. These aren’t just appeals to Christians to be more tolerant of nonbelievers. They are manifestations of the profound intolerance of secularists toward Christians. Many liberals deny any antipathy toward Christianity, hiding behind the convenient pretext of vindicating First Amendment principles. But their selective opposition to the government’s ‘establishment’ of the Christian religion and their hypocritical support for the government’s endorsement of secularism betrays their true mindset.”

Conflicting Worldviews

At the centre of the political differences lie deep ideological differences. Differences in worldview thinking is the main issue that needs to be addressed here. “While I don’t doubt that many liberals sincerely believe liberalism is ‘more Christian’ than conservatism, they can’t explain away the left’s abiding discomfort with Christianity. That’s because liberalism – no matter how you sugar coat it – is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian worldview.”

He explains, “I believe the main animating difference between conservatism and liberalism is that the former believes in the Biblically revealed sinful condition of mankind. Our Constitution’s framers established a system of government around their belief that man-operated government had to be limited and held in check in order for freedom to flourish. Liberalism generally embraces a secular humanist (or enlightenment) faith in the general goodness, perhaps even perfectibility of man.”

“Conservatives accept that government exists as a necessary evil, to prevent anarchy, establish order and maximize but not absolutize freedom. Human beings within this context will be freer to minimize, but never completely solve society’s problems. By contrast, liberals place their secular faith in government to wholly eradicate societal problems (John Edwards will eliminate poverty in 30 years, following LBJ’s 40-year, multi-trillion dollar failure to do just that).”

Limbaugh then appeals to the father of modern conservative thought, Russell Kirk. “His writings affirmed these essential differences between liberals and conservatives. In his work, Kirk sets forth certain conservative ‘articles of belief.’ At the core of these, is an adherence to a Biblical worldview. Conservatives believe in ‘an enduring moral order’ and that ‘revelation, reason, and an assurance beyond the senses tell us that the Author of our being exists, and that He is omniscient; and man and the state are creations of God’s beneficence. This Christian orthodoxy is the kernel of [Edmund] Burke’s philosophy’.”

Says Kirk, “conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. … The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the Twentieth Century into a terrestrial hell.”

Limbaugh concludes with these words: “If you won’t take my word for it, listen to Kirk: The differences between conservatism and liberalism flow from their competing worldviews.”

Not everyone will agree with these reflections, but I believe they do get to the heart of the conflicting political philosophies. Not that political liberals are incapable of embracing a fully biblical worldview, but the tendency is for this to occur more often on the conservative side of politics.

Whatever one makes of such thoughts, the idea that worldviews matter is certainly worth reiterating.

www.townhall.com/columnists/DavidLimbaugh/2007/01/05/its_the_worldview,_stupid

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19 Responses to Christianity, Conservatism and Liberalism

  • “Not that political liberals are incapable of embracing a fully biblical worldview”. How so? Would it not be the case that once a political liberal embraces a fully biblical worldview then he ceases to be a liberal and becomes a conservative instead?!

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Hi Bill

    Thanks for the article. With our own Australian election upcoming and Kevin Rudd’s recent article and comments on the relationship beteen politics and religion I have been trying to understand why fundamentalist/evangelic christians align themselves with the right of politics especially since this appears to be in conflict with core values.

    It seems to me that the “left” (not that left these days in our politics is particularly left!) attempts to promote core values such as social justice, equality of opportunity, compassion for others, respect for the environment. As a non christian I have always perceived these values to be core to the christian teachings. May I ask whether you regard these values to be in fact core christian teachings?

    Are you really arguing above that we are all too imperfect to follow such idealistic values and therefore they should not guide our politics?

    It also appears to me that the right’s attractiveness to the christian mob is selectively secured by championing a few choice “hot button” topics such as homosexuality, abortion, so-called family values and a disregard for the environment. Similarly, Tim Costello (apparently an active and committed christian) has written in an article today (SMH):

    “..It is striking that the textbook for Christian faith, the Bible, has some 3000 verses urging us to care for the poor and marginalised, and only a handful of verses on two of the topics that the religious right trumpets as its main values criteria: homosexuality and the family…”

    I would also observe that the apparent secularism of the left is more to do with respect for the essential principle of separation of church and state, which in turn promotes better opportunity for religious freedoms across all individuals who comprise society AND across all faiths.

