Glenn Beck, the Kingdom, and Me (per usual)

Criticisms of 2k theology keep coming and a major source of opposition is the distinction between Christ’s rule as redeemer in distinction from his rule as creator. For some, this kind of division within Christ could wind up in the error of Nestorianism. And yet, I wonder how you avoid Rob Bell’s error of universalism without this distinction.

This is what I have in mind. Most Reformed Protestants would likely admit that Glenn Beck and I have different relationships with Jesus Christ as savior and lord (assuming these Protestants accept that I am a believer but you know what happens when you assume). As a citizen of the United States, Beck gets my respect and civil affection even if his conservatism is several steps removed from the genuine article. But as a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Beck and I are at odds; he is even my enemy because he is not part of the kingdom of grace.

In other words, when I pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am praying with regard to Beck that he become part of the kingdom, not that Christ would defend Beck and the rest of the church as part of the kingdom of grace’s battle with the kingdom of Satan.

Here a little confessional political theology may be instructive. If we read the catechisms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the explanation of the second petition involves not not civil or political realities but spiritual ones.

Here is Calvin’s catechism:

Master. – What understand you by the kingdom of God in the second petition?
Scholar. – It consists chiefly of two branches-that he would govern the elect by his Spirit-that he would prostrate and destroy the reprobate who refuse to give themselves up to his service, thus making it manifest that nothing is able to resist his might.
Master. – In what sense do you pray that this kingdom may come?
Scholar. – That the Lord would daily increase the numbers of the faithful-that he would ever and anon load them with new gifts of his Spirit, until he fill them completely: moreover, that he would render his truth more clear and conspicuous by dispelling the darkness of Satan, that he would abolish all iniquity, by advancing his own righteousness.

Here is Heidelberg:

Question 123. Which is the second petition?
Answer: “Thy kingdom come”; that is, rule us so by thy word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to thee; preserve and increase thy church; destroy the works of the devil, and all violence which would exalt itself against thee; and also all wicked counsels devised against thy holy word; till the full perfection of thy kingdom take place, wherein thou shalt be all in all.

And here is the Shorter Catechism:

Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

As I read these accounts of the second petition, I do not think much about nations, politics, or rulers (why should I, the Psalms warn me about princes). I also don’t see much about the rule of law (even if it is God’s) but I read much more about the power and authority of God’s word and Spirit. And I also don’t understand anything here that would lead me to think that Glenn Beck and I are both members of God’s kingdom. Instead, these answers presume a marked division between saints and unbelievers.

In other words, these answers point in the direction of Louis Berkhof’s account of the kingdom of God:

The Kingdom of God is primarily an eschatological concept. The fundamental idea of the Kingdom in scripture is not that of a restored theocratic kingdom of God in Christ – which is essentially a kingdom of Israel –, as the Premillenarians claim; neither is it a new social condition pervaded by the Spirit of Christ, and realized by man through such external means as good laws, civilization, education, social reforms, and so on, as the Modernists would have us believe. The primary idea of the Kingdom of God in Scripture is that of the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of sinners by the powerful regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, insuring them of the inestimable blessings of salvation, – a rule that is realized in principle on earth, but will not reach its culmination until the visible and glorious return of Jesus Christ. The present realization of it is spiritual and invisible. Jesus took hold of this eschatological concept and made it prominent in His teachings. He clearly taught the present spiritual realization and the universal character of the Kingdom. Moreover, He Himself effected that realization in a measure formerly unknown and greatly increased the present blessings of the Kingdom. At the same time He held out the blessed hope of the future appearance of that Kingdom in external glory and with the perfect blessings of salvation. (Systematic Theology, 568)

This quotation from Berkhof is congenial – duh! – to 2kers and before the Kuyperians and theocrats start to quote from him a couple of pages later where Berkhof speaks of the kingdom as bigger and broader than the visible church, that is, aiming at “nothing less than the complete control of all manifestations of life,” I understand that Berkhof is a mixed bag on this issue.

