Re: Fw: Shapes of a Wedge

From: Innovatia <>
Date: Mon May 31 2004 - 13:23:07 EDT

From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <>

> On Fri, 28 May 2004 13:38:12 -0600 Innovatia <>
> writes:
> > From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <>
> >
> > > Dennis,
> > > Your first paragraph runs into trouble with I Peter 2:13ff; Titus
> > 3:1;
> > > Romans 13:1ff. Only when the state directly demands disobedience
> > to God's
> > > command (where is the express command about marriage?) is one to
> > reject
> > > the state and take the penalty. I have not encountered a passage
> > that
> > > advocates anarchy, though there are some that describe near
> > anarchy.
> >
> > Agreed about anarchy. The two govt texts you cited clearly affirm a
> > certain
> > kind of govt, one which upholds God's law - i.e., punishes evil,
> > encourages
> > good.
> >
> Yes, Brother, this good government was that of Nero, for all three
> epistles were written during his reign. By your qualification, I'd say
> that you are adding to scripture.

Or was it Claudius? I wouldn't want choice of which emperor (for they were
quite different) to be the critical fact in determining what Paul is saying.

For both Paul and Peter, what constitutes authority established by God is
qualified: "to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right."
Anyone with power who fails to act in this way also fails to qualify as an
authority "which God has established" because "The authorities that exist
have been established by God." Is anyone who holds a gun to your head an
authority who is to be obeyed? What about a gang of criminals? What
constitutes the hyperecho exousia?

Consequently, a distinction must be maintained between authorities
established by God and anyone who happens to wield power, but does not exist
as an authority established by God nor is instituted by him among men as
such. In other words, authorities not established by God are illegitimate
pretenders to it, lacking a valid claim to authority, though they may be
powerful. Neither Paul nor Peter say this explicitly, perhaps because
letters to Roman Christians would almost certainly fall into the hands of
government officials. But the conditions for who these huperecho exousia
(higher powers) are is made explicit by both Paul and Peter. Roman officials
could have assumed they met the criteria without being offended.

When government laws or decrees contradict scripture, they are not binding
upon the Christian. Consequently, when govt claims a jurisdiction denied it
by scripture, such as being a thrid party to marriages, the requirement of a
marriage license of the State is not binding, for it contradicts the order
God has established in his law. It comes down to choosing whose law you are
going to obey - i.e., who is your Lord.

> > In going beyond its biblical bounds, the State conflicts directly
> > with
> > Deuteronomy 4:2:
> >
> > Deut. 4:2 (ESV)
> > You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from
> > it, that
> > you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command
> > you.
> >
> > and Deut. 12:32:
> >
> > Deut. 12:32 (ESV)
> > "Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You
> > shall
> > not add to it or take from it.
> >
> > > This, with not "taking away from or adding to his law" means that
> > you are
> > > disobeying God if you do not stone adulterers or homosexuals. I
> > expect
> > > you, therefore, to stone to death the next individuals you know
> > involved
> > > in either of these sins and to accept the condemnation and legal
> > penalty
> > > for the first degree murder.
> >
> > Biblical law for Christians applies as it is understood in view of
> > the
> > gospel. There may be grounds for forgiveness. All the same, a truly
> > biblical
> > government would uphold the whole counsel of God, not selectively,
> > as befits
> > our contemporaneous moral sensibilities. As Paul says, the govt does
> > not
> > bear the sword in vain.
> >
> In other words, when things get sticky, revise. YOU MUST NOT TAKE ONE JOT

I am affirming that both the OT law must be understood in the light of the
gospel and NT teaching, and that the OT law is neither controverted or
abolishing in the NT. Even the "ceremonial" law of the OT points Xns to its
fulfillment. Christ himself affirmed the OT law. It is the civil norm for
Christians, sticky situations or not. If it is not, what else is? Family
values? Majority votes about ethics among contemporary Christians? Situation
ethics? The leading of the Spirit? The law is the objective, divinely
revealed alternative for right and wrong. I'll stand on it, as was the
tradition of essentially all the non-papal early churches.

If American govt were biblical, the offenses for which God sanctioned the
death penalty would be considered as worse than many American Christians
suppose. Whether homosexuals should be put to death is therefore a question
of how, in light of the NT, God's law about it should be applied. I don't
deny the place of case law, for jurisprudence of OT law results in legal
commentaries, controlling decisions, etc. There is a place for arguing about
how the law is to be applied. But if God's revealed word about what is right
and wrong is set aside by us, we are probably trying to serve two or more

> > > Are you wrong in selectively citing scripture and twisting it to
> > your
> > > intent, deliberately disobedient, or it was nice to know you?
> >
> > I don't follow this, Dave. Where is the twisting? The scriptures do
> > say, do
> > they not, that we are to follow Christ, not the world-system as
> > manifested
> > in ungodly behavior of government instututions? And do we not do
> > that by
> > taking heed to God's revealed will in scripture? That is basically
> > my
> > intent.
> >
> I do not fault your intent. But I think I have made it clear that you are
> altering what you claim scripture requires while also claiming that the
> Mosaic code applies to us unconditionally. What you cite from Deuteronomy
> clearly applies to the theocracy of Israel. But that fell apart almost
> immediately, as evidenced by Judges. It was further eroded during the
> early kngdom. Now you want it modified further, but accepted unchanged.
> You can't have it both ways.

