Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics

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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The “Boundaries” of the Christian Faith (IV)

Clear and Faithful in Its Exposition of the Christian Faith
We are living in a time when modern Christians are super-saturated in confusion about the Church. This is due, in part, to their confusion about the nature and character of God. When you stop and think about it, it becomes clear that the one lies in the extension of the other. The voice that keeps speaking to us from the past is the late Dr. John Leith in his book Crisis in the Church. Dr. Leith made a theological journey from being on the “left” to being right of center. Prior to his death he reflected not only on his spiritual pilgrimage, but also on the health (or illness) of the modern Church. Crisis in the Church is a necessary read not merely for the man and woman in the pew, but also—and especially—for pastors and seminary professors.
Leith is convinced that the plight of mainline Christian, evangelical churches today is not primarily neo-paganism, barbarianism, doubt, the edicts of the Enlightenment, or the culture, but rather “the corruption of the Christian faith.”[1] I concur wholeheartedly. Leith continues, “Only when the church is clear and faithful in its exposition of the Christian faith, is it likely to have impact upon the people of contemporary society.”[2] With these words Leith indicts both the mega-church and Emergent Church movements. The former catered to those outside the Church that they gave the name “seekers” so that the phrase “seeker sensitive” regarding a worship service became a household name.
Few have raised their voices in objection to the phrase although thankfully some have. The phrase itself flies in the face of Scripture, especially Romans 3:10-11 where Paul, citing Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3 states, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God.” So if we are going to remain biblical we are forced to admit that no non-believer will ever seek God. It’s a lie; it’s a ruse for him or her to tell us that he’s seeking God and it is equally disingenuous for us to give him or her the impression that he is. Biblically speaking, we are forced to conclude that the only worship service where “seekers” are present is one directed to Christians.
For whatever reason neither the mega-church nor the Emergent tribe has every been able to understand that clear, faithful preaching of the Word of God is the most contemporary, relevant aspect of worship that is undertaken in spirit and truth. Of course, this approach brings certain “drawbacks” with it. For example, it requires the pastor to exegete the biblical text in either Hebrew or Greek and then to have the manhood to say what the text says. This approach is highly unpopular with many today because it could have a very adverse affect on the “numbers.” People might leave or be offended or both—probably both. It would mean that ethical issues such as homosexuality would have to be addressed biblically from the pulpit rather than taking the approaches of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and other Emergent non-leader leaders who opt for lack of clarity with what Scripture teaches on this subject. Clarity and faithfulness also require saying what Scripture says about the atonement of Christ. This approach would necessitate the use of the “s” word—sin—in sermons.
This leads Leith to surmise that “It is documentable that the churches that have grown not only in recent decades, but also in the last several centuries have done so because they clearly proclaim the basic fundamental Christian commitments.”[3] Note that Leith not only asserts that it is a recent phenomenon that he referring to, but one that has been around for centuries. Why, then, do modern church planters not understand this principle and opt for more “cutting edge” approaches instead? What drives modern churches to refuse to use the “s” word and to attempt to accommodate its audience by telling them that they are something that they are not: seekers?
Leith can affirm that “It is significant today that so many of the churches in American Christianity that are growing and showing signs of vitality are those that proclaim, clearly and without equivocation, the traditional Christian convictions about God…”[4] Looking at the situation from an historical perspective, Leith juxtaposes John Wesley (1703-1791) and Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). Both of these men addressed the cultural and theological problems of their eras which included Deism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism. Wesley chose to speak clearly from the Christian tradition, while Schleiermacher accommodated his message to the “cultural despisers” and located the foundation of theology in a feeling of “absolute dependence” of the believer on God.
The comparison is an interesting one because Leith is correct that for all of the attention devoted to the cultural despisers of the Christian faith “The followers of Wesley, unlike the disciples of Schleiermacher, were powerful in gathering congregations, reviving churches, and even establishing a new denomination. The impact of Wesley’s theology was not simply on the inner life of the church but also on the influence of the church in the world.”[5]
Two things need to be said here: First, Leith is correct, but Wesley’s theology can hardly be characterized as “traditional” Christianity in the strict sense of the word. Second, it is more accurate to say that God used men like Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards and others to gather, protect, and defend the Church of Jesus Christ, but nonetheless, Leith’s point is well taken. Again, you simply have to ask the question why it is that modern pastors cannot or will not understand this.
Humanly speaking, what was it that made the ministry of people like Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Kuyper, and others so attractive? Was it that they used gimmicks, slogans, or sales pitches? Were they so culturally relevant and cutting edge that people were irresistibly drawn to them? According to Leith, that way that is most appealing and most commendable is “plain words for plain people.”[6] Wesley, for example, “did his theology out of the Bible, read as God’s revelation.”[7]
Unlike Schleiermacher, Wesley was not a speculative theologian, attempting to win applause by the cleverness and imagination of his mind. “His writings were not political tracts attempting to give his social location in the political correctness of his day.”[8] Rather, people like Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, Kuyper, Bavinck, Warfield, Machen, Van Til, and others mined the theological tradition of Scripture, their respective confessional statements, and the Church Fathers.
Even though many mega-church pastors might not mention Schleiermacher by name—or even be acquainted with his theological method!—they are teaching like Schleiermacher did. For those in the Emergent tribe, Schleiermacher looms large as one of their theological “darlings” as well. Leith concludes however, “Theology written in German universities and in the tradition that began with Schleiermacher fascinates many American theologians today. This theology has many striking qualities: generally a wide philosophical background, an intellectual cleverness, and not infrequently a pedantic quality. Yet those who are fascinated with this theology have not, to my knowledge, taken seriously the ineffectiveness of this theology in Germany itself and in Europe.”[9] Leith is spot on with this analysis.
His bottom line for seminary professors and students therefore is: “Is the theology of the university preachable so that it can sustain congregations over a period of time.”[10] That is to say, “…the capacity of certain theologies to gather congregations, nurture and sustain them, and to transform the social order and the weakness of other theologies in their inability either to establish strong communities or to sustain Christian congregations must be taken seriously.”[11]
And it is precisely here that biblical doctrine, preached, taught, embraced, and revered and not despised or pushed under the ecclesiastical (or is it ecclesial?) carpet aids in the spiritual soundness of a local congregation. Leith reminds us that “From the beginning church councils have declared certain doctrines and practices sound and others heretical.”[12] John Calvin insisted that one test of doctrine was its ability to edify. Pastors should present the whole counsel of the doctrinal truth of the Word of God without hesitation.
Although many modern pastors, seminaries, and church agencies have not yet learned this important truth, I bring it to your attention anyway: An impotent theology means an ineffective pastor who cannot build up and lead a congregation. Let me qualify that because it lends itself to misunderstanding. An “effective” pastor is not to be judged by the size of his congregation, his popularity, or Christian celebrity status. We must not think that bigger means “more successful.” An “impotent” theology is anything and everything that is unbiblical or that shies away from biblical truth. When I talk about building up and leading a congregation I’m not talking about showing up to preach. I’m referring to the day-to-day, house-to-house visitation and instruction in the Word of God and the things of God. In our next issues we’ll turn our attention to what it means to teach the Church’s faith.

[1] John Leith, Crisis in the Church, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), p. 36.
[2] Ibid., 36-37. Italics mine.
[3] Ibid., Italics mine.
[4] Ibid., 37.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., 38.
[9] Ibid. Italics mine.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Should Christian Young Men Engage in Amateur Wrestling?