But this brings me back to Glenn Beck. If in a broader understanding of the kingdom, the complete control of Beck involves implementing laws and policies that he and his family will follow to the glory of God, then the rule of the Spirit and the eschatological concept of the kingdom as a spiritual and invisible enterprise located in man’s (and woman’s) heart, is lost. Or if the kingdom is so broadened to include unbelievers and believers in it, then you seem to enter the ballpark of universalism where all God’s children are God’s children – you know, the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people.

We do have, however, an easy way around the problem. It is to distinguish between Christ’s rule over Glenn Beck as creator, and his rule over me as creator and redeemer. I don’t know of any other way to avoid the problems of Anabaptism or Constantinianism than by affirming this distinction. Without it, Glenn Beck is not my worldly foe, but my brother in Christ. (If only.)

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21 thoughts on “Glenn Beck, the Kingdom, and Me (per usual)

  1. I like this comment from MIke Horton: “For Bell, the nearly ubiquitous call to “live the gospel” is apparent. More than the unique redeemer of the world, Jesus becomes an instrument of God’s work of rebuilding society that we are called to complete. “God is doing a new work through Jesus, calling all people to human solidarity. Everybody is a brother, a sister. Equals, children of the God who shows no favoritism. To reject this new social order was to reject Jesus, the very movement of God in flesh and blood” (75-6). So just as heaven is subjectivized as a state of social peace and justice, hell is an existential condition.

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  2. Re: Nestoriamism

    Stuff and nonsense. The scriptures regarding 2k never divide Christ.

    There may be the danger for those who oppose 2k to fall into Marcion’s error which is reflected in the cafeteria style Christianity that sets itself up as God via choosing and rejecting whichever scripture it deems fit. There is more than enough scripture to establish and support 2k.

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  3. Yep, there sure is human solidarity as shown in this excerpt from today’s First Thoughts blog:

    Hannah Arendt’s Eichman in Jerusalem, is a book about the trial of Nazi leader Adolph Eichmann. As she witnessed the trial of one of the key organizers of the Holocaust, Arendt was surprised to find that Eichmann was such an ordinary man. Her imagination had led her to expect a demon. Instead she found a middle-aged bureaucrat who explained genocide in terms of production quotas and efficiency standards. Her observations led her to the concept of “the banality of evil.”

    We naturally recoil at such commonplace observations about “monsters” like Eichmann and Bin Laden. There is something discomforting about hearing them described as normal people with wives and children. The more heinous the actions of our enemies, the more likely we are to forget that they are more like us than we care to admit. They are not just enemy but anthropos—a human being.

    We have a tendency to want to think of our enemies as sub-human vermin, as being so distant from ourselves that they are almost a different species. But as much as Bin Laden and his ilk may justify their dehumanizing of Americans, we can never fall under the same delusion. It would be a Pyrrhic victory to save civilization only to lose our humanity

    We must never hesitate to defend our country, our culture, our future, and our lives against those who seek to destroy us. No one should shed a tear for Bin Laden, for he received the justice due to one who shed innocent blood.

    Yet our relief at his death must be tempered by a Christian view of humanity. We must never forget that the evil comes not from the actions of “subhuman vermin” but from the heart of a fallen, sacred yet degraded, human being. If we are to preserve our own humanity we must not forget that our enemy differs from us in degree, not in kind. Like us, they are human, all too human.

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  4. Apologies for muddying the water, Mark and Dr. Hart. I should explain the comment on First Thoughts observation on human solidarity.

    It was a back door way of pointing out a dimension of 2k reality. Human solidarity is in the fact that we are a fallen humanity living in a fallen world. This is what we all share in common with all men on earth with the difference or division in mankind being in the transfer into or gift of citizenship in the kingdom of God when one is given the gift of faith in Christ. Since Christians live in both kingdoms in this temporal life on earth, the only solution to the unredeemed state of our neighbor is to offer the gift of grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone. To keep following this line of thought means I would need to start addressing the nature/role of the church and egregious ilk such as the social gospel and the comment would be much too long. Again, apologies for wandering in a different direction.