I don't quite agree that the law is so limited, for if it were, then why
would Christ affirm it so unabashedly in Roman-occupied Judea? Why does Paul
say that it is good? The law was still normative for Israel during the
Judges and also during the monarchy and after, as evidenced by the appeal of
the prophets to it in bringing suit against Israel on God's behalf. Instead
of wanting it modified, I want to take it more at face value, to take it
further in practice than most American Christians want to do. I recognize
its basic principles as setting hard outer limits on godly behavior that
Christ (for example, in the Sermon on the Mount) interprets to the point of
including thoughts and intentions. The greater NT ethic is largely a matter
of making explicit the implications of what is implicit in the OT law
itself - including Sabbath observance and food issues. The general
principles in the law illuminate the application of these particular laws.

> > I have spent considerable time the last few years studying the
> > various ways
> > in which we as Christians are entangled with the institutions of
> > American
> > society, and my conclusion is that that these relationships are long
> > overdue
> > for a careful review - which is part 2 of XLM, by the way.
> >
> > Saludos,
> >
> > Dennis Feucht
> >
> On this I will agree. But the answer to the problem is not to try to
> establish a theocracy but to obey Romans 12:1f.

What are the alternatives to biblical government? Representative govt, where
"we the people" decide what is right and wrong? An individual (fallen human
king) who does instead? The kingdom of God IS a government. We give our
unreserved loyalty as Christians to it, do we not? The implications of this
are extensive and remain underdeveloped in the developed world of today.
Obeying Rom 13/1 Peter 2 takes the larger context into account. In other
words, I find that the handling of these biblical texts is sometimes too
facile in American Christianity, especially in view of the fact that Paul,
and possibly Peter, were put to death by worldly States because they failed
to submit to them as some suppose these texts might require.

> In other words, the
> correction is personal and within the body of Christ.

But is this not why the American church is so marginal today in American
society? It has relegated application of biblical teaching to the mind or
within church buildings and has not really considered it applicable to the
institutions of American society.

> You cannot even
> modify the unbelieving church which reformulates scripture to meet their
> attitudes, let alone the broader society which does not accept biblical
> authority. I think of a couple groups which recognized that they could
> not change the majority to their mores. So there was a Mennonite enclave
> in Mexico, and one in Paraguay, where they did not have to interact with
> the wicked world. But you're going to fix it for them by establishing a
> theocracy. If you do it also in Canada, the Mennonite groups can go back
> to where they lived before emigrating.

Our job is not to make other people believe as we do (the papal approach)
but to be a voice upholding biblical instruction and benefits in a fallen
world. In the past, Christians who had this different attitude toward
society made major inroads in influencing social institutions. Patrick of
Ireland (not a papist) and his school was instrumental in the spread of
Christianity throughout the Britons, Scotland, and Ireland. In our time,
AmXns have opted out of being that kind of positive challenge and influence
in American post-Christian society, falling back instead upon being sure we
submit ourselves to the wicked in power as though that's all there is to
God's will concerning govt. I'm not saying your position is this extreme,
Dave, but it is the one I am responding to as I view AmXny.

My point about the Mennonites is that they have, in their own way, exercised
greater caution in avoiding ungodly entanglements with worldly governments
than many other Christian traditions. They live together as a minisociety
and, though human and fallen, do not have many of the problems of American
society because they heed biblical instruction as having collective

> Another small problem struck me. How do you apply the strict commandment
> of Leviticus 20:10 in the light of Matthew 5:27f, 31f? I think your
> principle is that you can't fudge on the Mosaic Law except as it is
> modified by Christ.

Leviticus 20:10 (ESV)
    "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the
adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

I see Christ in the Matt 5 Sermon as spelling out implications of the law.
The OT law was, of course, not devoid of mental sins (10th Commandment), and
all ofthese were to be judged by God. Few OT laws actually had social
sanctions. Adultery was one. If we agree that the law is just (using Paul's
words) then it is right that adulterers be stoned. However, Christ's death
has made provision for the offended husband to forgive the offender.
Otherwise, it is just that the penalty be carried out. For adultery of the
mind, as for many OT violations of law, the matter can only be judged by

> Que le vaya bien (which won't happen when you stone the first adulterer
> or adulterous pair),

No, I don't plan to do that which God's law calls for the offended, or civil
govt, to do.

Received on Mon May 31 17:12:58 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon May 31 2004 - 17:13:15 EDT