Saturday, November 15, 2014

Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right

Stuck in the Middle

Before he died Barry Goldwater, who along with William F. Buckley is the father of modern conservatism, said to Robert Dole: "We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?" I can understand Goldwater's perspective. As one who has his whole life been on the right in matters political and theological, I find as I get older I am in stuck in the middle. While it's not always comfortable, it's certainly not squishy. I receive from but I also return fire to both the right and the left.

A few illustrations:

1. There are "old" conservatives who are scornful of the "new" and "crazy" conservatives embodied in movements like the Tea Party and politicians like Ted Cruz. There are "new" conservatives who are scornful of the "RINO" conservatives who are not "true" conservatives but "progressives." There are conservatives who want other conservatives to disavow "religious values" (e.g "pro-life") and who insist that real conservatism is wholly secular and libertarian. There are other conservatives who want to "take back our country for God and Biblical values" and to "take back conservatism from those thinly disguised liberals." I am in the middle with Ronald Reagan the pragmatic and big tent conservative. 

2. The "obedience boys" tell me that because of my halting, one step forward, two steps back, Christian life I need to be concerned about my salvation, inasmuch as saving faith is transformational. The "grace boys" tell me that the law's function is to reveal my sin so that the grace of God can be magnified and I can rejoice all the more in it. I'm in the middle. What I believe is that I am called to struggle more vigorously and more successfully than I do but that, if Romans 7:14-25 does not describe the true Christian, and if the bottom line of salvation is something other than what Christ did completely for me and wholly outside of me, I don't expect to be there when the roll is called up yonder.

3. Some believe that the death penalty is required by God for some crimes (at least murder - Genesis 6:9) and necessary for civil justice. Others believe that the death penalty is wrong for various reasons - it is too easy to for juries and courts to make mistakes; it is unequally applied; it is inconsistent with a pro-life position. I am in the middle. I believe that the state has the discretionary power to impose the death penalty (the power of the sword for the punishment of evil doers - Romans 13:1-4), but that it is not required to do so for the sake of justice. I do, however, favor the execution of any who listen to Advent-Christmas music any earlier than Thanksgiving afternoon and for those who put up Christmas trees any earlier than December 9 (which is the traditional date in my home simply because it is our youngest son's birthday) and take them down any earlier than January 1 (should be the 6th but I am trying to be moderate).

4. Some evangelicals believe that the New Testament does not forbid the ordination of females to the ministry of Word-Sacrament. Other evangelicals believe that ordination of women to sacred office is tantamount to the rejection of the authority of Scripture. Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics think it is impossible that a female could sacramentally minister in the name of and in the place of Jesus Christ who was male. I am in the middle. I believe Scripture does not allow for female ordination. But I would prefer to hear the proclamation of justification by faith alone from a woman than the proclamation of justification by membership in the covenant community from a male.

5. Some advocate immediate citizenship for all immigrants regardless of how they arrived in this country. Others are opposed to any form of amnesty for illegal aliens. I am in the middle. I am for closing the borders and preventing future illegal immigration into this country. But I do not favor deportation for all illegal aliens, because, if for no other reason, it is impossible to round them all up and return them to the countries from which they have come. Legislation providing for some kind "regularization" of most of those already here is needed and surely preferable to what we are about to get by executive action.

6. Some paedo-baptists believe that baptism is merely a sign of a promise of salvation to those who believe. Other paedo-baptists believe that baptism effects regeneration and bestows justification. I am in the middle. I believe that baptism is a seal, not merely a picture, and that baptism is a real means of grace (a conduit used by the Holy Spirit and through which flows saving grace), but I do not believe that salvation is without exception tied to baptism (either as absolute requirement, or infallible guarantee, or temporary and provisional benefit). I believe the two Sacraments are "effectual signs of grace" (Articles of Religion XXV) and that baptism is "a sign of Regeneration or the new Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are ingrafted into the Church" (XXVII). 

7. Some believe that government should be large and active, providing for the needs of its citizens and insuring fair outcomes, with heavy regulation of business and with taxes raised to support expansive government roles. Others believe that government has no such responsibilities and that budgets should be slashed, social programs abolished, and taxes radically lowered. I am in the middle. I am for a balanced budget, paying down deficits, and smaller government, but I am not for the abolishment of social programs, and, though I would hate it, I think that balanced budgets may require not only reduced expenditures but also increased revenues (which may not be attainable through increased economic productivity alone). But do not raise my taxes, cut my Social Security, or take away my Medicare, or I will riot.

I'm stuck in the middle but maybe not with you.

Stealers Wheel


Lee said...

You are stuck in the middle with me (in most ways) and I like the company.

William H Smith said...

Thanks, Lee.