    You appear to be so keen to promote your own percieved truth/faith to be principally concerned about your own personal freedom rather than that of others.

    As a footnote, I would also note under BOTH labor and lib/nat administrations in Australia a significant amount of the tax which I have paid as a single and non christian over the last 17 years has gone to promote the family and to various christian institutions for education and to underwrite tax brakes (ie charitable status of churches) and non payment of rates by church estates.

    May I ask whether your own “ministry” ( see http://www.acl.org.au/national/browse.stw?article_id=7435) enjoys a government tax break? Do you expect your own ministry to be better off under Labor or a Lib/Nat government?
    Andrew Lake

  • There’s an objective standard by which we can determine which political parties and philosophies conform most closely to the Christian worldview/religion. This standard is the Bible.

    Of government the Bible says (in the New Testament, no less!) that “[government] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Rom 13:4)

    Now, what does the Bible say about such things as abortion and homosexuality, two issues now commonly dealth with in the political sphere? So grievous are these two sins considered that the judicial law of the Old Testament prescribed the death penalty for those found guilty. And on the question of the importance of marriage, an issue regularly dealt with in politics today, Jesus himself reiterated its importance and inviolability in his Sermon on the Mount.

    On the political spectrum we can see that those tending toward the left seem to consistently (or more consistently) go against the morality prescribed in the Bible. Since the verse above from Romans states that the purpose of government is to punish “him that doeth evil”, then a political party or philosophy that advocates that government do the opposite — that is, encourage and reward evildoing rather than punish it — is not, ipso facto, a just government and, it should be assumed, should not expect to receive the backing and support of Christians.

    But doesn’t the Bible exhort us everywhere to help the poor — the vulnerable widows and orphans? Doesn’t the political left therefore tend to show a greater concern for the down and outers and, with such apparent compassion, appears to conform more closely to Christian principles and ethics? Isn’t the left therefore (at least in this respect) more Christian than the “selfish” right?

    Christians are certainly meant to help the poor, but, as shown in the Romans verse quoted before, the punishing of wrongdoing rather than the helping of the poor is the main role of government. Scripture nowhere mandates government with the task of helping the poor itself but rather Christians themselves. Helping the poor falls within the jurisdiction of the Church and individual Christians. Disobeying God’s prescriptions will not bring success but rather failure. Indeed, such disobedience, on a societal level, will invite curses instead of blessings.

    Which political parties or philosophies most closely conform to the biblical requirement of government to primarily serve the purpose of punishing evildoing? I think we will all recognise that political parties and philosophies tending toward the right of the political spectrum will more closely and consistently conform to the biblical-defined role of government as that of punishing “him that doeth evil”.

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

  • Thanks Andrew

    I have written about these issues elsewhere on this site, which you might check out if you are indeed interested. To summarise, it is not a question about being concerned about social justice. All believers are, or should be. The real question is, which policies best lead to social justice? So the religious left does not have a monopoly on social justice. It is just that they propose various policies to achieve it, while conservatives look to other policies. That is where the real debate takes place.

    And no, I do not get government funding. If you would like to make a donation….:)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Andrew Lake cites Tim Costello:

    “..It is striking that the textbook for Christian faith, the Bible, has some 3000 verses urging us to care for the poor and marginalised, and only a handful of verses on two of the topics that the religious right trumpets as its main values criteria: homosexuality and the family…”

    Not that the liberal Costello actually believes that the Bible is God’s word, but this claim seems to grow in the telling. I’ve also seem claims merely about the Bible referring to the poor 3000 times. But in none of these verses is there there any mention of massive government welfare bureaucracies to enforce socialistic redistribution of wealth. There are plenty of verses about personal charity, the value of hard work in helping people come out of poverty, and the equality of both rich and poor under the law.

