Theonomic Dreaming: President Obama Gets Religion

One of the recurring criticisms of 2k is that it denies the authority of God’s word for the civil magistrate. In some cases, the assertion is simply that the state should enforce both tables of the law. But since God’s word is filled with teaching that is binding, the anti-2k view does not lead necessarily to a narrow view of God’s law – as in only what Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. In fact, among the theonomic critics of 2k, the laws of Israel are as much part of God’s law as the Decalogue.

So, let’s see what happens when President Obama is having a quiet time (after recently speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast where he gave his testimony: “My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years”). He orders one of Max Lucado’s books sold by his former church in Chicago, where Jeremiah Wright was pastor, and begins to read through parts of Scripture on his own. He comes to the conclusion that murder is absolutely wrong and that abortion in many cases seems to be at odds with God’s law. He calls for a meeting of his cabinet to address the matter, calls the Speaker of the House about drafting legislation, and may even decide to address the nation during prime time.

Is that enough for the critics of 2k, or do they want President Obama to go farther and read the New Testament as well?

So let’s say the President continues to read the Bible daily and comes to the conviction, after counsel from nearby pastor, Mark Dever, that infant baptism is sinful. He knows that many churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, practice infant baptism. But he still believes that God’s word teaches only people who have made a credible profession of faith are eligible for baptism. So he calls another round of meetings with cabinet officials, members of Congress, and church leaders to begin to draft legislation that would prohibit infant baptism. Let’s also suppose that he gave the churches a year to stop their practices and if they did not the government would shut down all congregations that still used a baptismal font.

This scenario is not so hard to imagine since Presbyterians in Scotland and Northern Ireland experienced from Oliver Cromwell the kind of repression that President Obama might visit on Reformed churches if he got evangelical religion. According to Crawford Gribben, The Irish Presbyterians Puritans:

In May 1653, the English elite decided to remove the leading Presbyterian ministers and lay families [from Northern Ireland] by force to a remote part of Ireland. This plan, the goal of which was described as sending Presbyterian “to hell or Connaught”, was so breathtaking that it was never actualy carried out. Leading Catholics were removed instead.

The fact that this plan was adopted by leading Irish Independents shows the betrayal that existed at the heart of the Puritan alliance. . . . These Puritans believed that, with the end of the Stuart monarchy in the execution of King Charles, the fourth monarch was being swept away, and would be replaced by the millennial kingdom of God.

The Fifth Monarchist vision of the kingdom was grounded in Old Testament law. They believed that the coming kingdom . . . would see the restructuring of civilization. All over the world, nations would be brought into submission to King Jesus, who would govern them with a “rod of iron”. The evidence of his rule would be that the nations would abandon their old laws, and be governed instead by the laws of the Bible . . . . English policy in Ireland was governed by this type of millennial interest. (pp. 101, 103)

Is this the kind of magistrate that anti-2kers want? Is this the kind of eschatology that anti-2kers affirm? If they don’t, how do they distinguish between a magistrate that enforces only part of God’s word and one who follows Scripture in everything, both national and ecclesiastical policy? I know I have raised this point in other ways before. But it does seem mightily selective to think that magistrates need to pay attention to sexual sins but need to mind their business when it comes to liturgical infidelity.

Can you really have a godly magistrate without having a ruler with powers that restrict the church? Is it really possible for the separation between church and state to apply only to the first table of the law and not to the second also? If Israel is the model, and if Old Testament Israel was biblical – duh – then those questions would seem to answer themselves.

58 thoughts on “Theonomic Dreaming: President Obama Gets Religion

  1. Dr. Hart,

    I’m trying to weigh the merits of both (all?) sides in this debate. I find many of the arguments you have made here compelling, but I am confused by this one. Do you not think it fair for those who disagree with you to make a distinction between the moral law as found in the Decalogue and other laws and sins found throughout the pages of special revelation? After all, as Presbyterians, we affirm that the contents of the two tables were given to Adam and that all men of all creeds are bound to keep them (WCF 19.1-2). Thus, is it wrong to assert that the contents of the two tables are part of general revelation, as they are written (albeit in a way marred by sin) in the consciences of all men?

    I mean, to be fair, you would not assert that infant baptism is written on the heart of all men, nor was it given as part of the two tables to Adam, right?

