Neutrality, Schnootrality

Our favorite Byzantine-rite Calvinist (how many fish can there be in that pond?), David Koyzis, has written another post (July 28) critical of the two-kingdom/spirituality of the church views advocated here. In the piece he brings up the common retort of neo-Calvinists that all other so-called Christian outlooks are guilty of affirming neutrality if they don’t follow a Reformed world-and-life-view. In this case, our debate has concerned the contemporary academy and remedies for the secularism that afflicts it. (Actually, banality may be the bigger problem of the modern university, except of course during March Madness.)

Leaving aside finding solutions to what afflicts contemporary academic life, the neo-Calvinist pattern of falling back on charging non-neo-Calvinists with neutrality is getting old (and worse than being called Lutheran) and fails to see how much neo-Calvinism actually resembles fundamentalism at a deeper level.

The fundamentalism on which I cut my soul was constantly splitting the world in two, between the sacred and the profane, as if some shared existence was not possible for believers and non-believers inhabiting the same neighborhood, working in the same office, pledging allegiance to the same flag. Kuyperians may have a more sophisticated version of the fundamentalist mindset – think of all that epistemology and post-Kantian idealism – but the position still strikes me as one that fails to recognize the common arenas of the created order such as the state, marriage, and education. Do Christians and non-Christians pursue these matters differently? From an ultimate perspective, yes. The former strive to engage in these activities to the glory of God, the latter do not. (But let’s remember the filthy rags that afflict even the pursuit of God’s glory.) From a penultimate perspective, it’s hard to see how a history prof teaching the survey of the United States at Cow College U. is doing the job any worse than the prof at Consistently Calvinist College. The standards for that evaluation are not Scripture or the creeds; they are set by the American Historical Association and the leading graduate departments of history.

It is also hard to see how neo-Calvinists make any sense of the Westminster Standards’ teaching on the Lord’s Day, as in the distinction between sacred duties of worship and rest, profaning the Lord’s Day by doing that which is explicitly sinful, or even breaking the fourth commandment by doing common work on the Sabbath that is actually lawful on other days. In other words, the Standards assume that three categories of moral evaluatoin – the sacred, profane, and the common, and these spheres actually shift depending on whether the day is holy or ordinary (as in common).

So someone like myself who affirms the common is not asserting neutrality. God is Lord over all things. But that Lordship is not always redemptive. Sometimes it is merely creational or providential. As I like to say, Christ was Lord in Iraq even before U.S. forces invaded.

This distinction is also important for two-kingdom folks who worry about neo-Calvinism invariably turning theologically liberal. Koyzis objects to my apparent fallacy of saying neo-Calvinism is flawed because it has so often resulted in churches more concerned about working out a Reformed view of math or television than communions that hold on to the Cannons of Dort. He may have a point regarding the logic of my historical observation. At the same time, I wonder if neo-Calvinists have the capacity to observe that their project has not worked out well in either the Old World or the New one and that adjustments may need to be made.

But aside from the merits of historical trends, the distinctions among the holy, common, and profane are actually important for the way neo-Calvinism has played out in theologically suspect results. By trying to redeem the culture, or the state, or the house, neo-Calvinists feel good about denying the sacred-secular distinction, thus asserting Christ’s Lordship over every single cubit millimeter. Yet, I have not seen a neo-Calvinist recognize that one of the chief features of Protestant modernism was a similar denial of the sacred-secular distinction in order to Christianize everything, to affirm God’s rule over all areas of life, not just in the religious or holy ones. Again, fundamentalism is the flipside of this impulse, and differs by refusing that the culture or the state can be Christianized (of course the home is sacred, family values and all that). By failing to acknowledge that part of existence is good even apart from redemption because it is created, neo-Calvinists want to redeem things that do not need to be saved. And it is this expansive view of salvation – because of the missing category of the common or created – that leads to liberal theology.

66 thoughts on “Neutrality, Schnootrality

  1. You Go, DG!

    By the way, do you think there’s a connection between the episode entitled “Reformation” of the third season of The Wire and its October air date? Mmmhhh, could be that the HBO writers are profane, common, AND holy!

    Facientibus benedictus nocturnus,
    Father T.


  2. “Neutrality.” If I had a dime for every time I’d have, like, a lotta dimes. But a dime is also what one gets in (southwest) Michigan for “redeeming” cans and bottles, which helps where the 2K peso has a bad exchange rate. The world is funny.


