And You Thought New York City Was Hard to Transform

indinaImagine the hurdles that Kuyperians in Indiana who practice law are facing. In fact, look at the vow this allegedly wholesome mid-western state, known for Booth Tarkington and high school basketball – if only they’d invented hot dogs and motherhood – requires of attorneys.

Rule 22. Oath of Attorneys
Upon being admitted to practice law in the state of Indiana, each applicant shall take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation:

“I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead the court or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law; I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client at every peril to myself; I will abstain from offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged; I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.” (From Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys)

The nerve of the Hoosiers. No acknowledgment of God as the creator and sustainer of all things, of Christ as redeemer of his church, no sense that notions of truth and falsehood, justice or crime come from the holy standard of God’s revealed will. Even worse, no mention of a Reformed world and life view, though I suppose the mention of God helps this go down better and lifts Indiana out of the vicious depths of Gotham.

But you do have to wonder how someone committed to the Lordship of Christ in every square inch could take such a vow. Isn’t Indiana guilty of proposing a common realm in which Christian and non-Christian lawyers must serve? And wouldn’t a Christian lawyer who took such a vow be acknowledging the existence of such a common realm. (Of course, it’s not neutral either; Indiana attorneys must always root for IU to beat Michigan.)

The answer could be the difference between theory and practice. Ideally, every square inch should be ruled by Christ, but of course it doesn’t work out in practice. If this were the explanation, then why mock those who try to find a theological rationale for such a common realm (which is what two-kingdom theology attempts)? After all, a two-kingdom attorney would have no problem taking such a vow. His conscience is clear because he knows the older Protestant teaching on the civil magistrate was afflicted with Constantinianism and that expectations for a Christian state died with the passing of Israel.

But the attorney who regularly chastises two-kingdom proponents for selling out the Reformed faith and then turns around and lives with rules of Indiana’s common realm of rules for attorneys, well, that seems remarkably inconsistent if not a tad perverse. It’s as if he’s a Kuyperian in only parts of his life, like the holy times when dropping the kids off at the Christian day school and attending the school board meeting, and then in the common realm living the rest of his day under the rule of Indiana’s legal institutions. How dualistic!


42 thoughts on “And You Thought New York City Was Hard to Transform

  1. I hope this particular attorney you are speaking to and about knows what you’re referring to, because your description of Kuyperian views is hilariously uninformed.

    You write:
    Ideally, every square inch should be ruled by Christ, but of course it doesn’t work out in practice.

    Is this supposed to be your own belief, or a Kuyperian belief?
    Kuyperians know that all authority in heaven and earth is given to Christ, and all things are placed under his feet. I’d love to hear how you think this supposedly doesn’t “work out” in practice.

    You write:
    a common realm in which Christian and non-Christian lawyers must serve… wouldn’t a Christian lawyer who took such a vow be acknowledging the existence of such a common realm.

    Where did you get the idea of not “acknowledging” a common realm? Who thinks that Christians and non-Christians don’t live in the same universe?

    Darryl, you were making such progress in actually trying to address statements made by real people. Now you’ve slipped back into la-la land populated by absurd strawmen. How sad.


  2. Baus, you really don’t get out much, do you? See the links in the last post on home schooling. Then again, I forgot that Kuyperianism abides within the clique of Clouser, Dooyeweerd, and Baus. Now, that’s a law firm I’d use.


  3. You mean the last post on home schooling where R.S.Clark complains that his critic(s) “give no indication of having the slightest understanding of the historic Reformed doctrine of natural law… [of] never read[ing] Calvin on natural law, nor does [his] rhetoric give any indication of having read any of the other major classic Reformed authors on natural law.”

    Gosh. Sounds like you guys should practice what you preach.
    Before you spout anymore nonsense about what Kuyperians think, why don’t you read up on it?


  4. Depends what you’re asking. It is certainly a vow that a Christian can make in good conscience, as with other such vows. The content of what one vows to uphold doesn’t have to be superior to be legitimate to vow to uphold.

    That’s a different question than whether the contents of Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Indiana are entirely expressive of neocalvinistic views.

    But this question you’ve now raised is a total smoke-screen for the fact that you are trying to represent taking such a vow as somehow inconsistent with Kuyperian views, when in fact you have yet to adequately describe a recognizable Kuyperian view and explain why/how on Kuyperian assumptions one could not make such a vow.

    What you present as supposed Kuyperian assumptions (viz, 1. the rule of Christ is theoretical, while He is not ruling everything in practice, 2. Christians and non-Christians do not exist in any common realm –whatever that might mean) are apparently drawn from your own imagination.

    Now, you tell me, would a “two-kingdom” attorney be able to take a vow to uphold the Constitution of a civil government in which there is a civil establishment of religion?


  5. Baus, a 2k attorney could not take a vow to uphold laws supporting a religion he did not profess, unless the attorney is the prophet Daniel, where he supports a pagan regime up to the point of actually worshiping another God. I’m not sure why you ask.

    You will really have to get the Kuyperian seal of approval copyrighted because, believe it or not, lots of people claim to be Kuyperian whom you do not consider the genuine article. The said Indiana attorney, in this case, and his theological inspiration, a certain Dutch Calvinist professor, happen to think they are very Kuyperian and are very critical of 2k views.

    If a 1k Calvinist could take the Indiana attorney vows, then what’s all the fuss about a Reformed world and life view affecting everything we do all the time? It sure looks like this vow doesn’t acknowledge the God a 1k Calvinist worships. So if a 1k Calvinist can take it, then what’s the big deal with your epistemological quest for Reformed ideology? I mean, the common realm here affirmed by Indiana attorneys is one where members agree to put aside their various personal convictions in order to practice the law according to general rules of fairness and justice. Can a 1k Calvinist really put aside his personal convictions, and can fairness and justice really be considered apart from the self-contained ontological Trinity.

    At least the Covenanters had the good sense not to take the vow and not to bog everyone else down in post-Kantian idealism to justify the refusal.