Growing Up and Becoming a Man
Each generation tends to look at the upcoming one and think of it as soft. When I began college at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, the upperclassmen thought that our plebe system was “soft” and “easy” compared to theirs. When they went through there was a “real” system. My class began with 750 freshmen and slightly over 200 of us graduated.
I tell us this because I am preparing to address a somewhat delicate subject that is firmly ensconced in both Canada and the United States: the feminization of males. Many cultural analysts have chronicled this phenomenon but few have done it as effectively as Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth.
In light of our current society many men are confused about true manhood; masculinity. The opposite extremes are effeminate men (metro-sexuals) or the proverbial macho-man. Within the context of Christian marriage, some men are “control freaks” and dominate their wives in a tyrannical fashion while others are uninvolved and distant.
The confusion extends to men who are self-absorbed and would rather be on the golf course than doing something spiritual with their wives and children, to those who cannot distance themselves from their work, to those who are so involved with “church-related” matters that they have little or no time for their families. All of these men are confused about what it means to be a biblical man.
I have long been an advocate that sports, played according to the rules, teach us a lot about life. One of my favorite sports is amateur wrestling (not the silly, fake WWF where anabolic steroids swear and where scantily clad women prance around in a manner that would make waitresses at Hooters blush). I wrestled in high school and college and found wrestling to be one of the greatest sports to teach lessons about life than any sport I played (I played baseball, football, and wrestled). In part, that is why Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda, California has begun a youth wrestling program for ages 4-15.
Wrestling is a sport that requires mental toughness, conditioning, technique, desire to win, and not being afraid to get your nose bloodied or your neck tweaked. It is a man-to-man contest, pitting your skill against your opponent. It is a test of your manhood to lace up the shoes, put on the singlet and the head gear, and get out on the mat and “leave it all there.”
Many texts of Scripture are directed to males and females alike, but the words are in the masculine. There are, however, certain texts that focus on men and need to be seen as such. Those texts, that we’ll look at in a moment, have a definitive purpose for males and their meaning needs to be emphasized to the modern Church—now more than ever.
Personally, when I think of those beings that have given me insight into what it is to be a biblical man, I of two beings in particular. The first is the Lord God Almighty and the second is David. In Exodus 15:3 part of the Song of Moses describes the Lord as a man of war or warrior. We do not need to be pacifists to be Christians. King David was truly what we could call a Poet Warrior. In 2 Samuel 23:1 he is given the title of the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (ESV). And yet, this same man wrote equally freely about how the Lord trained his hands for battle (cf. Ps. 144:1; 18:34, 39). In the modern Church we seem to have some difficulty with reconciling being both a poet and a warrior.
While it is indispensable to know your Bible and learn your catechism (adults, this applies to you as well) there is also a great deal to be said for being physically and mentally tough and yet gentle and tenderhearted. Joshua, the successor of Moses, is called upon to be strong and courageous (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9, 18) and lead as God called him to lead.
But the text that I keep coming back to is found in 1 Corinthians 16:13. It reads: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” The sentence uses the second person plural for all the verbs, but the one translated by “act like men” (ándrídzesthe) cannot be taken for females as well.
The modern evangelical church is almost beyond hope. A generation that was raised on the fluff of the mega-church movement had no spiritual legacy to pass along to its young people, so it should not surprise us that the young people attracted to the Emergent Church movement are spiritually rudderless and bereft of the knowledge of Scripture. This should not, however, be the case of those who are Presbyterian and Reformed. We should be conversant with Scripture, our Presbyterian and Reformed confessions, and be prepared to pass a spiritual legacy along to the next generation (cf. Ps. 71:17-18; 78:1-8).
At the same time, we must raise up a generation of young men who are men. Wrestling is one way to accomplish the physical prowess and fortitude that young men need in life. We all know that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but are we aware of those times where if we had just been more tenacious victory and accomplishment was just around the proverbial corner? Wrestling is a sport that teaches you not to quit; not to give up. It is an ideal sport for training young men to grow into young adults and then on to mature manhood.
Our program at Grace Presbyterian Church has been very well received and, Lord willing, we will launch our second training evolution on September 30th. I would like to close with these words from Theodore Roosevelt that encapsulate what wrestling, life, and trying is all about. He wrote, “It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.”

The Truth About Illegal Immigration from the EPA

Please take the time to view this clip. It is both informative as well as provocative. I believe you'll come away with a renewed appreciation for the huge problems our country faces and will face if we do not curb illegal immigration immediately!

Tribute to the Marines

This link takes you to one of the most moving tributes to our military personnel in general and the Marines in particular that I have seen in a while. If you get through it without tearing up, you probably don't have a pulse.

Christians & Illegal Aliens (VI)

In our last few issues, we have examined the papers/articles/speeches of Dr. J. Alan Thompson and Dr. David Moran, both of whom are members of the Presbyterian Church in America. In the course of those articles as well as comments on my blog site and various emails I’ve received, I’d like to end this discussion—for now—by directing our attention to some of the objections raised by Thompson, Moran, and others and providing answers to those objections.

The Difference between the Two Kingdoms
We understand that there is a difference between the manner in which we respond in the Church and in the State. I won’t mention the so-called “separation of church and state” clause that appears nowhere in our founding documents, but will simply make the observation that in the New Testament Church we no longer live in a theocracy as Israel did. That means that the State now has the power of the sword (cf. Rom. 13:1-7), the Church has the power of excommunication (Matt. 16:19; John 20:21-23; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11), and that Christians are to obey to those God has placed in authority over them (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
This means that we have an obligation to live according to the laws of the land. We may not simply dismiss the “rule of law” in a cavalier manner. If we desire to change the laws, we must use lawful referenda to do so. I’ll discuss the question of our laws being immoral below. Suffice it to say here that while Christians may desire to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a very good thing, they cannot take matters into their own hands and encourage antinomianism based on a saccharine, trumped-up view of what the “loving” thing to do is. If a person is known to be in this country illegally, then they must be reported. All of Scripture must be brought to bear on making these ethical decisions and until our government requires us to violate on of God’s commands, we are to live a peaceful, obedient citizens.
A case in point is the abortion laws of this land. Are you in favor of them? I certainly am not. I think they’re detestable, horrible, and constitute murder. Should Roe v. Wade be repealed? Absolutely! The decision was made by an activist Supreme Court without a shred of Constitutional evidence for what they did. But does Roe v. Wade, as bad as it is, require women—Christian or otherwise—to get an abortion? No, it doesn’t. In the same way, our INS laws do not require us to violate the law of God. Therefore, until they are repealed Christians are obligated to obey them.