    But the Bible is crystal clear throughout that homosexual activity is an abomination, and that the family was the first institution of God. Costello errs by counting rather than weighing verses.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hi Jonathan,

    Please educate me – how exactly do you weigh a verse? Who decides how to weigh a verse – surely a human and therefore not your god?

    As a minister of a church has not Tim Costello studied scripture more than most people? Would his opinion be better or worse informed than say your own of Bill’s in this reegard? Has not Tim Costello devoted his life to Jesus and the poor?

    How do you resolve the fact that different christians will weigh verses differently?

    How do you weigh a verse when contradictions arise in scripture?

    If a concept appears 1,000s of times in scripture does that not make it of great weight?

    Andrew Lake

  • Andrew Lake, the Bible does talk a lot about helping the poor. But it also gives as a commandment, “thou shalt not steal.” Therefore, we know that we shouldn’t go about helping the poor by employing the civil government to coercively redistribute wealth and therefore break the commandment not to steal. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The job of helping the poor rests with the *voluntary* efforts of the Church and of individuals. And when the Bible prohibits stealing, it includes doing so by majority vote. Stealing is morally wrong, and God will punish a society that indulges in it, even if it’s by democratic process. (Definition of democracy: two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner!)

    I’ll give an example of how a society conducting itself contrary to biblical prescriptions will be cursed with failure.

    In the Sixties, humanists went about helping the poor in a way that was unbiblical but seemed right in their own eyes. President Lyndon B Johnson, reasoning that it was a travesty to have poverty exist in the richest country in the world, went about redressing this apparent imbalance by employing the coercive power of the state to redistribute wealth in the form of welfare largesse.

    What were the practical results? The destruction of the so-called African-American family and therefore that community, the intended beneficiaries of the scheme. The welfare state displaced the role and responsiblity of the father as the principle provider of the family, and with this came a spiraling abdication of responsibility in AA men, culminating in today’s plague of illegitimacy, crime and violence that community is unfortunately associated with. What’s worse is that this race-based community, because of the Dionysian nature of its culture, exercises a disproportionate influence in shaping US popular culture, which in turn shapes the coalescing global culture. Mainstream US culture, in terms of social trends, is usually 15 years or so behind the AA community. Eminem may represent the crack in the dyke…

    “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 14:12).

    Frank Gashumba, Melbourne

  • Dear Frank,

    The moment anyone or entity (eg corporation ) in society pays any tax you are effectively redistributing wealth in one way or another. Are you claiming that taxation equals stealing?

    Do you really think there was any less “plagues of illegitimacy, crime and violence” in past history before there were established notions of social justice?

    What is your solution for helping the poor and needy in society (which I understand is advocated in the bible 1,000 times over)?

    Andrew Lake

  • Hi Andrew,

    I subscribe to the view held by some Christians, derived from the Bible, that any taxation by the government over 10% is illegitimate. And I don’t think God will bless the illegitimate actions of government, no matter how apparently beneficient their intention. Hence the monumental failure of LBJ’s Great Society program, which has destroyed the family structure of its intended beneficieries and which is subsequently having baleful repurcussion not only on the greater US society but the whole world itself. There’s a right way and wrong way to go about doing things.

    I argue that the specific cause of the catastrophic breakdown of the AA family is LBJ’s Great Society program of welfare largesse. Past plagues of illegitimacy, crime and violence may have had other causes, but the cause of its incidence in the AA community can be traced back to these well-meaning but wrong-headed efforts.

    The solution to helping the poor and needy is twofold: first, help them with their immediate needs. But secondly, and most importantly, instill in them the character and worldview necessary to climb out of their poverty. This is the role of the Church, not the state. The state’s role is primarily to punish evildoing.

