You commented:  we listened.  After a number of intelligent readers made remarks about the church in America losing its position of “privilege,” we decided to talk about what that privilege is, what it (maybe!) should be, and whether “Christendom” as a concept is compatible with a plural society.

For reading, check out James K.A. Smith’s recent article redeeming Christendom.  For the unadulterated version, see Oliver O’Donovan’s Desiring the Nations. 

Help us improve the audio!  How fitting it is that we had some audio difficulties on the show where we announced a ‘tip jar’ to help us pay for some equipment!  This little podcast has kept going in a way that I don’t think any of us quite expected, and we’ve stretched everyone’s patience with poor recording quality well past the breaking point.  Our poor sound editor has worked magic, but he’s had terrible quality to start with, and we need to improve it at the source.

So, if you like the show and want it to go on in an even more improved form, throw in a dollar or two at the gofundme campaign that we have set up.  You can see the details about what we’ll spend the money on there, including the toppings list for the pizzas we hope to buy (that’s a joke).  Thanks to all of you for your kind words of encouragement on the show and for all of your support.  If you can’t give, but want to tell someone else about the show, that would be appreciated too.

And here’s the closer.

If you enjoyed the show (AND ONLY IF), leave us a review at iTunes.  If you didn’t enjoy the show, let us know and we’ll work to make it better.  Or we’ll ignore you.  And if you want to subscribe by RSS, you can do that here.

Finally, as always, follow DerekAlastair, andAndrew for more tweet-sized brilliance.  And thanks to Timothy Motte for his sound editing work.

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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  • Jackson

    The reference MLA makes to others “seeing our good works and glorifying our Father in heaven” comes from Matthew 5, not Romans 13. Love ya buddy!

    • Yup. It’s one more point where Jesus and Paul are perfectly in line. I was thinking “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.”

  • hoosier_bob

    The key point that Jamie acknowledges is one that Calvin acknowledges in the opening chapters of The Institutes: That general revelation and special revelation have the same source. Thus, there is no reason why we should expect there to be a disjunction between the two. For the Christian, one ought always to inform the other.

    In some ways, that recognition ought to make Christians more comfortable, not less comfortable, in discussing issues with reference to general revelation. Our knowledge of special revelation can, in certain instances, give us the ability to see truths played out in general revelation that may be less visible to those unfamiliar with the former.

    In that sense, this recognition ought also to lead us away from biblicism, or at least a kind of biblicism that assumes that we can be inerrant interpreters of what God has revealed in special revelation and that also assumes that we’re too fallen to read God’s revelation in the world around us. Scripture is not a cheat sheet for understanding general revelation. Whether we like it or not, God has elected to bury much of his truth in the disparate array of the natural order. And while His special revelation may give us insights here and there, it does not obviate the need to observe carefully, analyze critically, and undertake the hard task of acquiring wisdom.

    I suspect that much of the culture’s rejection of Christianity has less to do with its rejection of biblical authority and more to do with the church’s failure to speak in a way that reflects godly wisdom. As Hunter notes, we evangelicals have stopped being epistemic realists, and have become epistemic idealists instead. If we’re going to speak to the culture persuasively, we have to do so in a way that makes sense in terms of people’s everyday experiences of life. To do that, we have to be keen, inquisitive, and non-judgmental observers of the world around us. It’s much easier to spout off idealist notions about “the biblical way” of doing this or that. But that also explains why folks feel free to ignore us.

    • I agree with almost all of this, which makes me really confused as to how you could end up being so wrong on sexual ethics. I mean, “God has wired each of us to be rational utility maximizers.” All I can think is….yeeuuuuccch. : )

      Matt

      • hoosier_bob

        I was exaggerating to a degree…or maybe by more than a degree. Even so, for the reasons I stated above, when we discuss ethical issues, we ought to expect the teachings of Scripture to be consistent with the teachings of general revelation. Evangelicals, I fear, too often run toward the idealistic language of moral conviction. But if the principles they promote are indeed true, then there’s no reason why we should feel bound by the language of moral conviction. We ought also be able to articulate much the same argument in the language of behavioral economics and other empirical disciplines. Further, in forcing ourselves to do that, that exercise gives us something of a reality check.

        I fear that evangelicals often run to the language of moral conviction because it’s a language that doesn’t give much space for objection. When we’re forced to make that same argument in ways that rely more on a realist epistemology rather than an idealist epistemology, it forced us to address objections and thereby arrive at more practical and nuanced ways of moving forward.

        I’m not sure about your statement questioning my sexual ethics. I believe that sex is for procreation only, and that any performance of or simulation of that act without procreative intent departs from God’s design. That being said, within the past half century, evangelicals have been quite content to permit a myriad of accommodations to that rule in the context of opposite-sex relationships. Regarding same-sex relationships, however, we’ve gone in the opposite direction, seeming to relegate gay Christians to some kind of status as moral inferiors (see, e.g., uncharitable criticisms of Wes Hill’s work by Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, Tim Bayly, and others from the Acts29/CBMW/SBC crowd).

