David Huisjen's 95 theses can be found here. I have decided to provide a brief examination of some of his claims. I in no way intend to be exhaustive, and have preferred instead to provide broad strokes which I believe address as many of his points as possible.
In the case of some of these theses, the meaning is very vague because examples of its application are not given. For example, the, "The essence of Christian life and identity is not to be determined by whom we hate, but how we love", does sound like something I would say, but how I understood and apply it might violate how its application is understood by many others. More specificity is needed.
"As “a friend of publicans and sinners,” Jesus had a further reputation for not basing a person’s worthiness of love on sexual purity or social respectability."
Well innate worthiness is out of the question for all people, since as David himself rightly notes, Christianity requires a "recognition of the gap in moral worthiness between each of us and God as being infinitely greater than that between the best of humans and the worst of humans." But if he means to countenance sexual activity that is prohibited in the Bible, I would have to disagree.
I get this impression when he says "Sexual sin as a preoccupation of the church is entirely alien to the message of Jesus." For example, Jesus prohibits πορνεία and ἀσέλγεια in Mk. 7:22-23. Both of these terms refer to unlawful sexual intercourse by Torahic standards. ἀσέλγεια in particular was used by Jewish writers of the time to refer to what the Jews, following the Torah, considered unlawful sexual intercourse. These norms are not medieval, but have their origin in ancient Jewish morality, which is here explicitly reaffirmed by Jesus.
It is true, of course, that the modern evangelical church's preoccupation with sexual sin is disproportionate with their apparent lack of concern for sin that is much more commonly condemned in the Bible, such as neglect of the poor. But it still remains the case that Jesus is as Mosaic as Moses in his prohibition of what the Bible considers unlawful sexual acts.
"Jesus did not reject the Mosaic Law –– which prohibited all forms of sexual expression that could not lead to legitimate procreation (prostitution, adultery, masturbation, homosexuality, intercourse during menstruation, etc.) –– but he rather expanded it to include prohibiting any form of sexual objectification of women: “I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully…”
I don't believe the point is strictly speaking, the unlawful forms of sexual intercourse are unlawful because they are not conducive to procreation. If such were the case, sterile spouses would not be allowed to have sex because they could not reproduce, which is obviously something unheard of in the Bible. Spouses are encouraged to have as much sex as they want(See the Song of Solomon, for example).
By expanding on the essence of the Mosaic Law, Jesus demonstrated to his hearers that preaching moralistic sexual restraint was a lost cause, because none could honestly claim to live up to an ideal of having no forbidden desires. Beyond demonstrating the need for moral humility, Jesus’ teachings on sexuality emphasize the importance of not using other people as disposable means of physical or material gratification.
I would deny that Jesus is expanding on the Mosaic Law here at all. He is rather reaffirming what it had always said as a corrective for its distortion by the Pharisees, who believed that they were in God's good graces provided they conformed in terms of outward obedience even if they were internally sinful.
For example, Job 31:1 says "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman." That is, he has determined to steadfastly resist the temptation to objectify women by fantasizing about them lustfully. This is simply a proper application of the commandment to not covet your neighbor's wife(Exod. 20:17).
If David means to countenance something like homosexuality, for example, how far is he willing to go? What about bestiality? Pedophilia? I would first make the careful point that I do not consider homosexuality equivalent to pedophilia. My point instead has to do specifically with the question of the standard he is using by which he determines which sorts of sexual acts are lawful and which are not.
We are all products of our cultures and our times to some degree, and homosexuality, for example, is largely accepted, whereas the other two aforementioned options are usually not considered legitimate means of sexual expression. But there have been cultures which have allowed such behavior. We must not allow historically contingent, relative cultural standards to be the criteria of claims to absolute morality of truth, but must instead rest on the objective word of Bible delivered to us from the transcendent creator God who alone is the arbiter of all objective truth and goodness.
"Knowing now that the “pattern” for the infant is established at the moment of conception rather than at the moment of ejaculation does not provide us with any greater certainty than the medieval church had as to when the embryo or fetus obtains an “eternal soul”.