  6. dgh wrote: “The answer could be the difference between theory and practice. Ideally, every square inch should be ruled by Christ, but of course it doesn’t work out in practice.”

    Christ does not rule only where he is obeyed. He rules over jurisprudence in Indiana too, which is why He has authority to punish at the Last Day those who disobey Him in their practice of law in Indiana.

    The questions is, then, by what standard will He judge them? By that oath? Matt. 7:2 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” So in a sense, yes. And we must render to Caesar what is his. But we must also render to God what is God’s. God’s standard is His own holiness, which is higher than any human law. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God, and not equal to but second to this command is to love your neighbor (which would include “Caesar”). All the Law the and the Prophets (that’s a reference the Bible, even the OT!) hang on these two commandments. Thus God’s norm for justice in Indiana is the Scriptures. If the rules of the state, in this case the judicial branch of government, don’t reflect God’s character then that’s not a sign that Christ doesn’t rule there, only that His rule isn’t being obeyed.


  7. Thus God’s norm for justice in Indiana is the Scriptures. If the rules of the state, in this case the judicial branch of government, don’t reflect God’s character then that’s not a sign that Christ doesn’t rule there, only that His rule isn’t being obeyed.

    So, if the norm for justice in Indiana is special revelation instead of general revelation, then when a man mows down a classroom the judge suspends punishment on the grounds that we are to love our enemies and turn the other cheek? Or, wait, when the judge actually carries out law instead of gospel, without being explicit that said law is derived from Jesus, that means he is disobeying the Most High?

    But the first instance would be the mistake of the Anabaptists, the confusion of law and gospel, where we dishonor the dead for the sake of false and misguided piety. The second is the mistake of the theonomists, the confusion of law and law, where we dishonor justice by saying it never really happened when it actually did.


  8. Zrim writes: “So, if the norm for justice in Indiana is special revelation instead of general revelation…”

    I do not agree with this condition. Certainly general and special revelation are unique and distinct from one another, but they do not contradict one another as they are both the self-revelation of the Triune God, lest we charge God with being self-contradictory. But general revelation does not equal natural theology. This is especially the case given the noetic effect of sin as a result of original sin and total depravity (see Canons of Dort III/IV art. 4). So how do we know whether natural theology is good and/or true? By the testimony of God in Scripture, by which we can and must make judgements about the investigation and reflection of men upon nature/creation.


  9. Jonah: you wrote, “Christ does not rule only where he is obeyed.” That’s the 2k position. Thanks. But 1kers insist that unless Christ is obeyed, he does not rule. That’s the leverage for transforming culture or electing Christian statesmen (and Sarah Palin).


  10. Jonah,

    I get the incidental agreement between special and general revelation when it comes to law. But we have to speak much more carefully than, “Thus God’s norm for justice in Indiana is the Scriptures.” This is the native language of the theonomists and Constantinians and the neo-Calvinists and all manner of 1Kers. Maybe that’s your point.

    But the point of the Scriptures (or special revelation) is gospel, reconciliation, forgiveness, grace. These things are really bad for norming justice. I don’t want my sheriff taking the cues of Scripture when my daughter is murdered. I want him steeped in general revelation (that most elegant book) normed by the categories of law, justice, and punishment. Contrariwise, I don’t want my elders awash in law when I sin. I want them saturated in grace. But maybe you come by it honestly enough, as your namesake was put out over how law and gospel operate.


  11. dgh wrote: “But 1kers insist that unless Christ is obeyed, he does not rule.”

    I think this is factually inaccurate. But perhaps you have data to back that up. And I don’t think we should be operating on the premise that all Reformed and/or Presbyterian folk identify themselves as either 1k or 2k. Nor should we operate on the premise that all people who identify themselves as either 1 or 2k define and distinguish the terms and qualifications of their position in the same way. Anyways…

    My concern with 2k, as some of its proponents explain it, is the implication for our philosophy of ethics and epistemology. For example, when someone makes a claim that they say is based on natural theology, and this claim appears to be contrary to what Scripture teaches, how do we know whether it really is contrary to Scripture? Or does this even matter? By what standard do we make such judgments? Do general revelation and special revelation contradict one another?

    Does the Bible (God’s Word) have no authority outside the church? If not, how is this known? From general revelation? or special revelation? or both?

    I get the impression from some 2k proponents, and correct me if I’m wrong, that Christ may not rule *in accordance with the Scriptures* over the kings of the earth; that Christ is restricted to using only general revelation as a standard of judgment in matters pertaining to the “kingdom” or “spheres” beyond the Church.


  12. Zrim wrote: “But the point of the Scriptures (or special revelation) is gospel, reconciliation, forgiveness, grace.”

    Aren’t there a few laws here and there in the Bible?

    Zrim wrote: “I don’t want my sheriff taking the cues of Scripture when my daughter is murdered.”

    Zrim, I don’t think even you believe this.

    Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

    Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.”

    Romans 13:4, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”


  13. Jonah,

    Of course the Bible contains laws, but they are in service to gospel. My point is that special revelation actually understands its own point to be about the fact that grace outpaces law. That’s why it’s the church’s book, not the world’s. The world gets something like the Constitution.

    If the Bible is about God reconciling sinners to himself instead of judging them, and if my sheriff uses the Bible with that understanding, then my daughter’s killer gets to go free. The other option is to say that the Bible isn’t about gospel but about law (or at least as much about law as it is gospel), and her killer gets hanged. But now I’m still in trouble with God. Call me greedy, but I want my daughter’s killer hanged and me to be right with God. The only way to have my cake and eat it too is for 2K to be right.


  14. Zrim writes: “…I want my daughter’s killer hanged …”

    But how do you know that what you want is God-glorifying?

    What if the law of the land said that your daughter’s killer should only get 5 years in jail? How would you know that to be unjust? What if the majority of people thought that he shouldn’t receive the death penalty? By what standard would you evaluate this majority opinion as wrong?


