A healthy plea to theonomists

Imagine a scenario.  You and the pastor disagree on one point.  What are your options?  Split the church and have a martyr-complex, obviously.  Attack him.

Or maybe not.

I am trying to let theonomists know that it’s okay to disagree with someone and let that disagreement be just that.  What does “acting like a theonomist” in the church actually mean?  No one has given a clear answer to that.   People say, “Accepting the Word of God.”  Yeah, that means nothing.   Quakers claim they do that.  I kept asking theonomists for clear, concrete details on what this actually looks like.  I haven’t gotten any.

As I’ve told theonomists,

Bahnsen was irenic. Bahnsen was a good churchman. Unlike another prominent Reconstructionist, Bahnsen didn’t sever himself from the church for 8 years and serve himself communion. That’s because Bahnsen knew that theonomy is theonomy *in* Christian ethics, not as. That means one can disagree on theonomy and the gospel, the Reformed, witness, and Confessionalism is not threatened. Bahnsen knew that.

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Commie joke

Old Russian proverb say “Is better to have potato and lose than never have potato.”

Of course is silly. No Russian have potato in first place.

Russian try to cross river. Has dog, potatoes, and dead son’s body. Can only take two across river at one time.  If leave dog with potatoes or corpse, dog eat them. Is very sad.

Also is not good boat

Last joke

Two Russian look at clouds. One see potato. Other see impossible dream. Is same cloud.

Drawing Conclusions

He continues with actual critiques of Wilson’s methodology, rather than saying “This hurts my feelings.”  In other words, now we are on to something.

It’s difficult to offer a critique of the history since there’s no clear substantive historical basis to the book. For example, Wilson writes that “it is necessary to get clear on the nature of American slavery, which was not what it’s abolitionist opponents claimed for it” (p. 4). But he doesn’t give us either a sustained critique of abolitionist claims or a sustained argument for a different view.

Well, he can say that. I thought the book offered history.  The world’s leading scholar on Antebellum slavery (Eugene Genovese) thought it offered history.  Who’s to say?

He summarizes Wilson’s thesis (accurately, I think)

Central to the book’s thesis and Wilson’s logic is the notion that “antebellum slavery was the normal kind of sinful situation” rather than “Apocalyptic Evil”

Here is why Wilson is right and Anyabwile is wrong:  the bible does not call slavery an apocalyptic evil, or even sin.  And if Cahill’s analysis of Hellenistic sociology is accurate, as I think it is, then Paul didn’t even call that institution evil, though he would have called the actions sinful.

And here is the dangerous challenge and warning:

At the same time, we should never allow secularists to come in and correct “mistakes” in our regular history that would also be considered (by our high gloss elites) to have been mistakes in the sacred history as well.

In fact, Wilson drops the hammer:

Why are we back-seat-driving for the Virginia plantation owner, or the Massachusetts farmer, when there is an abortion clinic just three miles from your house? What are we going to do about that, and why? Anything you praise a century and a half ago is praiseworthy now, right? Anything you condemn now should be condemned back then, right? If you would shoot somebody for doing “bad things” then, you should shoot somebody for doing worse now, right?

If slavery is evil and worth killing white Southerners over, and abortion is a greater evil (which all will grant), well…you aren’t stupid.  You can draw the conclusion. If you are not willing to draw it, then maybe you need to rework your historiography.

Wilson writes,

“It was the contention of this booklet that the way in which slavery ended has had ongoing deleterious consequences for modern Christians in our current culture wars, and that slavery was far more benign in practice than it was made to appear in the literature of the abolitionists” (p. 14; emphasis added).

Anyabbwile:  That’s a massive claim.

This is a commonsense claim.  I get really angry at conservatives for quoting Lincoln, comparing abortion to slavery, and then getting mad at Obama for executive orders.  So what that your state voted against sodomite marriages and a federal judge struck it down?  America fought a war that negated the 10th Amendment.  One of the consequences of that war is that a Federal judge has every constitutional right to strike down such a law (even if he will be judged by God for doing so).

.” I don’t begrudge Southerners telling their history and defending themselves at various points along the way.

Yes you do.

What could they have done?

In reading my following arguments, someone will likely conclude, “But you are defending the Confederacy” or “You are defending slavery” or “You are wacisth.”  However, I advance the opposite conclusion: any black racial commentator, while not agreeing with some of my conclusions, will agree with the presuppositions behind those conclusions.  Further, with the black activist I agree that many of the neo-conservative counter-arguments on the race war are either lame or hypocritical.

(Further, I need to say one more time so no one draws the wrong conclusion:  I reject the Confederacy as a political unit, leaving other questions about society and culture aside.  Even more: while I think abolitionist exegesis is bad, I don’t think slavery is a long-term good for society, so I am certainly not advocating that).

