Hard or Soft, The Anti-2K Position Displays the Judaic Folly

(Or, how to blow Dr. Ortlund’s mind.)

The hits keep coming. The line grows of people wanting to take a swipe at the two kingdom doctrine (while the silence on Lillback’s strange fire of Sacred Fire is deafening).

A while back, Comment magazine published a piece by David Koyzis that critiques the 2k position, and is now available online. (Koyzis also refers to Wedgeworth’s essay on VanDrunen’s new book as “trenchant.”)

As Koyzis has it, the 2k position is not faithful because of its defective view of creation. He writes:

There are, finally, good reasons why we cannot join the cause of the two-kingdoms Calvinists. Most basically, creation is much more than a provisional, probationary order with no enduring significance, as they appear to believe. It is rather God’s good handiwork (Genesis 1), which has fallen into sin through man’s disobedience, but that God has promised not to abandon but to restore and redeem through Jesus Christ in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21). An implication of this creation is that God has shaped human beings to shape culture. With every breath we take and with everything we do, we cannot avoid fashioning culture, as Andy Crouch has perceptively recognized in his recent book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Far from being extinguished at the Second Advent, the works of culture will eventually be redeemed and brought into the service of God (Isaiah 60).

Of course, this creation has been marred by the fall into sin of our first parents (Genesis 3), which inevitably affects the exercise even of human reason in the nonecclesiastical spheres. It is naïve to assume that we are capable of reasoning in the various social and cultural fields free from the destructive impact of the fall. If the effects of the fall are complete, then in principle the whole of life, including the cultural pursuits for which we were created, are included in redemption as well. As Paul puts it, the whole creation groans in anticipation of what is to come, but it will one day “be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21-22). In the meantime, however, this groaning is accompanied by an awareness that the kingdom is, in some measure, a present reality, even if its final consummation lies ahead. Thus, as agents of this kingdom, we must continually test the spirits in every field of endeavour. How much simpler it would be if vigilance were required only in matters of church and liturgy and we could safely ignore everything else! But God has hard words for those who think that proper cultic observance alone will substitute for a lack of obedience in the rest of life (Isaiah 1:11-17, 10:1-4; Amos 5:21-4).

2k advocates fail, then, to manifest a “ whole-hearted devotion to God in Christ.” This devotion, according to Koyzis:

can be pursued only in the context of the church, understood as corpus Christi, the body of Christ. The corpus Christi certainly manifests itself in the institutional church, but also in marriages, families, schools, universities, labour unions and businesses, in so far as they are directed towards the glory of God and service of neighbour. In this respect, the body of Christ is not undertaking to bring heaven to earth, but is merely seeking to fulfill the central command to love God and neighbour in all of life’s activities. This is a vision worth giving up one’s life for—as numerous martyrs have done through the ages—but in the meantime, it is definitely worth living for as well. May God prosper the work of our hands and use it for his glory (Psalm 90:17).

Then comes Rabbi Bret’s response to the recent post here about the collision of worldviews at the worldview weary Christian Reformed Church Synod. According to Bret:

It is only Darryl’s strange worldview that is pushing him to say that “worldviewism” cost the church its heritage of Reformed confessionalism. . . . By Darryl’s own words it is not worldviewism that is costing the CRC its heritage. By his own admission it is the worldview of progressivism that is costing it, its heritage. This progressivism will not be turned back by a worldview (R2Kt) that can’t authoritatively say that progressivism is un-biblical. This worldview progressivism can only be turned back by a Christian worldview that recognizes the progressivism for what it is and offers Biblical answers. Darryl wants to damn the night but refuse to light a candle.

Bret concludes:

Look … in the end you can ride the rails to destruction on the train of progressivism or you can ride the rails to destruction on the train of R2Kt Gnosticism / Dualism. No matter which ride you choose you’re going to have to eventually pay the conductor. There is, after all, a thousand different ways to achieve destruction.