  3. A question from a non-historian: While I agree entirely with your discussion of sacred/secular, I’m wondering about your example of a college course on the Survey of U.S. History. Specifically, since interpreting history involves all sorts of value judgments (in my very amateur opinion), shouldn’t the Reformed Christian be in a better position to make such value judgments than say an atheist professor? I am not asking if a Survey in U.S. history is a partly secular and partly sacred subject; I’m asking: “Shouldn’t the grace that the Calvinist has received in Christ, and the knowledge of Reformed Theology, assist him or her in this secular calling of teaching U.S. History?”


  4. David, if it’s a question of whether America conforms to some sort of Christian standards as a nation, I suppose a Reformed historian would be in a better position than an atheist. The problem there, however, is that a Reformed historian like myself does not think the U.S. needs to conform to a Christian standard more than any other nation. Plus, I’m not sure the Bible reveals a religious standard for evaluating nations, unless of course you want to use OT Israel. At that point, the whole American project is a case of infidelity since we got rid of a king.

    Second, I think an atheist might have a better idea about America’s political traditions than a Reformed Christian (at least a neo-Calvinist one who tried to derive political theory from special revelation). An atheist might have an easier time arguing that the U.S. has departed from its Constitutional provisions and has done so precisely because many American Calvinists thought more about pursuing a holy nation than they did about preserving a federated republic of states.


  5. DGH. Thanks! I was actually thinking more in terms of how historians work out motives and the forces that explain events. For example, wouldn’t a historian who thinks people are “basically good” inevitably interpret such forces differently than a Christian?

    I should add that the best lectures I’ve ever heard on Reformation history were given by a Roman Catholic (Brad Gregory) and virtually all of the best historians I’ve read on the Ancient world were/are not Christians.


  6. David, I see your point. But I know next to no historian who believes people are basically good. Historians are especially dubious about department chairs, academic deans, and university presidents.


  7. DGH, thank you for posting this. I had struggled for a while knowing how to respond to the charge of neutrality or relativism from Neo-Calvinists. Thankfully, Kline, Horton, yourself and others at Westminster have helped to open the eyes of so many. There is nothing wrong with involvement with the common. Just because I don’t have a Christian view of grocery shopping (Walmart or Safeway) does not mean I am a relativist.


  8. Just a note:
    By definition, neocalvinists (of the Kuyperian/Dooyeweerdian sort) do not/ cannot try to derive political theory from special revelation.

    Hint for those interested in answering Darryl’s ostensible wonderment about neocalvinism concerning sacred/secular: the distinction between “structure & direction”.


  9. Baus, where is the bureau that certifies true neo-Calvinism? I’d like to see their brochures and criteria for admission. Now James Skillen may not be sufficiently neo-Cal for you, but he goes to great lengths to try to derive a “comprehensively” biblical political philosophy. If Skillen is not a neo-Calvinist then the bureau needs to be absorbed by the Family Research Council.

    Come on, saying that neo-Cal’s don’t base their views on special revelation is like saying all OP’s believe in natural law.


  10. “neo-Calvinism is flawed because it has so often resulted in churches more concerned about working out a Reformed view of math”

    Sign me up! Where are these churches, Dr. Hart? Will they let a predicativist like me take communion?


  11. Like any school of thought, neocalvinism has its cannons. No bureaucracy necessary, thankfully. There are certain self-appointed “gate keepers,” Dutchy VanderJerksma, et al, but they will be dead and forgotten soon.

    I have my differences with Skillen&CPJ, but I’m not aware that development of political theory with regard to “deriving it from Scripture” is really one of those differences.

    Feel free to point out where I can find Skillen’s attempt to derive political theory from special revelation, so I can more thoroughly critique his waywardness.


  12. Take a look at The Scattered Voice where Skillen argues for politics based on biblical notions of justice and righteousness.

    But I don’t see how the general position of neo-Calvinism on making Christ lord of all things, including politics, is free from an appeal to special revelation. You only find Christ in scripture. Even a 2k view that speaks of Christ’s lordship in creational rather than redemptive terms is bound to appeal to the Bible.


