The relationship between Church, Christians and State

(Daniel Meyer) #21

Dear Joel,

We don’t have to adhere to policies and procedures today either, though. When we see those policies and procedures we take it as a commitment on the part of our masters to discipline us if we go off the approved track, and in faith we judge that it’s prudent to refrain from the course we intended – or in sinful fear we shrink back and avoid doing what we were convinced we should have done. But in neither case are the policies and procedures to blame, it’s our own agency.

I think that our brothers from back in the days when a king could have you tossed into a furnace because he didn’t like what you said would get a good laugh out of our generation thinking our hands are tied due to the policies and procedures, when their very lives were on the line whenever they so much as spoke a word to the king!

A lot of times the thing we worry we should do actually isn’t prudent, wise, or necessary–and sometimes it’s actually wrong. These things must be faced with a clear conscience and with counsel from God-fearing brothers and fathers, and if then if the path of love and good deeds lies contrary to the policies and procedures, so much the worse for the policies and procedures.

(And at the point a man acts, it is then the authority’s call whether to carry out what the policy manual says at that point, or not. That’s not automatic either.)


(Joel Norris) #22


Serious question: if you are in a supervisory position at your workplace, how do you apply WLC Q. 129?

(John M. ) #23

All non-Christians trying to make you implement a social justice agenda because of your faith are just using your faith as a club to beat you with. It’s an inherently bad-faith argument.

(Thomas Hext) #24

@jtbayly and @tbbayly I realise it’s a long post but does the critique below apply to the R2K people? Is this their error?

This was written by a Catholic chap called Budziszewski

neutralism . According to this notion the virtue of tolerance requires suspending judgments about good and evil; according to Christianity it requires making judgments about good and evil. We can break neutralism into three components. According to the Quantitative Fallacy, the meaning of tolerance is tolerating; therefore, the more you tolerate, the more tolerant you are. According to the Skeptical Fallacy, the best foundation for tolerance is to avoid having strong convictions about good and evil; therefore, the more you doubt, the more tolerant you are. According to the Apologetic Fallacy, if you can’t help having strong convictions the next best foundation for tolerance is refusing to express or act upon them; therefore, the more pusillanimous you are, the more tolerant you are.

Closely examined, each fallacy explodes itself. If you really believe that the meaning of tolerance is tolerating, then you ought to tolerate even intolerance. If you really believe that the best foundation for tolerance is to avoid having any strong convictions at all about right and wrong, then you shouldn’t have a strong conviction that intolerance is wrong. If you really believe that when you do have strong convictions you should refuse to express or act upon them, then your tolerance should be a dead letter; it should be one of the things you are pusillanimous about.

But if consistent neutralism is self-refuting, then why is it so persistent? How is it possible for it to live on in our newspapers, on the television, in the schoolroom, and even in the pulpit? There are two main reasons for its vigor. The first reason is that it is never practiced consistently. Rather it is used selectively as a weapon for demoralizing Christians and other opponents. For the neutralist too has strong convictions; it’s just that his convictions aren’t the ones he says one shouldn’t act upon. Consistent neutralism would hold that if it is intolerant to express the conviction that unborn babies should not be torn from the womb, then it is also intolerant to express the conviction that they may be torn from the womb. By contrast, selective neutralism remembers itself only long enough to condemn the defenders of life.

The second reason for the vigor of neutralism is that it encourages the illusion that we can escape from moral responsibility for our beliefs and decisions. “I am innocent of this man’s blood; it is your responsibility”—in these words Pilate implied that one can authorize a wrong without taking sides. “I am neither for nor against abortion; I’m for choice”—this statement is based on the same view of responsibility as Pilate’s. Indeed in trying to evade our choices we set ourselves not only against the laws of conscience but also against the laws of logic, for between two meaningful propositions X and not-X there is no middle ground; if one is true, the other is false. Even the pagans knew that.