    Frank Gashumba, Melbourne

  • Thanks Frank
    A classic discussion on this issue is The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties’ Legacy to the Underclass by Myron Magnet (William Morrow and Co., 1993). See my review: https://billmuehlenberg.com/1994/12/10/a-review-of-the-dream-and-the-nightmare-the-sixties-legacy-to-the-underclass-by-myron-magnet/
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Frank and Bill,

    Very interesting stuff! Certainly the question of how to help people and encourage their self-sufficiency within society is an urgent and ongoing question and worthy of constant debate and fresh ideas, so I much appreciate your input.

    May I ask a question though? How do both of you feel about the current government’s policy to redirect much of our taxes to middle class families? Is there not a risk here of welfare largesse as you (frank) call it?

    Andrew Lake

  • Myron Magnet’s book seems to say it very well; I look forward to reading it in the future.

    Let me reiterate this following verse from the Bible regarding all this: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 14:12).

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

  • Thanks Andrew

    Up until quite recently Australian tax policy has been far from family-friendly. We have had a highly individualistic taxation regime in place for quite a while, with scant recognition of the family unit. Thus any fiscal policy adjustment which takes more seriously the contributions that families make to society is welcome. Governments are right to recognize and benefit families, given the tremendous benefits they bestow upon societies. And yes, I do not like to see governments treat families as merely welfare cases, but as deserving of genuine financial recognition and support (as in family unit taxation, income splitting, raising the tax-free threshold according to the number of dependents, or other measures).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill has wisely said the Christian Faith is not limited to one political party nor can be realised by one political party.

    Properly understood, Christianity surpasses political philosophy because the Kingdom of God is the perfect solution for the world. Which, incidentally is why we even have a secular separation of Church and State.

    While I agree with Bill that we can, nevertheless, analyse the political philosphies that are more informed by Christianity, we must do so very carefully because, as history has shown any rashness in this regard tends to have very nasty consequences.

    Regarding Frank’s comments and those of others on this site, can I respectfully recommend they examine the lessons of the English Reformation to compliment those of the North American Great Awakenings.

    One of Christianity’s great lessons is that freedom and authority are not mutually exclusive and that only through benign order can individuals truly be free. On the other hand Christians should not usurp God’s name and authority to snuff out individual freedoms.
    Cheers
    Ben Carter

  • Ben Carter said: “On the other hand Christians should not usurp God’s name and authority to snuff out individual freedoms.”

    I’m actually quite happy to invoke God’s name and authority in order to “snuff” out some individuals’ freedoms.

    You see, I believe that for morality to make sense, it has to come from an objective standard. This objective standard has to, by definition, be transcendent in its provenance. Otherwise, if temporal, it is merely arbitrary, subjective opinion. In a roomful of arbitrary, subjective opinions, which one’s the right one? Such a temporally derived morality reduces ethics to the law of the jungle, which is that might makes right. The Nazis were excellent and brutally consistent practitioners of this philosophy of ethics.

    My morality, or system of ethics, is based on the objective standard of God, revealed to us in the Bible. This system of ethics is objective because it is transcendent in its provenance. Its source being Almighty God, it is therefore absolutely authoritative and so universally binding. My morality is therefore not based on my own arbitrary, subjective opinions, otherwise how right my morality was would depend on how much might I would be able to muster a la the Nazis.

    I believe that such things as murder, rape and stealing are morally wrong. I believe this based not on an arbitrary, subjective opinion but rather the objective standard of morality revealed to us by God in the Bible. I believe, based on revelation from the very same source from which I derive my system of ethics, that the primary role of civil government is to deter and punish such evildoing as murder, rape and stealing. I therefore think it legitimate for the civil government to punish those found guilty of committing such evildoing, which may involve “snuffing” out or denying the individual freedom of criminals by placing them in jail or by “snuffing” out all freedoms altogether by employing capital punishment.

    The civil government under whose authourity I currently live agrees with and reflects my system of ethics by “snuffing out” or denying the freedoms of those who commit such evils as murder, rape or stealing. It does this by placing those convicted of such immorality in gaol.