Political Parties Matter
I laughed when I read Jim Wallis’ book, God’s Politics. He started out by saying that he believed both Democrats and Republicans were both wrong and he was going to chart a course for us that would be, like FOX News, fair and balanced. Chapter after chapter revealed Wallis as the full-orbed liberal that he is.
We should understand that we are Christians first and foremost. I’ve always greatly appreciated the manner in which Olevianus and Ursinus worded Q/A 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism. After giving an explanation of Christ’s threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King in Q/A 31 they then ask this question: Why are you called a Christian? This is all the more interesting coming from a decidedly Reformed confessional statement. So we comprehend that we are Christians in the first place. Having said that, we are Christian placed within a particular country and social milieu. Within that context we are to live and to glorify God.
A proper understanding of the State reminds us that it is fallen and not neutral. Whatever the political party, they all strive for some kind of totalitarianism. Or, as one liberal professor of Ethics at the Free University of Amsterdam titled his book: Everything is Political but Politics isn’t Everything (Alles is politiek maar de politieke is niet alles.) It wasn’t much of a worthwhile read, but the title is nice—and contains a large element of truth.
Nevertheless, Christians choose a political party and often our choices have to do with pertinent, current ethical issues as well as our views of this country as a Republic. Therefore, I have chosen not to be a “Greenie,” Independent, Libertarian, Communist, Socialist, or Democrat. I am a Republican, but unless the border situation gets handled well and properly I will consider dropping my registration in the Republican Party and simply register as a Conservative.
When it comes to life issues, I am a Christian who is a Republican. I simply cannot and will not agree with the mainline, mainstream Democrat positions on abortion, stem-cell research, and the coming issue: euthanasia. I do not agree with the Democrat position on homosexual marriages/unions, gun laws and gun control, war in general, the war on terror, the war in Iraq/Afghanistan, torture, political correctness, their view towards our military and ROTC programs, taxes and tax cuts, the economy, multiculturalism, drilling for oil in ANWAR, in Colorado and Utah, in the Gulf of Mexico, or offshore drilling on both coasts, global warming, universal healthcare, welfare, the U.N., or illegal immigration. All of these—plus other—issues have made my choice a great deal easier.
No political party is perfect and any reader of my writings knows that I have been quite critical at times of the Republican Party as well as President Bush. That does not rule out, however, that when I look at the planks in other political party platforms I see a culture of death and living on someone else’s dime. I see a blatant, Neville Chamberlain-like naiveté about illegal and Third World immigration. Therefore, I have made my political choice for now.

Birth Rates & Family Values
A number of times people have correctly pointed out that the birth rate in the United States is dropping and will soon be below a zero growth rate margin. A number of European countries are already there. That is truly a cultural issue that demands to be addressed. Without a doubt, Americans must learn about how to raise children, suffer some hardships, and simply how to grow up and stop complaining that life isn’t always easy.
The solutions offered by Dr. Thompson, Dr. Moran in their papers/articles/speeches, and those who are like them is, however, in my estimation, worse than the disease. A number of very reliable statistics point clearly to the fact that by 2050—or sooner—the Muslims will be in the majority in Europe. That should be fun. The same is true of illegal Hispanics in the U.S. Both of the men cited above have praised the presence of illegals as a good thing; a blessing. I disagree.
First, I disagree because they are here illegally. You hate to have to keep on saying it, but when are we going to wake up and acknowledge that illegal means that they are criminals to be here that way?
Second, with a Social Security system that was a disaster from the outset, how do we expect to pay for all those illegal Hispanics and their children when they retire? Currently, the average American who retires has somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200 in savings—total. Clearly, they will need everything Social Security can give them but with the drastic drop in the birth rate we will not replenish SS with the mere trickle of money that comes in from illegal immigrants and their children.
The Third World is another area where Thompson and Moran—and others like them—want the U.S. to do more. Here is a hard fact: If America took in 1 million immigrants from the Third World countries every year, it would not even begin to make a dent in the overwhelming birth rate problem that the Third World has. The solution is to send people there not bring more of them over here. Send missionaries; send entrepreneurs; send carpenters; and everyone else who can help, but do it right. I admit that I am not convinced that even these people can make a dent in the lifestyle of Third World people, but the missionary presence would be a good start. Mexico, for example, does not lack for natural resources. In fact, the country is quite rich in natural resources. They simply have not and will not develop what they have.
This is an enormous opportunity for us to train all kinds of men to go as missionaries to Third World countries, but if we are genuinely concerned about the lost, we might forego the luxuries of Laguna Beach for a Third World calling. Mission to North America and Mission to the World in the Presbyterian Church in America have some rather unique opportunities to send missionaries to those countries.
Surely MNA is aware that in the state of North Carolina the foreign-born and Hispanic populations grew over 390% and 540%, respectively, in the last 15 years. In Texas, the Hispanic population accounts for 34% of the total for that state. There is a task to go to them before they come to us illegally.

The Clinton Amnesty of 1996
As part of an attempt to get more Latino vote, on September 30, 1996, under the direction of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the INS swore in 1,045,000 new “Americans” as part of their amnesty program. Of that number, 80,000 had criminal records—6,300 for serious offenses. Since that time millions more have poured across our porous borders, some of whom are criminals, others of whom are drug traffickers, and still other of whom are members of the MS-13 gang.
One in ten babies born in the U.S. today is born into a family here illegally and automatically becomes an “anchor baby.” That is to say, they are instantly eligible for all the benefits of U.S. citizens and are made citizens by birth. Many—most—illegals know this and milk the system that way. They are here illegally therefore committing a crime; they have their children in an American hospital, and viola, perks for life.

Sending Illegals Back is Like Giving Jews to the Nazis
A couple of those who disagree with me liken sending an illegal Hispanic back to his or her country of origin as tantamount to turning a Jew over to the Nazis in the Second World War. This argument is so far a field that when I first saw it I didn’t take it seriously. Then I realized that it was meant to be serious. But when you stop, dissect it, and think about it (now there’s a novel idea!) you cannot help but realized that this is not a good analogy for some important reasons.
First, Hitler was involved in a pogrom to eradicate the Jews from the face of the earth. Today we call that ethnic cleansing. Jews were fleeing the attacks on their lives by the Third Reich. That is hardly the case with Vicente Fox. We are not talking ethnic cleansing here, although Buchanan makes a solid case for the fact that a large number of Mexicans believe that the entire Southwest is their and that America stole it from them (you know, like Bush stole the election from Gore and Frenchy Kerry) and would like to get rid of the gringo and take their land back. In fact, Fox is encouraging his people to come here and has even provided comic books of instructions on how to do it and how to find water.
Second, Fox will not kill the Mexicans returning to their homeland as Hitler was wanting to murder the Jews, handicapped, and non-Arians. Absurd. The only thing hiding Jews in the attic during WWII and hiding illegal aliens in our country is the hiding part. After that the analogies disappear.
What is latent in this argument, however, is disturbing to the nth degree. It is intimated that for America to deport these illegal aliens would be similar to the SS knocking on the doors of Corrie ten Boom’s home. This is sheer nonsense.

We Are a Melting Pot
One of the most egregious errors cited among those who disagree with me is the notion that America has always been a melting pot. That is simply not even close to being true. Samuel Huntington has clearly demonstrated that at the birth of our nation 80% of the population was of British origin. We might not like the statistics, but they give us an accurate reading. During the Potato Famine a large number of immigrants arrived from Ireland and the unrest in the country and the rise of the Know-Nothing Party is well chronicled by McPherson in Battle Cry for Freedom. From 1924-1960 immigration into America was almost at a standstill waiting for those who had immigrated here legally to become Americans.
Our current—seemingly kind-hearted—attitudes are bereft of historical backing. No nation—not even one as great as America—can continue to absorb large numbers of immigrants—legal or illegal—without dire consequences both immediately and down the road.
How will our PCA pastors integrate the legal Hispanic churches into mainstream PCA churches? The PCA has allowed the Korean PCA to be in existence for a number of years without requiring them to assimilate into the PCA proper. The net result is that many of these Korean churches still hold services exclusively in Korean and they tend to stay to themselves. They are in America, but are not yet of it. This is a sad undertaking. I served a Dutch immigrant congregation in Toronto for approximately ten years that struggled with something similar. The young people had Dutch last names, but rarely spoke much Dutch at all. They were Canadians. While their parents and grandparents tried desperately to hold on to the Dutch past, it simply was not to be.
What is needed is that both the Korean and Hispanic PCA members (and pastors) get assimilated into American PCA churches and culture as quickly as possible. It seems to me that to this point—and I really do hope that I am wrong here—there is little talk of assimilating either the Koreans or Hispanics into English-speaking PCA churches. To my way of thinking, this is simply wrong and wrongheaded. Is there a plan to do that? Does MNA see the value and necessity of getting these immigrants incorporated into the fabric of this country or is the intention simply to allow them to have their “own” congregations? If they do not assimilate themselves into American churches, we should also not expect them to integrate into our society. For them not to integrate into our established churches would be an egregious error with far reaching implications.

