Author Topic: The Church's Response to Government and Governing  (Read 14565 times)

Charles Austin

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #105 on: January 13, 2021, 05:35:16 PM »
If we pray for Donald J. Trump now, it should probably be prayers for health, wisdom, humility and his peace of mind.
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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #106 on: January 13, 2021, 05:44:21 PM »
"...and give to those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land."
( Lutheran Service Book, Prayer for the Nation, 313; Lutheran Worship, Prayer For Our Country, 126; Lutheran Book of Worship, 42)

Seems an appropriate petition for all levels and branches of government at this critical time.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 05:46:49 PM by D. Engebretson »
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #107 on: January 14, 2021, 09:47:06 AM »
As I continue to monitor the news I hear that law enforcement is ramping up in anticipation of even more protests and possible violence.  I don't know if it will occur, or if it's just heated online rhetoric, but after last week I understand why they must be proactive this time and prepare for the worst. 

But underneath all this is a seething anger.  And I'm not just referring to the so-called far right.  We saw it last summer in the repeated protests and violence in cities all over the country.  Some encouraged and justified the anger then.  Now it is roundly condemned.  But regardless it remains.

An article from last September by Cal Thomas taps into these questions in "Why So Much Anger?" He notes: "People who are angry at government, instead of looking to Washington, should be looking in the mirror.

There have been injustices as long as humans have walked the Earth. The U.S. government has tried mightily and at great expense to fix them, but most are matters of the heart, not matters for politicians.

If the latter, would not those injustices by now have been solved? While it is possible for government to impose or tolerate immorality, it is close to impossible to impose its opposite. This is the role of churches and of individuals making the right decisions for themselves and their families."


https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/09/17/why-so-much-anger/

Now this was written before the events of last week, but I think that the anger issue is similar.  At its heart is the ability and willingness of people to suffer perceived injustice.  The psalmists cry out "How long?" waiting for vindication from God against their enemies. Even in Revelation we hear a similar cry: "They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).  God's people have long lived under injustice in a broken and sinful world.

In the spirit of this thread I believe that that the church has a heightened responsibility in the midst of this angry turmoil that has engulfed our nation to call for patience in the midst of injustice, prayer for those who hurt us (Luke 6:28), and intercessions for our leaders to make wise decisions.  We, as the church, are not called to 'fix Caesar,' if I might coin a phrase.  We are not called to push Caesar to do what we want him to do and apply our own political pressure.  We are called to proclaim the Prince of Peace in the midst of a violent and angry world, and if we do not point people to Him, we fail to give real hope. We are also called to live lives of Christ-like love in our own contexts and communities.  It starts there, not in Washington. 

People of faith from the left and the right have too often put their "trust in princes" who "cannot save"(Psalm 146:3).  We have turned away from the transcendent and almighty God forgetting that "when their spirit departs, they return to the ground;on that very day their plans come to nothing." 

Church leaders may choose to call for impeachment and removal of the president.  And if he is removed, which seems a bit unlikely at the moment given the very short time he has left, will we feel that the ongoing anger that flows under our nation will then disappear?  Will we believe that once Trump is no longer there that violence will no longer occur?  Do we believe that Biden is the chosen deliverer that can miraculously calm the troubled waters of a deeply divided nation?

We believe that God has given us the Kingdom of the Left as a First Article gift for our protection. But ultimately it is to God, not princes, that we look in trust. It is to Him that we pray in the midst of an unhealthy anger consuming people from both ends of the spectrum.  Let not the church be consumed with the rest of fallen humanity.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #108 on: January 14, 2021, 10:02:11 AM »
Has it occurred to you, Peter and others, that your views on certain things might place you in a relatively small minority of the American citizenry?
Has it  occurred to you that in a democracy, it is the majority of the citizenry that makes the decision on certain things?

What did I say that are you responding to here? What are you even talking about? Why do you type things like this and then hit post?

Considering that we are not, nor ever were, a "democracy," the whole initial point made is moot, despite that those in the "majority" right now would very much like to make it so.
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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #109 on: January 14, 2021, 10:03:10 AM »
As I continue to monitor the news I hear that law enforcement is ramping up in anticipation of even more protests and possible violence.  I don't know if it will occur, or if it's just heated online rhetoric, but after last week I understand why they must be proactive this time and prepare for the worst. 

But underneath all this is a seething anger.  And I'm not just referring to the so-called far right.  We saw it last summer in the repeated protests and violence in cities all over the country.  Some encouraged and justified the anger then.  Now it is roundly condemned.  But regardless it remains.