    Jerry

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  2. Jerry, Not to step in and speak for Dr Hart here, but I think the original post by Dr Hart emphasizes the difference between enforcing the two tablets of the decalogue vs the principles and doctrines of the New Testament, and the inconsistencies of those saying “first tablet only”, or “first & second tablet” without recognizing that they are implicitly leaving out the rest of Scripture, perhaps because it would cause the ecclesiastical meddling by the state as described in Dr Hart’s post. In other words, where is the line drawn? As to your point of the two tables being in the conscience, there is a difference between this “natural law” which is general revelation and “Scripture” which is special revelation. It is in effect like comparing apples and oranges. Hence, the term “general” (natural and within man but not pertaining to particulars) and “special” (particular and from God). Further to the point, in the hypothetical example, what would constitute a satisfactory outcome for the non-2ker? Obama enforcing blue laws? Obama eliminating abortion? Obama enforcing church discipline? There seems to be a nebulous quest for the non-2ker that is not clearly articulated – and what victory and success looks like is never known or expressed. I’m wrestling too, Jerry, but 2K certainly explains alot.

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  3. Scott,

    First, please name one non-2ker (whatever that is) that believes the State should enforce Church discipline.

    Second, please name one non-2ker that believes the State should enforce only the “first tablet”.

    Thirdly, please explain how Natural Law/General Revelation does not speak to “particulars”.

    Fourthly, please explain how Theonomy is necessarily Erastian.

    Fifthly, Was there a church/state dichotomy in Biblical Israel?

    The “nebulous quest” has been laid out in literally thousands of pages of literature since IBL came out in the 60’s, which evidently you must have never read if you think “success” or “victory” is “never known or expressed” in Theonomic literature.

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  4. Clearly, everyone involved in this debate needs to buy my book (even though it’s totally tangential to it). It’s actually called THE IRISH PURITANS. Thanks for the plug, Dr Hart!

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  5. Jerry, this is a fair point. But people exist who think the Bible speaks to all of life and that the magistrate must enforce all of God’s law. Plus, it’s not as if magistrates did not enforce matters like mode and subjects of baptism. So I have no trouble with the distinction you make. And I have no trouble thinking the work of redemption in this age does not need the state.

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  6. Ben, Erastus and the church in Zurich are answers to your first question. Plus, if the state is going to execute adulterers, isn’t that an example of the state enforcing discipline.

    And for what it’s worth, it does seem pretty nebulous to reinstitute Old Israel when it has ceased.

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  7. Re: adultery

    Ben,

    I don’t know if this will be helpful, but I find it helpful to remember that our nation/civil realm has a long history of both enacting and repealing biblical laws (eg: sodomy, adultery, divorce) and trying to synthesize church and state (ideas like manifest destiny). Our nation is permeated with an American civil religion that imitates Christianity in ways, but it is not Christianity.

    The two kingdoms doctrine helps cut through the ways the state synthesized with the church and vice versa. God rules all, but he rules the civil realm differently than he does the church. 2k is supposed to help us distinguish these differences so we do not confuse the purposes or roles of the two kingdoms while we await Christ’s return. I hope that makes sense.

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  8. Ben, actually you didn’t say anything. You asked a question.

    But if you’re trying to “say” that the civil authorities got the idea to punish adultery from Scripture, then how do you tell the civil authority to turn off Scripture when it comes to executing adulterers?

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  9. Benjamin, where did the revisers of WCF 23 and Belgic 36 get the idea that civil magistrates shouldn’t enforce true religion?

    Maybe by your rhetorical question you’re not saying that when the U.S. authority penalizes someone under its jurisdiction it proves theonomy, but by mine I am suggesting that when the church zigs as Christendom zags it does a whole lot more for 2k and against theonomy than the U.S. military does for theonomy. So whose official actions matter more to you: the U.S. military or the church?

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  10. Lily,

    No offense intended but your post is a good example of what ails this debate. There seems to be a gross misunderstanding of what exactly the argument is on the anti-R2K side and the R2K side as if there is any monolithic voice in either camp. There also looks to be an oversimplification of positions. If you look at primary source documents in Theonomic circles (which is a different camp than Nelson Kloosterman for example, who is anti-R2K and had his run-ins with Greg Bahnsen) you will see a sharp divide between Church and State.

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  11. This is from a reply b Greg Bahnsen to a comment by Nelson Kloosterman…

    “In portraying theonomy as equating the modern state with OT Israel, Dr. Kloosterman draws a logically fallacious inference about theonomy and ends up misrepresenting what it teaches. Through my publications – whether you look at Theonomy, By this Standard, or No Other Standard – I repeatedly deny the equivalence between the Old Testament theocracy and modern states. There are stupendous differences.”

