The April issue (online) of Ordained Servant is out and the theme is Natural Law. It features two articles that have 2k fingerprints all over them, David VanDrunen’s on natural law in Reformed theology and David Noe’s on the differences between redemption and culture and the implications of this difference for so-called Christian education. Here are a few highlights.
. . . a Reformed theology of natural law should be grounded in a theology of nature, which in turn should be grounded in our covenant theology. When thinking about a theology of nature, it makes sense first to consider Genesis 1 and the original covenant of works. Genesis 1 makes immediately clear that God’s creating activity instills the entire natural world with order and purpose. His creation is objectively meaningful. Another thing Genesis 1 explicitly teaches is that God made human beings in his image, and this image entailed knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Human beings were thus subjectively capable of comprehending and acting upon the truth communicated in nature. To say that the natural order is objectively meaningful and that human beings are subjectively capable of apprehending its meaning may seem like obvious assertions to many Christians, but they are crucial foundation to a theology of natural law, and they emerge already from Genesis 1. We also observe in Genesis 1 that God made man in his image for the purpose of exercising dominion in the world. God had exercised supreme dominion in creating the world, and man, according to his likeness, was to rule the world under him. If man was to rule the world in God’s likeness, he had to rule it not aimlessly but toward a goal, for God himself worked, then passed through his own judgment (Gen 1:31), and finally rested. As taught in our doctrine of the covenant of works, God made man to work, then to pass through his judgment, and finally to join him in his eschatological rest. Genesis 1, I believe, does not allow us to separate our doctrine of the image of God from the covenant of works, as if the latter were simply added on at some point after man’s creation. God made human beings by nature to work in this world and then to attain eschatological life. Thus the original order of nature communicated not only man’s basic moral obligations toward God but also the fact that God would judge him for his response and reward or punish him accordingly.
In light of the fall, however, we cannot simply view natural law now through the lens of the original creation. Accordingly, I suggest that it is helpful to view natural law in the present world through the lens of the covenant with Noah in Genesis 8:20–9:17, for this is the means by which God now preserves and governs both the cosmic and social realms. This covenant makes clear that God still orders the cosmos and makes it objectively meaningful, though its purposes have been obscured, and that he still deals with all human beings as his image-bearers, though they are fallen. God gives human beings responsibilities adapted for a fallen world, but these responsibilities resemble those under the original creation order. We are to be fruitful and multiply, to rule the animals responsibly, and to pursue justice (Gen 9:1–7). God did not impose these obligations arbitrarily; they correspond to the nature with which he created us. The very commission to do justice is grounded in human nature: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (9:6).
I teach Classics for the glory of God. I do this because he has saved me from my sins, and reconciled me to himself through the vicarious atonement of his Son freely given for me. This makes what I do Christian, but it seems that this is only because I seek, Dei gratia, to do it for his glory.
I use in this instruction a vast array of books, tools, terms, and skills, the overwhelming majority of which were produced by men and women whose motivations are likely different than mine. Moreover, while their motivations sometimes differ from mine in ways that are un-Christian, I as a Christian am utterly at a loss to find a better, or sometimes even different way to do the things they did despite my having a motivation that is sanctified. In fact, efforts to find a uniquely Christian way to teach Classics, for example, seem both vain and futile, as well as ungrateful in that they risk denying the common grace God has given the wicked, the rain he has sent on us both, and by which he has apparently intended to bless me also.
. . . it seems to me that, as with cycling, philosophy, and music, the most we can say about “Christian education” is that it is education delivered or provided by Christians. This, of course, is not an unimportant claim. But when we say that, however, we are once again talking about dispositions and motives and saying nothing distinguishable either about the process or the result of that process. In short, it seems there may be no such thing as Christian education after all, at least not in the sense in which it seems often used, and that grand adjective which indicates a special closeness with the divine Son of God ought, perhaps, to be confined within a much closer compass: to persons whom Christ has saved, the worship such persons offer, and the study and promulgation of the divine Word on which that worship is based. If by “Christian education” this is what is meant, the term seems quite apt.
Critics of 2k will no doubt conclude that the OPC is lurching toward theological confusion by giving a hearing to such views. But the OPC’s stance could very well be an indication that 2kers are fully within the bounds of the church’s confession. If that is so, then 2k’s critics are the radical ones.