An article from last September by Cal Thomas taps into these questions in "Why So Much Anger?" He notes: "People who are angry at government, instead of looking to Washington, should be looking in the mirror.

There have been injustices as long as humans have walked the Earth. The U.S. government has tried mightily and at great expense to fix them, but most are matters of the heart, not matters for politicians.

If the latter, would not those injustices by now have been solved? While it is possible for government to impose or tolerate immorality, it is close to impossible to impose its opposite. This is the role of churches and of individuals making the right decisions for themselves and their families."


https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/09/17/why-so-much-anger/

Now this was written before the events of last week, but I think that the anger issue is similar.  At its heart is the ability and willingness of people to suffer perceived injustice.  The psalmists cry out "How long?" waiting for vindication from God against their enemies. Even in Revelation we hear a similar cry: "They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).  God's people have long lived under injustice in a broken and sinful world.

In the spirit of this thread I believe that that the church has a heightened responsibility in the midst of this angry turmoil that has engulfed our nation to call for patience in the midst of injustice, prayer for those who hurt us (Luke 6:28), and intercessions for our leaders to make wise decisions.  We, as the church, are not called to 'fix Caesar,' if I might coin a phrase.  We are not called to push Caesar to do what we want him to do and apply our own political pressure.  We are called to proclaim the Prince of Peace in the midst of a violent and angry world, and if we do not point people to Him, we fail to give real hope. We are also called to live lives of Christ-like love in our own contexts and communities.  It starts there, not in Washington. 

People of faith from the left and the right have too often put their "trust in princes" who "cannot save"(Psalm 146:3).  We have turned away from the transcendent and almighty God forgetting that "when their spirit departs, they return to the ground;on that very day their plans come to nothing." 

Church leaders may choose to call for impeachment and removal of the president.  And if he is removed, which seems a bit unlikely at the moment given the very short time he has left, will we feel that the ongoing anger that flows under our nation will then disappear?  Will we believe that once Trump is no longer there that violence will no longer occur?  Do we believe that Biden is the chosen deliverer that can miraculously calm the troubled waters of a deeply divided nation?

We believe that God has given us the Kingdom of the Left as a First Article gift for our protection. But ultimately it is to God, not princes, that we look in trust. It is to Him that we pray in the midst of an unhealthy anger consuming people from both ends of the spectrum.  Let not the church be consumed with the rest of fallen humanity.

 :) Excellent, thoughtful, and wise.

Peace, JOHN
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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #110 on: January 14, 2021, 10:29:52 AM »
At our circuit pastor's meeting (winkel) we discussed marriage and the role of the state in weddings.  Over the last few years I have heard discussion, on an off, about whether churches and pastors should discontinue doing weddings in the sense of signing the official license from the county clerk's office.  With the pending approval of the Equality Act I can only imagine that the state will take much more interest in the church's official willingness or unwillingness to bless same-sex marriages.  Although we can protest any pressure for this to happen, it might be easier and even better to simply step away from it all together, especially since we can recognize the licensing of marriage as a responsibility of the Kingdom of the Left.  I think that this is one area where pastors become agents of the state and it would behoove us to reconsider our role as those agents.

I've been thinking that the US should move to a model where the government does the legal part and the church does the religious part.  Don't want a religious part?  You're still married under the law.  Church doesn't want to perform a religious ceremony for you?  You're still married under the law.

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #111 on: January 14, 2021, 11:04:12 AM »
At our circuit pastor's meeting (winkel) we discussed marriage and the role of the state in weddings.  Over the last few years I have heard discussion, on an off, about whether churches and pastors should discontinue doing weddings in the sense of signing the official license from the county clerk's office.  With the pending approval of the Equality Act I can only imagine that the state will take much more interest in the church's official willingness or unwillingness to bless same-sex marriages.  Although we can protest any pressure for this to happen, it might be easier and even better to simply step away from it all together, especially since we can recognize the licensing of marriage as a responsibility of the Kingdom of the Left.  I think that this is one area where pastors become agents of the state and it would behoove us to reconsider our role as those agents. 

I've been thinking that the US should move to a model where the government does the legal part and the church does the religious part.  Don't want a religious part?  You're still married under the law.  Church doesn't want to perform a religious ceremony for you?  You're still married under the law.

Several times, in Italy, we have witnessed church weddings.  The requisite civil wedding certification was obtained on a government work day prior to the wedding.  No church official had to participate in that function. 
How did the current state of cooperation evolve in the United States?  It is made to seem "required under the law".