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  5. Is it really okay to lump “theocrat” (with all of the connotative baggage that word carries) and Kuyperians together? Being Kuyperian and Theonomist (general equity, of course), I find it quite strange that I can agree with most of the stuff you say until you turn around and condemn my side for disagreeing with you. I don’t speak for Kuyperians everywhere, but believing that the Bible is the final authority for everyone on earth in all areas of life doesn’t mean that the Kingdom of God is advanced by any other means than what the Bible prescribes, or is defined in a way that is not defined in the Bible. I think the point is that the Bible is the only authoritative how-to source for living in the world and the Church has the charge to teach the nations this… Christ doesn’t rule the nations as anything other than He is, the Redeemer of the world*, Who, by dying for sinners, was granted the nations as His inheritance. That said, Christ is still the end of the law for all who believe.

    I know you disagree with me on this and I cannot hope that you would shift your entire theo-political-philosophical paradigm towards general-equity Theonomy or even vanilla Kuyperianism. But I also know that the only way that we can authoritatively declare that the Bible is nigh-inapplicable in matters civil, is by appealing to… uh… the… Bible… Which is to say, that the Bible is authoritative on what it declares on matters civil, even if it authoritatively declares itself null and void. I don’t feel that bad about being Kuyperian/Theonomist in light of that.

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  6. Will,

    You state that “the Bible is the final authority for everyone on earth in all areas of life,” and “the Bible is the only authoritative how-to source for living in the world.”

    Really?

    Is it the only authoritative how-to source on wine tasting? On gardening? On training for an ultramarathon?

    If we insist that Scripture speak with authority in all areas of life, we end up with one of two insane extremes. I have observed both among the theocrats I’ve encountered. At one extreme, they may define “life” and “living” narrowly, so as to exclude as sinful any activity for which Scripture gives little or no guidance. At the other extreme, they engage in a range of activities, but never find intrinsic enjoyment in the activities because of a constant effort to find Scriptural justification for their participation.

    In both cases, the theocrat avoids finding in beauty in the natural world–a beauty it possesses because it is created by God. He either has to disavow that beauty as a siren whose goal is to seduce him away from the truth, or he has to accept it as good only insofar as it can be re-interpreted through the words of Scripture.

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  7. Bob,
    Once again I am astounded that I am a “theocrat”… I suppose we all are “theocrats” inasmuch as it is “God’s power” that sustains all of nature, us included. If you mean “ecclesiocrat” then you are wrong. There are two kingdoms, but only one King. I believe in natural revelation as a legitimate source of knowledge, of course, but it is not “authoritative” in the way that Scripture is. I take the sinfulness of humanity serious enough to believe that they don’t get “natural revelation” that well, and Scripture is perspecuous enough, combined with the efficacy of our sovereign God, to be an actual, all-surpassing authority on all it addresses, that is, everything.

    I guess I am a bad theocrat anyway, because I have no problem of feeling I have to justify all of my actions or something… I guess I still affirm the authority of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs so I don’t feel the pressures you are alluding to. I’m sorry if your experience with my “kind” has been bad. I just find almost all attacks to be straw men, pointing at people I believe to be misinterpreting what the Bible says on the issues… Which is funny because I would rather deal with those that mess up the Biblical teachings rather than deny the relevance of the Bible to the question at all. I am glad to say that most 2K people do not actually live their lives split between natural law and Scripture’s law. I don’t suppose them to be some kind of schizophrenic freaks, rather as just Reformed folk who care about the world enough to feel the need to be relevant (natural law) and who are reacting against legalism, cultural transformationalism through social action and through other unbiblical methods. I am displeased by the methodology you employ for the first desire, and am with you on the second all the way.

