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Sunday, March 14, 2010
Doug Wilson has a superb post on how a Biblically-faithful worldview and lifestyle will necessarily lead a Christian to "some kind of conservative" viewpoint, politically speaking. That doesn't mean that all roads lead to Rome. Some forms of "conservatism" are anything but conservative, or "oxymoronic," as Wilson says: "A big government conservative, for example, is like trying to sell packages of jumbo shrimp."
I am saying that if you were to sit a thoughtful Christian down and ask him a battery of questions about our public life, if you gave him a well-crafted biblical worldview test, when he was done answering, if he had answered biblically, the conclusion you would draw is that this guy is "some kind of conservative." The only way to avoid this outcome is by getting the answers all wrong -- which happened because you went to the wrong seminary, enrolled in grad school without any filters for your heart, or by watching too many sitcoms with all the discernment of a vacuum cleaner. Another possibility is if the testee realizes that he is going to be labeled as some kind of conservative at the end of the process, and because he, for emotional reasons, doesn't want that, he refuses to answer any questions if his answers would match those of James Dobson. He has already begun to hate labels, which means he is just in transition. Getting the answers right (privately) is a way station to getting the answers wrong.

The questions I have in mind would concern issues like the death penalty, redistributive taxation, the size and purpose of the military, homosexual marriage, abortion, global warming, the regulatory state, and so on. Make the test as long and as thoughtful and as nuanced as you want. At the end of it, if a man believes his Bible and lives by it, he will be labeled "a conservative" of some sort.


PB said...

I gotta say, I found Wilson's article to be really arrogant and unsubstantiated. If he would have provided some backing to his claim, that's one thing. But all he basically says is, "Look, everyone has to come down on one side of an issue, and 'real' Christians will generally choose the conservative side." Really?! I'm not saying he's necessarily wrong (although I think he is), but I think it's a terrible unsubstantiated claim.

Darius said...

He made a post today that discusses this topic a bit more:

Also, a commenter asked him this: "If I do not support the use of the death penalty, do support large-scale redistribution of wealth, think the military should be reduced in its current size and budget and be primarily home-based, think homosexual marriage should be legal, think global warming is a real and serious issue (at least partly caused by human activity), and think abortion is in some circumstances warranted, I would be a liberal by many definitions. Does that mean I am not a Christian? Or if I could still be a Christian, do what degree am I in sin?"

Wilson replied, "J, no, it would not mean that you are not a Christian. It would mean that you are not thinking like one. And those views would be, by and large, sinful."

I would agree strongly with Wilson's answer, except perhaps to caveat it with a comment about how one man's sin could be another's foolishness or something along those lines. I know some Christians who have sinful worldviews because they are ignorant of what the Scriptures say or how they apply to life, while I know other Christians who care little for what the Scriptures say on life and liberty and just want their cut of the pie. The latter has in worse shape than the former.

PB, there are plenty of resources which help substantiate what Wilson claims here. Besides what Wilson has probably written on the subject through the years, I'm sure J.P Moreland and Francis Schaeffer's works have a lot of good things to say (or C.S. Lewis and GK Chesterton, for that matter, though I believe Chesterton believed in a distributist economic system, which Wilson would not agree with. Your comment though does bring up the good point that we are sorely lacking in Christian political apologetics. We've gone too long in assuming that once people become Christians that their worldviews will necessarily be transformed as well. And I don't mean that Christians will all just vote Republican... such thinking (prevalent in the Bible Belt) is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place.

What we need is a proper understanding of how Christianity properly involves itself in politics and culture. We need answers and we need to recognize that not all answers are equal. Christians also need to teach that some answers are, in fact, sin. Perhaps a low-level sin by comparison, but Nazi Germany showed us that even a bunch of "minor" ideological sins can lead to a whole lot of major practical sins. You get enough people thinking unbiblically, you're going to have problems. Abortion-on-demand is a good example.

Christians need to come up with a battle plan for all issues. What does it look like to Biblically address abortion? What does it look like to Biblically steward the environment? What economic system is the most Biblical? Those questions have answers, and none of them look like how the world answers them.

PB said...

