The Callous Theology of James Dobson

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Greg Linscott's picture

I think Wehner over-reaches. Dobson, whether his comments were well-timed or not, did not “declare that the worst thing you could possibly conceive of – the murder of your first-grade daughter — was a result of the wrath of God.” He said “I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think He has allowed judgment to fall upon us.” Allowing natural consequences resulting from conscious choices is not the same thing as raining down fire and brimstone. Dobson certainly could had not limited the sins he listed to the political hot-button issues, but Romans 1 does say that not retaining a knowledge of God leads to “God (giving them) over to a debased mind…” which includes murder (Romans 1:28-29).

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jonathan Charles's picture

God gives some people over to a mind disqualified from knowing the truth, that is a consequence of rejecting God (Rom. 1:28).  The result of that judgment is that wickedness increases, and I don't know why what happened in Newtown couldn't be a manifestation of that.

JobK's picture

Dobson - who by the way is educated and trained in the humanistic field of psychology and not in theology or divinity - is selective in the evils that he cites, limiting it only to abortion and homosexuality when the Bible lists a multitude of societal evils that can cause God to judge a nation for its wickedness. Both conservative evangelicals and theological liberals do the same, in that they limit the list of societal sins that they wish to make matters of public policy in order to conform to their political agendas.

 

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Huw's picture

Isn't Westbro saying the same thing. That this murderous incident is a manifestation of the wrath of the Almighty? Isn't the wrath, as paid out as the wages of sin, a matter of praise unto His glory? 

 

I wonder if the words of the Psalmist have any bearing on this, 'Just art Thou and upright are Thy judgments’’.

 

At the moment we in the UK are experiencing floods and storms. There are three types of rain mentioned in the scriptures and what we are experiencing at the moment is the rain of vengeance/correction. I believe that it's in return for the idolatrous behavior of the people of this nation at this time of the year. ''There is no peace unto the wicked''.

 

 

David R. Brumbelow's picture

I realize we should be hesitant to proclaim everything (or anything) a direct judgment of God (unless God gives us some special insight).  But I also believe some preachers go too far the other direction and immediately claim that any tragedy is not a judgment of God. 

When someone comes to me wondering if some bad thing in their life is a judgment of God, I don’t necessarily say it is.  But then, I don’t immediately say it is not.  Some need to reflect on the possibilities. 

Why do some preachers feel unqualified to say something is a judgment of God, yet always qualified to say it is not a judgment of God? 

I wonder how many preachers were loudly proclaiming to Israel that the Assyrians were not a judgment of God?  Or to Judah that the Babylonians were not a judgment of God? 
David R. Brumbelow

JobK's picture

The point is that if God is judging us, He is doing so for a more comprehensive number of sins than those which religious right leaders like to talk about. Religious right leaders talk about abortion and homosexuality because those issues help them raise money, sell merchandise and get their candidates elected. Meanwhile, they refrain from talking about societal sins that the prophets and Revelation speak of just as much as they do about murder and sexual immorality because those issues don't drive fundraising and in many cases are concerns of the political and religious left. 

That Israel violated God's commandments by allowing their society to become one where the poor were systematically and institutionally exploited and mistreated was most certainly one of the reasons why God judged that nation by having it fall to the Babylonians and Assyrians. Yet talking about the poor in the current conservative evangelical or fundamentalist climate in any area but private charitable giving would get you branded a liberal or socialist. So what is it that would cause God to judge our nation for failing to outlaw infanticide and homosexuality, but not for our pervasive favoring the rich over the poor  - and the middle class by the way - in our criminal justice system (again which the OT prophets made explicitly clear was a reason why God judged Israel)? 

And another thing: if you look at the OT, God's judgment did not always come immediately. The judgment did not always come a few days, months, years or even decades after the behavior that brought judgment took place. So to say that God is judging us now because of abortion and gay rights is difficult because for all we know God could be judging us for evils that this nation committed over 100 years ago, such as for our abhorrent treatment of the "Native Americans."

Our opposition to the left and their wicked social and economic policies does not justify bad and self-serving theology in response.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

pvawter's picture

JobK wrote:

The point is that if God is judging us, He is doing so for a more comprehensive number of sins than those which religious right leaders like to talk about.

Why does Dobson's list of sins need to be exhaustive to be correct? Is there any merit to his claim that removing God from the public consciousness of our nation or slaughtering millions of innocent children in the womb or perverting the divinely ordained institution of marriage is grounds for the legitimate judgment of a nation? Even though we are not God's covenant people, surely these sins are abhorrent to God.
I can almost imagine you criticizing Hosea, Amos, or Micah for failing to include a comprehensive list of Israel's sins. Surely these brief words from Dobson aren't all he has to say on the subject, are they?

JobK's picture

pvawter wrote:

JobK wrote:

The point is that if God is judging us, He is doing so for a more comprehensive number of sins than those which religious right leaders like to talk about.