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  8. Oh, and, by the way, the Bible is the only authoritative source for all the stuff you mentioned, though what it authoritatively declares may not give us much of a direct “how to”. But loving nature for what it is, the gift of a loving God, and living peaceably with all, giving glory to God, is all there. I don’t go to my Bible to learn to wine taste. But I find in the Scriptures the correct way to go about it respectfully, giving glory to God for His goodness. I enjoy what I am doing because I know that God has spoken to us in His Word and does not leave us without instruction. I think that sometimes applying the Bible’s teaching to matters can be difficult (i.e. birth control, secular politicking etc.), yet I think we lose everything precious when we relegate all things to some realm called “nature” and then think we can be a lot clearer on the issues at hand. I love the beauty of the natural world. I love it rightly as I have been regenerated by His Spirit and given a clearer view by the mind of Christ (the Scriptures). I am sorry that you feel that the Bible makes average everyday life a downer and makes it all bleak. I don’t feel that way in the least, it rather makes life and nature enjoyable, understanding the beauty of nature in context.

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  9. Will, if you’re Kuyperian and think that “the Bible is the final authority for everyone on earth in all areas of life,” and “the Bible is the only authoritative how-to source for living in the world,” then I wonder what you make of Kuyper’s words from “The Ordinances of God” which seems to suggest that the implications of your view are untenable:

    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.

    Contra what you say, it would seem that Kuyper thinks that natural revelation is both a legitimate source of knowledge and authoritative in ways the Bible isn’t. Which makes sense if one actually holds that God is the author of both books.

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  10. There is a reason that I am a general equity Theonomist… I don’t want to reproduce Israel in the modern state. I think that Justice hasn’t changed though, so if God thinks that a crime is worthy of death, then it is, all things being equal, still worthy of death. This applies to the state as deacon of wrath. God gets to determine justice. By Kuyperian, I mean that God governs all of the “circles” of our lives in His own ways. I may disagree with him on particulars… I also affirm common grace, so I can recognize some great “natural theology” thinkers that have said true things. I don’t think that what they say that is true is contrary to Scripture, but can probably be deduced from Scripture by necessary or darn close inference. I hold that God “wrote both books”, but not in the same way, and not with the same promises attached. The Scriptures are infallible and teach us authoritatively. The Scriptures come with the promise of the Spirit’s efficacy and bring the truth to our sinful hearts more effectively. That, to me, means it carries authority. And, I don’t believe that the messages are different at the end of the day anyway, but nature is a whole lot harder to get to the bottom of. Same book, different packaging. And did you read what Kuyper said at the end? “by the light of God’s Word” means that all of the natural means are TESTED by the Scriptures, they aren’t taken without that test.

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  11. Thanks, Will. You said, “I don’t believe that the messages are different at the end of the day anyway, but nature is a whole lot harder to get to the bottom of.” Why would natural revelation be any harder to mine than special revelation? If Scripture is so easy then why the Protestant Reformation? Can’t we say that both books are clear but any apparent problem mining them owes more to human sin than any insufficiency of God’s own revelation such that one revelation needs th ehelp of the other? I mean, you do admit to taking sin seriously.

    (Yes, I did catch that part at the end of Kuyper’s quote. I think it’s an odd statement in light of the rest.)

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  12. Haha thanks for responding Zrim.

    I would see Kuyper’s view as pretty close to Frame’s on the issue of theonomy. And as far as perspicuity in Scripture as opposed to Nature is concerned, the efficacy of the promise of the Spirit to guide us into all truth and shape our hearts to see His will in regards to the mind of Christ is important in my thinking on this point. No such promise is applied to Nature. It is funny that you bring up the Reformation, because that is the time wherein that truth of the authority of Scripture in all of life is recovered and applied.

