Moderate 2K in the OPC: No (April’s) Fooling

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.

From VanDrunen:

. . . 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).

From Noe:

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.

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  1. mark mcculley
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Why the shift from the “covenant of works” to the Noahic covenant? Now that all humanity begins life imputed with Adam’s guilt, does the “covenant of works” no longer function as that which governs and orders humanity? What covenant functioned as that standard between the fall and the Noahic covenant?

    Genesis 9 could certainly be historically universal but not “secular”. There are of course two notions of the “natural”, one which assumes that the God revealed in Genesis 9 is the Creator who Redeems, and the other notion which sanitizes out the worship and sacrifice. “3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’ “

  2. mark mcculley
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    One more “moderate” question. Which of the two kingdoms is this Biblical text below about? I don’t assume it’s “natural law”, since the indicatives seem to have sanctions but no imperative.

    Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus
    said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in
    this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

  3. Posted April 3, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    McMark, don’t we just spiritualize this the way we do when Jesus says cut out your eye?

  4. mark mcculley
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I would always be careful of that “we”. I am a guest among you, which I know is to my advantage. I try not to take advantage.

    But these are not trick question. Why is the Noahic (and not the Adamic) the common (universal, not redemptive) law? And is the leaving of the father something commanded only of the redeemed? If so, how can we say that redemption makes no change for family imperatives?

  5. mark mcculley
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    And which of the two kingdoms is this one? Matthew 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

  6. mark mcculley
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Maybe I’m asking about the nature of Christ’s redemptive kingdom. Is it church institutions alone or all individual Christians alone or both together, and do we equivocate about which is which? When individual Christians teach their neighbors’ children or responsibly refuse to vote when there’s no good choices, is this kind of thing their participation in the created/universal kingdom?

    Mike Horton: “Distinguish between the church as institution from the church as its members. Abraham Kuyper expressed this distinction in terms of church-as-organization and church-as-organism. In the former sense, the church is Christ’s embassy of saving grace through the ministry of Word and sacrament. In the latter sense, it is believers-saved by grace-who are scattered into their worldly callings as salt and light. The institutional church is entrusted with the Great Commission, with no calling or authority to reform the world. Being shaped decisively
    by this Word, believers are called to serve their myriad neighbors in the world.”

  7. sean
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    “But these are not trick question. Why is the Noahic (and not the Adamic) the common (universal, not redemptive) law?”

    Well Mark, wouldn’t you have to have a postlapsarian reinstitution (noahic) that takes into account the reality of a modified mandate that no longer reflects the marriage of cult and culture? In other words the anticipated adamic ‘theocracy’, for lack of a better term, is not going to be realized now apart from a second adam and an altered course to get there; through the COG and a second advent that brings us into, in history, the eschatological hope of the seventh day.

  8. David R.
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink


    Now that all humanity begins life imputed with Adam’s guilt, does the “covenant of works” no longer function as that which governs and orders humanity? What covenant functioned as that standard between the fall and the Noahic covenant?

    All the CoW can do post-fall by way of governance is to pronounce a sentence of condemnation. But instead of judgment, there is a stay of execution, and the common grace order is immediately established (along with the common curse). The common realm is then developed through Genesis 4 as seen in the narrative of Cain and his sons (e.g., the origins of civil justice, music, agriculture, craftsmanship). After the flood judgment (suspension of common grace), the common grace order is then resumed with the Noahic Covenant. Does that help at all?

  9. mark mcculley
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the help, David R. I get that the “covenant of works” was designed to curse.

    “and the common grace order is immediately established (along with the common curse). The common realm is then developed through Genesis 4 as seen in the narrative of Cain and his sons (e.g., the origins of civil justice, music, agriculture, craftsmanship).”

    mcmark: I hope we would agree that, after Adam’s sin, grace is not needed in order to curse, since we are all born guilty in Adam. And I doubt that any of us would call this “common grace” God’s plan B. So one of my questions is about grace that redeems individuals from God’s wrath between Adam and Noah (and Moses). Does that redemptive grace need a second (more universal) “grace” in order for that grace to save Abel (and other sons of God) from the second death?

    “Need” is perhaps the wrong category. Does God have a second common curse, in addition to guilt imputed from Adam, and if so, is that “intrusion” founded on a second kind of grace?

    If there were two kinds of grace before Noah, were there also two kinds of kingdom?

    In the interests of moderation, I won’t return now to my question about family imperatives.

  10. 2866oa
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    To start a new comment, if David Noe is right why do we need his position at Calvin College, or even a college like Calvin for that matter? Shucks, we’ll just let the various government educational boards and their teachers’ union adjuncts determine curriculum, content, and value systems (aka worldview–sorry, moderator) from K–graduate school. First, Obamacare–then, Obamateach. No thanks.

  11. David R.
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Does that redemptive grace need a second (more universal) “grace” in order for that grace to save Abel (and other sons of God) from the second death?

    It’s not so obvious in the case of Abel since not much time has elapsed since the fall, but for humanity to continue to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” through the generations, even under a sentence of condemnation (and the wicked prospering no less) there has to be an arena common grace operative.

    “Need” is perhaps the wrong category. Does God have a second common curse, in addition to guilt imputed from Adam, and if so, is that “intrusion” founded on a second kind of grace?

    The imputation of Adam’s guilt is not a curse (though it results in one). The common curse, as you know, results in the toilsomeness of work and the pain of childbirth. This of course is the common lot of the godly (those who don’t have Adam’s guilt imputed to them) and the ungodly (those who do). The second death is not common.

    If there were two kinds of grace before Noah, were there also two kinds of kingdom?