    Read more here.

    http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pe164.htm

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  12. Also from Dr. Bahnsen:

    “Although Israel as a political body has expired — and along with it its judicial law as a constitution — the general equity of those judicial laws is still required (Westminster Confession XIX.4). ”

    “So theonomy teaches that civil rulers are morally obligated to enforce those laws of Christ, found throughout the Scriptures, which are addressed to magistrates (as well as to refrain from coercion in areas where God has not prescribed their intervention). As Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-10, magistrates — even the secular rulers of Rome — are obligated to conduct their offices as “ministers of God,” avenging God’s wrath (compare 13:4 with 12:19) against criminal evil-doers. They will give an account on the Final Day of their service before the King of kings, their Creator and Judge. Christian involvement in politics calls for recognition of God’s transcendent, absolute, revealed law as a standard by which to judge all social codes and political policies. The Scottish theologian, William Symington, well said: “It is the duty of nations, as subjects of Christ, to take his law as their rule. They are apt to think enough that they take, as their standard of legislation and administration, human reason, natural conscience, public opinion or political expediency. None of these, however, nor indeed all of them together, can supply a sufficient guide in affairs of state” (Messiah the Prince, p. 234).”

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  13. Ben, regarding your Bahnsen 8:37 quote, how would you define “general equity” and can you do that without using “human reason”?

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  14. Ben,

    No offense taken. I appreciate you taking the time to help me better understand the argument. If I could ask for your patience, I would like to ask a question: If you see a clear divide between the state and church, then the argument is purely where to draw the line between them? If I’m asking the right question, I’m not sure there will ever be perfect agreement on exactly where to draw the lines.

    I think of the civil realm as the common life that both the regenerate and the unregenerate share together. It reminds me of Moses permitting divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts. It was not God’s design for marriage, but permitting divorce did help establish and maintain order in a society that is unable to keep God’s laws perfectly. It seems like a clear example of allowances being made for the unregenerate?

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  15. The Scottish theologian, William Symington, well said: “It is the duty of nations, as subjects of Christ, to take his law as their rule. They are apt to think enough that they take, as their standard of legislation and administration, human reason, natural conscience, public opinion or political expediency. None of these, however, nor indeed all of them together, can supply a sufficient guide in affairs of state.”

    And the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper well said:

    Does it follow, therefore, that the sooner we stop our observation of life the better, so that we can seek the rules of state polity outside life in Holy Scripture? This is how some mistakenly think that we reason…However, the opposite is true. Calvinism has never supported this untenable position but has always opposed it with might and main. A state polity that dismisses and scorns the observation of life and simply wishes to duplicate the situation of Israel, taking Holy Scripture as a complete code of Christian law for the state, would, according to the spiritual fathers of Calvinism, be the epitome of absurdity. Accordingly, in their opposition to Anabaptism as well as the Quakers, they expressed unreservedly their repugnance for this extremely dangerous and impractical theory.

    If we considered the political life of the nations as something unholy, unclean and wrong in itself, it would lie outside of human nature. Then the state would have to be seen as a purely external means of compulsion, and every attempt to discover even a trace of God’s ordinances in our own nature would be absurd. Only special revelation would then be capable of imparting to us the standards for that external means of discipline. Wherever, thus, this special revelation is absent, as in the heathen worlds, nothing but sin and distortion would prevail, which would therefore not even be worth the trouble of our observation…However, if we open the works of Calvin, Bullinger, Beza and Marnix van St. Aldegonde, it becomes obvious that Calvinism consciously chooses sides against this viewpoint. The experience of the states of antiquity, the practical wisdom of their laws, and the deep insight of their statesmen and philosophers is held in esteem by these men, and these are cited in support of their own affirmations and consciously related to the ordinances of God. The earnest intent of the political life of many nations can be explained in terms of the principles of justice and morality that spoke in their consciences. They cannot be explained simply as blindness brought on by the Evil One; on the contrary, in the excellence of their political efforts we encounter a divine ray of light…

    …with proper rights we contradict the argument that Holy Scripture should be seen as the source from which a knowledge of the best civil laws flow. The supporters of this potion talk as though after the Fall nature, human life, and history have ceased being a revelation of God and as though, with the closing of this book, another book, called Holy Scriptures, as opened for us. Calvinism has never defended this untenable position and will never acknowledge it as its own…We have refuted the notion that we entertain the foolish effort to patch together civil laws from Bible texts, and we have declared unconditionally that psychology, ethnology, history and statistics are also for us given which, by the light of God’s Word, must determine the standards for the state polity.