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  13. Will, to appeal to the Constitution and say that it’s authority is prescribed — its powers delegated to the federal government — doesn’t make the Constitution authoritative everywhere, or the only authority. I don’t see why that logic has to apply to the Bible, as in once a 2ker says the Bible doesn’t reveal X, therefore the 2ker has made the Bible authoritative over everything. It’s simply reading the book to see what it reveals and doesn’t reveal. Where it is silent, it’s authority would appear to end.

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  14. Will, it’s true that the Spirit is promised, but how that implies that sin is diminished in such a way that discerning special revelation becomes somehow “a whole lot easier to get to the bottom of” than natural revelation isn’t (ahem) obvious to me. Why is sin more in the way of unbelievers discerning natural revelation than it is in the way of believers discerning special revelation? Doesn’t the fractured nature of Christianity suggest that the Holy Spirit isn’t a tonic to overcome sin?

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  15. Will,

    You say: “I take the sinfulness of humanity serious enough to believe that they don’t get ‘natural revelation’ that well….”

    It strikes me that you tend to overstate the effects of the fall. I agree that the fall prevents us from being able to merit the favor of a holy God. But that doesn’t imply that we are therefore incapable of making reasonable sense of the world around us and thereby achieving a fair measure of justice and order. And besides, if we’re really as fallen as you suppose, why wouldn’t we be equally as incapable of understanding and applying Scripture. I agree that the Spirit may quicken our hearts and minds to see the Gospel in the words of Scripture. But the Spirit doesn’t make us into Biblical scholars. And the Spirit certainly doesn’t quicken us in a way that we can suddenly perceive from Scripture otherwise hidden messages about gardening, wine tasting, running ultramarathons, splitting the atom, etc. Is that what you mean when you say that the great ideas of natural man “can probably be deduced from Scripture by necessary or darn close inference.” Really? Could Scripture have taught Oppenheimer how to build an atomic bomb? Can it teach a chemist how to design molecules that will preferentially target glycolytic tumors? Can it teach me to improve my running stride so that I can run 40-50 miles without suffering knee pain? Come on. If we were to take your suggestion seriously, I don’t see how we don’t end up as gnostics.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that “nature is a whole lot harder to get to the bottom of.” I agree. And unfortunately ours is a profoundly lazy generation. I fear that that leads some to gravitate to forms of theonomy. Not wanting to attain wisdom through labor and diligence, the theonomist hopes to get an instant download of a lifetime’s wisdom by perusing Scripture for a few moments. In that sense, I agree with T. David Gordon, who remarked that theonomy is not just the error of the unwise, but the error of those who never will be wise. (See his article entitled “The Insufficiency of Scripture”).

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  16. @Dr. Hart, sorry for the long wait for the response, school is insanely busy!
    Thanks for the tour of Philadelphia and the signed copy of your book! I am grateful for the whole Timothy Conference and the tour was quite a highlight!

    I think that the Constitution is authoritative inasmuch as it declares its boundaries and does not attempt to go any further. The Bible doesn’t so clearly declare boundaries for its authority. God doesn’t contradict Himself and civil justice has not changed since He revealed Himself on Sinai. The particulars are not important (Deuteronomy is not to be made our “constitution”) but the “general equity” of the laws are. Could you deduce the same principles from nature? Maybe. But it would be a shaky foundation at best, and the authority of God would not be behind it in the same way. Christ has been made King of the kings of the earth and demands that justice be done. Christ is one God with the Father and delivered the Law on Sinai to the Covenant representatives of humanity, the nation of priests and kings, Israel. The authority is universal because Jesus was given as head over all things to the Church. I take that to mean that Jesus is head over all things, and all of that authority is made subservient to the City of God’s purposes. The nations are held as dust compared with the Church, but Christ has been given authority over them as well, and the reason He was given authority is because “he humbled himself to death on the cross”. That is headship as “Redeemer” because that is the context in which all authority was given to Him. That does not make the City of Man into the Kingdom of God, it just points to the reality of Christ’s authority over the nations as a result of Calvary. That should teach something to rulers somewhere about the nature of authority!