  15. Jonah,

    I’d say now you seem to be quibbling. I was using “hanged” to make a larger point about law and gospel. But law-light for her killer is still miles better than full-on gospel.

    I think at bottom of your line of epistemological questioning (of me and dgh) is an old-fashioned lack of faith in general revelation. You don’t fundamentally believe it can do what it has been ordained to do. You worry about its frailties, about bad or wrong decisions being made, about imperfections. So you smash the “God-glass” and say special revelation will make sure things will go right, or at least not as wrong as they could. The problem, however, is not that sinners have the wrong book or set of rules in their hot little hands, the problem is that sinners are sin because they are sinners regardless.

    Consider that sinners fail miserably even when they correctly labor to let special revelation rule the church (or maybe your Reformed church is infallible?). If such ecclesial bodies are no less vulnerable to failure (as in Corinth), what in thee heck makes anyone think civil spheres will be better off by breaking the rules about book assignments?


  16. Hanged, shot, stoned, given the needle — we know that murderers deserve the death penalty because of what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Is this what you wanted to say but didn’t?

    As for general revelation, I’ll give you a summary of what I believe: “We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom. 1:20). All things which are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation.” (Belgic Confession, Article 2).

    “There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and hinders in unrighteousness, by doing which he become inexcusable before God.” (Canons of Dort, Chapter III/IV, Article 4).

    Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    Zrim, how do we know what Jesus commanded so that “all nations” might obey it?

    And by asking you this question, do you see what I am driving at? In part, I am trying to make the ethical and epistemological point that Article 7 of the Belgic Confession makes when it says the following about the Scriptures: “Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule…”

    Thus concludes my interaction with you, Zrim, in this blog post. Please take the liberty of having the last word. Though I would look forward to interacting some with Dr. Hart if he so chooses.


  17. Jonah, I think this is a key difference between us — the relationship between general and special revelation. Is it a relationship of continuity or discontinuity. Maybe both of us need to qualify some assertions, but to get the ball started I’d assert that it is patently obvious that two standards exist on the basis of general and special revelation. The former tells us, “do this an live.” The latter says, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall live.” Of course, in this case, Scripture says both. But Scripture also says that the natural order is sufficient to teach all men that there is a God whom they have offended. The natural order can’t reveal Christ.

    And when it comes to the way Christ rules over the church and over those outside the church, again the differences look pretty obvious based on these two truths. Christ’s rules his church in mercy and forgiveness. The only “do this and live” that makes sense inside the church is the righteousness of Christ that Chrsitians receive by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and obtaining eternal life. But Christ rules outside the church on the basis of strict justice, as in Romans 13 and what magistrates are supposed to do in punishing evil, etc.

    Of course, the two truths are not completely unrelated. The Covenant of Grace is based on Adam’s failure and Christ’s success in fulfilling the Covenant of Works. Still, 2k folks are much more comfortable with the paradoxical relationship between grace and law, redemption and creation. 1kers seem to want the two aspects to cohere. And this is why theonomy and neo-nominianism and transformationalism so often run in the same circles.

    But having just heard a terrific series of sermons on Ecclesiastes, which sure does emphasize the paradoxical side of creation and redemption, it’s hard for me to believe that the 2k view is impermissible.


  18. Hello Dr. Hart. My apologies for being slow to respond.

    Perhaps I should tell you a little about where I’m coming from. I am a member of a URC and so I subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity, though I’ve read the Westminster standards and would have no problem signing on the dotted line. I do happen to be a reader of the Christian Renewal, though over the past year I haven’t been consistent in that. I had read some of Dr. Kloosterman’s series on The Bible, the Church, and the World: a Third Way. Then I came across the issue in which Mr. Vander Molen presented that critique of WTSC’s Evangelium on Christian education. This prompted me to go back and read Dr. Kloosterman’s entire series thus far. I thought I’d come here to help myself figure out what all the fuss was about. I’m thinking I should probably read your book, A Secular Faith, for myself, though I’ll let you in on the secret that I found myself to be agreeing with Dr. Kloosterman’s critique of it.

    I had always thought that we could distinguish between two kingdoms in two different ways.

    FIRST way: there is this kingdom, heaven and earth, the entire universe, over which Jesus Christ has been given all authority, and over which he claims “every square inch” as his own. But because of the first Adam humanity fell into sin and this kingdom is under the curse of sin. God determined from all eternity to recreate or redeem this kingdom and elect a people from among it as His own. Then there is the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven, which Jesus says is not of this world, which is like a mustard seed, about which Jesus taught his disciples to pray “thy kingdom come,” which kingdom we must be born again to enter. This kingdom begins now but it is not fully and completely ushered in and realized until Jesus Christ returns to judge the living and the dead and the world is purified by fire. Then God will make His dwelling among men and this kingdom shall have no end.

    These aren’t exhaustive definitions. I’m just trying to echo some of what the Bible says.

    SECOND way: there is another way which we can distinguish between two kingdoms that does not correspond directly to the above way. Here now I have in mind the distinction that John Calvin made between two kingdoms or two worlds which I take as a manner of speaking about two different ways that Christ exercises His authority in this world. Call it the difference between Church and state (though I’m aware Kuyper spoke of other “spheres,” [family, business, etc.] which is helpful to a degree.) Christ rules over all men, believer and unbeliever, through the civil government/s he has ordained. As Christians we are also subject to Christ via the Church. Christ has ordained under-sheperds, elders, and he has given the Church the keys of the “kingdom.” While all men must fulfill the cultural mandate, the Church has been given the Great Commission.

    Once again these are brief definitions.

    So I don’t believe I can be called a 1k guy, nor am I convinced that I fit nicely into your understanding of 2k.

    With regard to what you said about general and special revelation, I don’t see these two as logically contradicting one another. Now certainly the gospel is not revealed in general revelation. I’m sure we agree on that. But I don’t believe that special revelation’s only purpose is gospel proclamation. When God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree, this command was given verbally. I don’t buy into a distinction that goes like this: “all people must obey general revelation but only the Church is required to obey special revelation.” People may not want to submit to the Bible, but this does not negate the fact that they’re required to — because its Author is the One they’re required to obey!

