"Introduction to Great Questions Answered"

Introduction to Great Questions Answered
By Scott Wakefield, Lead Pastor

What is Great Questions Answered (GQA)?
Long story short, emerging out of our 2019 Great Questions sermon series, where we received way more questions than time for answers, I endeavored to take up a long-held desire to begin compiling a trustworthy catalog of written answers that are biblically and theologically rooted, practically helpful, and instructive for Christian worldview development.

Why GQA?
In a greedy, impatient, and algorithmically-controlled world motivated by abuse of money, sex, and power, militantly secular ideologies, weaponized identity politics, we must fight against intellectual laziness and reclaim a Christ-centered discipline of the mind. We must learn to think clearly and persuade Christianly, for the sake of our witness to the truth of human flourishing for all that is only found in knowing and speaking God’s Word.1

When/How/Where is GQA Published?
Because God made me more than a little “extra” when it comes to producing things like GQA, Scott’s Thoughts (ST), sermons, and really, anything involving Scripture, theology, writing, grammar, and ideas, I finish GQA posts slowly, painfully, and in snippets that are introduced in biweekly(ish) ST posts. So what you see in a given GQA post is the current compilation of GQA snippets for the title question and may also simply be the first of many such posts. To see all GQA posts, go to the “Pulse” tab on our app (fccgreene.org/app), or fccgreene.org/GQA.

Point of Clarification re Brown Bags & Bibles
I am trying to mostly stay away from topics already covered in our biweekly Brown Bags & Bibles (fccgreene.org/bbb) audio/video podcast. But as there will be some occasional overlap, I intend to link to germane BB&B episodes as I go and focus on providing additional helpful content instead of unnecessary repetition.
Not All Questions Carry Equal Weight: The "Essentials–Convictions–Opinions Chart"
For years at First Christian Church, especially in Next Steps, we have referred to the “Essentials–Convictions–Opinions Chart” as a helpful rubric for discerning the relative importance we should attach to specific matters of doctrine and practice. This is our streamlined version of similar such classifications Christians have used throughout its history to help clarify the differences between major and minor doctrines. It’s our attempt to make practical the famous principle, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
  • “Essentials” are core doctrines that should not change because they maintain the purity and unity of the church’s identity and mission. These are the non-negotiable teachings of historical Christian orthodoxy that make a Christian or a church distinctly Christian. This includes teachings like the Trinity, the full divinity and humanity of Jesus, virgin birth, faith in Christ alone for salvation, etc. As these are definitional, they are worth dividing over.
  • “Convictions” may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church, but they are usually not worth dividing over. This includes doctrinal matters like specifics of soteriology that differ on the definitions and relationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, matters of Christian conscience and liberty, the role of government, etc.
  • “Opinions” are unclear issues not worth dividing over. These are what theologians call “adiaphora,” indifferent matters like the specifics of the millennium, what exactly was a "leviathan," who were the "Nephilim", the color of the carpet, etc.

Where a question or issue falls within these categories must consider the cumulative force of at least these seven considerations:
  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance;
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

All categories should be prayerfully considered in determining an issue's importance. This discernment process keeps the church from compromising important truth or needlessly dividing over peripheral issues. (ECO Chart and 7 factors adapted from the ESV Study Bible, p. 2507.)

Now, make no mistake, there are many grey areas and our “Essentials–Convictions–Opinions Chart” does not magically bring perfect unity. Grace and charity for each other in the mysteries of this process are Essential! In this vein, I will try to provide some basic thoughts on where each GQA falls on this continuum.

Sometimes I Will Simplify, Wait for Folks to Catch Up, Link to Definitions, Offer Helpful Explanation, Etc., But Don’t Count on It
As far back as I can remember, when I wondered about the meaning of a word or the history of this or that, my parents’ default response was, “Look it up.” The rule in the Wakefield family was to always have a dictionary within arm’s reach at one’s desk and an encyclopedia set in the room, (on the bottom shelf for easy reference for the kids), so I was a faithful adherent long past having Google in my pocket. In this vein, I will try, as I’m able, to write developmentally, where people are in the learning process, by being clear, communicating concisely, using links to helpful definitions, pointing out important distinctions based on classical historical categories, etc., but don’t always count on it!