    As far as your point regarding the logic of the universal authority of Scripture being declared by the 2Ker who says that the Bible has not revealed something, I am sorry for not being clear. My point was that a 2Ker sees the need to point out that the Bible reveals nothing on the topic of civil justice that is relevant to us today. By doing so, the 2Ker is indicating that IF the Bible had anything relevant to say it WOULD be authoritative and therefore he has to confirm that Scripture is not relevant first. I agree with this method because it shows the Bible’s universal authority on all matters that it reveals something about. My point is that the authority always flows from the Bible, and so a 2Ker HAS to make sure that the Bible doesn’t reveal something before continuing on to natural law diagnosis. That is to say, the argument has to be made, that all of the Scriptures on justice (and there are quite a few) are irrelevant. I find that to be an untenable position in light of the Confession’s language. I find that to be, first and foremost, an untenable position in light of the Biblical witness. Obviously, this is where we disagree most heartily. I am willing to leave it at that, unless there is an insistence to maintain that the Bible’s authority does not extend universally because of a system imposed on it that declares that the “Covenant people of God are the only people bound to the Scriptures). If that is the case, the Gospel is irrelevant to the world and we can just chill, and, if we want Church growth, have lots and lots of babies. We do pretty good at that, I admit, in the OPC, but I don’t think that is quite faithful. We should be teaching the nations all that Christ has commanded.

    @Zrim I believe that, despite appearances, the Spirit is a “tonic to overcome sin”. If it isn’t then the Apostle Paul is a liar. The Church IS fractured as a result of sin, yet we all know that the invisible Church is bound by the Spirit in a world of love and freedom. The visible church will catch up eventually, even if on the Last Day. My issue with going to nature as opposed to the Scriptures is that the answers will be the same because justice hasn’t changed and God doesn’t lie. Why not go to the clear source with the promised Spirit of Truth to guide you? Sin is in the way of unbelievers because they are in constant rebellion against God. Yes, even the nice ones are. Especially the smart ones. I admit, that through common grace much can be accomplished. I do not think that that means that Christians should work with only the tools given to unbelievers, but should employ the Scriptures, the oracles of the living God, in the quest to understand our God, the world, and ourselves better. I don’t even get why that is controversial (but I am young, I suppose I will learn…). And I am sorry if I sound patronizing or simplistic. It is not my intention. I am quite not well read in this area. I just see principles at work and I am trying to stay faithful to the text as I see it, and as the Confession summarizes it.

    @Bob I am sorry that you are still thinking that I am trying to make the Bible the “how-to” book for molecular physics and gardening. I really don’t know how to convince you that I don’t go around trying to justify all of my actions by Scripture or show how the Bible gives “all the answers” to every question that I have on every topic. That is not what I am saying. You can take me at my word. I think the fall was such a big deal that mankind, by the light of nature, had led itself through innovation to the point of World War and that it decided to blow up the other guys in a huge explosion. I am no pacifist, and I would have supported the use of the Bomb on the Empire of Japan. But let me ask if the Bible was not relevant at all to the discussion of the USE of that bomb. Because that is what a general equity Theonomist is worried about. I think that the Bible has lots to say about just warfare. It has lots to say about governance. It has a WHOLE lot to say about justice. I see those things as binding for all of humanity. I try not to be simplistic and “unwise”. I think that the Scriptures are sufficient to make men wise in the most important way. I also think that we learn a lot from nature around us. Indeed, language is not taught IN the Bible, but by our “natural” contexts. The Bible would mean nothing if we couldn’t understand it, which takes “nature” to teach us what a “spear” is, or what a “king” is. Even what “is” is. I don’t see this contradicting what I have said, as I CAN read the Scriptures, and they break my sinful heart and cause me to walk in His statutes by the aid of His Spirit. God could have done this however He wanted to. But, and for 2K people I would think this would be a favorite, He uses the ordinary means: The Bible. I don’t want to ignore nature in favor of Scripture. They agree with each other because they ultimately have the same author. But one is unclear and one is clear (with the Spirit). And one of the first rules of hermeneutics is that we interpret the unclear by the clear.