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #112 on: January 14, 2021, 11:27:54 AM »
A “ceremony” is not required. You can go to the clerk’s office, sign papers and you are married.
In New Jersey, the one who presides at a wedding is required to get the license witnessed, signed, and returned to the city clerk whence it came. I’ve always contended that the city should pay me for being their agent. I’d say maybe $100 per license.
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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #113 on: January 14, 2021, 11:54:58 AM »

That said, I am intrigued by your characterization of the Two Kingdoms “as increasingly archaic and uncertain”?  Can you unpack that, what do you mean by that?


Sure.  I'll try.

By "uncertain," I mean that no one seems quite certain exactly what is being referred to in speaking of "two kingdoms."  Are we talking about Church and State?  About nature and grace?   About a sacred domain and a secular domain?  A temporal kingdom and an eschatological kingdom?  Earthly, mundane existence and heavenly, blissful existence?  Or what?

We are told that God rules in both kingdoms.  Is He an active ruler in both kingdoms?  Is he an active ruler in one kingdom, and a passive ruler in the other?  Is His rule mediated by Law in one kingdom, and by Gospel in the other kingdom?  Or what?

Is Augustine's The City of God the model for Lutheran "Two Kingdoms" theology?  If so, then it would seem that the "two kingdoms" must refer to a temporal kingdom and an eschatological kingdom (and not primarily Church and State, or anything like that), since that's where The City of God goes.  Is that right?

It seems to me that the Lutheran tradition has never quite decided what sort of theological work we actually want the doctrine of "two kingdoms" to perform.  That's what I meant by uncertain.

By "archaic," I meant the trajectory of thought in western Christianity (including large patches of Lutheran thought) that would reduce "two kingdoms" talk down to a distinction between Church and State; and the concurrent affirmation that God rules through different media in Church and in State.  But at least since the second half of the seventeenth century, there has been a progressive social evaporation of the duality of Church and State.  The Church no longer holds a commanding position in western culture, and hasn't for quite a while.  And the state holds far too prominent a commanding position in western culture, and has for quite a while.  So the "two kingdoms" are decidedly asymmetrical; it arguable that one (the Church) isn't even a kingdom at all any more.  But even if we grant that the Church is one of the "two kingdoms," it's apparent that in the western world we now have "three kingdoms":  Church (?), State, and Civil Society.  Civil Society operates socially, culturally, linguistically, economically and locally in ways that are substantively different from the modern dynamics of either the Church or the State.  So when I say that Lutheran "two kingdoms" theology is archaic, I mean that it looks like history has upset that theological model --  that the Church no longer qualifies as a "kingdom"; and that Civil Society, as a semi-independent manifestation of western culture, is not much acknowledged in Lutheran theology.

I hope that helps.

Tom Pearson

Thanks, Tom. This certainly helps.  I think a good Lutheran would say that the “hidden God” is operative in the left hand kingdom whereas the “revealed God” is operative in the right hand kingdom.  That said, in some ways it still leaves much open to interpretation, especially, as you note, in a world no longer as neatly divided.  I have always understood the Two-Kingdoms as being the child of Augustine’s theology, especially considering that Luther was an Augustinian monk. 

More than anything your points are interesting and thought –provoking to me because the nation-state may actually be a thing of the past.  We seem to be in a strange place with the rise of trans-national corporations where boundaries of all types seem to be ignored or transcended.  It could be even said that the Trump presidency was an attempt to somehow put that cat back in the bag.  Thus, “Make America Great AGAIN”.   So the state has become wedded to corporatism which has, in many ways, different interests than the traditional nation-state and the citizens therein. We are currently witnessing this with the rise of Big Tech and the Surveillance state and what has recently occurred with Twitter, Parler, and Apple.  It seems that the pandemic has only made this relationship between the two stronger.  Yet, here we are still applying a Lutheran Two-Kingdoms framework to a system that is no longer as neatly divided.  Part of me wonders if we need to re-adopt an apocalyptic framework that understands that there is a war going on behind the veil.  The early Christians understood this to be so as Revelation attests and it informed how they lived and interacted with the world.

Peace,
Scott+

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #114 on: January 14, 2021, 12:55:23 PM »
As I continue to monitor the news I hear that law enforcement is ramping up in anticipation of even more protests and possible violence.  I don't know if it will occur, or if it's just heated online rhetoric, but after last week I understand why they must be proactive this time and prepare for the worst. 