Since we live in an algorithmically-controlled world motivated by militantly secular ideologies and the abuse of money and power, and our culture is consequently impatient with the natural wrestling of the learning process, I want us to fight against that together by refusing to let someone else tell us everything. We have become intellectually lazy. We must learn to think clearly and Christianly, for the sake of our witness to the truth of human flourishing for all that is only found in knowing and speaking God’s Word. So “look it up.”

For a painfully cursory explanation of why knowing and speaking God’s Word is the ground for morality, human flourishing, societal good, and epistemological truth, see “The Word of God is our Authority and Guide” at fccgreene.org/beliefs. Btw, “epistemology” is the philosophical word for the exploration of the foundational ground of knowledge. But don’t take my word for it. You’ve got Google. (Actually, use “Duck Duck Go” instead and at least partially mitigate how much Google is commodifying your personal information.)

Formatting & Grammar Notes
“Don’t skip over the parenthetical references!” In both college and seminary, many of my professors consistently asserted the importance of reading the Scripture references in parentheses because they fill in the specific theological color of the argument being outlined. So, while the heading above is about as long as a Jonathan Edwards’ sermon title, it codifies the gist of what I’m trying to communicate, that it’s worth reading and struggling through the parenthetical references. Because the nature of GQA is to attempt to provide concise answers, it’s necessary to pack a lot of exegesis and theology into a small(er than ideal) space and it isn’t always helpful or practical to print out all the Scripture references, so I will largely be arguing deductively, from broad to specific, using generalized headings that reflect having already done the homework of the “theological process.” (See “The Theological Process” below, under “Exegesis and Theology Determine Apologetics, Not the Other Way Around”.) In contrast, my preaching is typically more inductive, taking us through the specific details of the Biblical text in order to draw out principles and generalizations. GQA will certainly contain elements of both types of argumentation, and I will print out and explain Bible passages and phrases when needed, but it will likely typically feel less lead-you-through-the-specifics-of-the-argumentation (i.e., less inductive) than you may be accustomed to in my sermons. So if you skip over the parenthetical Scriptures passages, without reading and struggling through how they connect to the (largely deductive) argument being made, you may miss the force of what’s being said because those passing references are actually “crucial” to the argument, (i.e., as decisively important to the argument as the cross is to Christianity.) I know, I know… This may all sound like pedantic pedagogical gobbly-gook to some of you, but the point remains, “Don’t skip over the parenthetical references!” After you’ve read through a few GQAs, you’ll understand what I mean.

Also, one quick point re citing Scripture passages… Most often, only a representative sample of especially germane passages will be cited. Don’t mistake the passages cited as an exhaustive list. I will try to remember to say something like “et al…” (“and others”) if there are many other such references or to specify that there aren’t many such passages.

The following are a few more grammar details that a paltry few weirdos like me will care about but that will nonetheless help when reading GQA:
  • Parenthetical Scriptural References Will be in Bible Order, But… – I will typically follow the convention of placing such references in the order they appear in the Bible. But when I am citing more than one passage and I want to emphasize a main passage that bests makes the argument, most capably incorporates numerous points made previously, is particularly significant in the scope of redemptive history, etc., I will list that most germane reference (or references) first, followed by the rest in Bible order.
  • “cf.” = Latin confer (from “con” (bring) + “ferre” (together) meaning… uh… to “confer,” “compare,” or “bring together.” (Think “conference.”) Now “cf.” can be a bit confusing because of irregular usage, even in print. Sometimes “cf.” is used to highlight the point being made by way of contrast, by showing counter-examples or other such comparisons. This is my preference, as not using “cf.” in parenthetical Scriptural references assumes each item listed is further example or evidence, and will likely be what you see from me in GQA. But sometimes “cf.” is used to highlight additional parallel examples, as if “cf.” means “cross reference” or “see also.”
  • “i.e.” = Latin id est, meaning “that is” or “in other words”
  • “e.g.” = Latin exempli gratia, meaning “for example”
  • Other Grammatical Details, Conventions, Footnotes, etc. – Because I have an entire force of internal Grammar Police from Growing Up Wakefield (← Yes, it deserves Title Case and italics, as it is a whole thing unto itself)–and because I apparently “improperly” learned the more British continental method for placing punctuation outside parentheses, there are too many exceptions to keep up with in this crazy language we speak and write, there are seemingly as many methods of proper usage as there are people, and a few people early on in ministry mercilessly criticized/shamed me for being grammatically inconsistent or informal, I am taking a basic posture of Grammatical Apathy. So when you see inconsistencies in usage or differences from your standards or preferences—oft-changing and too-frequently-used hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes (see here, at chicagomanualofstyle.org, for a dash of explanation), overitalicization and/or Titleization, spontaneous outlandish neologisms, improper citation patterns that vacillate between Chicago/Turabian Footnotes and APA In-text Parenthetical Citation But Without Endnotes, sentences that start with "And" (which is apparently now acceptable!), and all such grammatical wonkiness like exclamation points followed by parentheses followed by commas–don’t freak out. If I spent as much time on grammar as I am wont (and I want) to do, I'd never finish one GQA. If you can't tell, this point is probably more for me than you!