As much as I love my PCA brothers, Thompson and Moran, they are just wrong on this matter. Their papers are vague and poorly thought through. Nonetheless, I can imagine that those papers would appeal to a certain segment of the PCA today.
It would seem to me that in order to gain a more balanced approach to the topic of illegal immigration that we need more than trotting out some biblical texts that have little or nothing to do with the matter at hand.
In addition, I would suggest that every PCA pastor get a copy of Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency. I’m not asking you to like the book or even agree with it. What I am asking is that you read it objectively and adjust your position as a citizen of this country accordingly.The Lord will provide many opportunities for us to witness his truth; the truth of the gospel. For our part, we must always encourage those in our country to be here legally and if they are not—even or especially if they are Christians—we must get them back to their country of origin. Why do I say especially Christians? Because of all people they should know better what the Lord demands of his people

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Christians & Illegal Aliens (V)

Hermeneutical Considerations & Emerging Principles
Dr. J. Allen Thompson, Coordinator of Multicultural Church Planting (Mission to North America) of the Presbyterian Church in America explains his stance on illegal immigration in a paper entitled “The Stranger in Your Midst: Attitudes and Actions Toward Undocumented Aliens in the United States.” As we have pointed out previously, Dr. Thompson consistently prefers the term “undocumented” to describe what is, in point of fact, “illegal.” But it’s his paper, so he may choose. I am convinced that such euphemistic language obfuscates the issue and that Dr. Thompson’s readers would be better served by more precise language.
I want to conclude my analysis of Dr. Thompson’s article in this segment and then round the entire discussion off in the next contribution to my blog site by looking both at some of the fallacies that adhere to the discussion about illegal immigration as well as some of the factual data on illegal immigrants. That being said, we shall spend a few moments responding to what the author of the article calls “hermeneutical considerations” and “emerging principles” of the biblical data.
Dr. Thompson comments that “Apart from human-universal commands (e.g., the commandments to love God and neighbor, Mark 12:29-31) that apply to the Christian’s general treatment of neighbors, the texts which specifically deal with relationships to aliens are found primarily in the Old Testament civil law.”[1] Since I have written on the Old Testament concept of the sojourner, I will simply refer you to my blog site for my views on this subject. We would have been better served, however, if Dr. Thompson would have added this truth to his statement about the Old Testament: But the texts dealing with the Christian’s relationship to the civil government are found primarily in the New Testament.
In Romans 13:1-8, for example, obedience to the civil government and love are beautifully combined so that there is no contradiction between the two. Moreover, texts such as Matthew 22:17-21 describe how our Lord taught us about obedience to “Caesar.” Israel was an occupied nation and yet Jesus taught about obeying the Roman authorities. Finally, 1 Peter 2:13-17 directs our attention—quite clearly actually—to our attitude towards “human institutions” as Christians. True, our citizenship is in heaven, but in the interim we sojourn here upon this earth in the respective countries and callings that God has ordained for us. Moreover, Christians encouraging others that the laws of our country do not matter give a poor witness, especially in the case of illegal immigration where our nation’s laws do not require Christians to violate any specific commands of God. I’m aware that Dr. Thompson and others want to posit a dilemma between the law of love in Scripture and our nation’s laws, but to this point they have not offered the first shred of evidence to bolster their positions.
Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that Dr. Thompson would ask, “Is the civil law of the Old Testament normative in its application to the situation of aliens today?”[2] It’s conceivable that this is meant to be a rhetorical question, but it would seem that as a member of the PCA and who has “signed onto” the Westminster Standards, that the answer should be clear to him. We are reminded in 19.3 that all the “ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.” That’s clear. In the following section (19:4) we also read: “To them also, as a body politic, he (God) gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require” (Emphasis mine).
Allow me one simple explanation of what the divines at Westminster were aiming at. In Deuteronomy 22:8 we read that when the people of Israel built a new house they were required to place a parapet around the roof. Rarely do we in North America entertain on the roof, but occasionally a teenager thinks that’s a good place to party, so it would seem that the application of this text might be placing fences around our swimming pools. In this sense, the civil law in the Old Testament isn’t normative, but certainly highly instructive. Thus, we can look for general equity but Thompson’s (and Moran’s) are lost on us as they don’t put flesh on what exactly they’re trying to say. At the same time, we would be far better off if we were to implement more of the Old Testament civil laws, but that’s something for another time.
In terms of the “principles emerging from the biblical data” we still are not given a great deal of concrete information. Dr. Thompson concludes that “The Israelite was to defend, help, and even love the stranger (Deut. 10:18; 14:29; 24:14, 19).”[3] My point here is that Christians in the United States may do all of the above without allowing aliens to come into the country illegally. Would I, say, defend an illegal female against an attack from a male or a vicious dog? Absolutely. Would I help them if they needed food or clothing? Of course. Would I witness to them? Theoretically, but my Spanish isn’t very good, since I live in America where a number of us still speak English. Can I have a disposition of love towards the stranger? Yes. All of this does not, however, point to aiding him or her in his illegality. One quick point about the word “stranger” as Dr. Thompson employs it here. If someone comes to the United States legally, they’re probably going to feel somewhat like a stranger at the outset. My point here: “Stranger” can connote both illegal as well as legal aliens.
Before Dr. Thompson gives us his “Principles” he makes this comment: “The Christian is not a gër but a citizen of the kingdom of God. With reference to this present world, however, the Christian who is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is a gër.”[4] I would add: that in his gër-ness the Christian is called upon to obey the laws of the land in which he or she lives unless those laws clearly and demonstrably violate the Law of God. Successively, but not successfully, Dr. Thompson gives us a litany of Old Testament texts that ostensibly make his point: Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34; and Deuteronomy 10:17-19. Each of these speaks to us about loving the alien, but the point to be made has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand: illegal immigration. In fact, Dr. Thompson expects to make a quantum leap to follow him. We are all in agreement that we are to love the alien, but now to apply this to mean that illegal immigration is a blessing is more than a huge stretch!
Those texts are followed by a set of suppositions that are as vague and ill-chosen as his texts. For example, he writes, “Each one of us must be humbly aware of our own origins.”[5] Growing up in the South we never had shoes or electricity until I was twelve. I know what he means. Next we are reminded that “The weak and the helpless need special protection and care.”[6] Thompson adds, “Persons who by their position, status, and language are disadvantaged are potential victims of ethnocentric pride.”[7] The image that is emerging is that Dr. Thompson seems to be thinking of the illegal immigration in a monolithic fashion. Not every MS-13 illegal immigrant forms a potential victim of ethnocentric pride. Rather, he’s more likely to join and gang and attempt to murder an American law enforcement officer. It appears that illegal aliens are lumped together and come out looking the same. That simply is not the case and it is more than naïve on Dr. Thompson’s part.
There is a statement that I want to pick up on that Dr. Thompson uses because rather than making his point, it countermands it. Favorably citing Leviticus 18:26 he writes the following: “In criminal law the same rules enacted to protect natives were applied to aliens.”[8] Thank you. That is my point precisely. What the Old Testament is saying is that aliens in Israel had to “play by the rules.” This is the exact opposite of what Dr. Thompson and Dr. Moran would have us believe and act upon. If we are drawing principles here then it is clear that the Leviticus 18:26 text points inexorably to the fact that an alien must live according to the laws of the nation in which they’re living, which is precisely what illegal aliens are not doing. Moreover, they complicate the situation by getting hired illegally, which is a felony.
Thompson’s third “principle” is that “Aliens, as well as other disadvantaged persons, merit acts of kindness and physical provision as a reflection of the character of God who shows no partiality.”[9] Do you see where this is heading? The gratuitous assumption is that aliens and “other disadvantaged persons” form a unit. I happen to know a number of legal aliens who rightly would be incensed if you referred to them as a disadvantaged person merely because they were aliens! There are quite a few legal aliens who are doing very, very well in this country, thank you very much. We’ve already commented on the Christian’s attitude and action regarding acts of kindness and physical provision.