    I think I’ve written enough for now. I appreciate your time!


  19. If you agree with Kloosterman than you need to read A Secular Faith because he misreprestents me and my motives. He suggests (and at a couple of places states) that I am trying to give in to worldly or secular thought. Nothing could be farther from the case. What if I am trying to find Christian reasons for accepting secular ideas, like the way Daniel did? Kloosterman doesn’t even allow for that possibility. For him, it’s either CSI or secularism. That is just plain silly and uncharitable to boot.

    To clarify, I did not say that special revelation was only for gospel proclamation. I said that special revelation reveals Christ (and Christ is primarily synonymous with the gospel with several qualifications). Nowhere else can we find Christ but in Scripture and through the ministry of the church (word and sacrament). We can find plenty of places to find good ways to live as teachers, plumbers, drivers, mothers, etc. All of these ordinary vocations are revealed in general revelation and believers and non-believers have insights into the best “practices.” But only special revelation reveals the holy callings of church officer and believer.

    You appeal to the words given to Adam and Eve BEFORE THE FALL. This is hardly the pattern for what follows Genesis 3. And after the fall, “do this and live” is a curse to all people. Only “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved” will work for spiritual life after the fall.

    This means the church has one task — to advance the kingdom of grace (Heidelberg 123 is pretty clear about the nature of that kingdom and its ecclesial reference). The state has another task. The state lives with the residue of “do this and live, or else.” It punishes evil and rewards good. The church doesn’t do that because Christ has triumphed over evil and is our good.

    If you think everyone needs to submit to special revelation, and if you think special revelation is the norm for society/state/school, whatever, then how do you have a society/state/school where unbelievers are present? How can anyone apart from Christ and the work of the Spirit submit to your notion of special revelation?


  20. You write: “If you think everyone needs to submit to special revelation…”

    Yes, everyone ought to submit to it because its Author is the One whom they’re required to submit to.

    You write, “and if you think special revelation is the norm for society/state/school, whatever”

    Yes, it is the norm because its Author is the One whom all are required to obey. (And when I say that I’m not seeking to do away with the content, purpose and function of general revelation. Both general and special revelation are God’s revelation).

    You write: “then how do you have a society/state/school where unbelievers are present?”

    They’re present whether I like it or not. (Ok, that’s likely not the best answer but I’m on my 3rd beer tonight and I’m going to bed soon). But what ought they believe? And how ought they behave? In conformity with that which is in accordance with God’s holiness and character, which is revealed in general and special revelation.

    You write: “How can anyone apart from Christ and the work of the Spirit submit to your notion of special revelation?”

    I don’t want them to submit to my notion of it but to God’s notion of it. How can they submit to special revelation? They can’t, unless they’re redeemed by Christ. (But this does not negate common grace.) Lord, come quickly!

    P.S. I will read your book And once again I thank you for your time since I’m sure you’re not a man without a tight schedule!


  21. Jonah: two thoughts for three beers. If you think society should be ruled by Scripture, then you are thinking of society like the church. Sorry, but that makes you sould a lot like a theonomist (though with this important difference — not even Israel thought that the surrounding nations all had to bow down to Yahweh; they simply knew that pagans were not allowed in the kingdom of Israel. And yes, I know about Jonah, your namesake, and I’ll raise you by bringing up Daniel who studied all that pagan religion while excelling in Chaldean culture and language.)

    Second, you seem to disbelieve Paul and the apostles who did not say to their magistrates that they needed to submit to special revelation and did not say to their congregants that government is in place to enforce special revelation.

    So again, we have this problem of how to live together “in common” with unbelievers during this period of redemptive history. I accept that God has ordained that we live with the goyim. You guys don’t seem to be capable of living with the “other kind” (a reference to Liberty Heights for the Barry Levinson challenged).


  22. Dr. Hart, I’m not a Theonomist © and I don’t equate church and state.

    All men must obey the law because all men must obey God. Those under the covenant of works are required to keep it in order to live, even as you mentioned. Those under the covenant of grace are required to keep it, not in order to live, not in order to earn salvation, not in order to merit Christ and all his benefits, but we are required to keep it because we live, because we’ve been saved by Jesus Christ. We are to keep the law out of thankfulness for everything that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. (Hence the importance of the word “Therefore” in Romans 12:1.)

    The command, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, is intended to go out to “all nations” as Jesus said in the Great Commission. Not all will submit to that because not all are elect, because Jesus did not live and die and rise for everyone, only his sheep. This does not negate the fact that the reprobate are still required to obey God, to keep His law.

    So how do we know what God’s law is? How do we know how we’re supposed to love the Lord our God and our neighbor? From general and special revelation. Someone might say, “But not everyone has special revelation.” Why assume anyone’s entitled to it? Nevertheless, Christ gave the Church the Great Commission. Nevertheless, God gave us the Scriptures. Personal evangelism and apologetics are important as we as individual Christians encounter our unbelieving neighbors, whether it be in any “sphere” of life.

    You write: “…not even Israel thought that the surrounding nations all had to bow down to Yahweh; they simply knew that pagans were not allowed in the kingdom of Israel.”

    I agree, but they knew this through special revelation.

    You write: “…you seem to disbelieve Paul and the apostles who did not say to their magistrates that they needed to submit to special revelation and did not say to their congregants that government is in place to enforce special revelation.”

    But don’t you see what you’re doing here? You’re appealing to Scripture to make a determination about what the magistrates should or shouldn’t being doing! And it’s precisely because we’re called to do this that we know that the government isn’t supposed to carry out the means of grace, and enforce ecclesiastical discipline, and carry out the Great Commission, etc.

    What I’m saying at heart I suppose is that we know what’s true and right from general and special revelation. Both! The unbeliever may not want to submit to special revelation/The Bible, but we’ll just have to live with the unpleasantness of the antithesis until Christ returns.