My Methodological and Theological Assumptions in Answering GQA
The following final 4 points tie together to help specify some of my methodological assumptions.

(1) Always Aiming for “Biblical”
Our answers to these “Great Questions” must come from the Scriptures, which are our authoritative and sufficient guide for corporate and individual Christian living. (See our brief explanation–“The Word of God is our Authority and Guide”–at fccgreene.org/beliefs.) So, even if the question isn't asked in a form that makes more explicit the biblical source of the answer, we are answering this and every “Great Question” thusly.

(2) Sometimes Also Aiming for More Explanation When Warranted and Helpful
It has long been well said that “All truth is God’s truth” (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). In AD 397, Augustine wrote, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master…" (On Christian Doctrine, II.8.) This means that, as sovereign Creator of all, God’s truths sometimes show up outside the purview of the Scriptures but that needn’t threaten Christian faith. Rather, as the Bible itself claims, their extrabiblical appearances are a call to bring them under the Lordship of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So, while as a defender of sola scriptura I always aim for fidelity to Scripture, nevertheless, some GQAs will be helped by providing additional explanation from history, theological traditions, Christian experience, human reason, philosophy, and secular disciplines. This doesn’t mean our goal is shifting the locus of authority outside of the Bible, but this is simply an acknowledgement that not all truth about the world is described in the Scriptures. While there’s little the Scriptures don’t at least cover superficially, this is what John Calvin meant when he said, “The Word of God indeed is the foundation of all learning, but the liberal arts are aids to the full knowledge of the Word.” (Quoted by Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, in a Fall 2021 Wheaton Associates communication. The original occurs somewhere in Institutes, II.2, but, as a contemporized English translation of the French, it's sometimes hard to find the exact reference. Also, for more on sola scriptura, which essentially holds that, over and against other sources, the Bible is the sole infallible authority in all matters of salvation and Christian living, see this BB&B episode.)

(3) Exegesis and Theology Determine Apologetics, Not the Other Way Around
“Apologetics” means giving a defense of one’s position, in this case, the Christian faith. (The word for “defense” in make a “defense” in 1 Peter 3:15 is the word “apologia.”) At the risk of obscuring things for some readers, that some GQAs touch on issues of apologetics means it may be helpful to make clear some basic distinctions between approaches. While this is a gross oversimplification of the issues involved, the “evidentialist” or “classical” (or “traditional”) schools, typically assume the non-Christian can be convinced and brought to saving Christian faith by the use of logic, human reason, miracles, and prophecy, while the “presuppositionalist” sees appealing to the authority of unregenerate corrupted reason and experience as folly.

While much more should be said, the gist worth noting is this—because I am a presuppositionalist, I aim to let exegesis and theology determine my defense in a way that may seem, prima facie, to inadequately answer, e.g., materialistic claims about the world, assumptions about truth and reality that are more fundamentally rooted in human-centered epistemologies than fear of God, questions raised by scientific uniformitarianism, etc.

So, in my answers, rooting theological truths in exegesis first, then moving to apologetics, is important, for it allows Scripture’s claim that fear of God is the epistemological ground of all true knowing to assert its proper authority rather than assuming that secular questions rooted in godless materialism must frame our answers. (See this Monday Morning Missive on Proverbs 1:7 for more on the fear of the LORD as the beginning of knowledge.) And yes, while this argument is circular, at bottom so are claims to truth when they get around to acknowledging the ground of their authority.

