The Westminster Hermeneutic Apparently Infects Kerux


And apparently, readers of the current review haven’t read very deeply in the journal. But a handy gadget at Kerux’s website reveals some items of note.

First this article by Scott Clark on John 2:13-22, on Christ’s cleansing of the Temple.

One lesson taught is the end of the theocratic arrangement in Israel:

It is ironic that those who were to care for God’s resting place, the place symbolic of God’s covenantal communion with his people, should be so insensitive to Jesus’ actions and words. What the priestly aristocracy does not realize is that by opposing Jesus, the temple guardians are opposing the temple itself! As in the garden and in the theocracy, God’s people have again desecrated God’s temple. Not only have they polluted piety for profit, but they fail to recognize the very purpose for which the temple stands–it is a house for God. We know this because they failed to recognize God when he came to the temple!

Because they lacked the Spirit, the Jews completely misunderstood Jesus to be speaking about the temple in which they were standing. Jesus is saying that his body is the temple. He is the “true” or the “real” temple (Jn. 6:32,33). Jesus’ temple supersedes the Herodian temple. Jesus’ and John’s words explain his act of cleansing the temple. Jesus is prophetically foreshadowing the final destruction of the temple. . . .

[T]he Jerusalem temple is an unsatisfactory habitation for our God. Like everything else connected with the old covenant, the temple is an incomplete expression of God’s grace. To redeem us, God must tabernacle in our flesh (Jn. 1:14). In this way the destiny of the temple is bound to the destiny of the Christ.

We also learn from Clark about the importance of holiness after in the new covenant:

God’s requirements for the holiness of his dwelling place have not been watered down in the new covenant. In fact they are greater. Coexisting with the other “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) joined together to become a “dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:21) means even greater holiness than that of the old covenant. We no longer have to watch Moses go to the tent to meet with God; he has come to us in his Son and now in his Spirit.

Clark even affirms the importance of union with Christ:

Not only are we God’s temple, but we still have a religious life in the temple. For the evangelist, to truly be in the temple is to be in Christ because he is the true temple. John wrote his gospel to the end that we might find ourselves standing in the temple (Jn. 20:31; Col. 3:3). To be in the temple is to be in communion with God. It is to have intimate, personal fellowship with God. Whoever is united by the Spirit to the ascended Lord is now in the true, heavenly, Spirit-filled, temple and worships truly.

Perhaps even more arresting than Clark’s meditation was David VanDrunen’s essay in Kerux on the culture wars. Since WSC continues to receive demerits for not being hard on crime, and apparently the Kerux review hints at this (only a few have actually seen the review because the print run is so small, and those who have read it have yet to finish it), VanDrunen’s piece, “Biblical Theology and the Culture War,” is particularly worthy of notice.

Here is one point that VanDrunen makes during his reflections on Jeremiah 29:

This brief look at biblical theology should teach us a number of things about this battle. Most important of all, it teaches us that the culture war rages in Babylon, not in the Promised Land. A number of other important considerations arise from this. For one thing, it reminds us that in any of our cultural struggles we are not to set as a goal the annihilation or even the radical transformation of society. The existence of Babylon is completely legitimate. This is a particularly relevant message for Americans especially to heed. America is portrayed as the Promised Land so often—it is the hope of the world, the shining city on the hill, with liberty and justice for all. It is the refuge for the teeming masses of distant shores yearning to be free. It is a land of never before attained prosperity and military strength. America certainly is a great land, and patriotic affections are good and healthy. But it is not paradise, and never was. And neither is any other place on earth. To view any earthly land as the Promised Land is to set our sights both too high and too low at the same time: too high for our nation’s prospects and too low for what the Promised Land really is. People wage culture wars in Babylon, and to whatever extent they win or lose, Babylon continues to be just that—Babylon! It will not be annihilated, and it will not be transformed into something else.