    And, btw, I really don’t want to be “lazy” just faithful. And, let me repeat: I do not want to learn from the Bible how to garden. That has nothing to do AT ALL with the substance of the argument, which is: God doesn’t lie, God doesn’t change, God is just, God revealed that justice at Sinai and throughout the whole of the Scriptures, and that definition of justice (general equity) is universally binding on the consciouses of all authorities and dominions and powers. Think of general equity like a moral law applying to states instead of people.

    BTW… again…Christians don’t have to “settle” for a “fair measure of justice and order” when we have an authoritative alternative.

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this stuff guys! I really am not qualified for this (I haven’t even read Bahnsen or Rushdoony, and yet I take the label “Theonomist” and run with it!) so if you would rather deal with people that are better educated, I am okay with that and will not at all feel bad for letting other, more learned folk take over. I just wanted to comment because I didn’t feel like I was disagreeing with Dr. Hart with the substance of his argument and then he lumped me in with “theocrats” implicitly, and I wanted to clarify that I am not one of those…

    God bless!

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  17. My issue with going to nature as opposed to the Scriptures is that the answers will be the same because justice hasn’t changed and God doesn’t lie. Why not go to the clear source with the promised Spirit of Truth to guide you?

    Will, general revelation is clear. So saith Paul in Romans. True, general is implicit and special is explicit, but implicit doesn’t mean unclear and explicit doesn’t mean more clear.

    Sin is in the way of unbelievers because they are in constant rebellion against God. Yes, even the nice ones are. Especially the smart ones.

    The same is true for nice and smart believers. Otherwise, I don’t know why we confess our sin and seek forgiveness daily. Is that just for show, or do we really believe sin clings and that even the holiest of us make but the slightest beginnings of obedience in this life?

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  18. @ Zrim General revelation is clear only to condemn and leave without excuse in Romans. The sin they have suppresses the truth they gain from nature. I will go with Calvin on that one over Aquinas pretty much any day. And I would have to disagree with your statement that “implicit” doesn’t mean “unclear” if the context includes “explicit”. The word “implicit” does not mean “unclear”, but it would be nice if the Apostle Paul had said “Not just believing adults, but their children as well are to be baptized.” Now, I affirm that the Scriptures in the entirety of their testimony, implicitly command that the signs and seals of the covenant to be applied to children. But a Baptist is rendered speechless if that command is made absolutely explicit. I would then take Paul’s explicit statement about infant baptism and use it to interpret the implicit credo-baptist arguments (“repent and be baptized” which connects conscious mind-changing about Jesus prior to or concurrently with Baptism). Explicit is nice. Men, apart from a revealed commandment, still die, but “sin is not counted where there is no law” (more Romans). This is where you would say “but what, Mr. of Tarsus, could you be saying? What about natural law! That is implicit, but it is clear enough to condemn.” And Mr. of Tarsus would probably respond with something like, “Yes, but apart from explicit imperatives, that is to say, the Law, sin cannot be counted.” Clarity and explicitness are quite connected in Paul’s legal thought.

    And yes, sin is bad. Can we believe what the Apostle Paul said about the leading of the Spirit over and against the leading of the natural man? Yes, we are sinners, but we have the Spirit of Holiness and can therefore mortify sin in our mortal bodies. No, I do not affirm some Romanist nonsense about supererogation, but to affirm that we can please God by good works prescribed by Him worked out in faith is not Romanist nonsense, it is Confessional truth and Scriptural truth. Don’t even introduce merit, as that is not even part of the equation I am dealing with here. And the main difference between believers and unbelievers is how we deal with sin. Showing that we are not in rebellion, but are weak and have to fight against our flesh. Nothing about sanctification is show. But it can be real sanctification too. Does God, after we confess our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness? I like to believe so.