Further, and in full agreeance with the black commentator, Southern appeals to “states rights” as opposed to slavery’s being the cause of the War are either misleading or frankly wrong.  True, the most notable white supremacist of the 19th century denied he was fighting to free slaves.

Further, I am not saying that the Confederacy was right en toto. I certainly do not agree with the Davis Administration on its key points. The conservatives who say, “It wasn’t about slavery, but states’ rights” miss the point:  precisely what were the states seeking to preserve? The conservative would answer, “Their rights.”  Very true, but what was the most notorious of those rights? The formal cause of the war was states’ rights–I agree.  The material cause was slavery. There is no getting around that.  (Of course, there are other causes, too, like economics).

Granting that man-stealing is wrong (and so the Yankee capitalists who engaged in it should have been put to death), we need to ask if the current unionized model of labor is really superior to biblical slavery.   Of course, I am not saying the South did it correctly all the time.

Trick question:  how many slaves came to America on ships carrying the Confederate Flag?  What about the Union Flag?

“Okay,” the American Communist might say, “we admit that the Yankee merchants who kidnapped the Africans should have been executed because of God’s law, but the South was wrong to buy stolen property.”

To which I say, “Maybe.  But what exactly would have been the best thing to do for the African?”  Few people have seriously thought about this question.   Set them free?   It sounds noble and Oprah-ish, but think about it.  Today, if you go to the ‘hood’ or to an Obama gathering and you ask them why blacks are so poor today, the response will not be “Crime” or “rap music” or “welfare system,” but it will be “Da Man is keepin’ me down.”   Both liberal and conservative whites get angry at that response, and I used to, but think about it for a moment: the interlocutor touched on something important: if you place someone in an advanced society who does not have the resources, culture, values, or skills to participate in that society, what will happen to him?  He will fall behind ad infinitum.

The southern gentleman knew this.  He knew that simply saying, “Thou art loosed” to the slave would be the worst thing for him. The slave would not have the resources to continue in society. He would immediately be thrown to the gutter without any recourse to labor or wealth.

So what should have happened instead?  I don’t know.  Just pointing it out.  Sometimes the solution is worse than the ailment.  In fact, any government solution is necessarily worse.

What should have happened?  As I’ve mentioned before on dominion, if the slave was regenerate, the master should have placed him in progressing degrees of responsibility so that he could practice being a priest-king of the new creation.  If we want to fault the Southerner, this could be a valid criticism. Further, I don’t think the South was as fully Reformed as some want to make it.  Some states like Maryland, elements of the Carolinas, Florida and Louisiana were Catholic and probably resisted any kind of biblical reformation.  So while my idea is noble and fundamentally correct, I entertain no delusions of its actually working.

But back to the original objection: the southern slave owner should have not bought the property and/or returned it because it is “stolen goods.”  Again, the nature of the case precludes a solid answer.  On one hand if I have stolen goods in today’s society, I’ll probably get in trouble, so I can understand the objection on that ground.  However, does that mean that William the Conqueror’s (my ancestor, actually.  Pretty cool, huh?) invasion of England was wrong?  Probably, but reasoning by extension that does not mean the entirety of English history is necessarily illegitimate.  As Dabney points out,

“The Norman Conquest resulted in a complete transfer of almost all the land in England to the hands of new proprietors; and nearly all the land titles of England, at the present day, are the legal progeny of that iniquitous robbery, which transferred the territory of the kingdom from the Saxon to the Norman barons. If lapse of time, and change of hands, cannot make a bad title good, then few of the present landlords of England have any right to their estates.”

Defense of Virginia, 299.

With a brutal inference Dabney concludes, “If the Virginian slaveholder derived from the New England or British slave-trader, no valid title to the African, then the trader had no valid title to the planter’s money” (301).  I am going to carry Dabney’s analysis one step further: future possessors of that money from the exchange are necessarily sinning by using the money. I disagree with the idea of reparations for former slaves, but if you grant the abolitionist’s point that buying previously stolen slaves is sinful, then you must logically carry the thought to the money from the exchange. While I think Je$$e Jack$on is a racist clown, if the above objection stands, then the conservative who votes Republican and watches Fox News really has no way to answer him.

Far from being the racist curmudgeon people make him out to be, Dabney observes,

“The title by which the original slave catchers held them may have been iniquitous. But these slave catchers were not citizens of the Southern colonies; these slaves were not brought to our shores by our ships. They were presented by the inhuman captors, dragged in chains from the filthy holds of the slave ships; and the alternative before the planter was, either to purchase them from him who possibly had no right to sell them, or re-consign them to fetters, disease, and death. (302).”

Sometimes noble ideology is the cruelest of schemes.  And this one quote by Dabney shows how utterly despicable liberalism is.  Lincoln wanted to send them back to Africa.  Aside from the sheer impossibility of it, it would have been a two-fold death sentence.  If the return voyage didn’t kill the slave, Africa would have.