The absence of any absolutely definitive transition points within the course of pregnancy from “non-ensouled” to “ensouled” does not prove that a soul must be present from the moment of conception."
Lk. 1:15 and 41 make it clear that John the Baptist was considered a sentient (if cognitively unsophisticated) human while he was still in the womb. Whatever doubt one may have as to the precise moment at which the biological human is ensouled, we ought to scripturally it from the moment of conception as a safeguard against killing a genuinely ensouled person.
"There is a special absurdity to the political action of those who work harder to protect fetuses than to protect children suffering from malnutrition and inadequate medical attention."
This is true enough. Many 'conservatives' are concerned enough to allow infants to be born only to be indifferent as to whether or not they are actually able to survive when they leave the womb, or only until they grow up to send them off to die in an unjust war (at which point they may, of course, kill other children themselves). But this does not nulify the fact that in the aforementioned passages, for example, John the Baptist is regarded as fully human and even indwelt by the Holy Spirit from the womb.
"When the apostle said not to “love the world” he was speaking of not accepting moral compromises for purposes of social or economic advancement. In that respect his exhortation remains more relevant than ever."
"15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[c]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever"(1 Jhn. 2:15-17)
John makes clear from the context that loving the world means dedicating one's life to pursuit of ultimately transient objects within the spatiotemporal realm rather than worshiping God alone. This would certainly include accepting moral compromises for the purposes of socical or economic advancement, since in such a case, advancement within the spatiotemporal realm is prioritized above obedience to God, which is idolatry, but his command is much broader than this and cannot be limited to it.
"Nowhere in Jesus’ teachings is the pursuit of wealth idealized or justified, particularly when it is obtained at the expense of meeting the basic needs of the poor."
Amen! I believe this is what Jesus is saying in Lk. 16:13:
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
"To the extent that Jesus’ followers were participants in systems of government, he instructed them to make justice for the poor the priority of their work.
Thus any participation in government which provides dishonest advantages to the rich and refuses to tax the rich adequately to meet the basic needs of the poor is a direct violation of Jesus’ teachings on civil matters."
The additional rewards given to those who are most fortunate and who work the hardest in our societies must not extend beyond the point at which those attaining the higher status cease to recognize their shared human condition with those who have the least.
This may require laws which prevent the sort of extreme income disparity which we have today."
This is something I'm ambivalent about. It may surprise many professing conservative Protestants that historically, affirmation of the propriety of social welfare programs as considered compatible with (and sometimes necessitated by) Christianity by historically important Protestant theologians and traditions. For example, it is well-known that the Mayflower Compact among the Puritan Pilgrims was a project in outright socialism, though most do not go to this extreme, as I myself would not. But more moderate social welfare programs were familiar to many Protestants. John Calvin, for example, commenting on Isa. 49:23, writes:
Undoubtedly, while kings bestow careful attention on these things, they at the same time supply the pastors and ministers of the Word with all that is necessary for food and maintenance, provide for the poor and guard the Church against the disgrace of pauperism; erect schools, and appoint salaries for the teachers and board for the students; build poor-houses and hospitals, and make every other arrangement that belongs to the protection and defense of the Church.
As I said before, I am undecided on this issue. The Bible certain tells us that we are obligated to pay our taxes(Rom. 13:1-7). But whether or not these taxes are to be used to pay for social welfare programs is not something which the Bible seems to directly address. I am certainly open to it in at least some circumstances, and it is certainly not obvious to me (as it seems to be to Fox News or the Tea Party) that Christianity necessitates a free market program, nor has it been obvious to historic, conservative Christians.
"Like rape, enslaving others and slave trading are practices not directly forbidden in the scriptures, but which Christians must recognize as violating the basic underlying principles of Jesus’ teachings."
Rape and human trafficking are actually both forbidden in the Bible. They are both regarded as capital offenses in the Old Testament. Deut. 22:26 compares raping a woman with "murdering one's neighbor", leading the famous 12th century Rabbi Moses Maimonides to conclude that the text put rape on the same level with murder. The Torah prescribes capital punishment for such a crime.