The ESV Study Bible Notes has a helpful description of “The Theological Process”, from start to finish.
  • Exegesis – The process of seeking to determine the correct meaning out of a particular passage of Scripture.
  • Biblical Theology – The study of scriptural revelation based on the historical framework presented in the Bible.
  • Systematic Theology – A study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today about a given topic?”
  • Historical Theology – The study of how believers in different eras of the history of the church have understood various theological topics.
  • Philosophical Theology – The study of theological topics primarily through the use of the tools and methods of philosophical reasoning and information gained from nature and reason (“general revelation”) apart from the Bible.
  • Practical Theology – The study of how to best apply theological truths to the life of the church and the world (including preaching, Christian education, counseling, evangelism, missions, church administration, worship, etc.).
  • Apologetics – The study of theology for the purpose of defending Christian teaching against criticism and distortion, and giving evidences of its credibility.

“Reference to this sort of whole-Bible theology can be seen in Paul’s insistence that he did not shrink back from declaring ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27) and in Jesus’ Great Commission that the church should ‘make disciples of all nations’ by ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matt. 28:19–20)” (ESVSB Notes, 2506.)

Now, while there’s no way on earth I’ll get to all of that with each GQA, it’s illustrative of a process that keeps special revelation special. (See here at gotquestions.org for a decent and brief explanation of the important distinction between “general” and “special” revelation.)

(4) I Write GQAs as a 1689er, But So What?!
25-yr-long story short—and because it’s important you know where I’m coming from, theologically—my efforts to follow the aforementioned process of starting from fear of God and exegesis-leading-to-theology-leading-to-application have led me to become a confessing “1689er”. (See the1689confession.com. The “1689” refers to the year the Second London Baptist Confession was signed.) So, a few brief thoughts:

(1) To reiterate, it is (more) important (than most give attention to) that you know where your Preacher/Pastor is coming from, theologically. When preachers and churches are unclear about their biblical and theological assumptions, it can too easily end up feeling like a bait-and-switch. I tell you my theological assumptions, certainly not because you have to agree with them or the distinctives of the 1689, (nor do you have to do either to be a member at FCC, save the areas where we do agree!) But I tell you my position for the sake of clarity that I pray leads to a irenic spirit among us. (See at the bottom of our church’s “Confession of Faith” for the playing out of these distinctions here at FCC.)

(2) While holding to a Reformed and Covenantal Baptist confession is a fairly different theological perspective than the traditions with which I grew up, it is very much within the orthodox Christian Protestant tradition and is pretty much universally agreed upon as a very conservative theological position.

(3) For those well-acquainted with the Stone-Campbell (or “Restoration”) Movement (see this Wikipedia article for more) out of which our nondenominational church came, yes, being a confessing 1689er isn’t normal, to say the least. But, rest assured, one can be a baptist without being a Baptist. We at FCC are baptists in one sense because we hold to baptism of believers by immersion, congregationalism, and liberty of conscience, but we are not Baptists, in denominational terms. So if you’re a lifelong Christian Churchy like me and you’re worried I’m a theological nutjob, I guess you’ll just have to continue trusting and/or testing me against the Scriptures. Also, I am going to eventually rewrite and recycle a couple old GQAs that cover questions about the biblical precedent for creeds/confessions and our membership requirements, and why our anticredal tradition doesn’t preclude being a Restoration Movement Christian Church with a Reformed/Covenantal Baptist Pastor, so perhaps those will help alleviate some fears and misunderstandings.

(4) It would be a mistake to equate my personal theological views with FCC’s official position in every jot and tittle. While the vast majority of the basic theological positions I hold could pass for an FCC-official-enough position, there will be some differences in finer points of doctrine. So assume they are owing to me being more particular than our church's Confession of Faith. Where there are such differences, it isn't because either is unorthodox or unfaithful but because some such narrower points of doctrine may not be helpful to hold as essentials for Christian fellowship. I suspect these differences will naturally show up in the “Essentials-Convictions-Opinions” section at the beginning of each GQA. Where differences arise, and it's particularly important or helpful to distinguish them, I will try to remember to do so. But if I don't, just default to assuming that I am more personally theologically persnickety than our church's Confession of Faith.

(5) There are earnest and prayerful Christians who are smarter and more personally holy than I (and you may be one of them!) who follow “The Theological Process” above and come to some different theological conclusions. That’s fine. We just need to be clear and kind with each other when we disagree.