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  16. Dr. Hart,

    Good and necessary consequence works just as well when deciding proper traffic laws according to God’s Law as when deciding the circumstances of Worship.

    On the second note I have corrected Doug Sowers at GB already in that mess of comments.

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  17. Michael,

    Why would “human reason” matter pro/con when defining General Equity?

    Lily,

    The argument is between what the foundation for Law and Order should be in the State. No Theonomist of the Bahnsenite School (a term I coined just now) would be interested in any civil/church situation where there was any intertwining between the proper role of the State and the Church. The Church and the State were separate in Israel (remember what happened when a King tried to mess with the Priestly role?)and they would still be separate in any God-honoring State. The Church has been given the Keys and the State the sword and never the two should mix.

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  18. Ben, I was just asking for clarification of the quote you provided. Once you define those terms from your quote I’ll be glad to return your volley, but until the terms in question are defined, we would just be trafficking in undefined terms. I believe Trafficking in Undefined Terms is a dialgogue misdemeanor.

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  19. Benjamin,

    Re: …they would still be separate in any God-honoring State.

    What is a God-honoring State? In my mind, that term would necessarily have to be defined as a Christian State, wouldn’t it? How can a State honor God apart from Christ? Can you see my dilemma?

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  20. Lily,

    No, you are quite right that a State cannot be “God-honoring” apart from recognizing Christ as Lord.

    Dr. Bahnsen speaks to what the “Church/State” relation would look like in this quote.

    “So theonomy teaches that civil rulers are morally obligated to enforce those laws of Christ, found throughout the Scriptures, which are addressed to magistrates (as well as to refrain from coercion in areas where God has not prescribed their intervention).”

    Michael,

    General equity is defined as the underlying moral principle which is illustrated by the particular cases mentioned in the judicial laws.

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  21. Benjamin,

    Thank you for clarifying that State institutions cannot be God honoring.

    Re: “So theonomy teaches that civil rulers are morally obligated to enforce those laws of Christ, found throughout the Scriptures, which are addressed to magistrates (as well as to refrain from coercion in areas where God has not prescribed their intervention).”

    Bahnsen’s quote leaves me with more dilemmas.

    Where does the Bible teach that the State is morally or otherwise obligated to enforce any of God’s laws? (Please do not use the State of Israel as an example. It is part of redemption history prior to Christ’s coming and the apostles being sent into the world.)

    My understanding leads me to ask: Did God give the State the sword to force men to obey God’s laws? Or did God give the State the sword to establish and maintain order for the welfare/preservation of mankind and for the safe passage of the gospel?

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  22. Lily posits:
    My understanding leads me to ask: Did God give the State the sword to force men to obey God’s laws? Or did God give the State the sword to establish and maintain order for the welfare/preservation of mankind and for the safe passage of the gospel?

    Well put. Lily, can it be put this way?… The civil kingdom, informed and ordered by ‘natural law in man’, exists for the sake of God’s outworking of His redemptive plan throughout history, not as a temporal kingdom that exists to be an expression of that redemption or special revelation. Thus while it is under God’s rule and purpose, yet it is a kingdom separate from the redemptive kingdom on earth (the church) which is the vessel navigating the gospel through time.

    Just trying to think this through…
    Thanks

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  23. Theonomy agrees that the State is a kingdom separate from the redemptive kingdom on earth (the church) which is the vessel navigating the gospel through time.

    As far as your concern that, “My understanding leads me to ask: Did God give the State the sword to force men to obey God’s laws? Or did God give the State the sword to establish and maintain order for the welfare/preservation of mankind and for the safe passage of the gospel?”

    The answer is yes to both.

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  24. Jack wrote:

    “The civil kingdom, informed and ordered by ‘natural law in man’, exists for the sake of God’s outworking of His redemptive plan throughout history, not as a temporal kingdom that exists to be an expression of that redemption or special revelation. Thus while it is under God’s rule and purpose, yet it is a kingdom separate from the redemptive kingdom on earth (the church) which is the vessel navigating the gospel through time.”

    Jack, please don’t mistake me for a knowledgeable expert, but that is the way I generally understand it. Naturally, 2k becomes clearer and more fine tuned as we begin to flesh it out. But isn’t that part of the fun and challenge of learning anything?:)

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  25. Benjamin,

    Where does Theonomy offer scriptural proof for: God give the State the sword to force men to obey God’s laws.

    I can’t find them.