Action: The Word of God Applied Compassionately
Dr. Thompson’s opening statement for this section of his paper/article also—to my mind—points in the opposite direction than he wants to go. He states, “It has been established that the status of the undocumented alien in the United States is precarious and that as Christians we should extend hospitality, justice, and care as was done in the Old Testament and commanded in the New Testament.”[10]
I’m not certain that anything much has been truly “established,” but that’s another story. If anything has been established, however, it is that the status of the undocumented alien in the United States is illegal rather than precarious. Moreover, if justice is to be applied according to Leviticus 18:26 then this is a slam dunk. Citing Dr. David Moran, Dr. Thompson continues, “It should be remembered that even the documented alien struggles in this country against discrimination and loneliness and is also victimized by the legal system.”[11]
If the good doctors mean that aliens get homesick and miss a number of the customs of their home of origin, then, yes, that’s more than understandable. For the almost ten years that our family lived in Holland we sometimes struggled with loneliness—but not often. We jumped into the Dutch culture—legally—with our hip boots on and rarely had time for loneliness. We intentionally avoided excessive contacts with people who would make us long for what we were missing in Holland. People who hang in homogenous, likeminded groups tend to be lonely from what they’re missing rather being thankful for what they have.
As far as the discrimination and victimization thing those were totally different issues. We had a number of political debates where some of the Dutchies thought that we were crazy, but that was about it. If the documented alien struggles against discrimination surely that comprises rather isolated issues. Without doubt, the overwhelming majority of hardworking legal immigrants are not discriminated against, but I raised an eyebrow at Thompson’s and Moran’s assertion that legal immigrants are victimized by the U.S. legal system. Some statistics and concrete examples would have bolstered their point. As it stands, however, it’s barely believable.
Dr. Thompson asserts that the care and assistance we can give illegal aliens includes “hiring the undocumented person to do odd jobs.”[12] If Dr. Thompson is going to encourage PCA church members and other Christians to hire illegals to perform “odd jobs” it is necessary to spell out precisely which “odd jobs” do not constitute breaking the law and committing a felony, since, you would think, Christians wouldn’t want to cross that line. Why do you think that in some states they are cracking down on the trafficking in illegal labor? There are so many Christian economic principles at play here that it isn’t even remotely funny.
Dr. Thompson explains what he means in another quote taken from Dr. Moran. Citing the Simpson-Rodino Acts of 1986 we understand that “INS officials have said they would not harass families hiring household workers, i.e., a person would not be penalized for knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien as a baby-sitter or carpenter for one job.”[13] Excuse me! Who in their right mind would hire someone who came into this country illegally as a one-time baby-sitter? What parent would allow an illegal alien to watch his or her child? “Honey, it’s almost time for us to go out to our party. Good thing I found that illegal alien at the last minute to baby-sit, otherwise we’d be stuck at home tonight. What? Oh, no. It’s safe; it’s just a one-time thing.” Moreover, as we shall see in our last installment, a lot has changed in this country since Simpson-Rodino circa 1986.
The word “justice” appeared in Dr. Thompson’s introductory sentence to this section as a description of how the Word of God is to be applied compassionately. He writes that “Many aliens, who come from countries where justice is seldom carried out, are intimidated by the justice system.”[14] In light of what follows, it is safe to say what Dr. Thompson meant but didn’t say was “illegal”—or to use his term, “undocumented”—aliens. Why do I say that? In the following sentence he writes that “They often find themselves in situations under unfair employers who underpay or do not pay them as agreed upon.”[15]
If the aliens are here legally, they can have recourse to the “unfair employers” who cheat them. We have a court system in this country that protects legal aliens. Of course, unscrupulous employers in the United States—and that is what they are—are willing to hire illegal aliens and underpay or not pay at all because as illegal aliens they have no recourse to our legal system. Corruption breeds corruption. But if it were corrupt in Mexico, why not breed some corruption in America. After all, Americans are also susceptible to corruption. Dr. Thompson hits the nail on the head when he writes, “As victims they are afraid of going to the law because they may be apprehended by the INS.”[16]
But let’s be accurate here. Illegal aliens may get and at times do get conned by unscrupulous employers, but they are no more victims than the unscrupulous people who hire them. In fact, both are unscrupulous. So why does Dr. Thompson insist on making them politically correct victi-crats? The solution, it seems, is “Christian advice to aliens regarding their rights.”[17] I must admit that in light of the laws of this country and the illegal status of the illegal alien, I would be hard pressed to come up with a bevy of rights for them. Dr. Thompson suggests that Christians can accompany illegal aliens to court and “act as witnesses in the interests of justice.”[18]
So let me see if I understand this: I can accompany illegal aliens to court—granted that I know any—and act as witnesses in the interest of justice? What precisely would I be witnessing to in such a situation? Would I witness that I was well aware of the fact that the illegal alien was in this country illegally and then ask for justice? Would I witness that the illegal alien was hired by an American and not paid the promised wages. Let’s see: an unscrupulous employer committed a felony and then lied to the illegal alien. What kind of justice would we be seeking in such a case?
Another possible solution might be to teach illegal aliens who are in the “second phase” of the Simpson-Rodino Amnesty classes! How is this helping? Finally—and it is a blessing to be almost through this!—Thompson puts this position forward: “Legal procedures are available for entry into the United States with documentation. Often the process takes a long time and is expensive.”[19] Really? I didn’t know that. What do you know? There are actually legal avenues for entering the United States legally. Wow. But there’s nothing worse to cramp your style that a lengthy legal process that’s expensive into the bargain.
Dr. Thompson contends that “Many unscrupulous attorneys are in the business of ‘purchasing’ entry into the United States through false documentation.”[20] Surprise! Surprise! “National Christians seeking legal entry into the United States often are lured into these traps.”[21] Then why don’t these National Christians (I’m not sure I know what National Christians are) report the unscrupulous attorneys to the proper officials and get them disbarred for unscrupulous, illegal practices? The Thompson solution: “Warnings should be given.”[22] Good idea. Dr. Thompson concludes this section of his paper/article with this gem: “In addition, those working with undocumented aliens, should become conversant with the procedures, obtain the advice of conscientious immigration attorneys and become helpful agents in this process.”[23] Being helpful can be a good thing as long as matters are proceeding along legal lines. In the meantime, Dr. Thompson has not begun to answer what we are to do while the illegal alien is still in the country illegally and in the case of Christians perhaps even attending the Lord’s Supper while living in a known sin for which is not prepared to repent. By way of reminder, biblical repentance includes not merely asking forgiveness from the offended parties, but also amendment of lifestyle.