(6) We cannot let all this intellectual nuance and emphasis on theological differences take our focus off this most important point: In our church’s “Confession of Faith,” the areas of our agreement on the most important points that most fundamentally define us as Christians far outweigh the areas of our disagreement on the less important points! There’s plenty of room in God’s Kingdom for all who by faith confess Christ as Lord, even is one of us is wrong on the finer points of doctrine!

(5) I Also Write GQAs as a Burkean Political Conservative, But That Will (Mostly) Only Emerge With the Practicalities of Moral Issues on Which the Bible Speaks, But Again, So What?!
Inevitably, some GQAs will warrant addressing how moral issues to which the Scriptures speak are fleshed out in sociocultural and political arenas. Abortion, for example, cannot be adequately addressed without speaking to how Christians and churches should advocate for a Biblical pro-life position. So, while my writing may occasionally take a somewhat political turn when it comes to the practical outworking of questions on which the Scriptures speak, I insist on arguing at the level of principle, using names descriptively as much as possible, entirely avoiding ad hominem name-calling, never conflating politics and theology, reminding us all that local relationships and institutions are where the best community-building work happens, and maintaining a proper focus on unity in the body of Christ that ensures that those who disagree with me on political strategies know they are welcomed and loved at FCC and that political strategy should not divide us. 2 In a world that feels more politically divided into ever sharper reds and blues that feed from algorithmically-controlled despair and despising of enemy, I want our congregation to fight against the cultural tide of being commodified political power be a model of how to openly and graciously communicate disagreements about non-essentials such that our unity for the “first things”3 of faith is strengthened.

Having said all that, I feel the need, for the sake of full disclosure, to make clear that when I describe myself as a “Burkean Conservative,” I mean that I agree with Russell Kirk’s description that political conservatism’s “essence… is preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity.” 4 Kirk elsewhere negatively describes this as a “distrust” of “what Burke called ‘abstractions’—that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances,” by which he means that ideas and principles are to be carefully avoided for how they too easily become removed from lived human experience tested by time. It’s like saying that academic ideas are most true and helpful when taken from theory and put into practice. 5 In this sense, it really is about conserving, as Kirk calls them, “the permanent things” in human existence—the principles that shape a flourishing society’s moral imagination—here fleshed out in 6 traits found in Edmund Burke’s writings6 and summarized in Kirk’s The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot:

(1) “Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.”7 This means we have no right to go beyond nor tamper with the natural order from which society flourishes.

(2) “Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.” 8Elsewhere Kirk summarizes Burke’s thinking thus: “Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence.”9 This is an aversion to people being reduced to formulas or dehumanized by groupthink. 10

(3) “Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a ‘classless society.’ With reason, conservatives often have been called ‘the party of order.’ If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.”11 Moderns may bristle at Burke’s verbiage and read in a “classicism” that entirely misses the point, but he is making here a distinction between “ultimate equality”—all being equal before God and the law—and “equality of condition” that we know from history is the impossible goal of the aforementioned ‘classless society’ of collectivism that abuses human diversity. How Kirk elsewhere describes Burke’s principles helps us understand: “[S]ociety is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of respect and duty.”12 This is about social structure and authority, not economics. Burke is saying that equal inherent human worth and value before God and the law doesn’t automatically translate to equal role and responsibility. There are authorities and roles that are inherently more human than an abusive equitizing and flattening of diversity.

(4) “Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic leveling, they maintain, is not economic progress.” 13This is the quintessential conservative rejection of all forms of collectivism that strangles economic freedoms, claims property, and demands equal outcomes through redistribution.14

(5) “Faith in prescription and distrust of ‘sophisters, calculators, and economists’ who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man’s anarchic impulse and upon the innovator’s lust for power.”15

(6) “Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman’s chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence.”16