  13. Darryll: “redeem things that do not need to be saved”? I am not sure to which brand of neo-calvinism you were exposed. I am post-Dooyeweerdian but I always believed that one of the common trends in the broad school of reformed philosophy is exactly honouring the common foundation of creation that is originated and maintained in Christ (Col 1 and Rom 1). So (with a logical jump) I believe the good and given supra-historical structures for e.g. the state are maintained in Christ without us lifting a finger and to the benefit of all, christian or not. So the sacred is embedded in what many claim to be secular. The christian task is to promote respect for the creational givenness of such structures and not reduce the state to a church department (some catholicism brands) nor exalt the state in fascist or totalitarian idolatry as the mother of the rest of society (French model). Two idols denied in “secular” practice.


  14. Do you guys have an encyclopdia somewhere? Fine, so you want to avoid the pitfalls of secular liberalism. I’m not sure that recognizing the sacred in the secular is the way to do it. But out of curiosity, in the definitions of neo-Calvinism with which you are familiar, what exactly does “redeeming the culture” or “redeeming television” mean? Maybe I missed it, but neo-Calvinists seem to spend more time chasitizing the critics of such glib phrases than the phrase makers themselves. Maybe if the pure neo-Calvinists could restrain the impure, the world would achieve shalom.


  15. “neo-Calvinism is flawed because it has so often resulted in churches more concerned about working out a Reformed view of math”

    Of course this is bluster and sophistry with the intent of making a point via hyperbole, right? As Van Til said, mathematicians can count, they just can’t account for their counting. The so-called Reformed view you speak of simply seeks to fill out the details of what Van Til said here. In other words, what kind of world would we have to live in for the project we call doing math to be possible or intelligible? Perhaps a worldview which states that distinctions are illusion and all is one (so no 2 or 3 , so math is illusary). Perhaps a worldview that says all is contingent, so 7+5 could equal 11. Perhaps a Platonic worldview? But how do they resolve their tensions? Perhaps the prevelant view in the academy that there is no irreducible normativity to nature (and that is the reigning dogma in the academy)? But of course math has irreducible normative properties. Then, we can ask what kind of picture of the world makes sense of normativity. Certainly not the modern scientific one expressed by so many naturalists. We can also ask what kind of world we’d need to have for the mathmatical operations of our cognitive faculties to be reliable. Certainly not the modern conjunction of evolution + naturalism. Then, how about the fact that the cause of some of our mathematical beliefs (conclusions) are caused not by neurons firing but by other mathematical beliefs, the inferential force of which causes us to believe the conclusion? Shall I keep going?

    To me, that’s what the “neo-reformed” are trying to do here. You would win more converts if your posts weren’t like a bad 50’s horror film that could be titled: “Attack of the 50 Foot Straw Man!” As a historian, you should pay careful attention to detail and familiarize yourself with what people are actually saying rather than the caricature that they are really trying to say that there is a specific Christian way to turn a wrench.

    “But I know next to no historian who believes people are basically good.”

    Sheesh. This is except for the 2K historians who believe that neo-calvinsits are basically stupid for thinking there is a Christian way to add apples, right?

    All this and I’ll add: I’m not a neo-Calvinist and have my own problems with what they think they can show with a Van Tillian argument, but at least I can represent them correctly.


  16. Daryll. Mmm. I feel like finishing this one first. It seems we agree that some things are given by creation. You seem to prefer that we call that …. common? secular? I call it sacred for the simple reason that it is from the Creator God. Why would you hesitate to share that? And is my point wasted that this creational givenness of government/state structure goes out above what we have in terms of a historical legacies of politics and state?


  17. I’m a 2Ker who lives, moves and has his being amongst neo-Calvinists. The suggestions here aren’t sophistry or bluster or mis-representin’. If the CRC took her confessional tradition as seriously as she took her world-and-life views, well, watch out. As it is, however, forces are gathering to castrate the confessional formulations into low view/high opinion evangelical relics (i.e. the committee to revise the form of subscription) while offerings are still being taken up to off-set the cost of instilling world-and-life views (i.e. Christian day schooling).

    Why, just the other day over lunch, my CRC pastor displayed pure amazement upon discovery that the local day schools require comparative religion and make anything resembling biblical instruction electives. He surmised that this accounts for his high school catechumens having absolutely no doctrinal framework when they enter his class. I realize CVT would’ve lamented this as well, but I think it has to do with the fact that, while everybody knows what Christians doing education is, nobody really knows what the heck Christian education could possibly mean in the first place.