  23. You’re exactly right, I’m appealing to Scripture to make a case that Scripture is now limited in its application (and I sure do wish you’d convey this point to Prof. Kloosterman who cannot recognize an appeal to Scripture beyond his own). Nero would have never qualified as a king of Israel, and yet Paul tells Christians to submit to Nero. Something happens in the shift between the old and new testaments, and it has to do with the way that Scripture governed much of Israels life because the cult and culture were one, and the way that Scripture after Christ’s coming governs the spiritual aspects of a Christian’s life. In the new testament, cult and culture are not coterminus. Christians can be Jews, and Greeks, and Italians, etc. In the OT they had to be Jews.

    That means that in the non-cultic spheres, Christians have liberty because the Bible doesn’t speak to those areas, or there is not unanimity about what general revelation requires.

    Do you mean to suggest there is a Christian way of plumbing? How about helio-centric vs. geo-centric astronomy? Where does a Christian come down?


  24. Jonah, I am now cashing in on your offer to take the liberty of the last word in our conversation (even if it’s one between you and Hart).

    Your controlling principle here is that “Scripture should norm society.” Yet you also maintain that the civil authorities aren’t “supposed to carry out the means of grace, and enforce ecclesiastical discipline, and carry out the Great Commission, etc.” But when a text is said to norm a sphere that necessarily means that sphere carries out said text’s prescriptions. If it doesn’t, what could it possibly mean to say the text norms that sphere? It’s a bit like saying a doctor’s knowledge norms his treatment of a patient but he can’t actually administer the means of healing to him.

    But your other concern seems to be that general revelation needs verification by way of special revelation. But have you ever wondered why the Israelites shook in their sandals as Moses spoke to them? Unless we concede tabula rasa (which would unravel Paul’s argumentation in Romans), it’s not because he was telling them things they didn’t already know but because he was employing what they already knew to make covenant with them (and they knew they couldn’t measure up). Nobody needed Moses to descend to know that stealing and murdering were wrong. Nobody stood there and said to his friend, “See, I told you those things were wrong. Now I have special revelation to prove it. Pay up.” Just as special revelation needs nothing from general (sola scriptura), general revelation needs absolutely no help from special revelation.


  25. You write: “You’re exactly right, I’m appealing to Scripture to make a case that Scripture is now limited in its application.”

    If we assume that Scripture is now limited in its application, then is this known by appealing to Scripture? If so, is it not the case, then, that Scripture’s *authority* is not limited, but rather its application? Or does the Bible limit its own authority? We might be arriving at the heart of our disagreement here.

    For example, let’s consider the statement: “Scripture does not norm cultural life.” Now, I reject this statement, but I’ll assume it for the sake of argument. Notice that the statement is itself a norm. Notice also that the statement concerns cultural life. How, then, is the statement known? From Scripture? If so, then Scripture DOES norm cultural life. Then the question is not WHETHER it applies to cultural life but HOW it applies to cultural life. We might disagree over WHAT it says about cultural life, but we should not disagree THAT it speaks about cultural life. If you want to contend that the Bible does not have the AUTHORITY to speak about cultural life, then such is a departure from Reformed orthodoxy: “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God” (Westminster Confession of Faith, I, 4).

    So if we agree that Scripture has authority to speak about culture, and if Scripture does have things to say about culture, then the only question is: what does it say about it?

    Someone might ask: Well, what about the unbeliever? Well, enter the Great Commission!

    I also would like to reply to your comments about cult/culture and Christian plumbers, but I’m about to go out for the night. Til next time!


  26. Right, you think that because I say the Bible is silent about plumbing, then I say it has no authority over plumbing. But if it is silent about plumbing, then what authority does it have over plumbing? I’ll admit that it’s theoreticlly possible for the Bible to reveal the best standards and practices for regulating water — though I also think that a desire for such revelation seriously reduces the profundity of what the Bible is given to reveal. But the issue between Kloosterman and me is that he thinks the Bible speaks about a whole host of areas where the Bible is silent — as in Christian education. The Bible doesn’t talk about formal schools for children, it doesn’t talk about curriculum, it doesn’t talk about having twelve grades, it doesn’t talk about grammar and high schools, it doesn’t talk about universities or medicine or physics. But somehow, by point this out I am guilty of denying the Bible’s authority. What I am guilty of is disagreeing with Kloosterman who has yet to make an exegetical case for a Christian school being required for office bearers. (Funny how Paul doesn’t tell Timothy or Titus to establish schools.)

    And just to raise the stakes, the Bible also doens’t say a whole lot about things more important than schools — worship. It tells us what the elements are, but it doesn’t tell us how much Scripture to read, when to read it, how many times to pray, or whether to have pews. Believe it or not, we have liberty even on matters of worship. But to say that the Bible is the norm for everything, or is authoritative for everything is to deny ch. 20 of the WCF.

    It is also to sound a lot like John Frame who denied the regulative principle of worship in order to expand the Bible to cover all areas of life. Why, because we worship God in all areas of life. Funny how the expansion of the regulative principle to all human endeavors allowed Frame to consider juggling as possibly appropriate for worship.


  27. Dr. Hart, I have created a somewhat lengthy response in answer to your questions about general/special revelation, cult/culture, and “Christian” plumbing. But I want to refine and edit if first before I post it here, which time does not permit me to do tonight. Regards.


  28. Whoops. Slight change of heart. It seems my “response” has grown to something more substantial than I originally anticipated, so I won’t be posted it here as I want to reserve it for possible publication.

    But for those still following this here let me make a couple of observations. When we say that Scripture does not speak about everything, what we ought to mean is that Scripture does not speak everything. Yet we can also say that the Scriptures do speak about everything in that there is no part of heaven and earth, no activity, no person that is not the object of the Scriptures’ speaking.