What then is the truth about tolerance? The meaning of this virtue is not tolerating per se, but tolerating what ought to be tolerated. Practicing it means putting up with just those bad things that, for the sake of some greater good, we ought to put up with. We aren’t practicing the virtue when we fail to put up with bad things that we ought to put up with, such as the expression of false opinions in debate; nor are we practicing it when we do put up with bad things that we ought not to put up with, such as rape. But making such distinctions requires knowing the truth about goods, bads, and greater goods. There is nothing neutral about that. It requires that we avoid not strong convictions, but false convictions; it requires not refusing to act, but acting. As Abraham Kuyper, J. B. Phillips, and C. S. Lewis have said in nearly identical words, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”

(Joseph Bayly) #25

Not quite direct in my mind until the last sentence. He’s addressing a connected problem, but not the same. R2K proponents don’t have any problem making judgments about good and evil. It’s just that they oppose the church trying to instruct in the public square about good and evil. See the difference? (They may make use of some of the same justifications for why it’s ok for them to refuse to speak God’s truth to the world, though, because it’s hard to justify refusing responsibility for others.)

P.S. When you quote people, can you please provide a link or at least a reference, especially when you quote at length like this?

(Thomas Hext) #26

I’m with you now, they’re abdicating their responsibility to to love their neighbour by staying quiet. I’ve added a link to the above. It’s well worth a read as is this one

(Joel Norris) #27

Can you fill this out a bit more? “R2K” is used as a shorthand code word around here, but I’ve never quite understood what it means. Does opposition to instruction in the public square mean opposition to a denominational statement on abortion, for example? Or is it something else? Would those whom you view as R2K proponents agree with your description of their views?

(Daniel Meyer) #28

To refresh my memory, Q129 and Q130 are:

Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God has put upon them.

Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?
A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, an inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favoring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good; correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonoring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.

(Emphases mine.)

To the extent I have supervisory responsibility at work, if something comes up where the policies-that-be instruct me to

  • command things unlawful, or counsel, encourage, or favor them in that which is evil;
  • dissuade, discourage, or discountenance those under my care in that which is good; or
  • carelessly expose, or leave them to wrong, temptation, and danger

In such situations I should do my duty before God and not worry about the policies. Most often this is not the case and we can quietly do our work. But we should be aware of our duty and prepared to do it. (The more frantic-minded man who’s prone to be jumpy and to proclaim “We must obey God rather than man!” as a pretext to indulge in a bit of the anarchy he craves should slow down and get counsel before he acts; the man whose operating principle is to avoid persecution at all costs needs to remember that on that last dreadful Day of Judgment he will give an account for how he loved God and neighbor.)

I don’t know if this answers your question.


(Joel Norris) #29

Thanks for your response, Daniel, but you addressed Q. 130. I am interested to hear how you apply Q. 129 regarding your subordinates in the workplace.

(Daniel Meyer) #30

Dear Joel, though I am somewhat of a part-time team lead of a small team with informal responsibility for those men, I think a point-by-point of my practice with regard to each of the duties enumerated in Q129 is more than what I want to do at the moment. I get the feeling that there’s one of the duties called for by Q129 that you’re uneasy about. Can you point out that one(s) so that I can be more focused in my response? Or did I miss the boat entirely.

(Joel Norris) #31

Thanks, Daniel. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that you have formal supervisory responsibility.

Q. 129 says superiors have the duty to “instruct, counsel, and admonish” their inferiors and “[provide] for them all things necessary for body and soul.” Is this limited only to job-related activities, or should the supervisor chastise his subordinate for sexual sin, such as after-hours fornication, and provide for his subordinate’s soul by requiring attendance at a workplace Bible study?

(Paul Ojanen) #32

I’ll answer yes (but not to requiring attendance). Both for the exact sins you mention and for whatever else also. It’s not easy. It rarely works. But it does work sometimes. Glory to God for the unforeseen fruit. It never plays out the way I expect it to.

(Daniel Meyer) #33

and “[provide] for them all things necessary for body and soul.”