  18. Paul, sorry but it seems you have proved my point. In response to my charge about the problems of neo-Calvinism and the loss of theological rigor in Reformed churches, you respond about the importance of a Christian world view on math. Huh? Would you possibly contend that teaching the catechism to all church members is less important than developing a Christian view of math? Why would a plumber or janitor or historian for that matter need a Christian view of math? And is a Christian view of math something to which the church is called? You see, questions about the importance of certain realms of truth are at stake, as well as the nature and mission of the church. But for some reason, you think channeling Van Til for neo-Calvinism’s defense answers my reservations.

    No one here has ever accused neo-Calvinists of being stupid. What is at stake is whether they can see the implications of at least some of their views and readjust so that the church is the place where real Christian worldviews happen, even if Tom, Dick and Harriet don’t have a degree in epistemology, because Tom, Dick and Harriet know and believe their catechism.


  19. I don’t see writing history as a sacred duty. It is something that I give up for my lent known as the Christian sabbath. If it were a sacred duty, then I might be able to do it on the sacred day of the week. (It doesn’t even qualify as a work of necessity and mercy.)

    I see politics and state craft in a similar way, though I concede that some aspects of the state may be works of necessity and mercy. (I am thankful that I have the protection of police on the Lord’s Day, though I wish they’d put away their speed guns.) In my lexicon, sacred is the equivalnt of holy, and that means something set apart for the special and unique work of redemption. I can see how a host of common and secular tasks contribute indirectly to redemption. But for me it is sacred only if it contributes directly to redemption.


  20. Piet,

    It seems we agree that some things are given by creation….I call it sacred for the simple reason that it is from the Creator God.

    It seems by “sacred” you mean “very good.” Why can’t you just say “very good”? That’s what the Creator said when he made it. And if everything is sacred then nothing is.


  21. Thank you. Obviously I cannot argue with you. I can only say why I see it differently. I seem to see that God’s cultural commissioning to man in Gen 1 still stands. So redemption releases me and others from the idols of this world (e.g. facism) to do the Gen 1 work as originally intended. This implies using the state as originally intended, an institution serving public justice. Every political achievement to establish public justice is to me the inbreaking of the kingdom into history – not into creation. So I have great difficulty discarding the Gen 1 commission as less than sacred. It feels to me like an attempt to rob God of his original plan. If we stop at redemption I believe we are not going into the good works intended for us as salt and light. And I think that is what I share with my brothers in Kuyperian and Calvinian traditions – even though they may otherwise view me as theologically liberal. God bless!


  22. Zrim,

    “The suggestions here aren’t sophistry or bluster or mis-representin’.”

    So I guess I can call your bluff? Do you have the sources of those who have actually said that there is a specific Christian way to count on your fingers, i.e., the mechanics of it are different when a Christian does it than when a non-Christian does it?


  23. I do not think I am saying that everything is sacred. I say that the commissions from God in his creational word is sacred. And inside every area of life there is a good and a bad. The good is normative and the bad is antinormative. The normative is the holy grail which we see dimly at first but as we repentingly discard the idols of our culture in general and the area specifically, the holy grail for e.g. statemanship or business enterprising becomes clearer and clearer through history. But on the way there it is a continuous battle for us humans to get our actions good in terms of the holy/sacred grails – the norms for creation given by God and which he intends us to access in terms of our Christredemption and communion with the Holy Spirit.


  24. To be clear: I’m not “Paul”. And I am neither American nor Dutch, so I am not familiar with the church situation in those places. It would help me if you could be more specific and less hyperbolic (as the other Paul put it). But if you are seeking to speak to a particular audience, then fair enough. I’ll leave Baus et al to fly the flag! 🙂


  25. I suppose I don’t know why one would need the joker card when there are plenty who readily admit that redemption has a direct bearing on and obvious implication for creation.


  26. Why, or how, would something creational also be sacred? But the problem, Piet, is the reality of the fall into sin. That, as they say, changed everything. I don’t see an accounting of that key piece of reality in what you are saying. Actually, what it sounds like is a form of prosperity gospel, where creation can and should get itself back to the garden.


  27. I don’t really see an attempt to “derive political theory” from Scripture in Skillen’s “biblical notion of justice”. Indeed, the neocalvinist (or Principled Pluralist) view is largely identical to the Klinean/Vosian school, eg.