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  26. Benjamin,

    Please forgive me, In my haste I asked a very poorly worded question and I should be trounced for it.

    My question should read: Where is the scriptural proof that shows the State should enforce a biblical understanding of God’s laws?

    I honestly can’t find anything to support that.

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  27. Romans 13:1-4.

    If the civil magistrate is the Minister of God for “good” and bears the sword, as an agent of God’s wrath, against “evil” what other way does the Minister of God know what is “good” and “evil” apart from the Law of God?

    Some may say that the Minister of God knows “good” and “evil” from Natural Law. But what is Natural Law other than the Law of God written on the hearts of men? So from either end the Minister of God in the Civil Realm is called by God to rule by God’s Law, whether one wants to argue that it is some mystical “Natural Law” which no ones seems to be able to define and has a far different construct post-Locke (which means when we use “natural law” we mean a different thing than the Reformers do) or the written revelation of God’s Law given in His Holy Word.

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  28. Ben, 2k also believes that magistrates rule by God’s law. So what’s the problem? Might the problem be that you think the magistrate can force obedience to God’s law while a 2ker believes only the Holy Spirit can bring compliance to God’s law.

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  29. Ben,

    Are you proposing that Lockean NL is deficient? Are you aware of what this implies in terms of our own Constitution? You might as well toss the whole thing and replace it with something else.

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  30. Lockean NL is absolutely deficient in a number of ways. Thomas Reid details in great detail some of the problems with Locke.

    Though I am a more Articles of Confederation guy so tossing out the Constitution is not a bad idea.

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  31. See Romans 13:1-7

    I do not see how this passage can be used to support Theonomy. Paul obviously sees the Roman government as adequate for God’s purposes to serve as a State authority sans any scriptural input. Rome is a secular institution and would not be confused as being a hybrid of scriptural law and natural law. God can use any authority or non-authority he chooses as an avenger or minister for his purposes. The Bible is full of examples like that.

    Natural law alone is enough to condemn Man to hell. It seems that natural law and reason are enough to teach us the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Not mention that creation bears witness to God.

    The State wields the sword of the law and it is not the bearer of the gospel. Why add heavy burdens and condemn consciences from biblical laws with no remedy for forgiveness? Are we sadists? Unregenerate men cannot understand the things of God and they have no remedy in Christ. Shouldn’t we insist that the church be the church and the state be the state?

    If Paul is satisfied with Rome being a duly appointed State authority by God, why can’t we? Rome was governed by fallen men who were pagans. And so are we.

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  32. Benjamin!

    Re: “My primary interest is big “j” Justice, not “obedience”per se.”

    Have you had a senior moment? Judgment Day is coming and God will settle all things. There isn’t one of us who doesn’t deserve being burned alive and roasted in hell for eternity.

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  33. I follow this blog regularly. Wondered if I could share the hypothesis with you below. It’s a half baked idea, and I thought readers of this blog might be able to test it. The holes and assumptions in the hypothesis are obvious.

    “The separation of church and state is only possible in a Christian state or in a nation state that is predominantly Christian. In any other nation or state the interference of the state in the affairs of the church is unavoidable.”

    So, which ideal gets priority… separation of church and state, or the idea of a Christian nation?

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  34. I believe that the separation of state and church isn’t a priority, but a reality (whether in China, USA, Nigeria, or elsewhere). When the church understands the differences between the two institutions, it makes it easier for the church to fulfill it’s role in the world and to understand it’s limits and boundaries in the civil realm.

    From a Lutheran perspective, we explain the two kingdoms as the two different ways that God rules man. Generally speaking – the state’s role is to establish and maintain order for the common good of all men under it’s authority and it is given the sword to enforce laws. The church’s role is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, and it is given the Word and the sacraments.

    Christians are the only ones who live in both kingdoms and we have responsibilities as citizens. I think that it is here that things get difficult for us on moral issues (eg: abortion). Do we say, “Thus sayeth the Lord” in the public square or do we present our case as sound principles that promote the common good for all and argue from natural law and reason? I believe it is the latter and that it is good to remember that our trust is not in government or the laws we live under in the civil realm. We will not have a perfect government or society until Christ returns.

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  35. Lily, my problem with your reply is this… the state is obliged to honour God’s law, there can be no other good than what God defines to be good. One of the finest ever theologians within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in America taught that the church had a duty to declare the whole counsel of God to governments, including defining the boundaries of the two kingdoms. What do you do if the government wont play ball with you?