Dr. Thompson’s Conclusions
From out of nowhere, the leading conclusion is reached: “In the coming decade the immigration crunch will accelerate, continue to put pressures on our society and increase racial tensions.”[24] Of course, the short answer is that illegal immigration will not accelerate if those in our government will take the proper steps to secure our borders. Pat Buchanan provides us with a different scenario: “In 1954, when Eisenhower discovered a million Mexicans here who did not belong, without apology he ordered them sent home in ‘Operation Wetback.’ They went.”[25]
It is Dr. Thompson’s assessment that “Millions will enter legally and millions more will continue to seek economic haven in the United States through illegal entry.”[26] This is a disturbing sentence for a number of reasons. First, I am not certain that according to our immigration policy that even millions are allowed to enter our country legally. Millions more can be stopped at the border—and should be. I would add: if necessary by force. But what Dr. Thompson posits might have been just a slip of the pen, but by his own admission, rather than coming to this country to embrace its ideals, ideas, and freedoms, the illegal immigrant is coming to seek economic haven. His primary goal is to earn more money. Earning more money is not inherently evil, but it is if you resort to breaking the law to do so. Again, the case of the unscrupulous employer is a form of economic haven. He doesn’t have to pay according to the law. He commits a felony because he hires—at an economic advantage—an illegal alien.
Then we’re told, “Poverty will escalate in many countries putting greater impetus to the flight for jobs.”[27] Unfortunately, we’re not given any reliable economic barometers that point us, inexorably, to the fact that poverty will escalate in “many countries,” but one thing is certain: the glut of illegal aliens into our country is tantamount to importing poverty. I’ll deal with this more in detail in the next issue, but we need to be aware that illegal aliens generally fall into this description: “Except for refuges from Communist countries, such as Hungary in 1956 and Cuba in 1960, immigrants gravitate to the party of government. Mostly uneducated and poor, they get more back in government benefits—free education for their children, housing subsidies, free health care, food stamps, welfare checks, Supplemental Security Income, earned income tax credits—far more than they ever pay out.”[28] Dr. Thompson misses the clear treat of importing poverty into his own country.
According to Dr. Thompson, four key answers must be given to the question: How will the Church of Jesus Christ respond in this coming decade?[29]
First, immigration laws favoring allowing in more people from Third World countries should be supported. Our country has laws regarding quotas for Third World countries. If we desire those laws to be changed—I rather doubt that more than a mere handful know what those laws or quotas are—then we must do so through “the system.”
Second, “Biblical teaching indicates that we should have a heart and hand open toward the disadvantaged which include the widows, orphans, and aliens.”[30] Duh!
Third, “Evangelism and church planting among ‘people groups’ (What? People groups? I suppose that it must be the new fad to make up cool sounding names as you go along) and new ethnics (Italics mine for this cool, upbeat, cutting edge “people group”) is a door of opportunity that should be pursued with vigor by the Church in North America.”[31] This “door of opportunity” must be pursued—vigorously and otherwise—by biblically qualified men prepared to lead, teach, and preach in a biblical manner. Pursuing with vigor should not mean that we are willing to place less than soundly biblical men into the positions of leadership that will be required by such an undertaking. This begs the question: Where might we find such a cadre on a moment’s notice? Once found, why wouldn’t we be more inclined to send them as missionaries to Mexico? If the men are biblically trained and equipped there might be a problem of conscience in ministering to folks who are living in a known sin for which they refuse to repent.
According to Dr. Thompson, this new task he’s describing will involve “cross-cultural communication of the Gospel” to the people groups and new ethnics.[32] (The old ethnics actually went about immigration legally. Such were the people groups back in the day.) Since almost one-half of my twenty-five-plus years in pastoral ministry have been spent in a “cross-cultural” setting (modern, hip, cutting-edge, engage-the-culture term: contexualization) I would greatly appreciate it if someone who delineate—in detail—precisely what this is. It would be very helpful to me since all I was able to come up with in terms of cross-cultural ministry was commonsense, age-appropriate presentation of the one gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:8-9). Somebody help me here.
This cross-cultural communication of the gospel, according to Dr. Thompson, entails pastors and church planters in North America receiving missionary training analogous to the “same degree as overseas workers.”[33] Really? Why should I learn Spanish? Why shouldn’t the Mexican learn English? Why should I learn the Mexican culture instead of the Mexican learning American culture? Why shouldn’t I spend time teaching the legal alien about this country and so augment the naturalization process?
On January 13, 1919 Theodore Roosevelt send a letter to the American Defense Society which contained these words: The immigrant to America had to become an American and nothing but an American. He reminded his audience that there can be no divided allegiance here among immigrants. He wrote further, “We have room but one flag, the American flag. We have room for but one language here; and that is the English language. And we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.” That’s the language prior to PC.
Dr. Thompson caps his article of misinformation with this gem: “America is not a melting point but a mosaic of multi-cultures!”[34] No! No! No! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I would suggest Samuel Huntington’s book Who Are We? to Dr. Thompson and any and all who think like him. Trying to describe this country as a “mosaic of multi-cultures” is precisely what is wrong with those who want to be PC and have never really lived in multi-cultures. I would point all who believe that America should celebrate a mosaic of multi-cultures to read Reginald Bibby’s Mosiac Madness and Bill Gairdner’s The Trouble with Canada. Closer to home, Tom Tancredo’s In Mortal Danger and Pat Buchanan’s new release State of Emergency will be very beneficial. Buchanan’s book has skyrocketed on the New York Times bestseller list. Why do you think that is? It is at least in part due to the fact that Americans are very concerned about this problem and do not see it as a blessing as Dr. Thompson and Dr. Moran—and others like them—do.
If this is the direction that Mission to North America in the Presbyterian Church in America is heading, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble spiritually and legally. To this point I am more than a little surprised that those in leadership at MNA have not said something one way or the other. The silence is deafening. Both of the papers I’ve interacted with have ties to MNA. What should we expect next, a position paper on civil disobedience?

[1] Thompson, Stranger, 13.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 14.
[4] Ibid., 15.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., 16.
[7] Ibid. Italics mine.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid., 18.
[11] Ibid. Italics mine.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid., 19.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid., 20.
[25] Pat Buchanan, State of Emergency, (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2006), p. 17.
[26] Thompson, Stranger, 20.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Buchanan, SE, 60.
[29] Thompson, Stranger, 20.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Ibid., 21.
[34] Ibid.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Christians & Illegal Aliens (IV)

The Contextual Entry Point: Poverty, War, & Political Repression
Dr. J. Allen Thompson, Coordinator of Multicultural Church Planting, Mission to North America in the Presbyterian Church of America starts his first major chapter in his paper, “The Stranger in Your Midst: Attitudes and Actions Toward Undocumented Aliens in the United States” with a quote from that bastion of orthodoxy Christianity Today. In the July 1985 issue of that magazine the Christian public was alerted to “unparalleled shifts in migration patterns to the United States and the redefinition of missions strategy that that shift would require.”[1]
Two actions are cited for this change: The civil legislation of the mid-sixties and Congress removing immigration quotas that once discriminated against Third World countries.[2] From 1951 through 1976 immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa increased more than 75%. What Dr. Thompson fails to mention is that the overwhelming majority of those coming in—according to the allotted quotas—were legal. During approximately the same period of time immigration from Europe to the U.S. decreased by approximately 60%—according to the article.