    Referencing Scripture is surely not the same as saying “Here, in such&such a passage, the Bible presents a theory about whathaveyou.” Neocalvinism is categorically opposed to that sort of reading of Scripture. We deny the “encyclopedic assumption” (ie, the notion that the Bible gives specific guidance on everything), and we affirm that Scripture is covenantally-focused, or directed to redemptive-history in a non-theoretical way. We don’t even think that the Bible gives us, technically speaking, “theological” science/theory! The Word of God itself is not theoretical abstraction, nor fallible inference.


  28. Maybe it is not the detailed politics of some Christians, but the neo-Calvinist reflects an unwillingness to learn political theory from the pagans. Why is that? Because pagans like Aristotle can’t be trusted? But why is Skillen’s political theorizing any better than Aristotle’s?

    The other main objection concerns whether the Bible was intended to provide a standard of public justice. That kind of reading of Scripture, as I keep trying to warn, is the kind that generated the social gospel and progressive Protestantism. Come to think of it, neo-Cal’s have been pretty progressive.


  29. Apparently Darryl isn’t positing my response to him. Needless to say, I said nothing about importance. I said nothing about catechism being replaced by philosophy of math. I said (and didn’t imply) nothing about plumbers needing to study philosophy of math. I obviously didn’t “channel” CVT, but am surprised to hear that Hart is so favorable to the psi hypothesis. Anywho . . .


  30. Zrim. I think the reckoning of sin is clear in my previous communications. Maybe I can expand on what Dooyeweerd taught me about structure and direction. The fall into sin touched our hearts and hence the way in which we design our culture (of which science forms part). So sin and limitations are clear in the radical (pre-church, pre-faith and pretheological) religious direction of our cultural activities as I illustrated with political examples. Direction can be either towards the given structure or opposing it. And in the cities of refuge of Numbers 35 we see the kind of compromise Moses/God was prepared to make as a first step towards proper public justice. Prosperity gospel? I enjoyed Mead’s God and Gold and learnt a lot. I think he pushes common grace a bit too much and is certainly not critical about the consumerist and other excesses of capitalism. But I think it is unwise to deny the importance of growth.


  31. Paul, shoot the reply, the site administrator. Apparently, something in your profile has prevented the hardware from publishing your reply. Maybe we have neutral software. There are no comments pending at the site. Maybe you had a neo-Calvinist dream.

    Let me break it down. You quoted my remark about the effects of neo-Calvinism on the church. So my point had to do with what the work of the church is. You took the bait and proceeded to defend a Christian world view on math. In other words, you did not comment on the place of a Reformed world view in the teaching ministry of the church. You also left dangling whether teaching Christian math is more or less important than the catechism. That you decided to defend math in response to a comment about the church leaves me less than neutral.


  32. I can think of one important way that direction fails you on the creation mandate, Piet. Marriage was clearly part of the original pattern. Marriage will not be around in the new heavens and new earth. It has regularly struck me that neo-Cals want to recovern an original created order and do not consider how different the blessed order of the new heaveans and new earth will be. Again, it seems to reflect an important difference between creation (good) and redemption (blessed).


  33. Piet,

    I realize the prosperity gospel suggestion seems abstruse. But when you consider that, instead of being ever and only about crass and uncouth stuff-ism, prosperity is really just a set of principles, it isn’t hard to see how mobile it can be. (Same goes for legalism or social gospel.) Prosperity comes in a variety of expressions, from meeting trivial felt needs to meeting mundane felt needs to meeting sophisticated felt needs. The main principle of prosperity, I think, is that redemption has a direct bearing on and obvious implication for creation. When the nature of and relationship between creation and redemption aren’t properly delineated is when we get triumphalist notions of the original creation order. Triumphalism is as much for the crass as it is for the couth.


  34. Darryl. I do not think the distinction of direction (good creation compliant culture) and structure (creation) fails me in the current dispensation since it holds for marriage as good for any other. And I think that the Dooyeweerdian view is for improving all of science in line with creation for this dispensation- and some of his instruments will be good for all of culture. I do not share a serious depreciation of living in the current dispensation in favor of a New Jerusalem one. Rather I believe in supporting burglaries of the kingdom into both the current present and in the current future. That feels to me very Biblical: Filling the current earth with the glory of God. I do not understand why the new heaven and earth of the next dispensation entered the communication. We have a commission to do something in this dispensation. That is actually all we can do.


  35. Piet, warning — we do not encourage feelings here even if they feel biblical. The reason that the new heavens and new earth came up in part was that you brought up direction. So where is creation headed? What was the original aim of creation? Was it a transformed NYC? Or was it the new Jerusalem where there will be no marriage (or procreation I assume).