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  19. Hey, I am going to stop responding because I feel that I need to take a break from the blogosphere in this way. I really didn’t want to hijack the post. Sorry to do so and then continue doing it. I hope that what I wrote wasn’t rude or disrespectful. “Romanist nonsense” was a bit emotional and quite unnecessary. I don’t want to perpetuate an argument that many have got carpel tunnel over and that I am a mere uneducated peon in. I’ll stay content to read and learn and not get into any arguments when I am so busy and need to focus on school stuff. Blog convos are quite addicting… Haha God bless you guys anyway! I hope that the discussion can continue between people (like my interlocutors) that have what has been traditionally known as a “clue” and have words of truth and of charity towards their brothers or sisters in Christ.

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  20. Will, no need to respond, but I’d ask you to consider Romans 13 as providing some interpretive guidance for Romans 1-2 RE the book of nature and its intelligibility to sinners.

    “Let every person be subject to the governing AUTHORITIES. For there is no AUTHORITY except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the AUTHORITIES resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in AUTHORITY? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. …for the AUTHORITIES are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    My question is, are the authorities (Nero, et al) to which Paul is referring deriving their authority from the Scriptures? Is their authority contingent upon the degree to which they do so? Seems to me there is no contingency whatsoever in what Paul is saying, and that he is merely describing the world as God established it. (And yes, I know this because Paul wrote it in the Scriptures, but it isn’t so because Paul wrote it. It is so because God made it thus.)

    So it seems the light of nature (Rom 1-2) is bright enough for sinful authorities to serve as God’s ministers even without a Bible (Rom 13). And these authorities seem to have an authority that’s both divine and non-biblical.

    [sorry for the all-capping… I’m not shouting, just underlining to make a point.]

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  21. Will,

    Thanks for answering. I take you at your word when you say that you don’t believe that Scripture is a how-to manual for gardening, wine-tasking, discovering drugs, etc. But it seems that you still have a propensity to make sweeping statements, such as those I’ve quoted above, which seem to imply that you believe that Scripture is indeed a how-to manual for all human endeavors (or at least all worthwhile human endeavors). Why can’t you just stop making such sweeping statements and admit that Scripture is patently insufficient to guide us in many aspects of living?

    Also, I believe that you’ve misinterpreted my statement about a “fair measure of justice and order.” I made that statement in response to your statement that fallen people “don’t get ‘natural revelation’ that well.” If what you were saying is true, then we would expect to be surrounded by chaos and rampant injustice. But that’s not what we observe, at least in general. In most societies around the world, we tend to observe a fair measure of justice and order, albeit imperfect. I’m not suggesting that we can’t do better or that we shouldn’t try to do better. Rather, I’m pointing out that nature is a better guide than you suppose and that the fall has by no means left us without the faculties to interpret that guidance effectively.

    Lastly, I question the alleged value of your proposed “authoritative alternative” to natural revelation in the realm of governance. First, governance requires us to know far more than what Scripture reveals. So, even if we suppose arguendo that Scripture speaks clearly on certain matters germane to governance, we are still left with the fact that Scripture doesn’t speak exhaustively on the topic. Therefore, we would have to rely on a great deal of natural revelation to fill in the gaps. Second, Scripture’s ethical commands are often quite generic. It takes a lot of natural reasoning to distill generic prohibitions into a detailed criminal code that addresses prohibited conduct with clarity and specificity. Third, Scripture does not account for the procedural limits of prosecuting crimes. We generally only criminalize conduct in situations where we can gather reliable evidence that someone truly has engaged in certain prohibited acts. Therefore, procedural realities dictate that society cannot criminalize everything that’s sinful. Fourth, the Bible often isn’t as clear as we may suppose. For example, many Christians assert that the Bible clearly prohibits any killing of a human egg after fertilization. But other conservative Christians disagree. Read Dr. Woolley’s minority report to the OPC’s position paper on abortion.

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