Brad Littlejohn’s clarifying essay at Ad Fontes on Christian Nationalism is quite helpful. He provides a good overview of the different approaches to nationalism and makes the case for a Christian Commonwealth instead. I suspect that in ongoing discussions related to Christian Nationalism that this essay will be the touchstone for getting people on the same conversational page. The essay is long and covers lot of ground, but I wanted to reflect on only a few aspects of it.
Littlejohn distinguishing between Christian Nationalism on the one hand and Christian Magistracy on the other is good, and provides a solid, conceptual rebuttal to Jonathan Leeman on religious liberty. Leeman’s position can’t seem to answer what moral/religious/objective/natural standard governments should be held to in governing. In other words, what defines the good governments are to uphold and the evil they are to punish if not true good and evil, evident in nature and revealed in scripture?…
What is sin? Sin is many things, but at its core sin is lack of conformity to and violation of God’s law (cf. WSC 14, WLC 24). Doing what God forbids is sinful and not obeying what God commands is sinful. Christians often disagree about what God has required in his word, which is why confessions of faith are valuable. A confession of faith is a statement of belief about what God’s word teaches. For the EPC, we believe that the Westminster Confession of Faith with the Larger and Shorter catechisms contain the system of doctrine found in the scriptures. We confess that these documents faithfully represent the truth of God’s word. Other churches may disagree with us, and some in the EPC may disagree with parts of these documents (more on that in a minute), but this is the chief role of a confessional system: affirming what the church believes God has revealed to us about himself and our duties towards him.
The EPC’s motto includes “In Non-Essentials: Liberty”. The idea in the motto, and very much the reality in the EPC’s culture, is that we foster liberty towards one another in areas of non-essential doctrines. People have the freedom to not only disagree with each other on these non-essentials, but are also able to have different non-essential practices. The most notable example of this is the ordination of women…
I recently was teaching through the 10 Commandments using the Westminster Catechisms, and discovered something interesting in relation to the 6th commandment (“You shall not murder”). This commandment requires us to endeavor to preserve the lives of other people (WLC 155, WSC 68). What I found intriguing was a text, Deuteronomy 22:8, cited to support this claim, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” Jewish roofs were flat so people could walk on them, and a parapet around the edges would prevent people from falling off and becoming injured.
What was interesting was the connection by the Westminster Assembly of this zoning regulation to the 6th commandment, an exegetical connection that Calvin also makes in his commentary on the verse. Building a safeguard on the roof was an expression of loving your neighbor by preserving their life.
What would it take for someone to fall off without a parapet and die? They would have to be on the roof (not necessarily a regular occurrence, especially not your own house), would have to be either careless (their fault!) or slip (rare in a dessert), and then fall from a one-story roof in the just the wrong way to be fatally injured (unlikely from that height). Parapets were protection against an unlikely scenario that could just as easily be the fault of the person falling. And yet, God commanded that parapets be added to preserve human life. This is what keeping the 6th commandment looks like: protecting human life from what might appear an unlikely or dubious threat.
Now do masks with COVID-19.
This is a follow-up post to my two-part series on the Westminster Standards and gay Christianity, which can be found here. In this installment I will be addressing the question of transgender pronouns and the Westminster Standards. I am not here addressing the subject of transgenderism in general and the best medical or social response to it, for which I recommend the work of Madeleine Kearns on the subject.
The topic of transgenderism and pronouns is a fraught one, but exactly because of its complications it needs to be addressed. There are two foundational principals that I am not interested in demonstrating here, but am rather assuming. First, that men and women are distinct in sex and gender and these distinct attributes are not interchangeable (e.g. Gen. 1:27, 2:20-24, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 11:8-15; cf. WCF 4.2, WLC 17, WSC 10), and second, that our bodies are not incidental to being human but constitute who we are. Men have male bodies and women have female bodies. Men ought to be men and women ought to be women.
There is a difference between sex and gender, in that sex refers to someone’s biological sex while gender refers to someone’s personal or social identity that directs their sexual behavior, which is normally, and ought to be, tethered to their biological sex. Someone’s gender is how they live out their biological sex, and ought to be reflective of that sex. Since our bodies matter and are constitutive of our identities, our genders should be consistent with our embodied being. In other words, men should be masculine and women should be feminine. Men should identify as men and women should identify as women…
[[EDIT, June 9th, 2021: An investigation by the Department of the Interior has found that the protestors and parishioners were not cleared in order for President Trump to have his photo-op. This post was built around false information, and I have posted an acknowledgment of that here. I am leaving the original post up in order to maintain the record.]]
The protest outside the White House was apparently cleared by police using tear gas and grenades so that President Trump could go and have photos taken outside St. John’s Church. Leaving aside the question of the propriety of a President using police to disperse a lawful protest for a photo-op, there was no communication between the President and the church prior to his visit, and the church was relegated to a set piece in the midst of turmoil. But worse than that, the police used tear gas and concussion grenades to clear away the church’s clergy from the church property. A President used agents of the state to remove pastors from a church (who were tending to injured people) so that he could pose with a Bible in front of a place of worship. This is despicable.