Towards a Critique of Dabney

This does not mean I agree with Dabney in all aspects.  He defends the lawfulness of fugitive slave law:

“”But when we have proved that the relation of master and slave is no intrinsically unrighteous, and have shown that the fugitive slave law carries this out,” then we should obey it (Discussions III: 66).

The first half of Dabney’s argument is logically sound: any discussion of slavery as right or wrong must first answer the question of the relation between master and slave, and this has not been done.

I do not agree with his conclusion, though.  Deuteronomy 23:15 provides a method of freeing the slave, lawfulness of the purchase notwithstanding.

Further, Dabney’s attitude towards blacks after the War is hard to justify.   Sean Michael Lucas made much of Dabney’s refusal to grant black’s full status in Presbytery.  And Dabney was wrong.  However, I suggest Dabney should have handled it this way. He should have simply kept his mouth shut and nothing would have changed.  Freed slaves weren’t about to become ruling presbyters any time soon.

I’ll prove it by way of illustration.  While I do not endorse his theology, the sexually depraved theologian Paul Tillich pointed out that something like Erastianism always happens.  He is not advocating that the state rule the church, but notes that the “civic elite” usually find roles of leadership within the church.  This is official in countries like England and Germany. But in Presbyterian towns the most educated and affluent usually sit on college and seminary boards, if not rule in the church.  There is nothing wrong with that.  They are probably affluent because they are good stewards.  They deserve leadership roles.  Except at RTS Jackson.

Which brings me back to my point: the wealthy, civic elite likely had no intention of giving freed slaves anything more than a nominal role.  Thus, Dabney’s fear of an uneducated, unprepared populace leading the church would never have happened anyway.

Evangelical Anchoretism

I am asked in debates with Orthodox what is “Anchoretism,” of which I routinely accuse them.  Fair enough.  I can give cerebral definitions like “trying to obtain hyperousia by human efforts.”  (By the way:   that is exactly what theology of glory means, not a synonym for theonomy).  That’s a fairly damning definition, but I think we can take it a step further.

Only Evangelicals could think of something this stupid (Yes, I realize it is a parody but I’ve had conversations with Evangelicals who actually spout this nonsense). However, they are drawing upon an ancient, if erroneous, church teaching. Here is a confused but mostly helpful summary of fathers’ teaching on intercourse for priests (The Eastern Orthodox are correct to note that the Bible allows for bishops to marry. They are incorrect in their gnostic conclusions).

I understand that they urge “living in celibacy” because they see themselves as a continuation of the Levitical line. That raises another problem which I’ll address later.

Back to the video: while it is a parody and not to be taken literally, it does raise important issues. Their silly app which rings when the other is having impure thoughts, and the wife says, “You’re thinking of me, right.”

The husband: “How can I, since you go into the bathroom to change?”

You can draw your own conclusion on where that is headed in a few years, but this is the practical consequence of “being more holy because I am more celibate than you.” I know of an EO convertskii who appeared to take this vow a few years ago. Nothing good can come of this. The apostle Paul urges to withdraw from intercourse for a brief period of time to devote to prayer, but just as strongly urged them to have intercourse again so they won’t be tempted by the devil.

No wonder Paul elsewhere considers these people as “teaching the doctrine of demons.” Literally.

But he said he was sorry

U. S. Attny General and drug lord/gun runner Eric Holder urged America to have “an honest talk about race.”  What he meant was, “Shut up and listen to me gripe.”  I doubt an honest conversation will ever happen because emotions run high on both sides.  Still, it’s worth a shot.

The Impossibility of an Honest Talk about Race

I saw on my Facebook feed a PCA thinker, who is a black man, complain about Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s creating a chair in Morton Smith’s honor.  He is angry because Smith created the PCA with the values of the Old South in mind (He seemed surprised.  I thought this was common knowledge years ago to anyone who read more than an hour’s worth of Southern Presbyterian history).   Of course, the situation today is somewhat amusing since the PCA is more likely a pale reflection of the SBC’s Worship Committee’s than a continuation of Dabney, but I digress.  I really don’t care one way or another that GPTS is doing this.  The Reformed seminary world has long been dead to me and I refuse to even look back.  However, it raised other questions.

Is the PCA still racist?

The aforementioned black gentleman is concerned that the PCA is still allowing racist things like this.   How does one respond?  Morton Smith’s actions simply aren’t representative of the PCA.  In fact, he is probably the minority (no pun intended). But the gentleman wanted to the PCa (and presumably by extension any white Presbyterian male) to really apologize for racism.   Here is where it becomes problematic.  How does one really apologize for racism?   Well, the PCA (and the Missouri Lutherans and the SBC) issued statements condemning the nebulous entity known as racism (the SBC does this on a yearly basis).  Is that good?