To understand this is to put things into perspective. If the America of 50 or 100 or 200 years ago was Babylon, and if the America of the next generation, apart from the outcome of this culture war, will still be Babylon, should we not conclude that culture wars really are not won or lost, at least not absolutely? Living in Babylon by definition implies living outside of Paradise in a land which does not in any special way belong to the church, and as such is more or less filled with injustice, immorality, and any number of other depravities which motivate the culture warriors. As long as the church has lived in Babylon, it has been involved in cultures with marks of degeneracy. And as long as it continues to live here, it will face the same thing. It is only at Christ’s return that wicked culture and its supporters will be abolished completely: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thess. 1:6-7). The culture war has been raging for ages and it will not end until Christ returns. Why do we so often act as if the 1960’s, with the corresponding rise of the drug culture and sexual promiscuity, marked the beginning of this war? Perhaps the battle rages more fiercely and more visibly now, but even Christians living in Norman Rockwell America should have realized the existence of the culture war—the same culture war which rages around us now. As a wise man long ago observed, there is nothing new under the sun.

Does this mean that fighting the culture wars is wrong? VanDrunen says, “of course not.” But if Christians do fight in those battles they need to do so with a proper understanding of the stakes involved:

God commanded the people in Jeremiah 29 to seek the peace and prosperity of the city in which they lived, and this applies to us as well. We know that a nation with increasing numbers of cocaine-addicts, abortions, thefts, child-abuse cases, illiterates, etc., etc., will not retain desirable levels of peace and prosperity for long. Therefore we do have an obligation to do things which will, if not eliminate such things, at least substantially reduce their rate of occurrence. The peace and prosperity of our society, not to mention our personal peace and prosperity, depend on it. And the political sphere certainly is one of the institutions of culture which will make its indelible stamp on the peace and prosperity of the society. Christians therefore should have an interest in the political process when their form of government allows it, as ours does. To turn our backs on politics would mean to turn our backs in part to the command of God to seek the peace and prosperity of our nation. We may debate amongst ourselves which political positions to promote and how much emphasis should be given to the political process, but the interest and involvement in politics which we see among the “religious right” is in itself a good thing. But, it must always be accompanied by the realization that we are participating in the politics of Babylon. What should we hope to gain by our cultural, including political, activity? Only a relatively better life for society, ourselves, and our children in the years to come than what we would otherwise face. We seek not the destruction of our enemies, but simply a modestly better society which in the future will face exactly the same kinds of threats and require the same sort of opposition. Perhaps we can turn America back to the culture of the 1950’s. But the 1960’s will always follow.

Our first hope naturally is for the peace and prosperity of our nation. But perhaps we should be secretly pleased when these turn into disorder and depression. We have noted how many Christians today yearn for the days of public virtue present years ago in our nation’s history. It seems that there is little doubt that as far as public virtue goes America has seen better days. But when we see how such memories distort the biblical understanding that we live in Babylon, when we see how they cause our hopes to seek fulfillment not in the next world, but in this, when we see how they paint a falsely idyllic picture in our minds which we ignorantly project into the future, does it not make us at least wonder how much good such relatively peaceful and prosperous days really do. If God answered our prayers and blessed our cultural efforts by bringing us days of unparalleled peace and prosperity, would that not in itself be a tremendous temptation to set our sights no higher than Babylon? Are not days such as ours good reminders of what Babylon really is—a pagan, depraved, and hopeless place over which an angel from heaven will one day shout: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great” (Rev. 18:2)? The Israelites were apparently satisfied with the peace and prosperity of Babylon— only a tiny fraction of them returned to the Promised Land when the opportunity came. Will we as a church do any better?

Yes, let us pray for the peace and prosperity of our land for the sake of the physical well-being of ourselves and our children. But let us also be thankful for God’s often disappointing answers for the sake of the spiritual well-being of his church.

Articles such as these make Kerux worthwhile reading, especially for those inclined to read it along with the Talmud.

(By the way, the Nicotine Theological Journal‘s policy is never to turn on its contributors.)