For some of the “But Again, So What?!” part, keep reading.17

To Those Who Claim, “Well, I’m Just a ‘Biblicist!’” I say, "Nigh Impossible!"
First, the “I’m just a ‘Biblicist!’” retort. In light of me coming out of the closet as a confessional “1689er” and the occasional conversations that may elicit, you may end up hearing someone say a version of the following: “Well, I don’t really come from any particular theological system or viewpoint. I just stick to the Bible. I’m not a [Enter Theological Viewpoint Being Critiqued Here]–I’m a Biblicist!” While I understand the sentiment, agree with its spirit, have said such things myself, and believe it to be a good thing to be as much a “Biblicist” as possible, don’t believe them. No one approaches the Scriptures perfectly. People often say such things because they are afraid to commit and/or they haven’t done their homework enough to know what to call their views, (which is understandable. I mean, who’s got time and energy to master the Scriptures, church history, and historical theology to know where they fit on the theological continuum and come down on every doctrinal matter?! Very few do so after a lifetime of study. It has taken me 25+ years to figure out where I am on many such things, but I have a loooong way to go, and I love this stuff!) So, the specific doctrinal commitments of even the most self-proclaimed “Biblicist” among us fit into a theological category, confessional heritage, denominational or nondenominational tradition, etc. Everyone comes to the text of Scripture with presuppositions that guide interpretation and form a theological system—named or unnamed—and it doesn’t help anyone to pretend otherwise.

Likewise, for those claiming to be politically neutral—as if that also absolves us from civic responsibility—I say, “Hogwash! There’s no such thing!” For, when it comes to political strategies—whether named and advocated with religious fervor or avoided and ignored as if ineffectual—everyone with a moral sense of right and wrong not only holds to principles they believe best for society, but they live them out from day to day. Whether you like it or not, profess to care or not, vote or not, someone’s political convictions will be fleshed out by using political means, in reality, in society, and it will most certainly affect you and your family As Andrew T. Walker says in his article The Myth of Government Neutrality, “A commitment to noncommitment is itself a commitment, and a hypothetical moral agnosticism is a commitment in its own right.”18 That one’s past political noncommitment did not threaten the moral safety required for cultural flourishing for all doesn’t mean the same holds for the future. And, regardless of one’s political convictions—left, right, libertarian, or “Who cares?!”—at some point, corporate fear of commitment inevitably results in the tyranny of those motivated by evil and hungry for power. So, while I don’t believe politics holds even a candle to the power of the gospel of Christ for building a healthy and flourishing society, and I am not worried that God’s people will fail to flourish, I am nonetheless increasingly convicted—for the ongoing health and safety of my children and our community—that it’s unwise to continue pretending the Scriptures are insufficient to speak on moral issues that eventually take political form.19 So I intend to speak to them where it’s warranted so the people in our congregation will produce and model a common grace for all humanity that is lived to the glory of God and for the flourishing of our community, nation, and world.
*Footnote Note: The numbered link that got you here only gets you here. I.e., you may have to scroll down to find the note you're looking for and you'll definitely have to scroll all the way back up to get back to where you came from. Also, our blog site doesn't yet format correctly, so some things like bullets, numbers, line spacing, and superscripts may be wonky.

1 For a cursory explanation of why knowing and speaking God’s Word is the ground for morality, human flourishing, societal good, and epistemological truth, see “The Word of God is our Authority and Guide” at fccgreene.org/beliefs.

As proof we at fccgreene.org don’t conflate faith and politics, check out a 3-week series we did preceding the 2016 presidential election called “Primary Politics”. Here’s the verbiage we used as a thematic guide: “Has political idolatry distracted you from living as fully as God intends? What if—according to the Bible and in comparison to the power of God to create the world—a government, regardless of its worldly power, political structure, or claim to authority, not only doesn’t have the right to protect what we call rights, it doesn’t even actually have the means to do so? What if real protection for the follower of Christ has literally nothing to do with military might, political power, and passing of legislation that make our lives ‘better’? And yet, despite this audacious claim to ultimate power, God calls us to submit to the authority of our civil government. If we understood clearly the almighty power of God and what He is doing in the world, we would understand our existence here and now to be first and foremost about participation in a citizenry where our lives are votes that reveal the truth of God’s sovereignty. Because Christ makes us citizens in a kingdom with no end, Your life is your vote! for a King whose reign brings true and lasting peace and freedom.”

4 Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, http://a.co/1Y)pJoe. Biography of Russell Kirk: https://kirkcenter.org/about-us/about-russell-kirk/.

And yes, for those who follow such things and wonder if I’m implying this, I absolutely mean to distinguish this conservative and healthy fear of abstraction from “theory” as the Marxes and Foucaults of the world use the term. Also, by “lived human experience” Burke (and I, if I may be so ridiculous as to place myself in his company) would never see “lived human experience” as a primary epistemological source. (See Burke principle #1.) Rather, this largely means that political principles must never be divorced from their practical outworking in humanity that notes the second, third, and tenth order consequences, even if unintended. Political conservatism is a refusal of ideology at the expense of human limits.