    So the Bible might not speak about plumbing per se, but if plumbing is to be considered a part of cultural activity, then Scripture does speak about it since the cultural mandate is given both before (Gen. 1:28; see also v. 29) and after the Fall (Gen. 9). Scripture also norms the motive, purpose, and goal of all human activity:
    1 Peter 1:15 – “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do”
    Matt. 22:37 – “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”
    Rom. 12:1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Or NKJV, “reasonable service.”

    Our Lord intended that these standards be proclaimed to all people: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28).

    These are only a light sprinkling of verses.

    As I see it, general and special revelation ought not be divorced from one another, regardless of the “sphere” of activity. They went hand in hand before the Fall. How much more is this necessary after the Fall!

    Anyways, I’m finished interacting here in this blog post. Let me finish by recommending the following article on the two-kingdom idea:

    God bless!


  29. Jonah, I don’t know if you’ve really run off, but I think these general propositions are completely unremarkable and don’t solve anything. On your view, because the Bible speaks of everything in some way, then the church, whose task is to minister the Word, may rule over everything. Your view can’t recognize that the Bible is silent on some things, and therefore the church may not speak to those things where Scripture is silent. This is a fundamental point of Reformed polity, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the spirituality of the church. I get a little heated on this because you Kuyperians keep telling us spirituality of the church folks that we are really only fundamentalists with our dualism. And yet you seem to have no conception of how the doctrine of Scripture has played out in Reformed worship and Reformed polity. And the reason for your apparent deficiency is that you have let Kuyperian claims about Christ’s cosmic rule cloud a whole host of previous utterances from within our tradition on the authority of the church and the authority of the word.

    And what do we get for all of this obsfication? We get Christian schools that aren’t terribly Reformed and not all that learned. What a bargain!


  30. Even better, here’s Van Drunen’s response to Kloosterman:

    It contains the following: “I raise for readers’ consideration not only that natural law and the two kingdoms are historic Reformed doctrines, but that they are part of the warp and woof of the Reformed system of doctrine. In classic Reformed theology, distinctive Reformed doctrines such as the Sabbath and the covenant of works were articulated with explicit reference to natural law. In classic Reformed theology, Reformed doctrines such as the regulative principle of worship and even justification were expressed with intimate relation to the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Perhaps that sounds preposterous, but it is true, as I hope to explain in some detail in the future. Is it any coincidence that the past century—precisely the time period in which natural law and the two kingdoms have largely fallen into disuse in Reformed circles—has witnessed serious erosion in commitment to the Sabbath, the regulative principle of worship, the covenant of works, and justification in Reformed churches? Or, to add another wrinkle, is it a coincidence that in the past couple of generations so many Reformed people have been tempted to embrace the theonomic movement and the majority that has resisted has offered for the most part only tepid and insipid alternatives? I do not think that it is in any sense a coincidence.

    “To put it one more way: Has the century of Reformed distaste for natural law and the two kingdoms been a golden age for confessional Reformed Christianity? I doubt many readers of Ordained Servant would think so. Our contemporary denominations that seem most serious about historic, confessional Reformed Christianity are small splinters off much larger bodies that have gone in different directions. Confessional Reformed Christianity has truly become sideline rather than mainline. Are our Christian primary and secondary schools and colleges, so many of which proclaim the neo-Calvinist vision of transformation and worldview cultivation and dismiss the two kingdoms idea as “dualistic,” stronger theologically and academically now than they were some generations ago? My interaction with the kind of people who read Ordained Servant leads me to guess that a great many of you would answer no (which is why a great number of you homeschool your own children).”


  31. I see the Ninevites are not repenting 🙂

    dgh: “… then the church … may rule over everything.”

    Neither did I say this, nor does this follow from what I’m saying, nor do I agree with it.

    Let me cut to the chase:
    Dr. Hart, should the command, “you shall not steal,” regulate the way a plumber does his plumbing? Let’s say that Joe the plumber gives a client a quote for a job that stipulates what work he’ll do, the materials he’ll use, and the cost. Now, no one’s saying that doing plumbing won’t require investigation into and learning from general revelation, e.g. chemistry, physics, kinetics, etc. (you and I agree on this). But why shouldn’t the plumber use lower quality, lower priced materials than what he quoted to the client? Why shouldn’t he lie and steal and in this way?

    It would be wrong, agreed? But how do we know it’s wrong? Let’s say that this thief of a plumber is a nonChristian, and it doesn’t bother him to steal like this because he reasons that God is dead and that the government’s law against stealing is load of nonsense. May we, not as Church and not as government, but may we as individual Christians point to the Scriptures to tell him that his theft is wrong?

    Maybe we’ll point out to him the Scripture verses about stealing and he still won’t care. But don’t the Scriptures have that epistemological and ethical authority? ….. Careful how you answer ….. careful ….. it could require a paradigm shift on your part.


  32. Jonah, how could this possibly require a paradigm shift? I was hoping for a Reformed view of soddering, or a creational approach to the movement of water through a house, or Reformed view about the superiority of copper to pvc. But not stealing? That’s all the vaunted Reformed world and life view cashes out to? Mind you, I’m all for private property, and I surely wouldn’t want a plumber cutting corners — as if Reformed workmen don’t do that. But you seem to go from a cosmic view of Christ as Lord over all of creation and glorifying him in every nook and cranny and then all we get is something Aristotle would have taught — don’t steal. The reason why every man knows not to steal is the law of God written on his heart (Rom. 1), and his capacity to imagine that if he does steal he won’t get more customers, or that he wouldn’t like it if someone cheated him. (BTW, since you bring up the law, it sure would be nice if you could convey to the Christian school advocates, like Dr. K. and Mr. Vander Molen, that the ninth commandment not only involves telling the truth but also protecting your neighbor’s good name, even the neighbor who doesn’t send his kid to a Christian school. I mean, if the law applies to the plumber, why not the polemecist for Christian schools?)