Reasons for Migration
What were some of the reasons for the increase in immigration? Dr. Thompson cites three: war, famine, and political repression—none of which, by the way, apply to illegal Hispanics flooding across our porous borders. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not denying that these are valid reasons to seek haven into another, safer country. My point is simply that these reasons are not terribly pertinent as to why we should allow illegal immigrants to come to America from Mexico—or from anywhere else for that matter.
The author of the CT article correctly cites the desire for economic prosperity as a strong magnet for both legal and illegal immigration. The major different is that one is legal and the other isn’t. The author of the CT article also argues that even menial jobs in America pay as much as 10 times the rate of many underdeveloped countries.[3] Again, this is true, but even an economy as robust as America’s simply cannot accommodate everyone. That is one of the primary reasons that we have quotas. Even now, our economy is feeling the strain of a huge influx of between 10-12 million illegal aliens—1 million of whom are considered dangerous felons—and will definitely be taxed to the breaking point if the proper measures are not taken rather quickly.
Former President Reagan signed into law the Simpson-Rodino Act (1986) that granted amnesty to illegal aliens then living in the United States. Upon reflection, President Reagan admitted that that was one of the biggest mistakes of his administration. That act gave illegal aliens a one-time opportunity to become permanent residents of the United States.[4] Irrespective of what President Bush wants to call his proposed program, it ultimately amounts to another amnesty.

This is a dilemma that cries out for a summary statement. Dr. Thompson gives us just that: “The entry point of ‘doing theology’ is a contextual problem that cries for a solution or a mystery that calls for understanding in a real situation.”[5] No, the entry point of doing theology is a solid biblical methodology that bows before Scripture and takes everything from there for both doctrine and life. The entry point of theology is the power and empowering of the Holy Spirit as he illumines and enlightens the hearts and minds of biblical theologians as they obediently perform their exegesis and preaching of Christ.
Oddly, Dr. Thompson refers to the “fate” of the many illegal aliens in our country as the type of contextual problem he has in mind. Some are, he tells us, political refugees. No doubt. Others are economically-driven people seeking sustenance for their families. Probably. But that is no excuse for coming here illegally when legal means are open to them. They simply disobey our laws, go to the front of the line, and—although few want to admit this to you—they do not become Americans. For some, this becomes their country; for others it’s just a place to make more money. If Dr. Thompson believes that “Most of these undocumented aliens are without a knowledge of Christ” then I would suggest a concerted effort on MNA’s part, in conjunction with MTW, to send PCA missionaries to work in Mexico.

The Law of Love or the Law of Subjection
Dr. Thompson’s second chapter is heavily dependent upon Dr. Moran’s works, although, once again, there is no footnoting. Here’s my objection to Dr. Thompson’s methodology: I have spent a great deal of time reading theologians who have gone to extensive lengths in explaining precisely where they are coming from regarding the manner in which they “do theology.” In short, I have read English, Dutch, German, and Afrikaans theologians who have written about theological method, but I have not encountered anything quite like Dr. Thompson’s opening statement.
He writes, “Critical reflection, as a step in doing theology, is primarily concerned with clarifying the issue so that the nub of the matter can be addressed theologically. In doing theology cross-culturally it is of major importance that this and other steps be approached from within the culture.” I must confess that I’m somewhat uncertain what the word “nub” means as Dr. Thompson uses it. Moreover, while it is certainly true that there are variables from culture to culture, there is also, often, a great deal of overlap. Dr. Thompson seems to accentuate the diversity at the expense of the unity.
In traditional terms, Dr. Thompson is describing both Ethics and Dogmatics in what he’s saying. Dutch theologian Jochem Douma makes this valid point: “Dogmatics without ethics is empty; ethics without dogmatics is blind.”[6] In addition, Douma points to a definition of ethics offered by Klaas Schilder who wrote, “Ethics is the science of the constant grounds, the changing dispensations, and the relevant concrete specificity of man’s obligation toward God’s revealed will.”[7] If this comes close to what Dr. Thompson is saying, then most would agree. The rub (not like the nub) comes when it is suggested that in doing cross-cultural theology it is of “major importance” that nub steps be taken from within the culture. To that idea, Dr. Thompson adds, “Since issues are viewed differently from each cultural perspective, wisdom dictates that this task be approached in a cross-cultural community of faith and worship.”[8]
Does Dr. Thompson mean that since some illegal aliens are Christians and don’t think that they are actually here illegally that they are somehow exonerated? Wisdom dictates that matters theological and ethical be approached from Scripture first and foremost. The community of faith and worship must be directed, guided, molded, shaped, formed, and informed by the Word of God. The cross-cultural community of faith and worship takes a back seat to the Bible. If the Bible says that we are to obey our rulers and the laws of country, then there is no more discussion on the matter—cross-culturally or otherwise. Moreover, since Dr. Thompson is PCA he has also given his word that he believes the Westminster Standards to be a reliable summary of the Scriptures.
He has also promised the following in his ordination questions: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of your ordination vow?” (The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, 21-5.2)
If, therefore, Dr. Thompson took no exception to the Westminster Standards and in particular chapter 23.4 (The Civil Magistrate) where it is written: “It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake” (Italics mine), then he has an ethical problem. Unless Dr. Thompson or others can clearly demonstrate that our immigration laws are unjust, he and we in the PCA are duty bound to uphold them.
For these and other reasons, it escapes me why Dr. Thompson feels obligated to write, “This paper was written in isolation from brothers and sisters experiencing the problem of undocumentation and therefore violates this principle (i.e., cross-cultural community of faith and worship). Nevertheless, points of view from both Latin American and North American will be represented.” If, for whatever reason, I write something—anything—in isolation from an ethnic group that does not necessarily disqualify my writing as either irrelevant or untrue. Simply because Dr. Thompson penned/typed his words in isolation from illegal aliens says nothing really. With all due respect, I am not all that interested in the Latin American perspective on illegal immigration. Personally, I’ve heard and read enough from Vicente Fox to have a good grasp on the issue. Mr. Fox categorically denies that there is such a thing as illegal immigration. Besides, he is not the final political court of appeals. America is a sovereign country with its own sovereign laws. I’m about as interested in the Latin American perspective as I am in either the Dutch or French perspective on the death penalty.

