Over the last few days a discussion broke out over my contention in Mere Christendom that while blasphemy laws are inescapable, and that while Christians should be laboring to see that our society upholds the first table of the law as well as the second, we should make sure that we restrain the biggest blasphemer first. That perennial blasphemer, as I demonstrated in my book, is the state. We should topple Nebuchadnezzar’s statue first, and after we are confident that the central offender is suitably chastened, we may then move on to the pressing question of what to do about the rantings of the village atheist.
Until we know how to restrain the institution most given over to blasphemy, we are not to be trusted with the power of coercion over private citizens. Make no mistake—righteous blasphemy laws would have to apply to private citizens at some point. But make no mistake on the follow up point also. The one enforcing the law needs to be in a position to cast the first non-hypocritical stone (John 8:3-11). This is not me waffling on the rigors of theocracy. It is one of the requirements of theocracy. The standards must be applied to the enforcers of standards first. Because we don’t know the character of the individual men who will be judges in two hundred years, we must have the character now to build firewalls into our constitutional system—firewalls that get in the way of the “enforcement for thee, but not for me” mentality that takes about ten minutes to develop in a certain kind of ruler. One of the great features of our Constitution was how long it frustrated the power-mongers.
As it happens, a lot of things were said about my take, all along the waterfront, and so I have a whole series of ripostes that I want to get off my chest. Some of it is because I think important distinctions need to be made, or clarifications offered. But other times I write in the hope that someone sees my ripostes and reposts them. Ripostes. Reposts. Get it?
Because I am responding to all sorts of different concerns and objections, coming in from different directions, it may appear to the uninitiated reader that I have no attention span whatever. I will be leaping from paragraph to paragraph like a squirrel in the city park leaps from branch to branch, right after he got into some dealer’s misplaced bag of meth. As you read on, just remember, these things do happen.
One objection to my position was that it was a prudential take, and not a theocratic one. My response to this is that prudence is one of the theocratic standards. “The simple inherit folly: But the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (Proverbs 14:18). The law of God is not made out of pressure-treated four by fours or, to change the metaphor, when true believers reduce biblical law to an “insert tab A into slot B” approach, the end result is frequently a travesty of biblical justice. I want to see biblical justice done, but I want to see the doers of justice to apply the standards to themselves first. The application of God’s law—the way of wisdom—has to be conducted in wisdom. The law of God does not come to us the way regulations from a federal agency do, where you have to deal with a bureaucratic magma flow. The law of God is a case law system, where the principles must be grasped and then applied in new situations, as God brings us into new situations.
So as you know, I am a cheerful advocate of Christian nationalism. Some object to that phrase, or that way of putting it, but I prefer it to some of the other names our adversaries usually apply to us, like Christo-fascist, or white supremacist, or meathead. So I do want to speak in favor of Christian nationalism, and I believe it would be fair to say I have done so. But I have seen guys on our side of this particular debate comport themselves in such a way on Twitter as to disqualify themselves from jury duty in any sensible biblical republic. If some of our regime evangelicals want to maintain that we aren’t ready for prime time, they do have some gaudy examples to point to. This does not make them respectable, but I do hate it when disreputable people have a point.
We are not maintaining a stable biblical republic, with responsible Christians jurists pondering the best possible applications of Ex. 22:18. Rather, we are in a cage match with a resurgent neo-pagan death cult, and we are wanting to get to that stable biblical republic, and we must do it through stiff opposition. We need to get from here to there. And this means that that we need to remember exactly how much mileage the unbelievers have gotten out of the burning of Servetus. Let us also remember that Servetus was a bad actor, and that when he was executed, it was a brief ecumenical moment across Europe, with Catholics, Lutherans and Reformed all celebrating together. It was not like the Salem witch trials, where entirely innocent people were executed. And so . . . “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: But the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).
I certainly agree with Stephen Wolfe that “abuse does not nullify use.” Abusus non tollit usum. Every form of law, including the laws against murder and rape, can be twisted around and weaponized, and used against the innocent. When rape is defined by some (as it often is on college campuses) as any sexual encounter that the woman afterwards regrets, a solution is required. But that solution would not be to eliminate the laws against rape. So I am not arguing for the elimination of blasphemy laws. I am arguing that we should have them, and that they should be wise laws, and that we should fry our fish in the right order.