Not to be missed at Bret’s site is the comment from one Mark Chambers – women hide the children; you may want to hide yourselves while you’re at it. In response to Bret’s point that Hart’s problem with the CRC is “the disagreement that occurs between those who will transform culture actively in a liberal direction and those who will transform culture passively in a liberal direction by allowing the anti-Christ theology that informs the culture to go unaddressed,” Chambers writes:

Well I’d rather describe it a bit more graphically. Both the agressive and passive methods end in cultural rape. The liberal is an agressive rapist. The passive R2Kers on the other hand, like Hart and his ilk, strip naked, lay on their backs and say “take me”.

Kowabunga, dude! I’m assuming if Bret’s earthly kingdom will not do movie ratings.

Let me see if I can briefly identify the major difference between the 2kers and the anti-2kers, and why the anti-2k theonomic leaning position distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ. The bone of contention is the kingdom of heaven. What Prof. Koyzis and Pastor Bret fail to recognize is a teaching that they themselves profess when the subscribe the Heidelberg Catechism. According to Heidelberg, the keys of the kingdom are preaching and discipline:

83. Q. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

A. The preaching of the holy gospel and church discipline. By these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and closed to unbelievers.

84. Q. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and closed by the preaching of the gospel?

A. According to the command of Christ, the kingdom of heaven is opened when it is proclaimed and publicly testified to each and every believer that God has really forgiven all their sins for the sake of Christ’s merits, as often as they by true faith accept the promise of the gospel. The kingdom of heaven is closed when it is proclaimed and testified to all unbelievers and hypocrites that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them as long as they do not repent. According to this testimony of the gospel, God will judge both in this life and in the life to come.

85 Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by church discipline?

A. According to the command of Christ, people who call themselves Christians but show themselves to be unchristian in doctrine or life are first repeatedly admonished in a brotherly manner. If they do not give up their errors or wickedness, they are reported to the church, that is, to the elders. If they do not heed also their admonitions, they are forbidden the use of the sacraments, and they are excluded by the elders from the Christian congregation, and by God Himself from the kingdom of Christ. They are again received as members of Christ and of the church when they promise and show real amendment.

Since Koyzis likes to talk about implications of biblical teaching, the implication of this doctrine is that the church has the keys of the kingdom, and it is the work of the church, not schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties, to open and close the kingdom of heaven because the church alone has the keys.

A further implication is what possible redemption do schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties minister? Yes, I understand that they are fruitful for loving God and neighbor. But the last I checked, loving God and neighbor are the law, not the gospel. (Is it just me, or does the phrase, “cultural obedience” connote law more than gospel?) And it is only the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ’s righteousness, freely given to those who trust on him, that gets anything or anyone into the kingdom of heaven or heaven itself. What exactly am I missing here?

At the same time, to suggest that the work of schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties is kingdom work is to distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason, as Koyzis well explains it, is that the works of the law (love of God and neighbor) become synonymous with redemption. In other words, to expand the heavenly kingdom by blurring the two kingdoms is to add a works righteousness to Christ’s righteousness.

So, to respond to Rabbi Bret, my beef with the CRC and its worldview is not only that it is progressive. I also object to worldviews like Rabbi Bret’s that are politically or culturally conservative because opposing abortion, if done for the wrong reasons, is as much a form of works righteousness as is adopting a mandate on global warming. If Rabbi Bret wants evidence of the way that a right-wing worldviewitis leads to churches fudging the gospel, he only needs to say, “Federal Vision.” Can he do that? Sure he can.

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21 thoughts on “Hard or Soft, The Anti-2K Position Displays the Judaic Folly

  1. >> Not to be missed at Bret’s site is the comment from one Mark Chambers <<

    Wow! That person's remark is outrageous and unnecessary. That man needs some serious Discipline. You would think a transformationist would at least have some manners. M Chambers is hopefully not a church officer because there's nothing in that kind of statement reflecting qualifications of the Pastoral Epistles.

    I hope I can get that phrase/image out of my head.

