Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

An Encouragement to Christians to Continue Civic Discourse

The church teaches that after the Fall God has patience with man, allowing them to live in the fallen world and sustaining them there. To preserve man from their unbridled selfishness and keep them from destroying themselves, God imposes firm orders upon human life.

[…]

The orders preserve the world for its end according to God’s will. The orders are equally well known to both heathens and Christians.

The Bethel Confession of 1933, the August Draft

My concern here is to arrest the lack of nerve and conviction that I so frequently encounter among Christians arguing against same-sex marriage, who, despite the firmness of their personal persuasion, are fielding arguments which betray an unfitting reticence and reserve of belief in the force of our case. These arguments aren’t confidently advanced into the public conversation: timidly, without either strategy or momentum, they blunder into it, wildly beating the air, before hurrying back to the security of a tribal reservation, where most of its forces are concentrated.

We let supporters of same-sex marriage off the hook far too easily. We can present good, strong, and accessible arguments from the creational order. We need to have a sense of the strength of these arguments that is not contingent upon the reception that they receive. I am concerned that Dr Leithart manifests a loss of nerve in the strength of a firm case against same-sex marriage, merely because it doesn’t prove persuasive. Should it surprise us that many supporters of same-sex marriage will regard his claims as a demonstration that arguments against it don’t merit a place in the ongoing conversation, being unable to meet the requirements of secular and public discourse?

Alastair Roberts, WHY ARGUMENTS AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE ARE USUALLY BAD

In the face of the violence and passion against the Christian’s participation in the civic sphere as well as the seeming lack of efficacy of our arguments (my own analysis of the root cause here), there is a temptation to retreat back into the safety of church communities masquerading as “a nation within a nation” and give up civic engagement altogether, all just to avoid the disapproval and censure of some of our contemporaries. Others are simply embarrassed by rabidness of the Christian “culture warriors” and, in the bid to distant themselves from such a spectacle, errs on the other extreme by acquiescing to every complaint, valid or invalid, of those who disagree with us.

However, this is but a mere knee jerk reaction and we need to regain our composure and assess the situation rightly.

As correct as might be the doctrines of total depravity, human nature has not thereby been obliterated but merely corrupted. We believe that all mankind, no matter how imbalanced or irrational, still possess the rational potential for reaching the truth concerning the order of the world, and that we should not be discouraged from appealing to our common reason given by God on the basis of a couple of swirled eyed ideological zealots.

The continued existence and functioning of the world’s societies and communities, no matter how godless and secular, bears the mark of God’s grace whereby he has not completely taken away all common sense from us but still provides us with a morsel of sound reason to maintain the bonds of civic order. As darken as our minds and understanding maybe by sin, ignorance and error, there still remains a faint light of the Word whereby we, both Christians and pagans, are still able discern morsels of the right and the true to maintain civilisation. Mankind totally deprived of all common sense and reason would have long ago collapsed into total chaos and have destroyed itself in a suicidal inferno. (Although some places do seem to -literally- approach this!)

But neither should we be disheartened by the “shouting match” often passed off as a sorry excuse for a “debate” in the culture wars as evidence of the impossibility of mutual discourse or a lack of a shared common rationality whereby one may arrived at the one truth concerning the right ordering of the civic realm. Rather, let us firmly maintain that the solution to the savage war cries of culture warriors and their primitive drum beats is not retreat but the sophisticated weapons of sound and measured argumentation and reasoning. The solution to bad arguments is not no arguments but good arguments.

But above all our weapons are spiritual, not carnal to do with rhetorical tricks and cleverness of speech, but are instead the discipline and virtues of humility, patience and charity in speech. Humility, to learn that our discourse is not about scoring points but arriving at the truth, to be able to learn from our own mistakes and flawed arguments. Patience, to learn to separate the subjective bile from the objective points and to learn to tolerate and not react against the former while accurately and calmly responding to the latter. But above all, charity, which seeks the good of the interlocutor and together to move towards the true and the right, instead of trying merely to “one up” the other and tear our persons down. Our critiques of arguments and points must have as its final end the purging of error that the person may perceive light of the truth may shine unobstructed by the darkness of ignorance and mistakes. It would do not good to remove the obstruction of error and ignorance only to cloud it with the sin of arrogance and uncharitableness.

The end of discourse has as its ultimate end the salvation of souls and in this, we are confident that it is God’s desire that all might embark upon this path and none be left behind and that we must firmly believe that it is the Word and Spirit who leads us and goes before us in our charitable deeds and words.

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This entry was posted on February 17, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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