This is a brief response to my critics, mostly Frank Turk.

I think the heart of our disagreement is the Bible and how to read it. I think the Bible is true and binding on a Christian. If it says a thing, we must do it.

Sadly, reading a book is not as easy as one might think. The Bible was written to a particular people and time . . . and has to be contextualized to be understood. When it comes to salvation, the news is good: we get it. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” and we are saved.

Even then, of course, understanding what it means to “believe” can be difficult!

When the Bible gives economic advice, things get trickier. For many of us the advice to own goats for milk would be counterproductive. We don’t get our clothes from lambs. Most of us have no problem with this, we contextualize the advice.

Proverbs warns about being lazy, but the signs of laziness in a farm based culture are not exactly the same as those in “word” based culture like our own. You can do a good bit of work from bed in our day!

My view of the forms of government described in the Bible follows this pattern. The Bible gives us no sanctified form of government for this life. The government God established on Mount Sinai was for that people, at that place, at that time. Some laws were as shadows for the rest of us (dietary laws) to teach deeper theological truths and have no relevance to me today. (I can eat ham!) Other laws were the best that could be sustained in poor and nomadic cultures. Our much richer and non-nomadic culture can, for example, establish prisons.

We also have a richer political and philosophical vocabulary. This is partly because we have learned the lessons (however imperfectly) from the wilderness government.

Of course, the wilderness government did not last . . . and Israel was ruled by judges and later by kings. There is much to learn in each period from Israel’s sacred history. We get ideas about the nature of man and some ideas about government, but not a full blown political philosophy or anything like it.

There is much of value to glean, but doing so is not simple. Our rulers are not David. They don’t have God’s special promises to David . . . so when our fallen rulers compare themselves to David (as one governor recently did) to justify staying in power, they are wrong. Governors are not monarchs!

Again: there are principles, but they must receive modern application.

Israel’s sacred history is God’s unfolding plan of redemption, not a political guidebook!

The same thing is true about the New Testament. There are binding principles there, but not much detail. It tells me to honor the king, but I have no king (save King Jesus!) and no ruler that has monarchical prerogatives. I think the advice can be contextualized, but this must first be done or I cannot make sense out of it.

In short, there are things I can learn from the Bible about government (human), but the Bible is not enough when it comes to human government. I would vote against (and view as dreadful) anyone advocating the penal coded of nomadic Israel.

The principles are universal, but the application is not. (Example: our sheer technological ability to collect evidence means that the testimony of a human witness, the best one could have in ancient times as evidence, is often much less reliable than “circumstantial” evidence at a crime scene. I have served on cases where “two witnesses” were less reliable than data that would have been unknown to ancients.)

For the vast majority of Christians, the Bible implies human liberty. We are agents who can choose and this choice must be honored. It does not work this idea out politically, but then it does not work many ideas out politically. That is not the purpose of the Bible.

Using a simple and daily example of food choices, I have argued that liberty is compatible with the Bible. I can choose what I eat (no small thing in our house!). This is, of course, only one liberty the Bible implies I have. There are more . . . and it is the job of Christian political philosophers to work it out.

Scripture (here) is not enough.

I think this view of Scripture is at the heart of my disagreements with Frank Turk. He asks:

Please: does the Bible inform us regarding how to use the internet? The answer to that question unravels everything you say here – either regarding your view of authority and how it can be gleaned from the Bible, or regarding all the diversions from the actual question you have posted here so far.

I answer that the Bible tells us some things that are useful in using the Internet, but not everything. Of course, it does not tell us (literally) how to use the Internet. There is nothing about my Mac in it, but this is not the only limitation. It does not even say much about technology and its relationship to men.

This is no shock, since it was not written in societies where machines were more important than muscle labor. We use machines to do what slaves once did (an improvement I think) and of such a culture the Bible must have little to say.

It does contain universal and binding moral principles. It does tell me about God and realities that imply certain things about my use of the Internet . . .but like many things it does not lay out how the Internet should be used in any great detail.

There is a theology in the Bible, but no philosophy of technology. My theology should fill my philosophy of technology (and its use) and my ethics should constrain me as well, but they are not the same thing.

It is left to the joyful use of human creativity! So much to learn . . . so much to create . . . so little time!

Articles by John Mark Reynolds


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