15 July 2007

The Christopher Hitchens / Douglas Wilson Debate

Somehow I missed the online debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson that took place in May at the Christianity Today website. ("Is Christianity Good for the World?")

I must say that I found it disappointing. Wilson was able to control the debate by avoiding the topic (which was supposed to be about the goodness of Christianity) while forcing Hitchens to explain how an atheist determines what is good. So Hitchens was kept off balance trying to defend his own ethical system, rather than reveal the harm caused by the Bible and Christian belief.

Although Wilson is an entertaining writer and a skilled debater, I am surprised that he was selected by Christianity Today to represent Christians, given his views on the goodness of slavery, the subjection of women, and the need to execute homosexuals, non-believers, disobedient children, etc. But times are changing. Christians are returning to the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible (which is why, at least in my opinion, there are fewer Christians each day).

It is a pity that Christopher Hitchens was unable to reveal Wilson's views in the debate. It is only necessary to list them; anyone with any morals will immediately conclude that such views are not good for the world.

Here is a list of the views of Douglas Wilson and his followers. (As found on the Credenda/Agenda website):

On Slavery

[N]othing is clearer – the New Testament opposes anything like the abolitionism of our country prior to the War Between the States. The New Testament contains many instructions for Christian slave owners, and requires a respectful submissive demeanor for Christian slaves. See, for example, Eph. 6:5-9, Col. 3:22-4:1, and 1 Tim. 6:1-5.
. . .
The reason why many Christians will be tempted to dismiss the arguments presented here is that we have said (out loud) that a godly man could have been a slave owner. But this 'inflammatory' position is the very point upon which the Bible speaks most directly, again and again. In other words, more people will struggle with what we are saying at the point where the Bible speaks most clearly. There is no exegetical vagueness here. Not only is the Bible not politically correct, it was not politically correct one hundred thirty years ago.
. . .
This entire issue of slavery is a wonderful issue upon which to practice. Our humanistic and democratic culture regards slavery in itself as a monstrous evil, and acts as though this were self-evidently true. The Bible permits Christians to own slaves, provided they are treated well. You are a Christian. Whom do you believe?
On the Law, Homosexuality, and the Sin of Pity (1, 2 )
Let's pretend, just for a moment, that we could have it our way. The great revival we have been praying for has occurred, and every executive, legislator, and bureaucrat in the capital has just been saved. Knowing they ought to begin applying Scripture in their jobs, but not knowing how to go about it, they come to you and your church for advice. What will you tell them? How should they apply God's law?

Looking at the Bible with an eye toward applying it in the civil realm, several things become apparent. First, it is pretty small. … [O]n the average, a little over 1,000 pages. Think of the money governments will save on printing and shelf space!

If biblical law is to be biblically applied, then the biblical punishment must be used. … Of course, there would be laws enforced against certain crimes which are currently ignored, such as homosexuality.

The civil magistrate is the minister of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4). God has not left his civil minister without guidance on how to exercise his office. The Scriptures set forth clear standards of judgment for many offenses. Capital crimes, for example, include premeditated killing (murder), kidnapping, sorcery, bestiality, adultery, homosexuality, and cursing one's parents (Ex. 21:14; 21:16; 22:18; 22:19; Lev. 20:10; 20:13; Ex. 21:17).

In contemporary American jurisprudence, none of these offenses is punishable by death, with the occasional exception of murder. The magistrates have dispensed with God's standards of justice. Some Christians believe this is an improvement. They would be horrified to think that the "harsh" penalties of the law should still be applied. Sometimes this is the result of the mistaken belief that the Old Testament has no further application after the advent of Christ. This is an exegetical problem. Too often, it is the result of a sinful view of the criminal. This sin is called pity. … Why is pity a sin?

First, pity is not always a sin. But neither is it always good. … God included in the law specific prohibitions against the exercise of pity in meting out punishment.

If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods,". . . you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him . . . (Deut. 13:6-9).

If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out the hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her. (Deut. 25:11, 12).

God commands the judge to evaluate the crime rather than the criminal. If the crime is one for which God requires death, then death must be the punishment. Your eye shall not pity. … Thus, the Bible teaches that pity is not an option where God has decided the matter. The magistrate, God's minister, is to faithfully execute justice according to God's standard, not man's.

On Crime and Punishment
Responsibility for the civil order is placed in the hands of magistrates, who act as God's ministers of wrath against those who do evil (Rom. 13:1-7).