    This civil government, however, does not fully reflect my morality with regard to murder, for example, because it does not punish the offender if the victim is prenatal. But I recognise that the best system of government under which to live is one in which public law is made by the majority under a system of representative government. The majority of people currently do not believe that prenatal killing ought to be treated as murder and so punished by the state, and this fact is currently reflected in public law. Christians like me work to try to pursuade the majority of the error of their ways, such that they may change the laws under which they live in the future to reflect their (God-willing) changed morality.

    So like everyone in our society, I believe that the freedoms of some people — like murderers, rapists and thieves — ought to be “snuffed out” by the civil government for committed evil acts. But we are not all agreed on what system of ethics we should appeal to in fashioning public law, which seeks to reward “good” behaviour and punish “wrong” behaviour. Should we appeal to system of ethics that is temporal in its provenance and so merely arbitrary and subjective? Or should we appeal to a system of ethics that is transcendent in it provenance and so objective and universally binding in its authority? What we are (I hope) all agreed on is that we should conduct this process of public-policy formulation within the framework of representative democracy.

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

  • Hi Frank

    I have only just read your comment, hence my delayed response.

    I am not usually a pedant when it comes to semantics, but I think that your comments do necessiate some semantic analysis.

    There is a fundamental difference between ‘usurp’, which refers to illegimate acts, and ‘invoke’ which means to ‘declare’ or to ‘call upon’.

    When I referred to ‘God’s name’ I was referring to God’s authority. So my point is that people should not illegimately use God as an authority in support of a point of view. I assume you agree.

    My remark about the illegimate use of God’s authority to ‘snuff out individual freedoms’ was made in the context of a discussion about Christianity and partisan politics. I was agreeing with Bill’s point that the Christian Faith cannot be realised in one political party but that it is nevertheless possible to assess which policy platforms adhere more closely to Christian beliefs. My further point was in reference to the danger that God’s authority may be illegimately used in support of a party political, philosophical or idealogical points of view.

    This has occurred on numerous occasions in the past when Christian apologists for totlitarian regimes of the right and left have usurped God’s name to justify these regimes’ monstrous beliefs and actions.

    It also happens when Christians express approval for capital punishment when there is no rational basis for suggesting that God approves of the taking of human life. Forgiveness and compassion are central to Jesus’ teachings – not vengence.

    I do agree that for a code of ethics to be meaningful it should exist within a coherent moral framework. I believe that transendant moral framework is the one provided by God.

    What I do not believe is that the Bible is capable of providing detailed guidance like some sort of manual about what our actions should be in every single instance. Nor does divine grace release us from our personal responsibilities to contribute to the best possible community.

    Therefore, I believe its vital that God’s name be invoked and not usurped.
    Cheers
    Ben Carter

  • Ben Carter said: “There is a fundamental difference between ‘usurp’, which refers to illegimate acts, and ‘invoke’ which means to ‘declare’ or to ‘call upon’.”

    Whether you use “usurp” or “invoke” to describe a particular appeal to biblical authority will depend on whether you view such an appeal to be legitimate. I explained in the previous post why I thought my appeal to biblical authority was legitimate in issuing a verdict on the performance of civil government. And since Parliament is the legislative arm of government, wherein political parties exist and operate, I also implied that it is always legitimate to appeal to biblical authority with regard to society’s rewarding of “good” behaviour and punishment of “bad” behaviour; because to do otherwise is to apply an arbitrary, subjective standard of morality, which in the end translates to Might Makes Right. (Sieg Heil!)

    Ben said: “When I referred to ‘God’s name’ I was referring to God’s authority. So my point is that people should not illegimately use God as an authority in support of a point of view. I assume you agree.”

    Of course I agree. If people, in support of their worldview/point of view, cannot justify their appeal to God’s authority from Scripture, then that appeal is ipso facto illegitimate.

    Ben said: “My remark about the illegimate use of God’s authority to ’snuff out individual freedoms’ was made in the context of a discussion about Christianity and partisan politics.”

