Republocrat Redux (or part two of the conversation)

Well, first I must apologize for dereliction of duty. Not only have I failed to be a good conversation partner, but I failed to wish Dr. Thomas well on his journey to the land where the ideas of Dr. Trueman's hero sunk their roots deeply. And since I've taken so long to respond, here is the link to Dr. Thomas' piece.

In all seriousness, I too am re-reading Republocrat, in the midst of trying figure if it is mathematically possible to read all of the pages assigned by professors to students in the Westminster PhD program. So my reading of Republocrat is really to take a break from discussions of internalism versus externalism, various aberrant forms of Trinitarianism or Karl Barth on the problem of evil (last week, at least).

Further, I note that Dr. Thomas and I have officially become conversant with the emerging church (HT: D.A. Carson); Dr. Thomas more so than I, because he titled our exchange "A conversation." I suppose it's better than that insipid and well-worn term, "dialogue." Conversation it is, hopefully a fruitful one!

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Thomas's first observation. In fact, if nothing else, I can say that such has been my experience - perhaps (and this stings) my own view. As I became epistemologically self-conscious in this area (with much more to go), I used to ask the students in our youth group what Sean Hannity, Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh had in common. I replied that all three of them, at least from what I could see, reject the principles of the Reformation, especially sola Scriptura and sola fide. I tried to use that as a reminder (to me and to them) that Christ's kingdom is far greater than the politics of any one country. Trueman rightly points out that far too many of us here in the U.S. praise God for raising up a certain leader, while simultaneously ignoring what our brothers and sisters around the world are undergoing. I am further thankful that this observation of his did not come across as "America bashing" - so essential and so welcomed by doctrinally aberrant but culturally hip evangelicals today. To quote Trueman - " a plague on both your houses." (Yes, I realize that the quote is not original to him).

This leads me to what I've so far been delighted by in the book: Dr. Trueman's lampooning of the "naughty evangelicals." The trend in younger American evangelicals (as I see it, anyhow) is towards a this-worldly spirituality (a la the NPP), which focuses on good works at the expense of sound doctrine. Another strand abandons Reformed worship for high church liturgy, in an effort to find transcendence in the temporal, again at the expense of sound doctrine (and in fulfillment of the great Rush song, "Subdivisions" - "Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth, but the suburbs have no charm to soothe the restless dreams of youth.") A third stays in the hip, new Reformed church plant, drinks lattes, votes for Obama and boasts about cheesing off devout parents/aunts/uncles at the latest family gathering by his/her "daring" political choice. Surely these strains intermingle, cross-pollinate, stratify, gentrify and still try to tell the rest of us about politics. But is there a voice for us? Pat answers seem to satisfy both sides of the isle and I, for one, am thankful that Trueman refuses to gratify such postmodern yearnings for simpleminded sound bites, instead of well-reasoned arguments.

Now, that brings me to Dr. Thomas' second point, a point with which I resonate deeply. I think many of us would be downright embarrassed at our concern for the poor (or lack thereof). This lack is one of the cursed mothers of the progeny named above. And again, I think Dr. Trueman's sentiments are well-taken by any Bible-believing Christian. I was struck recently while reading M'Cheyne's sermons at his fiery balance he strikes between a deeply forensic thrust in his preaching and a manifest emphasis on good works, especially the care and comfort of the poor.  And many of those I criticise (for my English brothers, that one) above could rightly point to the empty, open-palmed hands of many American evangelicals (myself included), when asked, "I understand what you're saying, but what have you done about it?"

So, we have the English, Welsh, American and Scottish in agreement. Thus, Trueman is the new ecumenical leader! Now perhaps we can scour the pages of Nostradamus (or the latest doomsday End Times book) to see if the coming apocalyptic figure is a British academic exiled to the shores of cousin America.

I personally have benefited more than I perhaps will ever know from having known Christians from dozens of different countries. They challenge me and help me to see the fullness of God's creation and His new creation, the church. But the one thing that remains constant is the truth of the Gospel - not truncated, but confessed thoroughly and held to rigorously. That, it seems to me, is the right place to begin when Christians discuss politics. Then we'll pick up Dr. Trueman's book and read it both sympathetically and critically, but not for the same reasons that we would have before.

I relinquish this round of conversation to Dr. Thomas and await his next offering!


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