    Sure, you can tell your non-Christian plumber that he violated Scripture, but I’m not sure how effective that would be, or how that would make you look. But if you want to appeal to Scripture, go ahead. The question is whether you think I’m somehow guilty of bad faith if I don’t.

    And as for the church ruling over everything, of course you didn’t say it. (Nor have I ever said that common equals neutrality — funny this matter of implications.) But if the Bible speaks to everything, and the church ministers the Bible, why doesn’t the church have oversight over everything? Seriously, why wouldn’t you want to hedge your assertion so that it doesn’t mean the church has authority over everything. If the church doesn’t, even Christ delegated his authority to the church in the Great Commission, maybe the Bible doesn’t go as far as you think it does.


  33. So you are reasoning that if the nonChristian plumber is able to submit to the law of God as it is revealed in general revelation then he does not need the Bible. You and I both agree that he is not able to submit to the law as revealed in general revelation. Does this mean you and I agree he needs to submit to the Scriptures? If yes, then does he only need to submit to the Scriptures as far as the gospel is concerned, but not the law? (Please correct me if you believe I am wrong in any of the premises of these questions.)


  34. Who said anything about the plumber’s ability to follow God’s law? Have you considered that the Christian plumber cannot follow God’s law either? The Christian plumber’s good works are as filthy rags.

    The question is whether the plumber knows not to steal. General revelation tells him this, as Paul says in Rom. 1. If he tries not to steal because of a sense of right and wrong, he doesn’t obey God’s law because he doesn’t carry it out for the right reasons. But you seem to think that only Christians don’t steal, or that without special revelation plumbers will take short cuts.

    And what about church authority if special revelation is the only basis for law? Why doesn’t that mean the church needs to rule over everything, or that Christians need to be magistrates for a lawful society.

    Your drawing the antithesis awfully thickly.


  35. Every reformed plumber should know that the fundamental axiom of plumbing – “poop flows downhill” is definitely a general revelation tenet and not a biblical one. Every self respecting plumber would substitute “poop” for a far harsher, and dare I say more appropriate term as well.

    Could you imagine the administrative headaches that would result if the church actually ruled over the technical aspects of any trade (from a Christ and biblically centered perspective of course)? The PHCC (Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors) and MCA (Mechanical Contractors Association) along with all of the state and federal governing bodies have a hard enough time doing this sensibly.

    Would building inspections be conducted by the deacons or would that be a ruling elder responsibility?


  36. It would be wrong, agreed? But how do we know it’s wrong? Let’s say that this thief of a plumber is a nonChristian, and it doesn’t bother him to steal like this because he reasons that God is dead and that the government’s law against stealing is load of nonsense. May we, not as Church and not as government, but may we as individual Christians point to the Scriptures to tell him that his theft is wrong?

    Why would anyone appeal to a supernatural text to make a natural point? And why would anyone appeal to a text that another thinks is fubar to begin with? (Wouldn’t that be like pointing Mao to the Bill of Rights?) And when did it become good Reformed form to separate indicatives and imperatives? Isn’t that the tactic of natural religion and mere moralism? And since when did total depravity mean utter depravity?

    But it seems the epistemological conundrum abides. “How does anyone know what is right or wrong?” He knows because he’s born that way. Tabula rasa might be good for formulating a doctrine like “the age of accountability,” but that might a clue to self-respecting Calvinists that it’s wrong. I can’t imagine how hard parenting would actually be if there was in fact nothing at all to work with. And I can’t imagine how hard making society would be if we needed to break out the Bible every time there was a question or disagreement. But consider societies as far removed from Christendom as we can get. The Far East has made stellar society for centuries (their folk tales show at least as much insight as anything Aesop cobbled together). And the transplanted Hindi kids in my transformationalist neighborhood are models of humanity. If general revelation is so suspect, what gives with all this? It’s too overwhelming to be accidental.


  37. Dr. Hart, when you wrote – “That’s all the vaunted Reformed world and life view cashes out to?” – I had a mixed reaction because on the one hand, I caught the mocking tone, and no that’s not all it cashes out to. But I thought I was detecting that you were getting a sense of what I mean by giving glory to God, serving Him, in everything that we do – albeit in one small example, namely, loving God via not stealing as it pertains to the way a plumber does his work.

    I keep coming back to the epistemological question of how we know how to fulfill our raison d’etre of glorifying God, because this is my principle concern as it pertains to the way you formulate the 2k distinction. I believe we know this by two means, which although distinct, must not be separated from one another: general and special revelation (the Bible in particular for us). Since the author of both is the Triune God, and since the Triune God is sovereign over both ecclesiastical and civil life, my contention is that both have authority over all people. (Whether they actually submit is of course another story).

    Let’s get 30,000 feet down to the plumber again. I asked you: “You and I both agree that [the plumber] is not able to submit to the law as revealed in general revelation. Does this mean you and I agree he needs to submit to the Scriptures? If yes, then does he only need to submit to the Scriptures as far as the gospel is concerned, but not the law?” When I asked you this I was trying to push you into a corner to wrestle from you whether you think that God via ONLY general revelation has authority over the plumber to tell Him not to steal, or whether God also has authority to tell the plumber not to steal via the Scriptures. We both know that the unbeliever is not ABLE to obey this, nor the Christian (Rom. 7:15-19) in and of himself. We both agree that knowing how to do plumbing per se will require investigation into and knowledge of general revelation, which in many cases, unbelievers can more capable. However, my concern is whether the law of God as revealed in the Bible has authority over all plumbers to regulate the way they conduct themselves as they carry out their work. For example, you wrote: “If he tries not to steal because of a sense of right and wrong, he doesn’t obey God’s law because he doesn’t carry it out for the right reasons.” Amen. But can these “right reasons” be known from general revelation only? Does not God have authority over the plumber to tell him from the Scriptures: “obey Me and here’s how and here’s why.”