    You may not be aware of it, but a lot of the Kuyperian arguments sound to two-k people very postmillennial and progressive. Al Wolters’ book, supposed the classic statement, talks about the pattern of creation, fall, redemption. And he stops there. He leaves off consummation, and actually sounds as if the project of redemption is to restore the pre-fall created order, which suggests he doesn’t have a concept of consummation or blessedness in his account of creational goodness. That is, it was good, but not blessed. Adam would have inherited a better existence had he not sinned.

    And this raises a question about a paradox within the created structures from the very get go. Is redemption simply on a continuity with creation? Or was there an implicit tension between what was, and what would be?

    Speaking of biblical feelings, have you ever read Calvin on how to view the present life? How biblical does that feel, when he talks about life in this world as a sentry post from which we remain on the watch for the Lord’s return. I suspect you find that outlook a little too passive. But then there’s a reason why Calvin prayed that we not become too deeply attached to earthly and perishable things. I believe it is the chief difference between paleo- and neo-Calvinism.


  36. Anyway, the point is that all of the things you tried to pull out of my comment are not the case. Teaching philosophy of math is not more important than the catechism, but math and history are not “neutral.” There are hundreds of presuppositions, conscious or non, those disciplines have. Plumbers don’t “need” a Christian view of math or a copy of Deconstructing Evangelicalism on their shelf. The church doesn’t need to tell all her members that they have obligations to constribute to the philosophy of math, or two-kingdom debates in the blogosphere. I did not have a neo-Calvinist dream since I like to watch sports. I love baseball, played it, but football is my favorite. It’s all about drawing lines and taking stands. Isn’t that what a “Machen’s warrior child” is all about? I don’t think football needs to be redeemed, and I think bumperstickers of sports teams are more proper than WWJD stickers on cars. Now, I don’t wear a bowtie. So if that makes me neo-calvinist, than perhaps I have dreamt my 5 or so attempts to post here. Anyway, take care.


  37. Paul, where did I say history and math are neutral? Wasn’t part of the point to say they are common, not neutral?

    So what’s your take on the idea that someone may have a good presupposition about math, but is still a lousy mathematician?


  38. DGH, whadaya know, another comment disapeared.

    I never said you said they were, but your grasp of what makes not not neutral is insufficient.

    My take on the idea that someone may have a good presupposition about math, but is still a lousy mathematician is that it is a fine idea, same with the inverse. And?


  39. Paul, I think your problem posting here is that this is a common website and your machine is configured for redeemed technoloyg.

    Well, if someone can be a good mathematician without a worldview, what’s the point of having the worldview? And if someone is good at worldviews, but lousy at math, then maybe having a worldview is like doing math. It’s only a part of the intellectual universe (which is what I have always suspected, namely, worldviewism is the domain of philosophers, not people in other disciplines).

    And if a worldview is like doing calculus, how much does it really depend on spiritual realities. I’m no philosopher or historian of philosophy, but take it on lots of advice that Kant and Hegel were really good at worldview.

    Nowo to bring this back to my point, the church is to inculcate a worldview and it does this in catechesis, not philosophy classes.


  40. How much does ultimate worldview really matter when all I penultimately want from the clerk is correct change, the thief to spare my life, my teacher to know what two and two are, and my sheriff to keep the bad guys at bay? If each plays by the rules that are universally written, why would I care who or what s/he prays to if at all? I know the neo-Calvinist wants to tell me that all of life is religious, and I agree, but I don’t know why any of it matters for civil life if the common rules are being abided.

    I agreed with Bill Mahar that Sarah Palin was wildly unfit for office. But his reason—that she practices with craft—was the reason she should be kept from the communion table, not the Oval Office.


  41. Darryl, you can keep painting me with the neo-calvinist brush and attribute a position to me I’ve explicitly denied, but then why insist on raising your hand when (you think) someone misrepresents you?

    I’m surprised you asked the question that you did. First off, I never said they they didn’t have worldviews, we simply said they had the wrong one. Second, most people don’t want to be inconsistent. Third, an implication from these two simple points would say that there’s a point in having the right worldview. Or, to put it crassly, “Uhhh, ’cause people don’t want to hold false and/or inconsistent beliefs, not even plumbers.”

    Next, I’m confused why you would say “maybe having a worldview is like doing math.” Why would you make such a non-sequitur?