6 While Burke had many predecessors and these 6 traits aren’t quotes from his writings, he is generally credited with being the progenitor of modern conservatism and they are representative of his political philosophy.

7 Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, https://a.co/cgwQpk4. Like any field of thought, politics is wrought with history and humans, so misunderstanding about terminology is rampant and clarity of communication often seems impossible. Nonetheless—and quite apart from the “classical liberalism” which embraces principles now largely considered generally conservative—a distinction can be justifiably made here between what most today generally call the “modern conservatism” (Burke, Kirk) and “modern liberalism” (Hobbes, Rousseau, Rawls) of the 20th century. While many self-professed modern conservatives may not hardly know what is meant by “natural law,” they generally acknowledge a transcendent source for human rights that are inherent in creation, whereas modern progressive liberals have increasingly if not entirely rejected natural law and hold to a definition of moral goods and individual rights established by a social contract of “the consent of the governed,” the creation itself, rather than any order inherent in creation that points to a transcendent Creator. Please note that this isn’t an argument for political conservatism being “more Christian” than liberalism nor should it be considered underpinnings for a destructive conflation of the pulpit and politics. In fact, some believe liberalism and natural law are mutually beneficial bedfellows (see Christopher Rolfe, Classic Law Liberalism), with some even making the argument that natural law lies underneath some of modern liberalism’s roots (see Jeremy Waldron, God, Locke and Equality: Christian Foundations of Locke’s Political Thought), and most certainly Christians who might even consider themselves “social/cultural liberals” believe in a form of the same. Nonetheless, the fact remains, underneath all political strategy claims are assumptions about the nature of creation and humanity and the source of moral claims, and there are real differences between them, namely that most modern liberals hold to a “prohibitionism” (see Glenn Peoples’ lecture: http://www.rightreason.org/article/social/liberalism_natlaw.pdf) of transcendent religious claims that informs their understanding of the law and aims in policy-making.

8 Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, https://a.co/38tOtzx.

Russell Kirk, Concise Guide to Conservatism, location 110 in Amazon Kindle. By “egalitarianism” or “absolute equality” Kirk doesn’t mean that Burke eschews equality of inherent worth or value, but rather that he rejects something akin to an externally imposed “equality of outcome”—as opposed to “equality of opportunity”—or a flattening of human characteristics that can be applied to a whole group of people such that it meaningfully describes the most essential and important parts of the individuals. This same value of “equality of opportunity” based on equality of divinely imbued and inherent worth, as opposed to “equality of outcome” based on a “social contract” or “the consent of the governed,” is seen in many of Burke’s other principles.

11 Kirk, The Conservative Mind, https://a.co/j4tMzby.

12 Kirk, Concise Guide to Conservatism, https://a.co/2Sx3rPg.

13 Kirk, The Conservative Mind, https://a.co/47FJH31.

14 FWIW, yes, I am entertaining the idea that taxation is theft. Not sure yet where I am on it, as it’s an idea with some complicated history that I need to understand better, but I’m toying with it.

15 Kirk, The Conservative Mind, https://a.co/3entvWa.

16 Kirk, The Conservative Mind, https://a.co/14rTkOF.

17 I intend to develop this section a bit more, but this will have to do for now.

18 Andrew T. Walker, “The Myth of Government Neutrality,” World Magazine – Opinions, April 27, 2022, https://wng.org/opinions/the-myth-of-government-neutrality-1651059105. See also Anna Williams, “The Myth of Government Neutrality,” First Things, Feb 15, 2013, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/02/the-myth-of-government-neutrality. While both of these articles speak only inferentially to the individual’s political neutrality, they help show that political neutrality is a myth.

19 Based on the assumption that the moral foundations on which a flourishing society is built come from the Scriptures, which are the written revelation of the character and nature of God, there are a couple important things to say about the relationship between religion and politics that are akin to saying that building humans comes before and is more important than building a society. Conservative political philosopher Richard J. Neuhaus often framed the relationship by saying, on the one hand “The first thing to say about politics is that politics is not the first thing,” and yet, to acknowledge their very real and undeniable connection, “Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion.” See https://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/03/putting-first-things-first.