Why does Dobson's list of sins need to be exhaustive to be correct? Is there any merit to his claim that removing God from the public consciousness of our nation or slaughtering millions of innocent children in the womb or perverting the divinely ordained institution of marriage is grounds for the legitimate judgment of a nation? Even though we are not God's covenant people, surely these sins are abhorrent to God. I can almost imagine you criticizing Hosea, Amos, or Micah for failing to include a comprehensive list of Israel's sins. Surely these brief words from Dobson aren't all he has to say on the subject, are they?

 

Because the prophets WERE comprehensive in telling Israel why they were being judged. The prophets didn't just list one or two sins, or a certain area of sins, like violence or sexual immorality. The prophets held Israel accountable to the entirety of the Sinai covenant, and stated that Israel was being sent into captivity because of their faithlessness to all of it. 

"Is there any merit to his claim that removing God from the public consciousness of our nation or slaughtering millions of innocent children in the womb or perverting the divinely ordained institution of marriage is grounds for the legitimate judgment of a nation?"

Unless Dobson is a prophet, no there isn't. This has nothing to do with the grotesque abomination that is abortion and homosexuality. (By the way, there are more ways to pervert marriage than allowing the 1% of the population that is homosexual to marry ... and incidentally the vast majority of homosexuals have no interest in marriage. Illegitimacy, adultery and divorce on a large scale accomplish pretty much the same.) Because in the absence of a prophet speaking in the Name of God on this matter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with the Holy Spirit's power and authority behind him, we have to use theology when we speak on such matters. 

We want to say that God is judging this nation based on abortion and homosexuality because those issues matter to us in our current social and political context. But I would imagine that a Navajo or a Seminole Christian would say that God is judging this nation because of how our ancestors stole his land and decimated his people in the 1700s and 1800s, and he would have Ahab being judged for killing Naboth and taking his land in 1 Kings 21 as his proof text. Such a Native American's statement would be as valid based on what the Bible actually says - and perhaps even more valid - than Dobson.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Greg Linscott's picture

Dobson's comments, though they included abortion and homosexuality, also did mention atheism and agnosticism in his general response. 

In reading the statement, I don't see this in the same category as say, Jerry Falwell's post-9/11 comments.

And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

In contrast to Falwell's statement, Dobson is essentially saying what we sowed in our culture is what we was reaped, not that God "got mad" and unleashed Adam Lanza on the country. And while it may not be especially appropriate timing, is it really unreasonable to consider in our own spheres of influence what might be changed- to consider how calloused and desensitized we have become in our culture?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Alex Guggenheim's picture

That is a far cry from the direct citation of Conn. as a judgment from God not to mention the theological challenges. This is not to say client nations of God do not suffer direct and indirect consequences but Dobson and the like skip all of these qualifiers

pvawter's picture

JobK, what prophet listed in detail every sin for which Israel was to be judged? Am I missing something in Dobson's statement that declares abortion and gay marriage to be the only transgressions of note in the US?
Maybe I am simply reading it incorrectly, but it seems reasonable to suggest the possibility that we are experiencing judgment, or at least the fruits of sin, using a few representative examples rather than listing every violation of God's righteous standard.

Greg Linscott's picture

What James Dobson actually said (source):

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

It seems to me he is saying is that humanity's choices bear consequences, and that God let the consequences come to bear. I am not sure how you get a "direct citation of Conn. as a judgment from God" out of that.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

G. N. Barkman's picture

JobK's statement that homosexuals are only 1% of the US populations, and most are not interested in marriage anyway is stunning.  I have read various estimates of the homosexual populations, but none as low as 1%.  I believe that 3% is the lowest I have ever seen, which is three times JobK's estimate.  Is there a factual study behind this comment?  Is he deliberately minimizing the true number to make a point?  If so, what's the point?

As to the marriage comment, one is tempted to ask, "Then why is the gay lobby so determined to pass gay marriage?"  The only other explanation I can think of would be to simply destroy traditional marriage.  Is he saying that homosexuals will abandon their interest in marriage as soon as it is legitimized?  JobK's comments only increase my concern about the homosexual movement, and help explain why Christians are so alarmed about its "success."  If it is not, at root, a deliberate, systematic, and highly financed attack upon God and the Bible, its hard to imagine what else it could be.  Which more than merits serious concern by Christians.  Yes, it would seem that homosexuality is a bigger threat to our nation than most other sins, which are numerous.

