Letting the culture do the work of the church

Political scientist James R. Rogers (a member of the LCMS) argues that a big part of the problem in American Christianity today is that, for a long time, churches have relied on the culture to instill morality, rather than instilling Christian morality themselves.  Ever since the Sixties, though, the culture has been taking a different turn. . . . [Read more…]

Sexual ethics are part of social justice

Many people, including the Pope, are saying that the church should devote more attention to social justice as opposed to to sexual ethics.  First Things editor Matthew Schmitz, a Catholic, reminds us that sexual ethics are part of social justice. [Read more…]

Hitler’s worldview

In the course of a column about whether a nuclear Iran can be trusted not to attack Israel, George Will reviews Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s  Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.  I woud just add that his account of Hitler’s worldview and why he hated the Jews is in accord with my book on the subject. [Read more…]

The 1st use of the Law and the new commenting system

We theology nerds talk quite a bit about the Second Use of the Law (the theological use, the “mirror,” which convicts us of sin and drives us to the Gospel), and we argue about the Third Use of the Law (the didactic use, the “guide,” which shows Christians how to live).  We don’t usually say much about the First Use of the Law (the civil use, the “curb,” which enables sinners to live in societies).

The First Use of the Law concerns only external righteousness.  There is no merit to it, no question of earning salvation by external compliance.  Jesus teaches us that we violate the commandment against murder when we hate our brother, and we violate the commandment against adultery when we lust after someone in our hearts.  That inner state is where our status as sinners is evidenet, and it is this inner condition that the Gospel addresses.  But it is also important not to murder anyone externally or to actually commit adultery.  This external righteousness is absolutely necessary if human beings are to live together in families, nations, and societies.  Even someone boiling over with sinfulness on the inside can, on the outside, be a good citizen.

Our sinful nature has to be “curbed.”  The Law achieves this by means of things like parental discipline, the state’s legal system, and social sanctions.  The Law’s first use can make us feel guilt and shame.  We would be ashamed to actually do some of the things we fantasize about.  Many harmful enterprises are held back when the question arises, What if someone finds out?  Being held back by such considerations does not make us a moral person–we shouldn’t have had those fantasies in the first place–but they make civil society possible. [Read more…]

Freedom and the new comment system

Thanks, everybody, for trying out the new World Table comment system.  I can relate to the frustrations some of you are registering.  Thanks also to Jack Donaldson of World Table for commenting on the various threads.  We should rate him as “helpful,” “strongly agree.”  He wrote me an e-mail with the subject “Wow! Loving your community!”  That shows a great attitude, given how many of you were “rating” his system rather poorly, but he is right to be impressed with your thoughtfulness and your high level of discourse.  He said this:  “Great feedback coming in so far. I’ve been in the thread answering people’s questions this morning. So far, most everything mentioned is in the works, but we are feeling the pressure, having heard a ton of feedback from your folks.”  We’ll see what happens with all of this.

Anyway, one larger point was raised that deserves discussion in itself.  Is this attempt to create a climate of civility by means of an algorithm part of the same syndrome that has given us politically correct speech codes, trigger warnings, and the hypersensitivity to being offended that shuts down the freedom of speech?  The syndrome that we have mocked and criticized on this very blog?  Do we have such thin skins that we need to be protected from other commenters, lest our feelings be hurt?

I’d like to hear what you think about this, but I think there is a difference in what this new comment system is trying to do, which I will explain after the jump. [Read more…]

Are Liberals Losing the Culture Wars?

It seems as if cultural conservatives are losing battle after battle, with the American public embracing gay marriage, sexual permissiveness, drug legalization, and on and on.  But an article in the usually liberal Atlantic, looking at last week’s election results and other indicators, argues that liberals may be overplaying their hands and that Americans are not as culturally progressive as has been assumed. [Read more…]


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