Human trafficking is likewise condemned as a capital offense in Exodus 21:16. This refers to the same kinds of human trafficking practiced in the African slave trade in North America The New Testament explicitly condemns such human trafficking as incompatible with a legitimate profession of faith (1 Timothy 1:8-10). In places where slavery is approved of in the Bible, context makes it clear that the "slavery" in mind was that of a hired servant, according to which someone who was unable to pay off a debt was to work off the debt instead.
Abuse of such servants was explicitly forbidden on pain of release of the servant from both his service and his debts(Exod. 21:26-27). The servant was to discharge his debt the best he could, and could only be held liable for discharge of his debts by service for 6 years at most. He was released on the 7th year, because it was Jubilee, and all his debts were automatically forgiven.
"This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families"(Lev. 25:10).
Protestant Christians were actually instrumental in the abolition of slavery. Many Christians during this time, such as the Covenanters and strict/particular Baptists, explicitly opposed the practice and argued that it was incompatible with Christianity. Ministers of this period such as Abraham Booth and Alexander McLeod even dedicated entire sermons to condemning the practice from the pulpit.
"Preventing theft and the spread of contagious diseases were considered valid grounds for border protection in biblical times; preventing an influx of cheap labor was not."
Actually, the only ground for citizenship as a member of the commonwealth of Israel was conversion to Judaism(Exod. 12:43-49). I am not aware of any other grounds for border control.
Though the commandment not to kill (generally considered the sixth) has been traditionally granted certain exceptions, a generalized fear of the other person’s skin color or ethnic origin is not an acceptable excuse for killing him.
"Having a right to keep oneself equipped to kill those one considers to be a threat to one’s lifestyle (which Americans refer to as the Second Amendment) is not a principle of Christian teaching; quite the opposite."
"If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed"(Exod. 22:2-3).
Though self-defense is valued in the Bible, the gravity of killing someone, even in self-defense is acknowledged in the Old Testament, and its practice regulated. Biblically, we do not have a right to kill an invader merely for breaking into our house. We must, whenever possible, preserve the life of the person so that they can be held liable by a court of law. Unfortunately, this is not always possible or wise when we suspect our own lives or the lives of our loved ones to be in danger.
I do believe that we have the right to defend ourselves, but that it does not make sense for conservatives to appeal to the Second Amendment for totally unregulated sale of guns. Appealing to "original intent" of the Constitution is problematic, since it took place in a historical context in which even something as primitive as the flintlock revolver had not been invented yet. It is difficult to tell what the Framers would have said about, for example, a fully automatic combat shotgun or an uzi, both of which are capable of killing large numbers of people in a very short amount of time. I am also open to the possibility of allowing the purchase and use of guns for self-defense, but banning the use of lead ammunition and replacing it with less-than-lethal rubber ammunition.
Even when the shedding of blood under the Old Testament, for example, within the context of a biblically justified war, was strictly speaking, in keeping with the Mosaic Law, it was still regarded as a very grievous matter:
1 Chronicles 28:3 "But God said to me, 'You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.'
1 Chronicles 22:8 But the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.
"As we advance technologies beyond what the apostles, prophets and church fathers could have imagined, we are responsible to find ways of regulating these technologies so that neither their intended nor their unintended consequences harm people in ways that are contrary to the spirit of the teachings of the Gospel.
Technology which serves to enslave people by restricting their access to necessities of life if they do not pay tribute to given authorities must therefore not be permitted.
"The process of justifying genocides, mass enslavement, monopolization of vital natural resources, and destruction of living environments in the name of promoting Christianity or “Christian nations” has been a historical disgrace to our faith, and is something which all true believers must fight against in the current generation."
I believe that this is clearly in keeping with prioritizing profit at the expense of human life, which has been addressed before. Furthermore:
"5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you(Jas. 5:1-5).
Supporting the state of Israel should not, however, be seen as a means of bringing about Christ’s Second Coming.
It is not Christians’ moral responsibility to try to bring about what they see as future predictions made in the Bible.
This is particularly true regarding their expectations of the end of the world and a final climactic battle for all of humanity over the Middle East.
Furthermore, in strictly genetic terms there is no reason to believe that contemporary Israelites are any more the “seed of Abraham” than the Palestinians, the Jordanians or any of the other traditional peoples of that land.