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  36. David,

    I apologize for taking so long to reply. I had business to take care of, plus I’m Lutheran not Reformed, so needed to research. I appreciate you making me work on this. I was both wrong and right, and I apologize for my previous mistakes. We do have a different approach than the Reformed in our practices and as far as I know, we don’t worry if the government doesn’t want to play ball. We will disobey if necessary and suffer the consequences (if caught).

    The Lutherans do see the duty to proclaim the law, but we do handle it differently than the Reformed. Our churches always teach the two kingdoms in tandem with one of more doctrines such as: Law & Gospel, Vocation, Theology of the Cross. etc. It is hard to explain all of the differences between our two traditions. The first link does not do justice to how the two kingdoms is fully taught in our churches, but it is from a top Lutheran theologian, fairly short, and seems to best stick to the point at hand. I hope you find it helpful.

    THE TWO REALMS (“KINGDOMS”) IN THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS
    by Prof. Kurt E. Marquart
    http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/WRHC/134_The%20Two%20Realms%20in%20the%20Lutheran%20Confessions.PDF

    Excerpt:

    When addressing non-Christians the church’s preachment of the law is bounded by her missionary commission (Mt. 28:19-20), hence limited to the second (“theological”) use. While the Table of Duties (second and third uses) must be proclaimed to all Christians (including rulers), governments and states as such are accountable to God not through the church but through all who have standing under Rom. 13:1-7 (ultimately even the general citizenry), and by way of natural reason and law (first use).

    The argument of the thesis is self-contained. Note that the fundamental purpose of the first use of the law is to coerce (FC Ep. VI, 1, Latin; SA III/II/2 Latin) the ungodly into outward decency. For a clear explanation of the “double use of the law” see Luther on Gal. 3:19.35 Finally, here are Pieper’s succinct words:

    The Kingdom of Grace is synonymous with the Church of God on earth (ecciesia militans). …The principles of Christ’s rule over His Church are subverted by those who intermingle the secular realm with the Kingdom of Grace, that is, who intermingle Church and State. This includes (1) those who turn the Church into a worldly kingdom by attempting to build the Church with earthly, or worldly, means (external power, natural morality, culture, etc.) instead of employing solely the Word of God, thus eo ipso destroying the distinctive character of the Church; (2) those who would make of the State a spiritual kingdom by attempting to rule the State not by reason, but by the Word of God, by “Christian principles.”36

    Augsburg Confession XXVIII – paragraphs 12-18

    Therefore, ecclesiastical and civil power are not to be confused. The power of the church has its own commission to preach the Gospel and administer the
    sacraments. Let it not invade the other’s function, nor transfer the kingdoms of the world, nor abrogate the laws of civil rulers, nor abolish lawful obedience, nor interfere with judgments concerning any civil ordinances or contracts, nor prescribe to civil rulers laws about the forms of government that should be established. Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world” [Jn. 18:36] and again, “Who made me a judge or divider over you?” [Lk. 12:14]. Paul also wrote in Phil. 3:20, “Our commonwealth is in heaven,” and in II Cor. 10:4,5, “The weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy arguments,” etc.

    In this way our teachers distinguish the functions of the two powers, and they command that both be held in honor and acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God.”

    I include this following second link because I think this Lutheran theologian better captures some of the richness of Lutheran teaching in 2k.

    A Brief Introduction to Temporal Authority
    by Piotr Malysz
    http://lutherantheology.wordpress.com/tag/two-kingdoms

    Excerpt:

    It is not simply because the worldly government is a mode of God’s activity that Christians are to participate in its operation after all. The motivation is deeper. To begin with, the spiritual regiment benefits from the existence of the worldly regiment [13] – external peace maintained by temporal authority enables the church to carry out its divine mandate: to call people from outward righteousness to the righteousness of faith, from temporal life to eternal life. Christians’ participation in the structures of temporal authority assures, therefore, that the preservation of those structures, self-contained as they are, will not become an end in itself. Luther’s scathing criticism of heavy taxes levied by compassionless, un-Christian, princes, or their attempts to rule over their subjects’ souls is a case in point.[14]More importantly, the Christian life is social and vocational existence par excellence – for this reason Christians cannot refrain from submitting to, and supporting, temporal authority. It is the unbeliever who is the arch-individualist. To appreciate the weight of this distinction, we must invoke Luther’s understanding of sin and with it his doctrine of the two kingdoms.

    I will bid adieu after this thread is finished. As much as I enjoy the conversations here, we don’t speak each others languages and I do not want to disrupt this fellowship any further.

