Iâ€™ve had another worldview moment. I am struck that critics of the two-kingdom position, especially the ones who insist upon Christian schools, believe that a major issue in the disagreement is whether or not the Bible is the norm for public life (as well as other sectors outside the church). Fine, I get that. General revelation or natural law may not be sufficient to maintain the order that we desire in society. I suspect, though, that the objection is also that general revelation and natural law wonâ€™t yield a Christian society. But thatâ€™s another issue.
So letâ€™s concede that the Bible should be the norm for political life. That would appear to solve the problem of abortion, same-sex marriage, and divorce. (Sorry, it doesnâ€™t resolve the debate about Christian schools.) The sixth and seventh commandments would appear to be pretty handy for cleaning up American morality.
But what doesnâ€™t seem to dawn on these Bible-as-norm-for-public-life folks is that we have not simply two but ten commandments. And the first four are particularly hard not on crime but on false worship, idolatry, blasphemy, and profaning the Lordâ€™s Day. So if the Bible is to be the norm for public life, then all of a sudden not simply murder, divorce, adultery, fornication, lying, stealing are punishable offenses but so are Roman Catholicism and Mormonism, for instance, at least from the view of a Reformed world view.
The heart of my disagreement with religious secularism appears most clearly, I think, with this claim of Dr. Hart: â€œTo suggest that Christian norms must be dominant in public life raises the threat of the very sort of religious warfare in which Protestants and Roman Catholics engaged in hopes of maintaining a uniform society.â€ A number of possible responses come to mind, but two will suffice.
First, if the worldly kingdom (public life) is to be governed by that natural law revealed
in creation, and if the Decalogue is nothing less than the republication of that natural law, then why would Christians not want the civil magistrate to proscribe what the Decalogue proscribes?
To play Rush Limbaugh for a moment: â€œstop the tape.â€ This is the heart of the disagreement over Christian schools â€“ whether or not the magistrate enforces the Decalogue. So Christian schooling is really bound up with Christianizing America (and he quotes Machen for support â€“ go figure). In other words, the whole debate over Christian schooling boils down to where one fights in the culture wars â€“ is the Bible the norm for civil society, or is it not? Christian schooling is simply a way of fighting the culture war. We are very glad for the clarification.
â€œMr. Snerdly, resume cut one.â€
Dr. Hart’s caution against having â€œChristian norms be dominant in public lifeâ€ sounds very much like the warnings against â€œChristians legislating moralityâ€ and against â€œChristians forcing their religious convictions on othersâ€ that have become such common media mottoes in our highly secularized generation. What, in fact, is a â€œChristian normâ€? Are the prohibitions â€œThou shalt not kill,â€ â€œThou shalt not commit adultery,â€ and â€œThou shalt not stealâ€ peculiarly Christian norms?
Why is it illicit for Christians to appeal to the civil magistrate in the context of public policy relating to abortion, for example, using as only one among several arguments that the magistrate is called by God to honor the Sixth Commandment? If the magistrate’s authority comes from God, then why is it improper for Christians, as but one component of their public political testimony, to point the magistrate to Godâ€™s will revealed in Scripture (Ps. 2, Ps. 110, Rom. 13) for exercising that authority?
And if the civil magistrateâ€™s authority comes from God, why go first to the seventh and eighth commandments. If the first and greatest commandment is loving God, why resort first to laws about love of neighbor? The answer appears to be straightforward. False worship and blasphemy do not trouble Dr. K. as much as sex and stealing. And always keep in mind that if you want to be tough on crime, send your children to a Christian school.
So again, to reiterate: if the law is good for the magistrate and it gives him (or her?) guidance about the culture wars, why does it not also give instruction about which religious groups to support and which to forbid? The good attorney from Indiana somehow thinks that this implication is silly because it reflects a complete misunderstanding of the Christian school lobbyâ€™s position. But which is more silly, to think that Christ governs the existing age through two kingdoms, one subject to Scripture the other to general revelation, or to think that we can have the Decalogue to prohibit the sins we most oppose but not to the point of making us look intolerant of other religions?
Last time I checked, both Israel and the church were to purge blasphemy and idolatry from their ranks â€“ why â€“ well, that first table of the Decalogue is pretty explicit. But somehow the Christian school advocates think that the state, which will be governed by the same Bible that governs the church, will be tough on sexual sins and murder but not on blasphemy and idolatry.
That leaves us with an interesting disagreement. The folks who condemn two-kingdoms for its dualism (among other things) have a dualistic view of the Decalogue. How integrated is that?