    DH: to suggest that the work of schools, hospitals, economic associations, labor unions, or political parties is kingdom work is to distort the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Right, Preaching – Sacraments – Disciple, the Marks of the Church, that's Kingdom Work!

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  2. Dr. Hart,
    1. Is it the duty of the civil magistrate to protect the Church’s sole propriety over the keys of the Kingdom?
    2. How does the fact that love of God and neighbor fall under the category of law negate the proposition that said love has redemptive value? As you yourself noted in your HC quote above, the Kingdom of Heaven itself is opened and closed not only by gospel (HC 84), but also by law (HC 85).
    3. I am equally appalled by Mark Chamber’s crass comment. Completely unnecessary.

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  3. Ron;

    Offices are established in the church (by Christ) to build his church; Chris teaches, rules and serves his church through those offices, i.e., through the work of elders & deacons.
    “Deacons are called to show forth the compassion of Christ in a manifold ministry of mercy toward the saints and strangers on behalf of the church.” (OPC FOG, XI, 1).

    Christ said when he cast out demons, the kingdom was being established, revealed – in the salvation of people, not in a non-demonic labor union or economic association, not simply for the bettering of mankind.

    In the the Church we show mercy and love to one another out of love for Christ (John chs 13, 14,). The Church also shows mercy and compassion toward those we come in contact with for the sake of the Gospel. Deacons are the ordained, organized aspect and function of this mercy ministry. So, whether as action of a church, or of christian individuals, the purpose is to assist people so that the Gospel can be proclaimed and the church can gather in worship. To put it most plainly, the ministry of mercy is meant to feed people so that hunger does not distract from the proclaiming of the gospel. That could also be a rationale for medical work, possibly some literacy programs as well. But the goal is establishing the Church.

    The church’s only mandate, in all its offices and officers, general and special, is the outward & the ordinary, the Word, sacraments and prayer. In the interim and in the end, the only alleviation of our estate of sin and misery is Christ’s work, not ours.

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  4. Dratted typos, first sentence of course should be …Christ teaches, rules and serves …
    Since I’m Cris without the “h” y’all know Who I meant, right?

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  5. Cris, from your response, I couldn’t tell if you meant to answer “yes” or “no”. Deacons are called to show the compassion of Christ to “strangers”? Where does this fit into “The church’s only mandate in all its offices and officers … the Word, sacraments and prayer?”

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  6. Ron, according to the confession, it doesn’t look like deacons are involved in kingdom work: “Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.” (WCF 25.3)

    If you want to put diaconal work into kingdom work, then only mercy done by offices, not regular church members, is kingdom work.

    The kingdom of heaven is not closed by all law. It is closed by the sin against the Holy Spirit. All other breaches of the law may be forgiven.

    So you think the U.S. has a responsibility to insure that the OPC remains faithful? Huh?

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  7. Dr. Hart,
    1. So mercy done by the deaconate is kingdom work? But they feed people’s temporal bodies with carnal food. They help people pay their bills. How can this be construed as kingdom work in the 2k paradigm? I mean, is the US government engaged in kingdom work when they mail welfare checks or food stamps?

    2. I don’t need the kingdom of heaven to be closed/opened by *all* law to refute your position. Any law will do. You said essentially that since love of God and neighbor is law, said love isn’t kingdom work. But the visible church opens/closes its gates based on law. In fact, that is all it can do since it cannot see the heart. So, if the visible church is both governed by law and engaged in kingdom work, then governance by law on its own is not a sufficient condition to refute the proposition that love of God and neighbor is kingdom work.

    3.Yes, I think, with Calvin, that the civil magistrate has the duty to uphold both tables of the Law. The fact that we have a corrupt government does not negate this fact one bit. There were wicked kings of Israel who, I am sure you would agree, fell derelict in their duty to uphold the first table. The solution wasn’t to relieve them of their duty to uphold the first table. The solution was to get a better King.