Clarifying the Issue
Dr. Thompson begins this section of his paper in this fashion: “The results of Biblical exegesis related to the problem at hand may not be to everyone’s liking.”[9] This is theoretically possible, but to this point we’ve seen precious little exegesis; in fact, it has been non-existent. I’m not certain how we can disagree with what has not yet occurred. Until that time, we move on in the article.
Continuing along the vague trail, Dr. Thompson posits, “The exact definition of the problem may not be supported by all.”[10] Okay. That’s highly likely. Few definitions are generally supported by all. I suppose the real question tends to be: what definition are we talking about? Is it whether or not Mexico is a war-torn country? Is it illegal immigration? Is it—according to the title of the chapter—whether we should maintain the law of love or the law of subjection?
Well, whatever it is we’re discussing is up for grabs, but in the meantime here is our guidance: “Therefore, to become a hearing, loving community an attitude of submission to each other and the Lord must be sought. This can be done through developing a spirit of mutuality and prayer.”[11] I’m getting lost here, but if there are clear and clear-cut immigration laws—which there are—then a spirit of mutuality and prayer might not be the answer.
But we’re not there yet. There is more material to help us clarify the issue. Personally, if there is much more of this clarification I’m going to be totally confused! Dr. Thompson writes, “The ‘listening’ attitude can be deepened by becoming sensitive to the unity of the Spirit of God in the group’s deliberations. A key question might be: What theme related to the issue is the Spirit of God developing among us? A third approach in worship could be to utilize the variety of gifts given to the Body by the Spirit of God. A key question in this regard could be: What should be my contribution to the theme being developed? The mood set by this worshiping community of persons seeking to do theology on a prickly issue is of inestimable value.”[12]
First, if we must resort to words such as “might be” or “could be” then we have not yet reached the point of clarification, which is okay. We’re still thinking, brainstorming, and reflecting. Clarification will come at some point down the road, but we are not there yet.
Second, it is true that listening is a very good communication skill. It is not the case, however, that mere listening will neither necessarily allow us to discern the theme that the Holy Spirit is developing among us nor to understand how we are to use the spiritual gifts present in the community.
Third, it is neither the mood nor the community that must take precedence. The community must be prepared to bow before the truth of Scripture that is trans-cultural. If we are still talking about illegal immigration—and it’s tough to decide that with all the exegesis flying around—then the community should do its theological homework in Scripture and come up with the clear teachings about the role of Christians to the civil government. In this manner, the listening becomes first listening to the Word of God and then listening to each other. Once the truth of Scripture on the subject has been established then the community can reflect on how this “mystery longs to be understood,” which is the phraseology that Dr. Thompson employs in his Triadic Model.[13]
Dr. Thompson gives us some interesting questions to ponder dealing with what the actual problem is from the two viewpoints mentioned earlier. It’s not the question but the answers proposed that are disturbing. For example, in answer to the question: What is the problem? The Latin American viewpoint reads as follows: “Undocumented aliens are seeking food and shelter from a land of plenty and should be treated with patience and understanding while they attempt to be legalized.”[14] That’s an interesting response in both what it says and doesn’t say.
That someone seeks food is understandable. Christians should be prepared to supply food and clothing, especially for the children. The parents drag them through the ordeal and if there is ever any proper use of the word “innocent” here is the place to use it. Nevertheless, America simply cannot receive everyone into this country simply because we are a “land of plenty.” At the same time, it can be reasonably argued that Mexico also qualifies as a “land of plenty” vis-à-vis its natural resources, beach resort areas, and population. The main problem is not a lack of resources but a thoroughly corrupt government. From infancy, Mexicans grow up with the notion of corruption all around them. The solution to almost everything is bribery. Pay the federales enough pesos and you can get or do almost anything you want.
It is a tacit assumption that illegal aliens are attempting to be legalized. Dr. Moran himself provides an example of some friends/acquaintances of his who have slipped back and forth across the border undetected a number of times. That hardly sounds like a burning desire to become a legal citizen. Rather than treating illegal aliens with patience and understanding, we should supply them with whatever food and clothing they need, pray with and for them, present the gospel to them, and then send them back to Mexico. I’m not suggesting that we drive them there, but that we get in contact with the proper authorities so that they may come here legally.
What I’m hearing is the fallacious argument that some put forward for those who have conversion experiences prior to receiving the death penalty. Simply because someone is a Christian or becomes a Christian does not exonerate them from keeping the law or receiving their just punishment.
On the question Why is it (illegal immigration—RG) a problem? Dr. Thompson presents the American viewpoint this way: “Undocumented aliens are violating the law of the United States and cannot work without documentation. If discovered, undocumented aliens will be deported. Christians, who are undocumented aliens, have a conscience problem of living a lie, hiding from authorities, and rejecting means of grace for growth in their Christian lives.”[15] I want to give two responses to this.
First, since Dr. Thompson is PCA he must understand something about the “fencing” of the Lord’s Supper table. The aforementioned Book of Church Order (58-4) of the PCA states that “…the minister, at the discretion of the Session, before the observance begins, may either invite all those who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the ordinance…” How can a person be a “member in good standing” if they are in the country illegally?
Second, in our Reformed tradition there is a long-standing form for the use during the Holy Supper. I have a form that it used in our celebration that states, in part, that all those who are living in a known sin from which they refuse to repent should not partake in the Supper. Is it not patently clear that illegal aliens who remain in the country illegally are unrepentant of that known sin? And if that is true, why would the Pastor/Session admit them to the table and refuse, say, a known adulterer?
Finally, Dr. Thompson presents the following Latin American viewpoint to the question Why is it (again, illegal immigration—RG) a problem? “Coming from cultures where relationships are more important than laws, Latins view breaking the regulations of entrance into the United States as secondary. More important is their care of their relatives.”[16] Apart from being highly suggestive and not totally accurate, my urge is still to reply, “So what?” This smacks of the worst sort of multiculturalism and politically correct “values clarification.”
It is truly irrelevant how a Mexican thinks about United States laws. What is important is how the sovereign nation of the United States thinks about its laws and their enforcement. It doesn’t matter if Latins view illegal immigration as secondary. In point of fact, it isn’t. Simply because Latins think that “no crime has been committed”[17] doesn’t mean that they are correct. Or, merely because “Latins see the infraction as a venial sin” that is easily forgiven does not excuse them. What if I don’t see that a stop sign actually means that I must stop? It would be easy to multiply example upon example of any alien coming to this country and wanting to live according to the way they think or feel. What if a Brit comes to the U.S. and decides we all drive on the wrong side of the road?
As someone who lived outside of the United States for almost twenty years of my life I think I understand something of living in a culture that is different from your own. I also understand that as a Christian you have a higher obligation to obey the just laws of the land than the non-believer. So, if Dr. Thompson, Dr. Moran, or anyone else knows Mexicans that are in need of food and know a responsible agency that will actually get the food to them and not sell it on the black market, I can conceive of a number of PCA churches that would be willing to donate food and clothing for families. And as I suggested last time, perhaps it would be wise for MNA/MTW to launch a strategic plan so that the PCA can send missionaries to work among the Mexicans—more than we are doing now. In the meantime, however, illegal still means illegal. If we want to work to change the laws, then, by all means, let the ones who are convinced that the laws are unjust work to change them through appropriate channels.

The Beauty of Simple Illustrations
In closing, I’d like to give a summary illustration that tends to strip away all of the jargon and get down to essential matters regarding the nature of illegal aliens. A good friend and dear brother in the Lord forwarded me an email that contained this illustration.
Recently, large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the U.S. might actually do something as drastic as protect its own borders, which would make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely. Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests.
Let’s say I break into your house. Let’s say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, “I’ve made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors; I’ve done all the things you don’t like to do. I’m hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house). According to the protesters, not only must you let me stay, you must add me to your family’s insurance plan, educate my kids, and provide other benefits to me and to my family (my husband will do your yard work because he too is hard-working and honest, except for that breaking in part). If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my right to be there.
It’s only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I’m just trying to better myself. I’m hard-working and honest, um, except for well, you know. And what a deal it is for me!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of selfishness, prejudice and being anti-housebreaker. Oh yeah, and I want you to learn my language so you can communicate with me. This is not about racism; it’s about nationality, sovereign laws in our country, and our nation’s decision who comes in and who doesn’t.This in no way impedes our ability to go to Mexico, El Salvador, or other Latin American countries and present the gospel to them, to love them in the Lord, and to provide those in need with basic necessities of life, but we and they do it all legally.

[1] Thompson, Stranger, 6.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 7.
[4] See Ronald Reagan, An American Life, (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990), p. 473.
[5] Thompson, Stranger, 8.
[6] Jochem Douma, Responsible Conduct, (Nelson Kloosterman, trans.), (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2003), p. 41.
[7] Ibid., 71.
[8] Thompson, Stranger, 9.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., 9-10.
[13] Ibid., 4. Figure 1.
[14] Ibid., 10.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid. Borrowed from Dr. Moran or vice-versa.