But underneath all this is a seething anger.  And I'm not just referring to the so-called far right.  We saw it last summer in the repeated protests and violence in cities all over the country.  Some encouraged and justified the anger then.  Now it is roundly condemned.  But regardless it remains.

An article from last September by Cal Thomas taps into these questions in "Why So Much Anger?" He notes: "People who are angry at government, instead of looking to Washington, should be looking in the mirror.

There have been injustices as long as humans have walked the Earth. The U.S. government has tried mightily and at great expense to fix them, but most are matters of the heart, not matters for politicians.

If the latter, would not those injustices by now have been solved? While it is possible for government to impose or tolerate immorality, it is close to impossible to impose its opposite. This is the role of churches and of individuals making the right decisions for themselves and their families."


https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/09/17/why-so-much-anger/

Now this was written before the events of last week, but I think that the anger issue is similar.  At its heart is the ability and willingness of people to suffer perceived injustice.  The psalmists cry out "How long?" waiting for vindication from God against their enemies. Even in Revelation we hear a similar cry: "They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).  God's people have long lived under injustice in a broken and sinful world.

In the spirit of this thread I believe that that the church has a heightened responsibility in the midst of this angry turmoil that has engulfed our nation to call for patience in the midst of injustice, prayer for those who hurt us (Luke 6:28), and intercessions for our leaders to make wise decisions.  We, as the church, are not called to 'fix Caesar,' if I might coin a phrase.  We are not called to push Caesar to do what we want him to do and apply our own political pressure.  We are called to proclaim the Prince of Peace in the midst of a violent and angry world, and if we do not point people to Him, we fail to give real hope. We are also called to live lives of Christ-like love in our own contexts and communities.  It starts there, not in Washington. 

People of faith from the left and the right have too often put their "trust in princes" who "cannot save"(Psalm 146:3).  We have turned away from the transcendent and almighty God forgetting that "when their spirit departs, they return to the ground;on that very day their plans come to nothing." 

Church leaders may choose to call for impeachment and removal of the president.  And if he is removed, which seems a bit unlikely at the moment given the very short time he has left, will we feel that the ongoing anger that flows under our nation will then disappear?  Will we believe that once Trump is no longer there that violence will no longer occur?  Do we believe that Biden is the chosen deliverer that can miraculously calm the troubled waters of a deeply divided nation?

We believe that God has given us the Kingdom of the Left as a First Article gift for our protection. But ultimately it is to God, not princes, that we look in trust. It is to Him that we pray in the midst of an unhealthy anger consuming people from both ends of the spectrum.  Let not the church be consumed with the rest of fallen humanity.


Getting angry is letting someone else control my emotions. It is a reaction; and thus, says more about the angry person than the situation that caused that reaction. One can oppose injustice without getting angry. In fact, that is what law officers are trained to do: to try and be a "non-anxious presence" in situations where they could easily become angry at those yelling at them or even physically attacking them.
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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #115 on: January 14, 2021, 01:25:12 PM »
This year as not only demonstrations broke out across the nation but rioting, looting, destruction of property, arson, and assault, we were repeatedly told that the anger behind the destruction needed to be understood and even accepted. Many spoke in ways that tried to justify the violence.


The tune is quite different when we consider the violence in the Capitol. There seems to be no impetus towards understanding why those people were angry, they simply should not have been, and violent acting out their anger was simply wrong.


Now some of the difference in reaction to the various violent events of this past year can, I believe, be attributed to the various political orientations and perceived political needs of the commentators. I'm not really interested in discussing the politics of offense and outrage. Like the poor it will always be with us. And it is characteristic of political machinations for people to use whatever weapon is at hand to beat down opponents. Those tendencies are, I believe universal.


But if we can expect Whites to at least try to understand the feelings and needs of people who are so different in background and outlook than themselves, to understand Black anger and recognize the reality of oppression and disadvantage that generate that anger, should we not expect other people to understand the feelings and needs of the white people who are so angry? Not necessarily agree with them or even agree that their anger is justified, but at least recognize where it is coming from.