    To answer your question above, you should know that Kant had to posit God for part of his ethical system to work to work. Put simply, if a Christian worldview allows one to make sense of ethics (at least at the metaethical level, e.g., how irreducible norms fit into a purely descriptive universe), and removes the above defeaters for knowledge that the conjunction of belief in evolution and naturalism give, then it’s pretty easy to see how one “depends on spiritual realities”.

    Your last comment makes you sound like a fundie. You throw sheep to the wolves and hope their “bah, bah, bahing” at the questions people will ask them (both atheist and other believers) will somehow fend off requests for how they can rationally believe what they say they do. What do they do when they face the hard questions of the Christian physicalist? Of the libertarian free will theorist? Plug their ears and scream loud? Simply because you don’t (or can’t) appreciate philosophical and theological challenges to the faith doesn’t mean that saying “Confessionsaysithatsettlesit” works. It doesn’t when we come to the Bible, why think it does when we come to the confession?


  42. Paul, Oh good. Usually when neutrality gets uttered, fundie follows shortly thereafter. You may not be a neo-Calvinist (I didn’t even write neo-Calvinist in the previous comment), but you sure know the lexicon.

    I actually think you overestimate consistency. Folks in Philadelphia are quite happy to defend dogs and not consider what it means for life of all kinds. I myself am suspicious of what popular music does to cultural standards, but it doesn’t prevent me from listening to my favorite indie show at BBC1. You yourself seem to be pretty good at reading inconsistently.

    The point about comparing worldviews to math is what I said — it is one part of intellectual labor. Some people are good at language, some at logic, some at moral reasoning, and some at epistemology. You seem to think that the way we know and the way our knowledge hangs together is more important than any other kind of knowledge. I actually think that history is more powerful because it can relativize worldviewism and show when and where the current version of it originated — somewhere among the Hegelians (which in case you missed it, means it is less a biblical idea than many Reformed epistemologists think).

    The funny thing about your comment is that you sound at the end more Clarkian than Van Tillian. You suggest that when people face hard questions from a Christian physicalist (will my health insurance work with him?) they have no recourse except either to plug their ears and scream, or answer with an argument about the consistency of ideas. (What happens to those poor souls who never have the chance to go to college and study epistemology? I guess we have to hope they are not physically and vocally challenged.) Could it be that a Christian, without philosophical training will simply continue to persevere in the faith because of the work of the Spirit. I know that sounds fundy. But I thought the point of Van Til was that arguments were not sufficient to convince people of Christianity’s truth.


  43. The site caches pages. This helps with the server load, but it also means the page you see might be a few minutes old and therefore isn’t displaying the latest comments.


  44. Darryl, you mentioned my computer set for redemption, something you’d attribute to neo-calvs. So I read your statements life the Bible, i.e., even though ‘trinity’ isn’t in the bible we can find references to it, and even though ‘neo-calv’ wasn’t in your last post I find reference to it. Anyway, I saw the term ‘fundie’ pop up a lot in your Machen bio and your Deconstructing Evangelicalism. Guess we both got the language down.

    I am aware that when people are caught being inconsistent they frequently claim that they don’t mind being inconsistent, but so what. We both know that’s a crock because for some reason they keep looking both ways when crossing the street; or, when you apply some other self-referential incoherency to them, showing them that they are inconsistent, they will continue to say that they don’t care, which means they’re acting pretty consistent.

    I have no clue what you mean by saying “I seem to care more about the way we know and the way our knowledge hangs together is more important than other kinds of knowledge.” You’re fixated on finding what other people find important, even if you need to force it to fit. I also never said anything about my epistemology, or anything, really, for you to keep drawing these sloppy claims from.

    My comments about the Christian physicalist and the libertarian action theorists apply to you. It’s meant to apply to the pastors and teachers you’re churning out. Anyway, yes a Christian can persevere by the work of the Spirit, and they all do. But of course the Spirit uses means. And of course, just because you can’t answer the questions but nevertheless find bliss in ignorance or ignoring doesn’t mean that it’s going to go that way all the time. Some people actually take defeaters to their knowledge claims seriously. Both laity and specialist (though unfortunately the laity are catching up and in many cases surpasing the specialists given the access we have to top quality work). Arguments are not sufficient to cause people to repent, that’s the work of God. But you are confusing causes of belief with reasons for belief (a mistake G. Clark made all the time). Arguments have many different functions. They can work to strengthen a doubting believer, or the Spirit may use them to bring people to repentence. They can serve as defeater-defeaters too. Not only that, they are sufficient to convince some people. Being convinced that Christianity is true is not the same as bending the knee. I convinced my brother by argument. He says he believes that Christianity is true. But he says he just doesn’t want to go to church, read a Bible, or have any “change of mind and living.” Stinks when your assertions crash on the rocks of empirical evidence to the contrary, doesn’t it?