I think this responsibility must still apply when you’re a supervisor at a secular company. Here’s my swing at it: get to know the man and his sins and find a time to speak your concern privately to him–especially if the sin is one the company forbids you to address. Some men guess where you are coming from and want nothing to do with you on that level; my conscience struggles to be at peace regarding those I’ve not gotten a chance to speak to personally, but I do think that our duty is not coercion but sharing with those who will listen. On the other hand, sometimes when we think someone won’t listen it’s because we’ve been lazy and uncaring and haven’t made the effort to get to know the man – where does he spend his time? What does he love? What does he hate? What drives him?

Based on what you hear the man talk about and see him do, what’s a pebble you can put in his shoe? Then pray for him that God would make that seed grow. If he becomes hungry for the Word of God and starts asking questions, what a joy! Then your way is clearer. I don’t have experience with that yet.

As an example, there is a man at work who spends hours each week following the latest health fads. Diet and exercise are at the top of his list. He is very excited to be physically as healthy as possible–yet as far as I can tell he takes no care for his eternal soul. I am looking for an opportunity to ask him about this sometime. I don’t know that I will get the chance, because he knows where I stand (at team lunches I pray out loud on behalf of our team before we eat, thanking the Lord for the food and for our company and for the good work He’s given us) and it seems pretty clear he has no interest; but I love him and I still watch for an opportunity to say, “Hey, I see that you take much care for your body. But what are you doing to care for your eternal soul, to prepare for the Day of Judgment when we will all stand before God to give an account of our deeds?” That’s the pebble I’d like to put in his shoe. And if he’s willing we’d go from there.

There’s more you can do in a Christian company when you have support from your superiors, but particularly by making use of off-clock time (lunches etc.) I think most any job has enough flexibility that we can discharge our duty. (I’m talking about the professional sphere, since that’s what I know.)

I’m no expert at this, but these are my thoughts.


(Joel Norris) #34

Thanks for your response, Daniel.

What you describe are the actions of a man without real authority (an observation, not a criticism). The man may be a superior in name, but his authority over his inferiors is very strongly constrained by bureaucratic procedure, which in turn is fundamentally driven by the laws and judicial decisions enacted over the past half-century. The same would be true if he had his own business.

To reiterate my previous point, our society has traded personal authority for impersonal authority, something which I believe is a genuinely new development in history. Perhaps it is better this way, or perhaps not, but it is certainly different from the way our ancestors lived. I am not a historian, but I expect Daniel and the Westminster divines would be astounded by the degree to which the highest order of government comprehensively regulates the conduct occurring in lowest of private businesses and associations. A Christian businessman ordinarily may be able to hire or fire at will and engage in transactions with whom he wishes, but when it comes to dealing with legally protected classes, that freedom is gone. Note that the sex of a person, sexual orientation, and sex identity are all protected classes, or soon will be.

When we read the example of Daniel in the Bible, we must not assume he lived in the same legal environment that we do. For example, Daniel’s enemies could find no wrongdoing in his stewardship for the king (Dan. 6:4) because all Daniel had to do was follow the moral law. But with the myriad of laws and regulations today, so much so that no one can keep track of it all, it will be easy to demonstrate that a Christian is guilty of breaking the law (positive law, not moral law) at one point or another. Similarly, since Daniel was not burdened by the maze of laws we have today, he was able to easily avoid the widespread idolatry of his day such that his enemies were forced to contrive a special law to catch him, and it was a clear black/white decision for him to make (Dan. 6:5-9). For us, there is no escape, and decisions are much more gray.

(John M. ) #35

The American Revolution promised the rule of law rather than the rule of men. What we’ve gotten is the rule of a million DMV clerks tapping their long fingernails against the desk while they pretend not to understand what your problem is.