    You wrote: “The question is whether the plumber knows not to steal.” I agree he knows. But my concern is more specifically about how he knows. You wrote: “General revelation tells him this, as Paul says in Rom. 1.” Agreed. (On a side note it should be observed that your interpretation of general revelation here is made according to the Bible, which I believe is good AND necessary). But does not the law of God (for example – do not steal), as revealed in Scripture have authority over the plumber in the way that he conducts himself in his work? You see, then Scripture would norm cultural life (hand in hand with general revelation of course) – which, if you agreed, this would be something of a paradigm shift for you, as I see it. And if we are sinners, how much therefore do we need the Bible?!!! – which Bible reveals to us how and why we are to glorify God, even whether we eat or drink (1 Cor. 10:31).

    (You asked some questions about the Church’s authority and Christian politicians and I want to get to that, but I don’t want to leave Joe the Plumber behind.)


  38. Jonah: first, I don’t understand this quest for how the plumber or anyone knows. I don’t understand why neo-Calvinism privileges epistemology. Plenty of believers can’t figure out how they know. This is a philosopher’s quest. But having the right epistemology is not covered in our catechisms. This isn’t to say that epistemology (like Christian schools) is unimportant. It is to say that you can’t make it a requirement.

    Second, you are not talking about cultural life or plumbing for that matter. You are talking about ethical life. And here I agree that the Bible and general revelation overlap in what they reveal about morality.

    But the error in your thinking is to assume that just because the law tells the plumber not to cheat, then Scripture governs plumbing. The law norms morality. The law doesn’t norm, for instance from recent memory, how I cook turkey, make gravy, peel apples, which brand of pumpkin I buy, how much cinammon I put in the pumpkin pie. Food is cultural. Plumbing is vocational. Cheating is ethical. Sure, the preparation of food and fixing a leak may involve ethical questions. But the actual thing you are producing in cooking or plumbing is not an ethical act.

    You know, Jonah, theonomists emphasize the law a lot too.


  39. You wrote: “Food is cultural. Plumbing is vocational. Cheating is ethical.” Well, I’m not sure you’ll want to go around telling people that cheating is ethical but I know what you mean 🙂 Yes, these are legitimate distinctions. But I’m sure you’ll agree that ethics has an impact or effect on one’s cultural and vocational activity. So if you were to tell me that Scripture does not govern plumbing, and by this you meant that it does not govern the pipes, toilets, taps, water flow, valves and the like, then of course I agree. Such things are governed by the laws of nature, not the moral law. I’ll also agree that the science of plumbing (installation and reparation techniques, method and materials for making plumbing supplies, etc.) is revealed in general revelation. This is what you’re trying to say, right? I don’t think this is an area of dispute, whether they be 1Kers, 2Kers, 7th heaveners, neo-this or paleo-that. But does not God have authority over the plumber to tell him in the Bible what his behavior ought to be? What his motives ought to be? What his purpose ought to be? What his attitude ought to be? What his goal ought to be? What his manner ought to be? And wouldn’t all these things have an impact on how he learns about plumbing and on how he installs and repairs the plumbing? Wouldn’t morality have an impact or effect on how he deals with his clients in his work and as he carries out his work? Can he not serve and glorify God also in this?

    Thus ethics determines the “direction” of “structure” (e.g. culture, vocation). (I won’t elaborate because I think you’ve heard of this distinction before).

    So now I think I know what you mean when you say that Scripture does not govern plumbing, and now you know what I mean when I say it does. You mean that Scripture does not govern the science and materials of plumbing (“structure”; “laws of nature”). Whereas I mean that Scripture governs the plumber’s work activity (“direction”; “moral law”).

    I, therefore, will admit I should articulate myself better. And for your benefit: perhaps you’ll understand why many in the Reformed and/or Presbyterian community have such a negative emotional reaction when some 2K folk say something like, “the Bible doesn’t have anything to do with plumbing” – because to them they’re hearing that the guy fixing the toilet can do whatever the heck he wants. That’s not what you’re saying, but that’s what they’re hearing. Perhaps you’ll want to call Dr. Kloosterman and talk to him about this.

    As for what you said about epistemology, the confessions do say some things about it, though they do not speak comprehensively about it. Adherence to the confessions is a requirement for church office bearers and members.

    As for what you said here: “… theonomists emphasize the law a lot too.” I’ll forgive this because I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s hard not to talk about the law when you’re talking about the law 🙂



  40. Jonah, sorry, but I’m not sure Dr. K. would understand because he seems to have more invested in scaring people about 2k than he does in trying to reach an understanding. But he and I are supposed to be part of an interview series with Camden Bucey at Christ the Center (also including Doug Wilson and Bill Dennison — here’s hoping all things).

    I appreciate your concessions and reasonability. I am still intrigued that it took this long to get here. I would suggest that the reason you and others get so alarmed about statements like “The Bible is not the norm for plumbing” is that biblicism has ruled conservative Protestantism ever since the 1920s, leaving the natural law and general revelation parts of the Reformed tradition in the dust. For many conservatives, the Bible is the only standard for truth. To suggest otherwise is — well — liberal.

    But then there stand Robert’s Rules of Order, the rules governing our churches’ highest assemblies. Of course, Robert doesn’t replace the Bible but does dictate the way discussion proceeds. No one seems to object. Some in the OPC have a fit if you don’t follow those rules. And yet no one seems to notice that the Bible is not governing procedures and debates at GA. Odd.

    But if you make this distinction between plumbing and plumbers, why not also make the same distinction between Shakespeare and readers of Shakespeare. Scripture doesn’t govern iambic pentameter, plot development, or the English language, but it does govern the way that Christians use or employ these aspects of Shakespeare. If you can make that distinction, why insist on Christian schools? Students can learn the rudiments of Shakespeare in school — if they still teach him — and parents and church officers can make sure that students are learning in a way appropriate to their baptism.

    But believe it or not, I’ve heard it said by hard core Christian school advocates, that there is a Christian way of studying and reading Shakespeare. I do believe that is Dr. K’s point in his ongoing never to be ended series. Which leads me to think that with your distinction between plumbing and plumbers his whole argument collapses.


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