God's law sets forth three basic punishments for crime: death, lashing (essentially, a government-sponsored spanking), and restitution. There is a conspicuous absence of county jails, state penitentiaries, reform schools, and hospitals for the criminally insane. The goal of the sentence is to execute God's wrath….

On Elected Officials
If we have God-hating tyrants ruling over us (and we do), then we must recognize that they rule by our invitation.

First, our rulers are to be able men. … The responsibility of civil, ecclesiastical and family leadership is given to men. … [I]t is an embarrassment and a reproach to the men to have women ruling a nation (Is. 3:12).

The men we choose are to fear God. The unregenerate do not fear God by definition (Rom. 3:18).

We are to choose men of truth. … A man who honestly believes erroneous doctrine may be sincere, but he is also deceived.

From this list of qualifications, it is apparent that, biblically, it is only professing Christians who are qualified to hold public office.

On Disobedient Children
[A] father may (and must) discipline his son, but he may not exercise capital punishment against him on his own authority. Instead, he must bring a son worthy of death to the elders of the city, who are charged with applying the civil penalty (Prov. 13:24; Deut. 21:18-21).
On Church and State (1, 2 )
God has established the magistrate for the purpose of executing His wrath, but He has not made the civil ruler the exclusive authority on the question of when wrath is appropriate. If a matter is too hard for the judges to determine with the knowledge at hand, then they are commanded to take the question to the church for clarification. The church decides, based on God's Word, what judgment should be carried out, and the judges are obliged to pronounce sentence accordingly.

The state wields the sword, and must wield it in submission to God's law. But if the law is not clear on a particular point, and the state has a question about what God's law requires, it is powerless to interpret Scripture on its own authority. Instead, the state must take the question to the church, which has been charged with protecting, interpreting, and teaching the law of God. The leaders of the church are instructed to make a judgment as to what the law requires, but the church does not thereby take up the sword. Rather, the judgment is passed back to the state, and the magistrates then wield the sword in a manner consistent with the judgment of the church.

[I]t is not enough that the civil government give Christianity a place at the table, even if it is the most honored place. … Nor is it sufficient that the magistrate render "personal submission to the spiritual government" of the church. While our rulers should be members of Christ’s covenant household … a Christian who is also an executive, legislator, or judge owes a duty of submission different than that of the ordinary layman.

On Non-Christians (1, 2)
[T]he political leader is the head of the civil covenant. If that head acknowledges that his authority comes from God (as he should), is it enough that he honors God personally? … Or can he also require, for example, oaths of allegiance to the Lord as a prerequisite of citizenship? (Before you balk, keep in mind that we don't have any problem saying pledges of allegiance to mere flags or the nations for which they stand.)

Again, we have no problem making school children dutifully recite the pledge of allegiance, or requiring new citizens to swear oaths of loyalty to the U.S. government. Why can't they also be required to acknowledge the sovereignty of the one true God, and to "zealously renounce all heathen practices?" … Someone who is required to renounce Buddhism as a condition of citizenship is no longer trapped by a spiritual snare, and can't be a snare to anyone else. That is a blessing. Reforming the State is not about forcing people to be Christians. But it is about forcing people to outwardly conform to a Christian standard and about protecting the Christian religion. Historically, the civil magistrate has enforced laws against blasphemy, apostasy, heresy, swearing, and working on the Sabbath. The difficulty is not in defining or punishing these crimes; the difficulty is finding the strength and wisdom to do so.

On Environmentalists
An environmentalist who seeks to "manage" the environment by letting it run wild is disobeying God's command to fill, subdue, and exercise dominion over the earth.

The consequences of environmentalist philosophy are disobedience to God in the short run…. Droughts and famines do not come upon a people who are obedient, but they are promised to those who disobey. An earth left to itself will only yield thorns, thistles, disease, and decay. If Christians are to be obedient to God's dominion mandate, they must oppose the rebellion inherent in environmentalist government policy.

On Pluralism
[T]he Christian magistrate acknowledges there is such a thing as a true church, and that he has a responsibility to nurture that church so that it thrives and to protect it against those things that threaten to do it harm. Obviously, this excludes the idea of pluralism.

26 October 2009 Note: The articles quoted are no longer available at Doug Wilson's Credenda Agenda website. I wonder why. Is he embarrassed by them now that the film Collision is coming out?

In any case, I was able to restore the links via the wayback machine.

The God of the Old Testament (Richard Dawkins)

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.