Is it not somewhat paternalistic to say to Blacks, we cannot expect you to moderate your anger and channel it into productive actions, while we expect Whites to do so?
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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #116 on: January 14, 2021, 02:21:53 PM »
At our circuit pastor's meeting (winkel) we discussed marriage and the role of the state in weddings.  Over the last few years I have heard discussion, on an off, about whether churches and pastors should discontinue doing weddings in the sense of signing the official license from the county clerk's office.  With the pending approval of the Equality Act I can only imagine that the state will take much more interest in the church's official willingness or unwillingness to bless same-sex marriages.  Although we can protest any pressure for this to happen, it might be easier and even better to simply step away from it all together, especially since we can recognize the licensing of marriage as a responsibility of the Kingdom of the Left.  I think that this is one area where pastors become agents of the state and it would behoove us to reconsider our role as those agents.

I've been thinking that the US should move to a model where the government does the legal part and the church does the religious part.  Don't want a religious part?  You're still married under the law.  Church doesn't want to perform a religious ceremony for you?  You're still married under the law.

When I was a pastor at a church in Mexico City, Mexico, ex-pats living in Mexico wanted their children who were living in the US to come to their home in Mexico to get married at the parents' home church.  Could they get a wedding license in Mexico?  Well, yes, but it would take considerable time and expense.  Then, whenever there was a legal question of marriage, the ones getting married would have to send off to Mexico to get an official copy of their marriage license (which was only legal when signed by a Mexican judge).  I always counseled the couple to get married at a civil ceremony in the US a few days before traveling to Mexico, and then we would bless their marriage in church.  This two part system separated by a couple of days worked out for the best.  The newly married couple could celebrate in church with their parents and friends in Mexico having been already officially married by the state in the US.  Then, the couple could easily get to Mexican beaches for their honeymoon before returning to the US. 
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #117 on: January 17, 2021, 09:09:39 AM »
This editorial was of interest as a marker on the intersection of church and governing:  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/opinion/josh-hawley-religion-democracy.html.  It relates to aspects of what I would call in the US a Reformed/Calvinist view of the world.  Here's an article by Josh Hawley outlining the specifics mentioned in the Times' editorial:  https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/age-of-pelagius-joshua-hawley.html

I hearken back to the letter received by St. Matthew's Lutheran in Manhattan from James Madison congratulating the church for being Lutheran and thereby contributing to the understanding of the Two Kingdoms position represented in the US Constitution . 

Is this a teachable Lutheran moment?  Maybe when the dust settles a bit.  We could certainly use an updated version of Bill Lazareth's (+) thoughts which were influential a generation ago in church and world.

Dave Benke

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #118 on: January 17, 2021, 09:13:27 AM »
I shared this with my congregation.

Prayer on the Occasion of the Inauguration of a Public Official

(This prayer, from the U.S. edition of the Book of Blessings (no. 1965), is an adaptation of the prayer for the Church and for civil authorities which was composed by Archbishop John Carroll for use on the occasion of the inauguration of George Washington in 1789.)

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed your glory to all nations.
God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
through you authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.
 
For the President:
Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides.
May he encourage due respect for virtue and religion.
May he execute the laws with justice and mercy.
May he seek to restrain crime, vice, and immorality.
 
For the members of Congress:
Let the light of your divine wisdom
direct the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed
for our rule and government.
May they seek to preserve peace, promote national happiness,
and continue to bring us the blessings of liberty and equality.
 
For state and local officials:
We pray for  the governor of this state,
for the members of the legislature,
for judges, elected civil officials,
and all others who are entrusted to guard our political welfare.
May they be enabled, by your powerful protection,
to discharge their duties with honesty and ability.
 
We likewise commend to your unbounded mercy
all citizens of the United States,
that we be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your holy law.
May we be preserved in union and that peace which the world cannot give;
and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.
We pray to you, who are Lord and God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

(From the US Conference of Catholic Bishops)
A pastor of the North American Lutheran Church.

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Re: The Church's Response to Government and Governing
« Reply #119 on: January 17, 2021, 11:38:50 AM »
From Dave Benke  "This editorial was of interest as a marker on the intersection of church and governing:  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/opinion/josh-hawley-religion-democracy.html.  It relates to aspects of what I would call in the US a Reformed/Calvinist view of the world.  Here's an article by Josh Hawley outlining the specifics mentioned in the Times' editorial:  https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/june-web-only/age-of-pelagius-joshua-hawley.html."

David,  Thank you for the link to the "oats" before the NYTimes opinion horse processed it.  Hawley's commentary, in his own words, parallels the conclusions of many thinkers, including Charles Taylor, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Carl R. Trueman, John Milbank and to a degree, George Lindbeck.

For an interesting discussion of the topic from a slightly different angle, see Ealine Pagel's work Adam, Eve, and the Serpent.
Mark (retired pastor, golfs the pastures) Renner