Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, 05 August 2012
As we continue our discussion of politics (and economics) in the name of Jesus, I want to pick up on at least a few things that have arisen in the comments.
When it comes to reasoning from Scripture, applying the word of God to our lives, there are two ways of reasoning -- inductive and deductive. Inductive moves from the particular to the general, and even if the particular is in Scripture, it makes sense to see this process as a move away from the authoritive word. This means that the further you get in your applications, the further out on the skinny branches you find yourself.
I think this is still a legitimate way of proceeding, depending on the issue, but taking care should be the name of the game. But what I have been arguing for is a deductive approach.
The Bible defines a particular genus as sinful, and you study an issue to see if a particular practice is a species that should be categorized within that genus. If it is, then it falls under the same condemnation that the genus does. This is deductive reasoning, moving from the general to the particular.
For example, Jesus says that divorce between two covenant members is prohibited -- unless there has been porneias (Matt. 5:32). Porneias is a broad term, referring to sexual uncleanness. But how unclean does it have to get before it moves into this category? A biblical form of (deductive) reasoning would therefore be that the Bible allows for divorce under conditions Y. Practice x is a subset of condition Y -- Y(x). Therefore, divorce is permissible under subset x.
There are practices which are bad, but not actionable under the porneias clause, and there are actions which are actionable. The Bible sitting there won't make that decision for you. You have to decide. And if it scares you -- as it should -- you should walk in faith, and hope, and love. You must not take that decision that you have a responsibility to make, wrap it up in a napkin, and bury it in the ground -- for you think you serve a hard master.
Unless pastors and elders are willing to read the world, read the story their people are actually in, there is no way to bring the authority of the Bible to bear in the lives of the people. What good is an absolutely infallible book that cannot ever be applied? Application means making a connection between what is happening here in the world and what the Bible is talking about. People want to know -- and it is right for them to want to know -- whether Jesus allows them to get a divorce under "these conditions."
Now this kind of reasoning is not given any promises of infallibity, but welcome to earth, kid. The straight reading of the Bible isn't given that promise of infallibility either -- whether reading, preaching, writing, etc. Nevertheless, the one who speaks should speak as the very oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11) and, not unrelated, not many of you should want to be teachers (Jas. 3:1).
Another issue has to do with informed reason, common grace, natural revelation, and the tradition of Reformed casuistry on such matters -- none of which should be lightly set aside. I agree that all of them should be used to inform our minor premise. Scripture supplies the major premise -- dishonest weights and measures are an abomination. The minor premise would be that inflation (and related practices) is a form of manipulating such dishonest weights and measures. Our information about that has to come from men whose minds have been steeped in Scripture, but who also have learned what constitutes a valid argument from Aristotle, who have learned how pins are made from Adam Smith, who have realized through natural revelation that the law of supply and demand cannot be repealed by Congress any more than the law of gravity can be, and who have studied the history of theology and economics.
I quite agree that we should not expect every pastor to be up to speed on every last issue -- there are only so many hours in the day. But at the same time, effective pastoral care requires a man to be an informed generalist. Not to decide is to decide, and not to counsel one way is to counsel another. People come to you with questions like, "Is it lawful for me to join the military?" Or "Is it right for my children to get a vaccine developed decades ago from fetal tissue?" Or "Can I watch R-rated movies?" Or "The employees in my business want to unionize and I am in a position to stop them. May I?"
All of these issues, and many more where those came from, require a pastor who is an equipped generalist. He could save himself a lot of work, and just shrug when asked, but that will lead to a certain set of answers, depending on the prevailing winds of the outside culture. He is a pastor and is going to give direction one way or another, no matter what he does. I think it ought to be purposive and informed.
All that said, when I write on economics, I am not just popping off because I am now in my sixtieth year, and I can feel myself getting crusty and all curmudgeonly. No, I have been studying economics for forty years or so and, if it's myself that says it, I know my onions. Debasing the currency is one of the oldest dishonest and knavish tricks in the book, and the age of computers has simply changed how it is done. Back in the day, brigands and highwaymen would take your purse by waving a cutlass under your nose, and a modern mugger might use a Glock, about which the prophet Isaiah says nothing. This should not leave us scratching our heads about the lawfulness of armed robbery.
And this is why I don't think I have been "overly simplistic" at all. If I were given the task of sketching my ideal biblical republic, and I had the liberty to start from scratch, there are all sorts of additional options that would have to be taken into account (central bank? mint? fractional reserve banking? 90-year mortgages?). However we worked out those things, and they would have to be worked out, the basics that I have been addressing here would be a central part of the system. In short, the currency would be honest, and its integrity would not be dependent upon men who had no integrity. Your currency will be as sound as the hearts of the men in charge of it, which explains why we are in the shape we are in.
But given our circumstances, we have two basic directions we can realistically go. Either we will continue to spend money that our great-grandchildren haven't earned yet, or we will knock it off. This is an active choice before our people now -- and to do what Obama wants us to do is the unrighteous option and to do what the Tea Party wants us to do is the righteous option. Now when I use these words unrighteous and righteous, I am using them with full biblical force. To maintain our current profligacy, or to increase it, is detestable in the sight of God. To repent of what we have done, and go in right direction is to go -- for starters -- in the right direction.
"It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: For the throne is established by righteousness" (Prov. 16:12).
"Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Prov. 25:5).
"The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, His throne shall be established for ever" (Prov. 29:14).
Spending trillions more right now -- with the Fed as the spigot -- would be a wicked thing to do. Refusing to spend those trillions right now is not wicked. This is not complicated.
So put me down for one of those yellow rattlesnake flags.