(Joseph Bayly) #36

The only thing worse that I’ve experienced was a butch security guard at the USCIS office (a law unto herself) yelling at me for coming up to the checkpoint holding my child, rather than one at a time. And then threatening to have me thrown out when I was disgusted with her. Of course, throwing us out would have threatened our multi-year adoption process. Everybody there was in a similar situation where they couldn’t risk missing their appointment. She had everybody by the short-hairs and she knew it, and it was because of the absolute authority wielded by the bureaucratic process she was guarding. Crazy.

(Joel Norris) #37

Note that I have nothing against law, policy, and procedure in principle – they are indispensable for administering an organization or nation with justice. Neither do I think any earthly authority should be absolute. Also, I acknowledge that we need more law and regulation than in previous centuries due to our technologically complex and globally interconnected society. But we should recognize that our culture hates authority and has erected a forest of laws and regulations to minimize personal authority and thus (so it is thought) maximize personal freedom. The problem with this approach is that authority doesn’t go away, and we have simply traded personal authority for impersonal authority.

Perhaps impersonal authority is better, but it has the great disadvantage that it lacks accountability. When someone has personal authority, he is accountable to his superior, or at least to God, for his actions and the delegated actions of his inferiors. But the impersonal authority of bureaucracy spreads out accountability so that no particular individual can be held to account, so long as that person adheres sufficiently closely to the official procedures. And since it is impossible to spell out a procedure for everything, no matter how much the policy manual grows, no individual is held to account except for the most egregious offenses.

Consider the situation described above at the USCIS office. In olden days, one could go to the head of the office (the superior) and complain about the abuses of the guard (the inferior), and it would be understood that the superior was responsible for addressing the actions of the inferior. If the head of the office was a righteous man, he would discipline the guard, and if he was unrighteous, he would laugh it off, but it would be understood by those around that he was acting wickedly, and one perhaps could appeal to his superior. In these days, it is likely that the head of the office cannot do anything about the guard (particularly if she is in protected class) since her actions may not rise to the level of breaking rules, or if they do, the bureaucratic procedure for discipline is too laborious and time-consuming to be worth applying. Consequently, the conscience of the head of the office is untroubled since he views himself as lacking authority to do anything (and it may we be true).

(Daniel Meyer) #38

I think I understand your point better now, that we’re under a heavy yoke. And I think you’re right. I think that the way to process the current bureaucratic bondage is to see it as the same kind of thing we see throughout biblical history – that in our prosperity we have turned away from the Lord, and the Lord has sent the Midianites to oppress us. The first step is to admit that we are distressed – that there is a problem that is far beyond us in size. Then, we need to understand that this is from the Lord, in reference to our sin, and humble ourselves and seek the Lord.

We’re a nation of slaves, and what I described earlier is a way for one slave to discharge his spiritual duty to another slave while under the yoke–but don’t we long for freedom to do our brother good openly, without the threat of punishment always hanging over us? That’s what we should fast and pray and look for.


(Daniel Meyer) #39

Dear Joel, I’m dusting off this conversation thread to reply, “a man without real authority delegated by whom?” If you mean that the impetus is not from my higher-ups–it is true I have not been given a mandate from my employer regarding those things we discussed above, and if someone complained there is a substantial risk that management would not back me up in these matters. But should they not back me and I be presented with a choice to back down from this behavior or be snipped from the company, that wouldn’t prove that I had had no authority (to do these things).

The reason is, to me it’s part of loving God and loving neighbor–that’s where my authority comes from to do these things. The prophets and apostles were at times forcibly and violently stopped from their work by imprisonments and murder, but they had authority to do what they did for the Lord.

A risk of consequences is not the same as a lack of authority. We always have authority to love our neighbor, because we have God’s command, and if someone purports to make a law against such love it is void, because God has declared, “…against such there is no law.”

It sounds to me like when you talk about a lack of authority you really mean a risk of consequences. Have I misunderstood you?


(Joseph Bayly) #40

Or, ala this conversation, a lack of power to enforce something. If you have the responsibility to love somebody, then you are also obviously authorized to do so. That doesn’t mean you have any direct authority over said person, but every Christian is authorized to command the world to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. We don’t have the power to make them, though.