    Yes, that would seem to follow.

  12. Posted April 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    2866oa (is that an ID assigned by the prison warden?), perhaps you’ve heard of Harvard or Vanderbilt? I believe there are institutions somewhere between the federal govt. and church schools.

  13. Zrim
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    2866oa, God made families to instill worldview. Maybe we need Noe’s station to help us remember not to over-realize its function. Families make and churches redeem human beings, but schools just educate them. You take a swipe at statist education, but I wonder if realize the program shares with worldviewry the misguided idea that academia can do what only homes are designed for.

  14. 2866oa
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey friends, the warden let me stay up late. DGH, Harvard began as a state school, Vanderbilt as a church school. Neither is in-between, perhaps the college you teach in is. Zrim, I think the principle of “in loco parentis” addresses how academia assists the Christian home. I know, I know–“Old Lifers” may summarily dismiss said principle out of hand. Back to the cell. Blessed Easter to all.

  15. Posted April 4, 2012 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    28, have you ever heard of sphere sovereignty, civil society, voluntary association?

  16. Zrim
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    28 or 660a, the principle has its upsides: I, for one, am happy to have a school take my place when it comes to the three Rs. This 2ker will even happily take a transformationist school (can worldviewers say the same about secular schools?). But when it comes to the three Persons, I’m jealous for my Reformed elders.

  17. 2866oa
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Kloosterman unloads on Noe at Not recommended for the faint-hearted!

  18. mark mcculley
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    C Van Till: “If God’s gifts of common grace such as “rain and sunshine,” are thus seen as being a part of God’s general call to repentance, then believers must also include that in their “testimony” to unbelievers. Believers have by grace repented from sin and undertaken their cultural task anew. They ask unbelievers to join them in a common obedience to God through Christ.

    “You are now able to contribute positively to the coming of that kingdom. The harps you make, the oratorios you produce, the great poems you have written, the scientific discoveries you have made will, with your will or against your will, all find their place in the unified structure of the kingdom of God through Christ. Now, then, in God’s name repent, for otherwise the Israelites will “borrow” your treasures and you shall perish in the Red Sea like the Egyptians.”

  19. sean
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Yet another example why pushing the antithesis back to the epistemological doesn’t work so well. By the way, Augustine’s antithesis ended at religious/moral consideration, fitness if you will, embracing the category of the time. Epistemological antithesis is NOT Augustinian.

  20. mark mcculley
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    btw, I don’t agree with C Van Til. I am still checking out the connections between a Christian being in two kingdoms and “common grace”.

    D A Carson (the g coalition) explains how “family” belongs in the second (profane) kingdom.

    “I would argue that marriage is a creation ordinance, not a church ordinance. I’m not sure that ministers of the gospel should be involved in the legal matters of weddings at all. I rather like the
    practices that have developed in France (though I admit that they developed for all the wrong reasons). There, every marriage must be officiated by a state functionary. Christians will then have a further service/ceremony/celebration, invoking the blessing of God and restating vows before a larger circle of family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. But the legal act of the wedding is performed exclusively by the state.

    That is one way of making clear that marriage is not a distinctively Christian ordinance (though it has special significance for Christians, including typological significance calling to mind the
    union of Christ and the church); it is for a man/woman pair everywhere, converted or not, Christian or not—truly a creation ordinance.

    Ideally, of course, the state should adopt the same standards for marriage and divorce as those demanded by Scripture. But where that is not so—whether by sanctioning marriages after prohibited divorces, or by sanctioning marriages between persons of the same sex, or whatever—
    Christians will be the first to insist that because we take our cues and mandates from Scripture, our own standards for what will pass for an acceptable marriage will not necessarily be those of the state. So our own members will observe the biblical standards, regardless of what the state permits.

    We have two citizenships. We owe allegiance to “Caesar,” to our country in this world, and we owe allegiance to the kingdom of God.But where the two allegiances conflict, we must obey God rather than human beings. In this light, and remembering the history of marriage in the Western world, ministers of the gospel who perform marriages (as I do) better remember that when they do so, they are not performing a sacrament, or making a marriage union more holy; they are functioning as officials of the state, licensed by them. They are discharging their duties as citizens of an earthly kingdom.

    Then, in the larger service in which the wedding is performed, they may also be discharging their duties as Christian ministers— reminding all present of the wonderful typological connection between Christ and the church, and so forth. In France, all of these Christian duties are
    separated from the legal marriage vows themselves; here, they are integrated (in church weddings) precisely because the minister is serving both as a minister of the gospel and as a minister of the

  21. Posted April 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    McMark, as much as it pains me to say anything positive about the co-allies, thanks for Carson’s quote. You get a treat also. Now I need one.

  22. mark mcculley
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Treat? Is food involved? Carson thinks he’s the voice of reason. Are you as aristocratic as he is? He was educated in England, you know, and travels internationally as much as Stott and Packer did. And he will make sure we don’t forget it.

  23. JGM
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink


    Read my article on “The Necessity of Christian Education.”


  24. Posted April 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    McMark, I’m not sure what Carson said has to do with being aristocratic. As a son of Levittown, I could never put on airs. But I also believe democracy is overrated.

    His point about marriage as a civil institution is right. That’s what the Reformation did. Christians (who dabble in Lent in Advent) are loathe to admit that marriage is not sacred.

  25. Posted April 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Imposter, I have read the essay on Christian education. Have you read more than the title or the parts of Machen on the rights of Communists and Roman Catholics?

  26. Posted April 5, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Marky Mark, what’s Carson’s self-perception have to do with it? But are you saying he’s wrong about marriage being a creation ordinance?

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