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  8. Ron: sorry, to be clear on my answer… If “kingdom work” means serving Christ as he builds his church (Matt 16, eh), I would say deacons participate in that as they keep distractions away from the elders, and the people of God. The deacons conduct church business that the elders shouldn’t have to stop what they’re doing to address. They deacons also take care of things that might prevent church members from their place and role in the life of the church.

    If someone is tempted to work on Sundays to make ends meet – then the deacons ought to step in with support so that the Christian Assembly and Lord’s Day are not slighted, ignored, forsaken. If someone’s stomach is growling so loud they can’t hear the message, then feed them so they can hear the word. In that sense I could see it called kingdom work.

    The kingdom does not come in hospitals or schools or labor unions, the kingdom comes in the ministry of the Word, the kingdom comes as God’s saving rule over people; not in human labors for cultural or economic betterment or elevation.

    Look, I actually work at (for) a hospital (supporting the clinical systems that medical personnel use to provide patient care), but as nice as most of the folks here are, as much good as they do for the community, it is not the kingdom of God.

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  9. Cris, why you limit diaconal work to the church? Where do you get this? Your FOG quote includes “strangers” as well as “saints” in the scope of diaconal mercy ministry.

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  10. Sorry, Ron, the church opens and closes based on the gospel. But you have a problem distinguishing church and state, so I understand the confusion. Because diaconal work is kingdom work, you can see how your position leads to the U.S. doing kingdom work. Since the state executes God’s law (natural), you think the church needs to open and close the kingdom based on God’s law. And then there’s you desire for the magistrate to enforce the church. Do you think you’re obsessed with politics?

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  11. Dr. Hart,
    1. Why is there an HC 85 if HC 84 describes the *only* basis upon which the church closes and opens? Isn’t “amendment” of “errors or wickedness” in the category of law? And you appear to be back peddling here since you at first said the church/kingdom of heaven is not closed off by *all* law,” and now you are saying it is not closed off my *any* law; only gospel. Which is it?

    2. Standing idly by while the US government displaces the Christian diaconate with welfare programs is a failure to distinguish church and state. I am certainly not advocating that. How then am I failing to distinguish between church and state; by calling the state as God’s minister to take up the avenging sword against evildoers as per Romans 13?

    3. You admitted that mercy ministry done by deacons is kingdom work, but you haven’t explained how this temporal, social activity qualifies as kingdom work under your 2k paradigm.

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  12. Ron:

    I don’t limit the scope of deaconal work only to the church; but I do see that my prior post didn’t have a broad enough example included. So, in an attempt to be plainly plain. If the church (local church, congregation) comes across an individual or a family who has trouble getting food on the table, and thus has no ability to attend to gospel proclamation, or is too sick or injured to be able to hear the gospel, then the deacons might step in with assistance in order to let the gospel be communicated.

    But that does not require deacons, the church, to establish welfare programs or public health clinics or the like. It would be a local judgement call, to engage in some of these things; and in itself, it is not kingdom building.

    The Church’s mandate is Word & Sacraments; making disciples; it is not a mandate to build cultural edifices that usher in the kingdom, or that survive the coming judgement so as to be the cultural edifies of the finally realized Eschaton.

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  13. Cris, the FOG quote you posted states that

    “Deacons are called to show forth the compassion of Christ in a manifold ministry of mercy toward the saints and strangers on behalf of the church,”

    emphasis mine. Please note the following:

    1. This ministry is to be extended to strangers as well as saints. This necessarily means those living in the culture outside the visible church.

    2. This ministry is not to be done merely as one human being to another, but rather on behalf of the church.

    Now, why is an ordained church office called to be engaged in ministry to those in the culture, outside the church, and in an official capacity on behalf of the church, if the church isn’t supposed to impact the culture?

    The Church’s mandate in making disciples of all nations includes teaching obedience to God’s law. This is summed up in love of neighbor as well as love of God, and thus the impact of the Church’s mandate extends past the walls of the visible church to the culture at large.

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  14. Ron, you keep confusing the kingdom. Amendment of errors is for the end of restoration, not punishment or exclusion. It is odd that you keep emphasizing the authority of church and state to mete out punishment. On your view, how could deeds of mercy ever qualify as churchly or political? And how could you ever find people “good” enough to which to extend diaconal care?