No.  It isn’t.  Presumably he wants “racist” ministers disciplined.  Fair enough, but keep in mind this is the PCa and no one ever gets disciplined.   A PCA pastor pointed that out to the gentleman.  Not good enough, but we need to remember if the PCA will publicly condemn the Federal Vision but refuse to discipline guys who write books promoting the Federal Vision, that should tell you something.

But all of this raises an even harder question that is at the heart of the problem.  Hating other colors is wrong (and not even Kinists advocate that).  Discriminating at the communion table is wrong (and maybe I missed something in the PCA during the 80s, but was even that a problem?).  Heck, I remember attending Auburn Avenue one Sunday during its Confederate Heritage Conference and I saw a number of black people in church “amen-ing” and “Oh glory-ing.”

So we’ve ruled out “discrimination” and “hating” so what else is left?  It wasn’t exactly said, but I think “racism” in this context means “continuing to love the Old South.”   That is a bit more concrete, but is still problematic.  Loving “what” about the Old South?   I highly doubt Morton Smith means sitting on the front porch of the Massa’s House drinking mint juleps while watching the slaves happily sing in the fields.   I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

But maybe he means “Loving the Confederacy.”  But even this is ambiguous.  Do I love the Confederacy?  Not really.  I think their political system was doomed from the start and the only way they really had a chance of winning the war was to let Stonewall and Forrest go nuts and do whatever they wanted.  That wasn’t going to happen.  The Confederate Establishment thought Virginia’s soil too sacred to be polluted by the foot of an invader. So maybe to prove to the world I am not “racist” (undefined Marxist term that it is), maybe they want me to “apologize” for the Confederacy.

Well, that’s problematic on several levels.

  1. The Confederacy doesn’t exist today.  You aren’t a slave.  I am not a Confederate soldier.  This is silly.
  2. 2/3 of my ancestors weren’t even in America at the time.
  3. The 5th commandment and Hebrews 13:7 demand I honor my superiors and those who brought me to the faith.  Stonewall Jackson is one of those.  To attack him is open sin.

In fact, all of this reminds me of Sheldon Cooper’s trying to apologize to Howard.

And the truth of the matter is I don’t really like the Southern Presbyterian ethos.  They were Baptistic on the sacraments and their descendants made it worse, if anything (this is one of the few areas where the Federal Vision guys legitimately nailed them).  If we are going to have an honest conversation about “race,” then the infractions must be concrete.  Saying, “They really mean otherwise” or “They really don’t like us” or “They really have their fingers crossed” isn’t helpful.  If they are saying things like “Coloreds and Whites should live in different neighborhoods or go to different churches,” then that’s entirely different.  The fact is, and I have read Smith’s Q & A and he is ethically wrong, but probably sociologically accurate, most people aren’t saying this.

If cultures are organic outgrowths, which thousands of years of human history have demonstrated beyond doubt, then they will inevitably reflect this.  Am I arguing for segregation?  Of course not. I would be against government-enforced segregation and government-enforced integration.  Why?  Because it isn’t the government’s business.  People want to live where people want to live.  (Of course, I’m the exception on this since I have many black neighbors around my street.  Which white liberal agitator can say that? None).

By all means attack racism, but attack concrete examples, like when Ice Cube talks about killing white girls.

Running theses on Economics

This is tangentially related to my series on High Southern Culture.  I’ve read the Austrian economists almost ten years now.  I remain almost convinced.   Their frequent atheism and anti-Jesus-ism should be a warning.  However, logical conclusions follow from logical premises, so they aren’t easily dismissed.  The following is a work in progress:

  1. Conservative values and raw capitalism are incompatible simply because the latter demand a consumer culture which almost always erodes the values that made the former possible.   This critique is routinely made by monarchists, paleo-conservatives (the guys at Chronicles, Eugene Genovese, etc) to Marxists.
  2. Socialism fails on the other hand because it cannot mathematically account for market prices.   Even socialists like John Milbank concede this point (his essay “Socialism of the Gift, Socialism by Grace”).  Therefore, any socialist country will necessarily end up with simultaneous gluts and shortages.
  3. Further, socialism does not encourage wisdom and thrift.   The entrepreneur understands that resources are limited and so must make wise choices.   This is impossible in a socialist economy (since the US Treasury can print more Federal Reserve notes to bail out the government’s latest bad idea).
  4. Therefore, socialism is incompatible with godly dominion.
  5. Theses 2-4 create a problem with Thesis 1: if socialism fails for the reasons I’ve listed–and it does–how can one avoid raw capitalism?
  6. The tentative answer is in refocusing teleological values.
  7. (6) is created by empowering local farm communities.
  8. A protective measure must be in place to protect a currency from outside speculation.

(To be continued)