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  37. Dear DGH,

    My previous comment fell into moderation. I’m guessing it is because it contains a couple of links. Would you please free it when you have time?

    Many thanks,
    Lily

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  38. Max Weber writes: “The magisterial Reformed doctrine that the glory of God required the Church to bring the damned under the law, was outweighed by the conviction that it is an insult to God if an unregenerate person should be admitted to the house of God….As a consequence, the Donatist idea of the church appeared, in the case of the Calvinistic Baptists.

    mark mcculley asks: 1. Didn’t the “Donatist idea” appear long before Calvin? 2. If so, why think of an emphasis on the puritan “practical syllogism” as something Donatist? 3. The anti-2 kers were one extreme, which says there is but one kingdom, and the non-elect must be civilized into it. We baptists are at the other extreme, when we say there are two kingdoms, and we cannot be in both. Of course the great mainstream is still practically Lutheran: also in the second kingdom, but as neutrals and equals with everybody else.

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  39. DGH,

    May I please beg for your help? I am troubled by Bahnsen. There seems to be a spirit of aggressiveness towards the world rather than a desire to speak the truth in love and I’m not sure if I am seeing this properly. It seems as though Theonomy wants to actively bring the civil realm under Christ’s rule without Christ – which seems bizarre. Or, is this Theonomy’s way of trying to solve the paradox of God’s sovereignty and man’s agency in this world?

    I am becoming painfully aware of what appear to be deep differences between the Lutherans and the Reformed that I did not know existed. I am not a theologian but the differences in views on 2k appear to be significant. May I ask where our traditions are in harmony on 2k? I”m asking you because I believe you will present the Reformed view fairly – it’s too easy for Lutherans to misrepresent Reformed doctrines and vice versa. I would very much appreciate your help on this if you are willing.

    Many thanks – Lily

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  40. Lily, here is my one cent:

    If you look at the Lutheran and Reformed state churches of the 16th and 17th centuries you will see magistrates who, no matter how much 2k theology goes around on both sides (See David VanDrunen’s book, Natural Law and Two Kingdoms for the pervasiveness of 2k among the Reformed), both sides also favored a magistrate who would uphold the true religion and punish the false. Both groups suffered, in my estimate, from lingering Constantinianism.

    Reformed groups have held on to that older understanding of one faith, one society, most notably the Covenanters and theonomists. But the latter have no ability to adjust to the modern state post 1776. Maybe they shouldn’t. But they also do not consider that the theology of theonomy is not the same as attributing to Geneva the powers of King David. In other words, they equate a historical reality with theological truth.

    Where I believe Reformed and Lutherans differ on this is that Reformed may have better theological grounds for being 2k. Lutherans seem to get it mainly from justification and I do think this is a strong point. But the covenant theology among the Reformed, which notices the important redemptive differences between Israel and the church, strikes me as richer material from which to construe 2k.

    So theonomists are part of the Reformed world. I think they are a fairly recent phenomenon — a culture war bi-product. They rightly see the historical circumstances of Geneva in 1555 and Boston in 1655. But I don’t think their theology is particularly strong and I don’t think they do justice to Reformed redemptive historical theology.

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  41. DGH: But they also do not consider that the theology of theonomy is not the same as attributing to Geneva the powers of King David.

    Spin that out a bit. What are the precise differences you see?

    DGH: …most notably the Covenanters and theonomists. But the latter have no ability to adjust to the modern state post 1776.

    How are Covenanters different from theonomists in outlook? I see both as post-mil, kingdom of God is ruled by the state, over-realized eschatology types. You’ve hinted in the past that you give more latitude to the Covenanters, so you clearly see a difference.

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  42. Dear DGH,

    Many thanks for the thoughtful and helpful explanation. Definitely underrated at 1 cent value.:)

    May you, your wife, and kitties be extra blessed with grace and wisdom in the days ahead.

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  43. Jeff, here’s how I understand it. Calvin did not consider Geneva to be operating under the civil and ceremonial laws of Israel. He recognized that Christ brought an end to the Mosaic economy. The theonomists over at Green Baggins seem to vacilate wildly between following the OT and following Geneva. Plus, the idea that the magistrate should enforce both tables is not the same as the magistrate trying to institute a government that prosecutes the redemption of God’s people.