Abraham was said to be a pretty potent guy in his old age, and over the millennia all of these populations have become genetically mixed to a considerable extent.
Supporting the abuse of and ignoring the basic human rights of those being pushed aside by the on-going expansion of the state of Israel falls well outside of Christians’ moral duty as believers.
I don't even agree with the passages ordinarily adduced to prove that such a theology is biblical, nor does the vast majority of the historic Church, so I see no disagreement here.
Reading the book of Revelation as “a future history lesson for our times” is one of the worst forms of hermeneutical abuse that the scriptures have ever been put to.
Recognizing the abuse that the Roman emperors heaped on the early church, and the hopes that this persecuted church held to in order to endure such persecution, should be the starting point for the study of biblical eschatology.
I am a preterist, so no disagreement here.
"Pluralistic representative democracy, with universal suffrage regardless of sex, religion or status within the social hierarchy, is a relatively new form of government, not anticipated in the writings of the Bible or any other religious text more than 500 years old."
I believe this is more or less true.
"Rather than taking this new democratic condition as a threat, believing Christians should be embracing this structure as an opportunity to return to the roots of their faith."
But where are the limits? The objection I have to this is substantively similar to my objection against apparently unqualified sexual permissiveness. What if the masses decide that a social or political morality that fundamentally contradicts the all of the essentials of Christianity ought to be implemented? If you say that the representative democracy is to be unqualified in the kinds of norms it ought to permit, then this is an invitation for the Stalins, Maos and Hitlers (or less extreme, the Tea Party members) to rise to power simply because the people want it that way. The tyranny of the few is thus replaced with a no less problematic tyranny of the majority.
If on the other hand, you do qualify such a representative democracy as necessarily incorporating some degree of explicitly Christian morality, it necessarily functions to exclude those of certain beliefs (something which I do not have a problem with), which is incompatible with the sort of claims to political neutrality to which liberalism has historically aspired.
"Thus the current international norm of secular, pluralistic democracy, not based on any official connection between religious and political powers, pioneered in the modern era by the United States, while breaking with long established European tradition, is in many ways idea for enabling Christianity to break free of these chains."
The keyword is "official." There is no such thing as a truly neutral politics. One's politics necessarily has a definitive in-group and a definitive out-group, in accordance with the worldview that gives its morality meaning, and from which it naturally and necessarily flows. If we criminalize pedophilia, as we ought to, it is because their beliefs about what is right and what is wrong is in radical discontinuity with ours.
The temptation to say something like "oh come on" is an attempt to legitimate one's own political views by pretending that it is something extra-political; hardly any maneuver is more political than that which pretends to be extra-political, and no one is more biased than the person who does not acknowledge the universal inevitability of political bias.
The fact remains that 6th century Greece regarded what we would consider pedophilic relationships with young boys as normal, and that a society such as ours would have been seen as tyrannical and oppressive by their standards. Indeed, it is difficult to find hardly any society in which the political or moral norms which we take as obvious, basic, fundamental, extra-political, are rejected or replaced with opposite values which they regard as no less obvious, basic, fundamental or extra-political as we do ours.
It is therefore impossible to speak of any genuine neutrality, and the Christian who professes adherence to a kind of social contract-theory rooted liberalism is no less a theocrat than anyone else, albeit perhaps one who is more lenient in what sorts of beliefs he is willing to countenance than some other political orientations are. "Secularization" is not neutrality. It is either anti-Christianity or it is a Christianity which does not realize that it is ideologically Christian.
For example, throughout these 95 theses, David has (in at least some cases, justifiably) advocated civil policies from an explicitly Christian basis in such a way that radically contradicts the beliefs of non-Christians or Christians who disagree with his understanding of the relevance of Christian morality to the civil realm. This is not a bad thing. It is just not neutral or secular; both of which, as I have argued before, are terms whose sole purpose is usually to legitimate one's own very non-neutral policies by treating its claims as so extra-political as to be beyond discussion. In this respect, I would at least initially, describe my aim in advocating Christian morality in government the same way David does: To spread the Gospel.