6 thoughts on “The Westminster Hermeneutic Apparently Infects Kerux

  1. Re: VanDrunen, he does seem to be catching the spirit of a Lutheran understanding of the two kingdoms. Now, if he added how we walk this out in our vocations (eg: spouse, parent, child, employment, citizen, neighbor, etc.), his understanding could almost be called Lutheran. But, until ya’ll change the center of your theology to Christ instead of the Sovereignty of God, and change your understanding/explanations from covenantal to law/gospel, no one should ever accuse any of you of being Lutheran. 🙂


  2. Christ is the center of Reformed theology, and the law-gospel distinction is not foreign to or antithetical to covenantal theology–the two go hand in hand. Here’s a quote from Mike Horton, a prominent Reformed theologian:

    “No less than Lutheranism, the confessions and formative theologians in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed churches strongly affirmed the law-gospel distinction. However, as federal theology flourished, the Reformed drew this distinction in to the ambit of various historical covenants….” From Covenant and Salvation.

    Scott Clark wrote a good article on this topic, “Letter and Spirit: Law and Gospel in Reformed Preaching,” for the book Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry.


  3. RL, it has been my understanding that the difference if found in our systematic theology (Luther’s Christ as Center vs. Calvin’s Sovereignty of God as center) not our categories (if that is the proper way of explaining the rest of it?). I may be wrong, but I think that is the major difference between the two traditions.


  4. I’m familiar with that description, but I think it’s wrong. I think both Luther and Calvin stressed the centrality of Christ. I think false centers are assigned to their respective theologies–predestination for Calvinism and justification for Lutheranism. Both doctrines are essential to their theologies, but they are not the center. Luther and Calvin spent so much time on these doctrines because they thought that a Christian must properly understand these to understand the life and work of Christ. Christ is the center.

    Consider this excerpt from Calvin’s Institutes:

    “…if we seek the fatherly mercy and the propitious heart of God, our eyes must be directed to Christ, in whom alone the Father is well pleased. If we seek salvation, life, and the immortality of the heavenly kingdom, recourse must be had to no other, for he alone is the fountain of life, the anchor of salvation, and the heir of the kingdom of heaven…The persons, therefore, whom God has adopted as his children, he is said to have chosen, not in themselves, but in his Christ…But if we are chosen in him, we shall find no assurance of our election in ourselves, nor even in God the Father, considered alone, abstractly from the Son. Christ, therefore, is the mirror in which we must contemplate our election; and here we may do it with safety….” III, 24, 5.

    Christ is at the heart of the doctrine of predestination. The same way that the doctrine of justification points to Christ by explaining how his obedience and suffering provide the basis of our righteousness before God the doctrine of predestination points to Christ by explaining how his role as mediator (i.e. the One in whom we are elected, the One who prays for us the same way as he prayed for Peter, the One who intercedes on our behalf before the Father) ensures that we will never be separated from the love of God.


  5. RL, I did not mean my comment to be derogatory in any way towards the Reformed. I meant it as an observation. I cannot understand why anyone would think ya’ll are Lutheran or why the word Lutheran is used as an epithet (eg: Bret), but I do find the accusations somewhat amusing. Sheesh, look at the excerpt from Dr. Clark, how can anyone miss his Reformed mind?

    You are very right about the differences between the Reformed and Lutherans being much more complex than contained in my original comment. Unfortunately, I have seen the simplistic rule of thumb (sovereignty of God) in many quarters, even among the Reformed. That may partially account for the way I understand the Reformed tradition (men like Bret don’t help the situation either). I have been trying to read some of the better Reformed blogs hoping I could come to a better understanding and also learn from ya’ll. I find Dr. Horton the easiest Reformed mind to understand, but I have not read much of his work (too many books and so little time!). I have wondered if Horton has a gift similar to C.S. Lewis? A gift that brings out the ‘mere Christianity’ within the Reformed tradition that we can all easily agree on?

    Anywho, I do appreciate your gracious patience with me. Thanks.


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