Posts and comments have been flying fast and furious over at the blog of those two crazy guys, Brothers Tim and David Bayly (they admit that they are â€œout of their mindsâ€) about two-kingdom theology. It started over a week ago with acrimony surrounding the experimental Calvinism of Jonathan Edwards and Martin Lloyd-Jones, but quickly descended into mud-slinging about who has picketed abortion clinics the most, thus proving that the conversion experience is hardly otherworldly.
One of the points to surface in these debates is the cockamamie idea (to them) of the separation of church and state. As I have tried to point out, if you donâ€™t believe in the separation of church and state, what is the alternative? One to which a Bayly Bro alluded was Calvinâ€™s Geneva, with a nice scoop of scorn for those Calvinists who have departed so far from the pater familia of Reformed orthodoxy and Christian politics. But when I try to bring up the idea that idolaters and heretics were not welcome in Geneva â€“ ahem, can anyone say Servetus? â€“ I receive another helping of scorn. I simply donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m talking about because executing heretics is not what they are talking about. Then why bring up Calvin?
I may not know what I’m blogging about, but I definitely donâ€™t know how you can promote Calvinâ€™s ideas on church and state and not see the pinch that might be coming in this greatest of nations on Godâ€™s green earth for Mormons and Roman Catholics (for starters). Iâ€™m not sure Baptists would be secure either since they do rebaptize. (Just trying to show Iâ€™m not selective in my dogmatic intolerance.) And the Baylys have the nerve to call me utopian. What land of chocolate (props to the Simpsons) would execute Servetus and keep Orrin Hatch?
And then along comes Rabbi Bret to the rescue. Mind you, he has been banished (it could be a self-imposed exile) from the Bayly Bros land of chocolate blogging for extreme remarks, so I am not implying that he speaks for the Baylys. But I am not sure how the Baylys and other versions of Christian America, from an orthodox George Washington and a federally envisioned Moscow, Idaho, to the transformation of New York City, can avoid having a Christian influence on society that stops at religious intolerance without limiting Christian influence to mere morality (quite like the liberal Protestant project, mind you, where the Bible was good for ethics but lousy for doctrine).
Here is how Rabbi Bret puts a point on it:
A second problem with the idea of a Christian advocating some version of â€œit is only fair that in a pluralistic culture that no faith, including Christianity, ever be preferred by the stateâ€ is that such a statement is treason against the King Jesus Christ. All Christians should be actively working for the elimination of false faiths from our culture and for the elimination of the influence of false faiths upon our civil-social / governmental structures. Any Christian who advocates the planned continuance of religious and cultural pluralism is a Christian who is denying the King Jesus.
If we need to be subject to King Jesus in all of our lives, and if we want his rule in every walk of life, including Manhattan for those who can afford it, then how do we tolerate other faiths in our nation? If the Bible is the norm for all of life, including politics, why doesnâ€™t the state assume the same opposition to false religion as the church? We donâ€™t tolerate heterodox teaching or unrepentant immoral living in our churches, so why would a nation that has Christian standards be more lenient than the church? Wouldnâ€™t that nation be the civil version of the mainline Protestant churches before the sexual revolution? (This question has the ring of plausibility since it suggests why so many Protestants are inclined to conclude that the founding fathers, who were hardly orthodox, were highly orthodox. If orthodoxy is synonymous with morality, then the criteria for judging Christâ€™s rule shifts significantly.)
But aside from questions this raises about holding back on fully applying Godâ€™s word to all of life, including Roman Catholic neighbors, what about being subject to the government ordered by a constitution that preserves religious liberty? If those who say public education is a legitimate option for Christians can be accused of denying the legitimacy of Christian education, canâ€™t those who continue to live with a regime guided by the U.S. Constitution be blamed for supporting idolatry? And if the toleration of unbelief by law is so awful, a sign of disloyalty to King Jesus, then when are folks like Rabbi Bret and the Pastors Bayly going to do more than blog or picket and actually follow the example of many Calvinists and resist tyranny? Is it really fair to accuse 2k advocates of bad faith when the accusers themselves wonâ€™t engage in the sort of armed insurrection practiced by Calvinists in sixteenth-century Holland, seventeenth-century England, and eighteenth-century America?
Where Bret seems to part company with the Baylys (and the Christian school advocate, Kloosterman) is over the magistrateâ€™s enforcement of the first table of the law. Bret favors it, while the others seem to think that the magistrate should acknowledge the first table but not enforce it. That sure doesnâ€™t seem to be Calvinâ€™s theory or practice with Servetus who was executed for a defective view of the Trinity (the First Commandment by my reckoning). But even if you allow for this weasely distinction, then havenâ€™t you introduced an area where all that Christ has commanded is not enforce? Christ commands people to have only one God. The magistrate theoretically believes this but lives with subjects who believe in many Gods. Huh? I wonder where exactly the biblical instruction comes for rulers to distinguish the first and second tables of the law so that the latter becomes legislation but not the former.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that the Covenanters had a good position on all this, even if I disagree with their starting place. They refused to participate in the U.S. regime because it did not acknowledge Christ as Lord. They would not run for office or vote in elections (up until about 1980). That seems like a good way of keeping your distance from a regime that tolerates other faiths and doesnâ€™t acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. But folks like Bret rail against the United States and then run for Senate on the Constitution Party ticket â€“ the God-denying Constitution, that is.
For 2k advocates along with your average conservative Presbyterian, Bretâ€™s and the Baylysâ€™ complaints are no skin off our backs. American Presbyterians revised our confession of faith and we now confess that the magistrate has a duty to protect the freedom of all people, no matter what their faith or level of unbelief. According to Bretâ€™s logic, my communion is guilty of treason against the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, the Covenanters, who would have disagreed vigorously with the American revisions of the WCF, never once considered (to my knowledge) severing fellowship with the OPC because of these differences on church and state.
In which case, are the Christian transformers of the U.S.A. making a mountain out of a mole hill? Or is it better to say that they are like Peter, defending his lord with a sword, when that way of doing things has passed away and a new order is in place, a spiritual regime for a spiritual institution â€“ the church â€“ which is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ?