In Which I Paint With Some Bright Yellows

Thanks to the Illinois Family Institute, the above titled article was brought to my attention — it’s written by Douglas Wilson (who, by the way, you can see in person next week at IFI’s annual banquet). Here are a couple of excerpts from Wilson’s article — but it’s worth following the link to read it in full:

A consensus appears to be developing among otherwise reasonable people that Kim Davis, of Rowan County fame, either needs to start issuing marriage licenses or quit her job.

[T]here is a difference between contempt of court and seeing that the courts have become contemptible.

Now while florists and bakers and photographers enjoy a great deal of active support from the broader Christian world, the most people like Davis will get is a sympathetic lack of sympathy. It falls out this way because Christians generally understand the private sector — that’s where they live, after all — but they don’t understand the nature of government. They don’t understand the public sector and the relationship of God’s Word to it. Their theology develops a distinct limp as soon as they step into the public square, but it is not the kind of limp you might acquire by wrestling with God at Peniel. It is more like what might happen if you dropped the Collected Works of Immanuel Kant on your foot. That results in quite a distinctive limp, one you see everywhere.

So I want to begin by making an observation about that hill-to-die-on thing, but then move on to discuss the foundational principle that is at stake here. After that, I want to point out what it would look like if more government officials had the same understanding that Kim Davis is currently displaying — despite being opposed by all the intoleristas and also despite being abandoned by numerous Christians who admire her moxie but who don’t understand her moxie.

First, whenever we get to that elusive and ever-receding “hill to die on,” we will discover, upon our arrival there, that it only looked like a hill to die on from a distance. Up close, when the possible dying is also up close, it kind of looks like every other hill. All of a sudden it looks like a hill to stay alive on, covered over with topsoil that looks suspiciously like common ground.

So it turns out that surrendering hills is not the best way to train for defending the most important ones. Retreat is habit-forming.

Back in the thirties, if a county clerk had refused a marriage license to a couple because they attended a church where the pastor baptized people with heads upstream, instead of her preferred way, with heads downstream, we would all agree that said clerk had gotten above himself. And if a county clerk expedited and stamped all the processing papers for trains full of Jews headed to Auschwitz, we would all have no problem with said clerk being prosecuted after the war. And when he was prosecuted, “it was entirely legal” would not be an adequate defense. Got that? Two positions, marked clearly on the map, and there is a line somewhere between them.

Where is that line? Why is that line there? By what standard do we make that determination? Who says? These questions cannot be answered apart from the law of God, and that is why we are having such trouble with them. We want a pagan society to respect our sentimental religiosity, and that is not going to happen any time soon.

The point here is not just private conscience. The right to liberty of conscience is at play with florists, bakers, and so on. But Kim Davis is not just keeping herself from sinning, she is preventing Rowan County from sinning. That is part of her job.

This is nothing less than Calvin’s doctrine of the lesser magistrates (Institutes 4.20.22-32), which I would urge upon all and sundry as relevant reading material. And as Calvin points out, after Daniel — a Babylonian official — disobeyed the king’s impious edict, he denied that he had wronged the king in any way (Dan. 6:22-23).

Now this takes me to my citation of Jefferson above. Some might say that it is a shame that I, a staunch Calvinist, have taken to quoting a Deist on the relationship of righteousness to government. And I say that it is a shame that a 18th century Deist has a better grasp of the relationship of righteousness to government than do two and a half busloads of 21st century Reformed seminary professors. The striking inconsistency might have two possible causes, in other words.

If just ten governors treated Obergefell the same way Kim Davis is treating it, that entire unrighteous and despotic imposition would collapse and fall to the ground. And if they did so, they would not be sinning against the United States. Rather, they would be preventing the United States from sinning.

Read more: Illinois Family Institute

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