    Both Covenanters and theonomists seem to be attached to a particular historical moment that is well beyond the OT political order. It might be Geneva in 1555 or Scotland in 1581. Someone needs to explain to me at least in the case of the Covenanters how the covenant King James VI made with parliament is in anyway binding on citizens of the United States or Canada for that matter. Plus, those who pine for Geneva need to square that political order with a “Christian” America that recognizes Baptists and Methodists as legitimate churches. Geneva was not about tolerance for a range of Protestant denominations. Calvin did not know denominationalism.

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  44. DGH,

    You explain this so beautifully. I am baffled how the Covenanters and Theonomists could miss the examples of James VI and Geneva.

    There is also the example of the Anglicans where the Monarch is co-head with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Parliament is now in the process of deciding the controversy over allowing women to become Bishops in the Church of England. It seems that parliament has the power to do this for the CoE and enforce it. It seems that these kinds of things were behind the Anglo-Catholics in England defecting to Rome. (This news story was in one of your recent posts)

    What are these Theonomists going to do if the government rejects their plans for Christianizing our laws to their tastes and decides we should starting incorporating Sharia law instead? Will they want to repeat history and relive the religious wars in Europe or will they obey the God ordained government. Kyrie eleison!

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  45. DGH: plus, those who pine for Geneva need to square that political order with a “Christian” America that recognizes Baptists and Methodists as legitimate churches.

    Well, I agree there. Bahnsen’s No Other Standard (ch. 10) argues simultaneously for retaining punishments for apostasy AND for tolerating differences amongst Christian denominations. I find that easy to see if one’s reference point is Owens (as his is); but hard to see as a point of logical consistency. Do Catholics count as Christians? Arminians? Socinians? Open theists?

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  46. DGH said: “Where I believe Reformed and Lutherans differ on this is that Reformed may have better theological grounds for being 2k. Lutherans seem to get it mainly from justification and I do think this is a strong point. But the covenant theology among the Reformed, which notices the important redemptive differences between Israel and the church, strikes me as richer material from which to construe 2k.”

    I would agree with this statement and Van Drunen flushes this out very convincingly in both his NL and 2K and Living in God’s Two Kingdoms books. What I have never heard a Lutheran theologian talk about is the covenant with Noah the way Reformed theologians do- especially those of a 2K stripe. And how they see this covenant as a modified form of the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:26-28) after the fall of Adam. Man, even after regeneration, is not supposed to take up this cultural mandate again and become a second Adam type. Christ was the second Adam and completed what the first Adam failed to do and thus won for those who believe in him (Jesus) the “world to come” and eternal life.

    I also find it ironic that Mormons and other Gnostic types point to the cultural mandate and “taking over” the culture as part of their becoming “little gods.” Many religions have a type of teaching which borders on the gnostic idea of apotheosis. As a believer becomes more entrenched with this type of sanctification he is making himself into a god. Another good reason to believe in justification priority.

    I could go into a section of scripture in Mathew 19 which kind of relates to this topic but I will save it for later because I have a commitment I have to go to now.

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  47. Dear DGH,

    I have continued to ruminate on your thoughtful answer – especially this part:

    You wrote: “Where I believe Reformed and Lutherans differ on this is that Reformed may have better theological grounds for being 2k. Lutherans seem to get it mainly from justification and I do think this is a strong point. But the covenant theology among the Reformed, which notices the important redemptive differences between Israel and the church, strikes me as richer material from which to construe 2k.”

    Now that I’ve had some time to think, is it too late to ask some questions?

    From my point of view, I cannot enter God’s kingdom without justification through faith. With justification as my central or controlling doctrine, it always drives me to Christ and the solas (grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone). This is the only way I know to judge doctrine.

    I don’t see how the Reformed 2k will not have the same kinds of problems as Union with Christ (UWC) does if justification is not the clear central or controlling doctrine in 2k. Like UWC, it seems the differences between Israel and the Church would be helpful for fleshing things out, but where are the safeguards and boundaries to keep it from having problems similar to UWC? Both may be rich doctrines, but people seem to slide off the road with them because justification is not central. Where in Reformed 2k does the doctrine drive you back to the solas to keep Christ clearly central like justification by faith does?

    I hope my concern about the Reformed 2k makes sense. At this point, I don’t see how it won’t have similar problems as Union with Christ if justification is not central. What is the controlling or central doctrine in Reformed 2k?

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  48. Lily, technically speaking Reformed do not have a central doctrine (at least that’s what we say). I do agree with you on the import of justification and I see it as crucial to 2k — it’s the only way to distinguish between the righteousness God requires and the righteousness we’d like to see in the city of man. But I do think that covenant theology reinforces and deepens this distinction by giving law and gospel the covenantal context of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

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