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  15. Dr. Hart, you keep asserting that I am “confusing the kingdom” or that I “have a problem distinguishing church and state,” but I have yet to see these assertions substantiated in any way. And I have asked you twice (at least) to explain how the temporal, social work of the diaconate qualifies as “kingdom work” under your 2k paradigm. These questions remain unanswered. But now, to your questions.

    On “my” view:
    1. Deeds of mercy are the explicit duty of the diaconate, and the diaconate is an ordained office of the Church. Thus, deeds of mercy are explicitly “churchly”. I see no reason, biblical or otherwise, why deeds of mercy should be political.

    2, I’m not sure what you mean by “find people ‘good’ enough to which to extend diaconal care.” I’m not sure where you are getting this. Perhaps you are projecting one of many anti-2k caricatures on me, but I don’t see anything I have said here indicating this to be my view. Diaconal ministry is mercy, and mercy by definition means one isn’t good enough to receive it. I am the one pointing out that this ministry is to extend past the walls of the church into the culture at large.

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  16. Ron, I have said that diaconal work is not kingdom work in the way that preaching and discipline is. Diaconal work is not even a mark of the church in classic Reformed teaching. That doesn’t mean it’s not biblical. But it’s like air. The church needs diaconal work to breathe, but the church doesn’t live in order to breathe.

    I wondered about your view of mercy because you seem to emphasize law a lot — both in your reading of the keys and in your assertions about the magistrate. It seems odd then for you to shift to mercy when you want the law enforced so much.

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  17. Ron, I have said that diaconal work is not kingdom work in the way that preaching and discipline is.

    I must have missed that. When you said “… mercy done by offices [sic], not regular church members, is kingdom work,” I took you to mean that mercy done by officers, namely the diaconate, is kingdom work. But I don’t see how your later rejection of this helps your argument one bit. Since you now admit that the Church is and ought to be *officially* engaged in non-kingdom work, you can’t very well say the Church should stay out of social or political affairs because that is non-kingdom work. This admission takes the kingdom/creational work distinction off the table as sufficient criteria for judging whether or not the Church ought to be engaged in a particular activity.

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  18. Dr. Hart,

    You are right that “Diaconal work is not even a mark of the church in classic Reformed teaching,” but as you also concede “it is biblical.”

    Maybe the problem is that modern 2kers have allowed the classic three marks of the church–a list setting forth necessary essentials, the sine qua non–to morph into an exhaustive list of all kingdom work. This would be an entirely understandable “transcription error,” no?

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  19. Ron, you win. I’m voting for Doug Wilson this fall.

    Keith, actually, the nature of kingdom work has a lot to do with the list. What does actually open and shut the kingdom of heaven? Plumbing? Math? Banking?

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  20. Ron:

    Hey, I quoted the OPC FOG first. I realize that the deaconate can minister to outsiders as well as saints. Didn’t I clarify that sufficiently in previous post. And yes, the deacons are not an autonomous body, they are the deacons of a local, visible church. But when the deacons channel of deliver the congregation’s mercy to the outsider, it’s not in order to impact the surrounding culture, it’s to minister to the needs of the outsider, also termed a neighbor (story of the “Good Samaritan”).

    If we minister (as deacons, elders or general office of believer) in order to impact the culture, we are in danger of substituting our kingdom for God’s, substituting our glory in place of Christ’s.

    The mission of the church is the Gospel Mandate, the Great Commission. The Great Commission says (Christ says): Go. That’s how “the nations” come into the picture. Go to places that haven’t heard the gospel and teach them, and then baptize the converts, bringing them into the church. They are evangelized and baptized into the church, not back into their culture. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t be a-cultural, or non-cultural, but God gives to his people the church – the fellowship of the saints – the assembly of God’s people – so that becomes our primary culture within whatever social, cultural context in which we are situated, and from which we are delivered.

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