Let me tweak the other commenter's comment a little bit:

"If I do not support the use of the death penalty in the manner in which it is currently carried out in the U.S., do support wise redistribution of wealth, think the military should be reduced in its current size and budget and be primarily home-based, think global warming is a real and serious issue (at least partly caused by human activity), I would be a liberal by many definitions."

This position (with tweaks here and there) represents a vast number of Bible-believing evangelical Christians in the current generation of 20s-30s generation. I just don't see how positions like these can be ruled out so easily by someone who is "thinking like a Christian." I think Wilson has too much confidence in his ability to derive political principles from Scripture with integrity.

Darius said...

Yes, and the vast majority of all Bible-believing Christians from all ages aren't represented by that position. So, obviously, we have to come to one of several different conclusions regarding this apparent worldview conflict.

- The first view is that it doesn't matter, all political positions are morally equal and equally defensible via Scripture. However, such "political pluralism" doesn't stand up long under critical scrutiny, since it doesn't take long to find issues that clearly do have a morally-correct answer and a morally-incorrect one.

- We could conclude that there are certain political views that fall into a Biblical gray area. Now, obviously, this is somewhat true. Some issues are clearly not as critical as others. However, the Bible seems to indicate that everything is the Lord's or, to modify Kuyper, "there is not a square inch
in the whole domain of [political ideas] over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" And the Bible speaks to everything, though not always explicitly.

- A third view we could take (and one that I favor) is that most political issues, at least the big ones like mentioned above, have ONE Biblically-faithful answer. In some cases, there may be several practical methods of living out that answer in one's life, but all of those methods should lead back to the same causative answer.

As for arriving at those answers, many brilliant Christian minds (such as Schaeffer and Lewis, to name but a couple) through the ages have given powerful and compelling arguments in favor of a generally "conservative" Christianity, one based firmly on Scripture. I would be inadequately channeling them if I were to defend any one particular topic, but I am willing to address them (I have already previously posted an argument for the death penalty: Just as there are Biblical arguments in favor of one view of the Trinity over another, solid Scriptural arguments exist to support the view that modern secular environmentalism is not just misguided, but inherently evil and God-dishonoring.

It is no accident that most Christians I know, including those in the 20-30 age bracket, generally come to the same political conclusions. Unfortunately, many of them have a weak understanding of the principles behind it and are merely "conservative" because it feels right (no pun intended) or their parents raised them that way. Now, doing something because of tradition rather than having a complete grasp of all the issues isn't always a bad way to go. If the Christian tradition says abortion is wrong, I don't think every single Christian has to reinvent the wheel on that issue for themselves. But if they don't get at least a basic grasp of why abortion is wrong, they will find it difficult to verbalize and teach to the next generation. As someone once said, "one generation believes, the next assumes, the next forgets."

Chris A said...

Yeah, I don't know. He might be right to an extent, but I'm one of those people he speaks of who resists these labels - not that I would answer dishonestly to avoid them, but I probably wouldn't answer in the first place.

No matter how "nuanced" you get, these things end up pigeonholing you without allowing you to preface your answers with any context. Plus the more nuanced you get, the further you drift from objectivity. You want to know my brand of so-called conservatism? How about flippin' John Locke conservatism, where government exists to protect your property and rights? I suppose that's a kind of conservatism alright, but that doesn't make me giddy about being in the same broad category with Reaganites and Neocons. And in my opinion, Neocons are not conservatives. They are Trotskyites.

Darius said...


Well, like Wilson says, a "big government conservative" is no conservative at all. Conservatism, like evangelicalism, has been warped to the point of nearly no recognition. What we need is to return to good ol' true conservatism, based on Biblical principles and eschewing ideas that are oxymoronic to the conservative label.

Chris A said...

Yeah, but you know as well as me that if Christian Neocons (crazies), who believe in the Trotskyite idea of "permanent revolution" to the end that it might foster US world dominance, would still pass this conservative litmus test.

Bush II was a big government "conservative", but he was also supposedly a Christian, pro-life, pro-death penalty, etc. etc. Not that I really believe any of that, but a lot of folks do.

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When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
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