  45. Oh, BTW, G. Clark was all about arguments meaning squat. Van Til, on the other hand, bought that second cup of coffee. Clark was all about finding presuppositions and then sticking fingers in ears because, after all, we all have presuppositions. Clark never tried to prove Christianity and said it couldn’t be done since you can’t prove axioms. So much for the power of history in being able to relativize and synthesize worldviews. That would, at least, require studying the names you’re going to drop. I know it’s not glory-story enough, but I opt for the baseness of God’s use of means. Yeah, sometimes he brings in one of his elect through the means of hard work of years of toil a believer might give dealing with someone’s questions about Christianity. It’s boring and not the Damascus road, but it’s how God has chosen to work in many cases.


  46. Okay, Paul M.(nudge, nudge, wink, wink), since you don’t think a worldview is important, no reason to keep this exchange about how we perceive (know? knowledge? epistemology) the world going.


  47. Darryl, did I say that I “don’t think worldview is important?” You have a habit of claiming that I am saying that one thing is more important than another. When I point out that I never said that, you then claim that I don’t think that thing “is important.” Surely you can see the leap in logic? We’ve come full circle. See how much learning critical thinking would have helped. Surely you could have took time away from memorizing catechisms and used it to memorize rules of inference? This kind of illogic is what we see in the laity and hear, unforunately, from the pulpit all the time, unfortunately. Hey, who cares if the pastor is making illogical inferences and invalid arguments, not to mention violating all manner of informal fallacy, right? I mean, he memorized the Confession.


  48. Might as well end on a good note. In general I agree with most of what you write and what you’re doing, I own most of your books and have profited from them. I am no longer a theonomist or a “culture warrior” who equates good theology with belonging to the Republican party–though I am a conservative, mainly because of the logic of the position and the common arguments for it. However, I don’t have a problem arguing for all of the beliefs I hold, especially if I’ve been given a defeater for them. So, thanks. Padres and Chargers rule.


  49. I am wondering, what about Science? Should Christians follow the perceived consensus on the origins of the universe and man, or should they insert their interpretations of Scripture into Science? Should we in our secular callings, particularly those who are scientists, engage in science without letting our interpretation of the creation accounts or anything else modify our views? I agree with what Michael Horton said once, sometimes the theologians get it right, and sometimes the scientist get it right.

    I’m a bit off topic, but the issues raised in this blog just made me think of this.


  50. Hard to see how a secular history prof will teach differently? You have to be joking. The secular curriculum will barely, if at all, mention Witherspoon, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, or the views of Stonewall Jackson.

    And even where things are covered, the difference in attitude can be vast. Aquinas is primitive and boring while the multiple universe hypothesis is interesting and worth discussing, for instance.

    When you say, “The standards for that evaluation…are set by the American Historical Association and the leading graduate departments of history,” you can only mean the de facto standards. Do you really mean to suggest that we should simply follow the group? When the APA declares homosexuality to be healthy, for instance, do we just accept that as our norm for counseling? Is it not basic to Christian discipleship not to be conformed to the de facto (Rom 12:2), and to liberate our judgment (1 Cor 2:15)?


  51. Tim, do you really think they’re teaching Witherspoon and Stonewall Jackson at Calvin College?

    Not every decision or requirement a professional organization makes is good. But neither is the federal government’s or various state’s. So does legalized gambling in Pennsylvania invalidate Gov. Rendell? Does unjust war invalidate the U.S.A.? Are you a pefectionist — authority is only valid when it conforms absolutely and at all times to God’s law.

    Where exactly did you study theology?


  52. Hardly a substantive point, but I’m amazed at your collaborative revision of the canonical spelling of the word “canon.”


  53. Hiya!. Thanks for the blog. I’ve been digging around looking some info up for shool, but there is so much out there. Google lead me here – good for you i guess! Keep up the good work. I will be coming back in a couple of days to see if there is any more info.


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