“Duty is ours; consequences are God’s”-Lt Gen Thomas J. Jackson
It’s sad that another Christian has slipped into PC quicksand, but the consequences of their bad arguments are usually spun against all of us. It’d be easier to ignore them but as we’ll see, arguments matter.
This time though, I am not going to waste my time in satire. There is no use. Most issues like this are so emotionally charged that a response does no good except to those few who are open minded enough to consider it.
If that’s going to be your reaction, please do the courtesy of allowing me to summarize my position before you exit.
Why read on?
Because people, as much as they would like to believe that they are indifferent and at the same time supremely logical, can not avoid the angst of my position. Their fear of being called a racist supersedes their willingness to listen to reason.
I admit that I am not unbiased. I love the Confederate flag because many of my ancestors fought under it. But that is not why I argue in opposition to Christian anti-flaggers. I am also a lover of truth. In fact, if given the choice between truth and the flag I’d curse that flag in a second. I believe the truth and what that flag represents coexist peacefully though, despite the cries of the flag’s detractors. In fact, I actually believe that it’s truth itself (not heritage) that is at stake here. The flag’s not going away any time soon.
But please understand, I am not dying on the hill of the Confederate flag, but I will die everyday on the hill of truth if need be.
So what’s this about?
Just a few days ago, Oklahoma Baptist University removed a stained glass panel from their Chapel that contained the image of the Confederate flag. I’m not certain which Confederate flag, but more than likely it was the Confederate “battle flag”, the same flag that has been the focus of so much controversy as of late. This version of the St Andrew’s Cross was only one of the many Christian flags flown by troops in the Confederacy. It was chosen because so many citizens of the Confederacy had Scottish roots and Presbyterian ecclesiastical views. But I’ll leave it’s origins up to the historians.
I am not taking exception with OBU’s removal of the flag though. It is their property and their right. I am taking exception with the article that excuses that action. It is their argument specifically and not their ad homonym attacks on “true believers” and “insidiously” prideful people like me…they use for the sake of unity, I’m certain. (Oh well, so much for abstaining from sarcasm.)
Matthew Arbo and Galen Jones wrote Symbols and Enmity: Why Oklahoma Baptist University is Removing an Image of the Confederate Flag.
Post-modernity strikes again!
To summarize their argument, they posit that the Confederate flag is a symbol; symbols inherit meaning from those who view them and the Confederate flag has become a symbol of hate; therefore, it causes division in the Church and should be removed. The symbol’s original intent is irrelevant, they contend. According to them…
The confederate flag should have no place amongst a people united by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The passage they used to pass Biblical muster was Romans 14:13-19.
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:13–19, ESV)
I’d like to make just a few observations about this one as well.
Symbols mean what they meant regardless of what you say they mean.
The hinge pin on which these people turn their argument is the idea that symbols, in particular the Confederate flag, mean what the present culture believe they do rather than their original intended meaning.
Although this sounds good, it’s actually post-modern hogwash. Symbols may take on all sorts of meanings, sure enough. But the misuse of a symbol does not negate its originally intended meaning. Just like books, the objective meaning of a symbol depends wholly upon what the author intended to communicate by using it. Flags are the epitome of symbols and are used this way constantly.
Some examples of misused symbols that we know retain their intended meaning are the cross, the Chi Rho, and the modern Christian flag. Each one of these have been used in the commission of atrocities. We would admit none of these to the trash pile of bad symbols.
We know what Confederate symbols symbolize objectively. We are not fooled by the distractions of those who abuse them.
LGBTQ+ groups and the ACLU bunch aren’t fooled by our efforts to blend in to the greater culture.
They don’t like any of our symbols, vis-à-vis the Ten Commandments on court houses, public cemetery crosses, and public manger scenes. Each of these are symbols and many more have been taken away by the PC crowd.
Even church buildings themselves can be regarded as symbols and have been considered so historically. Don’t expect the PC crowd to overlook them especially with bad arguments like this one in their hip pocket thanks to these guys.
These men and their terrible argument will have the guilt of the next purge on their hands, and there will be another and another and so on.
I part on division
My second observation takes umbrage with the final premise in their argument…
“that which causes division in the Church must be done away with for sake of the brother who is offended.”
First of all, the Biblical argument is for individuals who express their Christian liberty to abstain before a less mature or immature brother/sister who may not understand that particular liberty. Of course I agree with Paul, he is writing under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, but…
I also agree with the writer and therefore the Holy Spirit in the following Scripture as well:
“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 5:11–6:8, ESV)
The argument that says that we ought not place a stumbling block in front of the immature believer is incomplete and it is not the Scriptures intent to leave it there. We are not to leave the immature believer in their immaturity and they are not to be content there. We are each responsible to GROW UP! That is the duty of the Church and it is certainly the duty of OBU and any other university for that matter. If it is not the responsibility of OBU to teach truth and expect their students to mature during the process, then what do they do, babysit?
Secondly, just because an issue causes division in the Church has no bearing on whether we should reject or adopt it. This is obviously true for OBU. Notice the name of the school-Oklahoma BAPTIST University.
They are not Oklahoma non-denominational University or even Oklahoma every theology welcome University. They are BAPTIST! That by definition, is a division! It is purposeful and explicit and Biblical I might add.
The offense of non-offending
Furthermore, to remove the flag to avoid alienating one group of people necessarily alienates another. The removal itself is a division! How about some consistency?
Finally, I’d like to offer some thoughts to drive my point home, why arguments matter.
This University is a Baptist University. Most Baptist theologians relegate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper to mere symbols and partially by their own doing these symbols are among the most divisive symbols in Christendom. I would never suggest that these symbols be done away with because they are at least ordinances, as they say, but by using the logic of these men they ought to at least join the sacramental theology crowd…to avoid division, don’t you think?
I would also suggest another ordinance-to love the Lord with all of your mind.
God is the foundation of reason, logic, and truth. Because God is the transcendent source of these then good logic or truth must reign over not only the Resurrection and Creation, but also any other thought we entertain.
“Peace if possible, truth at all costs”-Martin Luther
God would not approve of their argument due to its bad logic.
I know it feels like you guys are doing the Church a service by ignoring logic and setting her within the safe-zone of political correctness, but please do us all a favor and stop it!
Just stop it!
Or unfortunately, in the future we’ll all suffer…
Your arguments matter.