Tucked away in their book-lined offices, many moderate Baptist scholars are completely oblivious to the theological and political forces that are shaping life around them. Worse than that, they lack comprehension of their own faith tradition in sufficient depth to detect distortions of that tradition by those who intend to undermine it.
Professor Newman, like many other moderate Baptists, appears prepared to jettison the traditional, but now unpopular, Baptist stance toward separation of church and state. Rather than attack it directly, she says "All this is to the good." Then she contends that, in practice, the pluralism that separating church and state permits "masks" powers that are at odds with the life of the church. Pluralism tempts Christians to "practice idolatry" by assuming that "nations and markets ultimately determine history." She concludes,
It's easy today to imagine idolatry in terms of the golden calf. But our idols are more subtle. They are those "powers" that cause us to place the church in a limited sphere, handing the public over to the state and the market. My criticism of pluralism is not a matter of wanting to rule the world but rather a call to live in such a way that acknowledges the rule of God over all.Critique's of the idols of nationalism and capitalism are commonplace and should be heeded. What is different about Newman's critique is her analysis of "the ideology of pluralism." There are at least two problems with it.
First, underlying her critique of pluralism "as a bond of peace" is an assumption that only "faith" is properly a bond of peace.
Will there be peace when persons of different faiths live in ways that expect all others in the public sphere to acknowledge the rule of their God?
Newman's ethic falls short of the most basic rule of civility -- the golden rule. It lacks regard for the liberty of consciences other than those of culture-warrior Christians. It is a recipe for a return to the holy wars and religious wars that motivated Baptists, Deists and skeptics to separate church and state and advocate liberty of conscience for all.
Second, where did Newman find the inspiration to challenge pluralism and defend the intolerance of military Chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt?
She didn't get it from Thomas Helwys or Roger Williams or John Leland. She got it from Douglas Wilson the white supremecist, Christian Reconstructionist pastor of Christ's Church in Moscow, Idaho and editor of Credenda Agenda Magazine.
Wilson is an unashamed theocrat praying for "a second Christendom" who says, "When the Confederate States of America surrendered at Appomatox, the last nation of the older order (of Christendom) fell." He insists:
These prayers will be answered, so this means that the South will rise again. This is not said with any regional jingoistic fervor. So will New England rise again. So will Scotland. So will the Netherlands. And as the gospel comes to the uttermost regions for the first time, savage tribes will attend His word. The earth is the Lord's and He will have it.Here's a quote from Nick Gier, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Idaho, citing an article from an issue of Wilson's Credenda that is no longer online:
In his regular column in Wilson's Credenda Agenda (vol. 3: nos. 9, 11), Greg Dickison, member of Wilson's Christ Church and a Moscow public defender, states that "if we could have it our way," then there would be capital punishment for "kidnapping, sorcery, bestiality, adultery, homosexuality, and cursing one's parents." Dickison also quotes biblical passages (without qualification) that support slavery as "ordained and regulated by God," death for apostasy (Deut. 13.6-9), and cutting off a woman's hand for touching a strange man's genitals (Deut. 25.11,12).
Do I think Professor Newman agrees with Douglas Wilson on all of this? Not for a minute. Do I think she is a Christian Reconstructionist because she quotes from one with obvious approval? No.
I think she doesn't have a clue about the theological convictions that underlie the source that she is quoting. That's not a problem peculiar to her. It is a problem that is widespread at a number of levels among moderate Baptist scholars.