        • “But if the principles we promote are indeed true, then there’s no reason why we should feel bound by the language of moral conviction. We ought also to be able to articulate much the same argument in the language of behavioral economics or other empirical disciplines. Further, in forcing ourselves to undertake that effort, we benefit from a certain reality check.”

          Right. See the previous week’s discussion on natural law.

          “That being said, within the past half century, evangelicals have been quite content to permit a myriad of accommodations to that rule in the context of opposite-sex relationships. Regarding same-sex relationships, however, we’ve gone in the opposite direction, seeming to relegate gay Christians to some kind of status as moral inferiors who need to be quarantined off from the rest of the church (see, e.g., uncharitable criticisms of Wes Hill’s work by Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, Tim Bayly, and others from the Acts29/CBMW/SBC crowd).”

          I wrote about that subject here: https://mereorthodoxy.com/can-christians-gay-inquiry/

          Matt

          • hoosier_bob

            Yup. I pretty much agreed with what you wrote there.

            In fact, I suspect that our disagreement largely relates to the where we see this all going. I believe that the legal recognition of same-sex marriage will actually lead to its obsolescence.

            In American evangelical circles, we have pretty rigid gender roles. While men and women are complementary in a number of ways, I find that we try too hard to reduce that complementarity to restrictive scripts that often focus too much on sex to the exclusion of other more prosaic differences. There’s nothing in Scripture to suggest that conformity to Freudian-Influenced heteronormative gender scripts is some prerequisite to marriage. So, in that sense, I don’t find “biblical manhood” to be all that biblical. And it’s view of manhood isn’t much more than something borrowed from 1950s TV shows.

  • This was a great discussion, guys. I kind of hope there could be a part 2 to wrestle with the best philosophical argument that a purely atheistic state could make for itself, as a lot of your strongest statements (e.g. “I can’t imagine tolerance outside of Christianity” or however you phrased it) just went by without any further discussion.

    What would also be a very useful discussion– and yes, abuse does not preclude proper use– is reckoning with the question of how we would expect Christendom to write itself when the prophetic witness is replaced with a heretical witness. In America’s Civil Rights era, we saw God’s judgment on the nation through the Civil War and then another prophetic witness rise up to counter the heretical Christendom. WIthin the same-sex marriage debate, is the prophetic witness the one that says “fight to the death against legal SSM” or the one that says “don’t go up against the Babylonians on this one, Josiah”? Does the witness of the institutional Church get to be that minute? If not, what are the limits of prophetic witness? etc. etc.

    • hoosier_bob

      Advocates of the cessationism would suggest that the problem lies in seeking to be a prophetic witness at all.

  • I can’t say that the discussion was great. I can’t say that because of the limited perspective from which the discussion took place. It takes place from a conservative Christian perspective on authority and the Church and state. In addition, key scriptures are ignored. In addition, the discussion was very vague and lacked specifics.

    To take a negative example of Christian privilege in society, Martin Luther called on both German society and its princes to punish the Jews for their continued unbelief. He made the claim that to not do so would implicate them for the Jews’ refusal to believe. Would the Jews have been better off if they believed? Yes, in terms of eternal life. But does such a better outcome justify punishing the Jews for their unbelief? Does this example say anything to us regarding the current controversy over providing business services to same-sex weddings? Here I am asking if society should act as a supplemental arm of the Church?

    One position taken here is if society is helped by the Church, then it is good for the Church to have a superior position in society. This is called paternalism. And the question is whether that is what the Church is called to today.

    Here, we can consider church discipline and what being removed from the Church says about the expectations that the Scriptures put on society. Matthew 18:15-17 as well as I Cor 5, especially vs 12. In both passages, what we see is a NT view of society. That society is a mixture of both the Church and not the Church. And, at least regarding personal morals, Paul emphatically states that it is God who judges outside the Church while Paul makes judgments on those in the Church.

    In addition, why is human flourishing the criteria for whether Church privilege is good? After all, what standards for human flourishing are we using? Ours? And again, what NT precedent or teaching encourages us using “human flourishing” as a standard?

    Also, the perspective not taken here concerns how Christians will share society with others. Doesn’t it follow that if Christians share society with nonChristians as their superiors, are we unnecessarily providing stumbling blocks to listen to the Gospel for unbelievers. After all, how would we react if nonChristians exerted their power over us in society? Shouldn’t we expect them to react the same way to us? And wouldn’t that lead to want to share society with others as equals?

    Finally, we need to distinguish Christian influence on society in terms of personal morals from that in terms of social justice issues. The providing of business services to same-sex wedding and allowance of homosexuality in society are about personal morals. Should society also punish at least some who are sexually immoral because the Church would discipline its members for not repenting of such sin? While speaking out against environmental destruction, economic exploitation, racism, and wars are social justice issues and the question becomes should the Church speak out against those practices? Dealing with these specific issues would make this discussion better.

    • Thanks for the comment, Curt. It’s true we probably could have used more specificity.

      There’s too much in your comment for me to respond to in the comments. I will say that we could probably find a “negative example” for every positive example (and maybe more), but the abuse of a doctrine doesn’t invalidate its proper use.

      Best,

      Matt