    If it is possible for a political party to more closely align its platform with a biblical worldview than another party, then I believe it follows from this that is possible for a Christian to be “partisan” about his politics. For example, if one political party supports, oh say, the killing of innocent life in opposition to another, then a person who believes it wrong to kill innocent life, we should think, is morally obliged to support the political party whose platform aligns, or more closely aligns, with his ethics or worldview; that is, it is legitimate for him to be “partisan” in his politics. I for one would be “partisan” if presented with the choice of voting for the Nazi Party in Germany over, say, the Christian Democratic Party.

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

  • Ben said: “I was agreeing with Bill’s point that the Christian Faith cannot be realised in one political party but that it is nevertheless possible to assess which policy platforms adhere more closely to Christian beliefs.”

    How would it be possible to “assess which policy platforms adhere more closely to Christian beliefs” without appealing to God’s authority? Because to carry out such an assessment, we would of course have to appeal to Scripture, which derives it’s authority from the fact that it is “God-breathed”. And whether such an appeal is to be deemed legitimate or not can be determined by seeing whether it squares with Scripture.

    Ben said: “My further point was in reference to the danger that God’s authority may be illegimately used in support of a party political, philosophical or idealogical points of view.”

    Whether such is legitimate or not will be determined by whether it squares with Scripture. Without appealing to Scripture in supporting philosophical, ideological or political parties’ point of views we would be appealing to what? Arbitrary, subjective value-judgements plucked out of thin air, that’s what: the Law of God or the Law of the Jungle – take your pick.

    Ben said: “This has occurred on numerous occasions in the past when Christian apologists for totlitarian regimes of the right and left have usurped God’s name to justify these regimes’ monstrous beliefs and actions.”

    And how do you know that these regimes and their actions were “monstrous”? By appealing to the objective standard of the Bible to make this value-judgement, of course, the revealed word of God. Whether such an appeal to God’s authority is legitimate or not can be easily determined by checking Scripture. I know of no biblical justification for Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler’s regimes. If you can reveal otherwise, then I would be happy to change my denunciatory view of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.

    Ben said: “It also happens when Christians express approval for capital punishment when there is no rational basis for suggesting that God approves of the taking of human life.”

    Is it rational to appeal to Scripture in determining what God approves and disapproves of? Or do we just … sense it?

    Ben said: “Forgiveness and compassion are central to Jesus’ teachings – not vengence.”

    Makes you wonder what all that talk of Hell was about if Jesus has done away with vengeance? But then I recall reading somewhere in the Bible something along the line of, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” And if I remember correctly, the next verse implies that our motivation for being nice to our enemies is for the very purposes of heaping coals of fire on their heads! Maybe I’m thinking of a different Bible.

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

  • Ben said: “I do agree that for a code of ethics to be meaningful it should exist within a coherent moral framework. I believe that transendant moral framework is the one provided by God.”

    Since civil government primarily involves the punishment of “bad” behaviour and (in withholding punishment) the rewarding of “good” behaviour, it stands to reason that the code of ethics government applies should be “meaningful” and “exist within a coherent moral framework.” Such a framework is the one provided by God.

    Ben said: “What I do not believe is that the Bible is capable of providing detailed guidance like some sort of manual about what our actions should be in every single instance.”

    Should I wear a red tie or a blue tie today? You’re right, the Bible does not provide any guidance, let alone detailed guidance, on what course of action I should take in deciding such a matter. But should civil government punish rape because it constitutes “bad” behaviour? Of course! And the only “meaningful” way of determining this is by appealing to the “coherent moral framework” provided by God, found in Scripture.

    Ben said: “Nor does divine grace release us from our personal responsibilities to contribute to the best possible community.”

    My understanding of divine grace is that of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to abide by God’s standard of morality, revealed in Scripture, by virtue of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the recipients of God’s favour. The “best possible community” is the one in right standing with God to the degree that the Spirit, by God’s grace, enables.

    Ben said: “Therefore, I believe its vital that God’s name be invoked and not usurped.”

    We seem to be in agreement, after all. But rather than using “invoke” and “usurp”, I think it would be easier to employ “legitimate” and “illegitimate”.

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

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