G. N. Barkman

edingess's picture

Fallen humans live under the wrath of God since the fall. Remember the curse? At last count, six TMS graduates officiated funerals of the victims. Hence, it is quite probable that genuine believers were as touched by this event as any of the unbelievers. And these would be believers in the soundest of churches. As for Dobson, his efforts seem only to produce moral people who wear the Christian label in my opinion. His integrationist approach to biblical counseling and his use of psychology has done far more harm than good.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

jimfrank's picture

Yes, you read that correctly.  Jim Dobson and Jesse Jackson serve similar roles within their respective political parties.  During Clinton's rule I heard Jim Dobson claim, "I have five million listeners and they vote."  His message was, "If I don't get what I want from the Party, I'm telling my listeners to stay home and not vote.  Then Bill Clinton wins."  Tell me, how was that different than a Jesse Jackson shakedown?  It is the same thing.  Thankfully both men have faded from the political scene, but every once in a while they do something to remind the public that they are still around. 

Marsilius's picture

If you keep yourself out of politics and social causes as a Christian leader, you will be accused by other Christians as not being salt and light. If you get involved in politics and social causes, you will be accused by other Christians as being too unspiritual, too political, power-hungry, money-loving, etc. James Dobson and his organization have done lots of good for Christians and for the US for decades, even if Dobson hasn't always been right. His passion is the family, and he has never wavered from what he has felt is his purpose in life.

 

If Wehner listened to the comments of Dobson, he doesn't give much hint of it. He condemns Dobson for leaving out sins that he earlier talked about in the recording. He condemns Dobson for being insensitive, but Dobson stated clearly one cannot determine what was the motivating factor at Newtown. Instead, Wehner gives every indication of having used the clipped text which first came out on Right Wing Watch. To me, it appears that Wehner waxed eloquent on a sound bite.

Ken Woodard's picture

Not the guy on here but the Bible one. 

Job goes through terrible situations one right after another. His buddies say the sorrows have come his way because he has sinned...but he had not. God was just allowing it to happen so that down the road God would be glorified. Some how or another God will get glory we may never know how. Apply that to Newtown.

 

I also believe that ones who believe in the secession of gifts should not delve into giving prophesy.  Drawing lines to connect these events to sin where there are no obvious connections would have to be prophetic or a leap to a baseless conclusion.  

 

Marsilius's picture

Ken,

I wonder if you have listened to the recording? What you write about Job is similar to what Dobson said himself at the beginning of the program. Dobson did not attempt to connect any dots. He said that the shooting was indicative of a major problem in American society. That is where the text of the sound bite begins. I would imagine that 90% of Americans agree with him. They all simply have different versions of what the problem is. Dobson grew up in a time when the greatest fear about school was that your parents would hear about your disobedience from the principal, or perhaps you would have a bad episode with the school bully. Can you blame him for thinking society now surely looks like it is getting unhinged? The controversial part of his statement is that the negative trend in society is a result of a general turning away from the Bible. 

 

Perhaps Dobson's statement was poorly timed. But I wonder if it would ever be rightly timed for people like Right Wing Watch.

 

So what we have is this: Dobson made a controversial statement as part of his program. Right Wing Watch took it out of its sensitive context and made it into an awful looking sound bite-text on the internet. Wehner (evidently) picked the text up from Right Wing Watch, and as an evangelical flailed away on Dobson (having castigated Mike Huckabee a few days earlier for something similar). Evangelicals read Wehner and pile on.

 

 

edingess's picture

I do not know any of the parents or the children who lost their lives in Newtown. I have not read Dobson in context. I have not read Wehner's remarks. I wonder how many parents in the Newtown tragedy are aggressive secularists. Perhaps none, perhaps some. We don't know. What we do know is that moral law in the human conscience is a reflection of the divine law, having been placed there by God Himself for His glory and for our good. It will help protect even fallen humans if it is not suppressed or destroyed by clever philosophies of wicked and stupid men. The message to any parent these days must be direct and it must be when they are feeling the pain (consequences) of the stupid idea that I can instill morality in adults even though I spent 16 years educating them that evolutionary theory is true and that human behavior is really the product of biological processes in the brain. The more we shout these kind of nonsensical statements in school, on TV, in the media, in the public square, the more we are going to witness these wicked behaviors.

 

Where are the atheist cowards in times like these? Shouldn't they spend most of their time teaching humans how not to be so emotionally attached to others so that when things like this happen, it won't be so painful? Why spend your time attacking religion? If they really want to help the species, then run a campaign now teaching humans how to better manage emotional attachment.

 

We all know that God is holy and sovereign. The real reason this is such a tragedy and the reason that humans know it is such a tragedy is because God exists and humans are created in His image with value. Life has meaning. Life has dignity. Right and wrong actually do exist. Science and naturalistic philosophy have nothing to say at times like these. But Christianity does. Christians do. And we should be saying a lot about it. We should be giving the gospel, not talking about politics. We should say that you hurt so much when you see tragedies like this because God made life incredibly valuable. We point people to Christ, to the good news, and to a place in eternity when evil will no longer be free to move about as it does today. There is a Redeemer, One who came to rescue us not only from the power of sin, but from its presence as well.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4